The Real Founder of Mormonism
Rev. Alexander Campbell
William H. Whitsitt
BOOK THE THIRD:
THE DISCIPLE PERIOD: Oct. 11, 1823 -- Nov. 8, 1830
(Section VI, pp. 402-483)
Contents | Book I | Book II | Book III: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 | Book IV | Book V
For convenience of treatment the different topics will be set forth in the customary order and the present chapter will therefore be given to a discussion of the position of the volume with regard to the existence and attributes of God.
The Book or Mormon teaches that there is only one God (Alma 11:27-29). It does not entertain anywhere a hint at the literalistic notion of a plurality of Gods, which was subsequently advanced by leaders or Mormon thought, but steadfastly affirms there is "but one God"
(Alma 14:5-33; 1:11,35 cf. Ether 2:8). The three passages that have been brought forward by recent Mormon theologians to show that the work contradicts its own plain teaching on the point in question, and assert a plurality of Gods, are entirely inconclusive (cf. Compendium of Doctrine, Richards & Little, p. 185).
His personality is everywhere assumed, but nowhere stated in express language: God is represented as a spirit answerable to the Great Spirit of the Indian population. (Alma 18:24-28; 19:27 & 22:9-12). Allusion has elsewhere been given to the lapse into coarse anthropomorphism which occurs in the passage at Ether 3:16, but there is reason to conclude that this was set down in the latest touches that Mr. Rigdon placed upon the volume during the months of May and June 1829, when his literalism had already increased to larger proportions than may be observed in the preceding sections.
God is represented as eternal (1 Nephi 10;18; Mosiah 3:5,16 & Moroni 6:22). One of the chief arguments set forward in support of the notion that the age of miracles has not rightly ceased is found in the unchangeable nature of God. Inspiration, prophecy and wonders were of common occurrence in the early ages of the church of Christ, and also prior to the advent of that institution; if they have ceased, then it must be clear that God is a changeable being. But God is not a changeable being; therefore these things have not ceased except by the fault of man.
The unchangeable nature of God is also asserted in other connections (Alma 6:29; 10:19; 37:12 & Moroni 8:18). The omnipotence of God (Mos. 3, 4, 5, 9 & Helaman 10 & 11), and his omniscience (Alma 18:18, 2 Nephi 9:20 & Moroni 7:22) are often distinctly asserted but his omnipresence is only assumed. God is likewise represented as a holy being (2 Nephi 9:20) and as a just being (2 Nephi 15:30).
In brief, the God of the Book of Mormon is set forth as possessing the same attributes, and as being the identical divinity of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, "the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Mormon 10:11 & Mosiah 2:28). In the theology of Mr. Rigdon, God is also declared to be the creator of all things (2 Nephi 2:14; Jacob 4:9 & Alma 18:28, 22:10). There is no hint in the Book of Mormon regarding the eternity of matter. This tenet was subsequently invented and added to the Mormon system. The creation of angels is every where assumed without being in so many words affirmed. One of the main points in which Sidney went beyond the position held by his brethren of the Disciple faith was in respect to the ministering of angels. To his mind this kind of supernatural service was more real and influential than they were quite prepared to allow.
The Book of Mormon abounds with instances of the intervention of angels for the purpose of instructing and aiding the servants of the Lord, and also with exhortations to a lively belief on the part of the faithful in the ministering of angels (Jacob 7:17; Omni 1:25 & Moroni 7:29-3l, 36). The only reason why all Christian people are not now immediately conscious of the presence and support of angels must be looked for in the defects of their faith (Moroni 7:37).
At this point, however, the "ancient order of things" which Sidney boasted was as much in his favor as in the case of miracles and inspiration, became a sore offense to the Disciples. He was merely endowed with a better store of faith than his brethren.
Frequent mention is had of the fallen angels and especially of Satan the chief of them. In 2 Nephi 2:11-25, a curious theory is given regarding the origin of evil. Mr. Rigdon there informs the reader that he "must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven" (v. 17). But his fall of the angel is not explained except in connection with the fall of man. The explanation is there supplied as follows: "It must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, righteousness could not be brought to pass; neither good nor bad. Wherefore all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore if it should be one body" (i.e. wholly good or wholly evil) "it must needs remain as dead, having no life, neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore it must needs have been
created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God, and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy and the justice of God. And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness, there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness, there be no punishment nor misery. And if those things are not, there is no God. And if there is no God, we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon, wherefore all things must have vanished away" (2 Nephi 2:11-13).
By the above showing, this opposition which is denominated sin is made necessary to the existence of the world and even of God: sin mast have been regarded as eternal in respect to origin, if indeed it was not a part of God. At any rate sin was indispensable to the fulfillment of the eternal purposes of God (2 Nephi 2:15), in which light it must be set down as a blessing rather than a curse. Accordingly, the fall of man is represented as the greatest blessing that has chanced to the human race, nay -- as the prime condition of its existence: "Adam fell that man might be; and men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25).
If these views appear to be somewhat singular, it must be remembered that the convictions of most religious people concerning the origin
of evil are left more to theory than to the direction of definite symbolical statement. Besides in the Disciple connection there was and still is an entire lack of any extended creed statement, and it might very easily befall, as Mr. Campbell complained, that there should be "all sorts of preaching by nearly all sorts of men." That kind of certainty has been one of the main hindrances of the Disciple plea in favor of "uniting on the Bible."
One of the earliest lessons which Rigdon had received at the hands of Mr. Campbell was in opposition to the system of doctrines commonly designated as Calvinism. The first time the latter appeared on the Western Reserve in the ministers' meeting at Warren, Ohio, he made an assault upon the tenet of election; though he refused to be called by the name of Arminius, Mr. Campbell's opinions were ever afterwards of the Arminian type (Hayden, History, pp. 39-40). Rigdon quickly learned this lesson also from his master, and it is what might be expected to find that the type of opinion in the Book of Mormon is Arminian. It is not in favor of the eternal decrees of God. Only one thing is represented as occurring in connection with the eternal purpose of God. The atonement is declared to have been "prepared from the foundation of the world" (Mos. 4:6). This atonement was "prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were even since the fall of Adam, or who are, or ever shall be even unto the end of the world" (Mos. 4:7).
But there is no such thing in the theological system of the Book of Mormon as the particular election of individual persons to be partakers of the advantages of the plan of salvation. On the contrary, people are "called and prepared from the foundation of the world, according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they have chosen good, and exercising exceeding great faith, are called with a holy calling" (Alma 13:3). The decrees of God were based upon his foreknowledge of the virtue that would exist in the subject. The benefits of the plan of redemption were intended for a class who should first render themselves worthy to receive them: "this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts" (Alma 13:5).
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The opposition felt by the Disciples against creeds has often been (referred) to. Their position touching this matter may be more nearly described in the language of Mr. Campbell, who says: "The only apostolic confession of faith which God, the Father of all, has laid for the church -- and on which Jesus himself has said he would build it -- is the sublime and supreme proposition: That Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God" (The Christian System..., A. Campbell, 3rd ed., Bethany 1840, p. 58).
The form in which Mr. Walter Scott was in the custom of stating this confession was in the words that "Jesus is the Christ" (Christian Baptist, pp. 10, 11, 23). He says, "this peerless fact that 'Jesus is the Christ' forms the sole bond of union among the holy brethren" (C.B., p. 36). Although that was Scott's special version of the Disciple creed, it must be allowed that Campbell upon occasion would likewise employ it (C.B., pp. 59-60).
So intent was Mr. Scott upon this "peerless" turn of expression, that while he was engaged as a teacher in Pittsburgh he declares that "in his admiration for the great revelation, he wrote in large letters with chalk, over the door of his academy,
that he might teach it to his pupils -- "Jesus is the Christ." (The Messiahship, by Walter Scott, p. 6). Mr. Rigdon who at this time was his fellow-elder in the Sandemanian society that worshipped in the (Pittsburgh) Court House, also must have learned and leaned to this version of the creed of the Disciples; hence the main object for which the Book of Mormon was composed, as declared on the title page, is "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations." That excellent purpose appears on almost every page of the work, with an amount of repetition that must have been as tiresome as that of Mr. Scott, when he declared this "good confession," twice a week out of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, in his little church at Pittsburgh for the space of 22 months at a stretch. Sidney's intention appears to have been the entirely honest one of giving aid to his friend in making the "Great Demonstration," by means of additional Nephite prophecies which proclaimed that "Jesus is the Christ" much more plainly than those of our Jewish scriptures.
That is by all kind of odds the leading peculiarity of the Book of Mormon; it is chiefly a collection of arguments to prove that "Jesus Is the Christ," and not seldom the phrase itself recurs: "And for this intent shall they go: that they may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Mormon 5:14). "And if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity" (Moroni 7:44). "And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God" (2 Nephi 26:12).
Mr. Scott observed the similarity of the tenets set forth in the Book of Mormon, to those which he was himself engaged in proclaiming, He refers to the fact in the following terms: "But how the great revelation came to overflow in our present method of advocating the gospel, and how the Mormon impostor came into (fertive) possession of that method, and made to himself a numerous people, it avails not to depend. This last may be seen proven in the Evangelist (magazine)" (The Messiahship, p. 6). If those particular issues of the Evangelist, a magazine which Scott published for a number of years, could be obtained in which this foremost leader of the Disciples has set out his proofs of the proposition here stated it might be possible to derive some suggestions from his treatment of the topic, that would place it in a better light. But in whatever way he handled the business, it must be clear to the most casual reader who surveys even no more than the title page of the Book of Mormon that its main [ --------- ] and intent is to establish and enforce the same "good confession" as prevailed among the Disciples, and in the same form of words as they habitually effect.
It may be worth the pains of the reader to consider some specimens of the proof by which Mr. Rigdon endeavored to confirm the "great revelation" that "Jesus is the Christ." Besides the passages cited above, others may be selected at random out of a vast multitude that are at disposal. The following prediction of the prophet Nephi
shows his method very well: "And behold, he cometh according to the words of the angel, in 600 years from the time my father left Jerusalem, and the world because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught, wherefore they scourge him and he suffereth it; and they smite him and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long suffering towards the children of men. And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him; yea, the God of Abraham and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulcher, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death, unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea; more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.
For thus spake the prophet: 'The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up;' and all these
things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rooks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the spirit of God to exclaim 'The God of nature suffers'" (1 Nephi 19:8-12).
The design of the above and of many another alleged prophecy of the Book of Mormon was to deliver such facts as are calculated to demonstrate that "Jesus is the Christ" more plainly than Mr. Scott could find them on record in the Old Testament scriptures. Alluding to this purpose the prophet Nephi expresses himself as follows: "For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they knew not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews" (2 Nephi 25:1). "Wherefore hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain to you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the Spirit of prophecy. But I give unto you a prophecy, according to the Spirit which is in me; wherefore I shall prophecy according to the plainness which hath been with me from the time that I came out from Jerusalem with my father; for behold my soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn" (2 Nephi 25:4).
Those who accept the inspiration of the Book of Mormon can not fail to perceive that the volume is much more clear and definite in foretelling
the presence and mission of the Savior of man, than the inspired writings of the Jews. it is no wonder that multitudes of simple people of vulgar common sense should value the production of Mr. Rigdon above any other revelation. For the rest, what the Book of Mormon advances regarding the nature of Jesus Christ is in substantial harmony with orthodox opinions. He is "from all eternity to all eternity," and the "Lord Omnipotent" (Mos. 3:5). He is the Only Begotten Son of the Father (Alma 13:9), and also the very "Eternal Father" (Mos. 16:7,27). In brief, the titles and attributes of divinity are accorded to him without any stint. The divine work of the Creation of all things from the beginning is also assigned to his credit (Helaman 14:12).
