Sidney Rigdon's Early Life
The Kirtland Bank
Joseph and Sidney
Sidney's Salt Sermon
William H. Whitsitt
By a Fifty Five Year
Student of Mormonism.
John L. Smith
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RIGDON'S YOUTH AND EARLY LIFESidney Rigdon was born February 19, 1793, the youngest son of a farmer in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Sidney attended school in a log schoolhouse where he learned to read. He was studious, though his early opportunities for formal training were limited. His son remembered him as a "great historian, the best I ever saw."
Sidney taught himself grammar.
He became responsible for the family farm after his father's death in 1810. He professed a religious experience in 1817.
Rigdon became a Baptist and was licensed to preach by the congregation, which he attended. By this time he would have been at least 28 years old.
From the beginning of his ministry, Sidney Rigdon was known as an effective speaker.
He was described as an "orator," and studied under a number of Baptist ministers and was soon ordained.
He married Miss Phebe Brooks, the sister-in-law of one of his preacher mentors. It appears that she lived until 1886 and that she bore Sidney 12 children, though all records of the number of their children do not agree.
Adamson Bentley who was Rigdon's brother-in-law, and Rigdon were both active in the Mahoning Baptist Association in east central Ohio. Bentley served as moderator three times. (The "moderator" in Baptist a Baptist association is simply to officiate during meeting of the association (a group of Baptist churches in an area), they have no authority over the churches).
By 1821 Rigdon was considered a most capable preacher.
The History of Peter's Creek Baptist Church, A Heritage of Faith, by Alan Ciechanowski, says that Sidney Rigdon joined the Peters Creek Church in 1817, that he studied divinity in Beaver County and by 1822 he became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, PA. Page 14.
Ciechanowski reports that Rigdon was expelled by the Baptists for doctrinal errors and that he became a Campbellite. In 1826 he moved to Ohio to join the Mormon Church, pg. 15. At that time Joseph Smith, Jr. would have been in his early twenties, not likely to be able to produce the Book of Mormon. This is interesting because the Mormon Church didn't come into existence until 1830. Too, the Book of Mormon was not printed until April of 1830.
Perhaps Rigdon's first contact with a non-Baptist group had been with the Shakers. This cult was started about fifty years earlier by Mother Ann Lee who professed to be the female incarnation of God. The group was communal (they did not own property personally). His interest in the Shakers lasted for more than 10 years. It was perhaps during this period
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that Rigdon's interest in communal living began. He tried to incorporate communal living into Alexander Campbell's teachings. Communal living became a part of early Mormonism.
Sandamanenism, a cult, which originated in Scotland, and taught that the true church ceased to exist with the death of the last apostle appears to be a forerunner of Campbellism.
While still in his 20's Rigdon had learned about the work of Alexander Campbell. Both he and Bentley spent nearly 10 years with Campbell and his movement.
Alexander Campbell had been a Presbyterian, but from about 1813-1830 he and his followers were nominally Baptists, though Baptists never extended Campbell the "hand of fellowship," since they felt he was an innovator who would build a new sect on the ruins of Baptists.
Rigdon's son John, in an article printed in Dialogue, Vol. 1, No. 4, Winter 1966, page 22 declared that his father and Alexander Campbell" got their heads together and started what was then called "The Campbellite Church." This group sometimes call themselves "The Church of Christ." (Some of this group now call themselves "Disciples of Christ.)" "Sidney Rigdon baptized Campbell and Campbell baptized him, and the church was started."
Donna Hill, in her Joseph Smith, the First Mormon, pg. 104 describes Rigdon as the "co-founder of the Campbellite Church..."
It is no wonder that Campbell was greatly upset by Rigdon's defection. As co-founder, Campbell had reason to be concerned. Campbell wrote a number of articles about Rigdon and his relation to the Book of Mormon.
Campbell differed with Baptists especially over baptism. He felt that baptism was necessary for the remission of sins. Baptists have always insisted that a conversion experience precede baptism. Too, Campbell required his followers to celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday. Each Baptist congregation as a rule, sets its own pattern on the frequency of the ordinance (often quarterly).
Also, Campbell declared that the Old Testament was not binding.
Rigdon and Bentley visited Campbell in 1821 according to Campbell, and an interesting relationship with Campbell began.
Rigdon had become a Baptist pastor in the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) area. He was soon to leave his church after charges by the Redstone Baptist Association that his doctrines were unsound.
After his leaving the Pittsburgh pastorate, he worked from 1824-1826 as a journey-man tanner for his wife's brother.
He did not leave the Pittsburgh area, however, but continued to proclaim Campbell's doctrines, particularly about a "restoration" of New Testament teachings.
Rigdon continued to preach in the courthouse. Many of his former church members attended, and in 1826, Rigdon moved to Ohio where he accepted a pastorate in the Mahoning Baptist Association.
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Campbell differed with Baptists especially over baptism. He felt that baptism was necessary for the remission of sins. Baptists have always insisted that a conversion experience precede baptism. Too, Campbell required his followers to celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday. Each Baptist congregation as a rule sets its own pattern on the frequency of the ordinance (often quarterly). Also, Campbell declared that the Old Testament was not binding.
Rigdon and Bentley visited Campbell in 1821 according to Campbell, and an interesting relationship with Rigdon began. Rigdon had become a Baptist pastor in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. He would soon leave his church after charges by the Redstone Baptist Association that his doctrines were unsound.
Rigdon continued to preach in the courthouse. Many of his former church members attended, and in 1826 Ridgon moved to Ohio where he accepted a pastor in the Mahoning Baptist Association.
Rigdon's reputation grew as he preached in revival meetings in his own and neighboring towns. In each he proclaimed his "restoration" ideas.
In time Rigdon began to disagree with Campbell. He did not believe the day of miracles was over, or that tongues were only a New Testament phenomenon, and Rigdon was continuing to be enamored by the idea of a communal society and to certain millennial ideas which were foreign to Campbell's position.
Finally, there came a break: Rigdon took the position at the annual meeting of the Association in 1830 that a communal lifestyle was necessary if they were to return to the model of the church at Jerusalem.
The meeting ended in a seething attack by Campbell. Rigdon left the
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meeting and never returned to the Campbell fold. His good relationship with his brother-in-law (Adamson Bentley) also ended and Rigdon's wife was even excluded from her share of her father's estate.
Some ceased to follow Rigdon at this point, not willing to risk their considerable property in the communal venture, but several substantial men did follow him. Within months, more than 100 men, women and children had entered into an agreement to hold their property in common.
In the fall of 1830 Rigdon received a visit by four men, among them were Parley P Pratt, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer. They were from the new religious group who had begun to follow Joseph Smith, Jr., the self-proclaimed Mormon prophet. At first Smith called [it] "The Church of the Latter Day Saints," but he was later to call his movement "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Rigdon and Pratt were already friends. Pratt had been converted in one of Rigdon's many meetings. Pratt had been preaching when he learned of the new group called Mormons.
Pratt was especially enamoured by the "Book of Mormon."
Rigdon was excited by the claims being made by his convert Oliver Cowdery who was a cousin of Joseph Smith's. Pratt, for he had long sought to be sure about the "ancient order of things."
Mormons insist that Rigdon did not hear of Joseph Smith until after the LDS (Mormon) Church was organized some months earlier, on April 6, 1830. We will present evidence otherwise later in this study. NOTE: According to Mormon claims, the Book of Mormon had only been in print a few months when it was brought to Rigdon's attention. This is questionable!
We should remind our readers that though Rigdon was a preacher of some eloquence, and presented as a Bible student and history buff, his formal education was extremely limited. By today's standards, he was little more than a self-educated frontiersman. There is no record of Rigdon's Bible or historical training other than as an apprentice of Adamson Bentley. He possessed no academic education beyond that of the frontier school near his home in Pennsylvania.
(In those days, if a man wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, he would become an apprentice, that was often his preparation for his life's work!)
It appears that Pratt was a follower of Rigdon.
Therefore, his ability to judge the merit of the Book of Mormon as a Bible scholar or historian was extremely limited.
The very idea that a 37 year old follower of Alexander Campbell would be so quickly and easily taken-in by his younger protégé Parley Pratt, who was almost 15 years his junior -- a mere boy, while Rigdon was a mature, seasoned adult -- and by the young dreamer Joseph Smith, is foreign to my thinking!
The fact that Rigdon seemed to be continually vacillating between the
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Baptists, Ann Lee, Alexander Campbell, the Sandemanians, the communal lifestyle, and then Joseph Smith, bespeaks of a lack of stability not generally seen in a mature adult.
Anyway, whatever might have been his ability to make a rational judgment, or lack of it, Rigdon was apparently convinced that the Book of Mormon had come from God and, that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet, (at least that must be the assumption if we would accept the claim that Rigdon had not heretofore known Joseph Smith). There is evidence that they had known each other for years. See Joseph Smith and His Progenitors by His Mother pages 87-90 and [another?] "Mormonism" book on the subject, also on page 90.
Daryl Chase, in his "Sidney Rigdon-Early Mormon," admits the theory of the "Manuscript Found" by Solomon Spaulding's being the origin of the Book of Mormon has been around since 1834.
At that time, Rigdon was reported to have been implicated in the imposture by obtaining the manuscript and in turn passing it on to Joseph Smith.
This theory, most often repeated even today, claimed that Spaulding was a Congregational or Presbyterian preacher, who in bad health passed the time by writing a novel which supposedly explained the origin of the American Indians. Spaulding (1761-1816) is supposed to have imagined that the Indians were Semitic.
(The name Spaulding is spelled two different ways in Mormon literature, Spalding and Spaulding. Though some notable writers speak of him as "Spalding," we shall spell his name "Spaulding" (except when quoting -- in quotation marks -- another publication that uses the other spelling) in this work. We choose this spelling mainly because it is perhaps most often used and because this is the spelling we've seen used by his widow and daughter.
(Another man who spelled the name "Spalding" is prominent in Mormon history. He was the Rt. Rev. F.S. Spalding, D.D., Episcopal Bishop of Utah in 1912. He is best known to students of Mormonism for his effort in the translation of the "Book of Abraham." Evidently his work was notable, though it was totally rejected by LDS leaders. The Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 2, pgs. 138-139 tells something of his work. Other contemporary Mormons mentioned, but totally rejected his efforts at translation.
(His work was later vindicated when some of the originals of the Book of Abraham were found in 1967).
(See Mormonism, Shadow or Reality," pgs 299-304 for more information on this subject.
(We've not seen the Episcopal Bishop's name spelled any other way).
There were other publications during the period, which could have been used to provoke the writer or writers of the "Book of Mormon." These will be mentioned later in this work.
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The View of the Hebrews, by Ethan Smith was first printed in 1823 and later printed serially in the local Palmyra (New York) newspaper.
Fawn Brodie reports that Joseph's father was a subscriber to the paper. His name appeared among the delinquent subscriber list, which proves that Smith (and others) could have had access to the 'View of the Hebrews" position.
That Sidney Rigdon was a follower of Campbell should be of interest in this study. We would propose to call attention to several facts:
1. Some things about Rigdon as a Campbellite
2. Campbell's comments about Rigdon
3. The Campbellite influence on the Book of Mormon (and the Baptist influence on the book) are interesting.
4. The peculiarly quick response of Rigdon to the Mormon position. Note: The Mormonism of 1830 which Rigdon accepted was a far [cry] from the Mormonism of today.
5. Let us learn some things about Rigdon as a Campbellite. Many have written about him. Donna Hill wrote a 500 page book Joseph Smith The First Mormon, in which she calls him "the co-founder of the Campbellite Church."
The thing that sets Mormonism apart from the other restoration attempts was, of course, the Book of Mormon.
Among the first Mormons who had been Campbellites were Parley P. Pratt, Lyman Wight and Orson Hyde, whom Rigdon had earlier baptized. Also, there were Newel K. and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Eliza Snow, and others.
To one versed in Campbellite (Church of Christ) doctrine and practice, it appears most strange that Rigdon was so easily and quickly converted. This must have been the fastest in history! It is almost beyond belief that one of Rigdon's caliber could have been so easily and quickly persuaded from his position by a man, 14 years his junior, who had earlier been his disciple.
There are several facts about the Book of Mormon that are most interesting. In 1834 [sic - 1958?] there was a book printed called Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. II. In it is The Book of Commandments.
You readers who've known of my interest in Mormonism have probably known of my long, long, belief that Sidney Rigdon had been aware of Joseph Smith, Jr., at least before Joseph was 20 years old. Rigdon had known the Smith family since Joseph's brother; Alvin had died in 1820 [sic] when Joseph, Jr. was not quite 20 years of age.
Thus, there is strong evidence of Sidney Rigdon's involvement with the Smith family years before Rigdon was supposed to have had a part in the beginning of Mormonism.
Rigdon had in the past been proven quite persuasive. He was supposed to have been given a copy of the Book of Mormon and after a brief look at it; he became convinced that it was the word of God. We believe
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never reach the high literary levels found in the Old Testament. He also noted that they "never equal the philosophic concepts and literary perfection of Job."
Sperry spoke of the Book of Mormon's "homely English," of its "ambiguous and hard to understand language," of its poor sentence structure, etc.
Sperry described the too frequent use of such expressions as "it came to pass" as being noticeably distasteful to cultured readers of the Book of Mormon.
We believe Sidney Rigdon's almost on-the-spot acceptance of the Book of Mormon to be the result of collusion, a lack of sufficient examination, an irresponsible emotional acceptance, or an evidence of an inability to properly evaluate the book. It could not have been so received by a capable, thinking, rational man of Rigdon's reputed ability. He [must?] have been a participant in its writing!
Alexander Campbell in his "Memoirs," (Vol. II, pgs. 344-345 edited by Robert Richardson, calls Sidney Rigdon a "chief promoter" of Mormonism and declares that there is "good evidence" that he was also "its originator."
Perhaps we should explain, (in view of our earlier statements on the subject) that we really do not accept the so-called "Spaulding Theory." We are aware of the claims and counter-claims that have now been around for well over 150 years. In our library we had well-over 200 volumes that mentioned Sidney Rigdon and his part in Mormonism. Most of these (though by no means all), had been written from a Mormon perspective.
(Most give absolutely no credence to the claims of the Spaulding Theory). We are aware too, that such scholars as Thomas F. O'Dea declare that "few if any scholars take the Spaulding Theory seriously today." (The Mormons, O'Dea, pgs. 23-24).
(Though we do have a "gut feeling" that Rigdon and Smith did know each other long before December of 1830, we believe that even if this were not true, Sidney Rigdon probably had more to do with the origin of Mormonism than did God. Therefore, we do believe Campbell was not too far from right when he called Sidney Rigdon "Mormonism's Originator.")
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Richardson says that Smith and Rigdon arranged for Oliver Cowdery and Parley Pratt to appear to Rigdon who would at once endorse their claim.
Though Alexander Campbell was an earlier companion and fellow preacher with Rigdon, by the time of the writing of his memoirs, Rigdon had long gone his own way and become an apostate to Campbell's teachings. Hence the harsh treatment given him in his memoirs.
(Perhaps we should explain, in view of our earlier statements on the subject) that we really do not accept the so-called "Spaulding Theory." By that, I mean, I do not accept the idea that the book was copied, that he was actually the author. I am aware of the claims and counter-claims that have now been made for more than 150 years. The "Manuscript Found" in no way contained the original of the Book of Mormon. We believe there is a possibility there was a second manuscript by Spaulding that has not been found.)
(Most give absolutely no credence to the claims of the "Spaulding Theory.")
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(We are aware too, that such scholars as Thomas F. O'Dea declare that "few if any scholars take the Spaulding Theory seriously today." (The Mormons, pgs. 23-24).
Campbell observed that the Book of Mormon discusses "every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years. He discussed all the great controversies: -- infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of Freemasonry, republican government, the rights of man..." (Quoted from Millennial Harbinger, Feb. 1831, pg. 85).
Campbell agreed with all the other biographers we've read, that Rigdon was a fluent, eloquent public speaker. Likewise, Campbell's appraisal of Rigdon was that he was privately unreliable, with a terrible temper, somewhat given to extravagance, and was in agreement with other reliable estimates of the man.
Campbell further stated that "he was ambitious of distinction, jealous of others, but sometimes unable to secure the notice that he sought."
Campbell would have accepted Paul Bailey's assessment of Rigdon. He called him a "narrow-minded bigot" (Armies of God, pg. 47).
Later in Bailey's book, after Rigdon had become ill, he called him "crotchety" (pg. 84). That word is defined as, "given to odd notions, eccentric, a whiner, grouchy."
Campbell accepted the Spaulding Theory, implying at least, that Rigdon and Smith were together in Palmyra, New York, as early as 1827. Obviously, Campbell felt that the entire story was as much (or more) Rigdon's story than Smith's.
Campbell describes Martin Harris as being "so credulous" as to be persuaded to defray the expense of the publication of the Book of Mormon.
Likewise, Campbell notes Rigdon's inclusion of his millennial theories and other fanciful interpretations of scripture even before Smith appeared (for the record) later in 1830.
Campbell says Rigdon sought privately to convince influential persons that the "primitive gospel, supernatural gifts and miracles ought to be restored," and that as in the beginning, they should hold all things in common.
Rigdon received little response in Mentor where he resided, but was more successful in Kirtland (Ohio).
Upon the appearance of Cowdery and Pratt who were old acquaintances, they at once publicly endorsed Rigdon, at once publicly endorsed his claims.
Rigdon went with Smith to Palmyra but there they were met with contempt and ridicule. They knew Smith all too well. Perhaps that was too
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close to Bainbridge (New York) where Smith had earlier been convicted by a justice of the Peace as a "glass looker." (He took money from believing farmers to look through his magic glass and find buried treasure).
Smith had earlier pleaded guilty and promised to cease his activities. Later he evidently used perhaps that same stone to translate the metal plates.
The original court record of that trial was found by Wes Walters in 1971. Its finding seems now to be acknowledged as authentic even by some LDS historians.
Therefore, Smith and Rigdon transferred their operations to Kirtland, Ohio where Rigdon had already prepared his people for this new and expected message. Campbell (Ibid, pg. 346) reports that about 1/2 his former members were soon led away by Rigdon's delusion.
Mormon "elders" and "apostles," with this somewhat illustrious beginning, were soon able to gain many proselytes. Campbell said that they were from among the ignorant and superstitious, but unfortunately among their converts were many no-doubt able, sincere and well-to-do people.
(We should remind our readers again; however, that the Mormonism that these people accepted was far from that believed by present-day Mormons and by hundreds of thousands of converts to Mormonism today.)
They knew nothing of the Plural-god, Corporal God, Progressing God, Polygamous God, Incestuous God, every man becoming a God, (embryo God) (etc.) ideas as were later brought into Mormonism. In fact, Mormon proselytes are being worse "duped" today than they were then.
