The First Theologian of the Latter Day Saints

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Return to Part One: 19th Century




20th Century Rigdon Biographies

As noted in part one of this article, the first "modern biography" of Rev. Sidney S. Rigdon was completed by Dr. William H. Whitsitt in 1891. In the years that followed, Rigdon's forgoten legacy was resurrected and examinied by a few other non-Mormon writers. Rigdon's son, John Wicliffe Rigdon, had not yet joined the LDS Church when, in the 1890s, he presented lectures defending the reputation of his late father among academic circles in New York state. Out of these lectures grew a lengthy biography of Rev. Sidney S. Rigdon, a manuscript purchased by President Joseph F. Smith in 1900, but never published by the Utah Mormons. John's full biography of his father has long since disappeared into the perpetual custody of the LDS First Presidency in Salt Lake City -- though some extracts from its pages were once published in the historical writings of B. H. Roberts. A typescript of one of John's lectures survives, however (in the files of the Washington State Historical Society) and was published in the July 25-31, 1965 issue of the Friendship, N. Y. Sesqui-Centennial Times. An expanded, copyrighted version of the same lecture was compiled for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought I:4 (Winter 1966) by Karl Keller.

Daryl Chase supplies useful insights in his unpublished 1931 dissertation, "Sidney Rigdon: Early Mormon." The first useful genealogy of Rigdon was published in The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine in Oct. 1936.

Well-known biographer, Fawn M. Brodie, largely ignored Rigdon and his constributions to Mormonism where she researched and wrote her 1945 book No Man Knows My History. Joseph W. White wrote "The Influence of Sidney Rigdon Upon the Theology of Mormonism," an unpublished 1947 thesis on the man's religion; F. Mark McKiernan wrote a disappointing doctoral dissertation on Rigdon that was published in 1971; and Richard Van Waggoner produced what passes for the definitive Rigdon biography in 1994.

Additional interesting articles on Rigdon have appeared occasionally in the pages of journals like BYU Studies, Dialogue, and Courage. Perhaps the two most imformative of these articles both appeared in BYU Studies XXI:1 (Winter 1981) pp. 37-50: "The Early Baptist Career of Sidney Rigdon" by Hans Rollmann and pp. 51-67: "Sidney Rigdon: Post Nauvoo," by Thomas J. Gregory.

The authors of histories of the Mormons Kirtland have generally alloted abundant attention to Rev. Sidney S. Rigdon. Eva Pancoast gives Rigdon some consideration to the man in her unpublished 1929 Master's thesis, "Mormons at Kirtland." Max Parkin's 1966 dissertation, "The Nature and Cause of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio," says much about Rigdon, as does Robert K. Fielding's "Growth of the Mormon Church in Ohio," an unpublished dissertation from 1957. More recently, Milton V. Backman has told some of Rigdon's story in his 1983 book The Heavens Resound, and Marvin S. Hill has filled in a few more details of Rigdon at Kirtland, Far West and Nauvoo in his 1989 Quest for Refuge. Drs. McKiernan, Blar and Edwards in 1992 produced a compilation of historical essays called The Restoration Movement; it supplies a few glances at Rev. Rigdon, as does Warren A. Jennings' 1962 dissertation, "Zion is Fled," Robert B. Flanders 1965 Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi, Stephen C; LeSueur's 1987 The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, and John E. Hallwas & Roger D. Launius' 1995 Cultures in Conflict.

In the 21st century, the most recent contributions to Rigdon's historical literature have been Lloyd Alan Knowles 2000 dissertation, "The Appeal and Course of... Sidney Rigdon" (reprised in brief in his 2003 article, "Sidney Rigdon... Benedict Arnold") and Richard McClellan's 2003 article in Dialogue, "Sidney Rigdon's 1820 Ministry..." "Rigdon Revealed," a series of web-articles by Dale R. Broadhurst, is currently under construction at John L. Smith's 2006 booklet, Did Joseph Smith Write the Book of Mormon? offered nothing new or particularly useful.

Older Mormon histories, such as the 1853 biography by Lucy Mack Smith, the LDS and RLDS History of the Church, and various other "faith-promoting" historical and biographical works are as problematical as they may be occasioanlly useful. Generally speaking, the picture they convey of Sidney S. Rigdon is a sanitized, two-dimensional one, devoid of critical analysis.

On the other hand, anti-Mormon offerings, such as Theodore A. Schroeder's 1901 book The Origin of the Book of Mormon and Charles B. Shook's 1914 offering True Origin of the Book of Mormon, are but better researched and better written polemics, given in the same spirit as Ellen E. Dickinson's 1885 expose New Light on Mormonism. These books only introduce Rigdon as a sort of foil againt the notion that Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon all by himself. This sort of "revelation" concerning the alleged secretive activities of Sidney Rigdon draws upon the earlier literary efforts of writers like Robert Patterson, Jr's 1882 booklet and Clark Braden 1884 debate with Elder E. L. Kelley. Although these writings do occasionally introduce new bit of Rigdon history, they make no real attempt to understand the man and explain his alleged secret methods and motives. The summation of all these past efforts was put before modern readers in Wayne Cowdrey, et al.'s 1977 volume Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? and as the much more informative 2005 progeny of the same writers: The Spalding Enigma. LDS researcher Wade Englund has offered his on-line responses to the latter authors' work, some of which address the subject of Rev. Sidney S. Rigdon. More recently, Craig Criddle has joined the on-line debate with his Sidney Rigdon: Creating the Book of Mormon.


John Wickliff Rigdon
(Lecture on his Father, Sidney Rigdon)
Karl Keller, ed., "'I Never Knew a Time When I Did Not Know Joseph Smith': A Son's Record of the Life and Testimony of Sidney Rigdon,"
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought I:4 (Winter 1966):   15-42.
Note: Due to copyright restrictions, only excerpts from Keller's text are inserted below, [in bracketed blue type] where they best supplement the 1965 abridged version of John Rigdon's lecture. The nsertions from the LDS archives manuscript are given in [[double brackets]].   more notes

A Souvenir Newspaper - Devoted to the Friendship Sesqui-Centennial
Friendship, NY                                                         July 25-31 1965.



(Lecture Written by John Wickliff Rigdon On His Father & The Early Church History.)

I am the only living child of Sidney Rigdon, who died in the town of Friendship, Allegany C. N Y., July 14, 1876, who was at the time of his death almost 83 years old. There were 12 children in my father's family; they are all dead except myself!

Sidney Rigdon joined The Mormon Church in the yr. 1830 at Kirtland, Ohio & in the year 1833, was ordained Joseph Smith's first council [counselor], which position he retained up to the time of Joseph Smith's death at Carthage, III. (June 1844.)

I never knew a time when I did not know Joseph Smith. I knew him from my earliest recollections up to the time of his assassination [at Carthage in the State of Illinois]. I was as familiar with him as I was with my own father. I used to see him [almost] every day of my life. My father and his family almost always lived very close to him.   When my father and mother joined the Mormon church at Kirtland, Ohio, he, my father, was living in a little town called Mentor in the State of Ohio, about 5 miles from Kirtland, he was, at the time he joined the Mormon church preaching what was then Campbellism [now called Christian] & soon after he joined the Mormon church, he was charged with having written the Book of Mormon, he always denied the same to friends & foe alike but they would not believe him. The world claimed that he stole [one] Solomon Spaulding's manuscript & from that concocted the said manuscript, the Book of Mormon. He used to tell them he never saw Spaulding in his life but the people of the world would not believe him and continued to assert he did write the Book of Mormon & gave it to Joseph Smith to introduce to the World. The religions of the world were determined to prove if they could, that the Book of Mormon was not obtained as Joseph Smith claimed (that an angel from heaven appeared to him & told him where to go and find [that] which was buried in a hill near Palmyra, N. Y.). The fact [is] that Joseph Smith had the book, all that knew him said he did not know enough to have written it & somebody else must be found who they thought could have written it; for to admit that an angel appeared to Joseph Smith & told him where to go & find it was a reflection on their religion & their religion must be maintained at all hazzards. Therefore they elected Sidney Rigdon as the man.   Perhaps it might be well enough for me to tell you what kind of a man Sidney Rigdon was & then you will see why the world claimed he was the author of the Book of Mormon.

Sidney Rigdon was born on Feb. 19, 1793 at Piny Fork, Alleghany [then Washington] Co. Pa. the son of William & Nancy (Gallager) Rigdon, and reared on a farm about 12 [ten] miles from Pittsburgh (it being then a city of about 10,000 inhabitants). There were 4 children in the family, Sidney Rigdon was the youngest. He had 2 brothers & 1 sister. His [oldest] brother, Carrol [sic - Carvel] Rigdon married and moved on a farm near the old homestead. The second brother, Loamming [sic - Loammi] Rigdon was a sickly boy and unable to work on a farm. His sister Lacy [sic - Lucy] Rigdon, married one Peter Boyer, who owned a farm near the old homestead [and moved with her husband to his farm, leaving Loami Rigdon and Sidney Rigdon on the old homestead with their father and mother].   It was the rule in the country, that when a boy was too feeble to work on a farm they would send him to school & give him an education. Loamming Rigdon was too sickly & feeble to labor on a farm & his parents decided to send him to school and give him an education. Sidney Rigdon wanted to go to school, and pleaded with his father & mother to let him go with his brother, but they would not consent to let him go, saying to him he was able to work on the farm & he could not go. At last finding they would not let him go he said to them in anger, "I will have as good an education as my brother has and you can not prevent it! His brother Loamming was sent to school; he went to Lexington, Kentucky; studied medicine & became a physician. He never returned to the old homestead to live but went to Hamilton in the state of Ohio & there practiced medicine for over 40 yrs. This left Sidney Rigdon & his father & mother living on the farm.   Sidney Rigdon, after his brother Loamming went to Kentucky, borrowed all the histories he could get & began to read them. His parents would not let him have a candle to read by night; he therefore gathered hickory bark, there was plenty of it around the old farm. He used to get it & at night throw it on the old fire place & lay with his head toward the fire & read history till near morning, unless his parents got up & drove him to bed. In this way he became a great historian, the best I ever saw. He seemed to have the history of the world on his tongue's end & he got to be a great Biblical scholar as well. He was as familiar with the Bible as a child with his spelling book. He was never known to play with the boys; reading books was the greatest pleasure he could get. He studied English Grammar [and became a very fine grammarian], he was very precise in his language.   At length his father William Rigdon died, leaving Sidney Rigdon & his mother alone on the farm. They got tired of living alone on the farm, it was lonesome & they sold the farm & his mother went to live with their daughter, Mrs. Peter Boyer & Sidney Rigdon went to study Theology under a Baptist minister by the name of Peters [sic - Clark?] [who belonged to what was called the straight Baptists [Regular Baptists]. (I do not know what straight Baptist means, unless it is those Baptists who believe in infant damnation, and that, it would seem to me, to be straight enough for almost anyone)].   [[In March, 1819 [sic - 1818?], Mr. Rigdon left the farm and made his home with the Reverend Andrew Clark of Pittsburg [sic], also a Baptist minister. While residing with Mr. Clark he took out a license and began from that time his career as a minister. In May, 1819, he removed from Pennsylvania to Trumbull county, Ohio.]]   In 1819 he obtained a license to preach & went to Pittsburgh & preached here a short time. Then went to the town of Warren, Trumbell [sic] Co., Ohio & remained there [about] 2 years. He did not have any particular charge of a church but whenever a vacancy occurred in the county [country] he always filled it, and in that way got a reputation of being a very eloquent preacher. [Nature made him an orator and his great knowledge of history of the Bible gave him the knowledge so he was able to talk on almost any subject. He was of a natural religious turn of mind and he delighted in preaching the gospel.]

About the same yr. he married Phebe Brooks who was the daughter of Jeremiah Brooks a great Baptist Minister. Soon after his marriage they started on their wedding tour to Pittsburgh to visit his brother & mother & sister who resided 10 miles from Pittsburgh, they went on horseback [that is the way they rode in those days]. They reached Pittsburgh on Sat. nite & [one of the] members of the Baptist church who had heard my father preach came to see him and wanted to know if he would [come to the Baptist church] and preach to them Sun. morning. [He said they had one of the largest churches in the city of Pittsburg, but the church had become divided and they had no minister and had no preaching in the church, and he would be much pleased if he would come and preach to them Sunday morning]. He told them he would. [The brother gave notice that night that there would be preaching in the church.]   The next morning quite a little congregation gathered at the church to hear him. After church was dismissed he told them he would go visit his people [he was going out into the country about ten miles from the city to visit his brother and mother and sister and should remain out there about four weeks, and if they wished him to] [he] would come in & preach to them every Sun [morning during the time he remained out in the country, he would do so, as he could ride into the city every Sunday morning and preach to them and then go back in the afternoon. This offer they gladly accepted and my father preached in the church for four Sundays in succession.] This he did; through this he became the 2nd pastor of The First Baptist & congregation of the city of Pittsburgh.

[When he got ready to go home, he and his wife again came to Pittsburg and stayed overnight, and quite a number of the members of the church called to see them and wanted to know if he would not, when he got back home, come back and take charge of the church and be their pastor. They said to him that they had the largest congregation in Pittsburg when they were united and they thought from what they had heard of his preaching that he could unite them and they would be much pleased to have him come back and be their minister. He said to them that he would take the matter under advisement and when he got home he would consider the matter and let them know. --- When he got home, he told his father-in-law of the offer the church at Pittsburg had made him, and he, being a great Baptist, urged him by all means to accept it, as it was not very often a young minister received such an offer. It might be the making of him and give him a great reputation. He therefore informed the members of the church at Pittsburg that he accepted their offer and would soon come to Pittsburg and become their pastor. Soon after informing them of his acceptance, he returned to Pittsburg with his wife and became the pastor of the Baptist church.]

It was not long after he took charge of the church until he united the church & he had the largest congregation in the city & the reputation of being the most eloquent preacher in the city [in less than one year he had the reputation of being one of the most eloquent preachers in the city. Everything went smoothly along]