When Mr. Rigdon attempts to expound the nature of Christ's relations to the Father, be comes into deep water, as many another theologian has done before his time. His theory on that subject is recorded at Mosiah 15:1-5: "And now Abinadi said unto them, 'I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people, and because he dwelleth in the flesh, he shall be called the Son of God: and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son; the Father because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and the Son. And they are one God, yea the very eternal Father of heaven and earth; and thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out and disowned by his people."
The above disquisition leaves behind a slight suspicion of (Sabellion) inclinations, but on that point no positive assertions are warranted. Jesus is everywhere declared to be the Savior of the world both by his active and by his passive obedience. He also rose from the dead (2 Nephi 2:8, 9:12; Mosiah 15:8 & Alma 22:14). An extended account is supplied of his appearance to the Nephites in America after his resurrection (3 Nephi chapter 11 ff.).
Though the first judgment is often spoken of as the work of God, there are several passages which clearly indicate that it will be performed by Christ (Alma 13:22, 40:1). The effect of Christ's resurrection is to loose the bonds of death not only in the case of the righteous but likewise of the wicked dead. The bodies of the latter are rendered immortal as well as their spirits by the resurrection of Jesus. This is one of the grounds upon which Mr. Rigdon assumes to represent the atonement as infinite in its application; it affects the bodies of the wicked even though it may not touch their spirits (2 Nephi 9:7,22 & Alma 11:41-44).
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The personality of the Holy Spirit is hardly displayed with so much decision in the Book of Mormon as in the Christian Scriptures, but there are several passages which show that Mr. Rigdon believed in this tenet. For example, the Holy Spirit is allowed to occupy a place, at the side of the Father and the Son in the formula for baptism, just as is the case in the commission that was delivered by Jesus to his disciples (3 Nephi 11:25).
In other places the function of bearing witness is assigned to the Holy Spirit in the same way as the other two persons bear witness. At 3 Nephi 11:32 the Son expresses himself (on) this wise: "And I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me." Somewhat further on in the same chapter he adds: "And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father and I and the Holy Ghost are one" (3 Nephi 11:30). A statement of similar import may be consulted at 3 Nephi 28:11 cf. Ether 5:4 & 12:41.
The Holy Spirit is also represented as appearing in person to the prophet Nephi (1 Nephi 11:2-4). This presence was so apparent that the prophet reports: "I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet, nevertheless, I knew
that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another (1 Nephi 11:11).
All that is brought forward in the Mormon theology of more recent times against the personality of the Holy Spirit must be interpreted into the Book of Mormon. In order for such a notion to be found there. Abstruse theories that are sometimes propounded on this subject were invented at a late period. It is true that in one or two passages Mr. Rigdon allows himself to employ such an expression as "a portion of the Spirit" (Alma 18:35 & 24:8) but that is a form of speech which may be often met with in the mouths of orthodox preachers in America, who have no idea of thereby indicating that the third person of the Trinity is nothing more than a spiritual substance which is everywhere diffused and may be divided into separate parts like other kinds of matter.
Reference has already been given to the conceit of Mr. Campbell to the effect that the Spirit of God can operate upon the mind of persons only through the written word, and it was mentioned that he is suspected to have borrowed this metaphysical proposition from the productions of the Congregationalist, William Cudworth. The terms of this notice were that there is no "divine influence either accompanying or apart from the word which makes it -- and without which it is not -- an effectual means of grace" (Mill. Har., 1831, p. 389).
He expressed himself more fully in the following extract:
"As the spirit of man puts forth all its moral power in the words which it fills with its ideas; so the Spirit of God puts forth all its converting and sanctifying power in the words which it fills with its ideas. Miracles cannot convert. They can only obtain a favorable hearing of the converting arguments. If they fail to obtain a favorable hearing the arguments which they prove are impotent as an unknown tongue. If the Spirit of God has spoken all its arguments; or if the New and Old Testament contain all the arguments which can be offered to reconcile man to God and to purify them who are reconciled, all the power of the Holy Spirit which can operate upon the human mind is spent; and he that is not sanctified and saved by these cannot be saved by angels or spirits, human or divine" (Mill. Harb., 1831, p. 295).Later on he adds (p. 296): "We plead that all the converting power of the Holy Spirit is exhibited in the Divine Record."
In the cant of the "Bethany dialect" this peculiar theory of spiritual
metaphysics was known as the "Word alone system." (Debate between Campbell and Rice, p. 614). The phrase "Word alone system" must have been current in the ranks of the Disciples as early as the period of Mr. Rigdon's preeminence among them, for there is a rather distinct allusion to it in the Book of Mosiah 26:15-16: "Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi. And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone, which thou hast spoken unto them."
The above is in every respect a pure and peculiar flower of the "language of Canaan," which it would be unreasonable to expect in the mouth or any but a well taught follower of Mr. Campbell. It would not be in the least natural anywhere else.
For the rest the statements of the Book of Mormon touching the Holy Spirit, may not be observed to exhibit any further peculiarities. It teaches that the office of the Holy Spirit is to lead the mind of man (Alma 13:23); they may be filled with the Holy Spirit (Alma 30:24); constrained by the Spirit (4 Nephi l:38) or on the other hand they may quench the Spirit (Jacob 6:8), harden themselves (2 Nephi 33:2), and contend against it (Alma 34:38).
Much is advanced concerning the gifts and powers of the Spirit, such as doing miracles, speaking with tongues and healing the sick. Another
of those gifts was revelation and prophecy. The Spirit is several times spoken of as the "Spirit of revelation" (Alma 9:21, 17:3, 23:6 & 43:2); but there is sufficient reason to question whether Rigdon originally intended that there should be a continuance of revelations, such as Joseph Smith has produced in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. The "Spirit of revelation" and prophecy it is probable was understood in all the earlier portion of the Book of Mormon to be limited to the Nephites and Lamanite worthies; and Rigdon seems to endeavor to provide that there should be no further revelations by inserting the statement: "I knew of no revelation, save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore that which is sufficient is written" (Omni 1:11). It has already been indicated in what way the genius and the necessities of Joseph constrained him to alter this view, and who when engaged in placing the last touches of his hand upon the closing sections of the Book of Mormon, Sidney conceded the continuance of revelation and prophecy in the present age.
The doctrine of the Trinity is also assumed but no explanations are proposed regarding any of its mysteries. A specimen of the somewhat numerous utterances touching that topic may be cited from 2 Nephi. 31:21: "And now behold this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only sure doctrine of the Father, and of
the Son and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God without end." The same idea appears also at Alma 11:44: "And shall be brought and arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one eternal God." Other statements of a like import may be consulted at 3 Nephi 11:27-36 and Mormon 7:7.
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Man was created out of the dust of the earth (Mosiah 2:25; Alma 42:2 & Mormon 9:17) after the image of God (Mosiah 7:17; Alma 18:34; 22:12 & Ether 3:16). No traces can be discovered in the Book: of Mormon of the notion regarding the pre-existence of man in a spiritual form. Mr. Rigdon had not advanced to that conceit when the volume left his hands. It is admitted that several passages may be found where it is said that "man in the beginning was created after the image of God," but there is no indication given in any of them to the effect that this "beginning" was older than the period when the earth was created, or that any other man besides Adam was created at that time (see Alma 18:32-35; Mosiah 3:8, 7:27; Helaman 14:12 & Ether 3:15).
While it is clearly affirmed that man was created out of the dust of the earth, the Book of Mormon supplies no allusion to the more recent Mormon tenet that the world instead of being created out of nothing, was only formed out of matter which previously existed.
The fall of man is taught much in the same way as may be seen in the Book of Genesis. The devil who was the guilty cause of it is represented as an angel of God, who had previously fallen from heaven (2 Nephi 2:16). It was he who tempted Eve, by the suggestion
of forbidden fruit (2 Nephi 2:18 & Alma 12:21). The garden of Eden is also mentioned in connection with the expulsion of Adam and Eve (2 Nephi 2:19), as well as the cherubim and flaming sword that were ordained to prevent their return to that happy scene (Alma 12:21).
Mr. Rigdon has some queer notions touching the effect of the fall of Adam. In one place he deliberately intimates that it was the greatest blessing that could have chanced to the race of mankind, nay -- it was the sole condition of the existence of the race: "And now behold, if Adam had not transgressed, he would not have fallen; but he would have remained in the Garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold all these things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:22- 25).
The unity of the human race is assumed (2 Nephi 2:20): all mankind were lost by the fall of the first father of the race (Mosiah 16:3-4). In accordance with his Arminian standing-point, Mr. Rigdon teaches that Adam in his earliest estate was not free. The forbidden fruit and the temptation to partake of it were necessary to
supply the "opposition" which put him in possession of his freedom, which is understood to be the liberty of choosing between good and evil: "it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter; wherefore the Lord gave unto man that he should eat for himself, save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other" (2 Nephi 2:15-16).
Another passage may be given for the purpose of more distinctly showing that the benefit of freedom was understood to be derived from the fall: "Wherefore he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments as to those things which were tempered, and becoming as Gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good" (Alma 12:31). Only when by the act of God the progenitors of the race had been "placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good" was virtue possible to them; before that period they were innocent but could not be virtuous (2 Nephi 2:23). By this declaration it must be clear that Mr. Rigdon considered the fall to have brought decided moral advantages in its train.
The present state of existence (is) declared to be a state of probation (Alma 12:24, 24:33-36,42; 40:14). The longevity of the antediluvians
seems to be referred to the fact that it was desirable that they might enjoy a lengthened period of probation (2 Nephi 2:21).
The plan of salvation is commonly given out to have been "laid from the foundation of the world" (Alma 12:25-30, 18:39 & Mosiah 4:6), but that expression is believed to be synonymous with the fall of man: "And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free" (2 Nephi 2:4). Notwithstanding the advantages resulting from the fall it also brought no small degree of moral loss to the world. That fact is indicated in the circumstance that a way of salvation was by this means rendered indispensable; moral loss is also definitely affirmed in several places (Mos. 16:3-4; Alma 41:11, 42:10; Helaman 14:16 & Ether 3:2).
The soul of man is said to be eternal whether the possessor of it should depart this life in a state of grace or in a state of guilt (Alma 42:9 & 3 Nephi 26:5).
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Jesus Christ is set forth as the only Savior of Mankind; through him alone they must be reconciled to God. As previously suggested this was one of the main purposes for which the work was composed, That purpose is often expressed in definite terms, as for example at 1 Nephi 13:39-40: "And after it (the Bible) had come forth unto them, I beheld other books (Book of Mormon) which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles, and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true. And the angel spake unto me, saying, 'These last records which thou hast seen among the Gentiles shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds tongues and peoples, that the lamb of God is the Son of the eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him or they cannot be saved."
