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F. Mark McKiernan
(1940-1997)
The Voice of... Sidney Rigdon...

(Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1971, 72)
  • Title Page   Contents

  • pp. 011-040  Chapters 01-02
  • pp. 041-080  Chapters 03-04
  • pp. 081-114  Chapters 05-06
  • pp. 115-146  Chapters 07-08
  • pp. 147-190  End Matter
  • pp. 191-246  Appendix

  • Transcriber's Comments



  • D. Chase's thesis (1931)   |   J. White's thesis (1947)   |   R. Van Wagoner's' biography (1994)
    Wm. Whitsitt's biography   |   Rigdon's own history (1843)   |   "Rigdon Revealed" (under constr.)
    Misc. Rigdon biographies   |   Knowles' Rigdon thesis (2000)   |   C. Criddle's Paper (2009)

    Note: Entire contents copyright 1971 by F. Mark McKiernan. Only limited, "fair use" excerpts
    reproduced here, pending further web-publication permission from Dr. McKiernan's heirs

     



    [ iii ]





    The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness:
    Sidney Rigdon,  Religious Reformer
    1793-1876



    by

    F. Mark McKiernan









    (   )
    _______________________________________________________
    Coronado Press                                                                 1971



     



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    Copyright 1971
    by F. Mark McKiernan


    Published by
    Coronado Press
    Box 3232
    Lawrence, Kansas 66044


    All Rights Reserved
    ISBN 0-8-309-0241-4




    First printing -- December, 1971
    Second printing -- March, 1972




    Manufactured in the USA



     


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    Note: Entire contents copyright 1971 by F. Mark McKiernan.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.





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    Contents


    009   Acknowledgements

    011   Chapter 1:  The Search, 1793-1826

    025   Chapter 2:  The Advent of Mormonism into the Western Reserve

    041   Chapter 3:  Kirtland, the Headquarters of the Early Mormon Church, 1830-1832

    057   Chapter 4:  Crisis at Kirtland

    081   Chapter 5:  Mormonism on the Defensive: Dar West, 1838-1839

    101   Chapter 6:  Nauvoo, 1839-1842

    115   Chapter 7:  A Stranger Among the Children of God, 1842-1844

    133   Chapter 8:  Lonely Is He Who Understands, 1844-1846

    147   Footnotes

    171   Bibliographical Essay

    181   Index

    191   Appendix



     


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    Note: Entire contents copyright 1971 by F. Mark McKiernan.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 11 ]




    Chapter 1
    The Search: 1793-1826

    SIDNEY RIGDON was a man with a vision, a quest, and a mission. His entire life, from 1793 to 1876, was a constant search for the so-called "fullness of the gospel," which Rigdon believed he was called by God to expound to the world. The restoration of Christ's true religion as revealed in the New Testament became a compulsive, consuming passion, which led Rigdon to follow solely the dictates of his own religious understanding and to scorn all other viewpoints. Rigdon believed that he could find in the New Testament the ordinances of Christ's church, which could be established in the nineteenth century through the direction of God's Holy Spirit in the lives of righteous men. He claimed that God revealed to him that he would become a latter-day John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness, to proclaim the establishment of the kingdom of God and the second coming of Christ.

    Rigdon's efforts to restore Christ's church led him to participate in a variety of religious groups. In 1817 he joined the United Baptists, who were numerous in his native Pennsylvania; by 1821 Rigdon had become a Baptist minister in Ohio's Western Reserve. Alexander Campbell, the founder of the Disciples of Christ, converted Rigdon, and he became an influential and famous Campbellite preacher. In 1830 he withdrew his congregation at Mentor, Ohio, from the Campbellite fellowship because the Disciples of Christ would not implement all of the practices of the New Testament church into their own beliefs; thus, for a few months Rigdon's congregation was not affiliated with any religious denomination. In 1830 he and his congregation embraced the Mormon movement, and Rigdon became one of the most important converts that Mormonism has ever gained. His acceptance of Mormonism gave the sect the prestige which allowed its missionaries to obtain audiences throughout the Western Reserve, and soon the church, through Rigdon's influence, moved its headquarters to Kirtland, Ohio, where rapid growth ensued.
     




    12                                                 Chapter I                                                


    During the years from 1830 to 1844 Mormonism grew from about a hundred believers in the Book of Mormon to a highly organized church with a mature theological system which claimed nearly 25,000 members. Two of the men most responsible for the Church's success were Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism, and Rigdon. Smith claimed to be God's Prophet in the last days, and Rigdon was his counselor, scribe, and mighty spokesman. However, Rigdon was much more to Mormonism than an efficient aide to the Prophet; he was intimately involved in directing every major endeavor of Mormonism during its first decade. Smith and Rigdon blended their energies, abilities, ideas, and dreams for the future to become an exceedingly dynamic and successful leadership team. Rigdon's tremendous contributions came when Mormonism needed them most critically.

    In the early 1840's Mormonism strayed away from what Rigdon considered the essentials of Christ's church; and in 1844, after the death of Joseph Smith, Rigdon was defeated in his attempt to redirect the course of Mormonism. Rigdon then formed a Mormon schismatic group, the Church of Jesus Christ, through which he sought unsuccessfully to re-establish Mormonism in its former purity; after the failure of this religious group he believed that no church on earth represented Christ's New Testament teachings. The last thirty years of Rigdon's life were ones of religious isolation during which he refused to associate with a polygamous Mormonism, yet remained faithful to the concepts of the Mormonism of the 1830's.

    Rigdon was a refraction of the religious tendencies held by millions of early nineteenth-century Americans who were greatly concerned about the fate of their eternal souls and joined one religious denomination after another. The Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Campbellites, and Mormons regularly proselytized each other's congregations. Although Rigdon participated in the common activity of changing churches, he cannot be considered as merely another convert since he was a man of considerable ability and, especially, oratorical power. Rigdon changed the entire course of Mormon history when he persuaded Smith to move the headquarters of the Church from New York, where it was stagnating, to the Western Reserve, where Rigdon's reputation and influence provided the sect with the conditions necessary for rapid growth.

    Some of the reform movements of his time fascinated him. Rigdon espoused the causes of prohibition, anti-tobacco, abolition, and the anti-Masonic movement. He also favored the development of a utopian
     




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    experiment which would be modeled after the common-property community mentioned in the New Testament. Like many other influential reform-minded men, he dabbled in politics and practiced law. However, his basic concern was religious reform, rather than secular reform. In order to declare to the world authoritatively the truth which he had found, Rigdon cultivated the skills of a Biblical scholar and an historian, learned to read Greek and Hebrew, and developed his great talent as a public speaker.

    Rigdon was a dynamic and charismatic leader who always gathered around him a personal following whose loyalty belonged first to him and then to the religious movement he represented. Wherever his religious conscience led him these faithful individuals followed. His quest for the fullness of the gospel compelled him to abandon positions of prestige, power, and financial security. Joseph Smith caught the essence of Rigdon's long and complex quest when he stated, "Truth was his pursuit, and for truth he was prepared to make every sacrifice in his power." [[1 Journal History, III, No. 1, 7-8.]]

    Sidney Rigdon was born on February 19, 1793, on a farm near St. Clair Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; he was the fourth child of William and Nancy Rigdon. [[2 John W. Rigdon, "Lecture on Early Mormon Church," Salt Lake City, 19-6, -- Washington State Historical Society, 21 end2]] William Rigdon was born in Hartford County, Maryland, in 1743, and his ancestors were English and Irish. Nancy Briant Rigdon was born in 1759 in Monmouth County, New Jersey, of Irish and Scotch parents. Both the Briant and Rigdon families had joined the westward movement which came through Pittsburgh, and they were looking for new land and a better life. In 1794 alone, 13,000 settlers stayed in Pittsburgh for a short time and then traveled westward [[3 Richard C. Wade, The Urban Frontier. The Rise of Western Cities, 1790-I830 (Cambridge, 1959), 44. end3]] William Rigdon married Nancy Briant and took her to his farm in the rolling, wooded hills about fifteen miles from Pittsburgh, Allegneny County, where all of William Rigdon's children were raised, was dominated by Pittsburgh, which grew from 1,565 inhabitants at the turn of the nineteenth century to a population of over 8,000 in 1815. [[4 Ibid., 43.]]

    Two of William Rigdon's children were to choose lives similar to his own. Sidney's oldest brother Carvel married and moved to a neighboring farm; Lacy Rigdon married a farmer named Peter Boyer, who lived near her parents. However, Loammi Rigdon was unable to earn a living by farming because some undescribed illness made him unfit to work in the fields. John W. Rigdon, Sidney's son, stated that "it was the rule in the country, that when a boy was too feeble to work on a farm they would send him to school and give him an education." Loammi's
     




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    parents sent him to Transylvania Medical School at Lexington, Kentucky. William Rigdon believed that he could afford higher education for one of his sons if compelled by necessity, but not for more than one. "Sidney Rigdon wanted to go to school and pleaded with his father and mother to let him go with his brother to school but they would not consent to let him go, saying to him, he was able to work on the farm." [[5 Rigdon, "Lecture on Early Mormon Church," 2.]]

    Sidney Rigdon had attended a log schoolhouse near his home, where he had learned to read. A rudimentary education was generally considered sufficient; as late as 1816 less than a quarter of the school-age youth of Pittsburgh were getting any formal education. [[6 Wade, Urban Frontier, 136.]] Rigdon, however, rebelled against his father's authority when he was not allowed to accompany his brother to medical school. Sidney told his parents that "he would have as good an education as his brother got and they could not prevent it," [[7 Rigdon, "Lecture on Early Mormon Church," 3. (Sidney Rigdon's age at the time he wanted to go to medical school at Lexington is unknown; however, he was seventeen when his father died in 1810.) end7]] and he read all the books he could borrow from his neighbors. His particular interests ran to history and the Bible; these two sources of information became the undergirdings of his intellectual life.

    William Rigdon was a stern Baptist farmer who had no tolerance for idleness, and he believed that if a young man had a sound body he should not waste his time reading books. Sidney's parents would not let him have a candle with which to read at night, so he gathered hickory bark which was plentiful around the farm. John Rigdon wrote of his father that "he used to get it (the hickory bark) and at night throw it on the old fireplace and then lay with his face headed towards the fire and read history till near morning unless his parents got up and drove him to bed before that time." [[8 Ibid., 3.]] The study of history and the Bible became one for Sidney Rigdon. The Bible told thousands of years of history of a so-called "chosen people," and Rigdon interpreted the history of the world since New Testament times in terms of Biblical prophecy.

    Rigdon did not share many of the common interests of the other farm youths in his neighborhood. "He was never known to play with the boys; reading books was the greatest pleasure he could get." John Rigdon commented on his father's abilities: "He became a great historian, the best I ever saw. He seemed to have the history of the world on his tongue's end and he got to be a great Biblical scholar as well." In addition to Sidney's constant reading he taught himself English grammar, and "he was very precise in his language." [[9 Ibid., 3.]] Rigdon's knowledge of the Bible and history as well as his command of
     




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    the intricacies of the English language greatly aided his career when he chose to become a minister of the gospel.

    As a young boy Sidney Rigdon was thrown from a horse, and "his feet entangling in a stirrup he was dragged some distance before relieved." His brother Loammi stated that "in this accident he received some concussion to the brain as ever afterward seriously affected his character, and in some respect his conduct." According to Dr. Rigdon, "His mental powers did not seem to be impaired, but the equilibrium of his intellectual exertion seems thereby to have been sadly affected." Loammi claimed that "he still manifested great mental activity and power, but was to an equal degree inclined to run into wild visionary views on almost every question." [[10 Statement by Dr. Loammi Rigdon quoted in "Baptist Witness," March 1, 1875. end10]]

    Sidney Rigdon suffered temporary insanity on two occasions after his fall from the horse. In 1832 Rigdon lost consciousness when a mob dragged him by his heels over frozen ground, and for several days his conversations made little sense. In 1838, when abused by another mob, Rigdon developed a high fever and prolonged fits of irrational laughter. [[11 Daryl Chase, "Sidney Rigdon -- Early Mormon" (MA thesis, University of Chicago, 1931), 79-81, and 116-118. (Chase claims that Rigdon received permanent brain damage from his childhood fall, causing recurring temporary fits of insanity in 1832 and 1838. Ivan J. Barrett in "More Remarkable Stories of How We Got the Doctrine and Covenants" (Provo, n. d.), passim, expands on Chase's viewpoints in order to exclude Rigdon from having made any meaningful contributions to Mormonism.]] There has been no evidence of psyche-motor damage such as sight, speech, or coordination defects which should have accompanied permanent brain damage and would have caused recurring fits of insanity. Sidney Rigdon could have suffered brain concussions from blows to the head; these injuries could have produced his symptoms. Thus there probably was no relationship between Rigdon's fall and his two periods of insanity in later years. [[12 Interviews with Dr. Lynn Ourth, Research Professor of Neurology, University of West Virginia at Morgantown, on October 5, 1967, and June 9, 1968. end12]] There is no evidence that these isolated periods of insanity ever had any effect on his personality.

    In 1817 Rigdon professed to have had a conversion experience. The United Baptists whose meetings he had attended regarded a conversion as a prerequisite for church membership, and these Baptists considered the conversion of a sinner a miracle of God. [[13 William Baxter, "The Life of Elder Waiter Scott" (Cincinnati, 1874), 91.]] These religious experiences "were as various as the temperaments of different individuals." [[14 Ibid., 20.]] The exact nature of Rigdon's conversion has not been recorded, but he was able to convince Peter Creek Church's pastor, David Phillips, and his congregation, that the experience was genuine.

    Sidney Rigdon supported his mother on the family farm after the death of William Rigdon in 1810. The Reverend Phillips encouraged Sidney to become a Baptist minister; thus in 1818 Nancy Rigdon sold the family farm and went to live with her daughter, Lacy Boyer. At twenty-six Sidney set out to find a new life for himself. He spent the winter of 1818-1819 with the Reverend Andrew Clark of Beaver
     




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    County, which bordered Allegheny County to the west. Rigdon read the Bible with Clark and received a license to preach to his Baptist congregation. There were two types of Baptist preachers on the frontier, the licensed and the ordained. A licensed preacher was often a young man studying under the tutelage of an ordained minister who was also the pastor of a congregation [[15 William W. Sweet, "Religion on the American Frontier: The Baptists, 1783-1830" (Chicago, 1931), 37-38.]] This was the relationship between Rigdon and Andrew Clark.

    Rigdon had joined the Baptists, who were a very popular religious denomination in western settlements of the United States, especially after the turn of the nineteenth century. They recognized the congregational form of church government and tolerated no authority stronger than a loosely-knit association of congregations. Like many Americans, the Baptists demanded the separation of church and state. They regarded conversion as a prerequisite to membership, and most congregations engaged in revival meetings to seek converts. The Baptists believed that God held each person individually responsible for his own sins. But the thing which most readily identified them was that they claimed immersion was the only true form of baptism. [[16 Ibid., 43.]] Like most religious groups the Baptists believed that they held a monopoly on salvation and that the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, and later the Campbellites and the Mormons were spoilers and sheep-stealers. The major cause of division among the Baptists concerned how much Calvinism or revivalism should be tolerated among the various associations or congregations.

    The typical frontier Baptist preacher came from the ranks of the people among whom he lived and to whom he preached. The Methodists developed circuit-rider preachers who covered large territories, but the Baptists developed farmer-preachers who lived among their congregations. Sometimes they were full-time preachers, sometimes farmers who preached only on Sundays [[17 Ibid., 36.]]

    Sidney Rigdon soon acquired a reputation as a powerful preacher and an effective minister. He was "an orator of no inconsiderable abilities," and according to a contemporary, "his personal influence with an audience was very great." He was "full medium height, rotund of form, or countenance, while speaking, open and winning, with a little cast of melancholy." His actions were graceful, "his language copious, fluent in utterance, with articulation clear and musical." [[18 Amos S. Hayden, "Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio: With Biographic Sketches of the Principal Agents in Their Religious Movement" (Cincinnati, 1876), 103-104. end18]] He was five feet, nine-and-a-half inches in height and weighed about 215 pounds when he was in good health. [[19 J. M. Kennedy, "Early Days of Mormonism: Palmyra, Kirtland, and Nauvoo" (New York, 1888), 62. end19]] His hair and beard framed a fine-featured face, which mirrored his emotions. The only
     




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    picture of Sidney Rigdon which has been preserved shows a stern expression on a face encircled by bushy hair and a beard. [[20 The Latter-Day Saint Historian's Library-Archives at Salt Lake City has a file marked "Pictures of Sidney Rigdon," which contains numerous copies of varying sizes of Rigdon's only picture, taken when he was nearly eighty. end20]] He had a high forehead, craggy brews with deep-set piercing eyes, high cheeks, a long, slender nose, and a firm mouth. His countenance was both handsome and striking. Rigdon's personal manner and friendliness won him many lasting friendships as well as enchanted crowds. He loved to meet the members of a congregation, shake their hands, and tell them his personal testimony. An excellent conversationalist, Rigdon took a genuine interest in the lives of the people he met. He believed it was his mission to urge all to repent and accept the gospel which he preached. He looked, acted, and, above all, sounded like a religious leader.

    In May, 1819, Sidney Rigdon left the Reverend Andrew Clark's home in order to work with Adamson Bentley, the popular Baptist minister of Warren, Ohio, which was about fourteen miles northwest of Youngstown. The three years during which Rigdon remained in the Bentley home brought about a great change in his life. During this time he became an ordained Baptist minister, which enabled him, if he wished, to be pastor of his own congregation. It was through Adamson Bentley that he met Miss Phebe Brooks, who was Mrs. Bentley's sister, and on June 12, 1820, Rigdon and Miss Brooks were married. Unfortunately, very little has been recorded about Phebe Rigdon, but she apparently loved her husband deeply and was willing to sacrifice her personal comfort and often her security to allow him to search for his own brand of truth. [[21 Chase, "Sidney Rigdon," 59.]] She seemingly became as committed to the various religious movements as was her companion. [[22 "Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," September 14, 1835. end22]] They lived together in harmony, regardless of the hardships they endured, until she died in 1886. According to the writings of John W. Rigdon, who should have known, Sidney and Phebe Rigdon had a family of twelve children. [[23 Rigdon, "Lecture on Early Mormon Church," 1.]] However, records have been found for only ten of them. [[24 "Journal History," August 21, 1842.]] Rigdon was often unable to support his large family adequately because, although he loved them deeply, his primary commitment was to the search for religious truth. He was much more concerned about the plight of their souls than about the source of their next meal or the physical conditions under which they must live.

    From Adamson Bentley Sidney Rigdon received a greater understanding of the functions and responsibilities of a religious leader. They started preaching at Warren, Ohio, which was the county seat of Trumbull County, one of the political, economic, and religious centers of the Western Reserve. [[25 Hayden, "Early History of the Disciples," 93. end25]] The north-eastern section of the state of Ohio, which was comprised of the counties of Ashtabula, Geauga,
     




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    Cuyahoga, Lorain, Trumbull, Portage, and Medina, was known as the Western Reserve [[26 Max Parkin, "The Nature and Cause of Internal and External Conflict in the Mormons in Ohio between 1830-1838" (MA thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966), 27. end26]] This tract of land was retained by Connecticut when it renounced its claims to the rest of its western lands granted by its colonial charter. Bentley and Rigdon had chosen a fertile area in which to cry repentance because the land was filled with sinners. Robert Boyd, another missionary to the Western Reserve, claimed that although many of the people came from New England where there was a sufficiency of religious training, once removed from that environment they behaved "like freed prisoners." While in New England, "many of them walked in the courts of God's house," but upon their arrival in the West, "they threw off the shackles of conformity that had previously disciplined their actions." [[27 Robert Boyd, "Personal Memoirs. Together with a Discussion upon the Hardships and Sufferings of Itinerant Life" (Cincinnati, 1868), 184-185. end27]] The Baptist ministers believed that they had the dual function of converting the sinners and continually purging those transgressors who were already members. Each Baptist congregation generally held a business meeting once a month, and the minister usually acted as moderator. The discipline of members often was a major topic at these meetings and included congregational action against such transgressions as drinking, fighting, gossip, lying, illicit sexual relations, stealing, gambling, and horse racing [[28 Sweet, "Religion on the American Frontier: The Baptists," 48-49. end28]]

    Adamson Bentley was one of the founders of the Mahoning Baptist Association. Baptists on the frontier often organized several congregations into associations in order to protect their groups against heresy, to devise better ways to spread the gospel, and to provide fellowship among the ministers. The association had little official authority over its member churches or individual members, but constituted an advisory council. The Mahoning Baptist Association embraced churches in Columbia, Trumbull, Portage and Mahoning Counties, which were clustered in east-central Ohio [[29 Burke A. Hindale, "A History of the Disciples in Hiram, Portage Counties, Ohio" (Cleveland, 1876), 9-10. end29]] Both Bentley and Rigdon were active in the Mahoning Association; Rigdon enjoyed a reputation among his fellow ministers as a great orator of the Association, and Bentley was elected three times as moderator, the highest office in the Association. [[30 "Minutes of the Mahoning Baptist Association" on August 31, 1825, August 25, 1826, and August 23, 1927, quoted in Mary A. M. Smith, "A History of the Mahoning Baptist Association" (MA thesis, University of West Virginia, 1943), Appendix, 28.]]

    By 1821 Rigdon was an ordained Baptist minister who attracted large, attentive crowds wherever he preached. However, he had not yet begun to develop a distinctive theology of his own. Like most men, he had borrowed with few alterations the religious beliefs of the men under whom he had studied. The Reverends Phillips, Clark, and Bentley were United Baptists who professed the so-called "five essential principles" of their faith; these were baptism by immersion, separation
     




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    of church and state, conversion experience, individual responsibility for sins, and congregational church government.

    Rigdon's continual search for more religious truth compelled him to compare other religious beliefs with his own. His first contact with religious doctrines outside the Baptist fold was with those held by the Shakers whom he met in the Western Reserve. The Shakers were founded in the 1770's by Mother Ann Lee, who claimed to be the female incarnation of God, as Christ was the male incarnation. [[31 Edward D. Andrews, "The People Called Shakers. A Search for the Perfect Society" (New York, 1953), 97. end31]] The Shakers formed common property communities which withdrew from the affairs of the world, practiced celibacy, and waited for eternal judgment. Rigdon was fascinated by some of their beliefs because they enjoyed visions and healings, professed revelations from God, spoke in tongues, and lived in a type of utopian community [[32 Chase, "Sidney Rigdon," 12.]] These Shaker beliefs had been part of Christ's New Testament Church. The Shakers accepted other beliefs which Rigdon rejected, however, such as celibacy and the dual sexuality of God. [[33 Andrews, "People Called Shakers," 158-159. end33]] Rigdon's interest in their doctrines and communistic communities continued for over a decade. [[34 Doctrine and Covenants (Kirtland, 1835), sec. 65:1. (Sidney Rigdon went on a mission to the Shakers in March, 1831, for the Mormons.) end34]]

    In the spring of 1821 Rigdon and Bentley read a pamphlet by Alexander Campbell and became determined to ask him about his beliefs. For almost a decade after that time the careers of Bentley and Rigdon were linked with Alexander Campbell. From 1813 to 1830 Campbell and his followers were nominally Baptist but in the latter year formed the Disciples of Christ Church. Alexander Campbell was born on September 12, 1788, in County Antrim, Ireland, near Ballymena, where his father was a Presbyterian minister. [[35 Alexander Campbell, "Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Embracing a View of the Origin, Progress and Principles of the Religious Reformation Which He Advocated," Robert Richardson, ed. (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1868), I, 19. end35]] Young Campbell was educated at Glasgow University, and in 1809 joined his father in Pennsylvania where the elder Campbell had come two years earlier [[36 Walter Wilson Jennings, "Origin and Early History of the Disciples of Christ with Special Reference to the Period Between 1809 and 1835" (Urbana, 1918), 110.]]

