The Real Founder of Mormonism
William H. Whitsitt
BOOK THE THIRD:
THE DISCIPLE PERIOD: Oct. 11, 1823 -- Nov. 8, 1830
(Section V, pp. 354-401)
Contents | Book I | Book II | Book III: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 | Book IV | Book V
go back to: page 353
In a preceding portion of this work reference has been given to the fact that Smith sometimes designated Rigdon under the name of "John the Baptist." A description was there presented of the manner in which Rigdon was studious to execute the functions of this office among his brethren of the Disciple sect on the Western Reserve of Ohio. There can be little question that the designation (D&C, 35:4) was admirably well fitted to the figure and the labors of Rigdon in the interests of Mormonism, whether under the shades of his Patmos at Bainbridge, or in the more public arena of the Mahoning Association.
In the month of May 1829 it became imperatively important that "John the Baptist" should once more show his face in Pennsylvania. It will be brought to mind that the manuscript of the Book of Mormon had been handed over to Mr. Smith on the early morning of the 22nd of September 1827. Two months after that date the Disciple sect had made an extraordinary advance in its theological teaching and position. On the 18th of November 1827 Mr. Walter Scott had stood up at New Lisbon, Ohio and introduced the long lost "ancient gospel" of baptism for the remission of sins. Rigdon would speedily come upon the trade of this innovation. Hayden says he "always caught up and proclaimed the last word that fell from the lips of Scott and Campbell" (p. 186). The same author likewise reports that "in March 1828 Rigdon
visited Scott in Warren" and gained from his own lips a full account of the "ancient gospel." That was a very highly valued discovery; Hayden declares that Rigdon "was transported" by it (p. 192).
He could not think of permitting a treasure that sat so near his heart to be neglected in the pages of the Book of Mormon; it was above everything [desireable] that the "ancient gospel" should make its appearance there.
By the terms of a conversation held with Bentley and Campbell in the summer of 1828, it has already been shown that it was a prime article of Rigdon's policy to have the doctrine of the Book of Mormon conform with exact nicety to the tenets which the Disciples were advocating. He wanted it to demonstrate that "the Christian religion had been preached in this country during the first century, just as they were at the moment preaching it on "The Western Reserve." (Patterson, p. 13).
To execute this policy, and so open a way for the work he was composing to the hearts and churches of the Disciples it was indispensable that the dogma which meanwhile had become so dear and prominent among them should be clearly proclaimed by it. It would be a disaster to exhibit to them a volume that claimed the sanction of divine origin and authority, which contained no single hint of the admired novelty.
Furthermore, information would naturally reach him by due course of mail that Mr. Cowdery was daily making rapid progress in the work of
transcribing; if he wished to accomplish his purpose it behooved him to act on the spur of the moment, Additions and alterations would be inadmissible, or at any rate inconvenient, after a few weeks had elapsed.
Somewhere near the beginning of the month of May 1829, Mr. Rigdon must have set forth from his home at Mentor, Ohio, to perform the journey to Harmony, Penn. His arrival at that place would have occurred several days before the 15th of the month. Without any loss of time he gave himself to his business. Perceiving that the Second Book of Nephi, which Oliver Cowdery had probably taken up at the close of the 27th chapter, where the handiwork of Martin Harris had recently been resigned, was now completed, Mr. Rigdon supplied Joseph with an appendix to it which fills up three chapters (31 to 33) -- in the edition of Orson Pratt. When Oliver had set down the last word of this appendix which contains the outlines of the "ancient gospel" it was then time to undertake a further procedure which is thus described in the Autobiography of Smith:
"We still continued the work of translation, when in the ensuing month (May 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, as we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and laying his hands upon us he ordained us, saying unto us "Upon you, my fellow servants, in the name of (the) Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of
angels and of the Gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness." "He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and afterwards that he should baptize me." "Accordingly we went and were baptized -- I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me -- after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood -- for so we were commanded," "The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this priesthood upon us said his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who hold the Priesthood of Melchisedek, which Priesthood he said should in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first elder and he the second. It was on the 15th day of 1824 that we were baptized, and ordained under the hand of the messenger."
If the memory of Mr. Smith had retained all the facts and incidents which transpired prior to the year 1838 when he was
here engaged in setting forth and embellishing the course of his early history, he would have suppressed the name of this messenger. The designation of "John the Baptist" points so clearly to Mr. Rigdon that it is sufficient to reveal far more than it was desirable should be made known. It was never the fashion of Joseph to take the public this unreservedly into his confidence. The present instance was indisputably an oversight; the briefest reference to the D.&C., Sec. 35:4, would have availed to prevent that kind of blunder. Indeed this latter passage was itself an oversight; for example, at D&C, 27:8, under date of August and Sept. 1830 he says: "Which John I have sent unto you, my servant Joseph Smith jun., and Oliver Cowdery to ordain you unto this first priesthood, which you have received that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron."
It was certainly stupid enough that in December of this same year he should have issued another revelation in the course of which he plainly reveals the secret who this "John the Baptist" was: "Behold, verily, verily, I say unto my servant Sidney, I have looked upon thee and thy works, I have heard thy prayers and prepared thee for a greater work. Thou art blessed, for thou shalt do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth even as John to prepare the way before me" (D.&C., 35:3-4).
The notion of conferring the Aaronic priesthood upon Mr. Smith was the result of a literalizing (deduction) which Rigdon had perversely excogitated from the first four verses of the third chapter of
the prophecy of Malachi, where the coming of the messenger who should prepare the way for Christ is foretold. In the fourth verse it is said: "Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in the former days."
Sidney was now officiating in the character of that messenger, and this excellent consequence of his activity could never occur until the Aaronic Priesthood was reinstated; for it was clear to the dullest comprehension that "the offering of Judah and Jerusalem" would never be pleasant unto the Lord "as in the days of old," unless the sons of Levi should be brought forward to present it. This conceit was esteemed by that "diligent student of the Scriptures" as a very brilliant specimen of exegesis, and it is likely that he had already proclaimed the discovery in many Disciple conventicles on the Western Reserve.
Apart from the identity of "John the Baptist" the personality of Sidney was made sufficiently apparent by the new conceit of the Disciples "respecting baptism for the remission of sins" for the sake of which Smith and Cowdery, on the 15th day of May 1829, went into the woods "to pray and inquire of the Lord."
It is not known whether Rigdon had any trouble with Joseph regarding the introduction of immersion as the exclusive act of baptism. Methodists were and still are in the habit of accepting the rite as celebrated either by the mode of aspersion, affusion or immersion, and they were liable to be somewhat strenuous in the demand for Christian
liberty in this regard, Whatever scruples Mr. Smith, as a person inclined to favor the Methodists, may have entertained about the matter, they were all quietly surrendered, in view of the fact that it would be impossible for a leader among the Disciples to lend his hand to promote any religious organization which was not strict to exclude sprinkling and pouring as forms of administering baptism.