The atonement prepared by Jesus Christ is the result of his personal humiliation and exaltation (Mos. 3:7, 15:7; Alma 7:11). It is infinite in respect to value (Alma 34:12), and also in respect to extent (2 Nephi 9:7). By this it should not be conceived that Mr. Rigdon approved the idea
of universal salvation; nothing less. Still the atonement of Christ exerts an effect upon the entire race of mankind, procuring the eternal blessedness of the faithful, and the doubtful advantage of a bodily resurrection for the wicked. For the latter it is the means by which this corruption is enabled to put on incorruption, and they "become immortal" in body as well as in spirit (2 Nephi 2:15,21,22).
The means by which the benefits of the atonement may be applied to sinful men are faith and repentance. None but such as fulfill these conditions may indulge any hope, provided they have ever heard the word of reconciliation: "salvation cometh to none such, except it be through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ" (Mos. 3:12; Alma 11:40, & Alma 42:24).
Universalism was at that period (c. 1826-7) rife on the Western Reserve, and Mr. Rigdon was valiant in opposing it. He often assaults the Universalist Nehor, and the following of Nehor, who advocated universal salvation, occupy a large amount of attention in the Book of Alma, and nowhere is any kind of favor shown to themselves or to their tenets.
He also draws a lance against those materialists who would render purgatory the atonement on the ground that every man "fared in this life according to the management of the flesh" (Alms 30:17). The professors of the modified form of Universalism that was known as Restorationism with whom Sidney had much contact in Ohio, are also handled unfavorably in chapters 42 and 43 of the book of Alma.
The only exceptions to a rigid application of the provision that there shall be no salvation but upon the exercise of faith and repentance, are made in favor of infants and of the heathen world. In the case of infants, Mr. Rigdon teaches that they are not only without any sin, but also that they have an interest in the divine atonement (Mosiah 3:16, Moroni 8:12-20).
With respect to the heathen, Mr. Rigdon delivers his argument in the following language: "Wherefore he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation, the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him; for the atonement satisfieth the demands of justice upon all these who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel. But woe unto him that has the law given; yea that has all the commandments of God like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that waxeth the days of his probation, for awful is his state" (2 Nephi 9:25-27). This touched again in Mosiah 3:11-12, 15:24 & Moroni 8:22.
An explanation of the motive which induced him to occupy this position may possibly be sought in the circumstance that much opposition was then abroad against the project of sending the gospel to the heathen portion of the world
and many people were inventing arguments to justify their conduct in refusing to share in this enterprise. The fact is indisputable that Sidney's master at this period, Mr. Alexander Campbell, was employing all the powers and resources he could bring to bear to impede the program of missionary enthusiasm and activity; it would be perfectly natural for the disciple to assume in the Book of Mormon a position that might give ease to his conscience for applauding such a course of conduct.
The offices of Jesus in the capacity of Savior and Reconciler of the race of mankind are recognized in the Book of Mormon. The prophetic office is especially exhibited in the 3rd Book of Nephi from chapter 11 to chapter 28:13, where the Master appears in person among the Nephite people to give them instruction regarding his truth and kingdom. During the period covered by that interview he also did many miracles (3 Nephi 26:15) to confirm his doctrine.
Also, before the personal appearance of Christ, the Book of Mormon represents that he was accustomed in numerous instances to communicate his truth to his people by the agency of ministering angels and by prophecies and inspiration (Mor. 7:25). He is understood to be still active that way. In the priestly office of the Savior of men his passive obedience is somewhat more frequently insisted upon than his active obedience. He is brought before the reader as "having drunk out of that bitter cup" which the Father had given him, and having glorified the Father in taking upon himself the sins of the world, in the which he had suffered the will of the Father in all things from the
beginning" (3 Nephi 11:12). The death of Christ was understood in the light of a sacrifice (Alma 34:10), in which he became a substitute in the place of the sinner. There could not be found any other way to satisfy the justice of the Lord, and to reader the exercise of mercy possible (Alma 42:12-15). Jesus takes upon himself the transgressions of those who believe on his name; "and those are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else" (Alma 11:40). In his priestly office Jesus is likewise set forth as engaged in making intercession for his people (Mosiah 15:2 & 2 Nephi 2:9). The continued intercession of Christ is advanced as an argument in favor of the continuance of miracles and of other gifts of the Spirit (Moroni 7:27-28).
A number of passages allude to the kingly office of Christ: "Yea, thus saith the Spirit, Repent all ye ends of the earth, for the kingdom of heaven is seen at hand; yea, the Son of God cometh in his glory, in his might, majesty power and dominion" (Alma 5:50). The purpose for which he suffered for all men was "that all might become subject unto him" (2 Nephi 9:5). A distinct reference is also made to the reign of the Holy One of Israel (1 Nephi 1:26); Christ is set forth as the master of the vineyard in the celebrated parable that occurs in the fifth chapter of the book of Jacob, and is brought forward as one who assures his people, "I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh, and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob" (2 Nephi 6:18).
The kinship of Christ was one of the notions that lay at the foundation of Sidney's consuming desire that the disciples whom he obtained should "take upon themselves the name of Christ." Scarcely any other concern sat so near to his heart: "all of those who were true believers in Christ took upon them gladly the name of Christ, or Christians, as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come (Alma 46:15). He took the nicest pains to have this question regarding the name settled at the outset among the Mormons; it has already been shown that down to the year 1835 they were all called "Christians,"
and in their collective capacity "The Church of Christ." By this it was clear that Rigdon espoused the side of Walter Scott as opposed to the views of Mr. Campbell in the controversy which was then raging with more or less vigor about the name their church should bear; which indeed, has not yet been decided and threatens to continue forever.
But with Sidney this signified something more than an idle and preposterous wrangle about niceties of nomenclature; he entertained the ridiculous notion that to permit himself or his people to bear any other name than that of Christian amounted to a denial of allegiance to Christ as King in Zion. So great a sin was that, as in the judgment of Mr. Rigdon, to entail fearful consequences: "and now it shall cone to pass that whosoever shall not take upon them the name of Christ must be called by some other name, therefore he findeth himself on the left hand of God" (Mosiah 5:10). None others were regarded as proper subjects of Christ's kingly authority, or any way willing to be called by the name of Lutheran or Methodist or Presbyterian, could not possibly recognize the royal authority of Jesus or have a place within the limits of his kingdom.
The Mormons are very strenuous in relation to this idea of the kingdom of Christ. A few years after the Book of Mormon was issued Mr. Campbell set forth his treatise upon "The Kingdom of Heaven" and it is both painful and amusing to observe how rich was the fruit
the document bore among the Mormons. Both of the Pratt brothers proceeded to write essays on the same subject, in which it appears with considerable distinctness that Campbell's performance was the [mine] from which they mainly drew their ideas. Persons who may feel curious to institute a comparison between these three productions may be assured of a degree of entertainment; striking similarities will be readily traced between the sentiments and not seldom between the expressions. The "Kingdom" is said to be one of the charms with which Mormon leaders are most prone to juggle, since it may with much care be employed in such a fashion as to excite uncontrolled fanaticisms.
The essay of Mr. Campbell on the "Kingdom of Heaven" may be consulted in the "Christian System," 3rd ed, pp. 128-178; that of Parley P. Pratt is laid down in his little volume entitled "The Voice of Warning," London, 1871, pp. 65-91; that of Orson Pratt may be read in Orson Pratt's Works, printed at the Juvenile Instructor Office, Salt Lake City, 1884, pp. 40-123. Nobody was more unhappy than Mr. Campbell; the Mormon body of death which he fancied he had shaken off as early as the year 1831, clung to his neck so long as he lived, and on more than one occasion his sentiments were taken up and appropriated by Mormon theologians, long after the period when he believed there was a gulf fixed between themselves and him. They did him the fine compliment of retaining him in a position of distinguished authority for many years after he had disowned and denounced them.
Having thus far discoursed upon the divine side of the topic of Soteriology, as the same displayed in the Book of Mormon, it will now be in order to consider the human side, or in other language the process by which the individual sinner becomes a partaker of the blessings of grace. Allusion has already been given to the fact that the position of Christ, like that of his Disciple master, was distinctly Arminian. Nothing is said by him to have been "prepared from the foundation of the world" (Alma 22:13), except such great matters as the plan of redemption; other concerns of individual importance are left to individual caprice; there is no such thing in the Book of Mormon as the Calvinistic idea of effectual calling. God is freely declared to know all things (2 Nephi 9:20; Alma 7:13 & Moroni 7:22), but this foreknowledge does not amount to a decree in the case of any special providence. The individual subject must first choose good, and exercise faith before he can be rewarded with a holy calling (Alma 13:3), which however is not strong enough to procure such a benefit as the final perseverance of the saints. Everywhere in the Book of Mormon the possibility of apostasy on the part of Christians is assumed (2 Nephi 31:15; 3 Nephi 27:6-16; Mos. 9:29 & Moroni 3:3).
Endurance unto the end is one of the standing phrases but there is nowhere any indication that this factor is bestowed in consequence of any effectual calling; it seems to be always dependent upon the unaided will and strength of the individual subject.
The ordo salutis of the Book of Mormon would inevitably be influenced by the Arminian standpoint of Mr. Rigdon. The new birth is often mentioned -- "born of God" is among the most customary forms of expression -- but it is invariably set forth as following faith and repentance, and not, as in the
Calvinistic theology, preceding those graces of the Spirit. It may be necessary at this place to cite attention once again to the circumstance that two different doctrines are inculcated in the volume regarding the method by which a sinner must be saved. That matter was fully discussed in Chapters XXII and XXIII of the present section. The first of these doctrines was the view proclaimed by the Disciples prior to the 18th of November 1827; and the second was their view after the date in question; it will be remembered Walter Scott promulgated the "ancient gospel." For the purpose of setting forth the former view it may be worth while to insert an "experience of grace" belonging to the earlier period. The description supplied by the prophet Alma of his own passage from nature to grace will show the idea which Sidney entertained of that process before he had received the " light" that was offered by Mr. Scott:
"And now for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory
of my many sins, behold I also remembered to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now as my mind caught hold of this thought, I cried within my heart, O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who art in the gall of bitterness, and art encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now behold when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more. And Oh what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain; yea I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as was my pains. Yea and again I say unto you my son, that on the other hand there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy, yea, me thought I saw, even as our father Lehi, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea and my soul did long to be there. But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God (Alma 36:16-23).
The above recital brings to sight a person who is caught in the throes of repentance. After these had been endured for the space of three days and nights he exercised faith in Christ, and immediately he was "born of God" his joy was then just as abundant as previously his sorrows had been. Everywhere in the first redaction of the Book of Mormon;
that is to say everywhere in the volume as it was transferred to the providence of Joseph Smith on the morning of the 22nd of Sept. 1827, this special view of the ordo salutis is promulgated. Instances and proofs are too numerous for citation in detail, but the accompanying specimens of them may be consulted (Mos. 5:7, 27:23-27; Alma 22:15-16; Enos 1:1-9 & Alma 5:12- 13).
But after the interview that was held with Scott at Warren, Ohio, where Sidney was "transported by the discovery" of the ancient gospel, a change comes over the spirit of his dream. That portion of the Book of Mormon which he had an opportunity to revise a second time -- namely, from 3 Nephi to Moroni inclusive, besides the three last chapters of 2nd Nephi -- is duly supplied with the "ancient gospel," whose new ordo salutis is 1. Faith 2. Repentance 3. Baptism 4. Remission and 5. The Holy Spirit, or regenerative proofs that this change occasioned, have been given in the two chapters XXII and XXIII of the present section, that were above referred to. The reader may consult 2 Nephi 31:11-13; 3 Nephi 26:17-19, 13:11,32-34; Mormon 7:10 & 3 Nephi 30:2, for special specimens of this "ancient gospel."