Fame and fortune seemed to be within his grasp. There was disagreement between Sidney Rigdon my father & an old Scotch Divine [(who) came to Pittsburg and wanted to know of my father if he preached and taught the Baptist confession of faith [regarding] infant damnation. He told him that he did not, as he did not believe it and would not teach it. The Scotch divine replied to him that he would have to teach it, as it was part of the Baptist confession of faith. My father replied to him that he did not care if it was a part of the Baptist confession of faith. It was to him too horrible a doctrine for him to teach and he would have nothing to do with it. His refusal to teach the Baptist confession of faith occasioned quite a stir among the congregation. The older members of the church thought he ought to teach it, as it was a part of their confession of faith, while the younger members thought he acted wisely in refusing to teach the doctrine.] & at length the church seemed about to divide over it. My father tendered his resignation & the church got another minister.   [After resigning the pastorship of the Baptist church] He remained in Pittsburg about 2 years. This happened about Aug. 1824 and he entered the tanning business with his brother-in-law, Richard Brooks [who was a tanner and] a couryer by trade [who started a tannery in Pittsburg]. My father put some money in the business. At the end of 2 years they sold the tannery.   Soon after that Sidney Rigdon became acquainted with Alexander Campbell [who was a very learned man but not much of an orator]. They got their heads together & started what was then called the Campbellite church. [Sidney Rigdon baptized Campbell and Campbell baptized him, and the church was started. There was not much to their confession of faith. It was to believe on the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, be baptized for the remission of your sins, and take the Bible for your guide was all there was of it. Its simplicity recommended itself to the general public]. Now in 1827 SidneyRigdon went to Mentor Ohio & commenced to preach the doctrine, he soon had quite a large congregation. They built a church, he again seemed to be on the high road to fame & fortune. [{The doctrines which he advanced were new but were elucidated with such clearness and eloquence which was superior to what they had heard before that those whose prejudices were not too deeply rooted became his willing converts to the doctrines which he taught.... His reputation as a pulpit orator and deep reasoner had spread far and wide and he soon gained a popularity and an elevation which has fallen to the lot of but few men.]]   One day the congregation asked him what he was going to charge them per yr. to preach. He said, " Nothing, the Apostles asked nothing for their preaching & I am not agoing to charge anything." [They said to him in reply that he had been giving them the gospel and now they were a-going to give him something.] They bought him a little farm coming right up to the edge of the village & had built him a house.   It was almost ready for him to move into, when along came Sept. [sic - Oct.?] 1830 and Parley Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, [[Peter Whitmer]] & one Zebe [sic - Ziba] Peterson with the Book of Mormon. It was a bound volume, it was the first time Sidney Rigdon ever saw it or ever heard of the man called Joseph Smith. Parley Pratt presented the book to my father Sidney Rigdon in the presence of my mother and oldest sister, [Athalia Rigdon Robinson] who was a girl of 10 yrs of age. Parley Pratt used to be a Baptist minister & was some what acquainted with Sidney Rigdon.   In presenting the Book of Mormon he said, "Brother Rigdon here is a book which is a revelation from God. One Joseph Smith a young boy had an angel appear to him who told him where to go to find the plates upon which the book was engraved. [They were gold plates. Joseph Smith went as directed by the angel and found the plates in a hill near Palmyra, N. Y., and brought them to his home and there by the power of God translated them, and it was the everlasting gospel given to the children of men."   My sister and mother told me that] My father replied to Parley Pratt, "You need not argue the case with me. I have one Bible which I claim to have some knowledge [of] & which I believe to be a revelation of God. As to this book I have some doubts but you can leave it with me when you go away [in the morning] & I will read it. When you come again I will tell you what I think about it."   Pratt said he would leave it, but asked "Will you let us preach in your church tonight?" My Father hesitated & then agreed they could.   [Quite a little congregation gathered at the church to hear the strangers preach their strange doctrines about an angel appearing to a young boy who told him where to go to find a book engraved upon gold plates hid up in a hill near Palmyra, N. Y., which had the everlasting gospel to preach to the children of men engraved upon it.] Parley Pratt & Oliver Cowdery preached, Peterson said nothing. [Pratt spoke last. At the conclusion of his remarks, Pratt asked my father if he had any remarks to make. If so he should be pleased to hear him. Sidney Rigdon arose and said, "Brethren, we have listened to strange doctrines tonight but we are commanded to prove all things and to hold fast to that which is good. I would caution you not to be too hasty in giving your opinion upon what you have heard, but give this matter your careful consideration and then you will be better prepared to tell whether it is true or not." The meeting was dismissed and Cowdery, Pratt, and Peterson went home with my father and stayed over night.] The next day they went away [they left him the Book of Mormon, telling him that they were going to the town of Kirtland about five miles from there and would be back in about two or three weeks [sic].] my Father [immediately after the strangers had gone away] commenced to read the book. [He got so engaged in it that it was hard for him to quit long enough to eat his meals.] He studied both day & night. [At last he had read it through and pondered and thought over it.]   At length [Pratt and his two companions got back.] my Father asked them who this Joseph Smith was & how much education he had. They said he was a man about 22 yrs. old and had hardly a common school education. My Father replied, if that was all the education he had he never wrote the book. Pratt told my Father that they had converted some people at Kirtland & were agoing to baptize some of them the coming week -- they would be pleased to have him & his wife present when the Baptism took place. [My father promised that they would and did so]  [[reading the Book of Mormon and praying to the Lord for light and meditating upon the things he had read, after some few weeks from the time he received the book he became fully convinced of the truth of the work and was satisfied that it was a revelation from God.]] My parents went [to Kirtland] & while there place. [and before they left for Mentor] were baptized into the Mormon Church.   When they got back & his congregation heard of what he had done they were furious at him & said to him that if he had remained a Campbellite & continued to preach the Gospel of which he had helped to create, he might have gone down to the grave as one of the great Divines of the age, but now he had gone & thrown it all away & was agoing to fools' hell & follow a fool of a boy who claimed an angel had appeared to him [and told him where to go to find some plates of gold upon which there was engraved the Book of Mormon, which was to be the foundation of the Mormon Church. It was nonsense and a man of his knowledge ought to have known better than to have had anything to do with such impostures. He ought not to have let them preach in their church, should not have let them stay overnight in his house, and should have refused to have anything to do with them.] My father replied to them that they could talk to him as they pleased [but] he was convinced [in reading the Book of Mormon that] the Doctrine preached by the Mormons was true & he was agoing to preach the Doctrine, let the consequences be what they may.   He was not permitted to move into the little house which they finished for him to live in, & the Campbellite Church refused to have anything more to do with him. Therefore, he took his family & his little belongings & went to a little town called Hyram [sic], about 2 1.2 miles from Kirtland, & there lived with those people who had been baptized by Parley Pratt and his associates at Kirtland.

When he had got there with his family they wished him to go to Palmyra & see Joseph Smith. He [went & saw Joseph at that time, being the first time he ever had seen or met him, and he never saw the Book of Mormon until Parley Pratt presented it to him at Mentor, Ohio.] He did not see the plates [from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon] -- but he talked with him and also the witnesses who saw the plates & helped to write the book as translated by Joseph Smith, [from the plates. After spending a few days with Joseph Smith,] he came back to Hyram firmly convinced that he had found the everlasting Gospel to preach to the children of men. On Mar. 18, 1833 he was ordained to be Joseph Smith's first counselor, which position he held up to the time that Joseph was killed [at Carthage, Ill., in the month of June 1844].

Not long after Sidney Rigdon had moved to Hyram, Joseph Smith came there to live & some time during the winter or early spring of the year Joseph Smith & Sidney Rigdon were one morning before daylight taken out of their beds and tarred and feathered by a mob. The mob came & got Rigdon first. He was a man weighing about 225 lbs., as they dragged him some distance over the frozen ground by his heels[,] bumping the back of his head so that when they got him to the place where they were to put the tar and feathers on him he was insensible. They covered him with tar & feathers & pounded him till they thought he was dead & then went to get Joseph Smith. He fought them but they got hold of him at last & carried him out [and they took him] to where Rigdon lay & Joseph thought he was dead. The mob then tarred and feathered Joseph & pounded him till they got tired & left them both on the ground. Joseph Smith soon after [the mob left] got up and went home, [not very badly hurt] he was bruised some about the head. My Father must have lain on the ground when the mob left him for some time. At last he got up in a dazed condition and did not know where he was nor where to go, at last he got his face turned toward his home more by accident than design & went reeling along the road not knowing where he was & would have passed his house but my Mother was out the door watching for him & went out as he came along and got him in the house. She got the tar and feathers off from him as best she could and got him to bed. In the morning Joseph Smith came over to see him, but he was [crazy] out of his mind. [He wanted him to get him his razor. Joseph Smith wanted to know what he wanted it for. He said that he wanted to kill his wife]. Joseph Smith soothed as best he could & left. In a few days my Father regained his mind;   soon after getting over the effects of the tar and feathers, they took their horses and started for Jackson Co., Missouri, a distance of about 1,000 miles. They laid out the town of Independence [in Jackson County] & selected a site for a temple[,] then came home. They left a few Mormons at Independence, among the number was W. W. Phelps; he was publishing a little paper at Independence which was a [monthly]. The Mormons at Independence got into a quarrel with the Missourians & finally were driven out of Jackson Co. They went to Clay Co., and there trouble started again [with the Missourians]. Philo Debble [sic] was shot; Debble told me he was shooting at the mob and went to load his gun but found that the end of his powder horn had been shot off & the powder spilled. He saw a hole through his coat [and] unbuttoning it found a hole through the vest. He did not examine any farther for then was no pain came. He remained there looking at the boys shooting at the mob for nearly an hour. At last pain came in dreadful agony. After the fight he was attended by his brethren & got well & lived to be about 83 years of age & was buried at Salt Lake. The ball that wounded him in the fight in Clay [Co.] Missouri, remained in the body when it was carried to his grave.   The Missourians drove the few saints from Clay Co. but told them they could go into Caldwell Co. Missouri [they might stay there. They would not be disturbed. So they moved into Caldwell County]. There the Saints founded the town of "Far West." Joseph Smith & Sidney Rigdon, after returning again to Ohio, concluded that as the Missourians were acting so badly they would make the gathering place Kirtland Ohio [about two and a half miles from Hiram]. They moved their families to Kirtland and began building a temple. [There was where my first recollections began. There they began the erection of a temple.] I remember well the building the temple, it was finished in 1836 & was dedicated by Sidney Rigdon. [Sidney Rigdon preached the sermon.]

[How the Mormons succeeded in building the temple I could never understand. They had no money but somehow contrived to get the lumber. And the members of the church worked from early morning till ten or twelve at night. Some got board, some didn't, so at the end of three years it was finished and was one of the largest houses then in the State of Ohio.   On the day when the temple was to be dedicated, there was a great time of rejoicing by the members of the Church. They could not all get into church the first day, so the ceremony was continued on a second day. My father preached the sermon on the first day. He took for his text Psalm 8 of the Savior: Foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. He said that this was the first temple that had ever been erected and dedicated to the service of the living God in modern times that he had any knowledge of. This sermon was said to be one of the great efforts of his life.   What glorious times the Saints had when the temple was dedicated and what shouts of Hosannah have I heard from the old temple while the Mormons were permitted to worship God within its walls! The people came to church every Sunday because they wanted to come. You could not keep them away. A great many strangers came to hear the Mormons preach. My father usually preached on Sunday morning and great crowds, both members and strangers, came to hear him. The upper story of the temple was used for schools. I went to school the last year we remained at Kirtland. Elias Smith, who was probate judge of Salt Lake in 1863, was my teacher.]

It seemed, however, that Mormons were not permitted to remain at Kirtland [a great length of time after completion of the temple] . In less than two years from its completion Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were forced to leave Kirtland on account of their starting of the Kirtland Bank. My father opposed it. He said it would not be legal as they had no charter. He did not wish to have anything to do with it, but Joseph Smith thought differently and persuaded Father to sign bills as president and Joseph signed them as cashier. They gave their notes for the silver needed to start the bank. It ran but a short time as they could not get the silver to redeem the bills; the bills came back to the bank faster than silver could be gotten to redeem them with. And the bank went down. [The notes which they had given to get hard money to redeem the bills came due. One Warren Parrish, who used to be a good Mormon and who got notes in his possession and had apostatized from Mormonism, got angry with Joseph for some reason unknown to me and told Joseph that he had notes which Joseph and Sidney had given upon which they had borrowed money to start the bank with. And they were about due. And if the notes were not paid at maturity, he would sue them and get judgment against Joseph and Sidney, and if judgment was not paid, he would put them in jail where they would stay until judgment was paid. There was a law in the State of Ohio to the effect that if one got a judgment on a debt against another and it was not paid, he could be thrown into jail and remain there until he paid it. As they could not pay judgment, all they could do was to get out of the state.] Therefore, rather than risk jail through judgement, in the winter of 1837 Sidney, Joseph and families started for Caldwell Co. Missouri, a distance of about 1,000 miles.

I was attending school in the upper temple, [when we left.] [On] coming home from school one [day in the] afternoon, [of the day we left] I saw considerable commotion about my Father's house. I inquired of Mother what was the reason. She said, "Nothing that concerned me." In the evening I saw several men come to the house and whisper some and go away. I wanted to know of Mother what was the trouble but could get no reply, and was at last ordered to bed. My brother Sidney and I went to bed;   along in the night I was awakened by a man trying a pair of shoes on my feet. I asked what he was doing. He said he had gotten me a new pair of shoes. I said that was all right, but had he not better wait till morning then I could try them better. He said, "You go to sleep and don't ask questions." I did so; not long after that my Brother and I were awakened and told to dress as we were going away. I asked where we were going and he said to a land flowing with milk and honey that I had heard so much about. I thought [if I was going to that land which was flowing with milk and honey,] [that was a good place to go.] That night about 12 o'clock we started in an open lumber wagon, leaving my brother-in-law, George W. Robinson, behind to sell some property and get two spans of horses, a carriage, and another lumber wagon and meet us at Dublin in the state of Indiana. We were to wait for him there; we rode all night in the lumber wagon. Just as we were leaving the village of Kirtland Joseph Smith met us with all his family. [We stopped the next morning a little after daylight to get breakfast at a hotel and from there went to Akron, Ohio. A short distance from there we stopped at a friend's house and stayed some two days in order to put covers on the wagons so we would be warmer. Then we again started for Dublin, Indiana, and reached there without accident. There we waited three weeks for Robinson to come up.] We reached Dublin without accident and waited there three weeks for George W. Robinson to come. We all started for "Far West," [Caldwell County, Missouri] traveling together [for a while and] then separating, for it was hard for us all to get accommodations at one place [travelling together]. Joseph Smith took half of the party and my Father the rest. We were to meet in Indiana, but we did not [sic] [and we did meet there and then separated again. Joseph Smith was to cross the Mississippi River at Scunedy and we were to cross the Mississippi at Louisiana, twenty miles below.   We left Joseph Smith in Indiana and got along all right till we got to a town called Paris, Illinois, where we stayed overnight]. In the morning there was a great snow storm, it would be called a blizzard now. We had prairie to cross of about 10 miles & were cautioned not to attempt to cross [it in such a storm. The people said the road was filled up with snow and we would be liable to get lost and, if we did, be frozen to death.] My father thought differently [and thought we could get across without trouble], when we started we could see a woods on the other side, but we had not been out long when the storm was so great we could not see across the prairie [and there was no road to be seen.] Robinson took the lead and a man by the name of Darrow followed him in an open wagon. I & my brother were in the 3rd wagon.

We had lost sight of Robinson & Darrow when one of the wheels of our wagon came off and let us down in the snow. While trying to fix the wheel, a man came up and told us to turn back if we did not we would freeze to death. I was put in another wagon and we turned back [to Paris]. When we got there we made inquiriy about Robinson and it seemed he did [not hear] the order to turn back. Robinson had a covered carriage, in it were he, his wife & [my mother and my father's mother] -- grandmother, who was about 80 years old. I was [so] nearly frozen to death I could not walk. [I had to be carried into the house and there thawed out. But it was getting dark and the storm was at its height and none dared venture out on the prairie in the storm, and Robinson and the women and Darrow had to be left to their fate. There was great excitement that night in house where we stayed.] The next morning [the storm was over but it was very cold, but the excitement was so great that we had to start and see if we could find the lost ones. We could see across the prairie but there was no road to be seen.] we set out after the lost ones [and after about two and a half hours we got across to the timber on the other side. There was a little house standing on the bank of a small stream and we went to inquire if any wagons had come there the day before. We were overjoyed to learn that an open wagon and carriage had stopped to get warm but they had no accommodations to keep them overnight. They had gone to a house about five miles from there and would probably find them. We made haste to the house, and when we got there we] found them in a house safe on the other side of the prairie -- [well, except Darrow, whose sons were badly frozen. We stayed there that night and in the morning,] We all set out again and once out on the prairie [in Illinois. Then there was] sickness forced us to stop with a man out there[,] [and it was the happiest three weeks I ever spent. The man whom we stopped with] had drawn up a large crop of corn in the shack near his house & the snow being deep the prairie chickens came in large flocks every morning & remained all day. [It was said that hunger will tame lions and so it will prairie chickens.] We stayed here 3 weeks -- [the weather moderated and the road became passable and the folks who were sick were well enough to travel. We started again for the Mississippi River. We got opposite Louisiana just two days before the rains had come and the ice on the river had become too weak to cross it with teams or foot. So we had to remain there ten days to wait for the ice to get out before a steam ferry boat could come over to take us across. When we got on the Missouri River, we found that the mud had got very deep and it was hard to travel with loaded wagons. After we had got within 125 miles, our horses were tired out and we got to a Mr. Herrick's house and there stayed two weeks waiting for our horses to get rested and for the mud to dry up, and then started again, and this time we reached] "Far West" [the long-looked-for promised land one bright morning in the month of] April, 1838.