Neither does Joseph appear to have laid down any objections to the appellation of "Elder" with which in the above transaction he was honored. That was a very strict custom on the part of the Disciples, and though numbers of their leaders are now apparently becoming a trifle ashamed of it, in the early days they were absurdly proud of the title as a feature of the "ancient order of things." As Mr. Smith was raised to the dignity of the "first elder" in the new communion it would not be difficult fur him to content himself with this rather old-style nomenclature of Rigdon's; henceforth all the preaching force of the Mormons of whatever grade from the Prophet downwards were addressed by the name of "Elder."
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It has already been shown at what a rapid rate Mr. Oliver Cowdery was progressing in the enterprise of transcribing the Book of Mormon. The entire work was completed in about a month after the baptism of Smith and his secretary, notwithstanding the interruption that was caused by the necessity of removing from Harmony Penn. to Fayette in New York, which with the arrangements that preceded and followed it must have required a space of three or four days, as the distance to be traversed was about one hundred and thirty-five miles (Joseph Smith, p. 145). Considering the active pace of Cowdery, it is probable that he was already deep in the Book of Alma when "John the Baptist" showed himself to the twain who "went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins." Conceiving that it would be wise to leave the industrious secretary ample room and verge enough, Rigdon must have allowed Smith to retain all the Book of Alma and the Book of Helaman in addition, while he took with him the books which followed these, for the purpose of inserting in them the "ancient gospel" and such other notions as in the interval had become clear to his convictions. The names of the books which he carried away with aim of subjecting them to renewed editorial revision were Third and Fourth Nephi, the book of Mormon and the Book of Ether.
It is not probable that Sidney, while engaged in this labor, sojourned in the household of Smith or even anywhere in the immediate vicinity. Emma Smith, the wife of Joseph, testifies that she never saw Rigdon until a much later period than that here involved: "I was residing at Father Whitmer's when I first saw Sidney Rigdon. I think he came there. Parley P. Pratt had united with the church before I saw Sidney Rigdon, or heard of him" (Tullidge, Life of Joseph, p. 791). There is no kind of reason to question the correctness of this witness; Rigdon and Smith alike would recognize the importance of his remaining in the background. If a person as honest as Emma Hale had been entrusted with all the secrets of the movement it would have been impossible to prevent a catastrophe; she would have become so much disgusted that she would have published the deception far and near. Sidney, it is likely, took up his residence at some farmhouse, or, preferably, at a neighboring village tavern, and kept his own counsels while strictly observing the progress of events.
When in the first days of June 1829 (Tullidge, p. 68) Joseph and Oliver were carried by David Whitmer to the home of his father, Peter Whitmer, Sr., in Fayette New York, it is probable that Sidney followed at a respectful distance, all the while keeping himself under the cover of his angelic incognito. Lucy Smith mentions an incident which is believed to refer to this proceeding: "When Joseph commenced making
preparations for the journey, he inquired of the Lord to know in what manner he should carry the plates. The answer was that he should commit them into the hands of an angel for safety, and after arriving at Mr. Whitmer's the angel would meet him in the garden, and deliver them up again into his hands. Joseph and Oliver set out without delay, leaving Emma to take charge of affairs during her husband's absence. On arriving at Waterloo Joseph received the Record according to promise" (Joseph Smith, pp. 145-6).
It would be safer for Rigdon, who at the moment was under no suspicion, to carry the precious treasury in his portmanteau as he traveled on the stage coach than for Smith to purvey it, who was supposed by the stupidity of many to have discovered a large amount of pure gold. In addition the "plates" would be too much under the inspection of Cowdery and Whitmer in case Joseph should bring them into the wagon upon which the trio should make the journey that lay before them. But returning from this digression, it will be in order to examine some of the alterations which Rigdon appears to have introduced into the manuscript of the four books which he is believed to have taken under his charge. The appendix to the Second Book of Nephi setting forth the "ancient gospel" has been mentioned above. It was likely inserted at that place in order to bring the subject immediately to the attention of Cowdery and thus to procure his immersion. In order to come at the business, Joseph would be compelled to turn back and pretend to find in the plates something which he had overlooked. This circumstance would explain the reason why Chapters 31-33 of Second Nephi
are the only portion of the Book of Mormon which inculcate the special gospel of the Disciples until you come to the Third Book of Nephi. In other words all that portion of the work, except these three chapters, which precedes the Third Book of Nephi, teaches that particular view of the plan of salvation which the Disciples were in the custom of proclaiming prior to the 18th of November 1827. This point may be established by consulting such passages derived from that section of the volume which refer to baptism and to the design for which it should be administered. The first allusion to baptism occurs at 2 Nephi 9:23-24: "And he commandeth all men that they must repent and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy one of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. And if they will not repent and believe in his name and endure to the end they must be damned." The design for which this sacrament should be administered is often stipulated. A fair specimen of the utterances regarding that topic is found at Mosiah 18:13:
"And when he had said these words the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said, Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that we have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead, as to the mortal body."
The same sentiment is conveyed by the passage at Mosiah 21:35: "They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts." Compare also the Book of Alma 7:14-15: "Now I say unto you that ye must repent and be born again: for the Spirit saith, If ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith in the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness; yea, I say unto you, come and fear not, and lay aside every sin which doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins, and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness unto him this day, by going into the waters of baptism." In accordance with the above conception in the portion of the Book of Mormon to which reference is here made, salvation was regularly represented as being conditioned by repentance and faith, without the need of any addition to the work through the agency of baptism. A fair specimen of this kind of teaching is given at Mosiah 3:12-13: "But wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God; for salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Lord God sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things
to every kindred, nation and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins."
After Rigdon had been "transported with the discovery" that was communicated to him by Scott at Warren, Ohio, in March 1823, the above conditions of salvation were no longer proclaimed by him. In order to obtain the grace of remission the waters of baptism became of indispensable concern. Accordingly, prior to the instruction that was imparted by Scott the sacrament of baptism was commonly described in the Book of Mormon under the title of a baptism "unto repentance." The idea was entertained touching that subject is expressed in the Book of Alma 6:2: "And it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church who repented of their sins, were baptized unto repentance, and were received into the church." The phrase "baptized unto repentance" is one of the commonest to be found in the earlier section of Rigdon's work (Alma 9:27, 8:10, 5:63; Mosiah 26:22; Helaman 3:24, 5:17-19).