After regeneration had been accomplished the main concern of Sidney's related to what he described as "retaining a remission of sin(s)" (Alma 4:14 & Mosiah 4:12,26). The method by which this must be effected may be easiest given in language of his own. "And now for the sake of those things which I have spoken to you; that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to
day, that ye may walk guiltless before God, I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants" (Mosiah 4:26). Other means in addition to the above are referred to in Mosiah 4:1-12, The prominent bugbear of Rigdon's religious experience seems to have been a fear that he might not "endure to the end." The possibility and probability of falling away are everywhere obtruded upon the attention. Only a single passage can be recalled in the Book of Mormon which intimates such an idea as progressive sanctification of the character of a believer in Jesus (Helaman 3:35).
In view of this kind of teaching it is not remarkable that a so-called "Reformation should have occurred among the Mormons, Large numbers of persons were given out to have failed to "retain these remission(s) of their sins," and in the year 1857 very many of the inhabitants of Utah were moved to submit to a new baptism in order to make sure of a new remission, (Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints, pp. 291-308).
This absence of any sufficient provision for a growth in grace and for the strengthening and settling of Christian character is a striking defect. It may be worth the pains to contrast the exceeding uncertainty of "enduring to the end" with the extravagant certitude salutis, which Sidney declared might be derived from faith and repentance and the waters of baptism. Such a splendid beginning was surely worthy of better progress and continuance.
The same fault may be urged, but perhaps somewhat less decidedly, against the system of Mr. Campbell. The certitude salutis which his followers inculcate as being derived from the "Five Points of Campbellism" is not met by corresponding results in the lives of the people who profess and submit to this system. The world is entitled to expect better things from men who are so clearly assured of a remission of their sins.
Mr. Wesley allowed his people to conceive a bright assurance of their acceptance with God; but he also went farther and suggested the possibility and the propriety of their attaining to perfection of character. The assurance of salvation presented by Mr. Campbell and Mr. Rigdon was almost as brilliant as that of Wesley's system, but unlike Wesley, neither of these have intimated that the subject who has performed such a celebrated advance in the outset should later go on to perfection. It is disappointing when a phenomenal beginning produced only ordinary results in the Sequel.
[ 437 ]
A church existed among the Nephites many ages before the coming of Christ. The account of its organization by Alma the 1st maybe read in the 18th chapter of Mosiah. It continued under varying fortunes until the period when the Master appeared, but it was a different institution to that which upon his arrival he organized. This may be made clear by the circumstance that it was almost always called by a different name from the body that was established by Jesus.
Like nearly all Disciple literature the Book of Mormon is amusingly strenuous touching the business of nomenclature. To bear a proper name is the article of a standing or falling church. Christ is so ignorant as not to be able to recognize his own except (where) they are distinctly called by the title "Christian": "And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon them the name of Christ, must; be called by some other name; therefore he findeth himself on the left hand of God" (Mosiah 5:10).
With this ridiculous emphasis upon the name firmly fixed in his mind as a result of Mr. Campbell's instruction, Sidney almost always designates the Nephite Church that was in existence prior to the coming of Christ among them, as "The Church of God." It is believed there is only a single instance on record where this custom is violated; in the passage at Mosiah 18:17, the pre- Christian Nephite body is spoken of as being "Called the Church of God, or the Church of Christ." After the advent of the Savior, namely from the 11th Chapter of 3 Nephi to the close of the Book of Mormon, the religious establishment is denominated, it is believed without exception: "The Church of Christ."
Attention is called to this peculiarity of usage in order to show that the Book of Mormon recognizes the Christian church as having taken its origin at the appearance of Christ, and as being substantially different from the sacred institution which prevailed before that event.
This difference between the two bodies is further emphasized by the circumstance recorded in the 3rd Book of Nephi, that Jesus at his manifestation to the Nephites in America made an entirely new beginning, for he then appointed twelve Nephite disciples (3 Nephi 12:1 & 13:25); whose names are given in detail (3 Nephi 19:4).
A more striking proof of this new beginning may be discerned in the fact that Jesus abolished the baptism that had been customary among the Nephites for so many generations, by means of which they had been regularly introduced into the "Church of God." Nephi the 3rd of that name, who was the leader of his people at that moment and the first of the newly chosen twelve "Disciples" was even under the necessity of himself being baptized, and then of immersing all the balance of that twelve (3 Nephi 19:11-12). In addition to a new baptism the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper was also first instituted (3 Nephi 18:1-12). In short there is every reason to conclude that Mr. Rigdon considered that the "Church of Christ" was founded by Christ during his presence in person among the Nephites in America and that it was a different organization from the religious establishment which prevailed before that event.
Those who were admitted to membership in the "Church of Christ" were to be such as had made a credible profession of their faith in him (3 Nephi 27:19- 20). The Book of Mormon is outspoken, as becomes the production of a leader of Mr. Campbell's Disciples of Christ, against the baptism of infants, and by consequence, against their membership in the church (Moroni 8:5-24).
With respect to the office-bearers in the "Church of Christ" only three permanent classes are contemplated in the Book of Mormon, namely Disciples, or Elders, Priests and Teachers. The officers of the first class were brought into existence when Christ appeared among the Nephites just after his resurrection at Jerusalem (3 Nephi 11:22, 12:1 & 19:4). Though these stood at the head of the Church of Christ "their prominence was not equal" to that of the "Twelve Apostles of the Lamb" who had journeyed with the Master during his earthly pilgrimage in Palestine. They are always designated as Disciples and in no instance as Apostles, and it was provided that they should be subject to the judgment of the Twelve Apostles at the final assizes (Mormon 3:18-19).
It is clear that those twelve Disciples were designated to be permanent officers in the Church. Three of their number were granted the advantages immunity from death (3 Nephi ch.23), and they are still supposed in existence somewhere about the earth (Mormon 8:10-11). In the place of the other nine, successors were duly ordained (4 Nephi 1:14). The order was continued until the extinction of the Nephites in the "great apostasy"; for Mormon, who lived near that period speaks of himself as being a member of it (3 Nephi 5:13). Moroni also refers to it in terms that may be deemed to indicate its perpetuation (Moroni 6:1).
In the Mormon community of the Latter Day Saints, however, the name Disciple with which they began (Book of Commandments) has been thrown aside in favor of the term Apostle. There are difficulties
in the [Book] of Mormon theology which render it impossible for them rightly to revive either the Twelve Apostles or the Twelve Disciples. For instance three of the Nephite Disciples are still in existence, and no Mormon of the present time has a right to rob these of their office; likewise, according to a revelation of Mr. Smith (D&C, Sec.7), three of the Twelve Apostles -- Peter, James and John -- are still in existence and none of the Mormon Twelve have any right to enter upon their office and functions. The Book of Moroni (ch.3) provides for the ordination of Priests and Teachers, but overlooks the case of the Disciples or Elders. Nevertheless, baptism by the Elders is mentioned (Moroni 6:1).
Elders and Priests had the right to administer the Lord's Supper (Moroni 4:1), but according to the strict injunction of Jesus only one person of the former class was to be ordained for that purpose (3 Nephi 18:5), and it was an inspired contradiction when Moroni indulged not only all the Disciples or Elders, but also the Priests with his kind of distinction.
At first examination the circumstance that Sidney arranged for such officers as "Priests and Teachers" does not seem to suit well the position that he was under the influence of Mr. Campbell. However that may fall out, the fact must be conceded. It runs like a scarlet thread all through the Book of Mormon. Even in the "Church of God," which it has been shown existed prior to the organization of the "Church of Christ" there were "Priests and Teachers."
For instances of the existence of these functionaries in the former institutions may be cited such passages as Mosiah 25:21, 26:7, 27:5; Alma 1:26 & 14:27. The same dignitaries are mentioned in the "Church of Christ" at Moroni 3:1-4 & 6:1. Nay, so intensely was Sidney tickled by this fancy that he was bold enough to introduce "priests and teachers" among the Nephites even before the existence of the "Church of God" in the midst of the American aborigines. Alma is several times in formal terms designated as the founder of that institution (Mosiah 29:47; Alma 5:5 & 3 Nephi 5:12). Nevertheless before Alma appeared to accomplish this task, Nephi the 1st declares "I did consecrate Jacob and Joseph that they should be priests and teachers over the land of my people" (2 Nephi 5:26).
The explanation of this curious condition of affairs may be found in the fact that Mr. Rigdon had made the wonderful discovery in his cogitations upon Malachi 3:3-4, to which allusion has been previously given. In the Authorized Version that passage is rendered as follows: "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old as in former years."
The penchant for a literal interpretation of the prophecies was unconquerable in his mind and he was as sure as possible that the
Lord could never be acceptable (of) worship until the tribe of Levi and the house of Aaron were restored and purged as gold and silver. Not until that fact was accomplished would the "offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord."
By consequence he was bent upon the introduction of the "Aaronic priesthood" into the Christian community of modern ages, indeed it was such a charming affair that he was careful to provide the "Church of God" with its benefits: even the Nephites were not neglected who existed here in this "promised land" before the "Church of God" came into being. It is amusing to observe how carefully Sidney nursed this poor result of his exegesis of the prophecy of Malachi: Joseph Smith in describing the first interview he held with him on the night of September 21, 1823, reports among other things that "He first quoted part of the 3rd chapter of Malachi" (Pearl of Great Price, p. 3). Here the diligent student of the Scriptures must have taken occasion clearly to set forth the results of his investigations touching the indispensable importance of "restoring" a priesthood to the people of God.
Nearly six years later, on that famous 15th of May 1829, when "John the Baptist" showed himself to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the wilds of Harmony township, Pennsylvania, his (mind) was still so full of this wonderful discovery, that it was the first thing to run over. Joseph records the occurrence in the following language: "While we were thus employed praying and calling
upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light and having laid 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" (Pearl of Great Price, pp. 69-70). It is not known whether Mr. Rigdon had been in the custom of pestering Mr. Campbell with suggestions regarding the propriety of introducing a priestly caste among the Disciples. if he did, this particular freak of literalism would have appeared as preposterous that the latter gentleman must have been slow to admit an article discussing it into the pages of the Christian Baptist, which is the chief monument of the vagaries of that early period. At least nothing of the kind can be discovered in the stereotype edition of that performance.
But it clearly appears in the early history of Mormonism and in the Book of Mormon it has operated to make Sidney stipulate that the only regular office bearers of the "Church of Christ" shall be "priests and teachers." Having shown where he obtained the conceit that there should be priests in the "Church of Christ" it will now be in order to inquire regarding the source whence he obtained the designation "teacher" for
officers of the next grade. The distinction between preachers and teachers of religion was a vagary of which the Sandemanians were very fond; it appears in a Sandemanian document which Mr. Campbell held up to be of value enough to be allowed to keep its place In the stereotype edition of the Christian Baptist. The author of the fantastic paper assures his readers that Christian preachers in the ranks of the sects will "speak of themselves in words which apply only to the apostles; instead of being content with the simple title of 'teacher' they swell themselves into all importance of ambassadors from the court of heaven" (C.B., p. 28).