Campbell later reminded his readers with some relish, that his former compatriot was later deposed to obscurity by his more competent successor, Brigham Young.
There are many passages in the Book of Mormon that lead me to believe that someone with much greater knowledge of Baptist and Campbellite theology than Joseph Smith -- at age 25 -- had something to do with the writing of the Book of Mormon.
We find the passage Mosiah 27:27-28 (and many other passages) most interesting in the light of Rigdon's past. This is especially true since this passage contradicts current Mormon doctrine in several very important ways.
This passage is obviously inspired by Baptist's interpretation of John 3:3-7. Its "improvement" on the passage in John appears to be the result of after-thought.
The expression "born again" and "born of God" appears only in John and in the epistles. However, its use in several Book of Mormon passages supposedly around 100 years before the appearance of Jesus, leads me to believe that someone with an acquaintance with -- and perhaps an understanding of -- the Baptist position on the subject of the "New Birth" must have been its author.
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The several inclusions of those precise words: "I am born of the Spirit" (Mosiah 27:24) and "I am born of God" (vs. 28), "have ye been spiritually born of God" (Alma 5:14), "they must repent and be born again" (vs. 49), "and be born again" (Alma 7:14), "what shall I do that I may be born of God" (Alma 22:15), "if I had not been born of God" (Alma 36:5), "that I had been born of God" (vs. 23), lead me to believe that not only was the book written long after the passage in John, but its writer must have had some intimate knowledge of the theology and terminology of Baptists -- particularly in the area and not during the period BC 130 to BC 91 as we are led to believe. Sidney Rigdon (and not Mosiah or Alma, nor Joseph Smith) was in a perfect position and with the ideal background for this knowledge.
(We should inform our readers that the concept of the "New Birth" as understood by Christians who claim that experience today, is totally foreign to Mormonism. Such passages as those quoted above are not cited today by knowledgeable Mormons. Mormons do not talk of being "saved." In all our years of dealing with Mormons, we do not recall even one instance (except by those claiming the experience before becoming a Mormon and who did not really understand the Mormon concept), when a Mormon claimed to be "saved." The term is not even in the index of the edition of the Book of Mormon currently in use today.
Yet the Book of Mormon is replete with instances where the expression is used relating to an experience with the Lord where one might be said "to be saved, after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). It says, "there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved..." (2 Nephi 31:21). Again it says, "there is no other or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ" (Alma 38:9). Another passage says "remember that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come, yea remember that he cometh to redeem the world" (Helamen 5:9) and there are others. (Helaman was supposed to have been written in BC 30 -- before Jesus was born.) It is evident that the concept of being "saved" was one with which Sidney Rigdon would have been familiar and could well have introduced to the new book (assuming he had known Joseph Smith before).
Another concept, with which Rigdon would have been familiar, was the idea that baptism must be by immersion and as a Campbellite, that it was necessary for salvation. The writer gives the word for word formula for the baptismal ceremony and then proceeds to declare that it be by "immersion."
The passage in 3 Nephi 11:25 says "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." The next verse follows: "And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water."
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This is a redundancy since the word "baptize" literally means to immerse.
The word "baptize" (or one of the derivatives) is found about 150 times in the Book of Mormon though only 123 of its pages claim to have been written after the birth (note: not ministry) of Jesus. The fact that the word (or a derivative) is used more times in the Book of Mormon than in the much larger Bible indicates to us that there is an inordinate use of the word.
(We should also note that the word "Christ" is used more than 500 years before the birth of Christ. The use of many terms long before they were used in the Bible -- is interesting!)
Likewise, the emphasis on the word "baptize" (from supposedly up to more than 100 years before Christ's birth) and such obvious efforts to improve on the New Testament as "And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned" (3 Nephi 11:33-34 -- compare with Mark 16:16 in the Bible).
In 3 Nephi 26:17 it says the disciples of Jesus were to "baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them; and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled by the Holy Ghost." Moroni 8:9 forbids baptizing children, saying they are not accountable and continues, stating "and their little children need no repentance, neither baptize."
Would you not say than a 8-year-old child is a "child?"
Many other passages could be listed, but we believe we make our point, the Book of Mormon, with hindsight, settles the issues with which the Baptist-turned-Campbellite Sidney Rigdon was familiar. (We note that it does not deal with any subject which was not a problem of the time (for instance homosexuality), giving convincing, even if circumstantial evidence, that Rigdon may well have had something to do with the content of the Book of Mormon).
For the record at least, it is said that Sidney Rigdon's sojourn with the Mormons began in the fall of 1830 when his old friend Parley Pratt, along with Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer and Ziba Peterson dropped by Isaac Morley's communal farm where Rigdon and his family were then living.
Pratt had been converted to Campbellism by Rigdon the year before while he was preaching just west of Cleveland.
Pratt is said to have persuaded his companions to travel 200 miles out of their way in order to visit Sidney Rigdon. (This was equal to a far greater distance today -- possibly even a several day trip).
The conversion was entirely too easy. Anyone, who is at all familiar with the tenacious position of the followers of Alexander Campbell, would have difficulty believing that a younger, former protégé could so quickly and easily convert a man of Rigdon's experience and reputed ability. The story just does not ring true. The first time we heard it, we were inclined to
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Rigdon began immediately to help Smith revise Genesis though the revision of the Bible was not completed.
Smith was persuaded by Rigdon to move with his family to Ohio. That month (December 1830) Joseph gave a revelation ordering his people to move immediately to Ohio (Sec. 58).
At Kirtland, Newel K. Whitney, the most prosperous merchant in town, was persuaded to become a Mormon.
By now Smith had learned to use his revelations to good advantage. (Or was it Rigdon who supplied the revelations?) He had found a ready follower in Partridge and a staunch supporter in Rigdon. He produced a revelation from God saying that his followers should build him a house (61:3) ordering every one of his (male) followers -- except himself and Rigdon) -- to go out as missionaries.
A few weeks later he got a revelation for Rigdon and Pratt to go as missionaries to the Shakers.
This effort did not succeed.
A revelation from Smith was all it took to close the effort at communal living at Kirtland. The people didn't like it anyway (13:14). In its place, Smith instituted the "Law of Consecration of Stewardship." It had several advantages over the earlier practice. In the new program the incompetent and lazy were eliminated since each "volunteer" had to support himself and his family while all that was left over went to the church (which really meant that Smith had charge of it).
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Rigdon was an able orator. Some said he spoke with the voice of an angel.
Sidney Rigdon became a follower of Joseph Smith in December of 1830 -- so the record says -- and for the remainder of Joseph's time on earth, he was a close and constant companion, spokesman and confidant.
Our study of Rigdon may appear somewhat repetitious and paradoxical. His 13 years with Smith indicate that he was stable. Yet his several religious positions, Baptist, Sandamanian, Shakers, Baptist, Campbellite, Mormonism, later Strangite and then Rigdonite, make him appear decidedly unstable.
The influence that each of these had on him, his mistreatment at the hands of mobs, his periods of ill-health, and his excitable and impetuous nature make him a difficult man to follow and to understand.
The Mormonism that he accepted at the time of his conversion was quite unlike the cult we know today.
The Book of Mormon's doctrinal teachings would appear quite harmonious with most of the Baptist and Campbellite teachings that Rigdon had accepted 13 years earlier. Most of the doctrines we find abhorrent today had not become a (revealed) part of the Mormonism at this point in time. The acceptance of the Book of Mormon (which did not teach contrary to his old allegiance) and a modern-day prophet was really all that he was getting in addition to most of the teachings of Alexander Campbell.
The plural God doctrine, God a corporeal being (who is married), plural marriage and all that is included, their eternal marriage teachings, etc., these were all to come much later.
Perhaps it would be well to bring in some of those documentations which lead us to believe that Rigdon had been with Smith prior to the printing of the Book of Mormon. (We will later present some additional information).
Lucy Smith, in her Joseph Smith's History by His Mother, provides a most revealing bit of information. Though admittedly circumstantial, we see it -- along with other confirming evidence -- as most important.
On page 90 of the 1853 printing of her book, it says, "Shortly after the death of Alvin (he died in November of 1823) a man commenced laboring in the neighborhood, to affect a union of the different churches, in order that all might be agreed, and thus worship God with one heart and one mind."
"This seemed about right to me, and I felt much inclined to join them, in fact, the most of the family appeared quite disposed to unite with their numbers; (though she said that Joseph refused even to go to their meetings)..."
We believe Sidney Rigdon may have been that man! (If Lucy Smith's statement stood alone, we would not be so inclined, but it, along with much other evidence, is to us convincing).
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Another fact that should be considered as having a bearing on this subject is the possibility of Rigdon's having been in the vicinity of Joseph Smith's home or travels during the period prior to 1830.
We've never considered seriously the claims of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? by Cowdrey, Davis and Scales. Their book, printed in 1977, appeared amid a great deal of fanfare, lofty promises and extravagant claims, but it failed to produce as promised. (Note our conviction that Joseph Smith's mother in her Joseph Smith's History by his Mother, page 87 which reveals that a man had been mentioning in the neighborhood attempting to "effect the union of different churches." That was Sidney Rigdon!)
The three handwriting experts who were to back up their contention that a questioned 12 pages from the original Book of Mormon Manuscript were indeed in the handwriting of Solomon Spaulding who had died in 1816, in the end refused to agree to the lavish promises made by the authors.
In 1977 we went to the Church Archives and were shown samples of Spaulding's handwriting, the contested 12 pages, samples of Rigdon's handwriting and also the original of the D&C section 56, which was -- it seemed to us -- in the same handwriting as the questioned 12 pages.
We believe that the fact of Spaulding's having died in 1816, the unlikelihood of 12 pages of identical paper and ink being used 13 years later -- in the middle of writing whose scribes are known -- presupposes more than it would be logical to accept.
However, it is important to our thesis, that the Cowdery, Davis, Scales book, in presenting Rigdon's schedule, states that there were 15 gaps
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in Rigdon's itinerary from 1827-1830 (compiled mostly from Mormon sources they say) which would have allowed opportunity for Rigdon and Smith to get together (pgs 122-125).
They further allege that Rigdon's schedule corresponds "exactly" to some events recorded by Smith concerning Mormonism or the Book of Mormon. They point particularly to a two month gap beginning in June of 1829 which corresponds "exactly" to Smith's loss of the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon by Martin Harris. Even the gap of one month (or even less) would give more than ample time for Rigdon and Smith to get together. They include the "testimony of Smith's neighbors and others" who placed Rigdon and Smith together before the publication of the Book of Mormon.
(The weakness of this argument, however, is the fact that all these testimonies were given 30 years or more after the events they profess to describe).
These authors quote Able Chase, J.H. Gilbert, Lorenzo Saunders, Mrs. S.F. Anderick, Daniel Hendrix, K.A.E. Bell and others who professed to know that Rigdon and Joseph Smith had known each other and had been together at various times before the claims made by the Mormon Church that they did not meet until after Rigdon's conversion to Mormonism in November of 1830, well after the printing of the Book of Mormon (See pgs 125-149). They seemingly provide sufficient documentation for their position.
It is our feeling that the weakness of the Cowdrey, Davis, Scales book is not in its premise that Rigdon and Smith knew each other before the conversion of Rigdon in November of 1830, or that they had ample opportunity (and perhaps did) get together on one or several occasions but that they fail to prove the use of the Spaulding Manuscript in the Book of Mormon (which was supposedly their premise).
I just might note here that it is my opinion that the Spaulding manuscript "may" have been used by Rigdon, but that he (Spaulding) had no idea of producing a book of scripture. To him it was a novel!
The fact that they were unable to get a single one of the handwriting experts to uphold their contention after such lavish promises in the press greatly detracts from their thesis concerning the use of the Spaulding Manuscript.
It really does not greatly concern us that we believe it is impossible at this time to prove our theory. We contend that Rigdon was involved, and since it was an obvious imposture and God was not its author, just who did it is rather a moot question today.
We believe Rigdon was capable of producing the Book of Mormon single-handedly and that whether or not he used the Spaulding Manuscript is beside the point.
A report of interest to our study was printed in the B.Y.U. Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1, Winter 1981.
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The article, entitled "The Early Baptist Career of Sidney Rigdon in Warren, Ohio" by Hans Rollman of the University of Toronto (Canada) claims to shed more light on the early career of Rigdon.
The article brings out the fact that though not mentioned by any previous biographer that before Rigdon was in Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio for two years, he spent a short time in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. This indicates Rigdon arrived in Warren on March 4, 1820 and not in May 1819 as the Times and Seasons and all other historians claim.
Author Rollman presumes in the article that the information about the omission of this information in the Times and Seasons article of 1843 was "to avoid playing into the hands of those who had already advanced the Spaulding theory..."
"The later arrival in Pittsburgh -- in 1822 instead of 1819 -- featured prominently in the apologetics against the Spaulding theory," the author relates. (The earlier date would make Rigdon's acquaintance with the work of Spaulding more likely).
Though we are aware that most authorities reject the so-called Spaulding theory (and at this point so do we) we are committed to the idea that Sidney Rigdon was involved with Joseph Smith in the origin of the Book of Mormon and the origin of Mormonism. As we see it, Rigdon (and not Smith alone) was a prime mover in the origin of the book.
For the record, Rigdon became a Mormon in the fall of 1830. Almost immediately he appears to enter into the complete confidence and closest association with Joseph Smith. It certainly appears that they had known each other before.
It would appear that Rigdon's younger protégé Parley Pratt had been the converting influence.
Rigdon had already made several changes in his religious commitment. As previously stated, he had been a Baptist as were his parents. Then he became a Shaker, a follower of Mother Ann Lee who claimed to be the female incarnation of God. Beginning in England in 1706, they had come to America in 1774. They were a communal group. They did not marry and bore no children, therefore, they could continue only through converts. A church leader said the Hosts of Heaven trembled, therefore, they should worship in this manner. Hence, they were known as "Shakers."
Mark McKiernan, in his Sidney Rigdon 1793-1876, says that Rigdon's interest in the Shaker "doctrines and communistic communities continued for over a decade" (pg. 19). Rigdon went on a mission to the Shakers in 1831. The D&C, section 65 (which in the 1835 edition read quite differently) was given to Rigdon.
Rigdon would then (after his bit with the Shakers) go back to the Baptists with whom he had first been identified. Then he cast his lot with Alexander Campbell before his 13 years with the Mormons.
Mark McKiernan in his article in Courage, the short-lived RLDS
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A lecture on his life by a son, John Wickliffe Rigdon contained about all we know of first hand information about his last years. It is now in the LDS Church Historian's office in Salt Lake City.
It was purchased from John Wickliffe Rigdon when he visited the Salt Lake City Church offices in 1900.
Much of the information in that story was drawn from sources already in print.
John Rigdon's story was not well written. Spelling, punctuation and grammar and some incoherent notes made the original difficult to read.
The account printed in Dialogue was obtained by Earl Keller from a relative in New York.
John Rigdon reported that there was never a time in his memory when he did not know Joseph Smith. He declared that he knew him as well as his own father.
Sidney Rigdon declared to the end that he did not use the Spaulding manuscript to write the Book of Mormon.
Young Rigdon's account was quite detailed. He wrote of his parents wedding and of his father's association with Alexander Campbell.
His report of Sidney's first contact with Mormonism was quite graphic. Parley Pratt, whom he had known, and Oliver Cowdery were two of the three who first told him of Mormonism. Other accounts say there were four.
He and Pratt had both been Baptists and had known each other as followers of Campbell.
Rigdon allowed Pratt to preach in his church that night. After the
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service, the three spent the night with him. The three left the next day, Sidney proceeded to read the Book of Mormon. He read day and night. When he finished, he pondered it for awhile.
Upon their return, he inquired about Smith. A week later Rigdon and his wife were among those baptized into the Mormon Church.
His church was furious at him, but Rigdon insisted that he had not erred. They would not permit him to move into the little house they had prepared for him. He then moved with his family to the little town of Hiram about 2 1/2 [sic] miles outside Kirtland.
Rigdon's son went with his father to see Joseph Smith in Palmyra. His son insisted that this was the first time for the two to meet.
Sidney did not see the plates, but he talked to the witnesses and to Smith. He became Smith's First Counselor and continued in that position until Smith's death.
He described his father as a man weighing about 225 pounds. I had not felt that he was that large. He is usually presented as being a sickly, ailing man, and I was surprised that he was of that stature.
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Two of the most interesting facets in the life and activities of Sidney Rigdon dealt with his "Salt Sermon" and the "Danites." We believe the two were related, therefore, we would deal with them together.
Most historians of note deal with both events as though they were one and the same, or closely related.
No doubt one of the most eventful happenings not only in the life of Sidney Rigdon but also in the early history of the Mormons occurred that June 17, 1838 (or some historians say June 19th). It would appear that it was Sunday June 17th). (Rigdon's son, John, thought it was July 4th).
Rigdon was always the man of the hour as he approached the pulpit to speak. He had been upset for a couple of months. Several dissenters had been declared traitors. Discontent was evident in the hierarchy.
John Whitmer had been accused of misusing church funds. He and W.W. Phelps had been excommunicated. Oliver Cowdery was next. He had accused Joseph of adultery and some of the other church members had been offended by "vexatious" lawsuits. Cowdery had also been involved in counterfeiting. When Cowdery refused to appear before the Church High Council, he and others were excommunicated.
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that found among 'religious' people; no man considered so base by his former associates as he who secedes from them." We agree!
This was the Mormon's plight as the day for Sidney Rigdon's "Salt Sermon" approached.
There was trouble within, but there was also trouble without. Mormons had been in Caldwell County (MO) only a year and their welcome had worn extremely thin. The old familiar pattern had begun again.
A Reed Peck (Quincy, Adams County (IL), Sept. 18, 1839, MS pgs. 22-23) is quoted as saying "...a proposition was made and supported by most as being the best policy to kill these men (Phelps and Cowdery?) that they would not be capable of injuring the church..."
It was with that background that Sidney Rigdon stood to preach that Sunday morning with a harangue that would later be remembered as "Sidney's Salt Sermon."
He chose his text from Matthew (5:13) where it says, "if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? (I)t is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."
Rigdon implied that these men, who had once been faithful and were now enemies of the Church, should be trampled under foot.
Though some would imply today that Joseph Smith did not endorse the "Salt Sermon" and that it was preached only on Rigdon's initiative, Smith did in fact, give his assent to the sermon in the Elders journal, the official Church publication. He evidently wrote the endorsement himself. He said, "we will avenge ourselves of our enemies, inasmuch as they will not let us alone" (History of the Church, 67-68).