Opening the Third Book of Nephi, however, the reader will find that the point of view is changed, there the "ancient gospel" is everywhere in order, except in one or perhaps two passages which, through the haste of revision, might well have been overlooked (3 Nephi 7:25-26). At 3 Nephi 1:23 a feeble effort is made to mediate between the two opposing views: "And it came to pass that Nephi went forth among the people, and also many others, baptizing unto repentance in the
which there were a great remission of sins." But at other points the clearness of Rigdon's adhesion to Scott's "ancient gospel" is too apparent to admit of question. For instance compare 3 Nephi 30:2 "Come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." At another place Sidney is at pains to obviate a popular objection, which the early Disciple preachers were often given to hear, by a fresh rendering of the commission of Christ in the sense of his Disciple brethren: "And whoso believeth in me and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned" (3 Nephi 11:33-34). It is an important circumstance that Rigdon has not yet altered Scott's ordo salutis in the Book of Mormon. That particular order was: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Remission [of sins] and the Holy Ghost. In this Third Book of Nephi, just after the manner of Scott, the gift of the Holy Ghost is several times represented as following directly upon baptism, or at least as [coming] without the necessity of any intervening condition: "And it came to pass that the Disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them: and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 26:17, cf. 3 Nephi 12:2, 19:13, 28:4; 4 Nephi 1:1 & Mormon 7:10).
After the Book of Mormon had been closed up and published, the literalizing tendency led Mormon theology still one step farther, and placed the
imposition of hands between the grace of remission and the gift of the Holy Spirit, causing the Mormon ordo salutis to stand as follows: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Remission, Laying on of Hands and the Holy Spirit. This alteration was perhaps effected with direct reference to a custom which prevailed in the early Christian Church (Acts 8:14-17 & 19:5-6).
While under the tutelage of Walter Scott and his Sandemanian community at Pittsburgh, Mr. Rigdon would become familiar with the institution which they called the "Fellowship," and with the modified form of communism which must follow in all cases where it is observed with anything like decent honesty. The principles of the Sandemanians forbade the laying up of treasure on earth, and in order to secure this end their members were expected to contribute to the "Fellowship," fund for the benefit of the necessitous, all their surplus above the actual demands of daily existence. In that portion of the Book of Mormon which precedes the Third Book of Nephi this custom was diligently explained and intently urged under the name of "equality." For Instance:
"And there was a strict command throughout all the churches, that there should be no persecutions among them, and that there should be an equality among all men" (Mosiah 27:3 cf. Jacob 2:17, Alma 4:12, 15:16 & Mosiah 18:27). After setting up this communistic community of seventeen persons in the Kirtland church, Sidney began to be enamored with the notion of
Christians holding their property in common. Possibly he fancied that was a closer approximation to the "ancient order of things" than could be obtained through the agency of the boasted "fellowship." Therefore, when he took this second redaction of his manuscript in hand he was pleased to introduce in the place of mere "equality" the idea of communism, just as it had been recently enacted at Kirtland. To carry out this project he is conceived to have inserted the following statement at 3 Nephi 26:19, where is described the condition of a model church among the Nephites: "And they taught, and did minister one to another and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly one with another." A like sentiment was advanced at 4 Nephi 1:3: "And they had all things common among them, therefore they were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free and partakers of the heavenly gift." On the contrary, when the church had become wealthy they "were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine thing of the world. And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more in common among them" (4 Nephi 1:24-25), which occurrence, it is clear, was reprobated as an unhappy change.
This alteration on the part of Sidney, by means of which the Book of Mormon was made to utter two different sentiments concerning the management of such property as members of the Mormon community might possess, was the occasion in subsequent years of an amount of perplexity and embarrassment. To sum up the result
however, in a single statement, it may be declared that the principle of communism, despite the exertions that might have been put forth by its friends, was never at any period triumphant, though for a series of years the Mormon authorities swayed back and forth between the Sandemanian plan of the "Fellowship", and the Kirtland project of a common stock.
At length, weary of the uncertainties of the situation, they finally recurred to the Old Testament expedient of tithing, both more profitable and more nearly in the line of their coarse literalism.
For proof that the Sandemanian method was at first adopted, refer to D&C, 19:34; 42:55; 49:20 & 51:3. The first note of tithing, on the contrary, is given at D&C, 64:23; the subject is again mentioned at Sec. 85:3 and Sec. 97:11; it is raised to the dignity of a permanent law of the church in Sec. 119. The provision of law and usage that "every man that cometh to Zion must lay all things before the bishop in Zion" was decidedly communistic (D&C, 72:15, cf. 85:34).
Having now become aware that it was a custom of Joseph to appropriate the benefits of direct revelation in cases of embarrassment, Sidney was careful in his second redaction to provide for that improvement upon his original plan, At 3 Nephi 28:6 he remarks: "Wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation or by prophecy" (cf. Mormon 9:7). Elsewhere in the Book of Mormon there is no sufficient proof that provision was made for direct and immediate communications from
the Deity to persons in the existing generation. Only the claim is advanced that revelations which were made to ancient Nephite prophets are just as genuine and just as valuable as the revelations conveyed to ancient Hebrew prophets, a circumstance which entitled the Book of Mormon to occupy the same level of distinction as regards the Christian Scriptures.
An allusion to the two stones which Mr. Smith now professed to employ in translating his manuscript must have been also by Sidney interpolated into the Book of Ether, but the business was accomplished with very ill success. The language in which the Book of Ether was at first composed is there represented to have been "confounded" at the Tower of Babel (Ether 3:24), and the Lord is given out to have prepared these "interpreters" (Ether 4:5), and sealed them up along with the "twenty- four plates" where they would be handy for use "in his own due time" (Ether 3:23). Unhappily, however, in the Book of Mosiah a different version had been already supplied concerning the origin of the "interpreters." They were not found sealed up with the "twenty-four plates" of gold, which had been discovered by the servants of King Limhi. On the contrary that account assures us that there was no present means of deciphering the contents of the Book of Ether, and the fact was accomplished by resorting to King Mosiah who was the sole owner of the two stones, as well as the sole person entitled to use them. (Mosiah 8:6-21; 21:27; 28:11-19). If it had been possible for Rigdon to consult Joseph's version of the Book of Mosiah, the privilege
might have prevented him from falling into a glaring blunder.
The fact has been too often overlooked that as early as the period of this second editorial enterprise Sidney laid the basis of that evil structure of materialism which later acquired so much prominence in the theology of Mormonism. This materialism was deduced from the coarse type of anthropomorphism to which he was driven by the literalizing tendency that was his unlucky inheritance from the Disciples. In one of his conferences the brother of Jared had been suffered to behold the finger of the Lord (Ether 3:6). His curiosity was so keenly sharpened by the sight that he also desired to gain a sight of the entire person of the [Divine Ruler]. In consequence of the exhibition which followed, he was enabled to perceive "that the Lord had flesh and blood" (Ether 3:8). The Deity also informed him "that all men were created in the beginning after his own image" (Ether 3:15): "Behold, this body which ye now behold is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh (Ether 3:16). Anthropomorphic conclusions of this construction could hardly be avoided by such a "diligent student of the Scriptures" as was Sidney, especially when his thoughts recurred to the language at Gen. 1:26-7. Other but less distinct allusions to the subject may be consulted elsewhere in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 11:11 etc.) If God be a Spirit, and man was created in the image of God, it was clear to Rigdon's logic
that the divine Spirit must have a body. It was not far from this opinion to the bald materialism which claims that every spirit has a body; indeed that every spirit is composed of material substance.