Mr. Campbell was highly captivated by this preposterous conceit and makes much of it in many pages of the Christian Baptist. For example he remarks on page 71: "I need not say to you, that to preach is merely to publish news; but as this will be read by many, I say for their sakes, that myriads may be qualified to preach, either as Moses was preached, or [viva voce] to publish what Paul published to the nations, that are not qualified to teach the Christian doctrine... A bishop must be 'apt to teach,' but nothing is said about being apt to preach, and you and I agree that preaching and teaching are two things essentially different. To have said that a bishop must be apt to preach would have been absurd in that age, when even women as well as men could preach."
Allusion to this distinction is further supplied as follows: Christian Baptist, pp. 19,69-70, 76 & 123. Mr. Walter Scott writes a series of essays not on preaching, but
"On Teaching Christianity" (C.B., pp. 10, 23, 36 & 46). This rare flower of the "Bethany dialect" could not escape Mr. Rigdon; he has accordingly adopted it into the Book of Mormon, calling the third class of office-bearers by the name of teachers and not preachers. Nevertheless a "teacher of Christianity" might be a preacher, just as was true in the case of the apostle Paul; hence in many places Sidney speaks of his teachers as also preaching. Indeed this is the prevailing (image) of the Book of Mormon, and it does not contradict the accepted "language of cannon," although Mr. Campbell was not prone, for his own person, to descent to the lower level of a preacher, where he allowed that it was possible and often actual that a woman might stand at his side. His sermons, therefore, were customarily yclept "speeches" (C.B., pp. 92 & 123), or "orations" (pp. 92 & 310). Sidney, on the contrary, at least In the Book of Mormon, is not inclined to put so fine a point upon the business.
Mr. Campbell's opposition to the tenet of a special call to the ministry is a point clearly established. He professes to be as well able to prove that this opinion is false, as he was to prove that there is a God, the Creator of heaven and earth (C.B. p. 19). One of the most surprising incidents of the Book of Mormon is to find that Mr. Rigdon, who was ordinarily nothing more than the echo of his master, did not follow him in this particular divine call for persons who are to assume the office in question (Alma 8:24, 13:3, 12:34 & 29:13).
It should be said that the passages just now cited were intended as referring to the condition of affairs in the "Church of God," but that after the establishment of the "Church of Christ" no such custom as they indicate was maintained, the reply is pertinent that even under the new Nephite dispensation which follows the advent of Jesus, certain persons are reported to have obtained the advantage of a special call to the ministry. For example, Mormon to whom we are said to be indebted for the entire volume that bears his name, departed the present life shortly before the year 400 of the Christian era, and yet he describes himself as a "disciple of Jesus Christ, the son of God," adding "I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life (3 Nephi 5:13).
His son Moroni, the last of all the Nephites, also had a call (Moroni 8:1-2). It is consequently evident that despite the influence of Mr. Campbell, Sidney continued to retain his convictions touching the necessity and reality of a special divine summons for those who should be accepted to proclaim the name and riches of the Redeemer. This was likely a legacy he brought from the Baptists with whom he had been previously connected. It has been signified how at the very inception of the Mormon movement he yielded his convictions so far as to provide Mr. Smith with a Disciple formula, by which the first proclaimers might be received into the ministry (D&C, 4:3, 11:27, 6:4 & 12:4)
But that concession was only designed to meet a peculiar emergency, in the case the rude unspiritual persons with whom Mr. Smith must deal. It was shortly withdrawn, and a return was effected to the position of the Book of Mormon.
These persons had never enjoined any sort of commerce with heaven and it was too much to require of the very rawest of beginners that they should produce a special divine call before their services should be available. The Disciple condition of ministerial position and activity: "therefore if ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work" (D&C, 4:3) was every way appropriate to their existing situation.
That "diligent student of the Bible" who has been often adverted to, proposed a couple of inquiries to Mr. Campbell, which may receive a certain amount of light from the Book of Mormon. These queries were as follows: "What are the peculiar duties of a Deacon? Was it to the deaconship that those seven mentioned in Acts 6th chapter, were appointed, or what were they? (C.B., p. 86). The last of the two questions appears to suggest that the querist did not believe in the office of a deacon; a view which is confirmed by the circumstance that no such officer is mentioned or provided for in the Book of Mormon.
Mr. Rigdon often rails against priestcraft in the Bethany vein (Alma 1:12 etc.) which he understood to be the preaching of false doctrines for the sake of riches and honor; but it is worthy of remark that he nowhere employs such cant phrases as "hireling" and "kingdom of the clergy," which were so common in Mr. Campbell's vocabulary.
Notwithstanding his clear opposition to priestcraft, Sidney was seized with a pronounced tendency in favor of hierarchism. This tendency is likewise marked in the "diligent student of the Bible" who also is at pains to ask his master: "What duty or duties are peculiar to the Bishop and not common to the brethren? Was it the Bishops who chiefly spoke in the first churches where they presided, or did they commonly sit as judges (Cor, 14:29), to correct &c., while the brethren edified the body in love? (Eph. 4:16)."
Though he was content to gain his own subsistence in the sweat of his face, few men had larger conceptions touching the dignity and authority of the ministerial station. This peculiarity is exhibited quite throughout the Book of Mormon. As early as the time of the fabulous Nephi the First, who came forth out of Jerusalem in the year 600 before Christ, the expression "holy order" is current (2 Nephi 6:2), and it occurs in numerous other connections down to the close of the Nephite period (Alma 4:20 & 5:44) where the form of expression is the "holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus" (Alma 8:3, 13:1, 6:14 & Helaman 8:18).
Rigdon's notion touching the exclusive right of the "holy order" to minister in sacred things was also prominent: "And it came to pass that King Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be
baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this, considering himself an unworthy servant" (Mosiah 21:33). This authority came in the first instance directly from heaven to the High Priest Alma the First (Mosiah 18:13 & Alms 5:3); but after that event all divine authority was conferred by the Lord through his agency; "And now Alma was their High Priest, he being the founder of their church. And it came to pass that none received authority to preach or to teach, except it were by him from God" (Mosiah 23:16-17).
It was conferred by means of consecration or ordination, a point on which Mr. Rigdon was as strict as any high churchman: "Therefore Alma consecrated all their priests and all their teachers, and none were consecrated except they were just men" (Alma 23:17). Allusions to the business of consecration or ordination may be consulted at 2 Nephi 6:2; Alma 4:7, 5:3, 6:1, 13:1-2; 3 Nephi 7:25 and Moroni chapter 3. In accordance with this singular inclination of its founder, the Mormon church has become one of the most decidedly hierarchical institutions in existence. At all these points he was in conflict with Mr. Campbell, as that "diligent student of the Bible" had likewise been in the month of August 1824.
It is difficult to make out the source whence Mr. Rigdon borrowed these conceptions: the Baptists with whom he had previously been associated do not maintain them, and at the period in question were farther away from several of them than at present is the case. He probably obtained them from his favorite practice of interpreting the Old Testament
"according to the flesh", as he expressed it, and not, according to the spirit. All the balance of the cumbrous and involved hierarchy of the existing Mormon community must be sought for elsewhere then in the Book of Mormon. It is not clear that the Melchisedek Priesthood was ever conceived of as early as the time when the volume went forth, although one of the passages in the autobiography of Mr. Smith might be understood to favor that conclusion. In describing the visit of "John the Baptist" at Harmony, he informs his readers that "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." The above assertion, however does not contain a fact but a very faulty reminiscence (P.G.P., p. 70). The Melchisedeck Priesthood, with its power of conferring the Holy Ghost was developed some years later out of hints given in the 13th chapter of the Book of Alma, and kindred passages (cf. D&C, Sec. 84).
In view of the position and authority of the Disciples or Elders, it could hardly have been intended that the several local churches should possess anything beyond the function of "stakes" a particular designation for a local church organization that was afterwards derived from a slavishly literal interpretation of Isaiah 54:2, where Zion is exhorted in these terms: "Spare not, lengthen thy cords and
strengthen thy stakes" (cf. 3 Nephi 22:2 & Moroni 10:31).
As an adept in the interpretation of the prophecies "according to the flesh," Mr. Rigdon was full of the vulgar notion regarding the literal gathering of the Jews to Palestine which was their "promised land." The theory of the Book of Mormon which is everywhere set forth and honored, is that America is the "promised land of the remnant of Joseph," and as a matter of course, while the Jews should gather to the "Old Jerusalem," the latter would be gathered to the "New Jerusalem" in this country. The volume is so full of this sort of teaching that it will hardly be necessary to cite individual passages.
Like most Bible students of his scope, Mr. Rigdon was dearly in love with the "Ten Lost Tribes" and much concerned about their fate. The knowledge of their abiding place had been lost to their brethren through iniquity, but when unbelief should be overcome, the tribes would be restored (3 Nephi 15:20). Sidney was highly concerned to play the Columbus in their discovery. At the outset he was mightily seized with the hope of finding
the precious wanderers on the "isles of the sea", fancying that Isaiah 49:1 was directed particularly to them (cf. 3 Nephi 21:1-8). This word of prophecy was partially fulfilled in the case of the American Indians whom Sidney represents as settling upon an "isle of the sea'' (2 Nephi 10:21). But other "isles" were spoken of besides the one we inhabit (Is. 51:5), and there also the Ten Tribes were sought and situated (2 Nephi 10:21). This is the view of the Book of Mormon in its first redaction (1 Nephi 22:4). When Mr. Rigdon came to the second redaction he had altered his mind as to the present situation of the "Lost Tribes." Such passages as Isaiah 43:6 were likely the innocent cause of this change: "I will say to the North, Give up; and to the South, keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth." According to Ether 13:11, "the North Countries" are introduced to the splendid prominence which they have ever since held in Mormon annals (D&C, 133:26, cf. Howe 185-6, 127 & 135).
The above discussion has a bearing upon the relation of members of the "Ten Lost Tribes" (in case they shall ever be found), to the Church of Christ. Mr. Rigdon appears to have believed that these would be entitled without any further ceremony to a place in the assembly of the faithful, and this conviction caused him to give a peculiar interpretation to the expression which may be found at John 10:16: "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear
my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." The phrase "other sheep" was a plain reference to the "Lost Tribes" to which the Lord intended to appear in person, and when these had heard his voice and were united to the Nephites there would be "one fold and one shepherd." He assumes there was no allusion to Gentile Christians in this passage (3 Nephi 15:15-24 & 17:4) It will now be in order to discuss the worship of the Church of Christ as detailed in the Book of Mormon.
There are many accounts of preaching and praying (3 Nephi 19:7-10 etc.), but only a single reference to singing can be recalled (Moroni 6:9). Perhaps Sidney was not an ardent lover of music. The church was required to meet together oft to partake of bread and wine (Moroni 6:6). This is believed to be a reference to the Disciple practice of weekly communion, which has been diligently observed by the Mormons ever since the organization of their church.
Reference has been made to the opposition which Sidney is supposed to have felt against the Sandemanian custom (once so dear to the eyes of Mr. Campbell) of excluding from the worship of the church all who might not be members of the church. Provision is made in the Book of Mormon that the services of the church shall be open to all who may choose to attend them (3 Nephi 18:22 & Alms 6:5-6). There is no trace of the practice of washing feet as a Christian ordinance in the Book of Mormon. That was not introduced until several years afterwards when the literalism of the party
had acquired additional strength. Sidney is suspected to have opposed the custom of Walter Scott and the Church in Pittsburgh in celebrating this usage, but in due course of time he was constrained to yield his scruples to his Mormon brethren who were bent on "Speaking where the Scriptures speak." By a great singularity, there is only a solitary instance of the observance of animal sacrifice in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 2:3). Before the advent of Christ Sidney is always enforcing upon the "Church of God" the necessity of observing the law of Moses (3 Nephi 1:24-25) but this particular feature of it is almost forgotten. In the history of the Mormon community it is also believed that but one instance has been reported where the practice of animal sacrifice was performed by competent authority (Bennett, History of the Saints, Boston, 1842, cf. D&C, 132:50).