The article in BYU Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1, Autumn 1972 entitled "The Election Day Battle at Gallatin" about that summer in 1838 (immediately following the Salt Sermon) is most revealing. He had called upon his followers to rise up and proceed to rid the country of that nuisance. He declared that the angels would be pleased.
Some of the dissenters were warned to flee; later they were given three days to leave lest the result be a "more fatal calamity."
Eighty-three of Caldwell's most respected citizens signed a petition demanding that the dissenters leave. Though the Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 1, pg 438 clearly designate Rigdon as the author of this "communication," his name (nor that of Smith) did not appear on it.
Several names of the apostates were included in the document. Some of these men sought legal aid, when they returned. Some of their belongings had been placed in the street along with that of their families.
It was along about this time that a "secret society" called the "Danites" came into being. The Church says it was Sampson Avard's idea.
Dr. Avard is rather prominent in LDS Church history. He is first mentioned October 15, 1837 when his "license" was "taken" until he returned to make satisfaction. What kind of license and what his problem was, we are not told (History of the Church, Vol. II, pg 519).
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Arrington and Bitton, in their The Mormon Experience, pg. 54 says perhaps Sidney Rigdon approved of the Danites' activities.
It appears from Donna Hill's Joseph Smith, The Founder of Mormonism, pg 364 that Joseph and Sidney too, had the idea of a "political kingdom of God" perhaps long before the Salt Sermon. He said, "There was no evil concocted when we first held secret meetings" (in Kirtland).
He continued, "When I speak of government, I mean what I say. I mean a government that shall rule over temporal and spiritual things" (History of the Church, Vol. VI. pgs 288-292).
There can be no question but that Joseph knew of the Danites. He himself said, "If the enemy comes, the Danites will be after them, meaning the brethren in self-defense." (Ibid, Vol. VI, pg. 165).
Klaus Hansen in his Quest for Empire, (pg. 57) says that with Rigdon's
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Joseph's revelation (D&C 35) professing to be Jesus talking, said: "Behold, verily, verily, I say unto my servant Sidney, I have looked upon thee and thy works. I have heard thy prayers, and prepared thee for a greater work. Thou are blessed, for thou shalt do great things."
"Behold, thou wast sent forth even as John, to prepare a way before me... For I am God...," the spokesman said.
This revelation is dated December 1830, the occasion of the first meeting of Rigdon and Smith.
One wonders at the immediate response of each to the other. Were two equally fascinating men meeting for the first time? Or were two old cronies able for the first time to come out of the closet?
Either way, thus began -- at least for the record -- a close relationship that would end only in Joseph's death.
It appears that there was never even a strain on their relationship until Joseph attempted to take Rigdon's daughter, Nancy as a plural wife.
It seems that Joseph wrote her a letter which she showed to her father (Isn't One Wife Enough, Kimball Young, pg 95) telling him of Joseph's advances.
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At first Smith denied the allegation but when Rigdon produced the letter, Joseph had to admit the truth. His excuse was that he was testing her virtue.
W.A. Linn, in his The Story of the Mormons, (pg. 59) declares, "The man who had more to do with founding the Mormon Church than Joseph Smith, Jr., even if we exclude any share in the production of the Mormon Bible (Book of Mormon), and yet who is unknown even by name to most persons to whom the names of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are familiar, was Sidney Rigdon."
He says a Mormon, John Hyde, was right, in 1853 and 1854 [sic - 1857?], when he wrote: "The compiling genius of Mormonism was Sidney Rigdon. Smith had boisterous impetuosity but no foresight. Polygamy was not the result of his policy but of his passions. Sidney gave point, direction, and apparent consistency to the Mormon system of theology. He invented its forms and the manner of its arguments... Had it not been for the accession of these two men (Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt) Smith would have been lost, and his schemes frustrated and abandoned." (Quoted from Mormonism, It's Leaders and Designs (1852 [sic - 1857?]).
I don't think Sidney introduced polygamy to Mormonism -- that was Joseph Smith.
Hayden's Early History of the Disciples' Church in Western Reserve describes a contemporary of Campbell and Rigdon, an old preacher friend from Pittsburgh days named Scott, who reported to the church association at Warren (Ohio) in 1827-1828. Hayden said of Walter Scott, "He contended ably for the restoration of the true original apostolic order which would restore to the church the ancient gospel as preached by the apostles. The interest became an excitement... the air was thick with rumors of a 'new religion,' a 'new Bible.'" Therefore, the idea of Rigdon's connection with such a scheme as the Book of Mormon was common belief.
Rigdon's brother-in-law, Bentley, in a letter to Walter Scott dated January 22, 1841, said, "I know that Sidney Rigdon told me there was a book coming out, the manuscript of which had been found on gold plates, as much as two years before the Book of Mormon made its appearance or had been heard of by me." (Millennial Harbinger, 1844, page 39).
There were many testimonies of those who would connect Rigdon and Smith before 1830.
Much of this information was first printed by E.D. Howe in his Mormonism Unveiled in 1834. Other material was presented by Pomery Tucker in 1867.
Tucker had worked in the shop where the Book of Mormon was printed. He used material first printed by Howe, but some of the material was his own.
Tucker's information, if it is to be believed, is conclusive in proving that Rigdon and Smith had been together on more than one occasion prior to the printing of the Book of Mormon. The only weakness to Tucker's
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claims was that most of the testimonies were given some years after the events were supposed to have taken place.
If their claims were true, then the "Manuscript Found" must not have been the book they saw and there must have been a second manuscript.
We are persuaded that it is not too much to believe that there may have been a second manuscript, as some of the testimonies seem to imply.
In our own experience and that of other writers that we know, though only one book may get into print, they almost always attempt more than one book.
I have started several books that I did not finish even after I had several books in print.
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THE KIRTLAND BANK EPISODENo study of Sidney Rigdon would be complete without delving into the Kirtland Bank fiasco.
The ill-fated banking venture of Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith is described variously in many publications. One really finds it difficult to know where to begin.
B.H. Robert's Comprehensive History of the Church describes the effort by Smith to charter a bank, and failing (after the currency had already been printed), used a stamp making the notes read "Anti-Bank-ing" company thus circumventing the law. He admits that "having no state charter, the bank had no legal standing and consequently, the institution failed."
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Our readers will note the signature of Sidney Rigdon in the lower left-hand corner of the bill along with that of Joseph Smith.
Mormons generally credit the panic of 1837 as a reason for their many financial problems in the failure of the bank.
Perhaps if it had not been for Joseph Smith's claim that God had revealed to him that he start a bank, if it had not been for the prematurely printed bills and for the addition of the "anti" and "ing," if he had not made such exaggerated claims for its solvency, if he hadn't filled most of the boxes with shot and scrap iron with "$1,000" stenciled on the outside, and if it had not been for those "three-dollar" bills, the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society might have been only one of many Ohio banks that failed during that period.
Joseph and Sidney's participation in banking ended with their resignations and finally with their leaving Kirtland in the night to escape prosecution -- neither ever returned!
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JOSEPH & SIDNEYJoseph would be 25 in a few days. A tall, young backwoodsman, he had the reputation of being a money-digger. In fact, he had been convicted when he was 20 and after a promise to desist, he improved his story and a few months previous to his reported meeting with Sidney Rigdon, he produced a book which he professed to be scripture, a record of a people who were the ancestors of the American Indian that he had found hidden under a rock. (Now we know that Indians are descendants of Mongolians and not Israelites.)
On the other hand, Sidney Rigdon, a rotund, 215 pound man, well-educated for the backwoods area where he lived, mature, confident, approaching middle age, who had baptized the fellow who was to convert him, and who was soon to be responsible for hundreds and hundreds of converts to this new religious group.
We should remind our readers that the Mormonism of 1830 would never recognize the 12,500,000 member "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" of today. It was closer to the Protestants of a generation or so ago. Plural gods, god a physical being, eternal marriage, plural marriage, Christ and the Devil brothers, etc., had not even been thought up.
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An Alexander Campbell follower, Sidney Rigdon did not make any changes in his thinking. He had already decided that the communal lifestyle was proper (which he perhaps introduced to Mormonism). He only added the idea of a modern-day prophet and a book of additional scripture (which, by the way, teaches (doctrinally) almost exactly as Campbell believed -- just add a new book and a prophet!
(He already believed the church had ceased to exist and just needed to be restored. He believed in baptismal regeneration (of course by immersion). The new book -- which teaches doctrinally just as Rigdon already believed -- and a prophet was the only change he needed to make!)
Obviously, with no way to prove at that point that the Book of Mormon was totally unproven archaeologically or geographically, Sidney Rigdon (assuming he had not known Smith previously) accepted the book on faith.
There was no other basis of proof at that point, nor is there now. The Book of Mormon is no more provable today than when it first came from the E.B. Grandin press!
(The Bible, we might add, continues to be proven. Older manuscripts -- like the Dead Sea scrolls continue to prove its antiquity and its reliability).
But the story of the plates, the Reformed Egyptian language, the Urim and Thummim and the Seer Stone, the idea of a modern-day prophet -- all this -- is but the story of Joseph Smith (and possibly Sidney Rigdon)!
We are reminded that the Bible says "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." (Psalms 118:8).
However, the thrust of this portion of our study is to deal with the close relationship between Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. This intimacy did not seem to build, it was as if they had known each other before and that their commitment to each other antedated their reported meeting.
Most of the history we have today relating to Sidney Rigdon was either made by those close to Alexander Campbell who considered him an apostate, or it was reported by others whose group he had decided was in error. Hence, like all apostates, he was disliked and condemned by most all that knew him.
Among the several studies that have been made of Sidney Rigdon and his influence on Mormonism, is that of Joseph Welles White in a thesis presented to the University of Southern California in June of 1947.
Mr. White was pursuing a Master of Arts degree in the Graduate School of Religion.
White mentioned the mass of source material, most of which is polemic, much of it "caustic" on the subject.
His studies included affidavits and statements published by E.D. Howe in his Mormonism Unveiled in 1834 through George B. Arbaugh's Revelation in Mormonism in 1932 and Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History in 1946.
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He calls Arbaugh, "admirably scientific" and Brodie's book objective and exhaustive.
He recounts Rigdon's first acquaintance with Mormonism and the Book of Mormon, which was brought to him by Parley P. Pratt who had earlier been Rigdon's disciple.
At first Rigdon was adamant in his rejection of the Book of Mormon and Mormonism as it was presented to him. Rigdon's account of this meeting was printed in the Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, pg. 47. White believed Rigdon wrote the account.
Daryl Chase, in his "Sidney Rigdon -- Early Mormon," an unpublished M.A. thesis (1931) declared that in his opinion, "Sidney Rigdon ranks among the most important of all Mormon converts" (pg. 73).
White agrees with that quote from Chase and declares the purpose of his study to show "that Rigdon had foreknowledge of the Book (of Mormon) before its publication."
He also believed that it was probable that Rigdon had some part in the book composition. He noted that early Mormonism's theology was far more nearly that of Rigdon than Smith at that time.
He further states that "even if Rigdon had no part in writing the Book of Mormon, he had more to do with the organization and doctrines of Mormons than did Joseph Smith."
At the point of Rigdon's conversion, Mormonism was just eight months old and had fewer than 100 members. The Book of Mormon was its only publication.
For 13 years, in fact, until very shortly before Joseph's death, Rigdon was Mormonism's official spokesman.
There is no question but that Rigdon contributed direction to the new movement, without which, Mormonism might never have succeeded. One ex-Mormon called him "the compiling genius of Mormonism."
It has been noted that Rigdon has the peculiar distinction of having been both praised and hated by everything that he was ever a part of. He was appreciated as a Baptist, but he left its ranks to become a follower of Alexander Campbell! After a rather short time as Campbell's darling, he turned to Mormonism. After being rejected by the LDS as Joseph's successor, he became a follower of James J. Strang, shortly thereafter he formed his own group. He is perhaps best known by each group as an apostate, a renegade, a deserter. Therefore, there seems to be no unbiased report of him. Either he is whitewashed or vilified. He is never seen objectively.
Rigdon left his biggest mark, however, on Mormonism. It was with Joseph Smith and Mormonism that his influence was greatest and longest lasting. White perhaps justly called him "Mormonism's guiding genius."
It might be observed that no other early Mormon served longer during those first 13 years nor made such a lasting imprint on the sect that now seldom gives him the credit due him.
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J.W. White in his thesis makes several observations that are important to our proposition.
Parley P. Pratt, Rigdon's earlier disciple, headed straight for Rigdon and easily converted his former mentor who himself had seemingly prepared his people for a startling A.S. Hayden, in his Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, pg. 209, wrote that "Rigdon, With pompous pretense, was travailing with expectancy of some great event soon to be revealed to the surprise and astonishment of mankind." Hayden said of Rigdon, with "an imagination fertile glowing and wild to extravagance, bordering upon credulity, he was prepared and preparing others for the voice of some mysterious event soon to come." White says an angel visited Rigdon prior to his being baptized a Mormon (pg. 16).
Daryl Chase, in his thesis, observes that Rigdon did not have to give
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up or change any of his theology when he became a Mormon (pg. 125). He could even retain the same phraseology and arguments that he had previously used. His faith, repentance, baptism by immersion and for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (and the restoration) was the message that he had come to believe and was that of the first Mormon missionaries and that is taught by the almost 50,000 Mormon missionaries today.
When Rigdon accepted Mormonism, he got rid of Alexander Campbell, whom he no longer respected, and moved on to greater freedom.
In fact, the points of contention between him and Campbell were the very ones Mormonism espoused.
White then attempts to consider a connection between Rigdon and Spaulding.
He inserts into his thesis a chronology of Rigdon's known movements between November 2, 1826 and November 14, 1830.
White notes that the admitted gaps are quite interesting.
Joseph's mother (History of Joseph Smith, pg. 100 (footnotes) 1945 printing) mentioned Joseph's absence following his marriage (January, 1827). He explained the delay by telling of being visited by an angel and that he now knew "the course that I am to pursue, so all will be well."
For a second gap, White could not find a connection, but a third gap covers September 22, 1827, Smith claimed another angel visitation and that the plates had finally been delivered to him (Joseph Smith's Own Story, Independence, MO, Zion Printing, pg. 12).
At this point, Rigdon's activities show an unaccounted six weeks.
Charles A. Shook, in his True Origin of the Book of Mormon, 1914, pgs. 132-135, reports that Lorenzo Saunders, an intimate Smith family acquaintance, saw Rigdon at the Smith home in March of 1827 and again that fall and again in the summer of 1828.
White suggests that it is interesting at least, that these three dates fit the first, third and fourth gaps. (Joseph Smith's mother, in her Joseph Smith's History, London printing, 1853, pg. 90, tells of a man who "commenced laboring in the neighborhood, to effect a union of all the different churches, in order that all might be agreed, and thus worship God with one heart and one mind," who we believe might well have been Sidney Rigdon.
Her book dates this man's preaching there as "shortly after the death of Alvin" who was Joseph's brother. Alvin died in November of 1823 (Joseph Smith, The first Mormon, Donna Hill, pg. 59).
After Martin Harris' wife stole the first 116 pages of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon in June of 1828, Smith was distraught, but in July he received a revelation which resolved his problem (Doctrine & Covenants, 3).
At this point there is a two-month gap in Rigdon's chronology. Could they have conferred at this time? Or how about the next gap -- October 13 to January 1 -- just before he continued the translation?
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The next gap was from May to July 1829. We are told that on "a certain day" in May, the baptism of Smith and Cowdery occurred. Shook reported (pg. 115) that Cowdery said that the angel that appeared at their baptism sounded "mysteriously" like Sidney Rigdon.
Another gap of 60 days (March to June 1830 covers the date of April (D & C, 20) when Smith received a long and detailed revelation regarding the organization of the church.
White believed Smith would not have been capable of this writing at that time in his life. He believes that Smith and Rigdon may have been together during this period when Rigdon's experience would have been invaluable.
The last gap (August, 1830 -- November 14), takes us up to within 10 days of Rigdon's "conversion."
Either of these gaps would have allowed Rigdon and Smith to get together. Their homes were only 250 miles apart. At 50 miles a day, the trip would have required only 10 days. Later, in January of 1838, Rigdon rode 60 miles in 10 hours.
He is known to have made several long horseback trips during his lifetime. (Essentials in Church History, Joseph Fielding Smith, pg. 42)
Though these "gaps" do not offer proof that they corroborated, the possibility is interesting. The fact that they appear at times when he was needed, coupled with other testimony, lends circumstantial evidence for that theory.
The period immediately preceding the advent of Mormonism was one of religious ferment. Baptists and Presbyterians especially, were caught in the throes of the Campbellite movement.
William Miller, whose movement was later to become what we know as the Seventh-Day Adventists (though he never espoused the 7th day idea) began his ministry in 1831.
This indicates something of the status of religious groups in the 1820's and 1830's in upstate New York. They were all in ferment, religious leaders were rising up everywhere and denominational groups were in turmoil.
White reminds his readers of the close parallel between Campbell's teachings (Faith, Repentance, Immersion, Remission of sins, the Holy Ghost, etc.), and that of the early Mormons.
It appears that only the Campbellites were preaching the "First Principles" before the Book of Mormon appeared in 1830. At this point their movement had not spread beyond Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky. White says none of their ministers had as yet reached New York.
Mormon leaders have said that Joseph translated the entire book in 60 days, from April 7, 1829 to the first week in June. LeGrand Richards made much of the speed with which he worked. He said "we doubt if any other writer has ever written a book of fiction of such magnitude in anything like such a short period of time" (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, (1966), pg. 72).
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The first effort to connect Rigdon with the Book of Mormon was printed in 1834 by E.D. Howe in his book Mormonism Unveiled (sic). In it he introduced the Spaulding theory with which we've dealt throughout this book.
Alexander Campbell, writing in 1844 (Millennial Harbinger, (pgs. 38-39) repeats an experience (recalling a difference in memory of dates by him and Adamson Bentley, one remembers it as 1826 and the other 1827) of a conversation with Rigdon about metal plates that had been dug up in New York which gave an account of the origin of the inhabitants of this continent and of their professing the Christian religion just as he and Campbell and Joseph's brother-in-law, Adamson Bentley had been preaching in the Western Reserve in Ohio.
Mormon writers have not attempted to refute this report.
A.S. Hayden, in his Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve (1875), pgs. 239-243, tells of a change in Rigdon's demeanor as reported by Darwin Atwater during the several months prior to his conversion to Mormonism and that Rigdon spoke of a book soon to be published that would explain the origin of the Aborigines and the mounds and other antiquities found in some parts of America.
He reported that Atwater even reproached Rigdon for such eloquent and enthusiastic reporting of such instead of the gospel. He said Rigdon said no more about it.