Mr. Rigdon's faith in the possibility of working miracles after the same manner as they were performed in the apostolic times had been strongly confirmed by his experiences and reflections since the date when he first delivered the manuscript of the Book of Mormon into the hands of Smith, and he now feels here of consequence to urge his convictions at greater length. These topics had likely been often treated by him in Disciple pulpits. Richardson (also) gives him credit for having "sought especially in private to convince certain influential persons, that along with the primitive gospel, supernatural gifts and miracles ought to be restored" (Memoirs of A. Campbell II:346). Apparently for this special use and behoof of these same influential persons and for any besides, who might be disposed or persuaded to peruse the Book of Mormon, he is believed to have interpolated the following observations upon his darling theme: "And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretations of tongues. Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things, knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea he has not read the Scriptures; if so he does not understand them. For do we not read that God is the same
yesterday, to-day, and forever; and in him there is no variableness, neither shadow of changing? And now if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a God who doth vary, and in him there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a God who is not a God of miracles. But behold I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the Cod of Jacob; and it is the same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are" (Mormon 9:7-11). After pressing as far as he desired this view of the subject, he is also at pains to present the same argument which Alexander Campbell had used so much care to answer in the month of August 1824 (C.B., pp. 85-6): "For behold thus saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, unto his disciples who should tarry; yea and also to all his disciples in the hearing of the multitude, Go ye unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover," (Mormon 9:22-24). The above argument derived from Mark 16:16-18 must have been a special favorite in the eyes of Sidney, and to a person of his literalistic leanings it was conclusive. Mr. Campbell had endeavored to break the force of it by insisting that the Savior's commission
as it was here directed to the eleven apostles, could be rightly applied to them alone, hence the power to perform miracles that was affixed to the commission was a power that was assigned exclusively to the eleven. (C.B., p. 86). But this was in no sense a conclusive supposition to the mind of Mr. Rigdon; he was likewise, at a later period, enabled to persuade a goodly number of his Disciple brethren that the gifts and powers were designed to be as enduring as the commission and the kingdom of the Master.
In a previous chapter it has been shown that Mr. Campbell at the opening of his career in America was much disposed to favor the Sandemanian conceit that no persons should be admitted to worship with the church except those who were members of the church, The church at Brush Run on being reorganized after the immersion of its members seems to have been very strenuous touching this point (Rich. I:454). Possibly Sidney was given to hear a large amount of this nonsense in the Sandemanian community over which Scott and himself presided at Pittsburgh. At several places in the Book of Mormon, but especially in the portion which received this second redaction he was careful to present stipulations that should provide against this abuse, to which it seems evident he was not kindly disposed.
With reference to this business the passage at 3 Nephi 18:22-24 is worthy of citation: "And behold ye shall meet together oft, and ye shalt not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall
meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not; but ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out and if so be that they come unto you oft, ye shall pray for them unto the Father in my name."
This concern was likely a point of so much interest that Mr. Rigdon considered it would be of service to supply a few arguments in favor of his own view and practice; accordingly he proceeds to exhort his readers as follows: "Therefore hold up your light that it may shine unto the world, Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up -- that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye have seen that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed" (3 Nephi 13:24). This passage refers to the fact that Jesus who is represented as the speaker, had just previously both taught and prayed in a promiscuous audience, without requiring unbelievers to depart from the company. Nay the argument is pressed still further by the following words which are invented for the mouth of the Savior: "And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel me and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation" (3 Nephi 18:25). The last clause was a neat and rather direct stroke against Mr. Campbell and his ultra Sandemanian vagary.
Somewhat farther on Sidney makes a distinct allusion to the divisions that were occasioned among the early Disciples by this issue: "And I give you these
commandments because of the disputations which have been among you. And blessed are ye if ye have no disputations among you" (3 Nephi 18:34). The same topic is further touched at 2 Nephi 26:26 and Alma 6:5-6.
It is possible that the early scruples of Mr. Campbell touching the propriety of family prayer (Rich. I:448-9) were not yet entirely abated. At least proof may be supplied from the year 1823 that they were still in existence (C.B., p.29). There is nothing unreasonable in the supposition that Mr. Rigdon had encountered some of this literalistic prejudice among the followers of Mr. Campbell on the Western Reserve, and it is conceivable that an injunction favoring the duty of praying in the family was inserted for the benefit of such objectors. This precept may be found in immediate connection with the one just mentioned at 3 Nephi 18:21: "Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed."
The fact that denunciations against secret societies are especially numerous and direct in this portion of the Book of Mormon gives room for the suspicion that Mr. Spalding's original prejudice against organizations of that sort was in some instances re-enforced by the violent Anti-Masonic excitement that was astir in
Western New York during the summer of 1829, when Sidney was engaged upon this second revision. One or two rather distinct allusions to the alleged murder of William Morgan at the hands of Masons are supposed to confirm that conception of the phenomena (Mormon 8:27; Ether 3:22-24).
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The Book of Ether is an entirely independent production from the Book of Mormon: In the earlier portion of this biography reasons have already been stated for the conclusion that it was composed by Mr. Spaulding before any portion of the Book of Mormon was written. It is probable that the notion of appending it at the close of the Book of Mormon was conceived by Spaulding himself because it purports to give a history of the Indians of North America (Ether 1:1) while the Book of Mormon chiefly concerns itself with the history of the South American Indians. His work would be incomplete without some special record of the Aborigines of North America.
The Book of Mormon is represented on the title page, and throughout the text of it as "an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites" that was made by the hand of Mormon from information conveyed by the plates of Nephi, On the other hand the Book of Ether was not an abridgment; it was an original, and Mormon did not undertake the task of abridging it.
Mr. Rigdon, however, concluded that it would be expedient to abridge the Book of Ether in the same manner as Mormon had abridged the plates of Nephi. In order to perform to his satisfaction a work which Mormon had neglected he conceived it would be expedient to invent a son of Mormon, Moroni by name, to whose care this enterprise
might be submitted. The first appearance of this Moroni may be recognized at Mormon 6:6-11. He shortly comes forward and adds two chapters -- the 8th and 9th in the edition of Orson Pratt -- to the work of his father. Then taking up the Book of Ether (Ether 1:1), he omits that portion of it which "speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time," on the ground that a history of these things "is had among the Jews" (Ether 1:3-4).