Mr. Smith, however has promised that in due season animal sacrifices shall be "restored, as well as every ordinance belonging to the priesthood" (Richards and Little, Compendium of Doctrine, pp. 273-4). It will be a matter of interest to observe whether circumcision will also find its place among the various ordinances unquestionably belonging to the Old Testament period. The order of divine services was not to be directed according to any stipulated plan. Sidney's provision touching that concern is expressed in the following language: "And their meetings were
conducted by the Church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them, whether to preach or exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate or to sing, even so it was " (Moroni 6:9).
The above notion might have been derived from a conversation with Mr. Campbell: at any rate he writes in the month of August 1831: "The whole worship and edification of the primitive church, in its infancy, was directed by inspired men; and the Spirit suggested the songs, prayers, exhortations, and indeed all the discourses which were useful to the congregation" (Mill. Harb., 1831, p. 369). But though in his opinion this was part of the "ancient order," Mr. Campbell had little relish for it in his modern order, and was glad to relegate such (proceedings) to the infancy of the church. He was in direct contradiction to most of his teaching and labors: "We must discriminate between the church in her infancy, during her minority, because of the Apostles have taught us to discriminate" 'When I was a child I (taught) as a child' says Paul to this people" (Mill. Harb., l831, p. 367).
Sidney, on the contrary was not disposed to bestow with one hand and take away with the other; he had the courage of his convictions, and the fact that the services of the primitive churches were observed in the fashion Mr. Campbell has above described was the best reason in the world why he should imitate them. Discipline was provided for in the church as follows: "And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and
whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ" (Moroni 6:7).
Sidney had a curious passion for the number three. Three witnesses were predicted for the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 27:12); three of the Nephite Disciples were absolved from death; there were three days and nights of darkness in America upon the occasion of the death of Jesus; Joseph, observing this peculiarity provided that three of the Twelve (former) Apostles should remain upon the earth; and three witnesses are commonly required to confirm any sort of transaction.
Worthy of mention is the circumstance that a complaint of discipline was to be reported not directly to the church, but instead of this to the elders. That was the preference of Mr. Campbell (Christian System, ed. 3, pp. 28-30); it is not unlikely that Rigdon was already familiar with his sentiments in this regard. The act of exclusion, however, is not performed by the Elders among the Disciples, but by the entire congregation. Indeed every act is required to be submitted to the vote of the church. That peculiarity is believed to be the origin of the fact that the Mormons sustain what they designate as a democracy, although since the rapid growth of hierarchism in their community they are fond of naming it a "Theo-democracy."
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Having exhibited the teachings of the Book of Mormon as respects the constitution of the church, its worship and discipline, it may now be in order to turn about and consider what it suggests in the matter of the religious life of the people. Attention has already been cited to the institution of the "Fellowship" that prevails among the Sandemanian and Disciple communities, and to certain signs which the instructions Rigdon must have received touching this business, have left behind in the volume. Throughout the first redaction is inculcated the idea of an
equality of worldly goods which should be brought about by constant communication on the part of those who chanced to possess a competency of these, to the wants of their less fortunate brethren. The ideal after which Sidney was striving may be signified in the following passage: "And there was a strict command throughout all the churches, that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men (Mosiah 27:4 cf. Jacob 2:17; Alma 1:26, 6:16 & Mosiah 18:27-28). Much stress was laid upon the strenuous performance of this provision: it is mentioned in two passages as being one of the leading conditions of "retaining a remission of sins" (Alma 4:12-14 & Mosiah 4:26).
Before the time when Sidney gave his pains to the second redaction, which, as has been indicated, extends from 3 Nephi to the end of the volume, Isaac Morley had made his well known experiment in communism under the auspices of the church at Kirtland. Mr. Rigdon was filled with enthusiasm by the apparent success of the enterprise, and by consequence in the second redaction he leans decidedly towards communist tenets. (4 Nephi 1:25; 3 Nephi 26:19 & 4 Nephi 1:3). This position on both sides of the is sue has been shown was subsequently the occasion of a deal of confusion.
At the period when be began to publish the Christian Baptist, Mr. Campbell felt much opposition to the practice of paying a fixed salary to any minister of the gospel (C.B., p. 9). He wanted the minister to "work with his own hands, as those who meet with him in their assemblies" (C.B., p.l6). Nay, Mr. Scott allows himself to go to extremes: "A spark of common sense might teach any of us that God and Mammon can have no communion even in this world; and this circumstance may well teach every person who has large annual contributions to make for the support of clergymen, that the society to which he belongs is not the church of Christ, that society requiring no such support" (C.B., p. 37). In the month of September 1824, Mr. Campbell publicly commended Scott and Rigdon, the "two bishops" of a church in Pittsburgh, "who while they watch over and labor among the saints, labor, working with their own hands, according to the apostolic command; and not only minister to their own wants, but are (ensembles) to the flock in beneficence and hospitality" (C.B., p. 93).
After receiving a training of that kind it can excite no surprise that Mr. Rigdon in the Book of Mormon should prescribe that the ministers of his new church should support themselves by the labor of their own hands: "And he also commanded them that the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support. And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support" (Mosiah 1:24-26 cf. Mosiah 27:51; Alma 1:20-26 & 30:32).
Mr. Campbell had a cant phrase that was uncommonly near to his heart, possibly because he had borrowed it without acknowledgment from Robert Sandeman's "Letters on Theron and Apasio." He brings it forward sometimes in season, but most generally out of season, especially when he is discussing the custom of preachers to accept a fixed salary. For example he says: "Money, I think, may be considered not merely as the bond of union in the
popular establishments, but it is really the rock on which the popular churches are built" (C.B., p. 43). It is a small, but for that reason significant circumstance that when Mr. Rigdon comes to denounce the reception of a stated compensation by ministers of the gospel he resorts to this same word "popular," employed in the same sense as Mr. Campbell derived it from Sandeman: "Declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people" (Alma 1:3 cf. 35:3 &1 Nephi 22:23). Sidney gave his voice, but with no very firm decision, against slavery (Alma 27:3-9 & Mosiah 2:13). Against polygamy on the contrary, he is very firmly set (Jacob 2:26-29; Ether 10:5; Jacob 3:5-8 & Mosiah 11:2-4). But Joseph Smith was by constitution, and already by custom a gallant gentlemen. While he was residing at Harmony and engaged with Martin Harris in the labor of transcribing Sidney's manuscript, an effort he made to seduce a certain Elisa Winters became the occasion of neighborhood comment (Howe, p. 269). It may be conceived, therefore, that he did not relish the stringency with which his colleague set his face against polygamy. Accordingly to a certain extent Joseph destroyed the force of Mr. Rigdon's opposition by inserting in the midst of his denunciation of the practice a passage which is somewhat obscurely in favor of it. This sentence, which is supposed with a good degree of confidence, may be attributed to Joseph
is expressed in the following terms: "For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise, they shall hearken unto these things" (Jacob 2:30). Here was found in the year 1843 a loophole of sufficient size to allow the ingress of the famous "Revelation on the Eternity of the Marriage Covenant, of including the Plurality of Wives" (D&C, Sect. 132).
The religious custom of fasting is frequently mentioned with tokens of approval (Alma 17:3-9, 22:6; Helaman 3:35 & Moroni 6:5). The attacks upon "secret combinations" are something too numerous and intense in the second redaction to be all laid down to the credit of Mr. Spaulding's opposition to the Masonic institution. It is more likely that Sidney was himself carried along by the Anti-Masonry excitement which raged after the year 1826, and added a number of these denunciations to ease his own wrath. At Nauvoo both himself and Joseph had completely turned about, and were members of the Masonic fraternity in Illinois.
The practice of family devotion in enjoined (3 Nephi 16:21 & Alma 34:21). To attend dancing parties and theaters was an item of the Christian liberty of the Scottish Sandemanians, which mayhap was perpetuated in the Sandemanian community over which Scott and Rigdon presided at Pittsburgh. Nothing is said in favor of those in the Book of Mormon, but by some means both of them were transferred to the religious life of the Mormon people. who are reported to be highly devoted to that form of amusement.
No special injunction is found in the Book of Mormon to the effect that missionaries should go forth in pairs, without scrip or purse, and should cast off the dust from their feet at encountering an inhospitable house or city. These freaks of literalism were reserved for later seasons in which the heads of Mormon leaders had become several degrees warmer than was the case when Mr. Rigdon edited this work.
Mr. Campbell's mouth was always full of the "great apostasy foretold and depicted by the holy apostles" (C.B., p,127). The Special object of his own movement was "the restoration of primitive Christianity" which according to his allegation had not been displayed for many generations until his appearance. One of his best known volumes was entitled "Christianity Restored."
Rigdon spoke in the dialect of his master with much faithfulness in this regard. He assigns in several passages a date to the beginning of this "great apostasy," placing it in the middle of the fourth century of the present era (1 Nephi 12:11; 2 Nephi 26:9-10 & Helaman 13:5). The single issue he had with Mr. Campbell was that touching the question whether the latter was not mistaken in his claim of "restoring the ancient order of things," especially as Mr. Campbell did not approve the restoration of miracles, inspiration and revelation. While therefore Sidney was engaged in the identical business as Mr. Campbell, he conceived it was his duty to be a trifle more thorough. This was the only reason why he parted company
with the Disciples. The several particulars in which he passed beyond their position in "restoring the ancient order" will be mentioned in another chapter upon this same topic, devoted to the means of grace and the sacraments.
The Christians who flourished prior to the "great apostasy" were designated by Mr. Rigdon as "the Former-day Saints:" those who rallied about his standard to "restore" the things that have been removed were styled the "Latter-day Saints," but there is no hint of these designations in the Book of Mormon. Sidney's ingenuity did not help him to that nomenclature until the year 1834 (Howe, pp. 156-7).
Exclusive possession and employment of Jacob's Ladder was affirmed with the customary arrogance and conviction of insignificant sects.
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A somewhat larger number of special means of grace are claimed by the Mormon community than may be had elsewhere. The Book of Mormon is conservative teaching the Christian Scriptures; it does not intend to supplant them, or even to cast discredit upon them. The passages are practically innumerable in which they are accorded a position of especial dignity as a means of grace and guidance.
But Sidney held that the Christian and Jewish scriptures are imperfect, not through any fault of their own, but through the fault of the "great apostasy." Our Bible was originally complete, but it has been so much tampered with that it now no longer contains "the fullness of the gospel" (3 Nephi 16:10-12, 20, 28-30). The following passage sets forth his position as well as any other: "And the angel of the Lord said unto me, 'Thou hast beheld that the book (Bible) proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew, and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew, it contained the plainness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record, and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God; wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity, unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God, and after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the foundation of a great and abominable church, which is most
abominable above all other churches; for behold they have taken away the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away'" (1 Nephi 13:24-26). The sad results of this nefarious action on the part of the aforesaid "great and abominable church" is said to be that "an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them"(1 Nephi 13:29).