White reports a letter by a leading physician, Dr. Storm Ross to a Rev. John Hall of Ashtabula, Ohio in 1841 in which he told of riding on horseback with Rigdon in 1830 and that Rigdon told him that it was time for a new religion to spring up and that mankind was ready for it (as reported in Linn, Story of the Mormons, pg. 66).
White declares, and we concur, that whether or not the Spaulding manuscript found in Honolulu (HI) was used in the Book of Mormon, or whether or not Rigdon may have taken the manuscript from the printer's office, or whatever the problems encountered in communicating with Smith, Rigdon appeared to have had some foreknowledge of the Book of Mormon. It was expected that the book, when it appeared, would agree with his theology.
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day. Among the "camp-meeting" expressions were the use of "encircled," "change of heart," "arms of mercy," "days of probation," "everlastingly too late," etc., (phrases not found in the Bible, but common revival expressions of the era). (See M.T. Lamb's The Mormons and Their Bible, pg 103).
He also gives as a striking example the contemporary nature of the Book of Mormon, the fact that William Morgan of Batavia, New York, who after writing a book exposing the secrets of Freemasonry, disappeared and it was popularly believed that the Masons had killed him. Rumors abounded and it became a national issue.
In October of 1827, a corpse washed up on the shore of Lake Ontario and it was believed by many to be Morgan. (It is interesting -- though unrelated -- that Morgan's wife later became a plural wife of Joseph Smith, Jr.)
This anti-Masonic excitement lasted for several years and interestingly, the Book of Mormon reflected the prevailing attitude. S.H. Goodwin, author of a book on Mormonism and Masonry, declares that the Book of Mormon lays practically every charge made by Masonry's enemies at their door.
"Secret combinations," "works of darkness," "terrible oaths," "secret abominations," etc. (2 Nephi 9:9; Alma 37:30; Mormon 8:27; Alma 37:27, 29; etc.) are found throughout the Book of Mormon.
These references to the current thinking of the period date (and locate the origin) of the Book of Mormon as certainly as if a contemporary date had been included.
Sidney Rigdon was undisputedly the producer of Joseph Smith's "Inspired Version" of the Bible. Though Joseph Smith is named as translator, Rigdon admittedly had a role in its production.
Lachmann's Greek New Testament was printed in 1811. Many ordinary, country preachers desired a revision of the Bible. It is known that Alexander Campbell used the Four Gospels by Dr. George Campbell, first published in 1778. Several notable preachers of the period published their own translations. (George Campbell's version is still being sold today under the title Living Oracles). By the way, it translates baptize as "immerse" which made the book especially appealing to Alexander Campbell and his followers.
White says Rigdon was jealous of Campbell and we tend to agree. Rigdon had declared that he had contributed as much to the "reformation" as Campbell or Scott but that they got the honor "of it."
Rigdon used several opportunities to vent his feelings about Campbell and this jealousy. In Smith's autobiography there is a sketch about Rigdon (believed to have been written by Rigdon) in which he says, "Mr. Campbell was no more the originator of the sect (the Campbellites) than Elder Rigdon." (Quoted from The Story of the Mormons, Linn, pg. 62).
Linn quoted from the Messenger and Advocate (June 1837) in which Rigdon said: "One thing has been done by the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
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It puked the Campbellites effectively; no emetic could have done so half as well..." The Book of Mormon has revealed the secrets of Campbellism and unfolded the end of the system" (pg. 62).
(I have often noted that the Campbellite movement in Utah has had very limited success. Mormons have every thing they have and more. Author).
Since variant readings of manuscripts of the New Testament were being discussed, it was to be expected that such a passage as I Nephi 13:26-29 would be included in the Book of Mormon.
Rigdon and Smith would waste no time for in December of 1830 (just a month after Rigdon's conversion) the revelation to begin a new translation of the Bible was received, (D&C 35:20). Obviously it was already in Rigdon's thinking. However, BYU Studies, Vol. 22, No. 4, Fall 1982, pg 404 calls attention to the new 1981 printing of the Triple Combination (Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price) that has changed the heading of Section 35 of the D&C to read "The translation was begun as early as June of 1830."
Many backwoods preachers dreamed of "translating." This way no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew was needed. 'They would "translate" by inspiration." Though first kept a secret, Rigdon and Smith moved into a house some 30 miles from Kirtland (OH) to begin their work (The Story of the Mormons, Linn, pg. 69). The manuscript was in Rigdon's handwriting.
Though not printed until 1867, it was supposed to have been finished July 2,1833, just three years after it was started.
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In the Genesis passage Joseph Smith predicts his own coming. In Isaiah he elaborates to make the chapter refer more directly to the Book of Mormon.
Rigdon, perhaps reminiscent of his Campbellite background, has even Adam hearing the gospel message and in obedience to it, he is immersed (Genesis 6:65-67). See also the Pearl of Great Price.
Whatever one may think about the Book of Mormon, he must admit -- if he is knowledgeable of Mormonism at all -- that Mormonism (at least during Rigdon's time in it) was just simply Campbellism with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon added. The really divergent teachings were to come later.
White concludes that he has proved that the Book of Mormon and the "Inspired Version" were but products of the nineteenth century culture.
He also notes the resemblance between Campbellism and LDS doctrines. He restates the background for a desire to make a new translation of the Bible.
The Mormons even followed Campbell in their choice of a name. In fact, to begin with, they called themselves "The Church of Christ (as evidenced by the title page of their Book of Commandments printed in 1833 and though possessing three titles through the years, they have always incorporated the word "Christ" (except for the period 1834-1838) in their title.
It appears that Rigdon's emphasis on their being pre-millennial saints made him forget the name of "Christ" in their title for several years.
Campbell had always used the words "Christian," "Church of Christ," or "Disciples of Christ" in his movement.
Like the Campbellites who sometimes put on their cornerstone "Founded A.D. 33," the revelation in the D&C 20:1 reminds us that both groups are obviously unaware of the miscalculations of Dionysias upon which our Christian calendar depends. (Doctrine & Covenants 20:1 says "The rise of the "Church of Christ" in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord..."). They do not (or did not) know of this four-year deviation.
The church name had not been a problem in the past. But to Campbell, Scott, Stone and Rigdon, this was a concern of utmost importance.
White notes that hardly an issue of Campbell's papers appeared without a discussion of the proper name for the Church. Campbell's principle premise was the return or restoration of the New Testament order. This, Mormons have carried to the extreme. Smith's first question was, "Which of all the sects was right -- and which I should join?"
White observes that Campbell claimed to "restore" the gospel, but Rigdon restored the "priesthood."
Campbell taught that salvation could be found only in the Church. Therefore, men need to get into the Church. Rigdon took the idea a step farther. The Mormons love authority. All their members (almost) hold
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some office. It is "The Priesthood" that is important and John the Baptist had returned to add his blessings in restoring it!
(Oliver Cowdery reported that when John the Baptist appeared, that his voice "most mysteriously resembled Elder Sidney Rigdon's voice" The True Origins of the Book of Mormon, Shook, pg. 149).
Rigdon out-did Alexander Campbell. He gave church leaders "authority." Even the most meticulous details are provided (See D&C, 20).
Since Joseph Smith is not known to have been acquainted with Campbell's doctrine, one wonders how he could have so completely incorporated it into his new church without the aid of Rigdon. As a young man of just 25, with no theological training and little church involvement, how could he come up with exactly the same teachings as Rigdon unless Rigdon was really the originator of his thinking. If, as we are led to believe, Rigdon (a much older and experienced man) had influenced such men as Campbell and Scott, he would be the perfect man to influence Smith, since Rigdon was there first, it was he who influenced Smith (and not the other way around).
White observes that a tract on "Faith" published by either Mormons or the followers of Campbell, could be used interchangeably.
Likewise, he declares, their views of repentance are identical.
On baptism, the Mormons did Campbell one better. Not only did he require that every living person be baptized, they even made it possible for them to be immersed for the dead. White observes that this was first taught at Kirtland -- Rigdon's home -- after the Mormons had moved there. Here again, Rigdon's theology requiring baptism was incorporated into Joseph Smith's new cult.
There were three points on which Campbell and Rigdon differed however, present day miracles, communism and the millennium. It is significant that these three strong emphases were incorporated into early day Mormonism.
Claims of miracles, visitations by angels, seeing fire, lights, speaking in tongues, etc., all became a part of Rigdon's Mormonism (with Joseph's concurrence it appears) at Kirtland.
There seems to be no evidence of Joseph's interest in communistic experience until Rigdon's appearance. There is no doubt but that he was responsible for its introduction.
Though Campbell called his paper the Millennial Harbinger, he did not place an undue emphasis on the millennial issue. In fact, he declared "We have not committed ourselves to any of the theories of the present day on the nature and coming of the millennium."
Rigdon, however, had extravagant views of the millennium and they were an important part of his preaching. There are reasons to believe Joseph was already thinking of millennial teachings since his revelation (D&C, 29:11) is dated September 26th, six weeks before Sidney's conversion
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Both Campbell and Scott reported that Rigdon had described the contents of the Book of Mormon two or three years before its publication.
White concludes, on pages 136-137 of his thesis, that though Mormons ignore Rigdon's part in Mormonism's origin, his "foreknowledge of the Book of Mormon (is) a fact which seems incontrovertible."
Charles Earl Sebold, in his thesis submitted to the Hartford Theological Seminary in 1941 entitled "The Mormon Idea of God," observes that Joseph Smith's interest in the Book of Mormon appeared mainly to want [sic] money. However, Sidney Rigdon, with his reputation as a good preacher and somewhat of a Bible scholar, made "the Book of Mormon a Bible." It was he who made the movement a Church; it was he who gave it its theology (pgs. 2-3).
Sebold quotes a letter from Rigdon's brother-in-law, Bentley, and from a Darwin Atwater, in which a reference was made to Rigdon's knowledge of the "Golden Plates" from a few months to two years before the Book of Mormon made its appearance.
He also notes the fact that "previous to the appearance of the Book of Mormon, Rigdon was in the habit of spending weeks away from his home, going no one knew where" (pg. 10), and that neighbors of Joseph Smith noted that a mysterious stranger appears at the Smith residence..." (pg. 11).
He quotes Orson Hyde, a Mormon apostle as saying Rigdon "did
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more than any other man to create the church" (pg. 11).
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way, Mormonism grew rapidly during those first few months and Sidney Rigdon was largely responsible.
(New groups usually grow slowly. Their first converts are usually not affluent nor popular. Often they gain one, lose two, gain three and lose one. Rigdon's thousand or so within months made Smith's success possible).
The record says that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon first met three weeks after Rigdon's baptism (Ibid, pg. 82).
We are indebted to several newspaper articles from the vicinity which describes Smith and Rigdon during this period, (the Painesville (OH) Telegraph issue of February 1, 1831 and February 15). Several later issues also deal with the subject as does Alexander Campbell in his Millennial Harbinger, Vol. II, pgs. 85-96. This was later reprinted in the Painesville paper.
Rigdon was royally received by Smith from the beginning. And well he should, for the ready-made membership that Rigdon provided was quite a windfall for the fledgling new church. Founders of other new religious movements had not been so fortunate (See History of the Church, Vol. I, pg. 120).
Immediately upon Rigdon's conversion, he and Joseph Smith received a "revelation" (D&C, 35). At this point it is difficult to determine just who was influencing whom! The 37th section of the D&C that was given jointly to Joseph and Sidney, ordered the Mormons to move to Ohio. From this point on, as long as Joseph lived, we find the name of Sidney Rigdon deeply involved in whatever the church did.
A quick look at the most commonly used edition of the D&C reveals that Joseph and Rigdon were joint recipients of nine revelations (35, 37, 40, 44, 49, 71, 73, 76 and 100).
The D&C reveals that Rigdon is to write (translate) for Smith, he is to "prove prophecies" for Smith, he is to bless Edward Partridge, to preach to the Shakers, to go to Missouri, to write a description of the land of Zion, to consecrate and dedicate the land of Zion and the Temple Lot in Independence (MO), he is to preach in Cincinnati, he was sometimes chastised (as in section 63), he was ordained to be Smith's spokesman (section 100), he was one of those who received a special, secret name from the Lord (Section 104 -- but removed in 1981), and he was warned that he needed to become humble if he was to be retained as counselor (Section 124), etc.
Surely there was none so prominently mentioned in the History of the Church or the D&C than Rigdon.
Rigdon's theological background and his oratorical ability stood Smith in good stead many times during the more than 13 years that they were together.
They often appeared together on the same platform.
Yet they were so unalike, McKiernan quotes Amos S. Hayden,
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An interesting slant on Rigdon and from a totally objective source is given by a Nauvoo (IL) girl (Charlotte Haven) whose letter of March 5, 1843 was printed in the December 1890 issue of The Overland Monthly, a periodical printed in San Francisco.
She wrote forthrightly in several letters to her relatives of the city, the people, their homes, their dress, their leaders (Smith, his wife, his mother... and of the Kimballs) the new temple, etc.
She mentioned that Rigdon was the postmaster, she tells of being invited into the family quarters when she went to pick up the mail. She called Sidney Rigdon "the most learned man among the Latter Day Saints." She described him as "past fifty," "somewhat bald and his hair slightly grey." She said he had "an intelligent countenance, a courteous manner" and that he "speaks grammatically."
She reported that he spoke pleasantly about his travels "in this country and in Europe." (I had not heard that he had traveled in Europe -- John L. Smith).
She observed that he was "very reticent about his religion." Perhaps he did not think it necessary to discuss such a subject with a mere girl.
She said that she had "heard it stated that he (Rigdon) was Smith's chief aid in getting up the Book of Mormon and creed." She declared that he was "far above Smith in intellect, education, and secretiveness, that there is scarcely a doubt that he is at the head in compiling it."
Another interesting observation that she mentioned: "I looked over his library -- on some book-shelves in the kitchen. It was a good student's collection, -- Hebrew, Greek, and Latin lexicons and readers, stray volumes of Shakespeare, Irving's works, and a number of other valuable books. He studied for the ministry in his youth, then was employed in a newspaper office (note). His wife is always busy with domestic labor. They have five daughters."
Charlotte said that the only party she attended in Nauvoo was at their house.
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SIDNEY'S SALT SERMONOn Sunday, June 17, 1838, Sidney Rigdon preached his fiery "Salt Sermon," so named from the words of Matt. 5:13 of the Sermon on the Mount, i.e. where Jesus said that if the salt has lost its savor, it is "good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."
In no uncertain terms, Rigdon used the text as harshly as possible, to warn prominent dissenters like Oliver Cowdery, the Whitmers' and Lyman Johnson in Far West, Missouri, that after their excommunication's, they deserved to die.
Brigham H. Roberts, a prominent Mormon leader explained that the "trodden under foot of men" should be literal.
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Howe begins his account of Sidney Rigdon and the plates on page 100. Here we are told of the conversion of Rigdon after his meeting with Parley Pratt and others, the latter part of October, 1830.
(Howe's listing of the names of those at that first meeting varies slightly. He begins on page 102 with "Cowdery (Oliver), Pratt, Peterson and Whitmer." Cowdery was one of the "Three Witnesses," and was a cousin of Smith.
Nothing is said of the more subtle teachings of the Mormon Church. Even Sidney was unaware of Mormonism as taught today.
The last pages of Howe's book (pgs. 278-290) -- remember, the book was printed in 1834 -- within less than four years after the first printing of the Book of Mormon. That puts it pretty close to the beginning of Mormonism's story -- he tells of Solomon Spaulding and his use of the characters "Nephi and Lehi" (pg. 279).
Mrs. Spaulding (pg. 280) relates the story of the Book of Mormon, describing the accounts given in the Book of Mormon (this does not agree with the "Manuscript Found" that evidently was an earlier effort by Spaulding). Seldom does a writer make only one effort.
Some later accounts are rejected because too much time had lapsed since their occurrence. This account was almost current.
John N. Miller (pg. 283) said Spaulding "had written two or three books or pamphlets on different subjects
He continued, "I have recently examined the Book of Mormon, and find the writings of Solomon Spaulding from beginning to end, but mixed up with scripture... which I did not meet with in the 'Manuscript Found'... The names of Nephi, Lehi, Moroni, and in fact all the principal names, are brought fresh to my recollection He remembered especially, the word 'Zarahemla.'"
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On page 288 Howe relates that Spaulding's manuscript that he saw contained "about a quire (500 pages) of paper." "The Manuscript Found" (which turned up later), was much shorter.
Howe explains (pg. 288) that the book containing the information comparable to the Book of Mormon "bears no resemblance to the 'Manuscript Found'" which turned up later in Hawaii.
I am indebted to my friend Vernal Holley for a view that perhaps others may not have seen.
As stated already, it is my conviction that there is not much validity to the oft-stated claim that Solomon Spaulding was the author of the Book of Mormon.
However, I must admit that if I had seen Vernal Holley's Book of Mormon Authorship: a Closer Look before arriving at my conviction, I might have been persuaded.
Any writer establishes a pattern of writing that might identify him even though he writes on an entirely different subject. Therefore, if Spaulding wrote other material -- its authorship might be determined by a careful comparison. The length of the Book of Mormon and the brevity of the "Manuscript Found" convinced me long ago that there is little relationship between the two books.
However, since I am trying to be objective in my study and presentation, let me give you some convincing information presented by Holley.
(By the way, Holley was a former Mormon. He is now deceased. He has held various leadership positions in ward and stake levels of the Mormon Church).
He spent 3,000 hours in the more than 12 years researching and writing about Spaulding and what he deems was Spaulding's part in the writing of the Book of Mormon.
In my opinion, his presentation is most convincing.
Briefly, Spaulding's "Manuscript Story" was supposedly a novel about records of voyagers landing in America. It was the parallels to the Book of Mormon that we found interesting.
Among the parallels were: They both told of two races of people, they both mentioned natives who wore skins around their bodies. Their worshippers both mounted a stage or high stand. They both knew of the revolving of the planets. They both raised American corn and Old World wheat. They both worked with metals. They both had domesticated horses, they both made the mistake of saying that wheat was grown in Ancient America.
In both stories they were governed by kings who passed their kingdoms to their sons. Both mention a system of taxation.
Both speak of numerous religious teachings with almost the same meanings and several are given in the same order.
One says polygamy is permissible and the other goes on to say "that
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One of the most interesting and able presentations about Sidney Rigdon and his involvement in Mormonism's beginnings was written by William H. Whitsitt, D.D., LL.D., Professor and later President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky just before the turn of the century. (1900)
Written in 1885, and edited in 1888, it was donated to the Library of Congress in 1908.
I am indebted to Dale R. Broadhurst of Salt Lake City for my copy of the manuscript.