    Alexander Campbell, whose rugged facial features appeared to have been chiseled from stone, became a powerful preacher in Washington County, Pennsylvania, on the western border of the state. The Campbells claimed that at the center of their religious beliefs was the idea that "where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." [[37 Campbell, "Memoirs," I, 236.]] This affirmation in the literal meaning of the Scriptures caused Campbell to reject first the doctrine of infant baptism and then the Presbyterian Church [[38 Ibid., I, 238.] Campbell also rejected the necessity of ordained ministers, denied the importance of creeds, and believed that each congregation should be an independent church organization. [[39 Jennings, "Origin and Early History of the Disciples," 127-128.]] A group of Campbell's followers formed themselves into what they called the Brush Run Church. From 1811 to
     




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    1813 the Brush Run congregation was an independent denomination whose members had withdrawn from the Presbyterians. The Pittsburgh Baptist Association had rejected their application for membership.

    In 1813 the Redstone Baptist Association accepted the Brush Run Church because Campbell had accepted baptism by immersion as the only scripturally justified form. [[40 Sweet, "Religion on the American Frontier: The Baptists," 70. end40]] The name "Redstone" supposedly came from an old Indian fort on the Monongahela River, and the association included the Baptist churches along the Monongahela west of Washington, Pennsylvania, and in the valleys at the western base of the Allegheny Mountains. [[41 Campbell, "Memoirs," I, 436.]] In 1820 the Pennsylvania Baptists were greatly concerned about the Reverend John Walker, who was converting many Baptists to Presbyterianism. Walker was a former Baptist, and the members of the Redstone Baptist Association chose Alexander Campbell, who was an able debater and intimately familiar with both religions, to defend the Baptist cause. Rigdon and Bentley had become interested in Campbell's ideas when they read the published copy of this debate.

    The debate between Walker and Campbell took place on June 19, 1820, at Mt. Pleasant, Ohio, about five miles northwest of Wheeling, (West) Virginia. The ordinance of baptism and its mode was the topic of the debate. Campbell denied the validity of infant baptism and infant sprinkling because they were not found in the New Testament. "If you demand a law for these practices taken from the Scriptures, we cannot find one there, but we must answer that it is tradition that has established them, custom that has authorized them and faith that has made them to be observed." [[42 Ibid., II, 25.]] In the debate Campbell used his principal idea that if an ordinance did not originate in the New Testament it could not be considered essential to salvation. [[43 Ibid., II, 28.]] As a result of the debate the Reverend Walker ceased to be a threat to the Baptists, but Campbell became a definite danger to certain Baptists because of his fame.

    There were Baptists who never had extended to Campbell the hand of fellowship because "they regarded him as a religious innovator and adventurer without responsibility or conscience, who had no other purpose than to build up a new sect upon the ruins of the Baptist denomination." [[44 Errett Gates, "Early Relation and Separation of Baptists and Disciples" (Chicago, 1904), 51. end44]] The principal differences between Campbell and the Baptists were over baptism, the Lord's Supper, dispensations, ordination, and conversion. Campbell insisted on baptism for the remission of sins upon a confession of faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Baptists always insisted upon an examination of a
     




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    conversion experience before baptism. The Brush Run Church celebrated the Lord's Supper every Sunday, whereas the other congregations of the Redstone Baptist Association held it only monthly or quarterly. [[45 Ibid., 21-22.]] While Campbell held to the intolerable heresy that Christians were not bound by the Old Testament but only by the New Testament, the Redstone Association regarded all parts of the Bible as equally authoritative and binding. Campbell did not consider the ordination of ministers essential, as did the Baptists, and he exercised the ministerial functions for more than a year before he became an ordained Baptist minister. [[46 Ibid., 23-25.]] Bentley and Rigdon had heard the rumor that the Redstone Association might take action against Campbell, so they decided to see for themselves what type of man this great debater was.

    In the summer of 1821 Rigdon and Bentley visited Campbell at his home. They discussed the Bible with Campbell, who was delighted to entertain two interested and potentially sympathetic Baptist ministers.

    "Beginning with the baptism of which John preached, we went back to Adam and forward to the final judgment. The dispensation -- Adamic, Abrahamic, Jewish, and Christian -- passed and repassed before us. Mount Sinai in Arabia, Mount Zion, Mount Tabor, the Red Sea and the Jordan, the Passovers and the Pentecosts, the Law and the Gospel, but especially the ancient order of things and the modern, occasionally engaged our attention." [[47 Campbell, "Memoirs," II, 44-45.]]

    Alexander Campbell explained that with the aid of his father and his followers he was trying to establish the so-called "ancient order of things" or the restoration of Christ's church as it was in New Testament times. Campbell informed Rigdon and Bentley that he believed that a doctrine had to have its origin in the New Testament in order to be essential to salvation; this difference in authority between the Old and New Testaments was a favorable new idea to Rigdon and Bentley.

    The conversation among Rigdon, Bentley, and Campbell was lengthy. Campbell commented, "After tea in the evening, we commenced and prolonged our discourse till the next morning." Rigdon's conversations with Campbell marked a turning point in his life. Campbell said that "on parting the next day, Sidney Rigdon, with all apparent candor, said, if he had within the last year taught and promulgated from the pulpit one error, he had a thousand." Campbell happily accepted both Rigdon and Bentley as converts to his cause of
     




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    reformation, but Campbell was worried about Rigdon's compulsive nature and stated, "Fearing they might undo their influence with the people, I felt constrained to restrain rather than to urge them on in the word." [[48 Ibid., II, 44-45]] Rigdon adopted Campbell's goal of the restoration of the "ancient order of things" as his own.

    Rigdon and Bentley invited Campbell to visit the annual minister's meetings held by the Mahoning Baptist Association, which was extremely fortunate for Campbell because from 1823, when he was driven from the Redstone Association, until 1830, he became active in the Mahoning Association. However, in 1821 Campbell still had considerable influence in certain congregations in the Redstone Association. Campbell visited the Baptist church at Pittsburgh, which belonged to the Redstone Association and found this congregation to be a faction-ridden group of about a hundred members. Campbell, who was impressed with Rigdon's ability and his support, induced him to accept a position as pastor at Pittsburgh. [[49 Jennings, 'Origin and Early History of the Disciples," 157.]] Bentley believed that it was a great opportunity both for the spreading of the gospel and for Rigdon's personal advancement [[50 Rigdon, "Lecture on the Early Mormon Church," 5.]]

    Sidney Rigdon had considerable success at Pittsburgh and his congregation soon became one of the most respected churches in the city [[51 John Jaques, "The Life and Labors of Sidney Rigdon," Improvement Era, III (1899-1900), 98. end51]] Rigdon possessed a "great fluency and a lively fancy which gave him great popularity as an orator." [[52 Campbell, "Memoirs," II, 47-48.]] Alexander Campbell knew that the opponents of his reformation were going to bring heresy charges against him at their next association meeting to be held in 1823. Campbell asked his Brush Run Baptist Church for letters of honorable dismissal from that congregation for himself and his followers, and the congregation granted his request. The reformers from the Brush Run congregation established a Baptist church at Wellsburg, in southwestern Pennsylvania, which applied for membership in the Mahoning Association. It was due to Bentley's influence that Campbell's Wellsburg Church was accepted as a member of the Mahoning Association. Because of Campbell's rejection of the Old Testament and his own literal interpretation of the New Testament, the Mahoning Association was probably the only Baptist association liberal enough to accept the Wellsburg congregation. [[53 Chase, "Sidney Rigdon," 20.]] During the 1820's Campbell wanted desperately to remain within the confines of the Baptist movement until his reformation was strong enough to survive unassisted. The Mahoning Baptist Association became the nucleus from which the Disciples of Christ Church was formed in 1830.

    Some of the ministers in the Redstone Association regarded Rigdon
     




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    as Campbell's outspoken disciple, and they were determined to drive him out of Pittsburgh. While Rigdon's so-called "peculiar style of preaching" had filled the church, certain influential members of the congregation saw in it cause for alarm [[54 Ibid., 14.]] When the Redstone Association met in 1824 the ministers who comprised it brought charges against Rigdon for not being sound in the faith. The ministers who tried him "denied him the liberty of speaking in self defense." [[55 Sworn statement by Carvel Rigdon and Peter Boyer dated January 27, 1843, quoted in Chase, "Sidney Rigdon," 14.]] Rigdon resigned his pastorate and "declared a non-fellowship with them." [[56 Ibid., 14.]]

    At the time of Rigdon's separation from his pastorate in Pittsburgh he had a wife and three daughters to support. During the years from 1824 to 1826 he worked in Pittsburgh as a journeyman tanner for his wife's brother; this was a scant living when compared to his pastorate, but it provided the necessities of life. [[57 Ibid., 16.]] He would not leave Pittsburgh but continued to stay and proclaim Campbell's ideas about the restoration of "the ancient order of things." Rigdon obtained permission to preach in the courthouse on Sundays, [[58 Ibid., 16.]] and his meetings were attended by a portion of his former Pittsburgh Baptist congregation who followed him into religious exile. In 1826 Rigdon left Pennsylvania to return to the Western Reserve to accept a pastorate at Mentor, Ohio, which was in the Mahoning Baptist Association. By this time he had become a confirmed minister of the gospel, who felt compelled to convert souls to the restoration. No other occupation or profession could satisfy the longing within his own being. Rigdon echoed the plight of Apostle Paul, whom he so often sought to copy: "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." [[59 First Corinthians 1:16]]

     




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    Note: Entire contents copyright 1971 by F. Mark McKiernan.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


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    Chapter 2
    The Advent of Mormonism into the Western Reserve

    IN 1826 SIDNEY RIGDON received an invitation to preach the funeral sermon of the Reverend Warner Goodall, Baptist minister of Mentor, Ohio, a small community near Cleveland. [[l Amos S. Hayden, "Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio: With Biographical Sketches of the Principal Agents in Their Religious Movement" (Cincinnati, 1876), 187. end1]] The congregation was so impressed with Rigdon's eloquence, personality, and reputation that it invited him to become their pastor. [[2 J. M. Kennedy, "Early Days of Mormonism: Palmyra, Kirtland, and Nauvoo (New York, 1888), 66. end2]] He happily accepted the offer because in 1824 the officials of the Redstone Baptist Association had forced him to resign his position as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh. However, the Mentor congregation belonged to the more liberal Mahoning Baptist Association in which his friend, Alexander Campbell, and his brother-in-law, Adamson Bentley, were influential ministers.

    Rigdon had been a member of the Mahoning Baptist Association from 1820 to 1822; thus he was returning to Baptist Congregations which appreciated both his preaching ability and his support of Campbell's doctrines. The Mahoning Association sheltered Campbell's reformers until it was dissolved in 1830, when most of the members joined the newly-formed Disciples of Christ Church. [[3 Daryl Chase, "Sidney Rigdon - Early Mormon" (MA thesis, University of Chicago, 1931), 19. end3]] At this time, however, Rigdon left the Campbellites and embraced the Mormons, a new sect which had sent missionaries into the Western Reserve. Rigdon's ability and reputation enabled Mormonism to grow rapidly in the areas surrounding Mentor.

    In 1826 Sidney Rigdon had added his congregation at Mentor to the churches which followed the teaching of Alexander Campbell. The previous year there had been only three congregations which accepted Campbell's idea of the restoration of the "ancient order of things"; these were in Brush Run, Wellsburg, and Pittsburgh. [[4 Ibid., 22.]] In 1824 Rigdon had established a reformed Baptist church at Pittsburgh with the aid of a young school teacher named Waiter Scott. Rigdon, Campbell, and Scott differed in personality and ability, but were united in their desire to restore Christ's New Testament church in the nineteenth century.

     




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    Campbell was tall, well-built, and athletic, but his features were irregular and his nose slanted to the right. Scott was of medium height with a dark complexion, deep dark eyes, and a fine-featured face with a slim nose. [[5 Walter Wilson Jennings, Origin and Early History of the Disciples of Christ with Special Reference to the Period Between 1809 and 1835 (Urbana, 1918). end5]]

    Campbell's general disposition was lively and cheerful, while Scott was meditative with a touch of melancholy [[6 Jennings, "Origin and Early History of the Disciples," 101-102.]] Rigdon "was always either in the bottom of the cellar or up in the garret window", [[7 "Journal History," September 8, 1844.]] he was usually ecstatically enthusiastic about something or totally depressed with the situation in which he found himself. Campbell was fearless, firm, and self-reliant, while Scott was timid and yielding. Rigdon, once he chose a certain course of action, stood behind his convictions at all costs [[8 Chase, "Sidney Rigdon," 15.]] Campbell was calm, persevering, and prudent, while both Rigdon and Scott were excitable and impetuous. Campbell was usually logical but often a dull public speaker, while Scott's sermons were erratic in quality. The ability to persuade an audience to accept his point of view was Rigdon's greatest talent; all his associates, including Campbell, recognized his influence as an orator [[9 David E. Harrell, Jr., Quest for a Christian America: A Social History of the Disciples of Christ (Nashville, 1966), 82.]] Campbell was a successful man of practical affairs; he had been a farmer, a business man, and an editor who was also a skillful organizer and executive. [[10 Jennings, "Origin and Early History of the Disciples," 102. end10]] Both Rigdon and Scott were somewhat deficient in executive power and lacked business organizing ability. [[11 Rigdon's economic activities in Kirtland in 1837, Nauvoo in 1842, and Pennsylvania in 1846 all ended in failure.]] Campbell was predominantly a teacher in his approach to his followers, but Scott was an evangelist and at times a magnetic orator. [[12 Jennings, Origin and Early History of the Disciples, 102. end12] Rigdon combined the best qualities of both evangelist and teacher with a dramatic flair which made him one of the most effective speakers on the frontier [[13 Missouri Intelligencer and the Boon's Lick Advertiser, April 13, 1833.]]

    Rigdon's reputation as a reform Baptist preacher spread throughout the Western Reserve as a result of the revival meetings he held in Mentor and neighboring communities. In 1827 he held a series of preaching services at New Lisbon and Mantua, Ohio, at which he declared the gospel of the restoration [[14 History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (4 vols., Independence, 1951), I, 150. end14]] He was so successful in March, 1828, that Amos S. Hayden, the Campbellite historian who was an associate of Rigdon, described his efforts as "the great religious awakening in Mentor." [[15 Hayden, Early History of the Disciples, 204.]] In the following year Rigdon held revivals in Kirtland, Ferry, and Pleasant Hill, as well as another at Mentor. [[16 History of the Reorganized Church, I, 150-151. end16]]

    By 1830 Sidney Rigdon had developed a personal theology which, although similar to the teachings of Alexander Campbell in many respects, rejected some of his ideas. Rigdon agreed with Campbell in the rejection of religious creeds, although for a different reason. According to Campbell, a creed was an "ecclesiastical document dictated by a

     



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    (under construction) synod or council as a term of communion, by which persons or opinions are to be tested, approbated or reprobated." [[l7 "Campbell-Rice Debates" (Lexington, 1844), 762.]] Campbell objected to creeds because he thought they caused schism and unnecessary contention among church members. [[l8 Ibid., 383-384. Campbell had rejected the Westminster Confession of the Presbyterians for this reason. end18]] Rigdon rejected creeds because he considered them unscriptural. Both Rigdon and Campbell accepted baptism by immersion as the Biblical form by which Christ was baptized and which all men should follow. Rigdon disagreed" with Campbell over whether the so-called "manifestations of Spiritual Gifts" and miracles had a place in the restoration. The gifts of the spirit were the speaking and interpretation of foreign tongues, prophecy, visions, spiritual dreams, and the discernment of evil spirits. [[l9 First Corinthians 12a.]] Campbell declared that the miraculous work of the Holy Ghost was "confined to the apostolic age, and to only a portion of the saints who lived in that age." [[20 Alexander Campbell is quoted in Joseph W. White, "The Influence of Sidney Rigdon Upon the Theology of Mormonism" (MA thesis, University of Southern California, 1947), 127. end20]] Rigdon, however, sought "to convince influential persons that, along with the primitive gospel, supernatural gifts and miracles ought to be restored." [[21 Alexander Campbell, "Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Embracing a view of the Origin, Progress, and Principles of the Religious Reformation Which He Advocated," Robert Richardson, ed. (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1868), II, 346. end21]] Rigdon wanted to incorporate into Campbell's restoration every belief or practice which was a part of the New Testament church.

    Rigdon differed from Campbell on the issue of a communal society and the doctrine of the millennium. The former wanted to establish a community in which all property was held in common, as he believed was the practice of the early Jerusalem church: "And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." [[22 Acts of the Apostles, 2:44-45.]] Campbell wanted no economic experiments which involved communal life within his religious sect. Despite the name "Millennial Harbinger" for the Disciples' periodical, Campbell claimed that he was not committed to any of the theories of his day on the nature and coming of the millennium [[23 White, "The Influence of Sidney Rigdon," 129. end23]] However, the millennium, which included the second-coming of Christ, the destruction of the world by fire, eternal judgment, and the thousand-year reign of the righteous with Christ on earth, became Rigdon's most fundamental belief. He seized upon the doctrine and heralded it everywhere. [[24 Hayden, "Early History of the Disciples," 186.]]

    Rigdon's and Campbell's differences in theology caused friction between them which grew steadily more abrasive until a complete break occurred in 1830. At the annual ministers' meeting of the Mahoning Baptist Association, Rigdon "introduced an argument to show that our pretensions to follow the apostles in all their New Testament teachings, required a community of goods; that as they established their order in the model church at Jerusalem, we were bound to imitate their


     




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    (under construction) example." [[25 Ibid., 298-299.]] Because of Rigdon's prestige and his persuasive ability, Campbell, who dominated the Association, was most concerned with the effect such a message might have among his followers. He opposed Rigdon's community system because he believed it would result in ruin and confusion when practiced by large multitudes of converts. [[26. Ibid., 298.]] He believed individuals would join such an experiment to avoid the responsibilities of making their own living.

    When Rigdon would not change his mind and rescind his proposal, "there occurred at this meeting a passage at arms between Mr. Campbell and Mr. Rigdon." Campbell, who had often stated that his restoration represented the New Testament church, was forced to argue that Rigdon's proposal did not represent the practices of the primitive church at Jerusalem. He declared that the apostasy of Ananias and Sappria, who were struck dead for lying to the apostles, put an end to the common economic system of the Jerusalem church. He also claimed that "sundry passages in Corinthians and elsewhere, calling for contributions for benevolent object shows that no such system prevailed in the primitive churches." [[27. Ibid., 299.]]

    Campbell's strength in the Mahoning Baptist Association lay not in the arguments he gave but in the fact that he commanded the support of the members. Campbell regarded Rigdon's proposal for an experimental economic community as a clear challenge to his leadership in the reform movement, and he crushed it with a bitter, scathing attack on Rigdon. [[28 Harrell, "Quest for a Christian America," 82. end28]] The latter left the Association meeting "chafed and chagrined, and never met with the Disciples in a general meeting afterward." [[29 Hayden, "Early History of the Disciples," 299.]] On his way home he commented in disgust, "I have done as much in this reformation as Campbell or Scott, and yet they get all the honor." [[30 Ibid., 299.]] Disciples of Christ historians have credited Scott with Rigdon's accomplishments in the early reformation and have generally omitted Rigdon from their history. [[31. See for example, Jennings, "Origin and Early History of the Disciples," 101-102. Harrell, "Quest for a Christian America," mentions Rigdon briefly three times within a negative context: 36, 82-83. Hayden, "Early History of the Disciples," has a negative treatment of Rigdon. However, Hayden gives Rigdon credit for playing an important part in the early reformation: see for example pages 35, 56, 47, 92, 191, 196, 204, 238-240, 298-299, 192. end31]] Some of Rigdon's former friends in the Mahoning Association became his bitter enemies. Adamson Bentley frequently denounced him in public and succeeded in influencing Mrs. Rigdon's father to exclude her from a share in the family estate. [[32 "Messenger and Advocate," June, 1836.]]


    After the autumn of 1830 Campbell became an aggressive persecutor of Rigdon and his religious beliefs [[33 Max H. Parkin, "The Nature and Cause of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio Between 1830 and 1838" (MB thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966), see 226-248 passim, entitled "The Campbellite Persecution." end33]] The latter retaliated by detaching from Campbell's movement all the members he could take with him. The first large group to leave Campbell was Rigdon's congregation at Mentor, Ohio. A portion of this church had accepted Rigdon's ideas for a common stock community, but other members of

     



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    the congregation did not join because they did not wish to risk their businesses and farms. The two leaders who implemented Rigdon's concept of the New Testament economic community were Isaac Morley and Lyman Wight. Morley was a farmer who lived at Kirtland, Ohio, about two miles from Mentor on the east branch of the Chagrin River in Geauga County. Morley, who accepted the idea of a literal restoration of the primitive Christian church, and who had seen the Shaker communities in the Western Reserve, offered his farm to support Rigdon's proposed community. Lyman Wight was a dynamic gospel preacher whom Rigdon had converted in 1829 [[34 "History of the Reorganized Church," I, 151-152.]] a rugged and fearless man who was as willing to smite the wicked as to proclaim the gospel. Morley possessed a more fatherly and kindly personality. [[35 James H. Hunt, "A History of the Mormon War: With a Prefix, Embracing the Rise, Progress, and Peculiar Tenets of Mormon Doctrine with an Examination of the Book of Mormon also, the Trial of the Prophet Joe Smith, and his Brethren for High Treason, Murder, &c., with the Motions of the Counsel and Decisions of the Court in Each Case: Together with an Account of the Attempted Assassination of Ex-Governor Boggs" (St. Louis, 1844), 184-185. end35]]

    In February, 1830, Rigdon persuaded Lyman Wight to move in with Morley on his farm; they established a covenant with each other denouncing private property and declaring that all of their goods would be shared in common. By October, 1830, the Morley "family," as the experiment was called, numbered more than 100 individuals [[36 "History of Geauga and Lake Counties" (Philadelphia, 1878), 46. end36]] Wight had converted five families at Mayfield about seven miles up the Chagrin River; each of these families owned good farms and mills, so a second community was established at Mayfield [[37 Lyman Wight, "Personal Sketch of Lyman Wight," enclosed with a letter written to Wilford Woodruff, dated at Mountain Valley, Texas, August 24, 1854, located in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Historian's office in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was cited in Parkin, "The Nature and Cause of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio," 36. end37]] Wight was the pastor of the Mayfield Community and Morley led the "family" at Kirtland. Both groups took spiritual direction from Rigdon. Although he never became a member of either community group, Rigdon visited them frequently and was concerned with their economic and spiritual welfare. The reason he never joined Morley's "family" has not been recorded, but possibly it was to keep harmony among the portion of his Mentor congregation which was not committed to the communal goal.