To compensate for the loss which was incurred by that omission, Moroni adds three chapters -- the third, fourth and fifth of Ether -- to (present) certain topics that were of prime concern to him. He likewise added the twelfth and a large portion of the thirteenth chapters.
The character of these additions indicates with considerable decision that the changes mentioned were made during the second redaction in Pennsylvania and New York. Inasmuch as Moroni had been duly invented and added to the (original) plan of Spaulding, Sidney conceived it would be admissible to employ himself further for the purpose of producing another book at the close of the volume -- the Book of Moroni. This Book of Moroni contains the Agenda and the Credenda of the new church in the form of a tractate, which must have done efficient service to the cause of Mormonism.
Here occurs what is believed to be the earliest intimation of a dispensation to assign to the laying on of hands that position in the Mormon ordo salutus which it later attained (Moroni 2:2). Liturgic formulas for the ceremony of ordination (Moroni Ch. 3), and for the administration of the Lord's Supper (Moroni Chs. 4 & 5), were laid down for the guidance of the faithful. The sacrament of baptism is discussed in the 6th chapter and the "ancient gospel" is inculcated. The some topic is likewise mentioned at 8:11, where again appears the effort to mediate between baptism for repentance and baptism for remission: "Behold baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins." Reference to this moral as opposed to any magical effect of the water of baptism is also given in another place: "And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling of the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; and the remission of sins bringeth meekness and lowliness of heart, and because of meekness and lowliness of heart, cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come when all the saints shall dwell with God" (Moroni 8:25-26).
The above explanations leave room for the suspicion that since the month of March 1828, when he was first transported by the "ancient gospel," there had been
occasion to hear one of the most serious and customary objections which evangelical Christians were bringing against the novelty. Mr. Rigdon had discussed his darling theme of faith hope and charity in the 12th chapter of the Book of Ether; he now takes it up again in the Book of Moroni 7:21-48). At a subsequent period his ideas were elaborated into the "Lectures on Faith" which are prefixed to the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. Mormon authorities are recently endeavoring to claim the authorship of these Lectures for Joseph Smith, but there is no sufficient historical basis for such an assumption. (Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel, by Richards and Little, S.L.C., 1884, p. 14).
The strenuous opposition against infant baptism, which as a leader of the Disciples Mr. Rigdon felt himself impelled to insist upon, is believed to have been (directed) to the Methodist tastes of Mr. Smith (Moroni 8:5-25). Joseph does not indeed venture as far as the point of rebellion, but he does go far enough to signify his discontent. In the Book of Doctrine and Covenants he has introduced apparently with reference to this affair the following provision: "Every manner of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ and bless them in his name. No one can be received into the Church of Christ unless he has arrived unto the
years of accountability before God and is capable of repentance (D&C: 20:69-70).
The above provisions have much the appearance of a compromise between Smith and Rigdon. Joseph was naturally distressed to surrender a custom that was so dear to his Methodist heart, and Sidney felt constrained to allow him the ceremony of blessing the children, providing it should be stipulated that none but persons who had attained unto years of discretion should be permitted to enter the Mormon body.
But Mr. Smith was ill content with that arrangement, and at a subsequent date when he felt more confidence in his own leadership, it was altered in the following manner: "And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her Stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the son of the living God, and of baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents; for this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her Stakes which are organized; and their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of hands.
The reason for appointing the eighth year for this concern may be found in the conviction of Joseph that this was the age at which children come to years of accountability, "Wherefore they cannot
sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children until they begin to become accountable before me" (D&C, 29:47).
As time went by Mr. Smith yearned much for the lost custom and in one instance gives signs of breaking quite away from Sidney and introducing the baptism of infants in spite of his opposition. His plan was to reduce the gospel which Scott had (originated) and Sidney had conveyed to himself down to the lower plane of a more (preparatory) gospel and to bring in the baptism of infants as something superior to it. Proof of this may be seen at Sec. 84:26-28 of the D&C: "And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb; for he was baptized while he was in his childhood."
It is possible that Rigdon immediately observed the drift of this passage and emitted a growl of so much significance that Smith deemed it wise to receive no further revelations looking toward displacement of the "ancient gospel," and the introduction of infant baptism. It may be conceived that rather than submit to an indignity of that color Mr. Rigdon would have withdrawn from the Mormons and made a clean breast of all their secrets.
The question regarding the name they shall bear has always been an issue of serious import among the Disciples, it is not yet settled and may never be. Mr. Campbell favored the designation "Disciples of Christ"; Mr. Scott was equally convinced of the propriety of the name "Christian." Both parties, however, have constantly used the title "Church of Christ" when speaking of their organization. Mr. Rigdon entered into this discussion with his accustomed energy, and would appear to have been on the side of Scott. The subject is mentioned innumerable times in the Book of Mormon, and on more than one occasion the name "Christian" is appropriated: "And he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land; for thus were all true believers of Christ called by those who did not belong to the church; and those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them gladly the name of Christ or Christians" (Alma 46:13-15).
In the second redaction, however, the literalism of Rigdon is believed to have gone beyond that of the Disciples touching this point. He seems to ignore the name "Christian," as perhaps, having been applied by those "who did not belong to the Church," and to have confined his preference to the rigidly literal designation of "the Church of Christ" (3 Nephi 26:21 & Moroni 6:4). The argument by which this usage was enforced is
one that will not be unfamiliar to followers of Mr. Campbell: "And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name then it be Moses' church: or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man, but; if it be called in my name then it is my church, if so be that they are built upon my gospel" (3 Nephi 27:8).
It is difficult for an outside person to be sensible of the weight which these anxious literalists would place upon a point of that construction. The name "Christian," therefore, seems to have been gradually discarded by the Mormons; they preferred the more literal title of the "Church of Christ," although this was an ordinary appellation among the Disciples for their (own) community. it became the earliest official name of the Mormons (D&C, 20:1 & 61:81). They continued to bear it down to the year 1834; the legend placed on the first temple at Kirtland was "House of the Lord: Built by the Church of Christ, 1834."
On the 3rd of May 1834 (Howe, pp. 156-7), when the thumbscrews of their literalism had been fastened a deal more firmly, it was concluded that the designation "Church of Christ" was not quite satisfactory, and at Rigdon's motion it was improved to "Church of Jesus Christ [sic - Church of Latter Day Saints?]." Mormon authors boast therefore highly in this addition: "Some Christian Sects have derived their names from their founders, as Calvinists, Lutherans, Wesleyans. Others have some appellation growing out of a peculiarity of doctrine or faith, as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians. Others
again derive their names from historical events connected with their origin and geographical location, as Roman Catholic Church, Greek Church, Church of England, etc. Not a church in all the world bearing the name of Jesus Christ, except that of the Latter-day Saints. Sectarians may ask, are we not called Christians? But the name of our Savior was Jesus Christ, not Christian" (Compendium, Richards and Little, p. 158).