In a cover letter to the Chief of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., dated August 28, 1908, Dr. Whitsitt wrote that his manuscript was "an effort to demonstrate from original documents and history, that Mormon theology and its Church constitution were conceived and produced by Rigdon and not by Joseph Smith."
Whitsitt reported that the manuscript was completed in 1885 but that he had been unable to get it into print.
He reported that he had produced an outline of his study, which was published in the Dictionary of Religious Knowledge by Dr. Samuel M. Jackson of New York in 1891, more than 100 years ago now.
Dr. Whitsitt wrote of the Rigdon family and the fact that Sidney's brother, Carvill Rigdon had become a Mormon elder (Messenger & Advocate, 1:76). (If you are interested in Dr. William H. Whitsitt's information on Mormonism you will find pages about him and his work about Sidney Rigdon.)
Several of Sidney's cousins were Baptist preachers who later "became converts to the Disciples (or Campbellites).
Rigdon's brother, Loammi reported that while still a boy, Sidney
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fell from a horse and became entangled in a stirrup and was dragged. The injury resulted in such "a contusion" that afterwards it affected "his character, and to a certain extent, his conduct."
Whitsitt felt that this "supposition was without foundation." He stated further, that this "could only be put forward by a person who was at a loss to comprehend the man and explain his career."
Rigdon was "highly excitable and nervous... and then given to fits of hysteria muscularis," but, Whitsitt says, all his actions "were rational and very consistent with the purpose he had before him."
Rev. Smith nowhere states exactly what audience it was that he intended to address with this little booklet. He evidently did not expect his readers to be Latter Day Saints, for he does not speak directly to those people. This is in keeping with the efforts he has put into his anti-Mormon periodical, The Newsletter. A line in the masthead of that occasional publication reads: "We are not Mormons! Our purpose is to... Keep People Out! We were never Mormons!" It appears then, that Rev. Smith has aimed his message at a non-specialist readership of Christians whom he suspects are in some danger of becoming converts to Mormonism.
Such auditors cannot be expected to know in advance much about Latter Day Saint origins and the early leaders of that movement. It is for this very reason that potential readers of Rev. Smith's booklet should be warned to verify each and every assertion he makes in Did Joseph Smith Write the Book of Mormon?
Whether or not that is even the booklet's proper title remains something of a mystery. Rev. Smith provides a secondary identifier on the title-page of his pamphlet: "Sidney Rigdon, the Originator of Mormonism..." The report under consideration here is, then, not so much an argument against Joseph Smith's alleged involvement in authoring the Book of Mormon, as it is a plea for better understanding of Elder Sidney Rigdon being the "originator" of the Latter Day Saints' religion. Rev. Smith's implicit purpose at least eliminates the need for any further consideration of Joseph Smith having been the writer of Nephite narratives, revelations, etc. What hopefully remains, for the curious reader with sufficient patience to finish this strangely written booklet, is an informed consideration of the purported secret activities and motives of Sidney Rigdon. Unfortunately Rev. Smith's published report does little to provide the necessary information, and in fact it may leave many readers less well informed and more confused than when they first opened its pages.
In his 2006 pamphlet, Did Joseph Smith Write the Book of Mormon? Rev. John L. Smith continues the journalistic writing style so often evident in his anti-Mormon newspaper -- that is, the intended communication is put before the reader in a staccato of one and two sentence paragraphs, the contents of which are generally simple assertions, declared without much corroborating evidence from primary sources or critical analysis. About all that can be said in favor of this method of communication, is that occasionally it divulges actual facts. But how is the reader to separate out fact from fancy in such journalism? -- or, more important still -- how is the reader to separate out the truth from intentional falsification?
The reader cannot look to Rev. Smith for any help in these sorts of questions, for the writer does not seem to comprehend how he himself is persuaded to believe certain things regarding Mormon origins, while rejecting all other possibilities. One example here must serve to illustrate a large number of similar strange conclusions announced in Smith's booklet. The writer several times identifies the Solomon Spalding fictional story rediscovered in Hawaii in 1884 as the famous "Manuscript Found" spoken of in so many cases by Spalding's old neighbors and relatives. And yet that Hawaii document bears no such title and does not contain the several unique points for identification provided by Spalding's associates, who had encountered the real "Manuscript Found." Since Rev. Smith's readers are not allowed to see both sides of an old argument over the identity of the Hawaii story, they are given no choice but to accept his account of literary history as being accurate. This sort of thing may not bother Rev. Smith much, but it is certain to vex his more cautious auditors. And, it goes without saying that most Latter Day Saint readers will find Rev. Smith's hodgepodge of unverified (and oft times contradictory) claims a gold mine for hostile counter-criticism.
The writer's penchant for repetition is unaccountable, unless almost each page of the booklet is meant to be read as an individual periodical article, sans headlines. Indeed, the booklet might be salvageable, were it re-issued in that format, with each page-length article presented as a topic for discussion, rather than pronouncements of inevitable conclusions. Rev. Smith follows a loose pattern of introducing various past writers who have in one way or another spoken a little about Sidney Rigdon, and of subsequently summarizing their viewpoints regarding the man. As a continuous exposition this sort of compilation is tedious and needlessly repetitive -- but were the same material presented as a set of individual, inter-related summaries, Rev. Smith's intended message might at least be a little more intelligible. On page 17 Rev. Smith inserts this cryptic aside to his readers: "Our study of Rigdon may appear somewhat repetitious and paradoxical." Since the writer reprises and paraphrases a number of old books containing mentions of Sidney Rigdon, some repetition of subject matter would be understandable -- but entire sentences, paragraphs and sets of paragraphs so repeated, is indeed "paradoxical." The paradox is, how one compiler (Rev. Smith) can rummage through so many different sources on Elder Rigdon, and not recognize the contradictions, absurdities, and downright falsehoods he has thus arrived at (and passed on to his unsuspecting readers). Advanced age, lack of critical consideration of texts quotes, and gross unfamiliarity with Latter Day Saints history are no doubt factors to consider for anyone who takes the trouble to sort out fact from fiction on this little booklet.
The time is out of joint
Rev. Smith appears to have concluded his writing of this booklet shortly before the turn of the century, before internet search programs and e-mail access to remote sources of information became generally available to Mormon history scholarship. No other explanation accounts for his failing to mention a number of recent articles, books and web-publications devoted to the very topic he himself has undertaken to elucidate. A short list of such uncited items might well include the following:
(1996) Van Wagoner, Richard S.: Sidney Rigdon
(2000) Knowles, Lloyd A.: PhD Dissertation on Sidney Rigdon
(2001) Ready, Bryan: MA Thesis on Whitsitt & Early Mormonism
(2003) Knowles, Lloyd A.: "Sidney Rigdon... Benedict Arnold"
(2003) Morley, Todd: “Sidney Rigdon's 1820 Ministry"
(2005) Cowdrey, W., et al.: Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?
(2005) Roper, Matthew P.: "Mythical 'Manuscript Found'"
(2005) Criddle, Craig: "Sidney Rigdon... Book of Mormon"
Numerous other examples of easily available information on Sidney Rigdon and/or Mormon origins might be tabulated here, but the above list will suffice in its demonstrating a cut-off for the time period in which Did Joseph Smith Write the Book of Mormon? must have been finalized. In other words, it is largely the product if the previous century and not of the contemporary era.
Even a Stopped Clock...
Just because Rev. Smith's booklet is ill-written, error-ridden and lacking proper documentation, none of that necessarily means that his basic conclusions are erroneous. The writer introduces several historical possibilities which likely warrant further investigation. The first of these possibilities is that only the "Rigdon" part of the Spalding-Rigdon authorship claims for the Book of Mormon matches up with past reality. This is not a new idea: the Rev. Dr. William H. Whitsitt was initially persuaded by some of the same arguments Rev. Smith has mentioned, and he evidently only included the chapters on Solomon Spalding in his unpublished Sidney Rigdon biography after overcoming some doubts in the matter. At least it was Whitsitt's conclusion that it really did not matter much, whether or nor Rigdon made use of a pre-existing fictional history in his alleged compilation of the "Nephite record." What Rev. Smith is perhaps unaware of, is the fact that Rigdon was accused of having fabricated the Book of Mormon well before Spalding's name was ever connected with those allegations of secret authorship. At any rate, Rev. Smith has resuscitated Whitsitt's old doubts and the "Rigdon alone" theory of authorship probably merits some further consideration and study.
Another possibility, mentioned on pages 2-3 of Rev. Smith's pamphlet, is: "Whoever wrote the Book of Mormon had to have quite a knowledge of the King James Version of the Bible and he would have had to have a knowledge of both Campbellite and Baptist doctrine.... Ciechanowski reports that Rigdon was expelled by the Baptists for doctrinal errors and that he became a Campbellite. In 1826 he moved to Ohio to join the Mormon Church..."
Again, this is not a new idea: the Rev. Dr. William H. Whitsitt, in 1891, communicated this conclusion:
The Book of Mormon strenuously and repeatedly insists upon the same nomenclature as the Disciples. Both alike affirm that individual believers should be known as "Christians," and the church in its collective capacity as "The Church of Christ." ...The weekly communion practiced by the Disciples... Opposition against a fixed salary for preachers... The use of the cant expressions "popular" and "teacher" and "words alone" in senses that occur in the Book of Mormon would not have been natural to any other than a person who chanced to be well schooled in the so-called "Bethany dialect."
Compare the above stated set of conclusions with Whitsitt's letter of Feb. 16, 1886 to James H. Fairchild, President of Oberlin College:
After diligent consideration of the subject you are good enough to bring to my attention, I some while ago reached the conclusion that Mr. Sidney Rigdon supplies the right key to Mormon history and theology... Mr. Rigdon was a Disciple minister at the moment of producing the particular form of the Book of Mormon which we are now familiar with, and I discovered that it contains all the leading tenets and peculiarities of that people. The contents of the volume, at least to my thinking, will supply a demonstration that it could have been prepared by none but a Disciple theologian, and further that it could have been prepared by no Disciple theologian except Mr. Rigdon. This is what I consider to be my personal contribution to the sum of knowledge on this subject.
William H. Whitsitt (1841-1911)
Similar (or complementary) conclusions might be cited here, from the communications of Rev. Clark Braden and other early sources, reaching back as far Kirtland area newspaper articles from 1830 onward. A list of a few such sources (a few of which may be of interest to readers of Rev. Smith's pamphlet), crediting the Rev. Sidney Rigdon's unique brand of "Campbellism" as being a primary influence upon pre-1830 Mormonism, might include the following:
(1824) Walter Scott (& Sidney Rigdon?) "Reply to... Iniquitous Letters"
(1830) Warren Isham (ed.) "Golden Bible... Campbellism "Improved"
(1831) Unknown journalist's "Mormonism..."
(1831) James G. Bennett's "Mormonism - Religious Fanaticism"
(1842) Samuel Williams' Mormonism Exposed
(1842) Daniel P. Kidder's Mormonism and the Mormons
(1843) Henry Caswall's Prophet of the 19th Century
(1878) Samuel Williams' letters to James T. Cobb
(1878-80) James T. Cobb's series of articles
(1884) Clark Braden's Public Discussion with Elder Kelley
(1890) Thomas Gregg's Prophet of Palmyra
(1891) Wm. H. Whitsitt's "Mormonism" article
(1900) T. W. Young's Mormonism, Its Origin...
(1901) Theodore Schroeder's Origin of the Book of Mormon
(1907) William A. Stanton's Three Important Movements
(1932) George Arbaugh's Revelation in Mormonism
In fairness to Rev. Smith, it should be mentioned here that he did not miss reading Arbaugh -- however he has failed to report back what Arbaugh had to say about the evolution of Rigdon's Campbellite theology into incipient Mormonism. Rev. Smith has also read three other authors who might be added to the above list: Patterson, White, and Holley; but he missed the more recent contributions of Ready and Criddle.
All of which adds up to -- what? Perhaps to a realization that some dedicated reporting on "Campbellite" and "Rigdonite" theology and ecclesiology in the Book of Mormon is long overdue, and that Rev. Smith's words on that subject may serve as a reminder of the oversight on the part of contemporary scholars.
Ye shall go to the Ohio
The first part of Rev. Smith's historical possibility (presented on pages 2-3) has now been acknowledged and set aside for further consideration elsewhere -- that still leaves to second part of the quote to be examined: "Ciechanowski reports that Rigdon was expelled by the Baptists for doctrinal errors and that he became a Campbellite. In 1826 he moved to Ohio to join the Mormon Church..."
Here is an all to brief, passing remark which may prove to be of greater importance than Rev. Smith ever imagined. Of course Mr. Ciechanowski merely made an anachronistic error when he spoke of Elder Rigdon's departure for Ohio in the year 1826 -- but Rev. Smith caught the jist of what any Spalding-Rigdon authorship theorist might be expected to read into such an off-hand remark. Smith goes on to say, "This is interesting because the Mormon Church didn't come into existence until 1830. Too, the Book of Mormon was not printed until April of 1830." Actually the "Mormon" Church of Christ had begun to function in New York a few months prior to its reported official organization, and off-prints from the Book of Mormon were in circulation as early as January of 1830. And so, when Sidney Rigdon left Pittsburgh, around the end of 1825, he obviously did not move to Ohio to join any religious group which today's students of history can call "Mormon." Rigdon did, however, move to Ohio in order to join the "Church of Christ" there.
In order to clarify what is meant by these seemingly contradictory observations, it will first be necessary for the reader to take the time to examine Elder Sidney Rigdon's status with the Baptists prior to his leaving Pittsburgh to take up residence in the sparsely settled "Western Reserve" of northeastern Ohio.
On Oct. 11, 1823, a committee of thirteen representatives from five different Regular Baptist congregations (all members of the Redstone Baptist Association) met in Pittsburgh, "to consult on certain points of doctrine, which [had] occasioned misunderstanding between the members" and the pastor (then Elder Sidney Rigdon) "of the Baptist Church in Pittsburgh." After several days spent in deliberations, these Redstone congregational representatives issued a joint statement, on Nov. 15, 1824, declaring that they did "agree, that there is just ground of complaint against the doctrines protested against by certain members of this church; and that all the members who adhere to the doctrine on which this church was first constituted, be considered by us the existing Regular Baptist Church in Pittsburgh."
This declaration had the immediate effect of disfellowshipping Elder Sidney Rigdon and those members who supported the "certain points of doctrine" professed by Pastor Rigdon at the time. The objectionable teachings "protested against" by the anti-Rigdon party in the Pittsburgh church were evidently the various items of the "reform" then being championed by Elder Alexander Campbell, lately removed to the neighboring Mahoning Baptist Association. Rigdon was thereby "expelled," not from the Baptist denomination, but from a certain congregation and association. His status as an ordained Baptist minister was tarnished but not invalidated -- that is to say, he was still accepted as a minister of the gospel among those congregations and associations that had not proclaimed a disfellowshipping of Alexander Campbell and his fellow "reformers."
But there is more to Rigdon's religious activities in Pittsburgh than just that. The "expelled" pastor and his supporters moved their meetings from the Regular Baptist church and began to gather together for weekly Sunday communion and worship services in the old Pittsburgh court-house. Rigdon's followers were joined there by the local "Scotch Baptist" congregation, headed by Elder Walter Scott (who was also a student of Campbell's theology). For a few months the two groups mingled in the semblance of a single new church -- a sort of denomination of one -- which they called the "Church of Christ." This arrangement predictably met with Campbell's approval. Looking on from a distance of some forty miles away, he wrote from Bethany, (West) Virginia, in Sept. 1824:
There is a church in Pittsburgh that would rejoice much more in being a regular church of Christ, than a regular Baptist church; which church has two bishops, who, while they watch over and labour among the saints, labour working with their own hands according to the apostolic command; and not only minister to their own wants, but are ensamples to the flock in beneficence and hospitality. This church, by walking in the fear of God and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, is edified and enlarged by regular accessions.
This "regular church of Christ" on Pittsburgh, with its "two bishops," published at least one manifesto, professing to be the Apostolic church reconstituted, but its reception in Pittsburgh was unimpressive and its ranks soon dwindled down to practically nothing, but its celebrated two elders packed up and moved their preaching operations to nearby Ohio -- Elder Sidney Rigdon to what became an itinerancy within the Grand River Baptist Association, and Elder Walter Scott to a settled position within the Mahoning Baptist Association. Although Rigdon was nominally still a Baptist, he was not well received by the conservative members of that denomination in his new place of residence (Bainbridge twp., in southwestern Geauga County), and, to quote what are probably his own words:
he... gained considerable distinction as a public speaker, and the people soliciting him to preach, he complied with their request. From this time forward, he devoted himself to the work of the ministry, confining himself to no creed, but held up the Bible as the rule of faith, and advocating those doctrines which had been the subject of his, and Mr. Campbell's investigations, viz: Repentance and baptism, for the remission of sins. He continued to labor in that vicinity one year, and during that time, his former success attended his labors. Large numbers invariably attended his meetings. While he labored in that neighborhood, he was instrumental in building up a large and respectable church, in the town of Mantua, Portage county, Ohio. The doctrines which he advanced being new, public attention was awakened... he continued to set forth the doctrines of repentance, and baptism for remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, according to the teachings of Peter, on the day of Pentecost, exhorting his hearers in the mean time, to throw away their creeds of faith -- to take the Bible as their standard and search its sacred pages -- to learn to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of the Lord, and to rise above every sectarian sentiment, and the traditions of the age,
In other words, Sidney Rigdon was then engaged "in building up a large and respectable church" which was confined "to no creed" and which he intended would "rise above every sectarian sentiment." Although his auditors were mostly "Campbellite" Reformed Baptists along the northern boundary of the Mahoning Association, this was no Baptist church he was "building up" -- it was a re-planting of the dwindling Pittsburgh Church of Christ, moved to a more fertile field, ripe for an Arminian harvest. Sidney Rigdon went to Ohio to join with and build up the non-denominational Church of Christ. Sidney Rigdon provided some additional insight into this period of his life, when he related the following account in 1869:
Dissatisfied with all ordinary interpretations, he [Rigdon] began a series of new and original explanations of doctrine, of history and of prophecy... he... removed to Ohio as an Independent Baptist, preaching what he pleased and contradicting whomsoever he pleased. He himself stated that not unfrequently he would attend a service and take his seat among the congregation, and after the sermon arise and ask the liberty of adding a few remarks, and then quote passages of Scripture to show the erreonous doctrines which the preacher had just uttered, and close by inviting the congregation to come and hear him at his next appointment. This kept the community in a ferment and secured for him crowded houses. He seemed just on the point of forming a new sect which should overthrow by learning, logic and eloquence all the creeds and religious systems of the world!!