The particular design of the Book of Mormon is announced in the following words: "And the angel spake unto me, saying, 'These last records which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first" (the Bible) which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues and peoples that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world'" (1 Nephi 13:40). The final clause of the above will show the method in which Sidney hoped to sustain the exertions of Walter Scott on behalf of the "good confession;" the preceding statements regarding the "plain and precious things which have been taken away" were likely intended to convince Mr. Campbell of the propriety of "restoring" the gifts of the spirit, such as inspiration, speaking with tongues and working miracles. By the possession or the Bible and also the "fullness of the gospel," the Mormons conceive that they have obtained vast advantage, beyond
other religious communions. Mr. Rigdon clearly foresaw that his new addition to inspired literature would encounter disfavor in many sections, and discusses that topic in 2 Nephi, ch. 29, where he undertakes to place the Nephite on a common footing with the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and gives notice that the inspired productions of the "Ten Lost Tribes" are still to be anticipated. His conception was that when two nations having different bibles should come in contact with each other, their bibles, as being each the utterance of the same Lord, should also be combined: "Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations run together, the testimony of the two nations shall run together also" (2 Nephi 29:8). Of course the enterprise of finding that the Book of Mormon had been predicted in the Old Testament scriptures would supply no great amount of difficulty; the passages perverted for that purpose are Ezek. 37:15-20 and Isaiah 29:4.
Rigdon's ambition in the first redaction is believed to have gone no farther than to secure for the Book of Mormon a position of like dignity and authority as the Christian Scriptures. Nothing that occurs before the beginning of the 3rd Book of Nephi may be fairly interpreted as inculcating the necessity of the existence of continuous revelation and inspiration. In the second redaction, however, after Joseph had already obtained several direct
divine communications, these were now first embraced in his plan, and exalted to the rank of an unalterable mark of the true church of Christ: "Yea, woe unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation or by prophecy (3 Nephi 29:6 cf. Mormon 9:7).
The other gifts of the Spirit such as speaking with tongues, the interpretation of tongues, miracles of healing and of every other sort were embraced in Mr. Rigdon's plan from the outset, and may be found advocated both in the first and in the second redactions. The same remark applies to the ministry of angels.
From the above brief survey it will be apparent that the Mormons assume the existence of several means of grace which are not accepted in the same sense at least, by other religious people.
Only two sacraments are inculcated in the Book of Mormon, namely, baptism and the Lord's Supper. With respect to the former of these it was perfectly natural that a leading minister of the Disciples Church should provide for immersion as the proper mode. The volume speaks only one voice regarding this point (3 Nephi 11:23-28).
It was equally natural that a leader of the Disciples should stipulate regarding the subject of baptism that no infants should be included (Moroni 8:9-24). Touching the design of baptism the position of the
first redaction is the same as the Disciples held prior to the 18th of November 1827; in the second redaction the design of baptism is declared to be for the remission of sins. Details bearing upon this point have been already supplied in Chapters XXIX and XXX of the present section.
For the observance of the Sacrament of baptism a liturgy of the boldest type was provided (Moroni Chs. 4 & 5). When the Sandemanian church of New York (city) in the year 1820 sent forth (the) well known document urging that baptism was designed for the remission of sins, it forgot to employ its ingenuity likewise to discover some biblical authority to elevate the other sacrament to a like dignity. It would have (been in) following their copy was either too timid to suggest this omission or too careless to observe it and the matter went by default. The Disciples, therefore, were the only body of Christians in existence who allowed the two sacraments to stand on different planes of efficacy; while baptism is efficacious to remit sins, the Lord's Supper is nothing more than a memorial rite. Mr. Campbell declares that "the breaking of the loaf and the drinking of the cup are commemorative of the Lord's death. Upon the loaf and upon the cup of the Lord, in letters which speak not to the eye, but to the heart of every disciple, is inscribed "When this you see, remember me" (Christian System, 3rd ed. p. 310). The only purpose of the sacrament in his teaching is to perform an act of remembrance of Christ's death.
This dissimilarity touching amount and nature of the efficacy of the two sacraments is an indication of theological unripeness. It was perfectly natural that it should be found in the Book of Mormon, like his master Mr. Rigdon teaches that the bread is merely in remembrance of the body of "thy Son" (Moroni 4:3), and that the wine is for a like purpose (Moroni 5:2).
With regard to the frequency of the observance, the Book of Mormon only prescribes that the church "shall meet oft to partake of bread and wine in remembrance of the Lord Jesus," but the fact has been pointed out that the Mormon people are as strenuous to celebrate the communion on the first day of each week as are the Disciples.
In this department as elsewhere, Sidney was a literalist of the positive kind. Especially he thought the prophecies must be interpreted "according to the flesh," and by no means according to the spirit. His expressions in that interest are very decided (1 Nephi 22:1-2, 27; 2 Nephi 10:2).
None of the prophets has done him so deep a hurt as Isaiah. By the conditions of his problem he was debarred from formal and acknowledged citations from any of them (biblical prophets) who lived after the year 600 B.C. He has abstained from these except in the case of the prophet Malachi, but in that instance he rescues himself from the charge of anachronism by causing Jesus on his visit to the Nephites to recite the third and fourth chapters of that book in their hearing (3 Nephi 24:1, 26:2). Of all the other prophets who flourished before the age of Zedekiah, Mr. Rigdon does not venture to cite one by name. This neglect may have resulted from an unwillingness to risk a blunder in chronology, but it may be easier explained by suggesting that he found in Isaiah all that he required. The references to that prophet are abundant and distinguished. "Great are the words of Isaiah" (3 Nephi 23:1). "Yea my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah" (2 Nephi 25:5). "Search the prophecies of Isaiah" (Mormon 8:23). It was Mr.
Rigdon's fixed conviction that "all the things that he spake, hath been and shall be even according to the words which he spake" (3 Nephi 23:3). Accordingly he often mentions his name and in one place cites more than a dozen chapters of his prophecy (2 Nephi chs. 12-24).
The literalizing interpretation of Isaiah 54:6 is the secret of the urgent insistence upon the "gathering" which is one of the most prominent and inconvenient features of Mormon life and polity (2 Nephi 8:11 cf. 2 Nephi 9:2, see also 3 Nephi 22:7; 2 Nephi 6:11; 1 Nephi 21:5,12,18 and 1 Nephi 19:16. In brief words the volume teams in all portions with allusions to the "gathering" in the last days. The Jews were to be restored to Palestine (1 Nephi 15:l9-20), while the people of the American "promised land" were to be "gathered" to a new Jerusalem on this continent (3 Nephi 20:21-34, cf. Ether 13:3-10). Already during the period of his intercourse with Rigdon in Pittsburgh, poor Walter Scott must have been sadly infected with the rabies millennica, and as a matter of course some portion of this craze should be expected in the Book of Mormon. That expectation is well satisfied; Sidney was very sure that the "end soon cometh" (Jacob 5:29, 6:2). The children of Israel would shortly be united into one fold with one shepherd, after which time Satan would be bound for a thousand years (1 Nephi 22:25-26). "All these things must come to pass according to the flesh (1 Nephi 22:25), and "The time speedily cometh" (2 Nephi 30:10). So well was Mr. Rigdon assured that the organization of his church would bring
to be the millennium, that he omitted the second petition from the version he supplies of the Lord's Prayer. There would be no need any more of saying, "Thy kingdom come" until the end of the thousand years of peace (3 Nephi 13:9).
For the rest, the views of Sidney regarding the last things do not present any points worthy of special remark. The world shall be burned up with fire (Jacob 6:3). There is to be a resurrection of the righteous and the wicked alike, both brought to pass by the power of Christ (2 Nephi 2:8, 9:22). The spirit and the body will be restored to each other at the resurrection (2 Nephi 9:12-13). There will be an eternal separation of the good from the bad (1 Nephi 15:33- 34). A great... "judgment day" is appointed where every man shall be judged according to his works (Mosiah 9:24 cf. Alma 11:44). The interval between death and the judgment is to be passed by the righteous in paradise and by the wicked in perdition (Alma 40:11-15). The blessedness of the good will be as extended in duration on one hand as the destruction of the wicked on the other (1 Nephi 13:7, 3 Nephi 26:5): in both instances the period will be eternal. There is not a trace in the Book of Mormon of the later teaching regarding the "buffeting of Satan for a thousand years." The volume in every part strenuously contradicts every idea of that sort and against all comers holds to the eternity of penal torments, as opposed to the restoration of all the finally (unpenitents).
The eternal torment of the wicked is regularly represented in the light of an actual lake of fire and brimstone (Jacob 6:10; 2 Nephi 9:19-26; cf. also 28:23 and 3 Nephi 27:7). It therefore comports ill with Mr. Rigdon's reputation and standing as a literalist that he should sometimes show the white feather at this point and place the question in doubt as to whether this was real fire or not (Mosiah 2:38, 3:25-27; Alma 12:17 and Mormon 9:5). The modified form of Restorationism which is implied in the three heavens: celestial, terrestrial and telestial, is not found anywhere in the Book of Mormon, which always and without decision enforces the opposite doctrine. This (secondary) view was not brought forward until the 16th of February 1832 (D&C, Sec. 76), when Sidney had found time to cultivate a considerable degree of acquaintance with the tenets of Immanuel Swedenborg.
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Reference has already been given to the purpose of Mr. Rigdon that the "plates dug in New York" should demonstrate that "the Christian religion had been preached in this country during the first century just as the Disciples were preaching it on the Western Reserve" (Patterson, Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?, p. 13). After the above survey of the doctrinal system of the Book of Mormon it must be allowed that he succeeded in this enterprise to admiration.
The main end of the work as declared in terms upon the title page, and in some kind of shape upon almost every other page, is to sustain and enforce the "good confession" of the Disciples to the effect that "Jesus in the Christ." The pains to which Sidney is pleased to submit in executing that portion of the business are truly admirable, and from beginning to end unremitting. Nothing else may be compared to his care in this particular except the conduct of Walter Scott, in his ministrations before the little conventicle where Rigdon was his fellow-elder.
The Disciple gospel is also found in tho Book of Mormon, both in the form of proclaiming (that it) was affected before the innovation that was made by Walter Scott on (the) 18th of November 1827, and in the form that was approved after that event. It is out of the question that Mr. Joseph Smith who had scarcely heard of the existence of the Disciples should have been capable of producing this nice agreement.
The Arminian standing point of the Book of Mormon is in harmony with the position of the Disciples respecting that tenet; for while they decline to permit themselves to be styled after Ariminius, they none the less occupy a place on that side of the question.
The form in which baptism should be administered comports to a nicety with the teachings of the Disciples. They are without exception advocates of immersion. The same is true regarding the subjects of baptism; the Book of Mormon is just as clearly opposed to the baptism of any but adult believers as are the Disciples.
The teaching of the second redaction of the Book of Mormon concerning the design for which baptism should be administered is identically the same position as (theirs).
The ordo salutis inculcated in the second redaction, namely, 1. Faith, 2. Repentance, 3. Baptism, 4. Remission, 5. The Holy Ghost, is the same as the Disciples' affirm and maintain. It has been shown that the insertion by the Mormons of the ceremony of laying on of hands between remission and the gift of the Holy Spirit was not accomplished as early as the publication of the Book of Mormon.