In closing this notice of the Book of Moroni it will be sufficient to add that the usual disquisitions about miracles (Ch. 7) and gifts (Ch. 10) are set forth with more than the usual fullness and decision: Taken as a whole it is clearly such a tractate as none but a leader among the Disciples could have composed. If there were no other indication of a previous connection between Smith and Rigdon the tenets inculcated in the Book of Mormon would supply a proof that could not be evaded.
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The manuscript of Mr. Rigdon having now been transcribed, it was natural that he should desire to recover possession of it in order to guard against the numerous accidents to which it would be liable in the keeping of Joseph. If by any chance it should have been exhibited to persons who were familiar with the chirography of the Disciple leader, it was plain to see that his position would be compromised. But it was not desirable that the angel Moroni should remove the "plates" without fulfilling the promise which several months previously Joseph had made to Martin Harris to the purpose that it: should be exhibited to three witnesses (D.&C., 5:11-15). This was a very ticklish business indeed. On the other hand Joseph's word had been given, and to neglect it in such a case would have cost him dearly; besides he was weary of bearing the burden of asserting the existence of the treasures, without the support that might be gained from the added testimony of other parties. In the revelation bearing upon the exposition he says:
"And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them by the power of God. And this you shall do that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., may not be destroyed" (D&C, 17:3-4).
The attitude of Martin Harris had been closely observed: much satisfaction must have been felt in the agonies he had tasted at
the moment when in March 1829 the Lord had withdrawn his spirit from the poor simpleton (D&C, 19:20). Harris was overwhelmed at his rejection by Joseph in that month from the service of transcribing Rigdon's lucubrations. His friends could not avoid to observe his infatuation; it is Possible that he spoke to all whom he encountered regarding his (disaster) in failing to have a share in the speculation. He was no profound believer in the religious contents of the work; long after he had engaged to foot the printer's bill, Smith was under the necessity of dealing with him as an unbeliever. Section nineteen of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants shows plainly that up to the month of March 1830 he was a firm advocate of the tenet of restorationism, which is everywhere condemned in the Book of Mormon.
He was also involved in suspicious relations with the wife of one of his neighbors (D&C, 19:25); presumably the wife of a certain Mr. Haggard, of whom Lucy Harris was very jealous (Howe, p. 256). Indeed, Joseph was obligated to close the above revelation in a very uncertain state of mind regarding the religious inclinations of Martin: "Or canst thou run about longer as a blind guide? Or canst thou be humble and meek, and conduct thyself wisely before me? Yea, come unto me thy Savior. Amen" (D&C, 19:40-41).
Lucy Harris, perceiving the distress of her husband on his rejection in March 1829, began to fear that he would shortly assume pecuniary obligations at the suggestion of Smith that would leave
herself and children in a condition of beggary. With an interest that was born of this peril the good woman exerted herself to avert the calamity that threatened her husband by an appeal to the civil courts. Her plan was to charge Smith with the crime of obtaining money under false pretenses, hoping thereby to succeed in casting him into prison. Lyman Cowdery, the brother of Oliver, gave her all the assistance he could in this scheme, which was defeated by the infatuation of her husband (Joseph Smith, pp. 140-143). However, she did not rest content with that defeat, but separated from Mr. Harris, she constrained him to set, aside her dowry, so that her support should not be liable for the losses which she foresaw he would incur in prosecuting the enterprise (Tucker, Origin and Progress, p. 54).
It was natural that Martin should receive notice as early as the labor of transcription had been completed in the month of June 1829. He immediately went over to Fayette, a distance of 25 miles from Manchester, to congratulate Mr. Smith on his success. Joseph hearing of his recent tribulations, and by personal conference becoming aware of the state of his mind, shortly selected him as one of the three witnesses. He was convinced that it would require a very small amount of evidence to satisfy the scruples of a person who was thus seriously unbalanced. Accordingly, the next morning on rising from family prayers, he approached him in a very impressive style and said: "Martin Harris, you
have got to humble yourself before your God this day, that you may obtain a forgiveness of your sins. If you do, it is the will of God that you should look upon the plates in company with Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer" (Joseph Smith, pp. 146-7).
Additional preparation was made for the dangerous trial, by means of a very earnest revelation (D.&C., Section 17), in which they were assured that faith was the condition of sight, and not sight the condition of faith: "And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old. And after that you have obtained faith and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them by the power of God." When by this process they had been highly wrought upon both in respect to their feelings and imagination, Mr. Smith says:
"We accordingly made choice of a piece of woods convenient to Mr. Whitmer's house, to which we retired, and having knelt down we began to pray in much faith to Almighty God to bestow upon us a realization of these promises. According to previous arrangements I commenced by vocal prayer to our Heavenly Father, and was followed by each of the rest in succession. We did not, however, obtain any answer of manifestation of the divine favor in our behalf. We again observed the same order of prayer, each calling on and praying fervently to God in rotation, but with the same result as before. Upon this our second failure, Martin Harris proposed that he
should withdraw himself from us, believing as he expressed himself, that his presence was the cause of our not obtaining what we wished for. He accordingly withdrew from us, and we knelt down again, and had not been many minutes engaged in prayer, when presently we beheld a light above us in the air of exceeding brightness; and behold an angel stood before us. In his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of. He turned over the leaves one by one so that we could see them, and discover the engravings thereon distinctly. He then addressed himself to David Whitmer, and said 'David, blessed is the Lord, and he that keeps his commandments.'" When immediately afterwards, we heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying, 'These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear.'
I now left David and Oliver, and went in pursuit of Martin Harris, whom I found at a considerable distance fervently engaged in prayer. He soon told me, however, that he had not yet prevailed with the Lord, and earnestly requested me to join him in prayer, that he might also realize the same blessings which we had just received. We accordingly joined in prayer, and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had yet finished, the same vision was opened to our view, -- at least it was again to me, and I once more beheld and heard the same things, whilst at the same moment Martin Harris cried out, apparently
in [an] ecstasy of joy, 'Tis enough; mine eyes have beheld,' and jumping up, he shouted hosannah, blessing God, and otherwise rejoiced exceedingly (Tullidge, Life of Joseph, pp. 70-1).
From the above showing it is left somewhat in dispute whether Mr. Harris ever got a right view of the "plates," but in his existing state of mind he would have been content without any view at all; he was sure that here a great pecuniary investment was open. and that it behooved hint speedily to embrace the speculation.