Joseph [Smith heard of us the night before, he having reached Far West about three weeks before we got there, and was much pleased to learn that we would reach Far West the next morning and was on the lookout for us. He met us just] as we were coming into the village. He shook hands with Father & Mother, with tears in his eyes & thanked God we had got to the journey's end safely. [Joseph Smith led us to Thomas Marsh, who was then the President of the Quorum of the Twelve]. We arrived on Sat., the next morning all the Mormons of "Far West" came to hear Sidney Rigdon. [There was a large schoolhouse outside the village where the meeting was to be held. There was no standing room. They took out the windows, the weather being warm, and got up into the window spaces. Some had to remain outside]. He preached for two hours, it was one of his great efforts. [All things continued till the Fourth of July celebration. The village of Far West was built around a square. In the center they had dug a cellar for a temple. The cornerstone was laid on the Fourth of July. My father was to deliver the oration. Colonel Hinckle had one company of uniformed militia. We had a martial band with a bass drum and two small drums, and so a procession was formed to march, the uniform company of militia coming first and then the procession followed. We made quite a showing for a small town. After marching around the square, the militia came to the cellar and halted. There was erected a stand to speak from. Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and several others took their places. When a benediction had been given, Sidney Rigdon commenced his oration. The first half of his oration was a Fourth of July oration pure and simple. Not a word was said that could offend the ear of anyone. The next half was devoted to the building that was to be erected. The lower floor was to be devoted for worship. The upper story was to be for school. They were to be so arranged so that they could give any student who might come a college education if he wished it. But in closing up his remarks he made use of this language: "We have provided the world with kindness and have grown weary with well-doing, and if the Missourians shall attack us again, we shall carry the war to these very doors." In my opinion this should not have been said. It only excited the minds of Missourians. It was reprinted that he had threatened to commence a war of extermination against the Missourians, but the little breeze that this remark occasioned soon wore off and all seemed to be well.   In the fall of the year there was a man who was running for Congress and he wanted the Mormons to vote for him. There were a few of the Mormons who were legal voters and they went to the polls to vote.] At an election held in Gallitan, Davis Co. Missouri on Aug. 6, 1838 the Missourians refused to let the Mormons vote and said the Mormons said they would vote, they voted and then hostilities broke out between them.   [The Mormons punched the heads of the Missourians quite badly, and the Missourians ran for their guns, and the Mormon voters voted and returned home. That commenced the fight and it never ended till the Mormons were driven from the State of Missouri.   Soon after that we began to hear of the Missourians driving some of the Mormons from their farms and stealing and driving off stock and insulting their wives and daughters, and they [were] obliged to send their families into town for protection. Soon it got so bad that the Mormons began to retaliate and send out men and drive the Missourians off and compel them to let the Mormons alone. They often got into a fight with them, and wherever they did the Missourians always ran. Things kept getting worse all the time.] The 8th of Aug. Joseph Smith & Lyman Wight were arrested and men started leaving the church. This went on until Oct. and the seige of "Far West" took place with much fighting and suffering.   [David Patten, who used to be called by the Mormons as Captain Fear-Not, was rightly named, for if there was ever a brave man he was one. One night late in the fall he heard that a gang of Missourians under General Lucas that had been robbing some of the Mormons were in camp on what was called Cracker River, a distance from Far West of about 25 miles. He got up a company of Mormons and went after them. I was out of the square when they started. Patten did not know where on the river he could find them. On his way out he ran across a young man about eighteen years old by the name of Patrick O'Banion who knew where he could find them, and he compelled O'Banion to go with them and show them the way. When he got in the vicinity the Mormons hitched their horses in a grove of trees nearby and prepared to make attack on foot. When they got into an opening on the bank of the river, one of the Missouri sentinels called out, "Who comes there," and without waiting for a reply, quite a number of Missourians fired into the Mormons. David Patten fell, shot through the body, and Patrick O'Banion, who stood beside him, fell also, shot in the back, and one Gideon Carter, who was farther back, fell, shot through the neck. Then the Missourians ran and crossed the river and formed their company on the other side. There not being much water in the river at that time, they all commenced a hasty retreat. They left all of their horses and camp equipment and started to climb up a steep bank when the Mormons fired a volley into them. One of their number came tumbling down the bank, shot in the back dead. The rest got away. Then Patten was shot. He said, "Boys go ahead; never mind me." The Mormons crossed the river and took their horse blankets and what guns they could find and the clothing they left behind, and took up the bodies of Patten and O'Banion and started for Far West. [They] did not know that Carter had been shot as it was dark. They got a few miles way, when the pains of Patten were so bad they had to stop to the house of a friend and leave him, and they sent for his wife. She got there just before he died. When she came into the house, he told her he was a-going to die but whatever she did, not to deny the fact. In less than an hour he was dead. They brought young Patrick O'Banion to my father's house where he lingered in great agony for two days and then died. He was not a Mormon, nor was his father or mother. They came and took the body away. The next day they brought David Patten's body, and also that of Gideon Carter, to Far West, whom they found lying dead on the field. He was shot through the neck and the Mormons did not know he was hurt till the next morning after Patten's death. I was at Patten's house when his body was brought there. I looked into the wagon box and there lay David Patten's body silent in death; he lay on his back, his lips tightly closed and no indication of fear on his countenance. He was a brave man and we all deeply mourned his loss. The next day we buried both David Patten and Gideon Carter in military order. Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith and Sidney Rigdon rode at the head of the procession on horseback. Then came the martial band and after that the bodies of David Patten and Gideon Carter and then quite a little procession followed. After, we took them out to a little burying ground just outside of the village and there we buried them. A very short time after that came that horrible massacre at Hauns Mill, about 25 miles from Far West. One afternoon a band of Missourians rode into a little grove just outside of the settlement at Hauns Mill, hitched their horses, and then came out of the woods with their guns and shot every man they could find. The people at Hauns Mill were not thinking that anyone would attack them. The men were out in the fields to work, not being armed. There was not even a suspicion of any harm being done them. They were taken by surprise as the Missourians began to shoot them. Then they ran for their houses to get their guns in order to defend themselves and were almost all shot down and killed before they reached their houses. The Missourians killed fifteen men and one little baby and shot his little brother in the hip, but he got well. A man by the name of Smith who was a blacksmith had a shop at the settlement and had two little boys. He took the boys and put them under the bellows and then took his gun and went out to see what could be done to defend the people. While out of the shop he got his death wound and came back to his shop and lay down near where his boys were hiding and died. While Smith lay there dead, two of the mob came into the shop and seeing Smith dead and seeing the boys, one of them put the muzzle of his gun against the head of one of the boys and fired, blowing the top of his head off, and his brains were blown over the head of his brother. The other ruffian shot the other little boy in the hip and then went away. After they had shot every man they could find, they mounted their horses and rode away, as if the devils were after them. The Mormons were digging a well for drinking water at Hauns Mill but had not got it deep enough. The women took the fifteen men that were killed and the little boy and carried them to the well, put them in, and covered them up and left them. After getting their goods the best they could, they came to Far West. The town was crowded with farmers and their families who had been driven from their farms. Room was found for all but there was little to eat and they were reduced to eating parched corn. Not long after the massacre at Hauns Mill, Governor Boggs of the State of Missouri ordered out the militia to the number of 10,000 with orders to go to Far West and exterminate the Mormons or drive them from the state. In that number there was a brigade commanded by General [Alexander W.] Doniphan over whom General Lucas was commander. The said militia had not authority.

[[...the notorious General Lucas was determined to wreak his vengeance on the Mormons and offered his services to Governor Boggs to rid the state of these aliens. Lucas mistook a defensive action of the Mormons against antagonistic people from Carroll County as offensive warfare and used this false information to get Boggs to issue his extermination order...]]   Along in the afternoon late in the fall of 1838, a large number of persons came riding into town telling us that a multitude was coming for the purpose of massacring us, and in a short time after we got the news, we saw them coming over the hills and coming down onto what was called Goose Creek. When they got on the banks of the creek they turned to the left and went in a large grove. All was great excitement in Far West. The women were greatly excited and the men showed great fear as to what might happen. The first time I saw Joseph Smith was in front of Father's house (the house fronted the square on which the cellar for the temple was dug). He was loading a gun and was surrounded by about forty or fifty men who appeared badly frightened, and well they might be. Joseph told them to go and get their guns and he would lead them down as near as possible to the camp of the Missourians and see what they intended to do. "Perhaps," he said, "they may be intending to attack us in the night." He wanted them to know that if [they were] going to wait till morning, they would not get hurt by doing down with him. They got their guns and started down. I, with several other boys, went along, as we were anxious to see what was to be done. Joseph took the lead and the men followed. He went down within about half a mile of the Missourians' camp, drew his men up in line, and there watched them for some time. At last he said he did not think they intended to attack them that night as they appeared to be making preparations to go into camp for the night. He said, "Brethren, we, I think, will go back." About that time my father came running down, and when he saw me and my brother, he asked us what we were doing. I told him we had come down to see what was going to be done. He said, "You and your brother go home. You may get killed here." I said that we were in no more danger of getting killed than he was. He replied in anger for us to go home at once and we started. We did not travel very fast and did not get back till he did. That night the Mormons barricaded the town. We worked all night in doing so. It was not much of a barricade but it was better than none. The house my father lived in was a double two-story long house on the edge of the square. The upper story had nothing in it and that was packed as full of women and children as could get into it. We all sat on the floor as close as we could get and there we sat all night. In the morning we came down about sunrise and stood looking at the Missourians' camp on Goose Creek, about one and a half miles from us, when Seymour Brownson came running up; he took command after David Patten's death. He called out, "Every man to his post."

The Missourians started out to see what we would do, and when they saw us looking over the breastworks prepared to fight, they turned around and went back. That maneuver on the part of the Missourians was repeated three times, and the fourth time they marched toward us, they had a flag of truce hitched on the end of a gun. Seymour Brownson, with three or four others, jumped over the breastworks and went down to meet them. It was General Lucas with about 250 of his men whom Brownson met there.

He halted his men and Brownson said, "General Lucas, what do you want?"

He said he had come to talk with him.

Brownson said, "Talk away; I am here to listen."

Lucas said, "Brownson, you need not put any airs on with me. We can whip you."

Brownson said, "I do not know but you can, but you can't do it so long as there is a man alive who can fire a gun. Some of your men will never go home."

Lucas said he wanted to fix matters up if it could be done without fighting.

Brownson said, "What is your offer?"]

Gen. Lucas demanded that Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Parley Pratt and George W. Robinson be turned over [as] military hostages. [Lucas said, "If you will surrender up all your arms and surrender some of the head men of the Church as hostages for your promise, they shall be kindly treated and well kept, and agree to leave the state in ten months, we will settle the matter and we will go home."

Brownson said, "General Lucas, I cannot make any such agreement with you, but I will tell you what I will do. You stay where you are and I will go up into the village and see some of the head men of the church and what they will agree to do. I will come back and let you know."

Lucas said, "All right, but hurry up."

Brownson went immediately up to the village. He saw Joseph and Hyrum, my father and Lyman Wight and several others. Lyman Wight said, "Brethren, we can kill some of those men but they will kill us, and what is to become of the women and children that we leave behind us? I think discretion the better part of valor."

It was agreed to accept Lucas' offer, and Brownson went back and told General Lucas that they would accept his offer. Lucas and his men came up to the breast-works and took the guns out of the hands of the men, and then about 200 men rode into town and visited every house and took every gun they could find, and they pretended to be mad to think such an agreement had been made.]
They commended themselves to God and surrendered. [Lucas came and took Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, George Robinson (my brother-in-law), Alexander McRae, and several others and took them down into camp. As soon as they were into camp they were put under guard and in less than an hour after they arrived in camp, a drumhead court-martial was called and they were all sentenced to be shot on the public square the next morning, and this decision would have been carried out if it had not been for General Doniphan.]
Nov. 1, 1838
Brigadier General Doniphan: "Sir, you will take Joseph Smith and the other prisoners unto the public square of "Far West" and shoot them at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning."

Samuel D. Lucus
Major General Commanding

General Doniphan replied: "It is cold blooded murder. I will not obey your order. My Brigade shall march for Liberty tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock; and if you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God!"

A. W. Doniphan
Brigadier General
[He told General Lucas that if those men were shot in accordance with the decision of the court-martial, he would order his brigade to march, as it was nothing more than murder and he would have nothing to do with it. He said to General Lucas, "You have got those men into your possession by promising them protection and fair treatment and now you are going to shoot them in the presence of their families," and looking General Lucas square in the eye, he said, "You hurt one of these men if you dare and I will hold you personally responsible for it, and at some other time you and I will meet again when in mortal combat and we will see who is the better man."

Lucas replied to Doniphan, "If that is the way you feel about it, they shall not be shot."

The prisoners after an earnest appeal, were permitted]
The next morning to visit their homes, under a strong guard, to obtain a change of clothing -- [giving them an opportunity to bid their wives and children goodbye. Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith were taken to their house under guard. My father and Robinson were brought to my father's house. Robinson and his wife were then living with my father and while they were bidding their families goodbye, the house was crowded with Missourians with guns, so that it was almost impossible to get in or out of the house, and they were laughing at the scene being enacted. After they had bid their families goodbye, they got into a wagon.] They were however, given strict command not to speak to their families. [Joseph and Hyrum having returned and being in the wagon, General Lucas gave the order to march and they all went away.] We suppose[d] it was the last time we should ever see them.

[They were taken to Clay County in Missouri and again court-martialed and again sentenced to be shot, but what prevented [it] I never knew. After a time they sent Robinson and several others home and took Joseph Smith, Hyrum, my father, Alexander McRae, Lyman Wight, and others, whose names I have forgotten, and put them into Liberty Jail, about 25 miles from Far West, where I went to see them.

[Nov. 9, 1838 they arrived in Richmond Ray Co. and were imprisoned in a vacant house. While confined here a] Dr. Madisib of Terre Haute, Indiana came to Far West to see what had become of Thomas Marsh's wife. Marsh and his wife had left the Church at this time. Madisib, I think, was a rich man. He came to Far West in a covered two-seated carriage drawn by a beautiful span of cream-colored horses, and he tendered this carriage and horses to my mother and Joe Smith's wife for the purpose of going to see their husbands imprisoned in Liberty Jail, if they could get someone who would drive the horses. Joe Smith's wife took her oldest son along (now President of the Reorganized Church) and my mother took me. We started rather late in the morning and did not get to the jail till after dark, and they would not let us go in till the next morning. After taking breakfast at the hotel, we were taken to the jail and there remained for three days, and that is the time and place where young Joseph Smith claims, or did claim, that his father Joseph Smith ordained him to be the leader of the church at his father's death.]

When the jailer let me out to go round to see the town young Joseph Smith went with me & when I went back he always went with me as he was a little afraid to stay out alone thinking there might be danger. [I was there and was with young Joe Smith all the time while we were at the jail. When the jailer let me out to go around to see the town, Joseph Smith went with me, and when I went back he always went with me, as he was a little afraid to play out alone, thinking there might be danger; and I say no such ordination ever took place while we were at Liberty Jail. If it had, I should have remembered it. Young Joe Smith, the prophet's son, and I are the only ones who are alive that were in the jail at that time. I know the ordination which he claims never took place. I was only at Liberty Jail once, nor neither was young Joe Smith. We went out in the same carriage and came back together. I understand that he now claims that his father blessed him, but he cannot remember whether he was ordained or not. I say his father did not bless him either when we bade him goodbye. The turnkey stood at the door with the key in his hand. His father might have put his hand on his son's head and said, "Goodbye, my son." I do not say he did, but he might have done so. It is strange that when he was ordained by William Marks and a man by the name of [Zenas H.] Gurley and Mr. [William W.] Blair fourteen years after his father's death, he had not thought of his ordination in Liberty Jail and told them about it. But he was silent about the matter till he was questioned about his authority to lead the church, and then he suddenly remembered that he had been ordained by his father in Liberty Jail when he was nearly eleven years old. Marks and Gurley were once members of the Mormon Church and Mr. Blair was never a member of the Church. Marks and Gurley had been cut off from the Church some years before Joseph Smith [III] was ordained, and none of those who did ordain him had any authority to do so. A man authorized by the Mormon Church must be ordained by someone who has this priesthood to confer or else it is good for nothing and Marks and Gurley and Blair did not have the priesthood to confer on anyone. I understand now that Smith claims that his father appointed him to the position, but when or where no one knows but himself. He has no claim to be leader of the Mormon Church except that he is the son of his father Joseph Smith, and that of itself gives him no authority.]

My Father Sidney Rigdon was taken out of Liberty jail to be tried. Bur Riggs stated he told him that Rigdon had killed a man & hid his body in the bushes. [The judge told Ben [sic] Riggs that he could not try a man for murder on that statement; he must show the man he killed. Riggs replied that was all he knew about it. The judge said, "If that is all you know, I shall discharge the man," and he did so.] Riggs could produce no body so the judge discharged my Father.

The Missourians said [to father after he was discharged that] he would not go free and they were going to kill him; he was taken back to jail. He remained there a few days,   one night a friend of Father's came riding to the back door of the jail with a horse all saddled. The man in charge of the jail was friendly and helped him away. He bid his fellow prisoners goodbye, got on the horse & with his guide got safely to Quincy, Ill. We knowing he had left the jail went to Quincy and joined him. [Joseph Smith and Hyrum and the other prisoners were soon after taken from the jail, as the people of the county were tired of keeping them, and a party of men were to take them to Daviess County, but the people of Daviess County would not take them. They were told not to bring them back but to dispose of them as they might deem proper. They started with the prisoners for Daviess County and they did not feel like killing them. They got whisky and got drunk, and while they were in that condition the prisoners escaped on their horses. They reached Quincy, Illinois, and were free.] After Father got to Quincy we remained there 4 weeks then went to what was called Big Neck Prairie & rented a farm with George W. Robinson & were preparing to raise crops when Father heard of Dr. Gallan[d] who used to be an Indian agent who had a place for sale near a little town of Commerce on the Mississippi. He went to see Gallan; he had a 2 story stone house with porch above and below a fine grove of [locus] trees growing in front of the house which was near the river bank. He bought the place; Father did not come back to Big Neck Prairie, but wrote my brother-in-law George W. Robinson what he had done & that Gallan was willing to give immediate possession. A man named Herrick, a Mormon who was driven out of Missouri, was in search of a farm to rent & Robinson let him have the one he had rented & packed up & moved to Commerce. It was only about 50 miles away. Gallan took his family to St. Louis. We arrived -- [found Commerce] very sickly, we all got well except Father's Mother, who was 81. We had not been at Commerce (afterward called Nauvoo) but a short time till Joseph Smith, Hyrum, Vinson Knight & a few others came to see us. Joseph & Hyrum went about 1/2 mile below us and bought out White who had a fine place on the river bank. Joseph & Hyrum laid out the land in village lots & offered them for sale; Joseph and Hyrum moved on the White farm that fall. Hence came the city of Nauvoo. It is a Hebrew name. Robinson selected the name, he being quite a Hebrew scholar. It means beautiful. Dec. 10, 1839 Nauvoo was incorporated and [Sometime in the winter of 1839 or 1840 immigration] commenced very fast [and by the spring of 1840 there was quite a large settlement. The town gained so fast that] by 1844 it was said to have 20,000 in number.

[[(In 1843 Joseph Smith proposed) spiritual marriage (to Nancy), promising her great exaltation (world) come to those who received and embraced it... (She) resented... utterly refused... (my father was) very indignant at Joseph Smith to think he should make such a proposal... it caused considerable talk among the neighbors and acquaintances of the Rigdon family.]]