    In the fall of 1830 Rigdon was faced with the important question of whether his congregation should become affiliated with a religious denomination or remain independent, and he spent many sleepless nights over the problem of God's will for his congregation. [[38 Fredric G. Mather, "The Early Days of Mormonism," Lippincotts Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, XXVI (August, 1880), 206-207. end38]] At this time Rigdon was visited by four young men -- Parley Parker Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, and Ziba Peterson -- who represented a newly-formed religious sect, commonly called Mormons after their belief in the Book of Mormon. Pratt was a close friend of Sidney Rigdon; in 1829, while preaching about thirty miles west of Cleveland, Rigdon had converted Pratt, who was a solidly-built young man of tremendous energy. Pratt soon became a missionary for the reformed Baptists, and while preaching his way through western New York, came

     




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    in contact with the Mormons. The Book of Mormon contained answers for many of the problems which had plagued him. [[39 Parley P. Pratt, "The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts in Prose and Verse from his Miscellaneous Writings" (New York, 1876), 32. Pratt believed that in Campbell's teachings, "Still one great link was wanting to complete the chain of the ancient order of things; that was, the authority to minister in holy things -- the apostleship, the power which would accompany the form." When Pratt discovered that the Book of Mormon commissioned men to preach, baptize, and ordain to the ministry, he claimed that he had found the religious authority which was absent in his former religion. end39]] With the zeal of a convert who believed he had just found Christ's true gospel, Pratt came to Mentor to share the good news with Sidney Rigdon.

    Pratt persuaded his companions to travel an extra two hundred miles on their way to Independence, Missouri, in order to visit Rigdon. Their sect's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., who called himself a prophet, had sent these missionaries to Independence, which was the edge of western settlement of the United States, to take the gospel of the Book of Mormon to the Indians [[40 The first great mission of the Mormon church was Joseph Smith's solution to a serious internal problem in his sect. Hiram Page found a "peep-stone" through which he also gave revelations and Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer believed him. Page, who had been previously just another convert to Mormonism, faced Smith with the problem of having another so-called Prophet within his infant religious movement. This mission to the borders of civilization to convert the Indians dwarfed the significance of the Page controversy; all differences in opinion were soon dropped in Smith's favor over the excitement of converting the heathen descendants of the Book of Mormon. The missionaries failed in their purpose to baptize the Indians because of resistance on the part of Protestant ministers who regarded themselves as protectors of the Indians' souls, but their mission was an unexpected success in Ohio. end40]] The Mormons called the Indians Lamanites and claimed that the Book of Mormon contained the history of God's dealing with the forefathers of the Indians on the American continent before the voyages of Columbus. Pratt and his companions brought to Rigdon and his congregation the claims of a latter-day prophet, a new religion, and a new scripture. "They professed to be special messengers of the Living God, sent to preach the Gospel in its purity, as it was anciently preached by the Apostles." [[41 John Corrill, "Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (Commonly Called Mormons) Including an Account of their Doctrine and the Discipline with the Reasons of the Author for Leaving the Church" (St. Louis, 1839), 7. end41]] This claim greatly excited Rigdon, as he had constantly tried and failed to establish the "ancient order of things" in Alexander Campbell's religious movement. However, Rigdon was very skeptical of Mormonism because "they had with them a new revelation, which they said had been translated from certain gold plates that had been deposited in a hill." [[42 Ibid., 7.]] Pratt offered to debate the matter, but Rigdon refused; he preferred to learn about the young man who claimed to be a prophet and to read the Book of Mormon. He believed that if this religious body really contained the New Testament gospel in its purity, he would know it through inspiration.

    When Rigdon first heard of Joseph Smith, the latter was twenty- four years old and had established his own religious organization on April 6, 1830, at Fayette, Seneca County, western New York. Smith claimed to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator [[43 Doctrine and Covenants (Kirtland, 1835), sec. 46:1. end43]] who had been chosen by God to restore His gospel in its fullness. He was tall and well built, about six feet two inches in height and weighed around 205 pounds. He was strong and athletic, with a light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, and very little beard. The Prophet was a handsome man whose facial features were slightly marred only by a long nose. Pratt described the effect of Smith's gaze upon his followers: "There was something connected with the serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heavens and comprehend all worlds." [[44 Pratt, Autobiography, 47.]]

     



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    (under construction) Joseph Smith had personal qualities which persuaded his followers to give him an allegiance greater than loyalty to family, community, or their country's government. The faithful Mormons followed Smith through severe persecution, economic privation, incarceration, and constant threat of death; they remained steadfast even in the face of his personal rebukes. Pratt declared that Smith possessed "a noble boldness and independence of character; his manner was easy and familiar; his rebuke terrible as a lion; his benevolence unbounded as the ocean." [[45 Ibid., 47.]] Smith was not an educated man; Nancy Towle, a free-lance evangelist who visited him in 1831, described him as "a good-natured, low-bred, sort of chap." [[46 Nancy Towle, "Vicissitudes Illustrated" (Charleston, 1832), 145.]] Yet Smith was a complex man who accomplished several outstanding secular as well as religious achievements during the thirty-nine years of his life. Pratt declared that "his intelligence [was] universal, and his language abounding in original eloquence peculiar to himself -- not polished -- not studied -- not smoothed and softened by education and refined by art." [[47 Pratt, Autobiography, 47.]]

    Born in Vermont in 1805, at the age of ten Joseph Smith moved with his family to Palmyra in western New York. The family had suffered economic reverses in Vermont, where each of the business ventures of Joseph Smith, Sr. left the family poorer than before. However, the Smiths could not be considered uncommon in the westering horde who wanted to improve their lot by moving to new land bordering the Erie Canal [[48 Whitney R, Cross, "The Burned-over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850" (New York, 1950), 140. end48]] The thing which set Joseph Smith, Jr. apart from other farm boys in western New York was his claim to unusual religious experiences. His family attended a community revival in 1820 in which the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists participated. His mother Lucy, his brothers Hyrum and Samuel, and his sister Sophronia had joined the Presbyterians. Joseph was "partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them." [[49 Times and Seasons, March 15, 1842.]] But he became confused as to what church to join when the ministers who had participated in the revival quarreled over which sect should have what group of converts.

    Pratt told Rigdon how Joseph Smith had sought the answer to his problem of what church he should join through scripture and prayer. Smith had written of his experience:

    "While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties, caused by the contest of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads, 'if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth unto all men


     




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    (under construction) liberally and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.' Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine." [[50 Ibid., March 15, 1842.]]

    Smith took this scripture literally and went behind his father's house to a grove of trees to pray. He came back with the solution, which was to join none of the churches. This farm boy claimed he had a vision in which he came face to face with God and Christ, and they told him that he was going to be instrumental in restoring Christ's true church to the earth. Smith claimed that after he knelt to pray, a pillar of light descended upon him. "I saw two personages (whose brightness and glory defy all description) stand above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said (pointing to the other),'This is my beloved Son, hear him'." [[51 Ibid., April 1, 1842. One of the major historiographical questions in Mormon history today concerns Smith's conflicting interpretations concerning the first vision. See BYU Studies (Spring, 1969), passim, and Marvin S. Hill, "The Role of Christian Primitivism in the Origin and Development of the Mormon Kingdom 1830-1844" (PhD. dissertation. University of Chicago, 196 8), 52. end51]] When Smith told his experience to his local Methodist minister, the latter informed him that he had had a vision from the Devil, but Joseph's family accepted the experience he related as being from God.

    Smith's second religious experience concerned the Book of Mormon, a copy of which Pratt had given Rigdon to read. On September 21, 1823, Smith claimed he was visited by a heavenly messenger at his bedside; this angel supposedly revealed to him the existence of a long-hidden record of an ancient people who inhabited the North American continent before the discoveries of the Spaniards. This record was allegedly transcribed on a set of golden plates in a strange foreign language; "he (the angel) also said that the fullness of the everlasting gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior (Jesus Christ) to the ancient inhabitants." [[52 Ibid., April 15, 1842.]] These plates were translated by what Smith termed inspiration; he sat behind a screen and translated while a scribe wrote down what he said. Oliver Cowdery, one of the missionaries to the Lamanites, had served as one of Smith's scribes. [[53 Stanley R. Gunn, "Oliver Cowdery: Second Elder and Scribe" (Salt Lake City, 1962), 35. end53]] Besides being translator of the Book of Mormon, Smith was an organizer as well as a dreamer, who would before his death create a major American religious movement, plan a series of community systems, speculate in economics on a vast scale, influence the politics of the states of Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, and would be the mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, one of the largest cities in the West.

    Both Smith and Rigdon were popular speakers. Rigdon was the more polished, more logical, and more effective of the two; Smith recognized this, and for a decade Rigdon was the Prophet's spokesman.


     



                                        The Western Reserve                                     33


    (under construction) However, Smith was unique in that his people believed that he was God's latter-day Prophet. Joseph Smith became a direct link between God and the lives of the Mormon people. Pratt wrote, "I have even known him to retain a congregation of willing and anxious listeners for many hours together, in midst of cold or sunshine, rain or wind, while they were laughing at one moment and weeping the next." [[54 Pratt, "Autobiography," 32.]] However, everywhere the Mormons established their communities or sent their missionaries, there were groups of men who hated Joseph Smith and his Mormons. Some, like the Campbellites for instance, hated Smith for the Book of Mormon and for the religion it represented. Others, such as the residents of Carthage and Warsaw, Illinois, hated and feared the Mormons because of their numbers and success in economics or politics. Smith' was the focal point of this hatred, which became so violent that he was beaten, incarcerated, and finally murdered. Many of his followers, including Rigdon, shared the animosity and wrath of the anti-Mormons.

    The Book of Mormon was published in March, 1830; it contained fifteen individual books supposedly written by early-American prophets. The historical narrative can be condensed into a few paragraphs, and since its publication Mormons have considered it scripture. It has been quoted at marriages and funerals and has been the text for numerous sermons. In short, the Book of Mormon has been used among its believers in a fashion similar to the Bible. Sidney Rigdon spent a fortnight of steady reading to complete the book. He read it as scripture, pondering every passage.

    Rigdon read in the Book of Mormon about the religious adventures of a Jewish patriarch named Lehi who, with his wife Sarah and their four sons -- Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam -- lived in Jerusalem [[during]] the reign of Zedekiah, King of Judah about 600 years before Christ. [[55 Book of Mormon (Palmyra, 1830), 5-6.]] Lehi became aware of the future destruction of Jerusalem through a vision and fled with his family into the wilderness. However, he forgot to bring with him the records of his family and of the Jews; but Nephi, the most righteous of the family, succeeded in getting a set of brass plates on which the history of the Jews had been recorded from the time of creation until the reign of Zedekiah. This record gave the refugees their history and the mosaic law. Nephi also persuaded a Jew named Ishmael to accompany him, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters. These pilgrims traveled in the wilderness for eight years until they came to what they designated as the Great Sea. Nephi constructed a ship by divine revelation, and after many hardships they


     



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    (under construction) arrived safely in the "Land of Promise." After Lehi's death Laman and Lemuel, the oldest sons, rebelled against Nephi and Sam, and their descendants formed two nations -- the Nephites and the Lamanites [[56 Ibid., 72.]]

    According to the Book of Mormon, God cursed the Lamanites with a dark skin because of their wickedness; they were generally a savage, ignorant, nomadic people who dwelt in sin. The Nephites remained fair-skinned, highly civilized, and usually more righteous than their enemies. The history of the Nephites was preserved by prophets, who handed down their sacred task of recording God's dealings with their people. The Nephites also found the records of two groups of people -- the Jaredites and the Mulekites -- who had landed on the American continent earlier than Lehi and his people. [[57 Ibid., 538-573. The people called Jaredites had their own records, which were placed in the Book of Mormon under the title of the book of Ether. end57]] The history of the Nephites and the other peoples on the continent was one of wars and strife. Generally the Nephites won the conflicts, but, according to the story, whenever they waxed strong in iniquity God allowed the Lamanites to chasten them.

    The Book of Mormon claimed that Christ visited the Nephites after his crucifixion. The Savior commissioned twelve disciples to baptize in his name; He healed the sick, blessed little children, and delivered the Sermon on the Mount. The inhabitants of America, both Lamanites and Nephites, lived in peace and prosperity for two hundred years after Christ established His church there. However, the Nephites became proud and stiff-necked; thus, they were exterminated by the Lamanites. Among the last generation of Nephites were two prophet-generals, Mormon and his son Moroni. Mormon abridged the records of his people on a set of golden plates. [[58 Ibid., 518.]] Moroni made the last entry into the book which bore his father's name and buried them in a hill before he was killed.

    Although Rigdon was always fascinated with history, his main concern was to search for evidence which would substantiate Pratt's claim that the Book of Mormon contained the fullness of the New Testament gospel [[59 Corrill, "Brief History of the Church," 7.]] for which he had been searching since 1821. Rigdon judged the Book of Mormon the same way he evaluated all material which purported to contain religious truth -- that is, by comparing it with the Bible.

    Joseph Smith claimed that the angel (called Moroni) who had appeared to him in 1823 had given him the location of the golden plates. This record was supposedly buried in a hill called Cumorah near Smith's home in Palmyra, New York. Oliver Cowdery declared to


     



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    (under construction) Rigdon that he had been one of three witnesses to whom an angel had shown the golden plates [[60 The three men who were called the "three witnesses" were Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. Cowdery was a school-teacher and scribe to Smith. David Whitmer's family sheltered Smith while he was translating the golden plates, and David served as a scribe. Martin Harris supplied the necessary funds to support the Smith family and publish the Book of Mormon. All three men were excommunicated from the Mormon church, but they remained faithful on their deathbeds to the following testimony: "Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come, that we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken; and we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety, that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shewn unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvelous in our eyes, nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen." Book of Mormon (Independence, 1955), preface. end60]] Rigdon knew that the Bible said angels had appeared to such Old Testament prophets as Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Daniel; angels had also appeared to the New Testament disciples Phillip, Paul and Cornelius. Thus, if God were going to restore His gospel, it would be reasonable that an angel should assist Him.

    To Rigdon, the doctrine which he found in the Book of Mormon compared favorably with that in the Bible. The book of Moroni asked the question which had plagued Rigdon while a disciple of Campbell: whether miracles ceased because Christ had ascended into heaven. The Book of Mormon declared, "Nay, neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men." [[61 Ibid., (Palmyra, 1830), 570.]] The Book of Mormon also contained the idea that one must be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins. "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." The Nephites were instructed concerning the form of Baptism that "behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water ...and then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water." [[62 Ibid., 478.]] The book of Moroni mentioned the gifts of the spirit, which were wisdom, knowledge, healings, miracles, prophecy, speaking and interpretation of tongues, and the discernment of spirits. [[63 Ibid., 586.]] Rigdon had been unhappy because these things were not present among the followers of Campbell. Rigdon believed in the literal return of the Jews to their homeland, and the second book of Nephi prophesied, "And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possession." [[64 John Jaques, "Life and Labors of Sidney Rigdon," Improvement Era, III (1899-1900), III (1899-1900), 100. See also Book of Mormon. end64]] The Book of Mormon also bore witness that Jesus was the Christ, and that he established a church in the new world with twelve disciples who were to carry on the work of the gospel when Christ ascended into heaven. [[65 Ibid., 479.]]

    When Rigdon finished reading the Book of Mormon, he claimed that Mormonism was truly the apostolic church divinely restored to the earth. Rigdon told his wife of his conviction about the new religion and asked if she would follow him in accepting it. Realizing that this religious change might bring economic reverses as had his removal from the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh in 1824, he asked his wife, "My dear, you have followed me once into poverty, are you willing to do the same again?" There was no indication at this time that Mormonism would be acceptable to his congregation, and they were in the act of building Rigdon a new house. Phebe Rigdon replied, "I have weighed

     




    36                                                 Chapter 2                                               


    the matter, I have contemplated on the circumstances in which we may be placed, I have counted the cost, and I am perfectly satisfied to follow you; it is my desire to do the will of God, come life or come death." [[66 Jaques, "Life and Labors of Sidney Rigdon," 101.]]

    Sheriff John Barr, a non-Mormon, of Cuyahoga County, was present when Rigdon informed his congregation of his decision to embrace Mormonism. Rigdon told the church that "he had not been satisfied in his religious yearnings until now." Previously, "at night he had often been unable to sleep, walking and praying for more light and comfort in religion." While in the midst of this soul-searching, "he heard of the revelation of Joe Smith . . . under this his soul suddenly found peace." The Mormon message "filled all his aspirations." According to Barr the audience was very much affected by Rigdon's testimony that he had found religious truth. [[67 Mather, "The Early Days of Mormonism," 206-207.]]

    The congregation at Mentor, as well as the common stock community, once again followed Rigdon's leadership, this time embracing Mormonism. Although some members of traditional religious denominations bitterly opposed the principles which the Mormons taught, the missionaries had an opportunity to preach their new gospel in the towns of Medina, Kirtland, Painesville, and Mayfield, where Rigdon's reputation was known. [[68 Jennings, "Origin and Early History of the Disciples," 295. end68]] Pratt, who was spreading the word of Rigdon's conversion to the Book of Mormon, declared that "the interest and excitement now became general in Kirtland, and in all the region round about." Pratt and his companions were so busily engaged in preaching Mormonism that "the people thronged to us night and day, insomuch that we had no time for rest and retirement." Mormon missionary activity in the Western Reserve was such a great success that "in two or three weeks from our arrival in the neighborhood with the news, we had baptized one hundred and twenty-seven souls, and this number soon increased to one thousand." [[69 Pratt, "Autobiography," 65-66.]]

    Rigdon's conversion and the missionary aftermath which followed transformed Mormonism from a sect of about a hundred members to one which was a major threat to Protestantism in the Western Reserve. "One thing has been done by the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It has puked the Campbellites effectually; no emetic could have done half as well." [[70 William Lynn, "The Story of the Mormons" (New York, 1902), 62.]] Many important Mormon missionaries were formerly Disciples of Christ; among these were Orson Hyde, Parley Pratt, Orson Pratt, Lyman Wight, Edward Partridge, Fredric G. Williams. Thomas Campbell, the father of the founder of the Disciples, spent the winter of 1830-31 in Mentor, Ohio, and vicinity, in combat against

     



                                        The Western Reserve                                     37


    Mormonism. [[71 Jennings, Origin and Early History of the Disciples, 295.]] The Mormons were more than willing to baptize members of any minister's congregation. They encountered vigorous opposition from the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, as well as the Campbellites. [[72 In 1831 the Mormons of the Western Reserve sent a religious colony of their members to Jackson County, Missouri, where in 1833 mobs led by Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian ministers drove them from the community of Independence. History of the Reorganized Church, I, 352. end72]]

    In 1834 the enemies of Mormonism in the Western Reserve circulated a rumor that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from the manuscript of a romantic novel called "Manuscript Found," written by the Reverend Solomon Spaulding. The anti-Mormons claimed that Sidney Rigdon gave this manuscript to Joseph Smith, making Rigdon the true founder of Mormonism. This lie has been an important part of anti-Mormon propaganda for over a century. The perpetrators of the so-called "Spaulding theory" were Doctor Philastus Hurlbut and Eber D. Howe, the anti-Mormon editor of the Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph (Painesville was a small town near Kirtland). Howe hated the Mormons because his wife had joined their church, and he had been having a feud in the Telegraph with the Mormon leaders, including Rigdon, since 1831. [[73 Chase, "Sidney Rigdon," 38.]] Hurlbut was excommunicated and became so enraged that he publicly threatened the life of Joseph Smith. After Hurlbut was convicted of disturbing the peace, the judge admonished him that "he be of good behavior to all of the citizens of the state of Ohio, and to the said Joseph Smith, Jr., in particular." [[74 Ibid., 39.]]

    In 1833 some of Spaulding's friends in Hurlbut's home town of Conneaut in northeast Ohio read the Book of Mormon and claimed that it was really Solomon Spaulding's manuscript. Spaulding, who lived from 1761 to 1816, was a failure all his life. He became a Christian minister who lost his faith, a merchant whose trade failed, an industrialist whose iron foundry went bankrupt, and an author whose works were rejected for publication. He wrote a romantic novel called "Manuscript Found," which purported to be a record of the original inhabitants of America, their habits and customs, their migration from the Mediterranean, and their numerous wars. In Mormonism Unvailed (sic) Howe produced the testimony of eight witnesses who had known Spaulding and swore that the Book of Mormon was a fraud. John Spaulding, a brother of the author, claimed,

    "The book was entitled The Manuscript Found, of which he read to me many passages. It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of the Jews, or the lost tribes. It gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, till they arrived in

     



    38                                                 Chapter 2                                               


    America, under the command of Nephi and Lehi. They afterwards had quarrels and contentions and separated into distinct nations, one of which he denominated Nephites and the other Lamanites. Cruel and bloody wars ensued, in which great multitudes were slain." [[75 Eber D. Howe, "Mormonism Unveiled or a Faithful Account of that Singular Imposition and DELUSION from its Rise to the Present Time with Sketches of the Characters of its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible was Brought Before the World to Which Are Added Inquiries into the Probability that the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spaulding More Than Twenty Years Ago, and By Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance" (Painesville, 1834), 277-179. end75]]

    John Spaulding claimed, "I have recently read the Book of Mormon, and to my great surprise, I find nearly the same historical matter, names, etc., as they were in my brother's writing." He testified that "to the best of my recollections and belief, it is the same as my brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the religious matter." Howe's seven other witnesses gave similar testimony that "Manuscript Found" was the basis of the Book of Mormon. [[76 Ibid., 279-180.]] Howe accused Smith and Pratt as conspirators in fraud, and stated "that Rigdon has been the Iago, the prime mover, of the whole conspiracy." [[77 Ibid., 100.]]

    Hurlbut and Howe contacted Mrs. Matilda Davison, Spaulding's widow, and obtained the "Manuscript Found," which they discovered, to their disappointment, had no relationship to the Book of Mormon. However, Howe continued to propagate the "Spaulding theory," and the "Manuscript Found" disappeared, not to be rediscovered until 1885 in Hawaii. [[78 Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" was discovered in a trunk in Hawaii among the papers of Lewis L. Rice, an anti-slavery editor and the state printer of Ohio, and it was given to Oberlin College. "Mr. Rice probably came into possession of the manuscript in 1839, when he succeeded Mr. Howe in the Printing Office at Painesville." Saints' Herald, August 21, 1918. end78]] After 1834 the "Spaulding theory" became a tenet of anti-Mormonism, and as Mormonism became stronger, Rigdon's participation in the affair grew. The Boston Recorder of November 25, [sic] 1839 printed an article under the signature of Mrs. Matilda Davison claiming that "Sidney Rigdon was connected in the printing office of Mr. Patterson," who was the Pittsburgh printer to whom Spaulding supposedly had submitted a copy of his manuscript. According to the article, Rigdon took the manuscript from the printer's office. [[79 Times and Seasons, January, 1840.]] Rigdon wrote a denial which was published in the "Boston Journal." [sic]

    "It is only necessary to say, in relation to the whole story about Spaulding's writings being in the hands of Mr. Patterson, who was at Pittsburgh, and who is said to have kept a printing office, etc., etc., is the most base of lies, without even the shadow of truth... If I were to say that I ever heard of the Reverend Solomon Spaulding and his hopeful wife until D. P. Hurlbut wrote his lie about me, I should be a liar like unto themselves." [[80 Quoted in the Saints' Herald, August 21, 1918.]]