Most of what Rigdon was preaching in Ohio during the year 1826 might be properly termed "Campbellism;" but he mentions one doctrine which would have troubled Campbell: "the gift of the Holy Ghost, according to the teachings of Peter, on the day of Pentecost." Elder Campbell was very wary of any "pentacostal" manifestations, and his theology limited the modern operation of the Holy Ghost to conversion via the biblical scriptures. Following conversion, baptism and confirmation, the new member of the Church of Christ would receive the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost, but the comfort and strength thus provided in modern times was NOT the same as "the gift of the Holy Ghost, according to the teachings of Peter, on the day of Pentecost." Sidney Rigdon was a visionary and a preacher of millenarian pentecostalism -- but Campbell was not.
This will be a great thing some day
Rev. Smith passes by one cited source in his booklet a little too quickly. Had he stopped to examine the 1882 compilation by Robert Patterson (quoted from on pages 21-22) more closely, Rev. Smith might have begun to solve for himself the question of how Sidney Rigdon could have encountered Joseph Smith, Jr. before 1830. In 1879 Mrs. Amarilla Brooks Dunlap, a niece of Rigdon's wife, related the following to Mr. Patterson:
When I was quite a child I visited Mr. Rigdon's family. He married my aunt. They at that time lived in Bainbridge, Ohio. During my visit Mr. Rigdon went to his bedroom and took from a trunk which he kept locked a certain manuscript. He came out into the other room and seated himself by the fireplace and commenced reading it. His wife at that moment came into the room and exclaimed, 'What! you're studying that thing again?' or something to that effect. She then added, 'I mean to burn that paper.' He said, 'No, indeed, you will not. This will be a great thing some day!' Whenever he was reading this he was so completely occupied that he seemed entirely unconscious of anything passing around him."
Since Sidney Rigdon and his family only lived together in Bainbridge during the year 1826 and the first part of the year 1827, the time and place Mrs. Dunlap here refers to is clearly established. If Sidney Rigdon did have a role in creating the Book of Mormon, it is reasonable to assume that his authorship or editorial work on the lengthy, hand-written manuscript must have predated the book's 1829-30 printing by at least a couple years. Thus, a manuscript that so greatly occupied his attention in 1826-27 should be if interest to Rev. Smith and his readers. The same Mrs. Dunlap conveyed one additional aspect of her recollections to the Salt Lake City journalist, James T. Cobb, who in 1881 reported that the Rigdons' niece "lived under the Rigdon roof at that time" and that the situation in the family was "greatly to the concern of Mrs. R. for her husband's health," because "Mr. Rigdon was for some months secretly and sedulously engaged over a mysteriously and carefully guarded manuscript of a very questionable character."
Of course, just because Sidney Rigdon was reportedly then "engaged over a mysteriously and carefully guarded manuscript," verification of that fact alone would not prove his involvement in compiling the Book of Mormon. The RLDS Bishop, Edmund L. Kelley, responded in 1884 thusly:
at one time a niece of Sidney Rigdon once saw him go to an old trunk, take out a manuscript, go to the fire place and read it, and that he would not let her see it. Suppose this is all true as the story goes; what of it?... Rigdon might have had a hundred manuscripts and read them, and taken them from an old trunk, and put them back without first having given them to his niece to read, and each and every one of them altogether different from the Spaulding manuscript.
The primary issue for consideration here, however, is not whether Sidney Rigdon had a "Spaulding manuscript" in his possession when he resided in Bainbridge, Ohio, during the years 1826 and 1827, but rather, whether he was then compiling and reviewing his own manuscript for the forthcoming the Book of Mormon. The LDS Historian Elder Brigham H. Roberts directed his attention to that primary issue in 1908, when he wrote this rebuttal against Mrs. Dunlap's testimony:
Mrs. Amos Dunlap... wrote... that she visited the Rigdon family at Bainbridge... [and saw] a certain manuscript.... Mr. Schroeder introduces this as one of his items of evidence that Mr. Rigdon foreknew of the forthcoming and contents of the Book of Mormon.... if Sidney Rigdon was engaged in such a scheme as Mr. Schroeder charges he was, then Mrs. Rigdon must have known of it.... [But in 1830] "he was happy to find that she was not only diligently investigating the subject, but was believing with all her heart, and was desirous of obeying the truth." If it be urged... that the conversion of Mrs. Rigdon, like that of her husband, was but a sham, a prearranged affair, that she as well as Mr. Rigdon fore-knew of the forth-coming of the Book of Mormon, then the scene at Bainbridge, described by Mrs. Dunlap as taking place, supposedly because of Mr. Rigdon's absorption in Spaulding's manuscript, has no place in the scheme of things to be supported by Mr. Schroeder's contention.
Elder Roberts' argument is not particularly substantial here, but he rightly calls into question why Mrs. Rigdon would have objected to her husband being "completely occupied" in a "certain manuscript" in 1826, if she herself later publicly accepted the contents of that same manuscript as holy writ and followed Mr. Rigdon into Mormonism. Perhaps the lady's niece supplies the reason for Mrs. Rigdon's 1826 objections, when she says that it was "greatly to the concern of Mrs. R. for her husband's health." There are no reports of Sidney Rigdon experiencing any physical health problems during this period -- so perhaps Mrs. Rigdon was then worried about her husband's mental health.
The mid to late 1820s were a period in which Rigdon himself speaks of his concentrated study of the Bible and its prophecies. In 1843 he recalled: "Not only did the writings of the New Testament occupy his attention, but occasionally those of the ancient prophets, particularly those prophesies which had reference to the present and to the future, were brought up to review and treated in a manner entirely new, and deeply interesting... he dared to enter upon new grounds... proved to a demonstration the literal fulfillment of prophesy, the gathering of Israel in the last days, to their ancient inheritances." Sidney Rigdon's grandson, Walter S. Rigdon, said in 1888 that his grandfather "tried to understand the prophecies, and the man who does that is sure to go crazy. He studied the prophets and baptism, and of course he got 'rattled.' Daniel and Ezekiel and Revelations will 'rattle' any man who gives his whole mind to 'em -- at any rate they did him."
So perhaps Mrs. Rigdon was concerned about Elder Rigdon's mental health and his ability to govern and support a growing family at the edge of the Ohio wilderness, when he was "so completely occupied" with his manuscript "that he seemed entirely unconscious of anything passing around him." At any rate, Amarilla Brooks Dunlap has provided a first-hand glimpse into the Rigdons' Ohio household of 1826. Does the late testimony of one who was "quite a child" in 1826 have any credibility? Is there any evidence that she has told the truth in that testimony? Fortunately there is some corroborating evidence -- and it comes from more than one source.
1826 Sidney Rigdon Cabin Site, in Bainbridge Twp., Ohio, on Chillicothe Road
Devising some new dogma... or sect
Frederick A. Henry, like his father and grandfather before him, was a native of Geauga Co., Ohio and came from a pioneer family whose roots were deeply planted in Bainbridge township. He wrote the following words in an historical sketch, first published in 1956:
through the winter of 1825-26, Sidney Rigdon... was sojourning in Bainbridge at a place on the Chillicothe Road just above Taylor Road and a mile north of Centerville. He was diligently engaged in writing something which he said would "throw light upon some portions of the gospel" though he carefully guarded his manuscript and would not discuss its contents. Three years later the Book of Mormon was ready for publication and in April 1830 was published. Rigdon, who was then preaching for the Disciples Church in Mantua, at once announced his own conversion to Mormonism.
Mr. Henry makes one small but obvious error, when he says that in 1830 Sidney Rigdon was "preaching for the Disciples Church..." Some of the congregations Rigdon preached in later became part of the Disciples of Christ denomination, but by 1830 Rigdon was himself moving away from the theology and leaders of that incipient sect. Other than that, the reporting of Frederick A. Henry appears to dovetail with the earlier testimony of Mrs. Dunlap. However Mr. Henry was not born until 1867, and had no personal knowledge of Sidney Rigdon's 1820s residence in northern Ohio. What then was his source for his published assertions?
The source for his statement regarding on Sidney Rigdon appears to have been older members of Mr. Henry's family, who had lived very near where Rigdon and his family occupied a log cabin during 1826-27. In a biography of his father, which Frederick A. Henry had published in 1942, he relates this information on page 50:
Sidney Rigdon... Ambitious, erratic, and eloquent, but not over-scrupulous, he became at once the brains of Mormondom. Grandfather John Henry maintained that he probably compiled the Book of Mormon while sojourning one winter (1825-1826) in Bainbridge. In his quarters south of the Center, he seemed always to be writing, sometimes far into the night; and though he received courteously all who called, he would first lift the lid of his desk and lock his mysterious manuscript away therein before admitting them.
Frederick's grandfather, John Henry (1796-1869), was a near neighbor of Sidney Rigdon -- their respective names and signatures appear on the same short list of Bainbridge residents paying Geauga County property taxes in 1826. Evidently John Henry was one of the callers whom Elder Rigdon "received courteously" at that time, and it was from John Henry that Frederick received his information. However, since Frederick was only a child when John Henry died, that transfer of information could not have been directly by word of mouth. Perhaps it was derived from a written account left by the grandfather, or (more likely) it was preserved and passed on by Frederick's own father, "Captain" Charles E. Henry (1835-1906), the subject of Frederick's 1942 biography. However, Captain Henry evidently did not obtain the sum total of his knowledge concerning Sidney Rigdon's activities in Bainbridge. A careful reading of his biography will reveal another early source as well.
In an account reproduced on pages 50-52 of Captain Henry's biography (reprinted from his Mar. 14, 1886 letter), is the following:
... I came to the conclusion some years ago that the Book of Mormon was the work of Sidney Rigdon, with perhaps some changes or additions by Smith or others. So far as I know these facts and circumstances have never been published. The truth or falsity of the Spalding matter in no way affects them, and they came to me in a way that leaves no doubt on my mind that the Book of Mormon, or a large part thereof, was written by Rigdon within two miles of the spot where I am now writing.
Here is the "corroborating evidence," previously mentioned. While the reported early testimonies of John Henry and George Wilber may not amount to proof that Mrs. Dunlap was telling the truth, they at least provide an independent view of Rigdon's activities at Bainbridge. In light of this second historical source material (from eye-witnesses) it is safe to say that Sidney Rigdon was engaged in a secretive writing project during the winter of his removal from Pittsburgh to Geauga Co., Ohio. It is probably also safe to say that his preoccupation with "a certain manuscript" that winter were of concern to his wife and that Mrs. Dunlap is credible in her 1879 testimony.
In his 1886 letter, Captain Henry also says: "Wilber's statement, moreover, of the work and conduct of Rigdon that winter, was corroborated by some of the neighbors in the [south central Bainbridge] school district. In other words, there was a local tradition regarding "the work and conduct of Rigdon" that survived through the years, down to the mid-nineteenth century, when Captain Henry heard the recollections of the old school-teacher, George Wilber. Indeed this same local tradition appears to have survived even longer than that, for a volume of Geauga Co. history published in 1953 records it thusly: "Another interesting person was Sidney Rigdon. The Book of Mormons [sic], or a large part of it, was written by him during the winter of 1825 and 1826 in a log house about a mile and a quarter south of the Center."
George Wilber's reported testimony says something else, however. In its conclusion Wilber supplies the key to the modern reader's understanding why Mr. Ciechanowski's passing remark ("In 1826 he moved to Ohio to join the Mormon Church") may yet "prove to be of greater importance than Rev. Smith ever imagined." George Wilber continues:
The following spring [in 1826] Smith appeared and he and Rigdon went off together and were gone some months. It was reported that they had gone to Pittsburgh, but whether true or not no one could say. It was generally believed, however, that Smith at least visited Western New York before either returned to Ohio. Soon after their return the Book of Mormon was announced.
Captain Henry goes on to relate more about early Mormonism in Ohio, but his paraphrase of George Wilber's testimony appears to end here. What is the import of Wilber's recollections? Well, for one thing, they appear to explain how Elder Sidney Rigdon might have first encountered the young Joseph Smith: that, in the midst of Rigdon's writing project, "Smith appeared" in or near Bainbridge, Ohio and that the two men thereafter were "together." If this account is credible, the information it provides on Rigdon and Smith is very important. Not only dies this account provide a reasonable explanation of how the two might have met (by accident, while Smith was temporarily in Ohio), but it also provides an explanation of how Sidney Rigdon could have traveled to Joseph Smith's home near Palmyra, New York, and received a welcome, though secretive, reception there. If Sidney Rigdon truly accompanied Joseph Smith to "western New York" well before 1830, Rigdon's activities there could have been mostly hidden from view by one or more protective members of the Smith family.
Rigdon's 1826 neighbor George Wilber
There remains some additional "corroborating evidence" still to be examined, and it comes from another person who claimed to have been inside the Rigdon cabin at Bainbridge during 1826-27.
Dencey Thompson was the 1827 bride of John Henry's nephew, Orrin P. Henry, Sr., as well as a nursemaid in the Rigdon home at Bainbridge. Dencey's potentially invaluable reminiscences of life in the Rigdon home come to the modern reader via her son, Orrin P. Henry, Jr.:
[Mrs. Dencey Thompson Henry] lived in the family of Sidney Rigdon for several years prior to her marriage in 1827... there was in the family what is now called a "writing medium," also several others in adjacent places, and the Mormon Bible was written by two or three different persons by an automatic power which they believed was inspiration direct from God, the same as produced the original Jewish Bible and Christian New Testament.
The 1880 newspaper publication of Orrin P. Henry, Jr.'s communication goes on to say that he believed "Sidney Rigdon furnished Joseph Smith with these manuscripts, and that... Rigdon, having learned, beyond a doubt, that the so-called dead could communicate to the living, considered himself duly authorized by Jehovah to found a new church, under a divine guidance," etc. The latter opinions echo the language of 19th century Spiritualism -- a phenomenon which did not yet exist as a distinct belief system when Sidney Rigdon lived in Ohio. Spirit communications, on the other, predate modern Spiritualist religion by millennia, and can be read about in biblical accounts such as King Saul's experience with the Witch of Endor. There is a passage found both in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, which reads: "their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit." Perhaps it was this sort of supernatural "voice" which Miss Thompson remembered from Bainbridge in 1826.
Orrin P. Henry, Jr. was the first son of Orrin P. Henry, Sr. and Dencey Adeline Thompson, who were married at Chardon, in Geauga Co., Ohio, on Mar. 16, 1827. Dencey Adeline Thompson is the only known child of John Thompson and Abigail Dayton, and was born on Apr. 2, 1805 at Longmeadow, Hampden Co., Massachusetts. Elder Rigdon probably moved his family from Bainbridge, Ohio to Mentor in the spring of 1827, so it appears that Dencey Adeline Thompson, then twenty years of age, was a boarder with Sidney Rigdon's family while they lived at Bainbridge, and no doubt, prior to 1826 when the Rigdons were yet at Pittsburgh. Rigdon paid off his debts at Bainbridge and moved his family in with the Orris Clapp family, at Mentor in Geauga Co., in mid-March, 1827. Dencey probably accompanied the family to northern Geauga Co. and married Mr. Henry almost immediately upon her arrival there.
The Mormons of 1880 dismissed O. P. Henry, Jr.s' report of his mother's experiences with the Rigdons as "a new theory" for Book of Mormon origins, whose only redeeming factor, was that, "If this new theory should be caught up by preachers and editors, desperate for some plausible pretence to account for the Book of Mormon, they will have to drop forever the hackneyed and thoroughly riddled old fable called the Spaulding story." Evidently it did not occur to the LDS critics, that Sidney Rigdon's "automatic writing" might be accounted for by mental illness, more readily than by recourse to the spiritualist "medium business."
The skeptical reader will no doubt ask how on earth a young Joseph Smith could have been in Geauga Co., Ohio -- and for what possible reason? Until researchers of Mormon history fill in the 1826 blank in Smith's known chronology, probably be no conclusive answer can be given. Upon first thought, it might seem highly improbable that a young Joseph would venture so far away from home, family and friends on an excursion to the wilds of Ohio. There certainly is no hint of such a journey in any reliable historical accounts -- or is there?
Go West, young man!
In June of 1844, shortly before Joseph Smith's assassination, the newspaper in Nauvoo published a recent address given by John Reid, and early associate of Smith's from his money-digging days along the Susquehanna. In his speech Mr. Reid spoke of Smith's departure from that area, in the early part of 1826. This must have been shortly after March 20th (when charges against Smith were heard in court at South Bainbridge, New York):
I thought Joseph was predestined by his God from all eternity to be an instrument in the hands of the great dispenser of all good... After living in that neighborhood about three years, enjoying the good feelings of his acquaintances, as a worthy youth, he told his particular friends that he had had a revelation from God to go to the west about eighty miles, to his father's, in which neighborhood he should find hid in the earth, an old history written on golden plates... Joseph Knight, one of the fathers of your church, a worthy man, and my intimate friend, went with him.
Where Smith went after he was accompanied by Joseph Knight to "his father's," history does not reveal. According to Richard L. Bushman's 2005 Joseph Smith biography (page 52), "Joseph spent most of 1826 in southern New York." Unfortunately Joseph Knight's own account of his early experiences with young Smith is missing what must have been its first two pages, and so it does not reveal when Smith returned to Manchester. The first extant page of the Knight manuscript account begins by relating what occurred on or about September 22, 1826.
In the preserved record of his 1826 trial, young Smith reportedly told of a westward trip he had recently taken, to the borders of the Pennsylvania panhandle (or beyond?), to obtain a seer stone. However, this story of a westward journey does not fit in well with Mr. Reid's recollections. If it happened at all, it must have occured before the spring of 1826.
Thurlow Weed, who met with Smith in early June, 1829, later published an article, in which he said: "In 1824 or 1825, he [Joseph Smith] went a vagabonding off into western Pennsylvania, where, nobody knows how, he got possession of the manuscript of a half-deranged clergyman, with which he returned to Palmyra, where he pretended that he was directed in a dream to a particular spot in the woods..." Weed's assertions fit better with the report of Smith traveling west, prior to his 1826 South Bainbridge hearing, but they cannot be counted on as supplying reliable evidence.
James G. Bennett, while traveling through western New York in 1831 heard rumors that somebody from among Smith's money-digging company "spoke of a person in Ohio near Painesville, who had a particular felicity in finding out the spots of ground where money is hid." In a short while "the whole money-digging crew... contrived to scrape together a little 'change' sufficient to fetch on the money dreamer from Ohio." The person thus "fetched," according to the rumor, was Sidney Rigdon (whose name Bennett misspells). While the rumor may have preserved a recollection of some westward travels undertaken during the 1820s by one of Smith's associates (or perhaps by Smith himself), Bennett's account is too garbled and hazy to be of any historical value.