In Jan. on the 29, 1844 Joseph Smith ran for president and Sidney Rigdon as vice president. The Mormons voted for men whose policies they though would lead to greatest good, sometimes the candidates of one party and sometimes those of another. In the presidential campaign of 1844, disagreeing with the policies of both major parties, they steered to a middle course by nominating their own candidates. The Mormon leader issued a statement of his views on government which attracted attention of many. Among other things he advocated that the government solve the slave problem by purchasing the negroes, thus freeing the slaves and compensating their owners -- a policy which if followed likely would have saved the treasure and lives later sacrificed in the Civil War. He further suggested that prisons be made schools where offenders might be taught useful trades thus becoming valuable members of society.

Later in the spring of 1844, Joseph sent Father to Pittsburg, Pa, to take charge of a little Mormon church; we started in June. Ebenezer Robinson, who was a church printer was to go with him to print a paper. We took a steamboat as far as St. Louis. Joseph Smith & all the dignitaries came to the boat to bid us goodbye. The day before we reached Pittsburgh, Joseph Smith & Hyrum were shot to death at Carthage Jail, 17 miles from Nauvoo.   My Father went back to Nauvoo, the Quorum of 12 placed the leadership of the church on Brigham Young. This hurt Father's feelings. He claimed he was the man for the leadership [of the Church.] He said he had done more to establish the church than any man in it, outside of the Prophet. He had spent the best years of his life in preaching the Gospel & had sacrificed fame & fortune to do it, now to be asked to step down and take a subordinate place under Young or any other man, he could not do it. [[...had received at the hands of Joseph Smith an ordination higher than that of Brigham Young or any member of the Twelve.... He could not and would not submit to acknowledge Brigham Young as President.]]  He left Nauvoo, never to return.   I do not think the Church made any mistake in placing the leadership on Brigham Young; he, in my opinion, was the best man for the place that the church could have selected. Sidney Rigdon had no executive ability, was broken down with sickness & could not have taken charge of the church at that time. The church had to leave Nauvoo and seek a place farther west.

[The task would have been too great for Father. I have no fault to find with the Church with doing what they did. It was the best thing they could have done under the circumstances.]   I was baptized in the Mormon church in 1839 at Nauvoo. I was very sick. My Father said I would have to be baptized. It was in the month of June, Joseph & Hyrum came to the house & Hyrum took me in his arms and carried me to the river & waded out a short distance & was going to set me down but Joseph Smith said do not set him down hold him in your arms. He baptized me with Joseph Smith and Father as only witnesses. I was taken back and put in bed but I was never confirmed into the church and there are no minutes on the church books that I was ever baptized, & there would not be unless I was confirmed after being baptized. [I got up, sometime after Joseph Smith and Hyrum and Father had gone to Washington to present grievances of the Church against the Missourians to the general government. My father did not get back till the next summer, so I presume my confirmation was forgotten.] Therefore I am not an apostate from the church, for I never belonged to it till two years ago when I was baptized by J. M. McFarland in the Hudson River at N. Y. City.

My Father, after leaving Nauvoo, came to Pittsburg, the little church that was there concluded to follow him but he was so extreme in his ideas that they left him. He was at times so perfectly wild he could not control himself but still he claimed he ought to have been placed at the head of the church at Nauvoo. His daughter Eliza Rigdon about nineteen years old, died in Pittsburgh. That affected him very much & he never was the man he once was.   After that he went from Pittsburgh to Green Castle, Pa, but did not remain long here & from there he went to Cuba, [Allegany County,] N. Y. & joined George W. Robinson, who had traded some property at Nauvoo for a farm in Allegany Co., the farm was on Jackson Hill & from there he moved to Friendship in the same county. Here he died in 1876.   He never preached after he came to Allegany Co. His family would not let him. He seemed sane upon every other subject except religion. When he got on that subject he seemed to lose himself & his family would not permit him to talk on that subject especially with strangers. I could talk to him on religion and he would not get excited but would talk as rational as he ever did & seemed in full possession of his faculties. He used to lecture to the students in the Academy at Friendship, deliver 4th of July orations, make political speeches, he was posted well on the history of General Government.   He was always a Democrat; his first and his last vote at 82 was for a democrat.

I was admitted to the bar in 1859, in 1863 my health failed & I went west with my brother and a company. In the fall my health being no better [at Omaha] I did not believe I could stand the winter & proposed to my brother to go to Salt Lake which we did with a cattl[e] driver & rode with mule teams.   Brigham Young sent for us, he seemed glad to see us, he wanted to know if my Father and Mother would come to Salt Lake if he would send for them. He said he would send a mule team after them in the spring & he would bring them across the plains in a carriage & comfort & take care of them during their life. I told them I did not think they would come. I wrote to my Father & told him of Pres. Young's offer & in about 35 days an answer came declining the offer.

[In the spring, after staying about 23 miles south of Salt Lake, my brother went back to the mines and I came to Salt Lake for the purpose of going home.] While in Utah I was very disappointed in the church. [I saw a great many things among the members that seemed so different from what they were. They would swear, use tobacco, were vulgar in habits, drank whisky and get drunk. They did not preach the gospel when they went to church. They would tell about drawing wood, how to raise wheat and corn, and not a word said about the gospel. [They] came to meetings in everyday clothes and did not seem to care anything about religion. Mormonism seemed a humbug and I] made up my mind when I got home [I would find out from my father how the Book of Mormon came into existence.] I made up my mind when I got home my Father should tell me all he knew. He had not seen a Mormon in 25 years. When I got home I told him [the state of affairs in Salt Lake and, as it was all a humbug,] I wanted to know how the Book of Mormon came into existence for he owed it to his family to tell all he knew about it & should not go down to his grave with such secrets.   He said, "My son I will always swear before God that what I have told you about the Book of Mormon is true. I did not write or have anything to do with its production & if Joseph Smith ever got that other [than] from which he always told me, that an angel appeared & told him where to go to find the plates upon which the Book of Mormon was engraved in a hill near Palmyra, Smith guarded his secret well, for he never let me know by word or action that he got them differently & I believe he did find them as he said & that Joseph Smith was a Prophet & this world will find out someday.   I was surprised, smarting under what he thought was ingratitude of the church for turning him down and not having [been with them] -- seen a Mormon in 25 years, what object would he have to defend them. He must have truly believed [he was telling the truth. He was at this time in full possession of his faculties.] What object had he in concealing the fact any longer if he had written it? [My father died in 1876 at the age of 83, a firm believer in the Mormon Church.]

After my father's death, I told Mother what my Father had told me about the Book of Mormon. She said, "Your Father told you the truth. He did not write it, & I know as he could not have written it without my knowing it for we were married several years before the Book of Mormon was published & if he wrote it, [it] would have been since our marriage. I was present & so was your sister Athea [sic - Athalia] Rigdon (later Mrs. George W. Robinson) who was a girl of about 10 years old when the book was presented to your Father and she remembers the circumstances as well as any recollection of her life.

When Joseph Smith & Hyrum were killed at Carthage in 1844 their bodies were put into an oak box & sent to Nauvoo, Brigham Young took the box & had it made up into walking canes. He sent one to Father in Pittsburg & this cane was his constant companion for about 30 years. When he died my Mother kept the cane, when she died, 7 [sic - several?] years later it was given to me. When I came to Salt Lake the last time I brought it with me & gave it to Pres. Jo[seph F.] Smith to be placed in the museum.

[The religious world did not know him, simply because he taught a doctrine that they did not believe, and for that have condemned him to a place among the unbelievers in the world beyond. But when God shall come to make up his jewels, Sidney Rigdon, who they profess to despise, may stand brighter and more glorious than they in the Kingdom.]

Note 1: In 1891 RLDS Biship E. L. Kelley obtained a statement from John W. Rigdon, then "a lawyer of Cuba, New York." The text of that affidavit appeared in the Lamoni Independent Patriot of June 11, 1891  

Note 2: John W. Rigdon provided an interesting affidavit for the July 31, 1905 Deseret News -- see also the May 20, 1900 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Note 3: B. H. Roberts provides the following small excerpt from John W. Rigdon's manuscript biography of his father, in the LDS History of the Church, Vol. I, Chapter 11:

[p. 122-23]

.... The first house at which they called in the vicinity of Kirtland, was Mr. Rigdon's, and after the usual salutations, they presented him with the Book of Mormon, stating that it was a revelation from God. This being the first time he had ever heard of, or seen, the Book of Mormon * he felt very much surprised at the assertion, and replied that he had the Bible which he believed was a revelation from God, and with which he pretended to have some acquaintance; but with respect of the book they had presented him, he must say that he had considerable doubt. Upon this, they expressed a desire to investigate the subject, and argue the matter. But he replied, "No, young gentleman, you must not argue with me on the subject; but I will read your book, and see what claims it has upon my faith, and will endeavor to ascertain whether it be a revelation from God or not."
* The circumstance of Oliver Cowdery Parley P. Pratt and their associates presenting Sidney Rigdon with the Book of Mormon is thus related in the Life of Sidney Rigdon, by his son, John W. Rigdon (Ms p. 18): "In the fall of 1830 Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, Oliver Cowdery, and Peter Whitmer called at the home of Sidney Rigdon in the town of Mentor, Ohio, and Parley P. Pratt presented to him a bound volume of the Book of Mormon in the presence of his wife and his oldest child, Athalia Rigdon, now Athalia Robinson, who was then a girl ten years old and now (1900) living in the town of Friendship Allegheny county state of New York; and who remembers the transaction as well as any incident of her life. Parley P. Pratt, at the time he handed the book to Sidney Rigdon, said it was a "Revelation from God." --- Again referring to this circumstance near the close of the sketch of his father's life, John W. Rigdon relates how, in the fall of 1863, he visited the territory of Utah, where he spent the winter among the "Mormon" people. He was not favorably impressed with their religious life, and came to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon itself was a fraud. He determined in his own heart that if ever he returned home and found his father, Sidney Rigdon, alive, he would try and find out what he knew of the origin of the Book of Mormon. "Although," he adds, "he had never told but one story about it, and that was that Parley P. Pratt and Oliver Cowdery presented him with a bound volume of that book in the year 1830 while he (Sidney Rigdon) was preaching Campbellism at Mentor, Ohio." What John W. Rigdon claims to have seen in Utah, however, together with the fact that Sidney Rigdon had been charged with writing the Book of Mormon, made him suspicious: "and," he remarks, "I concluded I would make an investigation for my own satisfaction and find out if I could if he had all these years been deceiving his family and the world, by telling that which was not true, and I was in earnest. If Sidney Rigdon, my father, had thrown his life away by telling a falsehood and bringing sorrow and disgrace upon his family, I wanted to know it and was determined to find out the facts, no matter what the consequences might be. I reached home in the fall of 1865, found my father in good health and (he was very much pleased to see me. As he had not heard anything from me for some time, he was afraid that I had been killed by the Indians. Shortly after I had arrived home, I went to my father's room: he was there and alone, now was the time for me to commence my inquiries in regard to the origin of the Book of Mormon, and as to the truth of the "Mormon" religion. I told him what I had seen at Salt Lake City, and I said to him that what I had seen at Salt Lake had not impressed me very favorably toward the "Mormon Church, and as to the origin of the Book of Mormon I had some doubts. You have been charged with writing that book and giving it to Joseph Smith to introduce to the world. You have always told me one story that you never saw the book until it was presented to you by Parley P. Pratt and Oliver Cowdery, and all you ever knew of the origin of that book was what they told you and what Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed to have seen the plates had told you. Is this true? If so all right, if it is not you owe it to me and your family to tell it You are an old man and you will soon pass away and I wish to know if Joseph Smith, in your intimacy with him for fourteen years, has not said something to you that led you to believe he obtained that book in some other way than what he had told you. Give me all you know about it, that I may know the truth. My father, after I had finished saying what I have repeated above, looked at me a moment, raised his hand above his head and slowly said with tears glistening in his eyes: "My son, I can swear before high heaven that what I have told you about the origin of that book is true. Your mother and sister Mrs. Athalia Robinson, were present when that book was handed to me in Mentor Ohio, and all I ever knew about the origin of that book was what Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed they saw the plates have told me, and in all my intimacy with Joseph Smith he never told me but the one story, and that was that he found it engraved upon gold plates in a hill near Palmyra, New York, and that an angel had appeared to him and directed him where to find it: and I have never, to you or to anyone else, told but the one story, and that I now repeat to you." I believed him and now believe he told me the truth. He also said to me after that that "Mormonism was true; that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, and this world would find it out some day. After my father's death, my mother, who survived him several years, was in the enjoyment of good health up to the time of her last sickness, she being eighty-six years old. A short time before her death I had a conversation with her about the origin of the Book of Mormon, and wanted to know what she remembered about its being presented to my father. She said to me in that conversation that what my father had told me about the book being presented to him was true, for she was present at the time and knew that was the first time he ever saw it, and that the stories told about my father writing the Book of Mormon were not true. This she said to me in her old age and when the shadows of the grave were gathering around her and I believe her." (Life of Sidney Rigdon, by his son John W. Rigdon, Ms pp. 188-195).

Our author also mentions in his sketch of his father's life, an affidavit given to him by his sister, Athalia Robinson, to the same effect as the statement of Sidney Rigdon and his wife, relative to the coming of Pratt and Cowdery to their home in Mentor, and presenting to her father a bound copy of the Book of Mormon. Athalia was ten years old at the time, and distinctly remembered throughout her life the circumstance. (Ibid, Ms, pp. 195-6).












JUNE, 1931

(the transcription of this text is under contruction)




A Thesis

Presented to

the Faculty of the graduate School of Religion

University of Southern Californoa
In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree

Masters of Arts



Joseph Welles White

June 1947

Although this thesis is not formally copyrighted, only limited excerpts are presented
in consideration of the possibility of its future publication by Mr White's heirs.









Early experience of Smith

Moroni visits Smith

The Beginning of the Church

Summary of the Book of Mormon

Sidney Rigdon converted

The Compiling Genius of Mormonism


Early Life of Rigdon

Rigdon the popular preacher

Rigdon influenced by Alexander Campbell

The "Ancient Order of Things"

The emergence of the Disciples

Question regarding Rigdon's conversion

Chronology of Rigdon's known activities


The great apostasy

Religious unrest in America

The Stonites





























Alexander Campbell becomes the leader

Union with the Baptist[s]

Walter Scott discovers the "Plan of Salvation"


The Spaulding theory

The Honolulu Manuscript

Rigdon's foreknowledge of the Book of Mormon

Crudities in the Book of Mormon

Camp Meeting expressions


Widespread interest in bible revision

Alexander Campbell's revision

Rigdon competes with Campbell


The name of the Church

Names of followers


The kingdom of God

The Everlasting Gospel


































The Holy Spirit and the miraculous


The Millennium














(pages vi-ix and 1-70 not transcribed)


[ 71 ]

The attitude of the American public toward the Book of Mormon has been curiously diverse. Probably no other religious body has been as persistently active in its missionary endeavors, as the Mormons have for more than a century. Their amvassadors have proclaimed that their sacred book is equal in value to the Bible, indeed superior.1 During the nineteenth century it attracted several hundred thousand immigrants to America. Today the Mormons stand numerically several positions above such a well- known group as Christian Scientists, for example.2 Yet as Mrs. Brodie notes: Scholars of American literary history have remained persistently uninterested in the Book of Mormon. Their indifference is the more surprising since the book is one of the earliest examples of frontier fiction, the first long Yankee narrative that owes nothing to English literary fashions. Except for the borrowings from the ____________       1 "We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." The Articles of faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, article 8.       2 According to the U. S. Census report for 1936, Mormons rank eleventh, Christian Scientists eighteenth.



King James Bible, its sources are absolutely Ameri-

          The populace at large has been almost as unconcerned.

Probably most Americans have heard of Joseph Smith and

Brigham Young.  In the last century considerable excitement

was felt over Mormonism, but that was almost altogether

due to the Mormon practice of polygamy.  Rare is the

gentile who has read the Book of Mormon.  As a matter of

fact, it is claimed that most Mormons are not too familiar

with its contents:

     Of the 'hundreds of thousands of witnesses to whom
God has revealed the truth of the Book of Mormon,'
he (Orson Pratt) knows full well that comparatively
few indeed have ever read that book, know little or
nothing untelligently of its contents, and take little
interest in it.4

          As has already been stated, the public reception

of the first edition of the Book of Mormon was disappointing.5

Practically every public reference to it was hostile.  About

March 26, 1830, the Palmyra bookstore put the book on sale.

On April 2, the Rochester Daily Advertiser printed this

unflattering review:

      3 Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), p. 67.

      4 T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873). p. 553. Stenhouse was for twenty-five years a Mormon elder and Missionary.
      5 Cf. ante, p. 1.




     The Book of Mormon has been placed in our hands.
A viler imposition was never practised. It is an evi-
dence of fraud, blasphemy, and credulity, shocking both
to Christians and moralists. The author and proprietor is
one "Joseph Smith, Jr., a fellow who by some hocus pocus 
acquired such an influence over a wealthy farmer of 
Wayne county that the latter mortgaged his farm for 
$3,000, which he paid for printing and binding five
thousand copies of this blasphemous work.6

Perhaps the "author and proprietor" was not greatly surprised by this review, and others like it, for the Book of Mormon predicts that, . . . many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible and there cannot be any more Bible.7
Anticipating disbelief of its claims, the first edition of the Book of Mormon, and every edition thereafter, contains "The Testimony of Three Witnesses" and "The Testimony of Eight Witnesses." The first three witnesses (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris) testified that, . . . an Angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon.
The eight had to be content with the being shown only by the "Author and Proprietor of this work" who, ____________       6 Brodie, op. cit., p. 82.       7 2 Nephi 29:3.