    Rigdon's brothers testified that he had never been a printer and had not lived in Pittsburgh until 1822; Spaulding had left the city in 1814. [[81 Ibid., August 21, 1918.]]

     



                                        The Western Reserve                                     39


    Pratt, who defended Rigdon in the Times and Seasons, claimed that the article in the Boston Recorder was not written by Spaulding's widow but by a priest named Stoors [sic] of Hollinston [sic], Massachusetts, who wanted to discredit Mormonism because it had converted several important members of his congregation. [[82 "Times and Seasons," January, 1840.]] However, the association of Rigdon with Patterson and the manuscript appeared in anti-Mormon books, such as "The Mormons," written by Daniel Kidders and printed in 1842. Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson, a grand-niece of Mrs. Solomon Spaulding, furthered the myth by incorporating more inaccuracies in her New Light on Mormonism:

    "At an early age he (Rigdon) was a printer by trade, and is known to have been in Conneaut, Ohio, at the time Spaulding read his 'Manuscript Found' to his neighbors . . . and it is easy to believe in the report that he followed or preceded Spaulding to Pittsburgh, knowing all his plans, in order to obtain his manuscript, or copy it, while it was in Patterson's printing house -- an easy thing to do, as the fact of the manuscript being left carelessly in the office for months, is not questionable. [[83 Ellen E. Dickinson, "New Light on Mormonism" (New York, 1885), 47. end83]]

    In 1885 James H. Fairchild, President of Oberlin College, received Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" for his institution's library; he wrote an historiographical article for the Western Reserve Historical Society concerning the manuscript. [[84 Fairchild, who had no connection with Mormonism, claimed that "this manuscript [Spaulding's 'Manuscript Found' clearly was not the basis of the book (Book of Mormon)." He also affirmed that the Book of Mormon was not written by Rigdon, "nor could the blundering syntax of the Book of Mormon have come from Rigdon's hand. He had a gift of speech which would have made the style distasteful and impossible to him." James H. Fairchild, "Manuscript of Solomon Spaulding and the Book of Mormon: A Paper Read Before the Western Reserve Historical Society, March 23, 1886," Western Reserve Historical Society, Tract No. 77," 185-200. Quoted in the Saints' Herald, August 21, 1918. end84]] When compared, the Book of Mormon and Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" were not compatible in style, length, content, or purpose. There was no relationship at all between the two books. "Manuscript Found" was a narrative of a tribe of people who came from Rome in the days of Emperor Constantine. [[85 Reverend Solomon Spaulding, "The Manuscript Story of 'Manuscript Found' from a Verbatim Copy of the Original Now in the Library of Oberlin College" (Lamoni, Iowa, 1908), [sic] 14. end 85]] The manuscript concerned itself with the wars and strifes of several tribes -- the Delawares, the Ohions, the Kentucks, the Sciotons, and the Chiaugans; the names, instead of being Nephi and Lehi, as John Spaulding had claimed, were Bombal, Kadocam, Lomaska, Hamboom, Ulippon, and Lamesa. [[86 Ibid., 154.]] When published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1908 [sic] to prove there was no connection between it and the Book of Mormon, "Manuscript Found" was 158 pages long compared to 588 pages of the Book of Mormon. The purpose of the Book of Mormon was to be a second witness that Jesus was the Christ, whereas "Manuscript" was written as a historical romance. The style of the Book of Mormon was similar to that of the King lames version of the Bible, although the latter's grace of language.

     



    40                                             Chapter 2                                              


    "Manuscript Found" was written in the style of a nineteenth century romance. The fact that these two books have been published and publicly compared should have eliminated the belief that there was any correlation between them. However, the Spaulding theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon and Rigdon's alleged implication in it has been printed in many anti-Mormon books since 1885. [[87 Several important anti-Mormon sources have claimed since 1885 that the Spaulding theory still applies to the origin of the Book of Mormon. They either claimed without any proof that Spaulding had another manuscript on which Rigdon based the Book of Mormon or continued to use the same old arguments as if the manuscript had never been published. These anti-Mormon sources are William H. Whitsitt, "Sidney Rigdon the Founder of Mormonism" whose manuscript of over a thousand pages was written in 1908 and is in the Library of Congress, see 101-109; Charles A. Shook, "Cumorah Revisited or the Book of Mormon and the Claims of the Mormons Re-examined from the Viewpoint of American Archaeology and Ethnology" (Cincinnati, 1910), 25-47, borrowed Howe's and Kidder's arguments; George B. Arbaugh, "Revelation in Mormonism: Its Character and Changing Forms" (Chicago, 1932), 9-10; Joseph W. White, "The Influence of Sidney Rigdon Upon the Theology of Mormonism" (MA thesis, University of Southern California, 1947), 75-80. However, not all sources hostile to Mormonism and Sidney Rigdon have accepted the "Spaulding theory." Alexander Campbell, who knew Rigdon's writing style and his activities between 1821 and 1830, declared that Smith was the author of the Book of Mormon in his "Delusions: An Analysis of the Book of Mormon; with an Examination of its Internal and External Evidences, and a Refutation of its Pretences to Divine Authority" (Boston, 1832), 11. Fawn M. Brodie rejected the "Spaulding theory" in "No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet" (New York, 1945), 420-428. end87]] The myth of Sidney Rigdon as the founder of Mormonism has been most difficult to destroy.




     
    Note: Entire contents copyright 1971 by F. Mark McKiernan.
    Only limited, "fair use" excerpts reproduced here.


    [ 41 ]




    Chapter 3
    Kirtland, the Headquarters of the
    Early Mormon Church: 1830-1832

    DURING THE LAST MONTHS of 1830 Mormon missionaries swept through the Western Reserve making converts in almost every community. The majority of the Mormons were centered around the towns of Mentor and Kirtland, where Rigdon's followers had provided a nucleus for the gathering of later converts. In 1831 Joseph Smith moved to Kirtland, which became the headquarters of the Mormon Church. The first few years after Rigdon's conversion to Mormonism were dynamic times of spiritual strength interspersed with the organizational problems of firmly establishing the Church in the Western Reserve. Rigdon believed he had found God's latter-day Prophet, who had commissioned him to proclaim the fulness of the gospel to the children of men.

    After Rigdon became convinced that the Book of Mormon was divinely inspired, he desired to meet Joseph Smith. When Rigdon joined the Mormon movement, he believed in the righteousness of its doctrine and leaders, but he had never met the Prophet. In December, 1830, Rigdon and Edward Partridge, a young hatter from Painesville, Ohio, who had been converted to Campbellism by Sidney Rigdon, [[1 Times and Seasons, November 1, 1843]] called at the house of Joseph Smith at Manchester, New York, about a day's ride on horseback southeast of Rochester. Partridge, although not a Mormon, had read the Book of Mormon and was most interested in the sect because of Rigdon's conversion. Partridge was a mild, even-tempered man who was known for his business sense. Both Rigdon and Partridge wanted personal proof that Joseph Smith, Jr., was really a Prophet of God, as Pratt and Cowdery had claimed.

    After Rigdon and Partridge had stayed in the Smith home a short while, they attended a service at which Joseph Smith preached: at the end of the sermon Smith asked whether anyone in the congregation wished to make any remarks. Partridge rose to his feet and testified that he had come in order to obtain information concerning the doctrine

     




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    given in the presence of the elders and recorded in longhand by one of them. [[42. Pratt, Autobiography, 65-66. end42]] The revelation first condemned the perpetrators of the religious hoaxes. "But wo [sic] unto them that are deceivers and hypocrites, for thus saith the Lord, I will bring them to judgment. Behold, verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some, which has given the adversary power." [[43 Doctrine and Covenants, sec. 17:3. end43]] The revelation directed Pratt and John Corrill, a faithful elder, to "go forth among the churches and strengthen them by the word of exhortation." [[44. Ibid., sec. 17:8.]] Pratt and Corrill were generally successful in restoring order in the Mormon congregations. The revelation given through Smith gave a general rule to the Elders by which to determine whether or not a certain religious experience was genuine: "If you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he gives not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God." [[45. Ibid., sec. 17:7.]] Its meaning was, simply, that if an Elder prayed to feel the spirit which someone else manifested, and he did not experience the same spirit, then the spirit was not of God.

    Besides the actions of Fuller, Basset, and Riggs, apostasy among the Mormons during their first year in Ohio contributed extensively to the anti-Mormon opposition in the area. The apostasy of Ezra Booth and Simonds Ryder had almost disastrous consequences for the Mormon movement; it was a particularly tragic episode in Rigdon's religious career because he nearly lost his life, and he temporarily lost his license to preach in the Mormon Church. After his conversion Booth induced his friend, Simonds Ryder, a Campbellite minister, to visit the Mormons at Kirtland. There Ryder heard a young Mormon girl predict the destruction of Peking, China; when he read of Peking's destruction in the newspapers a month later, he joined the Church. [[46. Ibid., sec. 17:8.]] Booth was commissioned by Smith as a missionary to Missouri, and Ryder was called to preach in Ohio. In a revelation given on June 7, 1831, Ryder's name was incorrectly spelled "Rider," [[47. Parkin, "The Nature and Causes of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons," 102.]] which led to his rejection of Smith as a true prophet and his subsequent denunciation of Mormonism. [[48. Ibid., 102-103.]] Ryder apparently reasoned that in a true revelation from God his name would have been spelled correctly. Booth was disgruntled about the Missouri missionary journey because Smith and Rigdon rode in a carriage while he was forced to walk. Booth also rebelled against the Mormon custom of asking for work or handouts in order to sustain himself during his journey. He felt that Rigdon had received preferred treatment, and that this was unjust because Booth's reputation as a

     




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    minister before he joined the Mormons had been comparable to Rigdon's. [[49. Ohio Star, November 10, 1831.]] Both Booth and Ryder left the Mormon movement in disgust.The apostasy of Ezra Booth was good news to the anti-Mormons; the Reverend Ira Eddy of Nelson, Portage County, Ohio, requested Booth to make public his observations and criticisms of the Mormons. [[50. Parkin, "The Nature and Causes of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons," 103.]] Booth wrote a series of nine letters to Eddy which appeared in the Ohio Star at Ravenna between October 13 and December 8, 1831. On October 6 Lewis L. Rice, editor of the Star, printed an announcement of Booth's series of letters:
    "We shall commence next week the publication of several numbers on the subject of Mormonism -- being an exposition of that delusion, by the Rev. Mr. Booth, who, as many of our readers are aware, about a year since embraced their faith, but has recently become convinced of their hypocrisy and has publicly withdrawn from them." [[51. Ohio Star, October 13, 1831.]]

    Booth wrote that his purpose in exposing Mormonism was to prevent others from being converted and to persuade those already snared to leave it.

    Booth made three major objections of Mormonism: the inconsistencies in Smith's revelations, the despotism of the leaders, and Joseph Smith's unfitness to be a religious leader. Booth claimed that Smith, Rigdon, and Cowdery "can at any time obtain a commandment suited to their desires, and as their desires fluctuate and become reversed, they get a new one to supersede the other, and hence the contradictions which abound in this species of revelations." [[52. Ibid, November 24, 1831.]] A revelation given to Smith on August 8, 1831, declared that Smith, Rigdon, and Cowdery should take the stage to Cincinnati to preach the gospel while the other missionaries walked from St. Louis to Kirtland, two by two. [[53. Doctrine and Covenants, sec. 70:2.]] However, after arriving at Cincinnati Smith's party did little preaching, but received another revelation to return to Kirtland. [[54 Ibid., 71:5.]] Booth interpreted these revelations as selfish expedients upon the part of the ruling clique of Mormonism -- Smith, Rigdon, and Cowdery. [[55. Parkin, "The Nature and Cause of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons," 108.]]

    Smith was despotic, wrote Booth, because he allowed no one else to receive revelations. [[56. Ohio Star, December 8, 1831.]] "It is clearly and explicity stated, that the right of delivering written commandments, and revelations, belongs exclusively to Smith, and no other person can interfere, without being guilty of sacrilege." [[57. Ibid., December 8, 1831.]] Booth claimed that the elders were obliged to

     




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    conform to Smith's revelations in both large and small concerns and that Mormonism was a conspiracy to subject the innocent to servitude. "But when viewing it as an instance of a deep laid scheme, and the cunning artifice of crafty impostors, designed to allure the credulous and the unsuspecting, into a state of unqualified vassalage," he continued, "it presents a melancholy picture of the direful depravity of the human heart." [[58. Ibid., November 10, 1831.]]

    Booth described Smith and Rigdon as weak characters who had no business leading a church. He wrote to Partridge, who, he felt, would soon defect and thus add substantially to the anti-Mormon cause, and asked, "Have you not often discovered in him [Smith], a spirit of lightness, and levity, a temper of mind easily irritated, and an habitual proneness to jesting and joking?" [[59. Ibid., November 24, 1831.]] He accused Smith and Rigdon of cowardice because they were apprehensive about the dangers of water travel after an incident in which their canoe overturned. [[60. Parkin, "The Nature and Cause of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons," 113.]]

    In November, 1831, the Star declared that Booth's letters were "exerting an important influence in opening the eyes of many of the really deluded subjects of Mormonism." [[61. Ohio Star, October 20, 1831.]] Ambrose Palmer, who had been converted to Mormonism by Booth earlier in the year, noticed that the letters gave the church "such a coloring or appearance of falsehood, that the public feeling was that Mormonism was overthrown." [[62. "Journal History," December 29, 1831.]] The Mormon Church responded by sending out a number of elders, including Rigdon, David Whitmer, and Thomas B. Marsh, to visit the branches, thereby quieting any doubts among the Saints. [[63. The Mormons were most concerned about Booth's attack on their Prophet and their religion, but he was exceedingly mild when compared to anti-Mormon exposes which followed. For example, see Alexander Campbell, Delusions... (note 87 above, p. 153); E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled... (note 75 above, p. 152); John Cook Bennett, The History of the Saints or an Expose of Joe Smith and the Mormons (Boston, 1842). end63]]

    Rigdon made a public announcement demanding a debate with Booth over his letters, which were, according to Rigdon, "unfair and false representations of the subject on which they treat." [[64. Ohio Star, December 29, 1831.]] The debate was scheduled for Christmas Day, 1831, at Ravenna, but Booth failed to show up. Rigdon pressed his absent opponent with the zeal of a defender of the truth who had just vanquished a bitter foe. He claimed that Booth "dare not appear in their defense because he knew his letters were false, and would not bear the test of investigation." [[65. Quoted in Messenger and Advocate, January, 1836.]] Booth was stung by these accusations and attempted some defense through the Star, but editor Rice realized this would start an endless controversy and so rejected Booth's reply.

    Rigdon had also challenged Simonds Ryder to debate with him on Christmas Day, but Ryder refused, declaring that Rigdon's "irascible temper, loquacious extravagance, impaired state of mind, and want of respect to his superiors would render him in such a place, unmanageable." [[66. Ohio Star, December 29, 1831.]]

     




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    Rigdon said that Ryder was the accuser but would not support his accusation in public; "nay, but [he] seeks to hide himself behind a battery of reproach, and abuse, and low insinuations." [[67. Ibid., January 12, 1832.]]

    In March, 1832, Rigdon visited Smith, who was living with the John Johnson family of Hiram, Ohio. The Prophet and Rigdon renewed their task of translating the Scriptures. Simonds Ryder plotted to rid his community of the Mormons because in "perhaps no other place except Kirtland, did the Latter-Day Saints gain a more permanent footing than in Hiram." [[68. Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, 220.]] The Geauga Gazette stated that a mob of about thirty people, stimulated by whiskey and disguised with colored faces, attacked Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon and tarred and feathered them. [[69. Geauga Gazette, April 17, 1832.]]

    It was Smith who described the mob's violence, because Rigdon suffered a brain concussion and was unconscious during the ordeal. On the night of March 24 the mob burst into the house where Smith was staying, grabbed him from his bed, and attempted to take him out into the snow. "I made a desperate struggle, as I was forced out, to extricate myself, but only cleared one leg, with which I made a pass at one man, and he fell on the door steps. I was immediately over-powered again." The mob swore they would kill him "if I did not be still, which quieted me." The man whom Smith kicked came at him all covered with blood, muttering, "God damn ye, I'll fix ye!" [[70. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Brigham H. Roberts, ed. (6 vols., Salt Lake City, 1951), I, 261-262.]] They choked Smith until he lost consciousness. [[71. The man whom Smith kicked was named Waste. According to Luke Johnson, Waste was regarded as the strongest man in the Western Reserve and had boasted that he could take Smith out of the house by himself. "At the time they were taking him [Smith] out of the house, Waste had hold of one foot. Joseph Smith drew up his leg and gave him a kick, which sent him sprawling into the street. He afterwards said that the Prophet was the most powerful man he ever had hold of in his life." Millennial Star, XXVI (1865), 835.]]

    Smith regained his wits when he was exposed to the freezing winter wind. "I saw Elder Rigdon stretched out on the ground, whither they had dragged him by his heels; I supposed he was dead." The mob decided to tar and feather them instead of killing them, as some urged. "Simonds, Simonds [Ryder], where's the tar bucket?" "I don't know. 'Tis where Eli's left it." Rigdon remained unconscious while he was tarred and feathered,but Smith continued to struggle. The mob yelled, "Let us tar his mouth." Someone tried to force the tar-paddle into Smith's mouth, but he twisted his head too much. "They then tried to force a vial into my mouth, and broke it in my teeth." A doctor named Dennison, a member of the mob, had prepared the vial, which contained nitric acid. The cramming of the vial into Smith's mouth damaged his palate and broke one of his teeth, which subsequently caused a whistling sound when he spoke. [[72. Parkin, "The Nature and Causes of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons," 251.]] Doctor Dennison had been appointed to emasculate Smith and Rigdon, but seeing the naked bodies stretched out in the snow, his resolve weakened and he refused to operate. [[73. Millennial Star, XXVI (1865), 834.]] Ryder said that the attack on Smith and Rigdon "had

     




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    the desired effect, which was to get rid of them. They soon left for Kirtland." [[74. Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, 220. Smith's adopted son, Joseph Murdoch, caught pneumonia when the mob broke into his home, and the boy died on March 29, 1832.]]

    Smith visited Rigdon after this violent episode and "found him crazy and his head highly inflamed, for they had dragged him by his heels" on frozen ground. [[75. "The feathers which were used with the tar on this occasion, the,mob took out of Elder Rigdon's house. After they seized him, and dragged him out, one of the banditti returned to get some pillows; when the women [including Phebe Rigdon] shut him in and kept him prisoner some time." Smith, History of the Church, I, 265.]] "When he saw me [Smith] he called for his wife to bring him a razor. She asked him what he wanted of it, and he said to kill me." Mrs. Rigdon left the room and he demanded that the Prophet bring him a razor because he wanted to kill his wife. According to Smith "he continued delirious some days." [[76. Ibid., I, 265.]]

    Rigdon was removed by his family to Kirtland, where he continued to suffer from delusions. He attended a prayer meeting soon after his arrival and disturbed the congregation with his incoherent ranting and rambling. They sent for Joseph Smith, and Rigdon was tried before a church court the next day for lying in the name of the Lord. Smith told him he must suffer for what he had done and "that he sould be delivered over to the buffeting of Satan who would handle him like one man would another." Smith demanded that Rigdon give up his priesthood license, [[77. Smith, Biographical Sketches, 95-96.]] and Rigdon complied and repented. He believed he must have offended God and was being punished, but he never understood what had happened at the prayer meeting. Lucy Smith, who had witnessed his behavior at the church service and his subsequent humiliation, stated, "One thing is certain, his contrition of soul was as great as a man could well live through. After he had sufficiently humbled himself, he received another license." [[78. Ibid., 95-96.]]

    The first two years of Mormonism in the Western Reserve had brought Rigdon both tremendous religious experiences and heartaches. He had been exalted by Smith, but also chastened; this was a phenomenon of their relationship which continued until Smith's assassination. Mormonism had grown in the Western Reserve, and its internal contentions and external persecutions had forged a hard core of Mormons who unhesitatingly followed the direction of their Prophet. Rigdon was one of the most faithful of Joseph Smith's followers, and the revocation of his license did not change his loyalties. In 1832 Smith represented to Rigdon the fullness of the gospel because he believed Smith was God's Prophet and the translator of the Book of Mormon.



     
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    Chapter 4
    Crisis at Kirtland

    DURING THE LAST FIVE YEARS that the Mormons remained at Kirtland, from 1832...

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    and it was natural that they would disagree at times, since each believed his work to concern the salvation of mankind. They also had strikingly different personalities. The Prophet was a jolly man whose robust sense of humor occasionally offended members of the church. [[72. "He liked foot races and would have his boots off in a moment, to the great grief of old bigots. I remember the visit of.a U.S.A. Major, who came as a guest to the Nauvoo House. The major was of higher build than Joseph, but not as strong as the prophet. Joseph wanted to wrestle with him. He threw off his coat and cried; I bet you five dollars that I will throw you, come on!' The major declined. Joseph laughed and said: 'Now you see the benefit of one's being a prophet; I knew you wouldn't wrestle.' One of the Saints felt so scandalized by this joke of the prophet that he left the church." Dr. W. Wyl, Mormon Portraits or the Truth About the Mormon Leaders (Salt Lake City, 1886), 24. end72]] "He used to laugh from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, it shook every bit of flesh in him." [[73. Ibid., 26.]] It seemed that Rigdon, on the contrary, did not have a sense of humor but rather overtones of melancholy. Rigdon was continually worrying about accomplishing the goals of the kingdom and being personally prepared for the millennium. The Prophet could "come down from the room where he was engaged in translating the word of God, and actually go to playing with children." [[74. Journal of Discourses, VII, 112.]] Sidney was unable to make this kind of transition; he was continually zealous about attaining salvation. It was to his credit that he alone of all Smith's counselors in the First Presidency, except the Prophet's brother Hyrum, remained in the Church until Smith's assassination. [[75. This topic will be discussed at greater length in later chapters.]]

    During the Kirtland period Rigdon assumed the role of spokesman for and defender of the Mormon faith. As long as the Mormons remained in the Western Reserve they were the object of Campbellite opposition and hatred, and Rigdon was the focus of this persecution. His former friends Adamson Bentley and Alexander Campbell became his bitter foes. Bentley, Rigdon's brother-in-law, caused him to complain, "I have suffered as much from his hands as he could heap upon me." The Mormons termed the actions of the Disciples of Christ the "Campbellite persecutions." The reputations of the Mormon leaders were constantly being slurred by the Campbellites. According to Rigdon, "Mr. Bentley had declared publicly, that I dare not meet him and investigate the subject of religion." However, this challenge was never presented to Rigdon, and when he heard of it, he quickly set up a time and place for the debate. Bentley did not show up; so Rigdon delivered his broadsides against the Campbellites in The Evening and the Morning Star. [[76. The Evening and the Morning Star, April, 1834.]]