It is suspected that Mr. Rigdon was somewhere present in the undergrowth of the forest where the little company were assembled, and being in plain hearing of their devotions he could easily step forward at a signal from Joseph, and exhibit several of the most faded leaves of the manuscript, which from having been kept a series of years since the death of Spaulding would assume the yellow appearance that is well known in such circumstances. At a distance from the station which they occupied the writing on these yellow sheets of paper would also appear to their excited imagination in the light of engravings; Sidney was likewise very well equal to the task of uttering the assurances which Smith affirms the angel was kind enough to supply concerning the genuineness of the "plates" and the correctness of the translation.
In the light of the above representation it is not singular that in the year 1838, when Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were in disgrace among the Mormons they should have contradicted the story of the plates being exhibited to them. The fact that they did thus deny that the plates were seen by them is given upon the testimony of eighty four Mormons who in the month of June 1838, directed a communication to Cowdery, Whitmer and others, dated at Far West, Missouri. These witnesses after setting forth the numerous crimes of which Cowdery and Whitmer were guilty, also add of course, then, they were ignorant of the "plates" which they said an angel had "made known" to them (Document 189, Showing the Testimony given before the Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and others, for high treason and other crimes against that state. Printed by order of the United States Senate. Washington, D. C., 1841, p. 7).
The assertion of these eighty four eye-witnesses, has been often overlooked; it is important and cannot fairly be set aside. After his expulsion from the Mormon community Mr. Cowdery survived till the 3d of March 1850, when he passed away at Richmond, Missouri (Handbook of Reference, Juvenile Instructor Office, Salt Lake, 1884, p.60). During this decade of separation it is said to have been his custom when interrogated respecting the incident to exclaim: "Gentlemen. I saw an angel, and I know who the angel was"
(Myth of The Manuscript Found, p. 79).
In case Oliver had not encountered Mr. Rigdon on any other previous occasion, he had certainly received baptism at his hands on the 15th of May, 1829, and it was entirely natural that when a person of so much consequence should exhibit himself a second time, Cowdery should be in a situation to recognize his features. When in the subsequent progress of the movement he was introduced to Sidney, it is perfectly natural that he should have been confirmed in the conclusion that the person who had baptized him and exhibited the plates was none other than Rigdon. If Mr. Cowdery had lived long enough to make his peace with Mormonism, it is possible that he might have withdrawn his denial of the Testimony to which as one of the three witnesses he had affixed his name. But according to the most respectable Mormon sources that denial stood in full force to the moment of his decease. David Whitmer on the contrary, lived long enough to forget his enmity and come into friendly relations with the so-called Reorganized Church. Accordingly it is not singular that in his last years he should have ignored the denial which is charged by eighty four of his intimate associates in 1838. In the year 1878, he again distinctly professes to have seen the plates the angel and all the other paraphernalia (Tullidge, pp. 738-42).
Whatever secrets Oliver might have acquired or suspected on the occasion of the exhibition of the plates, he kept his own counsels, both for the moment and for many subsequent years; nothing was revealed until defection from Mormonism had altered his position and embittered his spirits. By consequence the trial which. Joseph had feared so highly, succeeded beyond expectation. Returning to the house he communicated the occurrence with lively satisfaction to his parents, who at the time were on a visit to the Whitmer family:
"Father, mother, you do not know how happy I am; the Lord has now caused the plates to be shown to three more besides myself. They have seen an angel, who has testified to them, and they will have to bear witness to the truth of what I have said, for now they know for themselves that I do not so about to deceive the people, and I feel as if I was relieved of a burden which was almost too heavy for me to bear, and it rejoices my soul that I am not to be any longer entirely alone in the world" (Joseph Smith, p. 147).
Upon the instant the testimony of the three witnesses was duly composed and subscribed by Cowdery. Whitmer and Harris. The success of this much dreaded enterprise was so complete, that Sidney and Joseph were emboldened, contrary to every previous calculation, to make a second effort. For several months the twain must have gone about with an awful fear at their hearts lest disaster should smite them at the test of this exposition, but the ordeal was passed without even the peril of casualty, Under these circumstances the literalism of Sidney would begin to assert itself and to long for twelve witnesses to the Book of Mormon, just as in the beginning there had been twelve witness to the life and miracles of Jesus. It was therefore resolved to arrange for a second exhibition of the sacred relies, where eight other persons should be present who in connection with Joseph would make up the full number of apostolic history.
This second exhibition came to pass only a few days after
the one just now described. The entire party, from the residence of the Whitmers at Fayette, New York, had meanwhile come over to the place of the Smith family in Manchester. By means of a previous arrangement with Sidney, Joseph had information that the "plates" would be brought to that point "by one of the ancient Nephites" (Joseph Smith, p. 149).
Lucy Smith declares that shortly after the company of visitors had arrived at her house, "the male portion of them with my husband, Samuel and Hyrum retired to a place where the family were in the habit of offering up their secret devotions to God" (Joseph Smith, p. 147). This place was likely the cave that is mentioned by Pomeroy Tucker, who says that Smith had caused a dark artificial cave to be dug in the east side of the forest hill near his residence, now owned by Mr. Amos Miner. Mr. Tucker adds that Joseph was accustomed to spend some of his time in this cave, of which the entrance was meanwhile guarded by one or more of his disciples (Origin and Progress, pp. 48-9).
In such a cavern it would be easy for Sidney to secrete himself; "it had a substantial door of two inch plank, secured by a corresponding lock," and was given out to be one hundred and sixty feet in extent, which most likely was an exaggeration. When the eight fresh witnesses were duly assembled in this favorable situation, Mr. Rigdon would experience no special embarrassment in playing the role of an angel to which he had now grown accustomed. The "plates" which on the previous display
[did] not seem to resemble gold, would easily take on the "appearance of gold" (Testimony of Eight Witnesses), in the far dimmer light to which they were now exposed; it is possible that this appearance was aided by the rays of a feeble tallow dip which together with the manuscript sheets was kept at a safe distance from the spectators, These eight witnesses were in addition accorded a privilege that was not enjoyed by the first three witnesses; they testify that "as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated, we did handle with our hands." It may be supposed that Rigdon had the entire manuscript at hand in a box provided for the purpose. When he had retired for a brief season to the rear portion of the cave there is room for the conjecture that the witnesses were invited to inspect this box, which there is small occasion to question contained as many of the sheets as Sidney had formerly entrusted to Smith. These gentlemen further affirm in corroboration of the view given above that not the angel but Mr. Smith showed the matter unto them, under his direction they "saw and hefted" the box.
This entire occurrence would rhyme a deal more smoothly if Joseph and Sidney had been mindful in the body of the Book of Mormon to provide for the eight witnesses as well as to three witnesses. As the matter now stands, however, the eight witnesses are conceived to have been an afterthought, and there is very little need for them except that they serve to make up the apostolic number twelve.