   ... has shewn unto us the plates of which hath been
   spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many
   of the leaves as the said Smith has translated, we did
   handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings
   thereon, all of which ha[s] the appearance of ancient
   work, and of curious workmanship.8

      Thomas Ford, Governor of Illinois, was intimately
acquainted with some of these men after they left the
church. He gives the following plausible description of
how the testimony was secured:
   ... He [Joseph Smith] assembled them in a room,    and produced a box, which he said contained the precious    treasure. The lid was opened; the witnesses peeped    into it, but making no discovery, for the box was empty,    they said, 'Brother Joseph, we do not see the plates.'    The prophet answered them, 'O ye of little faith!    how long will God bear with this wicked and perverse    generation? Down on your knees, brethren, every one    and for a holy and living faith which cometh down    from heaven.' The disciples dropped to their knees,    and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit,    supplicating God for more than two hours with fanatical    earnestness; at the end of which time, looking again    into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw    the plates.9
        THE SPAULDING THEORY       The first serious expose of the Book of Mormon
came from the pen of Alexander Campbell, in the Millennial
____________       8 Of the eight witnesses, four were of the Whitmer family, two were brothers of Smith, one was his father, and the eighth was Hiram Page, a son-in-law of Peter Whitmer, Sr.
      9 Thomas Ford, History of Illinois (Chicago: 1854). p. 7. Quoted in Brodie, op. cit., p. 79, 80.



Harbinger, February 7, 1831. This was reprinted as a pamph-

let in 1832. However, in 1834, E. D. Howe published a

book called Mormonism Unvailed [sic], in which he presented

a theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon which has

been a bulwark of non-Mormon writers since that time.

Based upon numerous affidavits, the theory follows.10

      According to Howe, the real author of the Book

of Mormon was Solomon Spaulding, a Dartmouth graduate who

later became a Congregational (or Presbyterian) minister.

Losing his faith, he quit the ministry and entered secular

pursuits. Like many others, he became greatly interested

in Indian mounds. Around the year 1812, he started writing

"Manuscript Story -- Conneaut Creek."

      The account purports to have been written by one

Fabius, emperor Constantine's secretary. The boat upon

which he had started for England, was blown by a great storm

to the coast of America. There is a tedious account of the

experiences of the group among the Indians.

      According to his neighbors, Spaulding never completed

this story. Instead, he began a new story, written in the

____________       10 The story is so important that an account can be found in almost every book discussing Mormonism at any length. An excellent critical summary can be found in George B. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), x, 221 ff.



"scripture style" in order to increase its ancient flavor.

The origin of the Indians was explained. For their names,

peculiar names from the Bible were sought out. The manu-

script was buried for centuries, until it was found under

a stone which was raised by "a lever."11 Because of the

method of its discovery, it is called the Manuscript Found.

      Spaulding was proud of his work and frequently read

parts of it to his friends. Thinking that the story would

restore his financial stability, he went to Pittsburgh to

find a publisher. Robert Patterson, of the printing firm

of Patterson and Hopkins, thought he might publish the

book.12 However, due to financial difficulties, Spaulding

moved to Amity, Pennsylvania, leaving the manuscript at

the printing office. When he returned, the manuscript was

gone, suspicion for its loss being directed toward Sidney

Rigdon. Soon after this, Spaulding died, but told his

physician he believed Rigdon was guilty of the theft.13

 effect of the latter statement is worth recounting

The physician, Dr. Cephus Dodd, bought a copy of the Book

____________       11 Cf. ante, p. 7.       12 Patterson was a minister.       13 Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of the of Mormon (Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Company, 1914), p. 119.



of Mormon read it, then inscribed on a fly-leaf the


     This work, I am convinced by facts related to me
   by my deceased patient, Solomon Spaulding, has been
   made from writings of Spaulding, probably by Sidney
   Rigdon. who was suspicioned by Spaulding with [sic]
   purloining his manuscript from the publishing-house
   to which he had taken it; and I am prepared to testify
   that Spaulding told me his work was entitled, "The
   Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon; or Unearthed
   Records of the Nephites." From his description of its
   contents, I fully believe that the Book of Mormon
   is mainly and wickedly copied from it.
      June 6, 1831                       Cephas Dodd.14

      The reason Rigdon became a suspect was as follows:

He was born on a farm located not more than fifteen miles15

from Pittsburgh and lived there until he was twenty-six

years old (1818-19).16 It is claimed that Rigdon spent

considerable time in the printing office of Patterson and

  ____________       14 Ibid., p. 120. Since the usual Mormon comment upon unfavorable statements is to deny their validity on the grounds of ignorance, failing memory, or venom; it might be noted that Dodd was a physician and presumably intelligent; was in a position to know the facts stated; wrote the statement little more than a year after the publication of the book; and presumably had no animus       15 Arbaugh says it was about nine miles. Cf. op. cit., p. 9.       16 Cf. ante, p. 23. Yet, even as careful a writer as Brodie states that "there is no evidence that Rigdon ever lived in Pittsburgh until 1822, when he became pastor of the First Baptist Church." Cf. Brodie, op cit., p. 428.



Hopkins.17 The Reverend John Winter, M.D., a member of

Rigdon's congregation in Pittsburgh, testified as follows:

     In 1822 or 3, Rigdon took out of his desk in his
   study a large MS, stating that it was a Bible romance
   purporting to be a history of the American Indians.
   That it was written by one Spaulding a Presbyterian
   preacher whose health had failed and who had taken
   it to the printers to see if it would pay to publish
   it. And that he (Rigdon) had borrowed it from the
   printer as a curiosity.18

      The Spaulding story has been told at considerable

length by numerous writers, Mormon and non-Mormon. Howe,

Braden, Linn, Arbaugh, and others cite a mass of supporting

affidavits. Mormon writers dispute the evidence on one

ground or another, but largely ignore it. Brodie, who

denies the story, says that the period was "an era of


      Rigdon hotly denied the whole account, stating in


     If I were to say that I ever heard of the Reverend
   Solomon Spaulding and his hopeful wife, until Dr. P.
   Hurlbut wrote his lie about me, I should be a liar

  ____________       17 Op. cit., p. 117-18.       18 Braden-Kelley Debate (Lamoni, Iowa: The Herald Publishing House, 1913), p. 42. The debate was held Feb. 12 - March 8, 1884       19 Op. cit., p. 419-433. Yet she cites a number of other affidavits from the same book, relating to Joseph Smith's early life, saying that, these "affidavits can hardly be dismissed by the objective student, particularly since they throw considerable light on the writing of the Nook of Mormon." Op. cit., p. 410.



   like unto themselves. Why was not the testimony of
   Mr. Patterson obtained to give force to this shameful
   tale of lies? The only reason is, that he was not a
   fit tool for them to work with....20

      In 1884, a Mr. N. [[sic]] L. Rice, who had bought Howe's printing establishment, and who subsequently moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, accidentally discovered a manuscript in his possession. The manuscript is now in the library of Oberlin College, Ohio. Both of the Mormon churches have copied and published it under the title, Manuscript Found. The contents of the manuscript are unlike the Book of Mormon. Mormon writers point out this fact and uniformly refer to the Spaulding theory as being now finally "exploded" and "disproved."       However, careful non-Mormon writers continue to accept the Spaulding theory, pointing out facts relative to the Honolulu manuscript which Mormon writers completely ignore.21 Only three major non-Mormon writers, Bays,
  ____________       20 Boston Recorder, May 27, 1839, quoted in Brodie, op. cit., p. 427-8.       21 The best source for this point is the thorough discussion found in Shook, op. cit., p. 65-77.



Riley and Prince, reject the theory.22 Bays was an ex-

Mormon, and Riley and Prince, both of them psychologists,

were interested in a theory based upon a psychological

study of Joseph Smith.


      Whether or not the Spaulding theory is correct, there

is one other piece of evidence connecting Rigdon with the

Book of Mormon, which is impressive. Walter Scott, on

January 22, 1841, at which time he was the editor of the

Evangelist, stated in that publication that Rigdon, "had

possessed himself of our analysis of the gospel and the

plea for obedience raised thereupon,"23 and appended a

letter from Adamson Bentley,24 relating in part:

     You request that I should give you all the informa-
   tion I am in possession of respecting Mormonism. I
   know that Sidney Rigdon told me there was a book

  ____________       22 Chase lists six such, adding Bancroft, Stenhouse and Werner. Cf. Daryl Chase, Sidney Rigdon -- Early Mormon (Unpublished M.A, Thesis, University of Chicago, 1931), p. 178. Bancroft was decidedly pro-Mormon. A Mormon church official declared that: "We furnished Mr. Bancroft with his material." Cf. Linn, op. cit., p. viii. Stenhouse was an apostate Mormon. Werner wrote a biography of Brigham Young, in which he gives only brief attention to the Spaulding theory. He assumes that the Honolulu Manuscript is identical with the Manuscript Found.       23 I. e.., Scott's statement of "first principles," Cf., ante, p. 64.       24 Rigdon's brother-in-law, who with Rigdon visited Campbell. Cf., ante, p. 25.



   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 in this country or
   had been heard of by me.

       Alexander Campbell published this in full, together

with his own comment, remarking among other things:

     The conversation alluded to in brother Bentley's 
   letter of 1841, was in my presence as well as in his, 
   and my recollection of it led me some two or three 
   years ago to interrogate brother Bentley touching his 
   recollections of it, which accord with mine in every 
   particular, except the year in which it occurred -- he 
   placing it in the summer of 1827 -- I, in the summer 
   of 1826 -- Rigdon at the time observing that in the plates 
   dug up in New York there was an account not only of the 
   Aborigines of this country but also it was stated that 
   the Christian religion had been preached in this country  
   during the first century just as we were preaching it 
   on the Western  Reserve. Now as the Book of Mormon 
   was being manufactured [fabricated] at that time, for
   the copy-right was taken out in June, 1829, two years 
   according to Elder  Bentley, and three years according 
   to me, after said conversation (and certainly it was
   not less than two years . . .25

      Coming from a man of the acknowledged integrity and pro-

bity of Campbell -- not to speak of Scott26 and Bentley -- such

testimony would need strong evidence in order to be refuted.

So far as this writer is aware, no one has even attempted to

disprove it.  Mormon writers are silent concerning it,27

  ____________       25 M. H., 1844, p. 38-9. Italics mine.       26 Cf., ante, p. 49.       27 Even such a careful, conscientious writer as Brodie omits any reference to it. Yet Mormon writers are familiar with several other citations from the Millennial Harbinger. It is possible that early references have been repeated, without taking the trouble to check the files of the magazine for additional material bearing on Mormonism.



      There is other evidence that Rigdon had foreknowledge

of the Book of Mormon. Darwin Atwater, of whom Hayden says,

   . . . the uniformity of his life, his undeviating de-
   votion, his high and consistent manliness and superiority
   of judgment, gave him an undisputed pre-eminence in the
   church . . . 28

In a letter to Hayden had this to say of Rigdon:

   . . . Soon after this the great Mormon defection came
   on us. Sidney Rigdon preached for us, and notwithstanding
   his extravagantly wild freaks, he was held in high repute
   by many. 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
   of the coming of the Book of Mormon is to me certain, 
   from what he said 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.29

      Dr. Storm Rosa, one of the leading physicians of

Ohio, in a letter to the Reverend John Hall of As[h]tabula,

in 1841 wrote:

     In the early part of the year 1830 I was in company
   with Sidney Rigdon, and rode with him on horseback

  ____________       28 A.S. Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve (Cincinnati: Chase & Hall, 1875), p. 243.       29 Ibid., p. 239-40.



   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.30

     Whether or not the Honolulu manuscript is the

Manuscript Found; whether or not Rigdon "borrowed" Spaulding's

manuscript from Patterson's office; however he may have

communicated with Joseph Smith; it seems quite clear that

Rigdon had foreknowledge of the Book of Mormon. If he

had such advance information, it is incredible that the

theology of the Book of Mormon -- and of early Mormonism --

is not predominantly the theology of Sidney Rigdon.

     Aside from Rigdon's influence, the Book of Mormon is filled with evidences that it was a product of the time of its publication, in spite of its "ancient" language. It abounds in localisms and the theological controversies of the early nineteenth century, not to speak of gross blunders. Some of the latter have been corrected in later editions, but any edition of the book supplies ample material for the purpose of dating it. The Golden Bible is a re- flection of contemporary culture. The first serious review of the book declares that it contains:
  ____________       30 Gleanings by the Way, p. 315. Quoted in Linn, op. cit., p. 66.

(the remainder of this text has not been transcribed)



The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness:
Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer


F. Mark McKiernan


[ iv ]

Copyright © 1971
by F. Mark McKiernan

All Rights Reserved
ISBN 0-8309-0241-4

First printing -- December, 1971
Second printing -- March, 1972
Third printing -- September, 1972
Fourth printing -- April, 1973
Fifth printing -- April, 1976
Sixth printing -- May, 1977

First printing -- May, 1979

Manufactured in the USA

This book Copyright ©1971 by F. Mark McKiernan.
The e-text presented here has been limited to "fair use" excerpts.

Note: This text's original endnotes are here reformatted as footnotes.


(pages 5-24 of this text have not been transcribed)

[ 25 ]

Chapter 2
The Advent of Mormonism into the Western Reserve

IN 1826 SIDNEY RIGDON received an invitation to preach the funeral sermon of the Reverend Warner Goodall, Baptist minister of Mentor, Ohio, a small community near Cleveland. 1 The congregation was so impressed with Rigdon's eloquence, personality, and reputation that it invited him to become their pastor. 2

He happily accepted the offer because in 1824 the officials of the Redstone Baptist Association had forced him to resign his position as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh. However, the Mentor congregation belonged to the more liberal Mahoning Baptist Association in which his friend, Alexander Campbell, and his brother-in-law, Adamson Bentley, were influential ministers.

Rigdon had been a member of the Mahoning Baptist Association from 1820 to 1822; thus he was returning to Baptist Congregations which appreciated both his preaching ability and his support of Campbell's doctrines. The Mahoning Association sheltered Campbell's reformers until it was dissolved in 1830, when most of the members joined the newly-formed Disciples of Christ Church. 3 At this time, however, Rigdon left the Campbellites and embraced the Mormons, a new sect which had sent missionaries into the Western Reserve. Rigdon's ability and reputation enabled Mormonism to grow rapidly in the areas surrounding Mentor.

In 1826 Sidney Rigdon had added his congregation at Mentor to the churches which followed the teaching of Alexander Campbell. The previous year there had been only three congregations which accepted Campbell's idea of the restoration of the "ancient order of things"; these were in Brush Run, Wellsburg, and Pittsburgh. 4 In 1824 Rigdon had established a reformed Baptist church at Pittsburgh with the aid of a young school teacher named Waiter Scott. Rigdon, Campbell, and Scott differed in personality and ability, but were united in their desire to restore Christ's New Testament church in the nineteenth century.

1 Amos S. Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio:
With Biographical Sketches of the Principal Agents in Their Religious Movement
(Cincinnati, 1876), 187.

2 J. M. Kennedy, Early Days of Mormonism: Palmyra, Kirtland, and Nauvoo
(New York, 1888), 66.

3 Daryl Chase, "Sidney Rigdon - Early Mormon" (MA thesis, University of Chicago,
1931), 19.

4 Ibid., 22.

(pages 26-35 of this text have not been transcribed)

36                                Chapter 2                                 

the matter, I have contemplated on the circumstances in which we may be placed, I have counted the cost, and I am perfectly satisfied to follow you; it is my desire to do the will of God, come life or come death." 66

Sheriff John Barr, a non-Mormon, of Cuyahoga County, was present when Rigdon informed his congregation of his decision to embrace Mormonism. Rigdon told the church that "he had not been satisfied in his religious yearnings until now." Previously, "at night he had often been unable to sleep, walking and praying for more light and comfort in religion." While in the midst of this soul-searching, "he heard of the revelation of Joe Smith . . . under this his soul suddenly found peace." The Mormon message "filled all his aspirations." According to Barr the audience was very much affected by Rigdon's testimony that he had found religious truth. 67

The congregation at Mentor, as well as the common stock community, once again followed Rigdon's leadership, this time embracing Mormonism. Although some members of traditional religious denominations bitterly opposed the principles which the Mormons taught, the missionaries had an opportunity to preach their new gospel in the towns of Medina, Kirtland, Painesville, and Mayfield, where Rigdon's reputation was known. 68

Pratt, who was spreading the word of Rigdon's conversion to the Book of Mormon, declared that "the interest and excitement now became general in Kirtland, and in all the region round about." Pratt and his companions were so busily engaged in preaching Mormonism that "the people thronged to us night and day, insomuch that we had no time for rest and retirement." Mormon missionary activity in the Western Reserve was such a great success that "in two or three weeks from our arrival in the neighborhood with the news, we had baptized one hundred and twenty-seven souls, and this number soon increased to one thousand." 69

Rigdon's conversion and the missionary aftermath which followed transformed Mormonism from a sect of about a hundred members to one which was a major threat to Protestantism in the Western Reserve. "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 half as well." 70 Many important Mormon missionaries were formerly Disciples of Christ; among these were Orson Hyde, Parley Pratt, Orson Pratt, Lyman Wight, Edward Partridge, Fredric G. Williams.