In 1877, John P. Greene, who had operated a hotel in Batavia, New York, reported that he had encountered Smith at an early date, and that the young fortune-teller and treasure-seeker "seemed to be thoroughly acquainted with the route from Canandaigua to Buffalo." While Greene's story may reflect his actual memories, it offers no reliable evidence for Smith having ventured any farther west than the Batavia area.
Carl M. Brewster prepared a manuscript in 1945 entitled, "Did Sidney Rigdon Write the Book of Mormon?" in which he suggested that young Smith came to Auburn township, Geauga Co., Ohio in company with a friend (Porter Rockwell?) in about 1825 to consult with a local treasure-seeker. Only a few fragments of Brewster's original manuscript survive and it is currently not possible to identify his sources. His ancestors were pioneers in Auburn (immediately adjacent to Bainbridge) and Brewster may have been relying upon old family traditions for his information. The first known Manchester "treasure-seeker" in Auburn was Gadius Stafford, but he was not firmly established there until 1828 at the earliest (his name is on the 1829 tax list) -- and that would have been too late for him to have been the object of Smith's alleged earlier quest in Auburn. A sizeable colony of pioneers from Ontario and Wayne counties in New York settled in the center part of Auburn before 1828. Many of these people (such as Isaac Butts) must have known both the Manchester Smith family and their near neighbor in Ohio, Elder Sidney Rigdon, but among those Auburn settlers only the name of Gadius "Gad" Stafford was published as having been a money-digging associate back in Manchester.
There is one final historical source that might shed some light upon this mystery. In 1884 James Jeffery, formerly a merchant in St. Louis, wrote a letter in which he claimed to have crossed paths with Elder Sidney Rigdon in that city, some forty years in the past. The time specified by Mr. Jeffery coincides with Rigdon's departure from Nauvoo, after being excommunicated from the Mormons in the summer of 1844. He traveled from Nauvoo to St. Louis in the company of a non-Mormon merchant and stayed in that place long enough to have met and spoken with Mr. Jeffery. That much, at least, is known to be factual. It was also reported in the Mormon press at that time, that Rigdon had been threatening to reveal Mormon secrets and was denouncing the religion as he passed through Missouri. Given this background, it seems that Mr. Jeffery's account may be an accurate recollection:
Forty years ago I was in business in St. Louis.... Sidney Rigdon I knew very well. He was general manager of the affairs of the Mormons. Rigdon, in hours of conversation told me a number of times there was in the printing office with which he was connected in Ohio, a manuscript of Rev. Spaulding, tracing the origin of the Indian race from the lost tribes of Israel; that this manuscript was in the office for several years; that he was familiar with it; that Spaulding had wanted it printed, but had not the money to pay for the printing; that he (Rigdon) and Joe Smith used to look over the manuscript and read it over Sundays. Rigdon and Smith took the manuscript and said -- "I'll print it," and went off to Palmyra, N. Y.
It is highly unlikely that Elder Sidney Rigdon was ever "connected" with any "printing office" located "on Ohio," other than that of the Mormons themselves at Kirtland. Even there his connection was slight, as he was not employed in any particular work for that establishment, other than writing articles (and perhaps doing some editing). What may be important, on the other hand, is Jeffery's remembering that Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, together in Ohio, "used to look over the manuscript and read it over Sundays." Why only on Sundays? Could it be, that back in 1826 Elder Rigdon traveled the short distance to Auburn each Sunday, in order to preach to a more receptive audience than could be found in Bainbridge? If this were the case, he would have found himself surrounded by former residents of the Palmyra area, almost as soon as he crossed over into Auburn.
Is that when and where Sidney Rigdon first met Joseph Smith?
List of Probable Misprints, Mistakes or Misjudgments
On page 42 of his booklet, Rev. John L. Smith makes a passing mention of "blunders" and "crudities" that any reader can easily pick out of the Book of Mormon. What Rev. Smith does not mention, is that his own booklet is jam-packed with spelling, orthographical and typographical errors -- not to mention inconsistencies in citation, missing words, and seemingly mindless repetitions. The narrative voice evolves from the first person singular, to the second person plural, to an occasional lapse into the third person. And, as if all of that were not enough to totally garble fifty-six pages of rambling text, the assertions made within those pages are generally undocumented by any primary source citations, occasionally inconsistent one with another, and all too often totally non-factual.
What is the poor reader to do when faced with such a problematic text? The transcriber has done Rev. Smith the favor of adding necessary punctuation, correcting grammar, reducing the number of misspellings and eliminating totally from the on-line excerpts the most bewildering repetitions. As for the outright factual errors, the following list may be of some benefit to the readers of Did Joseph Smith Write the Book of Mormon?
p. 2 - "Joseph Smith not a church member nor... attended any church regularly." - This statement is inaccurate. While living in Harmony, PA, Smith reportedly was on the rolls of the local Methodist class for many weeks. Although he was never baptized into that church, he was one step away from full membership. Smith reportedly went to Methodist camp-meetings near his Manchester home while still a young man. He was also seen attending Baptist preaching services in that village. In his Jan. 1948 article, "The Baptist Church at Manchester" (The Chronicle X:1, pp. 17-30), Mitchell Bronk quotes from the journal of early member Daniel Arnold and other sources, and reports: "the Smith family lived in our town... Joe occasionally attended the stone church; especially the revivals, sitting with the crows -- the 'sinners' -- up in the gallery. Not a little of Mormon theology accords with the preaching of Elder Shay. It is significant that immersion became the form of baptism practiced by the Saints..."
p. 3 - "Sidney... became responsible for the family farm after his father's death in 1810" - Actually the farm was divided between Sidney and his elder brother, Carvel. It is more likely that the brother was the person most "responsible" for managing affairs for the Rigdon family.
p. 3 - "He... studied under a number of Baptist ministers and was soon ordained." - This is unsubstantiated. Rigdon was ordained sometime between Apr. 1, 1820 and Aug. 24, 1820, after spending more than a year's studies under Elder Andrew Clark. Rigdon no doubt also learned a great deal in later years from Adamson Bentley, Walter Scott and Alexander Campbell -- but all of that came after his ordination.
p. 3 - "Rigdon was expelled by the Baptists for doctrinal errors" - An overly simplistic statement. On Nov. 15, 1824 part of the congregation of Pittsburgh's First Baptist Church was recognized as being that church by the Redstone Baptist Association. This decision disfellowshipped Rigdon, but did not negate his standing as an ordained Baptist minister in other associations.
p. 3 - "the Book of Mormon was not printed until April of 1830" - The printing and binding were finished by mid-March, 1830. Off-prints of certain parts of the book had been in circulation since January.
p. 3 - "It was perhaps during this period that Rigdon's interest in communal living began" - Daryl Chase in his "Early Shakers," pp. 210-211 says that Rigdon borrowed ideas from the Warren Co., Ohio Union Shakers. More likely Rigdon's interest in communitarianism dated to his earlier years. He must have been aware of the religious cooperative established by George Rapp, a little north of Pittsburgh. One of Rigdon's successors in the Pittsburgh Baptist pulpit, Elder Samuel Williams, suggested Robert Owen's socialism as having an effect upon Rigdon's thinking. Rigdon may have attend Owen's Feb. 1, 1825 Pittsburgh lecture on that subject.
p. 4 - "Sandamanenism, a cult... appears to be a forerunner of Campbellism" - More likely Campbell was influenced by James A. Haldane's theology. Walter Scott's little congregation in Pittsburgh was a Haldanean church. Few religious historians would term either of these Scottish religious groups "a cult."
p. 4 - "Baptists never extended Campbell the hand of fellowship" - The Campbells were well received into the Redstone Baptist Association and Alexander was lauded for his defense of Baptist precepts in his 1820s debates. "The hand of fellowship" was withdrawn by the Redstone, Beaver and Grand River associations, but the "Campbellites" continued in fellowship with the Washington Baptist Association. As late as April, 1829, a major Baptist periodical in the east (The American Baptist Magazine) published a report by "Campbellite" Adamson Bentley, "with pleasure," and to all appearances accepting him as a fellow Baptist.
p. 4 - "Rigdon... co-founder, Campbell had reason to be concerned" - Sidney Rigdon was in no way a co-founder of the Disciples of Christ, nor of their forerunner movement, the "Reformed Baptists." Elders Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott and Adamson Bentley had a greater influence. Rigdon was, however, the founder or organizer of several Reformed Baptist congregations in the Ohio Western Reserve. Alexander Campbell was perhaps most "concerned" over the fact that Rigdon was leading Reformed Baptists into Mormonism within the sphere of influence Rigdon had in that region. He may have also been concerned that Rigdon would betray embarrassing confidences he shared in, regarding the Campbellite leaders' plans to splinter and gain control over certain Baptist congregations.
p. 4 - "Campbell required his followers to celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday" - Alexander Campbell did not enjoy that level of power and control over the Reformed Baptists.
p. 4 - "Campbell declared that the Old Testament was not binding" - Campbell was no more opposed to the Mosaic Law than was St. Paul. Campbell adopted a dispensationalist view of sacred history wherein the "New Covenant" replaced the old one; but he was not such an antinomian as to deny the moral value of the ten commandments and other biblical examples.
p. 4 - "in 1826 Rigdon moved to Ohio where he accepted a pastorate in the Mahoning Baptist Association." - This is incorrect. Rigdon moved to Bainbridge, which had a tiny Baptist congregation in the Grand River Association. Rigdon broke up that little group but evidently he could not gain enough adherents from among the remnants to organize a new church there. Probably no pastorate was ever offered to him in Bainbridge and he eventually extended his preaching efforts into the northern fringes of the Mahoning Association, without being a pastor in that association until 1828 (when his Mentor parishioners were ejected from the Grand River Association and moved their membership into the Mahoning "Reformation."
p. 6 - "new religious group... called... Church of the Latter Day Saints" - As Rev. Smith himself points out elsewhere in his booklet, its original name (1830-34) was the "Church of Christ."
p. 6 - "Mormons insist that Rigdon did not hear of Joseph Smith until after... April 6, 1830." - More likely the will say that Rigdon did not hear of this until November of 1830. However, the LDS historian Richard S. Van Wagoner has pointed out that Rigdon probably knew of these things quite a bit earlier. The gold plates story was published in Ohio newspapers as early as Sept., 1829 and was still being mentioned in Ohio newspapers as late as June, 1830. By that time, at the very least, some of Rigdon's parishioners (such as Orson Hyde and Eliza R. Snow) also knew about the gold bible story.
p. 6 - "Rigdon... his formal education was extremely limited" - However, he studied for more than a year under the supervision of Elder Andrew Clark -- in whose home he found "a perfect paradise of books and intellectual companionship." While studying with Elder Clark, the young Rigdon "read history, divinity, and general literature..." Obviously such a concentrated period of study with a learned minister was equal to several years spent in public schools, or even in a 19th century academy (high school).
p. 6 - "follower of Alexander Campbell... taken-in...is foreign" - And yet, numerous early "Campbellites" did join the Mormons, as did ministers from other religious groups, such as Ezra Booth, Orson Spencer, Jesse Gause, D. P. Hurlbut, etc. Obviously, age and experience were not always reason enough to keep people from joining the Mormons.
p. 6 - "Rigdon... vacillating between Baptists, Ann Lee, Alexander Campbell, Sandemanians" - There is no evidence for such a statement. Rigdon's theological evolution was linear: from Baptist, to Reformed Baptist, to Mormon, to his own sect of Mormon religion.
p. 7 - "Rigdon... convinced... Book of Mormon had come from God... Joseph Smith... a prophet" - It is indeed possible that Rigdon believed such things, even if he had a role in creating the book and the religion. He was an unusual person who heard voices in his head, had visions, and fully believed that he was a chosen divine spokesman.
p. 7 - "theory... Spaulding... origin of the Book of Mormon has been around since 1834" - Actually the Spalding witnesses' testimony was not offered as a "theory" but as claims of the factual truth. The testimony dates to the first part of 1832, but was only set down on paper beginning in the summer of 1833. The "theory" itself was evidently formulated at the end of 1833, when Sidney Rigdon's name was first attached to the Spalding authorship claims. The earliest surviving documentary evidence for the Spalding claims dates to Dec. 31, 1833. See also some mention of this in the popular press in Jan., 1834, Apr., 1834, and June, 1834
p. 7 - "name... spelled two different ways in Mormon literature, Spalding and Spaulding" - Solomon Spalding used the first version of the spelling in all his known signed documents. Serious scholars of the last few decades have generally used the "Spalding" spelling.
p. 8 - "View of the Hebrews... printed serially in... Palmyra (New York) newspaper." - There is no basis for such a statement. Perhaps Rev. John L. Smith has simply mis-remembered the facts surrounding the publication of Josiah Priest's Wonders of Nature, which contained lengthy excerpts from Ethan Smith, and which was peddled door-to-door in the Palmyra area in 1826.
p. 8 - "Joseph's father... name... proves that Smith... had access...'View of the Hebrews" position" - It "proves" no such thing. Rev. Smith cannot be accused of sloppy scholarship here, because he has engaged in no real scholarship whatsoever.
p. 8 - "Rigdon had known the Smith family since... Alvin had died in 1820" - Alvin Smith died on Nov. 19, 1823 (and not "in 1820" -- see p. 17) -- at which time Sidney Rigdon was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh. Rev. Smith makes his unique assertion concerning Rigdon and Alvin's death, without offering the least shred of possible evidence. His readers should ignore such groundless claims.
p. 9 - "His theological training was received largely at the hands of... Adamson Bentley" - Again Rev. Smith passes over Rigdon's study of divinity with Elder Andrew Clark, when Rigdon barely knew of Bentley.
p. 9 - "if he had... theological finesse he would... recognize Book of Mormon as... plagiarization... of the Bible" - No doubt many intelligent and educated Mormons (some with theological dregrees) "recognize" the book's literary dependence upon the KJV text. And yet such a recognition hasn't persuaded those many intelligent and educated people that the book contains no divine revelation. Rev. Smith's objections here do not take into account the real possibility that Sidney Rigdon did "recognize Book of Mormon as plagiarization," but that he accepted its message and its purpose, as divinely inspired, nevertheless.
p. 10 - "Alexander Campbell... calls Sidney Rigdon chief promoter of Mormonism...its originator" - Be this as it may, Campbell's first published reaction to the book (in 1831) consisted of a lengthy argument accusing Joseph Smith of having written the book -- that it was entirely the product of a single, ignorant mind. Rev. Smith makes no attempt to reconcile Campbell's disparate published opinions regarding the book's authorship.
p. 11 - "Manuscript Found in no way contained the original of the Book of Mormon... a second manuscript" - This is a very peculiar deduction. The single extant Spalding manuscript does not bear the title "Manuscript Found;" nor does it contain the unique literary features that several of Spalding's old associates testified were in the "Manuscript Found;" nor did those old associates who saw that extant document at the end of 1833 identify it as being what they knew as the "Manuscript Found." In fact, "several" of them said just the opposite. Given these historical facts, Rev. Smith's deduction must be dismissed as a case of mistaken logic.
p. 12 - "every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years" - Not just in the Palmyra area of western New York, but in many cases in the pages of Campbell's on newspaper, The Christian Baptist. Careful readers of this citation should ask themselves why Campbell moved the scene of the discussion of "every error and almost every truth" from his own doorstep to the remote location of New York. It seems that Alexander Campbell, writing in 1831, was not yet ready to acknowledge in public that the Book of Mormon's pages reflected much of the content of his own 1820s publications.
p. 12 - "Rigdon. He called him a "narrow-minded bigot" - If Sidney Rigdon was such a "bigot," he was also a flaming Arminian who fully accepted Elder Walter Scott's innovation of an altar call, followed by immediate baptism of a convert, without pastoral or congregational investigation. If Sidney Rigdon was such a "bigot," he was also an advocate for the poor and a great foe of rich "hireling priests" among the Protestants. If Sidney Rigdon was such a "bigot," he was also (in his later years) in favor of allowing women into the ministry. A very strange "bigot" indeed.
p. 12 - "Rigdon received little response in Mentor... was more successful in Kirtland" - It is unclear here whether Rev. Smith is referring to Rigdon's auditors' "response" to him as a Reformed Baptist preacher or their "response" to him as a new convert to Mormonism. He built up the Mentor church as a "Campbellite," but his departure from that congregation near the end of 1830 left it shattered. The Mentor church did not recover and become a strong Disciple congregation for several years thereafter.
p. 12 - "Cowdery and Pratt who were old acquaintances" - It is unclear here whether Rev. Smith is claiming that "Cowdery and Pratt" were "old acquaintances" with each other, or with Elder Rigdon. Both Cowdery and Pratt reportedly were itinerant peddlers in the Great Lakes area -- if that were so, the two men may have indeed become acquainted before 1830. As for their relationship with Elder Rigdon, Pratt was a known "acquaintance," but of uncertain previous duration. Oliver Cowdery must have been something of an "acquaintance" to Lyman Wight of Kirtland, for Wight had previously lived within walking distance of Oliver's brother Warren, back in New York. Since Warren was the only doctor in the area, Lyman was sure to have known him before he moved to Kirtland. Thus, an acquaintance of Rigdon's was an acquaintance of Oliver's brother. That connection, however, does not make Oliver Cowdery an "old acquaintance" of Sidney Rigdon. Rev. Smith has not verified his assertion here.
p. 12 - "Rigdon went with Smith to Palmyra but there they were met with contempt" - There is no record of Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith having ever been in Palmyra, New York together.
p. 16 - "several small children were shot in the head" - Many such non sequiturs pepper Rev. Smith's booklet. Probably he knew what his purpose was for including such items, but the typical reader will probably be left bewildered (and doubting Rev. Smith's competence as a religious historian) upon encountering these textual oddities.
p. 16 - "Rigdon and... Partridge... arrived at Joseph's home at Manchester" - Rev. Smith here collapses his narrative, so as to suggest that Rigdon and Partridge met with Joseph Smith at Manchester, instead of their continuing on to Kingdon, New York, to meet Smith near the Whitmers' residence.
p. 17 - "Rigdon was an able orator. Some said he spoke with the voice of an angel" - Rev. Smith does not provide a citation here for his "spoke voice of an angel" assertion, because there are no reliable historical sources relating such a claim. See also notes for page 46, below.
p. 17 - "Rigdon... follower of Joseph Smith... close constant companion, spokesman, confidant" - The relationship between Smith and Rigdon was a complex one -- there were occasional strains and breaks between the two men. Rigdon spent most of 1840-1844 out of favor with Smith in Nauvoo. Rev. Smith would be well advised to read Van Wagoner's 1996 Rigdon biography before he considers publishing a second edition of his booklet. Cf p. 30.