    In April, 1836, Rigdon complained that his old enemy Simons Ryder, "as according to his usual way of correcting my errors, has been leveling his shafts at me, at the distance of thirty or forty miles; where he thinks I suppose that he can vent his feelings with safety, as there will be no person to call him to an account for it." Rigdon was capable of verbal viciousness, as in his statement concerning "Simon Rider [sic] , as well as others of the smaller animals of this species (I mean the Campbellites)." He laid the charge that Ryder and Bentley, as well as

     




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    others, were not at liberty to think for themselves, "but must think as A. Campbell, and W. Scott think." [[77. Latter Day Saint's Messenger and Advocate, April, 1836.]] A similar charge had been leveled against the Mormons.

    In the Fall of 1835 Rigdon received a letter from a Protestant minister named Olion [[78. In the February edition of the Latter Day Saint's Messenger and Advocate it is spelled Olion and Oliver in the June edition. end78]] Barr, who had written to his brother Ebenezer who had become a Mormon and concluded with the statement; "If you, or any of your people can, I shall be a Mormon." Ebenezer petitioned Rigdon to defend the church and convert his brother. A series of letters followed, which were published in the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate from January to June, 1836. Mr. Barr did not act in good faith, but Rigdon's letters to him illustrated some of his concepts about the Mormon gospel. [[79. Ibid., February, 1836.]]

    Barr questioned the Mormons as to their beliefs concerning the nature of revelation. On this question, Rigdon replied, "I conceive Sid, that the heavens have always been accessible to the saints of God, and that God who gave the revelations would also give testimony of the truth of them by his spirit to those who sought it in sincerity and truth." [[80. Ibid., February, 1836.]] In order for a revelation from God to be validated, Barr claimed, it must be accompanied by miracles. This was not always the case, Rigdon stated, and he referred to the Bible to prove his point. "Where is it recorded, that the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Zachariah, Zenphaniah, Joel, Haggai, Micha, with a number of others were ever established as you have said a revelation must be confirmed, in order to receive credence." [[81. Ibid., February, 1836.]]

    The argument was made by Barr that Jesus and the Apostles possessed the fullness of the gospel and therefore nothing was left for God to reveal to mankind concerning his acquisition of salvation. It was not a matter of the purity of the New Testament gospel, Rigdon argued, but rather of what man had done to it over the ages:

    "I wish you to understand distinctly that I believe as much as you can believe, that Christ and his apostles preached the gospel, and the whole gospel; but I also believe that it was a very different thing from what is now preached for gospel in the world." [[82. Ibid., February, 1836.]]

    Some of the differences between the gospel of Christ and that of the current religions of the world were a difference in priesthood and the signs which followed them. According to Rigdon, the New Testament apostles healed the sick, rebuked diseases, and also had power to give the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, but "the gospel that men

     




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    Chapter 5
    Mormonism on the Defensive:
    Far West, 1838-1839

    THE YEARS 1838 AND 1839 were ones of desperation, frustration and suffering for Sidney Rigdon. After fleeing from Kirtland, Rigdon and Smith attempted to establish another religious community at Far West, Missouri, in the face of internal dissensions and external persecutions. Smith was determined that the Church make a stand and fight the forces which sought to overthrow it; Rigdon was the Prophet's spokesman and counselor in this mission. To both the Gentiles and the Church members, Rigdon became a symbol of the new Mormon militancy of Far West. When the community of Far West fell to the Missouri mobs in 1838 and the Church leaders were imprisoned, Rigdon's influence waned in the Mormon Movement. His incarceration broke his health and caused temporary insanity. After much suffering he escaped from the Liberty jail and fled Missouri in fear of his life, leaving behind a shattered dream, a scattered people, and a shackled Prophet.

    After the fall of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Co., which resulted in a general Mormon hegira from the Western Reserve, the Saints in Missouri welcomed the Ohio brethren into their communities. In 1838 the Mormons were scattered through several Missouri counties, but the main settlement was in Caldwell County in the northeastern part of the state. In 1833 the Saints had been driven out of their "Promised Land" in Jackson County, but found refuge in neighboring Clay County. By 1836, however, they were no longer welcome there, chiefly because of their increasing numbers. They were now looking for locations where they could establish Church communities patterned after Kirtland and Independence. Alexander Doniphan, a Democratic Missouri politician who had been hired by the Church for legal counsel, sponsored a bill in the state legislature to set aside Caldwell, Ray, and Daviess Counties for Mormon settlement. [[1]] Doniphan's bill became law in the winter of 1836. [[2]] William W.

     




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    Note: Entire contents copyright 1971 by F. Mark McKiernan.
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    [ 101 ]




    Chapter 6
    Nauvoo 1839-1842

    THE MORMON REFUGEES from Missouri fled to Illinois and established a religious community at Nauvoo. In the 1840's Nauvoo dominated Hancock County, Illinois, with its wealth, population, culture and military and political power. This mighty Mormon city of 12,000 on the Mississippi River was the fulfillment of the shattered dreams of Kirtland, Independence, and Far West. The Mormons had finally established a community fashioned after their concept of the Kingdom of God. Strangely enough, however, Sidney Rigdon played only a minor role in the development of Nauvoo. He belonged to all the important Church councils which controlled religious and secular activity, but he had little influence on either the Prophet or the citizens.

    At first Quincy, Illinois, located in Adams County about 150 miles due east of Caldwell County, Missouri, offered sanctuary to the persecuted Mormons. By the time Rigdon arrived in February, 1839, the Mormon population of Adams County numbered around 5,000. [[1. William V. Pooley, The Settlement of Illinois from 1830 to 1850 (Madison, 1908), 509. end1]] According to a citizen of Quincy the Mormons were "in such a distressing condition when they arrived that the good people of the town took them in and gave them temporary relief." [[2. Quoted in Robert Bruce Flanders, Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi (Urbana, 1965), 13. end2]] Many survived the winter only because of this charity.

    Quincy was the largest town on the upper Mississippi and had been an important station on the underground railroad, which for years had caused bitter feelings between its residents and those of the enture state of Missouri. The Extermination Order and the horrors of the Haun's Mill massacre had created a genuine feeling of sympathy toward the Mormons among some of Quincy's citizenry. Adams County politicians saw advantages in attracting large numbers of immigrants to their area. Illinois was greatly over-extended in building internal improvements; the state debt in 1839 was $14,000,000, and the influx of additional taxable citizens was considered one of the best ways to pay for it. [[3. Thomas Ford, History of Illinois from its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847 (Chicago, 1854), 224. end3]]

     




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    Since the Democratic and Whig parties had about equal numbers of supporters, a great influx of Mormons threatened to tip the balance of state power to the party they favored.

    In February, 1839, Rigdon delivered several speeches on Mormon persecutions in Missouri to audiences of Adams County citizens. The Quincy Whig described a mass meeting in which Rigdon retold his narrative of the "cold blooded murder, by the mob of Missouri, of Mormon men and children, the violation of females, the destroying of property, the burning of houses, etc." According to the reporters, "We saw the tears standing in the eyes of many of his people while he was recounting their history of woe and sorrow." They reported that Rigdon "was so agitated at different periods of his address that his feelings would hardly allow him to proceed." [[4. Parley P. Pratt, The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Embracing His Life, Ministry, and Travels with Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from His Miscellaneous Writings (New York, 1874), 314. end4]] On February 28, 1839, the members of the Democratic Association of Quincy invited him to speak about his people's sufferings in Missouri, [[5. "Journal History," February 27, 1839.]] and the Democrats took up a collection for Mormon relief. [[6. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Brigham H. Roberts, ed. (6 vols., Salt Lake City, 1951), III, 271. end6]]

    Not content solely to relieve the suffering of the Saints in Illinois, Rigdon demanded total redress for the Church's grievances against state officials of Missouri. He wrote to Smith at Liberty jail that "our plan of operation is to impeach the state of Missouri on an item of the Constitution of the United States, that the general government shall give to each state a republican form of government." He declared, "Such a form of government does not exist in Missouri, and we can prove it." Governor Thomas Carlin of Illinois "assured us last evening, that he would lay our case before the legislature of this state," and that "he would use all his influence to have an action which would be favorable to our people." Rigdon commented, "In this we have succeeded beyond our highest anticipations." [[7. "Journal History," April 10, 1839.]]

    Rigdon informed the Prophet that he wanted "to get all the governors, in their next messages, to have the subject brought before the legislatures, and we will have a man at the capital of each state to furnish them with the testimony on the subject." He also planned "to be at Washington to wait upon Congress and have the action of that body on it also." [[8. Ibid., April 10, 1839.]] George W. Robinson, who assembled Mormon affidavits on the Missouri persecutions, assisted Rigdon in his political endeavors. In order to publicize their novel campaign to impeach Missouri as a state, the Mormons held meetings in many large Eastern cities to "express sympathy with these victims of the opponents of religious opinion' and to raise money for their relief." [[9. Ibid., April 10, 1839.]] Mormons who lived in the East organized these public demonstrations, but a

     




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    number of victims of the Mormon War provided personal testimony of the abuses the Saints had received at the hands of the Missouri mobs.

    In May, 1839, the Mormons published a pamphlet entitled Facts Relative to the EXPULSION OF THE MORMONS From the State of Missouri under the `EXTERMINATING ORDER." It was a skillful piece of propaganda written by John P. Green, a Mormon eyewitness to most of the events, who had been designated by the First Presidency as "an authorized representative of the Mormons." The pamphlet contained the testimonies of victims of mob violence in Missouri when the Mormons were forcibly driven from Jackson County in 1833, and when they were expelled from the state on penalty of death in 1838. Joseph Young, who had been one of the three Mormon men to survive the Haun's Mill massacre described the murders of children and wounded. Governor Lilburn Boggs' extermination order was published, along with General John B. Clark's reference to General Samuel Lucas' ultimatum to the citizens of Far West either to surrender their leaders, especially Smith and Rigdon, as "hostages," forfeit their property, and leave the state, or suffer destruction. Clark's message to the citizens of Far West, after they had surrendered their arms, included his own sentiment about the Mormons:
    "Whatever your innocence, it is nothing to me. Gen. Lucas, who is equal in authority with me, has made this treaty with you. I am determined to see it executed. The orders of the Governor to me, were that you should be exterminated, and not allowed to continue in the State, and had your leader not been given up and the treaty complied with before this, you and your families would have been destroyed, and your houses in ashes." [[10. John P. Green, Facts Relative to the Expulsion of the Mormons from the State of Missouri Under the "Exterminating Order" (Cincinnati, 1839), 26-27. end10]]
    This pamphlet carried the endorsement of Thomas Carlin, Governor of Illinois; General Samuel Leach, chairman of the Democratic association of Quincy; and several leading merchants, lawyers, and doctors of Adams County. Green's pamphlet gave an excellent presentation of the Mormon claims against the state of Missouri.

    Rigdon was successful in creating sympathy for the Mormons and hatred for Governor Boggs of Missouri. In early April, 1839, Alanson Ripley, a trusted friend of the Prophet, wrote him a letter informing him that "President Rigdon is wielding a mighty shaft against the whole kidney of foul calumniators and mobocrats of Missouri." [[11. Quoted in Ibid., 41.]] Rigdon's actions were so troublesome to Boggs and his associates that a bench

     




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    warrant for his return to Missouri was issued on the orders of the governor, but Governor Carlin of Illinois refused to extradite him. The escape of Smith and his companions on April 16 (1839) caused even more problems for Governor Boggs, for it meant that the leaders of the Church were again united when the Prophet reached Quincy on April 22.

    Smith believed that Rigdon had the ability to persuade the President and the Congress of the United States to support the Mormon cause against Missouri. [[12. Daryl Chase, "Sidney Rigdon -- Early Mormon" (MA thesis, University of Chicago, 1931), 124. end12]] In March (1839) Governor Robert Lucas of Iowa Territory had stated that the Mormons were welcome to purchase lands in Iowa and settle upon them, and there. "worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, secure from oppression," and in April the Iowa governor wrote to "Dr. Sidney Rigdon" expressing his sympathy over the plight of the Mormons. Lucas also gave Rigdon a letter of introduction to President Van Buren. [[13. Elizabeth Howard West, ed., Calendar of the Papers of Martin Van Buren (Washington, 1910), 372. end13]] Both Governors Carlin (Illinois) and Lucas (Iowa Territory) were willing to support Mormon grievances against Missouri in order to encourage the Mormons to live in their states.

    May 5, 1839, the Mormons held a conference on a Presbyterian campground near Quincy and appointed Rigdon to lay their petitions before the Federal government in Washington, D.C. [[14. "Journal History," May 5, 1839.]] Rigdon wanted to impeach the state of Missouri and expel it from the Union; although Smith endorsed Rigdon's plan, the Prophet really wanted to sue Missouri for damages. In 1839 the Saints' major need was money, and Smith believed that the Church would receive a cash settlement for losses in Missouri -- either from fines levied upon the state, or from the Federal Treasury. Rigdon himself was not opposed to punishing Missouri by fines. A total of 491 Mormons signed a petition of grievances and a list of damages totaling $1,381,044, the value placed by the Mormons on their property which had either been destroyed by the mobs or confiscated on orders of Governor Boggs. There remained "a multitude more of similar bills hereafter to be presented," the Prophet noted, "which if not settled immediately, will ere long amount to a handsome sum, increasing by compound interest." [[15. Smith, History of the Church, IV, 75.]]

    Rigdon, Smith, Judge Elias Higbee, and Porter Rockwell left Nauvoo on October 29, 1839, for Washington city in what Smith described as a "proper two-horse carriage." [[16. "Journal History," October 29, 1839.]] Higbee later became a member of the High Council of Nauvoo, a group of twelve men who were not only a judicial body but in practice functioned something like a board of directors for the entire Church in cooperation with the First

     




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    Presidency. [[17. Flanders, Nauvoo, 43.]] Rockwell was intensely loyal to the Prophet and he served as his bodyguard. However, their trip to Washington was interrupted on the third day when Rigdon became seriously ill. Dr. Robert D. Foster, a prominent Mormon, joined the party to care for Rigdon, near death from an unrecorded ailment. Smith and Higbee were impatient to be on their way and took a stage to Washington, but Rockwell remained behind because there were no funds for his stage fare. Dr. Foster, Rigdon, and Rockwell were to follow in the carriage as soon as Rigdon's health permitted.

    On November 29 (1839) Rigdon's illness forced him to stop at Washington, Pennsylvania, about 21 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, and he was unable to move until mid-January. The same day (Nov. 29) Smith and Higbee had an interview with President Martin Van Buren, which was an abject failure for Smith and his allies. The Prophet claimed that Van Buren "treated me very insolently, and it was with great reluctance he listened to our message." Smith's various accounts of his audience with the President differed, depending upon how angry he felt at the recollection. [[18. Smith, History of the Church, IV, 80 and 89; VI, 203.]] The Prophet had previously believed that the President was always fearless, righteous, unselfish, above political considerations, willing and able to override vacillating or wicked courts and legislatures. [[19. Flanders, Nauvoo, 43.]] "But instead of this," said Smith, "I discovered that popular clamor and personal aggrandizement were the ruling principles of those in authority." The President had objected, "If I take up for you I shall lose the vote of Missouri." Smith observed that "on my way home I did not fail to proclaim the iniquity and insolence of Martin Van Buren, towards myself and injured people which will have its effect upon the public mind." He hoped that Van Buren might "never be elected again to any office of trust or power, by which he may abuse the innocent and let the guilty go free." [[20. Smith, History of the Church, IV, 89.]]

    Smith was also frustrated by his interview with Henry Clay of Kentucky, an important Whig party leader, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, who had been vice-president under John Q. Adams and Andrew Jackson: Calhoun's "conduct toward me very ill became his station." [[21. Ibid., IV, 80.]] Clay had informed Smith that the Mormon question "involves a nice question, the question of State's rights; it will not do to agitate it." [[22. Quoted in George Gayler, "A Social, Economic and Political Study of the Mormons in Western Illinois, 1839-1846" (Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1955), 68. end22]] Henry Clay did present the Mormon petition of grievances to the Senate, but commented, "I am indifferent as to the motion." [[23. Niles National Register, February 1, 1840. The text of the Mormons' petition can be found in Smith, History of the Church, IV, 24-38. end23]] March 4, 1840`the Senate Judiciary Committee considered the Mormon proposal and concluded "that the petitioners must seek relief in the courts of judicature of the State of Missouri." [[24. "Senate Judiciary Committee Report on the Memorial of Delegation of the Latter Day Saints, March 4, 1840," Senate Documents, 1st Session, 26th Congress, V, 1839-1840, 44. end24]]

     




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    Judge Higbee remained in Washington to aid John T. Stuart, the Whig Senator from Illinois, in pressing the Mormon's claims, but they were not successful.

    Rigdon's illness was so severe that he was unable to return to Nauvoo until mid-summer of 1840. Smith blamed Rigdon's absence for the failure of the mission to Washington; the Prophet believed that Rigdon could have convinced Van Buren, Clay and Calhoun of the righteousness of the Mormon cause. [[25. Chase, "Sidney Rigdon," 126.]] Smith was also upset that the expense of Rigdon's illness had forced the sale of Smith's carriage and team, of which he was so proud. After the Washington trip the Prophet no longer depended on Rigdon as his spokesman. Rigdon himself remained ill for most of the years he lived at Nauvoo (from 1839 to 1844).

    In 1839 the Mormon Church had two great projects -- to receive redress for the wrongs done them in Missouri and to find a location for the settlement of a new Mormon community. February 26, 1839 Doctor Isaac Galland, of Commerce, Illinois -- a defunct village bordering the Mississippi River in Hancock County -- had contacted Rigdon about selling the Mormons a tract of land. Galland was a frontier adventurer, speculator, promoter, and confidence man, and his claim to the title of "Doctor" was itself of uncertain origin. [[26. Flanders, Nauvoo, 26.]] Rigdon was in favor of examining the land, so on March 9, 1839 a committee composed of Rigdon, Higbee, and John Greene, who later became Marshall of Nauvoo, was appointed by a church conference for that purpose. Smith wrote from prison that the Church should buy the land because Galland seemed ready to work out an acceptable credit arrangement. The Prophet was also impressed by Galland's seemingly influential economic and political connections. [[27. Ibid., 32.]]

    When Smith joined the Mormons at Quincy he began immediately to search for a location for his Mormon community on the Mississippi. A location on the river had commercial advantages, but Smith was undecided whether he preferred the Illinois or Iowa side (Galland owned lands both in Lee County, Iowa, and Hancock County, Illinois). The factor which decided Smith to buy from Galland was the credit terms -- particularly no money down. May 1, 1839 the Mormons bought for $5,000 a 135-acre farm belonging to Hugh White, an early settler. This was located about a mile south of Commerce, which later became part of Nauvoo. There were also 47 acres adjoining the White property on which stood a building euphemistically described as a "hotel." Galland had purchased this property two years earlier for $2,000, and now sold it to the Saints for $9,000. [[28. Ibid., 35.]]

     




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    The majority of the Committee of Removal -- an ad hoc group formed to supervise the Mormon refugees -- wanted to deed the property to Alanson Ripley as an agent for the committee, which in turn would represent the entire Church. Rigdon protested, however, that "no committee should control any property which he had anything to do with." [[29. "Journal History," May 1, 1839. Rigdon's reasoning was proven sound when in 1842 most of the Mormon leaders were forced to declare bankruptcy because of Church debts they had signed in Kirtland. This group included Rigdon, George Robinson, and Joseph and Hyrum Smith. end29]] He wanted to avoid group responsibility for individual mistakes which he believed had caused the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society. So the deeds were made out to George W. Robinson with a verbal agreement that when the committee paid him he would deed the property to the Church at his original purchase price. [[30. Flanders, Nauvoo, 35.]] On subsequent occasions Smith ignored Rigdon's objections and his agents purchased land in the name of the Church. Between May 13 and June 26, 1839 agents Oliver Granger and Vinson Knight purchased from Dr. Galland tracts of 2,638 and 12,745 acres in the Half-Breed Tract in Lee County, Iowa, in the southeastern corner of Iowa Territory, for $6,600 and $32,342.22 respectively. However, the Mormons were never able to obtain clear title to this land [[31. Ibid., 36. See 27-36 for a detailed account of the complexities of the Half-Breed Tract. end31]] because Galland's ownership was not clearly established. Two land promoters, Horace Hotchkiss and John Gillet, sold Smith another 500 acres on the east bank of the Mississippi about 50 miles up the river from Quincy, Illinois; this land included the so-called towns of Commerce and Commerce City, which combined to make Smith's projected site of the Mormon city. Smith acted for the Church in contracting for this "Hotchkiss Purchase" at a cost of $114,500, all on credit. [[32. Ibid., 42.]]

    Despite the fact that most of the land purchases were in Iowa Territory, Smith chose to settle on the Illinois side of the Mississippi. During the 1840's there were about 1,000 Mormons on the Iowa lands, and their relationship to the citizens of Nauvoo was similar to that of the residents of Independence, Missouri to those of Kirtland, Ohio in the 1830's.

    The site of Nauvoo -- the name was a Hebrew one conveying the idea of beauty and repose -- was well chosen from an economic viewpoint. The city was located at the head of the Des Moines Rapids of the Mississippi, a twelve-mile system of deeply submerged limestone formations which made navigation difficult for most boats during certain parts of the year and impossible for large river craft. [[33. Ibid., 40.]] The head of the rapids was a natural terminus for traffic on the upper Mississippi, as Commerce and Commerce City, two previous settlements on that location, illustrated. However, these settlements had succumbed to malaria, the scourge of the Mississippi valley.

     




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    The site on which the Mormons proposed to build their mighty city was a piece of malaria-ridden river bottomland. The people of Nauvoo suffered from malaria to such a degree that in 1839 they called it a plague. [[34. John D. Lee, Mormonism Unveiled: Including the Remarkable Life and Confessions of the Late Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee, Written by Himself (St. Louis, 1877), 47. end34]] Joseph Smith grieved over the death of his father, his brother Don Carlos, and his personal secretary, Robert B. Thompson. Ebenezer Robinson, a partner of Don Carlos Smith as printers of the Times and Seasons, commented that the city "was so unhealthy, very few could live there." [[35. The Return, April, 1890.]] In 1841 the disease rate in Nauvoo was so high that Rigdon preached a general funeral sermon for all those who had succumbed. During the five years he lived at Nauvoo Rigdon suffered the poorest health of his life. He contracted an unspecified disease (not malaria) which disabled him for months at a time. [[36. Interview with Dr. Charles Fee, M.D., Lawrence, Kansas, May 28, 1968. If Rigdon had suffered from chronic malaria he would have been bedfast for a few days each month as the disease completed its cycle, but Rigdon was confined to his sickbed for months at a time. end36]]

    Rigdon's constant ill health hampered his effectiveness as counselor and spokesman for Joseph Smith. In 1840 John C. Bennett, a recent convert, radically altered the relationship between Smith and Rigdon by replacing Rigdon as second in authority and influence in the Mormon power structure. Bennett had ambition, ability, force, energy, and intelligence, and was a master at the art of flattery. He is described as "a man of rather pleasing address, calculated to make a favorable impression on the minds of most people." [[37. The Return, June, 1890.]] Quick witted in conversation and bombastic in oratory, he greatly enjoyed the pomp and dazzle of the worlds of politics and the military. His favorite picture of himself shows a small, black-haired man with a beaked nose, dressed in the military uniform of a general of the Illinois militia in a characteristically Napoleonic pose with his hand inside his coat. Smith was much impressed with Bennett's list of titles: he claimed to be a medical doctor, a lawyer, a thirty-third degree Free-Mason, Quartermaster General of Illinois, and Brigadier General in the Invincible Light Dragoons of Illinois.