Thomas Campbell, the father of the founder of the Disciples, spent the winter of 1830-31 in Mentor, Ohio, and vicinity, in combat against Mormonism. 71

66 Jaques, "Life and Labors of Sidney Rigdon," 101.

67 Mather, "The Early Days of Mormonism," 206-207.

68 Jennings, Origin and Early History of the Disciples, 295.

69 Pratt, Autobiography, 65-66.

70 William Lynn, The Story of the Mormons (New York, 1902), 62.

71 Jennings, Origin and Early History of the Disciples, 295.


                             The Western Reserve                            37

The Mormons were more than willing to baptize members of any minister's congregation. They encountered vigorous opposition from the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, as well as the Campbellites. 72

In 1834 the enemies of Mormonism in the Western Reserve circulated a rumor that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from the manuscript of a romantic novel called "Manuscript Found," written by the Reverend Solomon Spaulding. The anti-Mormons claimed that Sidney Rigdon gave this manuscript to Joseph Smith, making Rigdon the true founder of Mormonism. This lie has been an important part of anti-Mormon propaganda for over a century. The perpetrators of the so-called "Spaulding theory" were Doctor Philastus Hurlbut and Eber D. Howe, the anti-Mormon editor of the Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph (Painesville was a small town near Kirtland). Howe hated the Mormons because his wife had joined their church, and he had been having a feud in the Telegraph with the Mormon leaders, including Rigdon, since 1831. 73

Hurlbut was excommunicated and became so enraged that he publicly threatened the life of Joseph Smith. After Hurlbut was convicted of disturbing the peace, the judge admonished him that "he be of good behavior to all of the citizens of the state of Ohio, and to the said Joseph Smith, Jr., in particular." 74

In 1833 some of Spaulding's friends in Hurlbut's home town of Conneaut in northeast Ohio read the Book of Mormon and claimed that it was really Solomon Spaulding's manuscript. Spaulding, who lived from 1761 to 1816, was a failure all his life. He became a Christian minister who lost his faith, a merchant whose trade failed, an industrialist whose iron foundry went bankrupt, and an author whose works were rejected for publication. He wrote a romantic novel called "Manuscript Found," which purported to be a record of the original inhabitants of America, their habits and customs, their migration from the Mediterranean, and their numerous wars. In Mormonism Unvailed (sic) Howe produced the testimony of eight witnesses who had known Spaulding and swore that the Book of Mormon was a fraud. John Spaulding, a brother of the author, claimed,
"The book was entitled The Manuscript Found, of which he read to me many passages. It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of the Jews, or the lost tribes. It gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, till they arrived in
72 In 1831 the Mormons of the Western Reserve sent a religious colony of their members to Jackson County, Missouri, where in 1833 mobs led by Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian ministers drove them from the community of Independence. History of the Reorganized Church, I, 352.

73 Chase, "Sidney Rigdon," 38.

74 Ibid., 39.


38                                Chapter 2                                 

America, under the command of Nephi and Lehi. They afterwards had quarrels and contentions and separated into distinct nations, one of which he denominated Nephites and the other Lamanites. Cruel and bloody wars ensued, in which great multitudes were slain." 75

John Spaulding claimed, "I have recently read the Book of Mormon, and to my great surprise, I find nearly the same historical matter, names, etc., as they were in my brother's writing." He testified that "to the best of my recollections and belief, it is the same as my brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the religious matter." Howe's seven other witnesses gave similar testimony that "Manuscript Found" was the basis of the Book of Mormon. 76 Howe accused Smith and Pratt as conspirators in fraud, and stated "that Rigdon has been the Iago, the prime mover, of the whole conspiracy." 77

Hurlbut and Howe contacted Mrs. Matilda Davison, Spaulding's widow, and obtained the "Manuscript Found," which they discovered, to their disappointment, had no relationship to the Book of Mormon. However, Howe continued to propagate the "Spaulding theory," and the "Manuscript Found" disappeared, not to be rediscovered until 1885 in Hawaii. 78

After 1834 the "Spaulding theory" became a tenet of anti-Mormonism, and as Mormonism became stronger, Rigdon's participation in the affair grew. The Boston Recorder of November 25, 1839 [[sic]] printed an article under the signature of Mrs. Matilda Davison claiming that "Sidney Rigdon was connected in the printing office of Mr. Patterson," who was the Pittsburgh printer to whom Spaulding supposedly had submitted a copy of his manuscript. According to the article, Rigdon took the manuscript from the printer's office. 79 Rigdon wrote a denial which was published in the Boston Journal [[sic]]
"It is only necessary to say, in relation to the whole story about Spaulding's writings being in the hands of Mr. Patterson, who was at Pittsburgh, and who is said to have kept a printing office, etc., etc., is the most base of lies, without even the shadow of truth . . . If I were to say that I ever heard of the Reverend Solomon Spaulding and his hopeful wife until D. P. Hurlbut wrote his lie about me, I should be a liar like unto themselves." 80

Rigdon's brothers testified that he had never been a printer and had not lived in Pittsburgh until 1822; Spaulding had left the city in 1814. 81

75 Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled or a Faithful Account of that Singular Imposition and DELUSION from its Rise to the Present Time with Sketches of the Characters of its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible was Brought Before the World to Which Are Added Inquiries into the Probability that the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spaulding More Than Twenty Years Ago, and By Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance (Painesville, 1834), 277-179.

76 Ibid., 279-180.

77 Ibid., 100.

78 Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" was discovered in a trunk in Hawaii among the papers of Lewis L. Rice, an anti-slavery editor and the state printer of Ohio, and it was given to Oberlin College. "Mr. Rice probably came into possession of the manuscript in 1839, when he succeeded Mr. Howe in the Printing Office at Painesville." Saints' Herald, August 21, 1918.

79 Times and Seasons, January, 1840.

80 Quoted in the Saints' Herald, August 21, 1918.

81 Ibid., August 21, 1918.


                             The Western Reserve                            39

Pratt, who defended Rigdon in the Times and Seasons, claimed that the article in the Boston Recorder was not written by Spaulding's widow but by a priest named Stoors of Hollinston, Massachusetts, who wanted to discredit Mormonism because it had converted several important members of his congregation. 82 However, the association of Rigdon with Patterson and the manuscript appeared in anti-Mormon books, such as The Mormons, written by Daniel Kidders and printed in 1842. Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, a grand-niece of Mrs. Solomon Spaulding, furthered the myth by incorporating more inaccuracies in her New Light on Mormonism:
"At an early age he (Rigdon) was a printer by trade, and is known to have been in Conneaut, Ohio, at the time Spaulding read his 'Manuscript Found' to his neighbors . . . and it is easy to believe in the report that he followed or preceded Spaulding to Pittsburgh, knowing all his plans, in order to obtain his manuscript, or copy it, while it was in Patterson's printing house -- an easy thing to do, as the fact of the manuscript being left carelessly in the office for months, is not questionable. 83

In 1885 James H. Fairchild, President of Oberlin College, received Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" for his institution's library; he wrote an historiographical article for the Western Reserve Historical Society concerning the manuscript. 84

When compared, the Book of Mormon and Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" were not compatible in style, length, content, or purpose. There was no relationship at all between the two books. "Manuscript Found" was a narrative of a tribe of people who came from Rome in the days of Emperor Constantine. 85

The manuscript concerned itself with the wars and strifes of several tribes -- the Delawares, the Ohions, the Kentucks, the Sciotons, and the Chiaugans; the names, instead of being Nephi and Lehi, as John Spaulding had claimed, were Bombal, Kadocam, Lomaska, Hamboom, Ulippon, and Lamesa. 86 When published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1908 to prove there was no connection between it and the Book of Mormon, "Manuscript Found" was 158 pages long compared to 588 pages of the Book of Mormon. The purpose of the Book of Mormon was to be a second witness that Jesus was the Christ, whereas "Manuscript" was written as a historical romance. The style of the Book of Mormon was similar to that of the King lames version of the Bible, although the latter's grace of language.

82 Times and Seasons, January, 1840.

83 Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism (New York, 1885), 47.

84 Fairchild, who had no connection with Mormonism, claimed that "this manuscript (Spaulding's 'Manuscript Found') clearly was not the basis of the book (Book of Mormon)." He also affirmed that the Book of Mormon was not written by Rigdon, "nor could the blundering syntax of the Book of Mormon have come from Rigdon's hand. He had a gift of speech which would have made the style distasteful and impossible to him." James H. Fairchild, "Manuscript of Solomon Spaulding and the Book of Mormon: A Paper Read Before the Western Reserve Historical Society, March 23, 1886," Western Reserve Historical Society, Tract No. 77," 185-200. Quoted in the Saints' Herald, August 21, 1918.

85 Reverend Solomon Spaulding,The Manuscript Story of 'Manuscript Found' from a Verbatim Copy of the Original Now in the Library of Oberlin College (Lamoni, Iowa, 1908), 14.

86 Ibid., 154.


40                                Chapter 2                                 

"Manuscript Found" was written in the style of a nineteenth century romance. The fact that these two books have been published and publicly compared should have eliminated the belief that there was any correlation between them. However, the Spaulding theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon and Rigdon's alleged implication in it has been printed in many anti-Mormon books since 1885. 87 The myth of Sidney Rigdon as the founder of Mormonism has been most difficult to destroy.

87 Several important anti-Mormon sources have claimed since 1885 that the Spaulding theory still applies to the origin of the Book of Mormon. They either claimed without any proof that Spaulding had another manuscript on which Rigdon based the Book of Mormon or continued to use the same old arguments as if the manuscript had never been published. These anti-Mormon sources are William H. Whitsitt, "Sidney Rigdon the Founder of Mormonism" whose manuscript of over a thousand pages was written in 1908 and is in the Library of Congress, see 101-109; Charles A. Shook, Cumorah Revisited or the Book of Mormon and the Claims of the Mormons Re-examined from the Viewpoint of American Archaeology and Ethnology (Cincinnati, 1910), 25-47, borrowed Howe's and Kidder's arguments; George B. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism: Its Character and Changing Forms (Chicago, 1932), 9-10; Joseph W. White, "The Influence of Sidney Rigdon Upon the Theology of Mormonism" (MA thesis, University of Southern California, 1947), 75-80. However, not all sources hostile to Mormonism and Sidney Rigdon have accepted the "Spaulding theory." Alexander Campbell, who knew Rigdon's writing style and his activities between 1821 and 1830, declared that Smith was the author of the Book of Mormon in his Delusions: An Analysis of the Book of Mormon; with an Examination of its Internal and External Evidences, and a Refutation of its Pretences to Divine Authority (Boston, 1832), 11. Fawn M. Brodie rejected the "Spaulding theory" in No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet (New York, 1945), 420-428.



A   P o r t r a i t   o f
  R e l i g i o u s   E x c e s s


Richard S. Van Wagoner



Note: Because of copyright law restrictions,
only limited "fair use" excerpts are presented here.

(This text's original endnotes are reformatted below as footnotes.)

(pages ii-x and 1-54 were not transcribed)


Mentor                                                                               55  

"Regular Baptist Mahoning Association died of a moral apoplexy, in less than a quarter of an hour."19

Most accounts depict Rigdon leaving the Disciple fold after his humiliation in Austintown and retreating into seclusion in Mentor.20

But this was not the case. Rigdon had not lost his world, he had not suffered an inglorious fall from power, he merely returned home and picked up his ministry where he had left it the week before. The 16 October 1830 Ashtabula Journal notes, for example, that "We are requested to state that the Rev. Mr. Rigdon, will preach at the Town House in this Borough on Friday evening next, at early candlelighting. Mr. Rigdon is a Campbellite."

But Rigdon's days as a Campbellite or Reformed Baptist were numbered. A new age of promise had dawned in the East and would soon sweep into his life like an eternal wind. The Book of Mormon, a prophetic voice from the past, was at that moment being carried west in the valise of a fervent young missionary named Oliver Cowdery. The delivery of that sacred opus to Rigdon's Mentor home would prove to be the most consequential moment of his life, an event that would end his long quest for the fullness of the gospel as Jesus had taught it.  

Publication of the "Golden Bible," as people were calling it, had been recounted in several Western Reserve and New York newspapers as early as 1827, when Joseph Smith began working on the book. There can be little doubt that Rigdon, an enthusiastic reader of newspapers, was aware of the book before it was placed in his hands. Orson Hyde, a ministerial apprentice who lived for some time in Rigdon's Mentor home and who would later be associated with him in Mormonism, wrote that about 1827 "some vague reports came in the newspapers, that a 'golden bible' had been dug out of a rock in the State of New York. It was treated, however, as a hoax. But on reading the report, I remarked as follows -- 'who knows but this gold bible may break up all our religion, and change its whole features and bearing?'"21

Eliza R. Snow, who like Hyde was a member of one of Rigdon's congregations in Ohio, also noted that prior to 1830 she had "heard of Joseph Smith as a Prophet to whom the Lord was speaking from the heavens; and that a Sacred Record containing a history of the origin of the aborigines of America, was unearthed . . . I considered it a hoax -- too good to be true."22

One early account, no doubt referred to by Hyde and Snow, appeared in the nearby Painesville Telegraph. Although complete backfiles for that gazette do not exist, the 16 November 1830 issue, in an article entitled "The Golden Bible," noted that "Some two or three years since, an account was given in the papers, of a book purporting to contain new revelations from Heaven, having been dug out of the ground, in Manchester in Ontario Co., N.Y."

Rigdon's brother-in-law and fellow Baptist minister, Adamson Bentley, recalled in a 22 January 1841 letter to Walter Scott: "I know that S[i]dney Rigdon

19 Millennial Harbinger 1 (1849):272.

20 See summarization in F. Mark McKiernan, The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer„ 1793-1876 (Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1971), 29.

21 Millennial Star 26 (19 Nov. 1864): 744.

22 Eliza R. Snow, An Immortal: Selected Writing of Eliza R. Snow, (Salt Lake City: Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr., Foundation, 1957), 6. She added that after she was baptized into Campbell's group, "I was deeply interested in the study of the ancient Prophets, in which I was assisted by the erudite A. Campbell, Walter Scott whose acquaintance I made, but more particularly by Sidney Rigdon who was a frequent visitor at my father's house."


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[ 132 ]


Book of Mormon Authorship

It is the conviction of nearly all of the opponents of Mormonism, who have paid particular attention to the history of its origin, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not an emanation from the mind of Joseph Smith, but that it was first conceived of by Sidney Rigdon, and that Smith was merely his tool in giving the movement publicity while he played his part behind the scenes until his pretended conversion in the year 1830.       -- Charles Shook (1914)1

Antagonists have expended considerable energy attempting to discredit the Book of Mormon, which gave Joseph Smith's prophesying a concrete legitimacy that the visions and predictions of other seers of the day could not match. The Book of Mormon had a particular appeal for people emerging from a twilight of visionary dreams and folk magic, men and women looking to demonstrate their literacy and enlightenment. It fit the popular belief that what was written was a greater truism and more authentic than the spoken word.

Throughout his life Joseph Smith gave one explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon. He summed it up best in a 4 January 1833 letter to N.E. Seaton, a Rochester, New York, newspaper editor: "The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians, having been found through the ministrations of an holy angel, and translated into our language by the gift and power of God, after having been hid up in the earth for the last 1,400 years."2

Mormonism's success in Ohio, particularly among Sidney Rigdon's Reformed Baptists, spelled conspiracy in some people's eyes. While eleven of Smith's friends and relatives signed affidavits that they had examined the gold plates and seen the angel who delivered them to the prophet, many did not accept this supernatural explanation. To cynics it seemed improbable that a semi-literate farm boy could author a literary work so intricate in plot and steeped in biblical lore as the Book of Mormon.

The logical explanation for the holy book was that Smith must have collaborated behind the scenes with someone better educated and more sophisticated. A

1 Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of The Book of Mormon (Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Co., 1914), 126.

2 Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, B. H. Roberts, ed., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1902), 1:315; hereafter referred to as History of the Church.

A sampling of recent scholarship dealing with possible origins of the Book of Mormon (not included elsewhere in this chapter) include: Edward H. Ashment, "The Book of Mormon -- A Literal Translation?" Sunstone 5 (Mar.-Apr. 1980): 10-14; Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker, "Joseph Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing,'" Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Summer 1982): 49-68; Blake T. Ostler, "The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20 (Spring 1987): 66-124; D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987); John W. Welch, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley: Volume 7, the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co. and F.A.R.M.S., 1988); Dan Vogel, ed., The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990); Robert N. Hullinger, Joseph Smith's Response to Skepticism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992); Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993); Daniel C. Peterson, ed., Review of Books on the Book of Mormon [F.A.R.M.S.] 6 (1994).