Lucy Smith reports in conclusion that "after these witnesses returned to the house, the angel again made his appearance to Joseph, at which time Joseph delivered up the plates into the
angel's hands" (Joseph Smith, p. 149), which being interpreted signifies that Sidney came forward from the recesses of the cavern to which he had recently retired took up the box containing the manuscript, and set forth on his journey back to his home in Mentor Ohio.
It must have been near the first days of July, when he returned to his field of labor. For a brief season he would be employed in meeting neglected engagements which likely had accumulated in the churches of Mentor and Kirtland over which he had direct pastoral charge; but it was not long until he was busy carrying the Disciples' gospel to the regions beyond. On the 7th of August 1829 he organized the Disciples church in Perry, which has stood ever since among the most prosperous of its sisters in that portion of the country (Hayden, pp. 346-9). In the autumn of the year he likewise organized the Disciples' church in Euclid, Ohio (Hayden, p. 409). In short, he founded or assisted in the foundation of four or five new churches during the course of the year 1829.
There was no contradiction to his mind between the work he performed in Pennsylvania and New York during the months of May and June, and that which he accomplished in Ohio during the other months of the year. In his estimation both were but part and parcel of the same scheme to restore the "ancient gospel and the
ancient order of things;" only that portion of the work which he had committed to the charge of Mr. Smith was something more dear to his affections, for the reason that he considered it a nearer approximation to the apostolic model than Mr. Campbell had attained. But the difference between the two might be summed up in a "few simple points, and he felt the liveliest hopes that when the New York improvement were once displayed in the Western Reserve all his Disciple brethren would embrace them as necessary consequences of the convictions they already maintained. It is possible that he even flattered himself with anticipations of the conquest of Mr. Campbell himself.
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Martin Harris had been faithfully groomed for that service. In this interest the prophecy concerning the three witnesses had been given in the course of a revelation designed for the especial benefit of Harris (D.&C., 5:11-15). Martin's pen had most likely been employed to write the 27th Chapter of the 2nd Book of Nephi, in which, with the customary adroitness of Joseph, were included an account, as if from the most ancient years, of these same witnesses and likewise of Martin's experiences with Prof. Anthon in the city of New York.
But notwithstanding all these miracles and the fact that Martin had been selected to be one of the chosen three, he was only a very indifferent believer, who continued to "run about as a blind guide" (D.&C., 19:40). It is an old proverb which ascribes conservation to capital; nevertheless Harris could not avoid believing that a snug sum of money might be in the venture, and he was willing to turn the last honest penny that it afforded. He had exclaimed to his wife, "What if it is a lie; if you will let me alone I will make money out of it" (Howe, p. 254). Possibly it might have been with a view to the commercial success of the Book of Mormon that, upon what seem to be insufficient grounds, he had affixed his signature to the testimony of the three witnesses.
By way of inciting Harris to take the step, which was of so much consequence to his own interests, Joseph may at this time have made
application to other parties, looking to the business of discharging the necessary expenses of the work. Tucker says: "Among others, Mr. George Crane of the adjoining town of Macedon, a Quaker of intelligence, property, and high respectability (now deceased), was called upon by Smith with several foolscap quires of these so-called translations, for his perusal and opinion, and also for his pecuniary aid to get the work through the press" (Origin and Progress, p. 37). The unfavorable and caustic answer of Crane would produce no effect upon the deeply infatuated mind of Harris; he candidly supposed that a fortune was here easily within his grasp, and although he might have some natural scruples at becoming answerable for such a considerable amount of money, he was yet all the while fixed in the purpose not to suffer the opportunity to slip away from him.
Already in the month of June 1829, the earliest interview with the printer was had (Tucker, p. 50). The Gentleman in question expostulated with Harris, but with no success in breaking his purpose to assume the obligations involved. Since Mr. Grandin was unwilling to comply with the wishes of the party, they now consulted a couple of printers in Rochester -- Mr. Thurlow Weed and Mr. Elihu F. Marshall. At length, however Mr. Grandin, perceiving that Harris was not to be reasoned out of his fanaticism, consented to perform the job. The contract must have been subscribed about the first days of July 1829; it bound Martin Harris for one half the cost, while Joseph and Hyrum Smith became responsible for the other half (Joseph Smith, p. 155).
The transaction was left in that shape for several months, when Mr. Grandin, becoming sensible of a decided access of prejudice, began to fear that the public would so generally refuse to purchase the book as to put it out of the power of Joseph and Hyrum Smith to discharge their share of the obligation. He accordingly stopped the process of printing until further arrangements should be effected by means of which he might be rendered secure against loss. The trouble was obviated through the agency of Martin Harris, who it is supposed at this time took, the entire burden upon his own shoulders (Joseph Smith, p. 159).
While the printing was in process there were several waggish tricks perpetrated by persons connected with the office at the expense of the Smiths. A man named Cole, upon his own responsibility, issued six or eight numbers of a paper that he designated the "Dogberry Paper on Winter Hill," On one side it is presumed was printed one of the forms of the Book of Mormon, as the same were set up from day to day, and on the other side were editorial articles in somewhat low taste making sport of the pretended revelation. These papers were disposed of at some distance from Palmyra, and it is possible the business brought Mr. Cole some kind of pecuniary advantage; he was very averse to discontinue the publication at the request of Joseph (Joseph Smith, pp. 156-8).
The enterprise was carried forward with so much deliberation that the entire winter was required to bring it to completion; Indeed it is not known whether the Book of Mormon had left the press before
the month of March 1830. At this time, however, it appears from a command directed to Martin Harris that the business was done and the bills were due. Joseph exhorts him in the following strain: "Impart a portion of thy property; yea, even part of thy lands, and save the support of thy family. Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer" (D.&C., 19:34-35).
Joseph passed most of the winter of 1829-30 in Pennsylvania, where he had left his wife, Emma, perhaps under the roof of her father. It may be conceived that he was not very welcome at Harmony; possibly when he deserted his wife about the first of June 1829 for the company of the Whitmers and other friends in New York, there was some hazard left at no distant period by which he (should) be confronted by legal proceedings looking towards a divorce. It therefore behooved him to return to his neglected home in order to avert a catastrophe that would have been very unwelcome to his feelings. (Thereafter) on three several occasions it was found important to summon him to Palmya in order to remove certain difficulties which obstructed the enterprise in hand. Lucy Smith adds: "these trips back and forth exhausted nearly all our (funds), yet they seemed unavoidable" It is highly probable that the skill and (abilities) of Joseph were sufficient to procure the means of travel from the simplicity of Mr. Harris or other dupes, leaving his own family undisturbed by any drafts on that score.
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