    Smith had been searching for someone to replace Rigdon as his chief lieutenant, and Bennett became the Prophet's counselor and confidant. Smith was an easy mark for sharp dealers and flatterers because, despite his domination of the movement, he was often most naive in temporal matters. [[38. Flanders, Nauvoo, 5.]] Time revealed that Bennett was "probably the greatest scamp in the western country," an individual of "debauched, unprincipled and profligate character." [[39. Ford, History of Illinois, 62.]] In short, he was a liar, a fraud, and a con-man. Yet he possessed a disarming charm which allowed most of the prominent Mormons, including Rigdon, to consider him one of their closest personal friends. Bennett had become a Mormon in order to secure power among the people of the fastest growing city in the state. [[40. There are some Mormon scholars who do not take such a harsh view of Bennett's motivations and activities. They state that he had been a believer but became disillusioned with Joseph Smith. Bennett is regarded as a promoter rather than a charlatan. end40]]

     




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    Although Bennett was astute in providing the essentials of a temporal kingdom -- such as political power, legal sovereignty, and a military force -- he rejected Smith's concept of the Kingddm of God. His counsel to Smith on each major question, although it appeared promising, turned out to be one of the reasons for Nauvoo's destruction and the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Bennett became a popular hero in Nauvoo when he succeeded in getting that city's proposed charter ratified by the state legislature. He "flattered both sides with the hope of Mormon favor;" the members of both political parties expected the Mormons to vote for them in the next election. [[41. Flanders, Nauvoo, 98.]]

    The charter had a provision which Smith and Rigdon hoped would protect their city. Nauvoo's municipal court was empowered to issue writs of habeas corpus in all cases arising under the ordinances of the city council. In the future the court was to issue such writs in order to free persons arrested in Nauvoo, especially the Prophet, regardless of the authority under which they were arrested. [[42. Ibid., 99.]] The Nauvoo City Council could define the jurisdiction of the municipal court in any way it wished, including declaring null and void any writ of extradition for one of its leaders. The council was limited only by the provision of the charter that such definitions would not be repugnant to the constitutions of the United States or of the state of Illinois. [[43. Nauvoo Charter section 8, quoted in John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints or an Expose of Joe Smith and the Mormons (Boston, 1842), 195. The entire chapter was printed in Bennett's expose, 194-199. Also see Therald Jensen, "The Mormon Theory of Church and State" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1938), 59-68, for an extensive discussion of the charter. end43]] The habeas corpus provision of the charter was designed to make Nauvoo a bastion of legal safety in which Church officials arrested in the state of Illinois by Gentile civil officers from Missouri or elsewhere could be freed by legal process. The provision of the charter not only helped protect the Mormons from legal persecution, but also made outside law enforceable in Nauvoo only if the city government agreed. [[44. Flanders, Nauvoo, 99.]]

    The scope of Smith's and Rigdon's dreams for their community was illustrated in the provision of the charter which allowed for easy expansion of the boundaries of the city. It also provided for a militia -- the Nauvoo Legion -- which was not subject to the military laws of Illinois. However, the Legion was at the disposal of the mayor in executing the laws and ordinances of the city corporation; thus, the militia became a police force at the discretion of the mayor of Nauvoo. A university, too, was established by the city charter. Permission was also granted for the formation of the Nauvoo Agricultural and Mechanical Association, of which Rigdon was commissioner in charge of the sale of stock. Rigdon and Smith hoped that the Association would be the foundation of church-controlled industry in the city and

     




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    Chapter 7
    A Stranger Among the Children
    of God, 1842-1844

    THE LAST YEARS that Sidney Rigdon lived in Nauvoo, from 1842 to 1844, were ones of conflict, turmoil, and tragedy for the Church. The breach between Rigdon and Smith was expanded into a chasm when Rigdon accused the Prophet of attempting to seduce his daughter, Nancy. Smith sought to drive Rigdon from the First Presidency; however, Rigdon foiled Smith's attempt to expel him at a Church conference by a moving speech which turned the audience against the Prophet's desire. After Smith's assassination in June, 1844, Rigdon sought to be proclaimed "guardian" of the Church. Brigham Young, who led the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, defeated Rigdon in a bitter struggle for Church leadership, and then the Twelve excommunicated Rigdon and his followers for partisan and not reigious, reasons. At the age of fifty-one Rigdon was forced to leave the Church to which he had contributed the most productive years of his life.

    The personal conflict between Rigdon and Smith centered around a scandal involving the alleged attempt to seduce Sidney's daughter Nancy. [[1]] The Prophet's conduct toward Miss Rigdon has become one of the moot questions of Mormon history. [[2]] Dr. John C. Bennett, the Rigdon family physician, described Nancy Rigdon as "a beautiful girl, or irreproachable fame, great moral excellence, and superior intellectual endowments," [[3]] The sworn testimony concerning the scandal has varied so much that the truth may never be revealed, but what Rigdon believed happened was quite clear. He felt that his daughter was propositioned by the Prophet. John W. Rigdon, Nancy's younger brother, retold the family's version of the event; he claimed that Joseph, the Prophet, "made a proposition to my sister, Nancy Rigdon, to become his wife." [[4]]

    John C. Bennett claimed that Joseph Smith said to him, "If you will assist me in procuring Nancy as one of my spiritual wives, I will give you five hundred dollars, or the best lot on Main Street." [[5]] According

     




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    out of the way, he manufactures one to allure the people and destroy them." Young testified before the High Council that "I have loved that man (Rigdon), and always had the very best feeling for him; I have stood in defense of his life and his house in Kirtland, and have lain on the floor night after night and week after week to defend him." Young also lamentedabout other fallen souls: "There are those who are following Sidney for whom my heart is grieved. I esteem them as good citizens." Bishop Newel Whitney then gave his judgment:

    "I was well acquainted with Elder Rigdon a number of years before he came into the church. I never had any confidence in Brother Rigdon as a revelator, and why? Because I have so repeatedly heard Brother Joseph rebuke him for speaking, in the name of the Lord, what was not so.... At the time his license was taken away in Kirtland, he was more sanguine than he is now.... When he first came here, I thought he was deceived, but since last Tuesday evening, I have been convinced that he is dishonest." [[75]]

    Rigdon, the Twelve, and the High Council were fighting not only for the leadership of the Church but for what they considered to be two kingdoms. One was the kingdom of this earth, which included the city of Nauvoo, the Church membership, and all their resources as well as their allegiances; the other was the Kingdom of God that the righteous were going to establish and which would insure salvation to their souls. The conflict was greater than a matter of life and death; it concerned the salvation of damnation of an entire people. Young expressed their common conviction when he stated, "When it touches the salvation of the people, I am the man that walks the line." [[76]]

    I feel to sustain the Twelve in withdrawing their fellowship (from Rigdon)." After Orson Hyde objected that the motion was not explicit enough, Elder William W. Phelps moved that "Elder Sidney Rigdon be cut off from the Church and delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until he repents." This motion passed the High Council unanimously, and Elder Phelps offered the same motion to all the members of the Church assembled there. Rigdon's supporters voted to the contrary; then all those who had opposed the excommunication of Rigdon were also cut off and delivered to the buffetings of Satan. The life=giving cord which had connected Rigdon with the Mormon movement for a decade and a half was now cut. [[77]]

     




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    Chapter 8
    Lonely Is He Who Understands

    AFTER NAUVOO Sidney Rigdon followed the dictates of his own religious understanding only to find himself isolated from everyone else who believed in the Book of Mormon. During the years from 1844 to 1846 he made a desperate attempt to re-establish the Mormon Church in its purity as it had been at Kirtland, Ohio. He was unsuccessful in trying to reform Mormonism and at the same time in attempting to gather the Saints who had been left leaderless by the death of the Prophet. His followers drifted away and left him to spend the last thirty years of his life isolated from any religious group. Yet for the rest of his days Rigdon clung to the belief that the Book of Mormon was divinely inspired and that Smith had been a Prophet of God.

    In the fall of 1844 Rigdon returned to Pittsburgh, where he had moved his family shortly before the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. A group of Mormons who were dissatisfied with the leadership of Brigham Young, and who opposed the practice of plural marriage, chose Rigdon as the leader of their schismatic Mormon sect. Prominent among those dissenters was Ebenezer Robinson, who had been editor of the Times and Seasons before Smith took the paper away from him and gave the editorship of it to the Twelve. Robinson balked at giving up the newspaper which he had developed into the most important one in Nauvoo, but Smith reprimanded him with a revelation:

    "Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, go and say unto the Twelve, that it is my will to have them take in hand the editorial department of the Times and Seasons according to that manifestation which shall be given unto them by the power of my Holy Spirit in the midst of their counsel (sic) saith the Lord, Amen." [[1]]

    Ropbinson, like Rigdon, had opposed the development of the Nauvoo Legion, denounced the Church's participation in the Masonic order, and

     




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    Footnotes

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    Bibliographical Essay

    According to Joseph W. White, "The Influence of Sidney Rigdon Upon the Theology of Mormonism" (MA thesis, University of Southern California, 1947), a biographer of Rigdon had a difficult task because the things written about him do not bring him very close to us. White claims that Rigdon seems as colorless as the bas-relief of an Assyrian monarch.

    Rigdon always lived in the shadows of other men, such as Adamson Bentley, Alexander Campbell, and especially Joseph Smith. As a result, although he appears in a great many primary materials concerning both the Mormons and the Disciples of Christ, secondary religious writers have tended to minimize his influence because he apostatized from their churches. On the other hand, Rigdon's influence on Mormonism was a popular topic among anti-Mormon writers from 1832 until 1947.

    There are no collections of Sidney Rigdon's papers as such. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints historian's office at Salt Lake City has about 25 of his letters. Most of these concern either his family or his health; however one, dated January 1, 1844, is a petition of grievances to the Pennsylvania Legislature; it also amounts to a sixteen-page autobiography. * In 1906, John W. Rigdon, Sidney's son, wrote a biography of his father entitled "Lecture on Early Mormon Church." which was given to the Washington State Historical Society. This manuscript contains information about his father's childhood and old age which is unavailable elsewhere. However, the accuracy of the manuscript is most doubtful, because John Rigdon is mistaken about the location of his father's birthplace and the date on which Joseph Smith allegedly attempted to seduce John's sister Nancy. To my knowledge there are no manuscripts in the possession of Rigdon's descendants; when he died in 1876 his relatives burned a manuscript numbering over 1,500 pages.

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    * Reproduced below ("Appendix") in reduced facisimile from the original.

     




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    Roberts edition is generally the same as Smith's original edition and much easier to use. In 1899 John Jaques, a Latter-Day Saint assistant church historian, wrote an important series of short articles on Rigdon which utilized the "Journal History." John Jaques. "The Life and Labors of Sidney Rigdon," Improvement Era, III (1899-1900), 97-109, 218-227, 265-273, 350-358, 458-462, 487-492, 579-587. Jaques' articles are basically an index of Rigdon materials in the "Journal History." The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (4 vols., Independence, 1951) is a set of source books rather than a history; large passages from early Mormon newspapers are quoted with a few connecting remarks. These books mention Rigdon as he influenced the Mormon movement in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois.

    Sidney Rigdon has been critized severely by several anti-Mormon books. Alexander Campbell attacked Rigdon's new religion in Delusions: An Analysis of the Book of Mormon: With an Examination of Its Internal and External Evidences and a Refutation of Its Pretences to Divine Authority (Boston, 1832). Campbell claimed that the prophets of the Book of Mormon taught principles of the gospel which were characteristic solely of nineteenth century American Protestantism; thus, Smith had invented the Book of Mormon as a religious myth. E. D. Howe, the anti-Mormon editor of the Painesville Telegraph originated the false theory that Rigdon had manufactured the Book of Mormon from a stolen manuscript in Mormonism Unvailed or a Faithful Account of that Singular Imposition and DELUSION from its Rise to the Present Time with Sketches of the Characters of its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible was Brought Before the World to which are Added Inquiries into the Probability that the Historical Part of Said Bible was written by One Solomon Spaulding More than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance (Painesville, 1834). Other authors have echoed Howe's accusations against Rigdon. For example see Daniel P. Kidder, Mormonism and the Mormons: A Historical View of the Rise and Progress of the Sect Self-Styled Latter Day Saints (New York, 1842); Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism (New York, 1885); Charles A. Shook, Cumorah Revisited or the Book of Mormon and the Claims of the Mormons Re-examined from the Viewpoints of American Archaeology and Ethnology (Cincinnati, 1910); George B. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism: Its Character and Changing Forms (Chicago, 1932).

    William H. Whitsitt, "Sidney Rigdon the Founder of Mormonism," a manuscript of over 1,000 pages, accepted Howe's theory of the origin

     




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    of the Book of Mormon. Whitsitt's manuscript claims that Rigdon was entirely responsible for the Mormon hoax. In spite of its length, Whitsitt's work does not reveal any new information about Rigdon, but rather is an anti-Mormon history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints during its first decades. Every writer who has tried to prove that Rigdon was the originator and prime mover of Mormonism has failed to prove his thesis; this is particularly true of Joseph W. White, "The Influence of Sidney Rigdon Upon the Theology of Mormonism" (MA thesis, University of Southern California, 1947). Both Whitsitt and White accept the idea that Rigdon plagiarized the Solomon Spaulding manuscript to manufacture the Book of Mormon. There might have been some reason to believe this theory prior to 1886 [sic] when Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" was located and given to Oberlin College. However, on comparison, there is no resemblance between "Manuscript Found" and the Book of Mormon. James H. Fairchild, the president of Oberlin College, claimed that The Manuscript Story of 'Manuscript Found' from a Verbatim Copy of the Original Now in the Library of Oberlin College (Lamoni, Iowa, 1908 [sic]) was in truth identical to Spaulding's manuscript. In "Manuscript of Solomon Spaulding and the Book of Mormon: A Paper Read Before the Western Reserve Historical Society, March 23, 1886," Western Reserve Historical Society, tract no. 77, 185-200, Fairchild published his opinion that Rigdon could not have written the Book of Mormon.

    The most important anti-Mormon book is Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows my History: The Life of Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet (New York, 1945). This book has become the Protestant minister's guide to Mormonism, and is most highly regarded in anti-Mormon circles. Brodie's treatment of Rigdon, as well as of other Mormon figures, is a diligent transcription of anti-Mormon sources. Brodie has about as much intellectual objectivity as John C. Bennett, whom she quotes so frequently; however, as an anthology of anti-Mormon sources No Man Knows my History is superb. Not all authorities of Mormon history agree with the above evaluation, and Mrs. Brodie's book is often quoted in scholarly works.

    Several of Rigdon's contemporaries wrote excellent histories of the early Mormon movement. John Corrill, Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (Commonly Called Mormons) Including an Account of their Doctrine and Discipline with the Reasons of the Author for Leaving the Church (St. Louis, 1839), is an excellent account of militant Mormonism in Missouri. Corrill also offers insights

     




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    Index


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    Appendix


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    Transcriber's Comments

    F. Mark McKiernan: Rigdon's Second Biographer




    01. Place of McKiernan in Modern Mormon Studies

    F. Mark McKiernan (1940-1997) in many ways personally embodied the changes in self-image and purpose that swept through the RLDS Church in the 1960s and 1970s. On one hand, he was an old fashioned defender of the religion of his fathers -- always ready to use his knowledge and dry humor to help direct a younger generation's attention back to a simpler, generally more faith-promoting view of the Latter Day Saints' restoration movement. On the other hand, he was a thoughtful, educated RLDS of the new era, struggling to utilize the methods of a professional historian in the midst of a body of believers who still mistrusted "the learned" and were who still wondered if the sacred tales of the Saints were not meant "to confound the wise."

    Mark was a restorationist in more than one sense of the term. Besides eventually serving as a pastor in South Crysler RLDS congregation of Independence, MO, he also took an active interest in the documentation and physical reconstruction of sites and structures important in Mormon history. His interest in these matters sprang from an Iowa family tradition in the Reogranization and from his own personal historical research, which dated back to his doctoral studies at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

    McKiernan's 1968 University of Kansas dissertation was entitled, "The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer, 1793-1876." and the present book review looks at a portion of the published version, bearing the same title. From Kansas Mark moved to Pocatello, Idaho and taught in the History Department at Idaho State University as an associate professor. His close proximity to the historical collections of Utah libraries brought the young researcher into contact with scholars of Mormon history in that state, and, by the Summer of 1970, Mark had gained provisional acceptance for the publication of his Sidney Rigdon study by the University of Utah Press as a part of its projected Biography of Mormon Leaders series. These plans were announced in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Summer 1970), in an introduction to that journal's printing of an excerpt from the dissertation, under the title of, "The Conversion of Sidney Rigdon to Mormonism."


    02. The First Published Rigdon Biography

    As it turned out McKiernan's work never saw dissemination in Utah and he was forced to turn to the Coronado Press at Lawrence, Kansas to get his dissertation into print in 1971. Even shorn of its University of Utah credentials, the book was the first biography of Mormon leader Sidney Rigdon ever placed on the sales rack. Rigdon's history was never a popular subject for LDS or RLDS writers before McKiernan rehabilitated the neglected Mormon apostate with a telling of his story from a perspective that focused largely on Rigdon's supposed role as a forerunner to Joseph Smith, the founding of Mormonism, and a still awaited Millennial reign of Christ. LDS skepticism on the value of such a biography cleared the playing field of other literary contenders and for 23 years McKiernan's Sidney Rigdon was the only substantial report on the Mormon leader available to either the specialized scholar or the casual reader of restoration history.

    There had been a previous Rigdon biography written and offered to the publishers of the previous century. This was William H. Whitsitt's "Sidney Rigdon, the Real Founder of Mormonism." McKiernan had looked over the manuscript of this earlier attempt at biographical reporting (then available as a microfilm in Stanley Ivins' personal collection in Salt Lake City) but he apparently made little use of its contents. With the Whitsitt effort unknown to all but a few researchers and archivists, McKiernan's volume quickly became the standard reference on Rigdon and it saw repeated limited printings at Coronado Press until McKiernan turned over the rights to the RLDS owned Herald House publishers in 1979. The slender 190 page paperback is still listed for sale in that bookseller's 1998 Catalog.


    03. Contents of the Book

    The chapters of McKiernan's book are as follows: Chapter 1: The Search, 1793-1826 (13 pp.); Chapter 2: The Advent of Mormonism into the Western Reserve (16 pp.); Chapter 3: Kirtland, the Headquarters of the Early Mormon Church, 1830-1832 (16 pp.); Chapter 4: Crisis at Kirtland (23 pp.); Chapter 5: Mormonism on the Defensive: Far West, 1838-1839 (19 pp.); Chapter 6: Nauvoo: 1839-1842 (14 pp.); Chapter 7: A Stranger Among the Children of God, 1842-1844 (17 pp.); Chapter 8: Lonely is He Who Understands, 1844-1876 (13 pp.) These chapters are followed by 24 pages of notes and the book is finished up with a 9 page "Bibliographical Essay" and a rather slight attempt at furnishing an index.

    As we can see from the above list, less than 8% of McKiernan's reporting is devoted to the 36 years Rigdon spent outside of the Mormon Church following his unsuccessful 1844 bid for the leadership of that organization. In fact, nearly all of McKiernan's basic framework for Sidney Rigdon was derived from Mormon publications written prior to 1850. The author's lack of personal inquiry into primary sources shows up most distressingly at the beginning and the end of Rigdon's story, during those time-periods where the biographer was unable to consult the research of other reporters for detailed information. It was McKiernan's failure to conduct substantial research at the primary source level which limited the value of his dissertation in 1968 and it was this same lack of detailed information (coupled with some spotty and amateurish reporting) which made both necessary and inevitable Richard S. VanWagoner's 500 page 1994 Sidney Rigdon, A Portrait of Religious Excess.

    I am not saying that Mark's book was not a needed or useful volume at the time of its initial writing. Even as a 200 page extended biographical sketch it offered its readers some good material not otherwise available between two covers. But even the least sophisticated of readers in restoration history might come away from a perusal of this tome wondering how the author ever was able to finagle a Ph.D. degree based upon its contents.

    Mark was ahead of his time in making selective use of non-Mormon sources (primarily anti-Mormon publications) in his information gathering; his bibliography includes writers from William H. Whitsitt to Fawn Brodie. But he nowhere states the methodology he used to extract reliable information from those sources. Nor does he admit the problems encountered by the serious historian in making reliable selections from "Church approved" Mormon sources. In short, we might say that the writer produced an attempt at projecting the objective inquiry required by his dissertation review committee, while apparently writing an old-fashioned "faith-promoting" book tuned to the ears of an RLDS Sunday School class. Important matters of controversy in Rigdon's life are passed over with only a few comments, while the readers are forced to suffer through useless descriptions of half a dozen Saintly noses and other boring details of physiognomy. Where we might look for an insightful account of Rigdon's obscure personal relationships with Alexander Campbell or John C. Bennett, we come away with an over-generalized opinion of how Rigdon's personal characteristics measured up to those of one of his contemporaries. Such stuff is practically useless to the inquiring student of early Mormonism.

    Marvin S. Hill, in his Summer 1972 Dialogue review of the book, saw the volume as being "disappointing," and full of "deficiencies," a report that "shows signs of haste: factual and interpretive errors, clumsy writing, poor conceptualization, inadequate research." But, while Hill is quick to point out several of McKiernan's "factual mistakes," the reviewer treads lightly in those areas where McKiernan himself was less than critical regarding Rigdon's possible motives, experiences, and impact upon nascent Mormonism. Hill is certainly correct in saying that McKiernan's work "lacks finesse;" to stumble through his notes (even after numerous reprintings) is enough to make even the most forgiving reader cuss at McKiernan's haphazard use of the critical apparatus.

    Hill comes closest to identifying what may be the major flaw in McKiernan's reporting in saying that "the book suffers more fundamentally in that the theme of Rigdon as religious reformer is not developed consistently. McKiernan does not tell us enough of Alexander Campbell as reformer nor does he treat early Mormonism as a reformation (or re-formation) of American Christianity. Thus Rigdon's attraction to these movements is not adequately explained." We might suppose that a William H. Whitsitt or a Richard S. VanWagoner would (and did) write massively about just such a topic, and that they would wonder why McKiernan ignored exploring his own chosen thesis so uniformly throughout the pages of this biography. This lack of exposition of McKiernan's part may, however, be partly explained by Rigdon's odd reticence to step forward and claim the glories of latter day leadership, whether as a Reformed Baptist, a Mormon, or as the ostensible head of his own splinter group. Rigdon always acted like a man who was hiding some dark secret and perhaps McKiernan did not care to explore too deeply into what that secret might have been. He offers some bland comments on how Rigdon's probable mental illness was not caused by a childhood injury to the head, but he bypasses the opportunity to inquire into the man's erratic behavior throughout his lengthy life.