p. 17 - "Rigdon... Baptist, Sandamanian, Shakers, Baptist, Campbellite, Mormonism, Strangite, Rigdonite" - There is no evidence that Sidney Rigdon evolved from being a Baptist, to being a Sandamanian, to being a Shaker, and then back again to being a Baptist. He was eclectic in his religious views, but that was probably because he felt that the Apostolic Church had long since disappeared and that its original doctrines were only preserved in fragmentary form, in various sects and denominations. Rigdon may have indeed been mentally "unstable," but his evolution in religion was a linear one: Baptist --> Reformed Baptist --> Mormon --> Mormon splinter group. He was a "Rigdonite" in many ways, from about 1826 forward. He was never a member of the Shakers nor the Strangites.
p. 17 - "Our study of Rigdon may appear somewhat repetitious and paradoxical." - Duly noted.
p. 17 - "after the death of Alvin... a man commenced laboring... to affect a union of the different churches... Sidney Rigdon " - Sidney Rigdon was then the pastor of the Pittsburgh Baptist Church and there is no record of his being in New York at that time. Sidney Rigdon attended the annual meeting of the Redstone Baptist Association at Pittsburgh, on Sept. 5-7, 1823. The meeting was held in Rigdon's own chapel and he no doubt had planned to be the accomodating host to all the visiting Baptists from out of town. Under such circumstances, it is very doubtful that Elder Rigdon would have been anywhere else than in Pittsburgh that summer. He was caught up in the heat of a schism in his own congregation and those circumstances required his immediate presence. As previously stated, on Nov. 15, 1824 part of the congregation of Pittsburgh's First Baptist Church was recognized as being that church by the Redstone Baptist Association, and this decision removed Rigdon as pastor. He was not then in Pittsburgh to defend himself in this matter, because the group of church representatives who met to consider the problem began their deliberations on Oct. 11th, while he was out of town (on his way to attend the Oct. 15-21 Campbell-McCalla debate in Kentucky). Rigdon probably did not arrive back in Pittsburgh, following that debate, until early November (perhaps just in time to hear of his exclusion). Alvin Smith died a week later (on Nov. 19, 1823). For what possible reason would Sidney Rigdon abandon his small flock of still faithful followers, his religious mentor Walter Scott, and his needy family, for an excursion to far off New York (and with winter coming on!)? Rev. Smith goes over this same odd notion again on page 40, but supplies no evidence at all for his unique interpretation of early Mormon history.
p. 18 - "Could it have been Rigdon? If not, who was it?" - There are several possibilities; one of which is that Lucy Smith was simply wrong in what she said. Another possibility is that an itinerant Arminian preacher, such as Lorenzo Dow had passed through town. A follower of Elias Smith might have preached such a "union" doctrine, as might have a "Halycon church" preacher or a prophetic Christian primitivist like Jacob Cochran (who established a colony of his followers in western New York, and who reportedly was in company with Joseph Smith in that same area around the year 1826).
p. 20 - "Rigdon... a Baptist as were his parents. Then he became a Shaker" - Rev. Smith again makes the same erroneous claim here as he did on page 17. If Rigdon joined the Shakers, then when did that act occur? Certainly he did not become a Shaker after he was married on June of 1820. Nor was he possibly a member of the Shakers group between Aug. 20, 1819 (when he was recommended for ordination) and Aug. 24, 1820 (when mention of his ordination was first published -- Van Wagoner says his certificate of ordination was issued on April 1st). It is equally unlikely that Rigdon would have been recommended for ordination, if he had left the Baptists following his being issued a Baptist "ministerial license" in March, 1819. Finally, it is quite impossible that Rigdon was a Shaker when he transferred his member from Peter's Creek Baptist Church to the Baptist church in North Sewickley, on Feb. 27, 1819. Near the end of 1818 Sidney must have received his letter of dismissal from Peter's Creek -- as he left there a Baptist in good standing, his alleged joining with the Shakers must have happened before that time. Can Rev. Smith offer even a single mention of Rigdon's name in the Shaker records of 1817-18? Certainly not.
p. 21 - "In 1812 Spaulding...took the manuscript to the printing office of Mr. Patterson" - Throughout nearly all of 1812, the "Mr. Patterson" here mentioned was the senior partner of Patterson and Hopkins, stationers and booksellers in Pittsburgh. The firm also did some occasional publishing, contracting out the printing to Silas Engles, a printer and cousin of Mr. Patterson's. Near the end of 1812 Hopkins was replaced by a brother of Mr. Patterson, and the business continued under the name of "R. & J. Patterson," engaging in very little publishing. It is extremely doubtful that there ever was such a thing as "the printing office of Mr. Patterson."
p. 23 - "Mormons... always present their people as saccharin sweet" - Just one of the many "petty" and "ill-advised" sorts of " incriminations" Rev. John L. Smith has scattered throughout his book. This kind of stereotyping will cost him nearly all his potential Latter Day Saint readers, as well as a good many others.
p. 23 - "story not well written. Spelling, punctuation grammar incoherent notes made the original difficult to read" - No doubt such poor writing should be edited out of any serious reports regarding Elder Rigdon.
p. 23 - "Rigdon allowed Pratt to preach in his church that night" - Henry H. Clapp (a member of Rigdon's Reformed Baptist congregation in Mentor) lived next door to Sidney Rigdon in 1830. Forty-nine years later he wrote an account of Rigdon's conversion, saying: "The four Mormons came to Mr. Rigdon's Wednesday evening (I think)" His memory may have been off by one day. Possibly they arrived in Painesville on Tuesday or Wednesday, obtained permission to preach in the Methodist chapel early on Thursday evening, and then walked the short distance to Mentor. Richard S. Van Wagoner's 1996 Rigdon biography has the four missionaries arriving "near Rigdon's Mentor home on Thursday, 28 October." Van Wagoner next says: "After dividing into pairs, the young elders began to proselyte. Cowdery and Pratt... called on the Rigdon household..." In this scenario Peter Whitmer and Ziba Peterson go directly to the Morley commune in Kirtland late on Thursday, Oct. 28, and there convert many of the Rigdonite parishioners to a speedy Mormon baptism, while Cowdery and Pratt are still introducing Mormonism to Rigdon in Mentor. Rigdon then goes to Kirtland on Oct. 31, for his Sunday preaching engagement, and there finds some of his congregation (17 members from the Morley farm) already baptized into the new Mormon dispensation. According to Clapp, Rigdon had already heard of this mass baptism of his members at Kirtland on or before Saturday, Oct. 30. Clapp also says that when next he heard of Rigdon, "on Monday he and his wife had been baptized some time during that Sunday night and gone over to Mormonism." Here Clapp compressed a week's worth of time in his memory, as Richard S. Van Wagoner has the Rigdons being baptized the following Sunday, on Nov. 8th. It appears more likely that all four missionaries stayed the night of Oct. 28th with Rigdon in Mentor, and that Whitmer and Peterson did not depart for Kirtland until the morning of the 29th. John W. Rigdon claimed that when the missionaries arrived, Parley P. Pratt asked, "Will you let us preach in your church tonight?" and Rigdon granted his request. Neither Mr. Clapp nor any other early writer tells of an evening preaching service by Pratt in the Mentor chapel on Oct. 27 or 28. Rev. Smith is mistaken in accepting John W. Rigdon's version of events. (John was an infant in 1830 and so not an eye-witness).
p. 24 - "He then moved... to the little town of Hiram about 2 1/2 miles outside Kirtland" - Two obvious chronological and geographical errors. John W. Rigdon's text has "21.2 miles." (It is difficult to determine where Rev. Smith has simply quoted error-ridden sources, and where he himself has introduced the errors)
p. 24 - "Rigdon's son went with his father to see Joseph Smith in Palmyra." - John's text does not say any such thing. It would have been impossible for Sidney Rigdon to have taken a nursing infant with him to New York near the beginning of winter.
p. 27 - "Salt Sermon... Rigdon's son, John, thought it was July 4th" - Rigdon gave two memorable public addresses in 1838 at Far West: the first was on June 17th; Rigdon's 4th of July discourse was the second of the two.
p. 28 - "Election Day Battle at Gallatin... immediately following the Salt Sermon" - Rev. Smith here again confuses Rigdon's June 17th salt sermon with his July 4th sermon.
p. 30 - "Werner... says the Salt Sermon... a dare... hard for their... neighbors to resist" - Rev. Smith here again confuses Rigdon's June 17th salt sermon with his July 4th sermon.
p. 30 - "never even a strain... until Joseph attempted to take Rigdon's daughter... a plural wife" - Here Rev. Smith makes the same mistake as on page 17. Even a superficial reading of Mormon history will serve to illuminate the various "strains" on the relationship between Rigdon and Smith.
p. 31 - "rumors of a new religion, a new Bible... Rigdon's connection with such a scheme as the Book of Mormon was common belief" - Here Rev. Smith misses entirely the meaning of his own citation. During the 1820s Alexander Campbell was often accused by his opponents of attempting to start a new sect. Campbell's edition of the New Testament included vocabulary that was new to many readers and Campbell made use of those translation changes to bolster his own theology. All of this occurred well before the publication of the Book of Mormon (and well before the first known mention in the popular press).
p. 32 - "Manuscript Found... not... the book they saw... must have been a second manuscript" - Here Rev. Smith repeats his mistake in concluding that the Spalding document re-discovered in Hawaii in 1884 has been positively identified as Spalding's oft-reported "Manuscript Found." There is no basis for such a conclusion.
p. 35 - "Joseph and Sidney'... leaving Kirtland in the night... neither ever returned" - See 1845 issues of Rigdon's Pittsburgh Messenger and Advocate (Feb. 15 and Mar. 15) for reporting on Rigdon's Feb. 1845 preaching in Kirtland, Ohio.
p. 37 - "Campbell follower Sidney Rigdon did not make any changes... He only added... prophet... additional scripture" - Rev. Smith might wish to read through Rigdon's essays in the 1830s Kirtland LDS newspapers, before he says that Rigdon "did not make any changes." Sidney Rigdon, as an 1830 theologian, stood half-way between "Campbellism" and "Mormonism." Some of his doctrinal differences with Campbell can be traced to Sidney's retention of Baptist precepts; while other differences can probably be traced to Rigdon's own visionary experiences and his millenarian viewpoints. The Book of Mormon does [u]not[/u] teach "almost exactly as Campbell believed -- there are many important differences. Rev. Smith alludes to this himself on page 40, where he says, "the points of contention between him [Rigdon] and Campbell were the very ones Mormonism espoused." Rev. Smith also provides some additional relevant information on page 46. If Rigdon is identified as the originator of Mormonism, then his many "changes" are key evidence of that secret operation, and should not be ignored.
p. 37 - "Campbell believed... the church had ceased to exist..." - No -- Campbell believed that by uniting all believing Christians, that the Apostolic Church could be brought back together. His teachings regarding early Christian apostasy were not so radical as were Rigdon's. Campbell believed in a partial apostasy of members' beliefs and practices; while Rigdon taught an absolute and complete apostasy of church order, government, authority and ordinances.
p. 37 - "Rigdon (assuming he had not known Smith previously) accepted the book on faith" - Several early accounts say that Rigdon accepted the Book of Mormon following his receiving a miraculous confirmation of its divine nature and origin. If Rigdon had such an epiphany (or, even if he faked it), his profession was obviously not just one of "faith." Rather, it was one of "divine experience" -- a concept familiar to regular Baptists, but one which the Reformed Baptists had begun to reject.
p. 38 - "Rigdon... he became a follower of James J. Strang" - Rev. Smith supplies no evidence for this allegation, of course. He cannot, because it is not true.
p. 39 - "The only... sympathetic biography was... by... Mark McKiernan" - It is quite remarkable that a purported careful study of Sidney Rigdon's contributions to Mormonism, published as late as 2006, should totally overlook Richard S. Van Wagoner's impressive 1996 Rigdon biography.
p. 39 - "an angel visited Rigdon prior to his being baptized a Mormon" - Compare this statement to Rev. Smith's words on page 37, where he says that Rigdon "accepted the book on faith." Sidney Rigdon's late 1820s profession of contemporary angelic ministration, latter day visions, etc. is alluded to by Parley P. Pratt, who in his autobiography mentions that "Sidney Rigdon... preached... the promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost," and that Pratt and others reformers "were organized into a society" under Rigdon's ministerial charge. At first, "these Reformers claimed no new commission by revelation, or vision from the Lord," but under Rigdon's guidance Pratt soon received spiritual "light" and "the prophecies of the holy prophets were opened" to his view, so that "the spirit of these things had wrought... powerfully" on his mind. In other words, Rigdon was supervising Pratt's religious study in such a way that Pratt was not only anticipating forthcoming spiritual "gifts," but was beginning to experience them himself. To this historical re-creation must also be added the fact that among the Reformed Baptists the biblical word "angel" was interpreted to mean any being (mortal or immortal) who announced a divine message -- an "angel" was a "messenger." And, to the first Mormons, an "angel" was an exalted human being. With these considerations in mind, it is not surprising that Pratt was prepared to accept what he related as being "a strange book" that had "been discovered and translated by a young man near Palmyra... by the aid of visions, or the ministry of angels." Likewise, it is not surprising that Rigdon was quoted in 1831 as saying to his visitors, Pratt and Cowdery, "if the heavenly Father had ever promised to show you an angel, to confirm anything, he would not suffer you to be deceived." And, having said this, Rigdon reportedly "was persuaded to tempt God by asking this sign... he received a sign, and was convinced that Mormonism was true and divine." The reporter (Rigdon's next-door neighbor at Mentor, Matthew S. Clapp) wryly added: "we presume the Devil appeared to him in the form of an angel of light." See Theodore Schroeder's 1901 booklet, for more on Rigdon, Pratt and angels.
p. 41 - "gap... (August-November 14), takes us up to within 10 days of Rigdon's conversion" - Rev. Smith has accepted his source information without bothering to fact-check the information. On Oct. 16, 1830 a newspaper near Kirtland ran an announcement saying that Rigdon would preach at Ashtabula township's "Townhouse" in Ashtabula Co., Ohio on Friday, Oct. 22, 1830. It is thus very likely that Rigdon was in or near Ashtabula, Ohio during the third week of February. Thus the "gap" cited by Rev. Smith was not so long as he believed. If Rigdon preached in Ashtabula on the evening of the 22nd, stayed for the night, and was back in the Mentor area by the 24th (in time for Sunday services), then his time can be reasonably accounted for up through the date of the Mormon missionaries' arrival at his house, which was probably on Thursday the 28th (or possibly the day before). Rigdon and his wife were baptized on Nov. 8, 1830, so his whereabouts for three weeks prior to that baptism are fairly well established. On the other hand, in returning to the Painesville-Mentor area from Ashtabula, Sidney Rigdon would have likely taken the same route west and south that the Mormon missionaries traveled a few days later. This seems like rather odd coincidence -- and especially so in light of Dr. Storm Rosa's reported assertion that "before Mormons preached in Ohio...Rigdon used to meet Joseph in Ashtabula."
p. 41 - "Campbellites... none of their ministers had as yet reached New York" - It would be a mistake to assume that Campbellite ministers were sent out from some central point, and that by 1830 none of these Reformed Baptists had reached New York. Rather, Campbell enjoyed considerable success in spreading his reform ideas by way of the pages of his Christian Baptist, a newspaper with a national circulation. Any regular 1820s Baptist congregation in America might have adopted elements of his reform without having received "ministers" sent by Campbell.
p. 42 - "first effort... Rigdon... Book of Mormon... 1834 by E. D. Howe in... Mormonism Unveiled (sic)" - If "sic" means "thus spelled," then Rev. Smith is wrong here, as the 1834 book used the archaic spelling of "Unvailed." Also, the first published effort to connect Sidney Rigdon with the book of Mormon was in 1831 and not in 1834. His name was first published in connection with the Spalding claims in 1833.
p. 42 - "Campbell... Bentley, one remembers it as 1826 and the other 1827" - Rigdon's early biographer, William H. Whitsitt, provides a probable explanation: "Respecting the question of date... it is likely that both Mr. Campbell and Mr. Bentley were at fault... the only time when Mr. Campbell and Mr. Bentley could have been both of them in the company of Rigdon during the year 1827, was... at New Lisbon, Columbiana county on the 23rd of August. There is no account of the presence of Mr. Campbell on the Western Reserve... during the remainder of the year 1827... It is therefore almost certain that the conversation was held at... Warren, Trumbull county, Ohio, in August 1828. Then the plates had been duly recovered, and it would be entirely natural for Mr. Rigdon to mention them in his communings with his friends."
p. 42 - "Mormon writers have not attempted to refute this report" - Except for the RLDS Bishop E. L. Kelley and the LDS historian B. H. Roberts, of course.
p. 44 - "The translation was begun as early as June of 1830" - A few pages of the Genesis revision had been completed prior to Rigdon's arrival on the scene in New York. Thus, if Rigdon was the author of the revisions, he must have found a way to transfer those first pages of Genesis to Smith prior to the summer of 1830.
p. 45 - "Rigdon... Campbellite background, has even Adam hearing the gospel... he is immersed" - Alexander Campbell was an early biblical dispensationalist, but he did not go so far as the ultra-literalistic precepts of the Mormons -- who, by 1832, had begun to teach the doctrine of seven more or less Christian gospel dispensations. Campbell would have argued that baptism was only a doctrine of his final (fourth) divine dispensation: Rigdon would have argued that the ordinances were essentially the same in each of the seven dispensations.
p. 45 - "church name... to Campbell, Scott, Stone and Rigdon... a concern of utmost importance" - True, but Campbell's followers did not use the "Church of Christ" identification as a denominational identifier until Scott and Rigdon established its first branch, at Pittsburgh, in 1823-24. At that time it became the professed name of Scott's Haldanean congregation (temporarily merged with some of Rigdon's Reformed Baptists).
p. 46 - "Cowdery reported... John the Baptist... his voice "most mysteriously resembled Elder Sidney Rigdon's voice"" - Rev. Smith has here taken a thoroughly debunked 200 year old hoax and passed it off to his readers as credible history. Shook's source was the Rev. R. B. Neal, who in turn appears to have innocently passed on the fake Cowdery material from one of his anti-Mormon newsletter contributors (very likely Daniel Braxton Turney). Details regarding this old hoax can be found in these sources: A Critical Look: A Study of the Overstreet "Confession" and the Cowdery "Defence" (1967); Salt Lake City Messenger (Oct., 1989); and the on-line essay, "Changing World of Tannerism (2002).
p. 54 - "book... comparable to the Book of Mormon "bears no resemblance to the 'Manuscript Found'" which turned up later in Hawaii" - This is not what Eber D. Howe reported. Rev. Smith has totally muddled Howe's words, so as to make him say the opposite of what he actually printed in his 1834 book.