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former school teacher, Oliver Cowdery, Smith's major copyist during the project, was considerably better schooled than his prophet-cousin. Cowdery was touted in the press as co-author of the Book of Mormon in the 25 November 1830 Cleveland Herald. But as soon as Sidney Rigdon made his late 1830 trip to New York to meet Smith, rumors surfaced that he, not Cowdery, was the mastermind behind the new scripture.3

The earliest New York publication linking Rigdon with Book of Mormon authorship was the 1 September 1831 issue of the New York Courier and Enquirer, reprinted in the 29 October 1831 Hillsborough Gazette (Ohio). The article describes Smith as "the son of a speculative Yankee peddler, and was brought up to live by his wits." Rigdon is characterized as
perfectly aufait with every species of prejudice, folly of fanaticism, which governs the mass of enthusiasts. In the course of his experience, he had attended all sorts of camp-meetings, prayer meetings, anxious meetings, and revival meetings. He knew every turn of the human mind in relation to these matters. He had a superior knowledge of human nature, considerable talent, great plausibility, and knew how to work the passions as exactly as a Cape Cod sailor knows how to work a whale ship.

. . . There is no doubt but the ex-parson from Ohio is the author of the book which was recently printed and published in Palmyra, and passes for the new Bible.4

During the spring of 1833 or 1834, while visiting the home of Samuel Baker near New Portage, Ohio, Rigdon stated in the presence of a large gathering that he was aware some in the neighborhood had accused him of being the instigator of the Book of Mormon. Standing in the doorway to address the audience in the yard, he held up a Book of Mormon and said:
I testify in the presence of this congregation, and before God and all the Holy Angels up yonder, (pointing towards heaven), before whom I expect to give account at the judgment day, that I never saw a sentence of the Book of Mormon, I never penned a sentence of the Book of Mormon, I never knew that there was such a book in existence as the Book of Mormon, until it was presented to me by Parley P. Pratt, in the form that it now is.5

Such was Rigdon's stance even on his deathbed. He confirmed that position repeatedly, as did his wife and at least three of his children, two of whom were non-believers in Mormonism. His oldest child, Athalia R. Robinson, in a notarized statement of 10 October 1900, said that the missionaries presented the book to her father in the presence of "My mother and myself. . . . This was the first time father ever saw the book of Mormon."6

His son Wickliffe added in a 1905 interview that during a visit with his father,
then in his last yearsƒI found him as firm as ever in declaring that he himself had nothing whatever to do in writing the book, and that Joseph Smith received it from an angel. On his dying bed he made the same declaration to a Methodist minister.
3 See Parley P. Pratt, Mormonism Unveiled, 2d ed. (New York: O. Pratt and E. Fordham, 1838), 2; Cleveland Herald, 15 Sept. 1831.

4 The newspaper article is available at LDS church archives and is cited in Leonard J. Arrington, "James Gordon Bennett's 1831 Report on 'The Mormonites,'" Brigham Young University Studies 10 (Spring 1970): 353-64.

5 Signed 14 Mar. 1872 affidavit of Phineas Bronson, Hiel Bronson, Mary D. Bronson, in R. Etzenhouser, From Palmyra, New York, 1830 to Independence, Missouri, 1894 (Independence, MO: Ensign Publishing House, 1894), 387-88. ---- my note: Rigdon's earliest term for the book appears to have been the "Golden Bible." not the "Book of Mormon." If so, perhaps he could testify semi-honestly of never having seen the "Book of Mormon" previous to Nov. 1830.

6 10 Oct. 1900 notarized statement.


134                                                                   Ohio

. . . My mother has also told me that Father had nothing whatever to do with the writing of the book, and that she positively knew that he had never seen it until Parley P. Pratt came to our home with it.7

Nancy R. Ellis, Rigdon's most anti-Mormon offspring, recalled in an 1884 interview the arrival of the missionaries in her Mentor, Ohio, home when she was eight years old: "I saw them hand him the book, and I am as positive as can be that he never saw it before. . . . She further stated that her father in the last years of his life called his family together and told them, as sure as there was a God in heaven, he never had anything to do in getting up the Book of Mormon, and never saw any such thing as a manuscript written by Solomon Spaulding"8

This Spalding (also Spaulding) manuscript, as far as most nineteenth-century -- and some contemporary -- Book of Mormon antagonists were concerned, was the true source of the sacred Mormon book. Born in Connecticut in 1761, graduated from Dartmouth College (New Hampshire) in 1785, Spalding for a time was a Congregational minister in New York before becoming a Presbyterian. After moving to Ohio in 1809 he wrote a historical novel about aboriginal America, narrated by a shipwrecked Roman named Fabius. The work was never published and Spalding died in 1816.

On 13 March 1833 a Methodist minister from Jamestown, New York, with the given name of Doctor Philastus Hurlbut (also Hurlburt or Hurlbert), visited Joseph Smith in Kirtland and embraced his message. He qualified his conversion, however, by warning the prophet that if he ever "became convinced that the Book of Mormon was false, he would be the cause of [Smith's] destruction."9

Church leaders did not seem concerned. Rigdon ordained Hurlbut an elder on 18 March and sent him on a mission to Pennsylvania. He was soon recalled and excommunicated on 3 June 1833 for making an obscene comment to a young woman.10

Angry over what he viewed as mistreatment, Hurlbut sought revenge. He returned to Pennsylvania and spent several months lecturing against Mormonism. There he became acquainted with a family named Jackson who told Hurlbut that years before, when Solomon Spalding had lived near them in Amity, Washington County, Pennsylvania, he admitted authoring a romantic, historical fiction that like the Book of Mormon contained an account of an early immigration to America. Hurlbut returned to Kirtland and announced a lecture on what he called "Anti-Mormonism." To this group he recounted his travels in Pennsylvania where "he had learned that one Mr. Spaulding had written a romance, and the probability was, that it had, by some means, fallen into the hands of Sidney Rigdon, and that he had converted it into the Book of Mormon."11

Several of Rigdon's old Campbellite nemeses -- Judge Orris Clapp, and both sons, Thomas J. and Matthew S. Clapp, and Adamson Bentley -- advanced Hurlbut a large sum to begin searching for the Spalding manuscript.12

He traveled first to New Salem (formerly Conneaut), Ohio, where Spalding was living when he wrote

7 In Elders' Journal (Chattanooga, TN) 2 (1905): 267-68.

8 Interview with Wm. H. and E. L Kelley, 14 May 1884, in Pittsburgh Leader, 18 May 1884, cited in Joseph Smith III and Heman C. Smith, The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 4 vols. (Independence, MO: Herald House, 1967 reprint), 4:453. Rigdon's minister cousin, John Rigdon, also left testimony denying his cousin's involvement in producing the Book of Mormon, as recorded by Sidney Knowlton for John Page:
I hereby certify that I heard Rev. John Rigdon, a member of the Church of Disciples, known by the name of Campbellites, sometime in March, 1840, at his own residence in Fulton Co., Illinois, say in answer to a question propounded to him by Elder John E. Page, as follows, to wit: Question by Mr. Page -- "Sir, what are your views in relation to Sidney Rigdon having any connection with the origin of the Book of Mormon, as it is reported, that he, Rigdon had access to the Spaulding manuscript, from which he transcribed or originated the Book of Mormon?" Answer by Rigdon -- "I do not believe from my acquaintance with him, (S. Rigdon) having known him from his infancy till after the publication of said Book of Mormon, as well as one can know another, being on the greatest terms of intimacy at the time said book was printed, and from all the circumstances connected with his life, character and conduct, that Sidney Rigdon had any thing whatever to do with it" (statement of Sidney A. Knowlton in John E. Page, The Spaulding Story, Concerning the Origin of the Book of Mormon, Duly Examined, and Exposed to the Righteous Contempt of a Candid Public [Pittsburgh: n.p., 1843], 8).
9 While this reference was noted in Joseph Smith's diary under this date (Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1989], 20), it is not mentioned in the published History of the Church.

10 History of the Church, 1:352.

11 Benjamin Winchester, Plain Facts, Shewing the Origin of the Spaulding Story, Concerning The Manuscript Found, and its Being Transformed into the Book of Mormon with A Short History of Dr. P. Hurlbert, the Author of the Said Story (Bedford, MA: [[sic]] C. B. Merry, 1841), 9.

12 Ibid., 9, 21.


Book of Mormon Authorship                                     135

the manuscript and where several family members still resided. He called a meeting and announced to those gathered his theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon. "This idea was new to them," explained one account, "however, they were pleased with it, and Mr. H[urlbut]'s project seemed to them a good one."13

While in New Salem Hurlbut obtained a collection of affidavits from the deceased writer's brother John Spalding, John's wife Martha, and several other former friends and neighbors. The consensus of the witnesses supported Hurlbut's theory that Solomon Spalding had written a historical novel. According to their collective recall the work of fiction detailed the settlement of America, "endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of the Jews, or the lost tribes."14

Hurlbut learned from John Spalding that his brother's widow lived in Monson, Massachusetts. The sleuth set out to find her and en route stopped at Palmyra, New York, for two months where he collected derogatory depositions from more than a hundred of Joseph Smith's acquaintances. Hurlbut's activities in upstate New York were well-known that season. On 20 December, the local newspaper, the Wayne Sentinel, published the first announcement of his theory of Book of Mormon origins:
The original manuscript of the Book was written some thirty years since, by a respectable clergyman, now deceased, whose name we are not permitted to give. It was designed to be published as a romance, but the work has been superadded by some modem hand -- believed to be the notorious Rigdon. These particulars have been derived by Dr. Hurlbert from the widow of the author of the original manuscript.15

When Hurlbut finally met Spalding's widow, Matilda Davison, and explained his hypothesis, she told him the manuscript he wanted was likely stored in a trunk of papers left with relatives in Harwick, New York. Securing her permission to retain the manuscript if he found it, Hurlbut traveled to Hatwick where he indeed discovered the novel and took it back to Ohio for closer examination.

On his return to the Western Reserve, the successful investigator joined forces with a committee of non-Mormon Kirtland citizens who were concerned that Smith was "collecting about him an impoverished population, alienated in feeling from other portions of the community, thereby threatening us with an insupportable weight of pauperism."16

The plan formulated by the civic leaders, according to their own account, was to employ "D. P. Hurlbut to ascertain the real origin of the Book of Mormon, and to examine the validity of Joseph Smith's claims to the character of Prophet."17

To stir up additional support Hurlbut exhibited his numerous affidavits in Kirtland, Mentor, and surrounding communities, lecturing wherever he could assemble an audience. His activities caused sufficient furor for the Mormon First Presidency to write to Missouri Saints warning them of Hurlbut's speculations

13 Ibid., 10. Orson Hyde made his own study of the matter. He concluded that during the time he lived in the Rigdon home, when Sidney was his pastor and mentor, there was not a single hint that Rigdon was working on a manuscript Furthermore, he explained: "Forgery, deception, and romance formed no part of the principles which Mr. Rigdon taught me during the time that I was under his tuition, and I must say, that I should not have been more surprised if they had accused the Lord Bishop of London of the same things which they charge against Mr. Rigdon." Hyde also recalled that when he had visited New Salem in the spring of 1832 and organized a branch of the church there, he had met no one who claimed to have found similarities between the Book of Mormon and the Spalding work (Orson Hyde to George J. Adams, 7 June 1841, in Winchester, 25-27).

14 Eber Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH: E. D. Howe, 1834), 279.

15 This article was reprinted in the Chardon (Ohio) Spectator, 18 Jan. 1834.

16 See 31 Jan. 1834 letter "To the Public" in the Painesville Telegraph. The group was comprised of O. A. Crary, Amos Daniels, John F. Morse, Samuel Wilson, Josiah Jones, Warren Corning, Jr., James H. Paine, Jos. H. Wakefield, Sylvester Cornwall, and Timothy D. Martindale.

17 Ibid. The editor of the Apr. 1834 Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate wrote of the "celebrated committee, residing in our country . . . who have employed this Hurlbut to expose, the 'original of the book of mormon'."


136                                                                   Ohio

which had "fired the minds of the people with much indignation against Joseph and the Church."18

Smith and Rigdon were quick to defend the Mormon cause. And at some point in the passion of a heated exchange, Hurlbut publicly threatened that he would "wash his hands" in the prophet's blood.19

In January 1834, Smith filed a legal complaint bringing Hurlbut to trial on 1 April. The court found him guilty, fined him $200, and ordered him to keep the peace for six months.

The notoriety surrounding Hurlbut, compounded by an embarrassing incident when his wife was discovered in bed with Judge Orris Clapp, tarnished his image. He sold his research to Eber D. Howe, editor of the Painesville Telegraph, who held a long-term grudge against Mormonism for converting his wife and daughter.20

The Kirtland committee that commissioned Hurlbut's research announced in the 31 January 1834 Painesville Telegraph. that it was
now making arrangements for the Publication and extensive circulation of a work which will prove the "Book of Mormon" to be a work of fiction and imagination, and written more than twenty years ago, in Salem, Ashtabula County, Ohio, by Solomon Spalding, Esq. and completely divest Joseph Smith of all claims to the character of an honest man, and place him at an immeasurable distance from the high station which he pretends to occupy.

Mormonism Unvailed, published by Howe, was first advertised in the Telegraph on 28 November 1834. The volume contained a lengthy critique of the Book of Mormon, a reprint of Ezra Booth's nine letters, disparaging affidavits provided by Joseph Smith's old New York neighbors, and an introduction to the Spalding theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon. While Howe admitted he had Spalding's manuscript,21 it was obvious that the former minister's work, a secular text, was not the source for the Book of Mormon, a lofty religious tome, although the introduction, ethnological assumptions, and mystical lore were undeniably similar.22

To explain the enigmatic gaps in genre and plot, Howe wrote that his witnesses claimed Spalding had "altered his first plan of writing, by going farther back with dates, and writing in the old scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient."

Howe further purported that through some unspecified means, Rigdon must have secured this hypothetical second, revised manuscript while he was living in Pittsburgh. He concluded: "We, therefore, must hold out Sidney Rigdon to the world as being the original 'author and proprietor' of the whole Mormon conspiracy, until further light is elicited upon the lost writings of Solomon Spaulding."23

Rigdon's numerous and consistent denials to the contrary, speculation regarding his acquisition of a second Spalding manuscript dominated secular investigation into the twentieth century. It became especially useful following the 1884 rediscovery of the original manuscript Hurlbut had obtained from Matilda

18 History of the Church 1:475.

19 George A. Smith's testimony in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-86), 11 (15 Nov. 1864):8; hereafter Journal of Discourses.

20 Lewis L. Rice letter to James H. Fairchild, 30 Jan. 1885, noted that Howe's wife was a Mormon, "but he was deadly opposed to it and got up and published a book purporting to show that Spalding was the orginator of the Mormon Bible" (in Dale Broadhurst Collection, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah). See also Robert C. Webb, The Real Mormonism: A Candid Analysis of an Interesting but Much Misunderstood Subject in History Life and Thought (New York: Sturgis & Walton Co., 1916), 406.

21 The title "Manuscript Found," often given to this manuscript, is not based on wording found in the original. A faint notation, "Manuscript Story -- Conneaut Creek," was penciled on the document's paper wrapper sometime before it came into the possession of Lewis L. Rice, according to his statement to James H. Fairchild, 12 June 1885 (Broadhurst Collection).

22 Spaulding's fictitious narrative described a shipload of Romans in the days of Constantine who were blown off course during a voyage to the British Isles. They safely reached the east coast of North America, after which one of them, Fabius, began writing a history of their activities.

Spalding's introduction is nearly identical to the Joseph Smith story. While out for a mid-day stroll, wrote Spalding, he "hap[pen]ed to tread on a flat Stone" with a badly worn inscription. "With the assistance of a leaver I raised the Stone . . . [and found] that it was designed as a cover to an artificial cave." Descending to the bottom, he discowered "a big flat Stone fixed in the form of a do[o]r." Moving the obstacle he saw an earthen box within which were "eight sheets of parchment." Written on the pages "in an eligant hand with Roman Letters & in the Latin Language" was "a history of the author[']s life & that part of America which extends along the great Lakes & the waters of the Mississippy."

If Spalding's and Smith's recountings have a common antecedent, it seems to be the Masonic "Legend of Enoch." In this saga, Enoch, the seventh patriarch, the son of Jared, and the great-grandfather of Noah, according to Masonic tradition, became disgusted with wickedness surrounding him. Fleeing to the "solitude and secrecy of Mount Moriah" he became engaged in prayer and contemplation. Here the Shekinah (sacred presence) appeared to him with instructions to preserve the wisdom of the antediluvians to their posterity. He then made a gold plate and engraved in characters the true, ineffable name of Deity. The plate was then placed in a specially prepared subterranean vault, along with other treasure, and covered with a stone door. Enoch was then only allowed to visit the site once a year. After his death all knowledge of this sacred treasure was lost.

Years later when King Solomon and his masons were excavating in Jerusalem to build the great temple they discovered the treasure trove. Hiram Abif (also Abiff), a widow's son, was killed defending the spot. Solomon's temple received these treasures, including the gold plate and the Urim and Thummin. See Albert G. Mackey, An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences: Comprising the Whole Range of Arts, Sciences and Literature as Connected With the Institution (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1887), 255-56; Mervin B. Hogan, ed., An Underground Presidential Address [of Reed C. Durham, Jr.] (Salt Lake City: Research Lodge of Utah, F. & A.M., 16 Sept. 1974), privately circulated; Don McDermott, "Joseph Smith and the Treasure of Hiram Abiff," The Cryptic Scholar (Winter/Spring 1991); Jack Adamson, "The Treasurer of the Widow's Son," ca. 1970, privately circulated.