    The author also shirks the responsibility of reporting on Rigdon's reliability and honesty as a spiritual seeker and religious leader. Did he in fact manufacture a conversion experience to gain entrance into the Baptist denomination? Did he "lie in the name of the Lord" both in Ohio and Nauvoo? Were his post-excommunication revelations a product of self-delusion or bare-faced priestcraft? These are the sorts of questions we would like to see answered concerning Mr. Rigdon, but neither McKiernan nor Hill ever took their discussions so far as to provide us with that information

    William D. Russell, in his Summer 1973 BYU Studies review of McKiernan's work was a bit more forgiving than Hill, but only marginally so. Russell welcomed McKiernan's offering of a "chapter on Rigdon before his contact with Joseph Smith" and noted that McKiernan had some insight into "the effectiveness of the Book of Mormon in winning people to the Church." Here is another segment of Rigdon's life that calls for exploration and explanation. What were the theological and ecclesiastical elements in the Book of Mormon and early Mormon doctrine which so enraptured Sidney Rigdon? How could a Reformed Baptist, just lately broken away from the apron-strings of Alexander Campbell, take such a "new revelation" and almost immediately upon finishing his reading of its contents go about preaching an exuberant sermon on its complexities before a skeptical audience in Palmyra, NY? Russell says that McKiernan did well do portray both "Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt . . . as finding the Book of Mormon convincing because . . . it 'contained answers for many of the problems which had plagued'" these Campbellite apostates. But exactly what was it that the Book of Mormon offered that Alexander Campbell did not offer? And exactly how did Reformed Baptists like Rigdon and Pratt make use of that "new revelation" in bringing forth and establishing the cause of Joseph Smith, Jr.?

    Russell notes in his review that "there are a number of places where greater editorial care could have helped prevent unclear or confusing statements." It is unfortunate that McKiernan's initial efforts to seek publication through the University of Utah failed -- for the specialized editorial craftsmanship he might have been subjected to that institution probably would have resulted in a total re-researching and re-writing of this sadly aborted Rigdon biography. Russell also points out that "McKiernan seems to show an RLDS bias..." and that he accepts "uncritically" what can only be called the RLDS party line. This perhaps explains why Herald House continues to issue the book, without even taking the trouble to correct its typographical errors. It was the product of immature scholarship and it is continued in its circulation by publishers unable or unwilling to admit that fact, so long as it makes the Reorganized Latter Day Saints look good in their own, limited self-inspection.


    04. Some Specific Problems

    As it my intention to limit the scope of this review to topics germane to the Solomon Spalding Authorship Theory for the Book of Mormon, I'll focus my own attention on what McKiernan had to say about Rigdon's activities as they might pertain to that particular theory.