23 Howe, 290. Rigdon's most poignant denial of involvement with the Book of Mormon is found in his 27 May 1839 letter to the Boston Journal reprinted in Winchester, 25-27.


Book of Mormon Authorship                                     137

Spalding Davison. The document was inadvertently located in Hawaii among papers of Eber D. Howe's Painesville Telegraph successor, Lewis L. Rice. It was eventually donated to Oberlin College (Ohio), where it remains today.24

The weight of scholarly studies since Fawn Brodie's seminal 1945 No Man Knows My History biography of Joseph Smith has all but eliminated the Spalding theory and Rigdon's complicity.25

Other options have been suggested over the years. The earliest Book of Mormon critic, Rigdon's former mentor Alexander Campbell,26 opined in 1831 that Joseph Smith, profoundly affected by the salvationist Christianity of nineteenth-century Protestant America, was, in fact, the author of the work. "This prophet Smith," speculated Campbell,
through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies-infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, pennance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of free masonry,27 republican government, and the rights of man.28

For those skeptical of the supernatural, answers must be sought elsewhere (see Appendix 5 for further discussion). As William McLellin, an early Mormon leader and later apostate, affirmed years after he had left Mormonism:
You seem to think S. Rigdon the bottom of all M[ormon]ism. Many people know better. He never heard of the work of Smith & Cowdery, until C[owdery] and P[arley] P. Pratt brought the book to him in Mentor, O[hio]. True enough, I have but little confidence in S. Rigdon, but I know he was more the tool of J. Smith than his teacher and director. He was docile in J. S. hands to my knowledge.29

If any one single item defined Rigdon it was his untiring belief in the authenticity of that "ancient voice from the dust." It provided him the shelf on which he rested his soul. And in the end, when he was disillusioned and bereft of faith in Joseph Smith, he still avowed that the Book of Mormon was precisely what it claimed to be -- the word of God.

24 The Spalding manuscript was first published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1885 under the title, The "Manuscript Found," or "Manuscript Story" (Lamoni, IA: Herald Publishing House, 1885).

25 The best analysis of this topic is Lester E. Bush, Jr., "The Spalding Theory Then and Now," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 10 (Autumn 1977): 40-69. Other well-known treatments include: Benjamin Winchester, Plain Facts, Shewing the Origin of the Spaulding Story, Concerning The Manuscript Found, and its Being Transformed into the Book of Mormon with A Short History of Dr. P. Hurlbert, the Author of the Said Story (Bedford, MA: C. B. Merry, 1841); John E. Page, The Spaulding Story Concerning the Origin of the Book of Mormon (Pittsburg, 1843); "Reply to Chicago Inter-Ocean on The Spaulding Story," in The Saints' Herald 24 (15 Feb. 1877): 49-52); J. E. Mahaffey, Found at Last! "Positive Proof" That Mormonism is a Fraud and the Book of Mormon a Fable. Including a Careful Comparison of rite Book of Mormon with the original Spalding MS, which shows Twenty-Two Points of Identity! (Augusta, GA: Chronicle Job Office, 1902); John Henry Evans, One Hundred Years of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Deseret Sunday School Union, 1909), 89-103; Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of rite Book of Mormon (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1914); Robert C. Webb, The Real Mormonism (New York: Sturgis & Walton Co., 1916), 400-26; Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon (Independence, MO, 1942), esp. vols. 1 and 2; Leonard Arrington and James Allen, "Mormon Origins in New York: An Introductory Analysis," Brigham Young University Studies 9: 241-74; Marvin S. Hill, "The Role of Christian Primitivism in the Origin and Development of the Mormon Kingdom, 1830-1844," Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1968, 80-97; Richard P. Howard, "Beating Solomon Spaulding's Poor, Dead Horse One More Time," Saints' Herald, Sept. 1977, 37; and the unpublished work of Dale R. Broadhurst, especially his 1982 "The Secular and the Sacred: An Examination of Selected Parallels in the Writings of Solomon Spalding and The Book of Mormon" and [[1981]] "A New Basis for the Spalding Theory" (Broadhurst Collection).

26 The similarity between early Mormonism and some of Alexander Campbell's teachings has led some to suggest that Smith purloined his primitive gospel from the Disciples through Rigdon. But long before he met Rigdon, Smith was exposed to the Primitivism and Seekerism of his parents and other family members. See Dan Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), and Marvin S. Hill, Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989).

27 When Martin Harris, who had served on Palmyra's anti-Masonic vigilance committee, first arrived in Ohio he announced that the Book of Mormon is "the Anti-masonick Bible" (Geauga Gazette, 15 Mar. 1831). "The Mormon Bible is anti-masonic," added the editor of the Ohio Star the following week, "and it is a singular truth that every one of its followers, so far as we are able to ascertain, are anti-masons" (Ohio Star, 24 Mar. 1831). ---- Joseph Smith's anti-Masonic stance at the time the Book of Mormon was dictated can be explained by the fact that his father, a member of Ontario Masonic Lodge No. 23 (Canandaigua, NY) since 1817, left the craft in the aftermath of the notorious 1826 abduction of anti-Masonic crusader William Morgan and was considered a seceder Mason. See Mervin B. Hogan, "The Two Joseph Smiths' Masonic Experiences," 1987, privately circulated, and Stanley Upton Mock, The Morgan Episode in American Free Masonry (East Aurora, NY: Roycrofters, 1930).

28 Millennial Harbinger 1 (10 Feb. 1831): 93.

29 Cited in LDS Church News, 8 Dec. 1985, 10.

(pages 138-462 were not transcribed)

(Last two lines of page 462 were carried over to page 463)


Appendices                                                                   463


[LDS Seventies president Brigham H. Roberts (1855-1933) believed that]
Joseph Smith, severely underestimated by his critics, needed no assistance from Solomon Spalding or Sidney Rigdon had he himself authored the Book of Mormon. According to Roberts, Smith was "superior in talentsƒ [and] in literary power of expression" to either of them. Commenting on the more than 3,000 corrections made in the Book of Mormon since 1830, Roberts added that if Rigdon, a known grammarian, had authored the work, "it would not have been so full of petty errors in grammar and the faulty use of words as is found in the first edition of the Book of Mormon.ƒ They are ingrained in it; they are constitutional faults." 1

The conjecture that Smith alone wrote the Book of Mormon, and that its purpose was to explain the origin of Native Americans, has gained recent attention. The Book of Mormon seems to distill what authors as early as the sixteenth century had been saying about American Indians, that they were of the House of Israel. Numerous books and articles were published on the topic prior to the Book of Mormon. A listing of the most significant works includes James Adair's History of the American Indians (1775), Elias Boudinot's A Star in the West; or, a Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel (1816), Caleb Atwater's "Description of the Antiquities Discovered in the State of Ohio and Other Western States," in Archaeologia Americana (1820), Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews (1823; 1825), and Josiah Priest's The Wonders of Nature and Providence, Displayed (1825).2

Some theorists are satisfied that the Palmyra Register and Wayne Sentinel, local newspapers available to Smith, published sufficient information about American antiquities to provide a foundation in understanding the controversy. B. H. Roberts postulated that even non-readers were privy through hearing such subjects discussed at gathering places of common people: "the village store, the wheelwright's shop, the town meeting, and post office, the social meetings of the community, the gathering and dispersing throngs in attendance upon church services -- in all such places the people hear and absorb knowledge of such subjects as are of general interest, until there is formed what I have referred to as 'common knowledge' of things."3

The prevailing theory among current secular historians, however, is that Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, first published seven years before the Book of Mormon, was probably a principal source -- perhaps second only to the Bible -- from which Smith and Cowdery, not Rigdon, formulated the Book of Mormon narrative. The similarities between the two works seem to be too substantial to be mere coincidence. The major thesis of each is to explain the origin of the American Indian. Chapters in each relate the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of Israel, then predict a regathering in the promised land. Vast portions of the Book of Isaiah are quoted extensively in each work (the Book of Mormon incorporates eighteen chapters nearly verbatim). Both discuss polygamy, seers and prophets,

1 Brigham H. Roberts, "The Origin of the Book of Mormon," American Historical Magazine 4 (Mar. 1909): 179-81, 196. In the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon Joseph Smith was designated "Author" on both the "Title Page" and "The Testimony of Eight Witnesses." These statements were later changed to read "Translator" in subsequent printings.

2 The most comprehensive summary of this topic is Dan Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon: Religious Solutions from Columbus to Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986).

3Brigham D. Madsen, ed., B. H. Roberts's Studies of the Book of Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 153-54.


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and the use of breastplates and Urim and Thummim. In each account, sacred records, handed down from generation to generation, are buried in a hill, then discovered years later. The characters inscribed on the gold plates of the Book of Mormon were reportedly "Reformed Egyptian" whereas View of the Hebrews discusses evidence of "Egyptian Hieroglyphics."

Perhaps the most important parallel is that both Ethan Smith's and Joseph Smith's works detail in similar fashion two classes of people in ancient America, one barbarous and the other civilized. Ethan Smith wrote that
It is highly probably that the more civilized part of the tribes of Israel after they settled in America became wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren; that the latter lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family with themselves; that the more civilized part continued for many centuries, that tremendeous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren until the former became extinct. (!)

This hypothesis accounts for the ancient works, forts, mounds, and vast enclosures as well as tokens of a good degree of civil government which are manifestly very ancient and for centuries before Columbus discovered America.4

Both authors identify American Indians as the "stick of Joseph or Ephraim" (the northern Ten Tribes of Israel) that are expected to be reunited with the "stick of Judah" (the Jews of the southern kingdom of Judah). Furthermore, each work defines the mission of the American (gentile) nation in the last days as a calling to gather these native American remnants of the House of Israel, convert them to Christianity, and bring them to the "place of the Lord of Hosts, the Mt. Zion."5

After years of intensive investigation into the Book of Mormon, particularly the possibility that much of the framework to View of the Hebrews can be seen in the Book of Mormon, B. H. Roberts in a 24 October 1927 letter asked, "Did Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, published . . . years before Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon, supply the Structural Outline and some of the Subject Matter of the Alleged Nephite Record?" After noting eighteen remarkable parallels between the two works, he commented that many others were just as "striking."6

One of the principal conclusions of Roberts's work "Studies of the Book of Mormon" was that "it is more than likely that the Smith family possessed a copy of this book by Ethan Smith, that either by reading it, or hearing it read, and its contents frequently discussed, Joseph Smith became acquainted with its contents. . . . I say this with great confidence."7

Several theories suggest how the Smith family may have come in contact with the View of the Hebrews. Josiah Priest's The Wonders of Nature and Providence, Displayed (1825) contained extensive quotations from Ethan Smith's work. This book was available in the local Manchester Rental Library when Joseph Smith lived in the village.8 Furthermore, Ethan Smith, possibly on a promotional tour for his book, was known to have visited Palmyra in late 1826 or early 1827. The

4 Ibid., 332. An excellent treatment of this subject is George D. Smith, "Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon," Free Inquiry 4 (Winter 1983/84): 21-31.

5 Madsen, 323-44.

6 Ibid., 58-60. In 1923, B. H. Roberts warned LDS church president Heber J. Grant: "Maintenance of the truth of the Book of Mormon is absolutely essential to the integrity of the whole Mormon movement, for it is inconceivable the Book of Mormon should be untrue in its origin and character and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be a true church" (cover letter submitted with Roberts's published paper "A Book of Mormon Study," to the First Presidency, 15 Mar. 1923, in George D. Smith, "Defending the Keystone: Book of Mormon Difficulties," Sunstone 4 [May-June, 1981]: 45).

7 Madsen, 155.

8 David Persuitte, Joseph Smith and the Origins of The Book of Mormon (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1991), 123.


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Wayne Sentinel on 31 December 1826 and 5 January 1827 posted his name for letters remaining in the Palmyra Post Office.

B. H. Roberts noted that when Ethan Smith wrote the work he was living in the next county, just fifty miles from where the Smiths had earlier lived in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont.9 Even if "the Smiths never owned the book, never read it, or saw it," Roberts speculated, "its contents -- the materials of which it was composed -- would be, under all the circumstances, matter of 'common knowledge' throughout the whole region where the Smiths lived from the birth of Joseph Smith in 1805, to the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1829-30."10

Roberts's investigations and conclusions, because of their controversial nature, were kept from the public eye until their publication in 1985, more than fifty years after Roberts's death. Since then additional research has provided a more complete understanding of the long-suspected relationship between the Book of Mormon and View of the Hebrews. Ethan Smith, born in 1762 in Belchertown, Massachusetts, like Solomon Spalding was a graduate of Dartmouth College. Their education at the New Hampshire school overlapped for the year 1786-87.11

Ethan Smith's grandson recalled that "Solomon Spaulding was a warm admirer of Dr. Smith and when a young man studied under his tuition . . . and became interested in his theories regarding the settlement of America."12

While none of Spalding's writings were published during his life, Ethan Smith was among the luminaries of New England literati.13 View of the Hebrews, his best-known work, was published in Poultney, Vermont, where Oliver Cowdery, principal scribe during production of the Book of Mormon, also resided from 1803 to 1825.

At the time Ethan Smith was writing his volume, he was minister of Poultney's Congregational church where he served from 21 November 1821 until December 1826. Cowdery's stepmother and three of his sisters were members of the congregation, according to Poultney church records.14

Presumably Oliver Cowdery, a school teacher and highly literate for his day, would have been familiar with his family minister's book. The first edition, which was advertised in the Northern Spectator, the local newspaper, quickly sold out.

Although it is speculative, young Cowdery may have been even employed by Smith & Shute, the Poultney firm that printed View of the Hebrews. The editor of the Ashtabula (Ohio) Journal, on 4 December 1830, commented that he knew Cowdery seven or eight years earlier, "when he was a dabbler in the art of Printing, and principally occupied in writing and printing pamphlets, with which as a pedestrian ped[d]ler, he visited the towns and villages of eastern N[ew] York, and Canada." Although the newspaper editor does not name any of the works Cowdery sold, it is possible he was a traveling agent for Smith & Shute and had copies of the 1823 edition of View of the Hebrews nestled in his knapsack when he visited his relatives the Smiths. This may explain why Joseph Smith's mother Lucy

9 Madsen, 155.

10 Ibid.

11 George T. Chapman, Sketches of the Alumni of Dartmouth College (Cambridge, MA: n.p., 1867), 39; Howe, 279; L A. Smith, Annals of the American Pulpit II, ed. Wm. B. (Sprague, NY: n.p., 1866), 297.

12 Cleveland Plain Dealer, 24 Apr. 1887. Both Ethan Smith and Solomon Spalding likely attended classes taught by fellow Congregationalist John Smith, professor of religion and languages at Dartmouth. William D. Morain, in his unpublished manuscript "The Sword of Laban: Joseph Smith, Jr., and the Unconscious," presents compelling evidence that in John Smith's extant lecture notes for his "Natural Philosophy" class he frequently lectured on possible origins of the American Indian.

13 A number of his sermons was printed during his lifetime. He also authored or edited several books, including A Dissertation on the Prophecies relative to Anti-Christ and the Last Times and Memoirs of Mrs. Abigail Bailey (Madsen, 27).

14 These significant records, discovered and photographed by David Persuitte in 1977, were in possession of the Poultney Historical Society. The originals have since been stolen (Persuitte, 7-8n270).


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reported that in the fall of 1823, four years before her son began his work on the Book of Mormon, Joseph Jr. provided his family with
some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.15

That Cowdery was unfamiliar with Ethan Smith or View of the Hebrews seems improbable. Precisely how this presumed acquaintance with Native American ethnological and theological speculation of the day impacted the Book of Mormon text is, of course, the subject of continuing examination.

15 Preston Nibley, ed., History of Joseph Smith by His Mother Lucy Mack Smith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 83.

Note: VanWagoner's reasoned conclusion, that "Rigdon... was aware" of the Book of Mormon before he obtained a copy from Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt in 1830, is supported by the fact that on Sept. 22, 1829, the local newspaper in Geauga Co. (the Painesville Telegraph) printed an article describing the "Golden Bible," as "an ancient record of a divine nature and origin" containing "language and doctrines" which were "far superior" to the Biblical scriptures. Eliza R. Snow's exposure to these kinds of pre-1830 articles and reports is documented in the words of her "Shining Seraph" poem, published Feb. 14, 1829. Well before Rigdon's 1830 conversion to Mormonism, Abner Jackson (residing only two counties east of Rigdon -- in Erie Co., PA) had read printed reports of the Golden Bible in "his father's" copy of a local NW Pennsylvania newspaper (possibly the Erie Gazette or a paper published in Meadsville).

VanWagoner says (on pp. 55-56) that Rigdon's "Reformed Baptist" associates Alexander Campbell, Adamson Bentley, and Darwin Atwater had all heard him speak of the discovery and coming publication of "plates" containing an account explaining the American "aborigines" and their "antiquities." Numerous other similar statements have been provided by Sidney Rigdon's old friends and neighbors saying substantially the same thing: that he was advertising the need for, and news of, the "Golden Bible," long before the Mormons ever placed the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon in his hands. While the latter event may have marked the first time that Rigdon ever saw and read the published "Book of Mormon," he certainly knew something of the "Golden Bible" as early as 1827-1829.

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