    under construction




    Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Vol. 5, No. 2 Summer 1970 [p.71] The Conversion of Sidney Rigdon to Mormonism F. Mark McKiernan F. Mark McKiernan teaches in the History Department at Idaho State University. The following article is part of a larger study on Sidney Rigdon soon to be published by the University of Utah Press in its Biography of Mormon Leaders series: A VOICE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS: SIDNEY RIGDON, RELIGIOUS REFORMER. This article is printed here with the permission of the University of Utah Press. Late in October 1830, four tired Mormon missionaries reached the village of Mentor, Ohio. Their leader, Parley P. Pratt, had persuaded them to walk two hundred miles out of their way to bring the message of the Book of Mormon to his friend, Sidney Rigdon. It was to be a most opportune meeting for both Rigdon and the representatives of the infant Mormon movement. The Book of Mormon gave Rigdon answers to questions which he had been asking for years. The Mormon movement was to him the end of his quest for the fullness of the gospel as Jesus had taught it in New Testament times. Mormonism found in Rigdon a mighty spokesman and dedicated leader. [p.71 - p.72] Rigdon was one of the best known and respected revivalists in the Western Reserve. He had been an important leader among the Mahoning Baptist Association and then the Disciples of Christ. However, in the spring of 1830 Rigdon had separated himself and his Mentor congregation from the Campbellite fellowship. When the Mormon missionaries visited him, Rigdon was desperately searching for a religious organization which contained the fullness of the New Testament gospel. Pratt and his companions brought to Rigdon and his congregation the claims of a latter-day prophet, a new religion, and a new Scripture. "They professed to be special messengers of the Living God, sent to preach the Gospel in its purity, as it was anciently preached by the Apostles." [[1John Corrill, Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints (Commonly Called Mormons) Including an Account of Their Doctrine and Discipline with the Reasons of the author for Leaving the Church (St. Louis, 1839), p. 7. Hereafter cited as Corrill. end1]] This claim greatly excited Rigdon, as he had constantly tried and failed to establish the "ancient order of things" in Alexander Campbell's religious movement. Rigdon was nevertheless very skeptical of Mormonism because "they had with them a new revelation, which they said had been translated from certain gold plates that had been deposited in a hill" (Corrill, p. 7). Pratt offered to debate the matter, but Rigdon refused; he preferred to learn about Joseph Smith, who claimed to be a prophet, and to read the Book of Mormon. He believed that if this religious body really contained the New Testament gospel in its purity he would know it through inspiration. Rigdon fervently hoped that this new movement would give the solution to his search for religious truth. [p.72] Rigdon's consuming passion for the truth and his pursuit of knowledge began when he was a boy on his father's farm near St. Clair Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Sidney's brother, Loammi, was unable to earn a living by farming because some undescribed illness made him unfit to work in the fields. "It was the rule in the country, that when a boy was too feeble to work on a farm they would send him to school to give him an education." Loammi's parents sent him to Transylvania Medical School at Lexington, Kentucky. William Rigdon, Sidney's father, believed that he could afford higher education for one of his sons if compelled by necessity, but not for more than one. "Sidney Rigdon wanted to go to school and pleaded with his father and mother to let him go with his brother . . . , but they would not consent to let him go, saying to him, he was able to work on the farm." [2John W. Rigdon, "Lecture on Early Mormon Church," delivered at Salt Lake City in 1906 (holograph manuscript on deposit at the Washington State Historical Society Library). Hereafter cited as Rigdon. end2]] Sidney Rigdon had learned to read at a log schoolhouse near his home. A rudimentary education was generally considered sufficient; as late as 1816 fewer than one quarter of the school- age children in the neighboring area of Pittsburgh were receiving any formal education. [[3Richard C. Wade, The Urban Frontier: The Rise of Western Cities, 1770-1830 (Cambridge, 1959), p. 136. end3]] When he was not allowed to accompany his brother to medical school, Sidney rebelled against his father's authority. He told his parents that "he would have as good an education as his brother got and they could not prevent it" (Rigdon, p. 3). He read all the books he could borrow from his neighbors. His particular interests were history and the Bible and these two sources of information became the undergirdings of his intellectual life. [p.72 - p.73] William Rigdon, a stern Baptist farmer who had no tolerance for idleness, believed that a young man with a sound body should not waste time reading books. He would not allow Sidney a candle by which to read at night, so the boy gathered hickory bark, which was plentiful around the farm. "He used to get it [the bark] and at night throw it on the old fireplace and then lay with his face headed towards the fire and read history till near morning unless his parents got up and drove him to bed before that time." [p.73] History and the Bible became one for Sidney Rigdon. The Bible told the history of a so-called "chosen people," and Rigdon interpreted the history of the world since New Testament times in terms of biblical prophecy. He did not share the interests of the other farm youths in his neighborhood. "He was never known to play with the boys; reading books was the greatest pleasure he could get" (Rigdon, p. 3). In 1817 Rigdon professed to have had a conversion experience. His pastor, the Reverend David Phillips of the Peter Creek Church, encouraged him to became a Baptist minister. After his father died in 1819, Sidney supported his mother on the family farm. During this time he continued to read constantly. He taught himself English grammar, which made his language very precise. At the age of twenty-six, Sidney set out to find a new life for himself, and his mother went to live with her daughter, Lacy Boyer. Rigdon's knowledge of the Bible and history and his excellent command of English greatly aided his career when he chose to become a minister of the gospel. He spent the winter of 1818-19 with the Reverend Andrew Clark of Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Rigdon read the Bible with Clark and received a license to preach to a Baptist congregation. Sidney Rigdon soon acquired a reputation as a powerful preacher and an effective minister. He was "an orator of no inconsiderable abilities," according to a contemporary, and "his personal influence with an audience was very great." He was of "full medium height, rotund of form, or countenance, while speaking, open and winning, with a little cast of melancholy." His actions were graceful, "his language copious, fluent in utterance, with articulation clear and musical." [[4 Amos S. Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio: With Biographic Sketches of the Principal Agents in Their Religious Movement (Cincinnati, 1876), pp. 103- 04. Hereafter cited as Hayden. end4]] He was five feet, nine and a half inches in height and weighed around 215 pounds. His hair and beard framed a fine-featured face which mirrored his emotions. His countenance was both handsome and striking. His personal manner and friendliness won him many lasting friendships. He loved to meet the members of a congregation, shake their hands, and tell them his personal testimony. He was an excellent conversationalist and took a genuine interest in the lives of the people he met. He believed it was his mission to urge all to repent and accept the gospel which he preached. Rigdon looked, acted, and sounded like a religious leader. [p.73 - p.74] In May 1819, Sidney Rigdon left the Reverend Andrew Clark's home in order to work with Adamson Bentley, the popular Baptist minister of Warren, Ohio, about fourteen miles northwest of Youngstown. Through Bentley he met Miss Phebe Brooks, Mrs. Bentley's sister, and on June 12, 1820, Rigdon and Miss Brooks were married. Adamson Bentley was one of the founders of the Mahoning Baptist Association. Baptists on the frontier often organized several congregations into an association in order to protect their group against heresy, to devise better ways to spread the gospel, and to encourage fellowship among the ministers. Both Bentley and Rigdon were active in the Mahoning Association; Rigdon enjoyed a reputation as a great orator among his fellow ministers, and Bentley was elected three times as moderator, the highest office of the Association. [[5 Minutes of meetings of the Mahoning Baptist Association on August 31, 1825, August 25, 1826, and August 23, 1827, quoted in Mary A. M. Smith, "A History of the Mahoning Baptist Association" (Master's thesis, University of West Virginia, 1943), Appendix, p. 28. end5]] [p.74] In the spring of 1821 Rigdon and Bentley read a pamphlet by Alexander Campbell and decided to question him about his beliefs. For almost a decade after that time the careers of Rigdon and Bentley were to be linked with Alexander Campbell. Rigdon and Bentley visited Campbell at his home, where they discussed the Bible. Campbell explained that with the aid of his father and their followers he was trying to establish the so-called "ancient order of things," or the restoration of Christ's church as it was in New Testament times. Campbell told his visitors that he believed doctrine had to have its origin in the New Testament in order to be essential to salvation; the idea of a difference in authority between the Old and New Testaments struck Rigdon favorably. The conversation was lengthy. Campbell commented, "After tea in the evening, we commenced and prolonged our discourse till the next morning." Rigdon's conversation with Campbell marked a turning point in his life and he became a biblical literalist. According to Campbell, "On parting the next day, Sidney Rigdon, with all apparent candor, said, if he had within the last year taught and promulgated from the pulpit one error, he had a thousand." Campbell happily accepted both Rigdon and Bentley as converts to his cause of reformation, but he worried about Rigdon's compulsive nature: "Fearing they might undo their influence with the people, I felt constrained to restrain rather than to urge them on in the work." [[6Alexander Campbell, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell Embracing a View of the Origin, Progress and Principles of the Religious Reformation Which He Advocated, Robert Richardson, ed. (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1868), 2:44-45. Hereafter cited as Campbell. end6]] Rigdon adopted Campbell's goal of the restoration of the "ancient order of things" as his own. Campbell induced Rigdon to accept a position as pastor of the First Baptist Church at Pittsburgh, a member of the Redstone Baptist Association. Rigdon had considerable success at Pittsburgh and his congregation soon became one of the most respected in the city. He possessed a "great fluency and a lively fancy which gave him great popularity as an orator (Campbell 2:44-45). [p.74 - p.75] When Campbell was driven from the Redstone Association because of what some of the members regarded as heretical ideas, ministers who considered Rigdon to be Campbell's outspoken disciple were determined to drive him out of Pittsburgh as well. While Rigdon's so celled "peculiar style of preaching" had filled the church, certain influential members of the congregation saw in it cause for alarm. When the Redstone Association met in 1824, the ministers who comprised it brought charges against Rigdon for not being sound in the faith, that is, for being a follower of Campbell. The ministers who tried him "denied him the liberty of speaking in self-defense." Rigdon resigned his pastorale and "declared a non-fellowship with them." [[7Sworn statement by Carvel Rigdon and Peter Boyer dated January 27, 1843, quoted in Daryl Chase, "Sidney Rigdon--Early Mormon" (Master's thesis, University of Chicago, 1931), p. 14. end7]] [p. 75] Because Rigdon had a wife and three daughters to support, he took a job working as a journeyman tanner for his wife's brother. He obtained permission to preach in the courthouse on Sundays, and continued to proclaim Campbell's ideas about the restoration of the "ancient order of things." His meetings were attended by a portion of his former Pittsburgh congregation who followed him into religious exile. In 1826 Rigdon left Pennsylvania to accept a pastorale at Mentor, Ohio. Then Mentor congregation was in the Mahoning Baptist Association, in which his friend Alexander Campbell and his brother-in-law Adamson Bentley had become influential ministers. Sidney Rigdon's reputation as a reform Baptist preacher spread throughout the Western Reserve as a result of the revival meetings he held in Mentor and neighboring communities. In 1827 he held a series of preaching services at New Lisbon and Mantua, Ohio, at which he declared the gospel of the restoration. He was so successful in March of 1828 that Amos S. Hayden, his associate and the Campbellite historian, described his efforts as "the great religious awakening in Mentor" (Hayden, p. 204). In the following year, Rigdon held revivals in Kirtland, Perry, and Pleasant Hills, as well as again in Mentor. [p.75 - p.76] By 1830 Sidney Rigdon had developed a personal theology which, although following the teachings of Alexander Campbell in many respects, rejected some of Campbell's ideas. Both Rigdon and Campbell accepted baptism by immersion as the biblical form by which Christ was baptized and which all men should follow. Rigdon disagreed with Campbell over whether the so-called "manifestations of Spiritual Gifts" and miracles had a place in the restoration. The gifts of the Spirit were the speaking and interpretation of foreign tongues, prophecy, visions, spiritual dreams, and the ability to discern evil spirits. Campbell declared that the miraculous work of the Holy Ghost was "confined to the apostolic age, and to only a portion of the saints who lived in that age." [[8Alexander Campbell is quoted in Joseph W. White, "The Influence of Sidney Rigdon upon the Theology of Mormonism" (Master's thesis, University of Southern California, 1947), p. 127. end8]] [p. 76] Rigdon, however, sought "to convince influential persons that, along with the primitive gospel, supernatural gifts and miracles ought to be restored" (Campbell, 2:346). Rigdon wanted to incorporate into Campbell's restoration every belief or practice which was a part of the New Testament church. He also differed from Campbell over the issue of a communal society. Rigdon wanted to establish a community in which all property was held in common, which he believed to be the practice of the early Jerusalem church. "And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need" (Acts 2:44-45). Campbell wanted no economic experiments which involved communal life within his religious sect. Rigdon's and Campbell's theological differences caused friction which grew steadily more abrasive until a complete break occurred in 1830, when Rigdon withdrew his Mentor congregation from the Mahoning Baptist Association. The group was thus not affiliated with any religious body when the missionaries arrived with the news of the Book of Mormon. Rigdon sought evidence which would substantiate Pratt's claim that the Book of Mormon contained the fullness of the New Testament gospel for which he had been searching since 1821. He judged the Book of Mormon the same way he evaluated all material which purported to contain religious truth, that is, by prayerfully comparing it with the Bible. To Rigdon, the doctrine which he found in the Book of Mormon compared most favorably with that in the Bible. Indeed, he found in his new Scripture answers he had been seeking for years. If the Mormon movement embraced the doctrines contained in the Book of Mormon, then he had found the true restoration gospel. The prophet Moroni asked the question which had plagued Rigdon as a disciple of Campbell, that is, whether miracles ceased because Christ had ascended to heaven. Moroni answered his own question by declaring that "angels [have not] ceased to minister unto the children of men" (Moron) 7:29). The Book of Mormon also contained the idea that one must be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, which Rigdon believed to be the true form of baptism. Moroni told of the gifts of the Spirit, which were wisdom, knowledge, healing, miracles, prophecy, speaking and interpretation of tongues, and the discernment of spirits. Rig don had been unhappy because these things were not manifested among the followers of Campbell. Rigdon believed in the literal return of the Jews to their homeland, as was prophesied in II Nephi 9:2: "And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possession." [[9 John Jaques, "Life and Labors of Sidney Rigdon," Improvement Era, 3 (1899-1900), 100. Hereafter cited as Jaques. end9]] The Book of Mormon also bore witness that Jesus was the Christ and that he established a church in the New World with twelve disciples who were to carry on the work of the gospel after He ascended to heaven. [p.76 - p.77] When Rigdon finished reading the Book of Mormon, he claimed that Mormonism was truly the apostolic church divinely restored to the earth. Realizing that this religious change might bring about economic hardships, as had his removal from the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh in 1824, he asked his wife, "My dear, you have followed me once into poverty, are you willing to do the same?" (Jaques, p. 586.) Phebe Rigdon replied, "I have weighed the matter, I have counted the cost, and I am perfectly satisfied to follow you; it is my desire to do the will of God, come life or come death.' [[10 Frederic G. Mather, "The Early Days of Mormonism," Lippincotts Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, 26 (August 1880), 206-7. Hereafter cited as Mather. end10]] There was no indication at this time that Mormonism would be acceptable to his congregation, who were in the act of building Rigdon a new house. Rigdon's life-long quest for the fullness of the gospel compelled him on several occasions to abandon positions of prestige, power, and financial security. Joseph Smith captured the essence of Rigdon's long and difficult quest when he stated, "Truth was his pursuit, and for truth he was prepared to make every sacrifice in his power." [[11 "Journal of History" (Lamoni, Iowa), 3, no. 1 (1910), 7-8. end11]] Sheriff John Barr, a non-Mormon of Cuyahoga County, was present when Rigdon informed his congregation of his decision to embrace Mormonism, and he recorded the incident. Rigdon told them that "he had not been satisfied in his religious yearnings until now." Previously, "at night he had often been unable to sleep, walking and praying for more light and comfort in religion." While in the midst of this soul-searching, "he heard of the revelation of Joe Smith . . . under this his soul suddenly found peace." The Mormon message "filled all his aspirations." According to Sheriff Barr, the congregation was much affected by Rigdon's testimony that he had found religious truth (Mather, pp. 206-07). Rigdon's congregation at Mentor followed his leadership once again; this time they embraced Mormonism. Although some members of traditional religious denominations bitterly opposed the principles which the Mormons taught, the missionaries had an opportunity to preach their new gospel in the towns of Medina, Kirtland, Painesville, and Mayfield, where Rigdon had previously held revival meetings. Pratt, who was spreading the world of Rigdon's conversion to the Book of Mormon, declared that "the interest and excitement now became general in Kirtland, and in the region round about." Mormon missionary activity in the Western Reserve was such a great success that, according to Pratt, "in two or three weeks from our arrival in the neighborhood with the news, we had baptized one hundred an twenty-seven souls, and this number soon increased to one thousand." [[12 Parley P. Pratt, The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts in Prose and Verse from His Miscellaneous Writings (New York, 1876), pp. 65-66. end12]] [p. 78] Rigdon's conversion and the missionary effort which followed transformed Mormonism from a New York-based sect with about a hundred members into one which was a major threat to Protestantism in the Western Reserve. Dialogue, Vol.5, No.2, p.77 - p.78 In December of 1830, Rigdon traveled to New York to meet the founder of the Mormon movement. Rigdon believed that Joseph Smith was chosen to be God's prophet in the last days. A revelation given through Smith revealed to Rigdon that he had been called to be Smith's counselor, scribe and spokesman: "Behold, verily, verily, I say unto my servant Sidney, I have looked upon thee and thy work. 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 the way before me" (D & C 11:2). Rigdon thus believed that God had called him to become a latter-day John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness, to proclaim the establishment of the Kingdom of God and the second coming of Christ. Rigdon acquired a well-earned reputation for being a mighty spokesman for the Lord. Sheriff John Barr described one of Rigdon's baptismal services near Kirtland, Ohio, which he attended with Vernem J. Card, a lawyer, who "was apparently the most stoical of men--of a clear, unexcitable temperament, with unorthodox and vague religious ideas." Rigdon inquired of his audience whether anyone desired to come forward and be immersed in the Chagrin River. The only respondent was "an aged 'deadbeat' by the name of Cahoon, who occasionally joined the Shakers and lived on the country generally." The baptismal service was set for two o'clock in the afternoon, but long before that time the spot was surrounded by as many people as could have a clear view. After Cahoon was baptized, Rigdon, who was still standing in the water, "gave one of his most powerful exhortations." He called for any others who desired salvation to step forward. "They came through the crowd in rapid succession to the number of thirty, and were immersed with no intermission of the discourse on the part of Rigdon (Masher, pp. 206-07). Suddenly Vernem Card seized the Sheriff's arm, pleading, "take me away." Steadying his friend, Barr saw that "his face was so pale that he seemed to be about to faint," and they~rode almost a mile before a word was uttered. Card finally gained control of himself and said, "Mr. Barr, if you had not been there I certainly should have gone into the water," because "the impulse was irresistible" (Mather, pp. 206-07). Besides being an effective preacher of Mormonism, Rigdon was intimately involved with Joseph Smith in directing every major endeavor of the Mormon Church during the first decade of its official existence. He did not share in originating Mormon theology, but the "Hiram Page Affair" illustrated that the infant Mormon movement did not need another prophet. Rigdon became Smith's strong right arm and spokesman. They blended their energies, abilities, ideas, and dreams for the future to become an exceedingly dynamic and successful leadership team. Rigdon's tremendous contributions came when Mormonism needed them most critically. In the early 1840's new developments in Mormonism were seen by Rigdon as straying from the essentials of Christ's church, and in 1844, after the death of Joseph Smith, he was defeated in his attempt to redirect the course of Mormonism. Rigdon then formed a schismatic sect, called the Church of Jesus Christ, which sought unsuccessfully to reestablish Mormonism in its former purity; after the failure of this religious group, he believed that no church on earth represented Christ's New Testament teachings. The last thirty years of Rigdon's life were years of religious isolation during which he refused to associate with a Mormonism which practiced polygamy. Yet Sidney Rigdon remained faithful to the early concepts of Mormonism which Pratt and his companions had introduced at Mentor, Ohio, that October morning in 1830. ===================== McKiernan, F. Mark The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer 1793-1876 Copyright 1971 by F. Mark McKiernan Coronado Press, 1971 McKiernan, F. Mark. The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer, 1793-1876. Lawrence, Kansas: Coronado Press, 1972. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Dissertations: McKiernan, F. Mark. "The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer, 1793-1876." University of Kansas, 1968. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- McKiernan, F. Mark. "Sidney Rigdon's Missouri Speeches," BYU Studies, 11 (Autumn 1970),90-92. The Restoration Movement: Essays in Mormon History. Edited by F. Mark McKiernan (of the Restoration Trails Foundation) Alma R. Blair, and Paul M. Edwards. Lawrence, Kansas: Coronado Press, 1973. 357 pp The next attempt to establish a religious community came at Far West, Missouri, discussed in F. Mark McKiernan's "Mormonism on the Defensive: Far West, 1838-1839." McKiernan presents a succinct narrative based on a combination of primary sources and contemporary and secondary histories. Heavy emphasis is placed on John Corrill's 1839 Brief History of the Church. "A costly failure" is McKiernan's conclusion for the Far West years. In fact, he concludes, "The Mormon leaders would have been exterminated had it not been for [a local supporter] General [Alexander] Doniphan's courage. As it was, most Mormon leaders spent six months in prison before escaping McKiernan, F. Mark. "The Tragedy of David H. Smith," Saints' Herald, 119 (December 1972), 20-22. The Rise and Fall of Courage, An Independent RLDS Journal William D. Russell* Courage: A Journal of History, Thought and Action in the summer of 1973 the journal folded for financial reasons. Two other historical articles dealt with significant leaders in the Church, Mark McKiernan dealing with Sidney Rigdon and Paul Edwards with David H. Smith. Edwards' article won the award for the best historical article in the second year of Courage. The Cutlerite splinter group was discussed by Biloine Young, and Alma Blair wrote an article on the Haun's Mill massacre. McKiernan, F. Mark. "David H. Smith: A Son of the Prophet." Brigham Young University Studies 18 (Winter 1978): 233-245. McKiernan, F. Mark and Roger D. Launius, eds. An Early Latter Day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer Kept by Commandment. Independence, Missouri: Herald Publishing House, 1980. F. Mark McKiernan, Director of the Mormon History Manuscripts Collection Graceland College, Lamoni, IA (c. 1974) ------------------------------------------------------ Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer 1972) [p.54] Reviews Edited by Davis Bitton An Uncertain Voice in the Wilderness Marvin S. Hill* The Voice of one Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer, 1793-1876. By F. Mark McKiernan. Lawrence, Kansas: Coronado Press, 1972. $7.50. When so many biographies of early Mormons are made immaculate (and superficial) by filial piety, it borders on the tragic when an historian seeking to write an objective life of Sidney Rigdon fails in many ways to expand or deepen our understanding. Despite the inclusion of a much needed chapter on Rigdon's post-1844 career, F. Mark McKiernan's The Voice of one Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon Religious Reformer is disappointing. Its deficiencies often seem rooted in the academician's perilous prerequisite--publish or perish. McKiernan, professor of history at Idaho State University, may have allowed the pressures for productivity to affect the publication of a study which in many ways seems unfinished. The volume shows signs of haste: factual and interpretive errors, clumsy writing, poor conceptualization, inadequate research. What might have been an important contribution is often no more than a rehash of well known history, history at times related but incidentally to Sidney Rigdon. [p.54 - p.55] Factual mistakes mar the book. Contrary to McKiernan, there is evidence in the ledger book of the Kirtland Safety Society at the Chicago Historical Society that only a few Mormons, and not the major dissenters, lost money in the bank (p. 78). Opposition to the bank and to Joseph Smith in 1837 must be explained on other grounds. Alexander Doniphan's bill to organize a Mormon county passed the Missouri legislature in 1836 but did not, as McKiernan affirms (p. 81), encompass Ray and Daviess counties. Lilburn W. Boggs successfully opposed the original bill and restricted the Saints to Caldwell County. Failure to perceive this makes the Mormon war of 1838 difficult to explain. Joseph Smith was tried before Austin A. King in September, 1838, but in a farmhouse in Caldwell County, where he felt secure, rather than at Richmond as McKiernan maintains (p.90). The names of Joseph Smith and Nancy Rigdon, as Benjamin Winchester suggests, were first linked in Kirtland, not Nauvoo (pp.113-115). McKiernan misjudges the reason for Rigdon's excommunication in 1844, designating it "partisanship" (p. 155). But there was more than partisanship involved since Rigdon had initiated his own movement by ordaining prophets, priests and kings, thus threatening the unity of the Church. Rigdon's letters to Stephen Post, deposited in the Historical Department of the Church archives at Salt Lake City in the fall of 1971 but not utilized by McKiernan, provide evidence that Rigdon was not isolated from all Mormon groups during the last thirty years of his life (pp. 133, 144), but that he remained actively engaged in trying to establish the Kingdom of God. In 1864 he received a revelation which instructed Post, Joseph Newton, William Stanly, and Abraham Burtis to flee the wrath to come and gather at Council Bluffs. [p.55] Was John C. Bennett's sponsoring of the Nauvoo charter, the Legion, and Free Masonry largely responsible for the destruction of Nauvoo (pp. 109, 124)? Or were there deeper antagonisms between Mormons and non-Mormons which would have been manifest without Bennett? Mormon experience in Ohio and Missouri before Bennett joined the Church suggests the latter view. Anti-Mormon literature makes it clear that Mormon collectivist institutions, however modified, were more objectionable than personalities and programs. In writing and organization McKiernan's book frequently lacks finesse. McKiernan tells us (p. 17) that Rigdon died in 1876 but he and his wife, Phebe, "lived together in harmony . . . until she died in 1886." Chapter II deals with the advent of Mormonism to Ohio, but continues for four additional pages to treat the theme of the preceding chapter, Rigdon's relationship to Alexander Campbell. Chapter III terminates in 1832 with the mobbing of Rigdon and Joseph Smith, inferring some special significance in this incident. But the significance is not explained. At several places McKiernan introduces a topic, drops it, and then takes it up again, destroying the continuity of the story (pp. 45, 52-57, 113, 115). In his discussion of the Danites, Rigdon's role is minimized, yet a whole page is devoted to the Danite constitution (pp. 95-96). Rigdon's position on succession is given brief treatment, but Brigham Young's is criticized at length (pp. 128-130). The book suffers more fundamentally in that the theme of Rigdon as religious reformer is not developed consistently. McKiernan does not tell us enough of Alexander Campbell as reformer nor does he treat early Mormonism as a reformation (or re-formation) of American Christianity. Thus Rigdon's attraction to these movements is not adequately explained. Research in the Stephen Post papers demonstrates that Rigdon spent five years at Friendship, New York, studying the prophecies of the Bible and of Joseph Smith, trying to decern his relationship to the destiny of Mormonism and to the destiny of the nations of the earth. [p.55 - p.56] Rigdon as prophet, his mysticism and millennialism are slighted, and thus a basic ingredient of Rigdon's personality is unexamined. This leads to misunderstanding of the succession crisis in 1844. Brigham Young did not win the majority of Mormons merely by parliamentary maneuvers and public disparagment of the man from Pittsburgh. The truth is that there were no better claimants than Young available. Joseph Smith's son was too young, William Smith and Sidney Rigdon were erratic. Strang did not have status enough early enough to win many supporters. Young very wisely affirmed that he would not try to replace the Prophet but to carry out his programs. Rigdon made a similar public statement, but in private informed his followers that Joseph was a fallen prophet, thus casting doubt on his loyalty in the minds of most Mormons. If Joseph had in fact fallen, to whom would the Saints turn? Rigdon would not do. Most Mormons, like Newel K. Whitney, had little faith in Rigdon's prophetic powers. Rigdon preached in 1844 that he held the keys of conquest and that he would triumphantly lead the Saints to battle against the United States and England, preparatory to the battle of God and Magog. Such wild apocalyptic utterances, characteristic of Rigdon, seemed extravagant to most Mormons. They seem to have sensed what Rigdon's son, John W., said in 1859. When some of the elders persuaded Rigdon to leave Friendship and preach at Centerville, it raised the anger of his son: "My father is in no condition to preach to any people he is a Maniac on religion & you did very wrong to influence him to leave his home." John W. may have been guilty of the Rigdon tendency to exaggerate, but a more thorough and thoughtful study is needed before we can be certain. =========================== =========================== BYU Studies, Volume 11--1970-1971 Number 1 - Autumn 1970 [p. 88] The Historians Corner (Published in Cooperation with the Mormon History Association) by James B. Allen, Editor DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH: THREE VIGNETTES FROM MORMON HISTORY "The Historians Corner" is devoted to presenting documents, vignettes, and other short items that add both interest and depth to our understanding of Mormon history. The emphasis of this "Corner" is on individuals, often little-known, whose experiences help give that personal touch to the story of the Church. In this issue we present vignettes from the lives of three dedicated men who found three different ways to defend the faith they have espoused. These men had much in common, although probably none of them ever knew the others. Products of the Nineteenth century, they lived in a time when Mormon-ism was unpopular, both in the United States and abroad. Each was fully devoted to the Church and zealous in his desire to promote and defend it. On the other hand, the different circumstances under which they were called upon to speak out for Mormonism perhaps speak with some relevance to current times. In the early years of Mormon history, it was not uncommon for Church. members to be faced with violence. Mobs drove them from their homes in New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. In the final months of the Ohio period Sidney Rigdon, a counselor to the prophet, reached the conclusion that he must fight fire with fire. Being perhaps the most persuasive of all Mormon orators, with his blazing speeches he could stir the emotions of many. Although he did not advocate direct aggression, his harangues were openly militant and could easily lead to violence. Dr. F. Mark McKiernan, assistant professor of history at Idaho State University who recently completed a Ph.D. dissertation on the life of Sidney Rigdon, and who is a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, summarizes in the first of our vignettes the intent and impact of Rigdon's militant defense of the faith. [p.89] The more traditional way of publicly defending the faith is through missionary work. In our second selection, Dr. Richard O. Cowan, a member of the religion faculty at Brigham Young University, summarizes the intriguing story of Mischa Markow, a lone missionary to the Balkans at the end of the century. Markow was one of those little-known and unsung stalwarts of Mormon history. His odyssey in the Balkans beautifully illustrates the determination of Mormon missionaries in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles. He traveled alone, which seems unusual today but apparently reflects what happened to many missionaries of the time. He was jailed, ridiculed in, and banished from every country he visited; yet he felt a curious joy in missionary service and was willing to accept another call in later years. The Historians Corner , BYU Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, p.89 Our third story concerns Josiah Hickman, a Mormon student who left Utah in 1892 to study at the University of Michigan. His journal is filled with the dual concern that has faced many a Mormon student now, as well as then: concern for achieving excellence in his educational pursuits, and an intense desire to represent well the Church. Dr. Martin B. Hickman, a grandson of Josiah and currently dean of the College of Social Science at Brigham Young University, has chosen one incident from his grandfather's journal to illustrate the approach that this Mormon student made to the problem of defending the faith. In that day oratorical contests were serious business among both students and faculty, and the use of proper grammatical style, persuasive logic, and dramatic illustrations were all important to the success of the contestant. The way one Mormon student chose to use such a contest to help place Mormonism in a more favorable light is the story of this vignette. [p.90] Sidney Rigdon's Missouri Speeches by F. Mark McKiernan The years of 1838 and 1839 were years of desperation, frustration, and suffering for Sidney Rigdon. After fleeing from Kirtland, he worked with Joseph Smith in attempting to establish another religious community at Far West, Missouri: this in the face of serious internal dissensions as well as external persecutions. Joseph was determined that the Church make a stand and fight the forces which sought to overthrow it; Rigdon was the Prophet's spokesman and counselor in this mission. To both Gentiles and Church members, Rigdon became a symbol of the new Mormon militancy of Far West. Both Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were determined to stamp out apostasy in Missouri. They believed that the entire future of the Mormon movement rested on their success in driving the dissenters from their midst; and because of Rigdon's ability to sway audiences, he became the Prophet's spokesman in the cause of orthodoxy. At Far West on June 19, 1838, Rigdon delivered a scathing denunciation of disloyalty among the members of the Church. No text nor synopsis has remained of his discourse, but reports of eyewitnesses indicated that Rigdon, who could inspire an audience to tears, could also lash them into fury. [[1 John Corrill, Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (Commonly Called Mormons) Including an Account of the Author for Leaving the Church (St. Louis, 1839), p. 26.]] Rigdon took his text from the fifth chapter of Matthew: "Ye are the salt of the earth. If the salt hath lost its savor, it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men." Joseph Smith followed Rigdon's harangue with a short speech, apparently sanctioning what he had said. [[2 Lu. B. Cake, Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript (New York, 1857), pp. 104-105.]] The salt sermon caused a frenzy of activity aimed at purging the ranks of disloyal members. One unfortunate effect of the controversy over dissenters was the formation of the apparently unauthorized Danites, a secret militant society for the enforcement of orthodoxy. In July, 1838, the direction of the new militancy shifted from opposing dissenters to combating Gentile persecution. Henceforth, Rigdon proclaimed, the Mormons would make their stand with violence of their own. The First Presidency had been militant in attitude since their arrival at Far West, but their intention to fight if necessary was declared to the entire state in Rigdon's July 4th speech. [[3 Elders Journal, August 1838.]] It was called a Mormon declaration of rights. When Rigdon's address was published in neighboring papers it caused great contention among the Missourians; his Independence Day speech helped polarize both the Mormons and the Missourians, and the stage was set for the Mormon War. [p.91] After the disasters of the Mormon War, which included expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri under Governor Lilburn Boggs' so-called extermination order and the Haun's Mill massacre, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, along with other Mormon leaders, were incarcerated. At the end of November, 1838, the First Presidency and some other Church leaders were transported to the county jail at Liberty, Missouri. Rigdon languished in that damp jail, while his body was racked with fever, often leaving him too weak to stand. In February, 1839, Smith's and Rigdon's pleas for writs of habeas corpus were granted. Alexander Doniphan pleaded the cases of all the Mormon prisoners except Rigdon, who acted in his own defense. At Rigdon's trial for murder and treason, the courtroom was crowded with about a hundred excited anti-Mormons who were veterans of the Mormon War. Rigdon was ill and emaciated from his months of incarceration. He pleaded innocent to the crimes charged against him but enumerated the privations, persecutions, and sufferings he had received in his relentless pursuit for religious truth. Doniphan recorded, "Such a burst of eloquence it was never my fortune to listen to, at its dose there was not a dry eye in the room, all were moved to tears." The judge discharged the case against Rigdon immediately. One of the audience stood up and declared, "We came here determined to do injury to this man. He is innocent of crime, as has been made to appear. And now, gentlemen, out with your money and help the man return to his destitute family." The anti-Mormon audience raised $100 and handed it to Rigdon. [[4 The Saints' Herald, August 2, 1884; also see Daily Missouri Republican (St. Louis) February 14, 1839. end4]] Rigdon's fellow Church leaders were returned to jail, but thejudge ordered that Rigdon be discharged from custody. However, Rigdon stated, "I was told by those who professed to be my friends, that it would not do for me to get out of jail at this time, as the mob was watching and would most certainly take my life." [[5 Times and Seasons, August 1, 1843.]] Thus he was held in protective custody until his friends, who included the Clay County sheriff, could arrange his safe conduct out of the state. Rigdon fled from Missouri for his life, leaving behind a shattered dream, a scattered people, and a shackled Prophet. [p.92] Despite Rigdon's abilities and his continued devotion to the Church, his influence waned in the Mormon movement after Far West. This period in Mormon history had been a costly failure. The Mormons' settlements were destroyed, their property confiscated, and they were forced to become refugees from the vengeance of the Missouri mobs. The Mormon leaders would have been exterminated had it not been for the courageous intervention of Alexander Doniphan. Most of the Mormons of importance were imprisoned for at least six months. Far West was a period of no significant religious accomplishments; on the contrary, it was a time of purge within the Mormon movement. Rigdon's enunciation of Joseph Smith's policies in the salt sermon and the Fourth of July speech were associated by the Mormons and the non-Mormons alike only with the fiery character of Sidney Rigdon. Unfortunately for Rigdon, he became a symbol of the militant Mormonism of the Far West period, and it was a symbol synonymous with disaster. ============================================= McKiernan, F. Mark. "The Uses of History: Sidney Rigdon and the Religious Historians," Courage: A ]ournal of History, Thought and Action, II (September, 1971), 285-290 ================================================ BYU Studies, Vol. 13, No. 4, Number 4 - Summer 1973 [p.584] Book Reviews, F. Mark McKiernan. The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer, 1793-1876. Lawrence, Kansas: Colorado Press, 1971. 190 pp. $7.50. (Reviewed by William D. Russell, an associate professor of religion and history at Graceland College, Lamoni, Iowa, and co-editor of Courage: A Journal of History, Thought, and Action.) In a paper presented at the Spring 1971 meeting of the Mormon History Association and later published in Courage (vol. 2, no. 1, September 1971), Mark McKiernan argued that sidney Rigdon has not been given proper respect by religious historians because his search for truth was not compatible with any organized religion of his time. Since Rigdon separated himself from the Baptists, Campbellites, and the Mormons, historians from these three traditions have tended to discount his importance. Historians should therefore welcome this biography of Rigdon, based on McKiernan's Ph.D. Dissertation at the University of Kansas. McKiernan, formerly a professor of history at Idaho State University and now with Restoration Trails Foundation, has done considerable research on Rigdon and deals sympathetically with this important associate of Joseph Smith. McKiernan demonstrates Rigdon's importance to the rise and development of Mormonism. Therefore The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness should help correct the tendency to underestimate Rigdon's role on the early history of Mormonism. It has been this reviewer's opinion that members of all branches of Mormonism need to learn to deal more maturely with those people who separated themselves from the Church. Sidney Rigdon provides a good example. Historians of Mormonism will particularly welcome the chapter on Rigdon before his contact with Joseph Smith and the concluding chapter on Rigdon from 1844 until his death in 1876. McKiernan seems to grasp what this reviewer thinks is the key to understanding the effectiveness of the Book of Mormon in winning people to the Church. He portrays Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt, for example, as finding the Book of Mormon convincing because, as he says of Pratt, it "contained answers for many of the problems which had plagued him" (p. 30). [p.585] McKiernan's book does have some significant weaknesses, however. The author makes statements which seem stronger than the evidence will support. For example, "Smith had always kept men like Parley P. Pratt and Brigham Young in distant areas so that he could be the complete master of his own religious household" (p. 126); "Rigdon changed the entire course of Mormon history when he persuaded Smith to move the headquarters of the Church from New York, where it was stagnating, to the Western Reserve" (p. 12); and Rigdon "seized upon the doctrine [of the coming millennium] and heralded it everywhere" (p. 27). Similarly, while Robert Flanders' Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi is an excellent book his former professor's book "the finest work on the early Mormon Church" (p. 178). Organizational slips occasionally occur. For example, in his very useful bibliographical essay, the final paragraph should have been placed much earlier (p. 179), and a paragraph on Smith's sense of humor is concluded with a sentence that is out of place (p. 70). There are a number of places where greater editorial care could have helped prevent unclear or confusing statements. McKiernan has a very confusing paragraph on Joseph Smith's revision of the Bible, for example (p.45). He indicates that Rigdon had denounced the Church's participation in the Masonic order (p. 133), but earlier he mentioned that Rigdon became a Master Mason (p. 111). Unfortunately, he does not explain the apparent contradiction. Other examples where clarity is needed are: he seems to use the terms "Calvinism" and "revivalism" synonymously (p.16); he says Sidney and his wife "lived together in harmony" for ten years after Sidney's death (p. 17); in the first chapter Rigdon retires from the ministry in 1824, but at the beginning of Chapter 2 we find Rigdon in that year establishing "a reformed Baptist church at Pittsburgh with the aid of a young school teacher named Walter Scott" (p. 25); rather than stating that Smith later claimed that on 21 September 1823 he had been visited by an angel, McKiernan has Smith claiming on 21 September 1823 that he had received the angelic visitation (p. 32); he says that many of Smith's followers, "including Rigdon, shared the animosity and wrath of the anti-Mormon" (p. 33), which gives the impression that Rigdon was one of Smith's antagonists; it is unclear as to who terminated correspondence between a Mr. Barr and Rigdon (p. 72); he has Rigdon's influence on Mormonism a popular topic among anti-Mormon writers from 1832 until 1947, but the reader is not told why these two dates were selected (p. 171); in addition, McKiernan has Joseph Smith sanctioning Rigdon's "salt sermon" (p. 86), but later refers to Rigdon's denunciation of Smith's policies in the 'salt sermon'" (p. 99). [p.586] When McKiernan quotes the revelation of Joseph Smith, he uses the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. It would be more appropriate to have taken his quotations from the 1833 Book of Commandments, since many of these revelation were revised for the 1835 edition, including some that McKiernan uses. He also quotes from the 1955 RLDS Book of Mormon when it would have been more appropriate to use the 1830 edition (pp. 151-152) and from the 1952 Salt Lake City Pearl of Great Price when he could have used the original 1851 Liverpool edition. These original editions are easily available, and in fact Mckiernan does cite the 1830 Book of Mormon at one time (p. 61). McKiernan says that the RLDS Church does not have Utah Section 115 in its D&C because its D&C is based on the 1852 edition, which does not contain this revelation. But Richard Howard, in Restoration Scriptures: A Study if Their Textual Development (Herald Publishing House, 1969) says that the first RLDS edition of 1864 was based on one of the Nauvoo editions (p. 223) and was largely a duplication of the Nauvoo editions, which were published in 1844, 1845, and 1846.

    Occasionally McKiernan seems to show an RLDS bias, as when he writes, referring to Independence, Missouri: "Although the headquarters of the Church would change throughout the years, the location of Zion could never be changed" (p. 59). He also seems to accept uncritically the RLDS contention that Joseph Smith "set apart" his son, Joseph III, at the Liberty Jail in 1839 (p. 127). The statement he cites from the memoirs of Joseph Smith, III, written many decades later, is rather vague.

    [p.587]
    Though marred by such imperfections, The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness is nevertheless a book that most students of Mormon history will find both interesting and useful.

    ==============================

    BYU Studies Vol. 29, No. 1


    [p. 128]

    Book Reviews

    ROGER D. LAUNIUS. Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988. xii; 394 pp.$24.95.

    Reviewed by William D. Russell, chairperson, division of social science, Graceland College, Lamoni, Iowa.

    With this excellent biography Roger Launius, thirty-five years old, has established himself as the foremost historian of the RLDS church. There are other RLDS historians who are better known in the community of Mormon historians (for example, official Church Historian Richard Howard, Temple School President Paul Edwards, and longtime Graceland professor of church history Alma Blair). But Launius, twenty or more years younger than each of these veteran church historians, already has the most impressive array of publications on the history of the Restoration movement of anyone in the RLDS church.

    Launius's reputation was tarnished at first by his involvement as coeditor (with F. Mark McKiernan) of a flawed publication of An Early Latter Day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer. [1] But since then he has published four useful books:




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