The fact that baptism is allowed to stand upon a higher plane as regards its efficacy than the other sacrament, which is held to be a mere memorial rite, is an expression of theological unripeness which can be met with nowhere else except among the Disciples and the Mormons. In every other system the two sacraments are represented to
occupy the same level in this particular; if in a given communion the Lord's Supper is considered to be nothing more than a ceremony in remembrance of Christ, baptism will by them be conceived of merely as the badge of a Christian man's profession. On the contrary in cases where baptism is put upon a higher level, and is regarded as effecting regeneration or remission, the Lord's supper will invariably be raised to a corresponding altitude. The Disciples and the Book of Mormon are the only two instances where baptism is honored to bear the grace of remission, while the Lord's Supper is treated with step-motherly partiality as a simple ceremonial of remembrance. There is no reason why one sacrament should be lifted up in this wise, which would not (likewise) avail to lift up the other sacrament also: and vice versa, there is no reason why one of the sacraments should be depressed which would not avail to depress the other sacrament also.
The Sandemanian and Disciple institution of the "Fellowship" is somewhat clearly indicated by the frequent demands for "equality" in the first redaction of the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon strenuously and repeatedly insists upon the same nomenclature as the Disciples. Both alike affirm that individual believers should be known as "Christians", and the church in its collective capacity as "The Church of Christ." While it is conceded that the Disciples have never been able to compose by of-
ficial deliverance the old controversy between Scott and Campbell in this particular; and while it is apparent that Rigdon took sides with Scott, the fact nevertheless holds good, that everywhere in the bounds of their community the name "Christian" will be acknowledged as a proper designation for an individual member, and "The Church of Christ as a proper designation for the entire body, or for any local society.
The weekly communion practiced by the Disciples is pretty distinctly enjoined in the Book of Mormon, and is constantly observed by the Mormon Church.
Opposition against a fixed salary for preachers of the gospel was common to the Book of Mormon and to the Disciples of the period when it was composed.
The use of the cant expressions "popular" and "teacher" and "words alone" in senses that occur in the Book of Mormon would not have been natural to any other than a person who chanced to be well schooled in the so-called "Bethany dialect."
The particulars above displayed embrace very nearly all the peculiarities which distinguish the Disciples from other Christian communities. The fact that they are all reproduced in the Book of Mormon is believed to be significant. Together they constitute a cumulative argument which demonstrates that it is impossible (that) the theological portion of the work could have been composed by any other than the hands of a Disciple theologian. It would be difficult to discover anywhere a volume which reflects the teaching promulgated by the Disciples between years 1825 and 1829 with better
faithfulness and effect. In the warp and in almost all the woof of it the Book of Mormon is a Disciple production. The distinctive principles of that sect are all laid down in it, and there is little to be found that is inconsistent with the sentiments they advocate.
If the points that have been detailed show that the Book of Mormon could have been constructed by no other than (the) hand of a Disciple theologian, the single point in which that production goes beyond the position of the Disciples will fix its authorship upon Mr. Rigdon.
This single point is displayed in the emphasis that is laid upon gifts of the spirit, such as speaking with tongues, the interpreting of tongues, healing of the sick and other miracles, continued inspiration and revelation, and the effective ministration of angels. Among all the various leaders of the Disciples there is not but Sidney who has been charged with a violent inclination in that direction. Mr. Campbell was laying every kind of stress upon a literal adhesion to the "ancient order of things" and his faithful adherent and "diligent student of the scripture" naturally conceived it would be proper to take him at (his word) and to bring in these features also which beyond any dispute belonged to the "ancient."
Considering the undue state of excitement into which, by means of word and writing concerning the indispensable necessity of every item of the "ancient order of things", Mr. Campbell had wrought the minds of his followers, a catastrophe of this sort might have been anticipated; it was natural, if not unavoidable.
The Disciple history for that period distinctly sets forth the fact that Mr. Rigdon was the man of their number to urge an advance to miracles, gifts of the spirit, and the personal ministration of angels as an integral and necessary portion of the beloved "ancient order." Therefore the conclusion is here firmly held that while the theology of the Book of Mormon unhesitatingly points to a Disciple author, the circumstance that it also insists upon these other features points with as little hesitation to Sidney Rigdon. It was not possible for him in this production to belie his individuality; it comes to view upon almost every page.
In few words, the theological contents of the Book of Mormon are of such a complexion that no person in America -- no other person in the world -- except Sidney Rigdon could have or would have fashioned them. In the entire range of Mormon literature, the present is the only instance where the Book of Mormon has been subjected to a serious and systematic investigation in order to elicit from its own statements the secret of its origin. This investigation and this
result comprise the most notable addition which the present volume contributes to the sum of information regarding Mormonism.
In view of this result it is a matter of no consequence whether the narrative regarding Mr. Spaulding's connection with the work should be true or otherwise. The proof of Rigdon's authorship of the theology of the Book of Mormon rest upon their own merit, without any kind of reference to Spaulding's lucubrations; on that basis alone are complete and irrefragable. But the testimony is so extensive and circumstantial to the effect that Sidney had gained possession of Spaulding's manuscript, and it all agrees so well with the above witness for the Book of Mormon itself, that the impartial student will be constrained to give credence to it. In the preceding portion of the present volume the Spaulding story has been handled with critical attention; after rejecting the untrustworthy additions which in different ways and times have been made (in) the balance has been set before the reader, for no other reason than that Mr. Rigdon certainly had recourse to the manuscript and it is the business of his biographer to take account of such an occurrence if he aspires to be a faithful historian.
For the rest it would have been easy for Sidney to have borrowed more than one of the items above recited from other than Disciple sources; the Baptists practice immersion and condemn the baptism of infants, while the Methodists maintain a certain form of Arminianism. But to suppose that he went abroad to obtain those articles which were so much more conveniently found at home, where he had appropriated so many other peculiarities, is unnecessary. It is the same as to choose the more difficult instead of the more simple and rational hypothesis. He had no occasion to go elsewhere to obtain these features; his ambition was to move in the track of Disciple thoughts.
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The Book of Mormon sincerely if not effectually aims to "make righteousness." Its tone is nowhere flippant; its matter is nowhere frivolous. Mr. Rigdon pursued a purpose which he candidly believed would promote the honor of the Lord and the advantage of his creatures provided it could be rightly accomplished. In his opinion it would be a consummation over which all good men might rejoice if he was successful in bringing the Disciples and other religious sects to embrace the "ancient order of things" not simply in profession but also in fact.
On several occasions he takes counsel with his conscience which not only justifies but likewise applauds his proceedings. At Omni 1:25 it instructs him that "there is nothing which is good, save it comes from the Lord; and that which is evil comes from the devil." His own impulse and plan were to his thinking unqestionabl[y] good, and with as little question he supposed that both had come from the Lord.
Nor had the Book of Mormon come from the Lord after a sort of (undefined) method; on the contrary he considered that it had been given to him by direct inspiration. At least that is the position of the second redaction. At Moroni 7:13 he says" "But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, everything (like the Book of Mormon) "which inviteth and enticeth to do good and to love God and to serve him, is inspired of God."
Superficial and unfriendly observers will naturally sneer at Mr. Rigdon's conviction but in this particular these enjoy no monopoly of fair consciences, and the judgment of such thinkers goes but a little way in deciding any sort of issue; the fact remains that notwithstanding what the world conceives to be his evil behavior, he kept a conscience which had no trouble to excuse the conduct of its owner; but on the contrary gave him continual incitement and support.
He did not even regard himself as doing evil that good might come: "Whatsoever thing is good is just and true" (Moroni 10:6). "Whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me" (Ether 4:12).
Possibly there might be faults in the work, but Mr. Rigdon affirms, "Behold, we know no fault" (Mormon 8:17). In case any should by chance be discovered he declares on the title page of his volume, "and now if there faults they are the mistakes of men: wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ." By this process the Book of Mormon was supplied with an iron covering which it was hoped would be of sufficient strength and thickness to resist all kinds of assaults. (cf. Moroni 7:14-20 & Mormon 9:31-33).
Preposterously vain of his eloquence in spoken address, but conscious of helplessness in managing thee pen (Ether 12:23-25, Sidney casts defiance into the teeth of his critics by an assurance, conveniently obtained from the mouth of the Lord, to the effect that "Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness" (Ether 12:26).
It is tolerably apparent that Mr. Rigdon was sincere in the conviction that he stood wholly apart from the balance of mankind as the single chosen instrument of heaven in the midst of an apostate age. The cause he had so near his heart he believed was inherently true, and the means which he employed to promote it were to his thinking inherently pure, because they were of the special bestowment of divine inspiration.
In the course of an interview which Mr. Thomas Campbell sought with him during the month of June 1831, that gentleman was much shocked to hear Sidney declare that "were Joseph to be proved a liar, or say himself that he never found the Book of Mormon as he had reported, still he would believe it, and believe that all who do not believe it shall be damned" (Mill. Harbinger, 1831, 332).
But from the ground occupied by Sidney, that was a perfectly natural conclusion. To his mind, the truth and authority of this production were entirely independent of Joseph's connection with it. He was sensible that he had only employed young Mr. Smith as a kind of tool for the purpose of bringing the volume prominently before the public eye. The great position that "Jesus is the Christ", and that it is just as becoming and necessary to conform to the apostolic model in respect to gifts of the Spirit and miracles, as in respect to the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper, would stand firm no matter what kind of fate might befall Joseph Smith.
For the rest of Mr. Campbell's report of the above interview
is conceived in milder terms than that which Mr. Rigdon himself supplies, although the two are in no respects contradictory. He says that his master's "wonted shrewdness and presence of mind forsook him" for the moment, and that he "was quite confused and silly." Mr. Rigdon further affirms that he exclaimed, "You have lied Alexander; you have lied. If you do not receive the Book of Mormon, you will be damned. You are a liar and a child of the devil, you are an enemy to all righteousness, and the spirit of the devil is in you" (Howe, pp. 198-210).
It is tolerably evident when both narratives are considered together that Rigdon never gave way for a moment, but baldly held his own, and even chastised Mr. Campbell for the paper he had sent forth in February 1831 condemning and denouncing as a "delusion" the Book of Mormon (Mill. Harb., 1831, pp. 85-101).
If such a character and genius as Edward Irving, in the midst of such a community as the city of London, near the same time, should run wild over the gift of tongues and other literalistic appurtenances of ancient Christianity, who shall think it singular that Rigdon should commit the same fault in the wilds and darkness of North Eastern Ohio.
But the allegation will be still laid against the honesty of Mr. Rigdon that he perpetrated a pious fraud. The history of the religious world abounds with instances of pious fraud. In the Old Testament the number of apocryphal and pseudopigraphical books is far too large to recount in this
place. The same remark also applies to the New Testament. Besides these may be mentioned the Sibylline Oracles, the collection of Pseudo-Isidore, the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite and many another name. The man who out of hand asserts the knavery all and singular, of the authors of these productions argues nothing so much as his own imbecility. On the contrary each case must be scrutinized apart, and with all the lights attainable should be judged after its own merits or demerits.
For that reason every man of sober reflection must suspend his judgment touching the conduct of Rigdon until he has weighed all the conditions that may be involved.
The first of these conditions is that he was consumed with a desire to assist Mr. Scott and the Disciples in the labor of maintaining the "good confession" that "Jesus is the Christ" more effectually than they could accomplish the feat out of the Scriptures.
The second condition is that he had become insane under the teachings of Campbell respecting the "ancient order", and candidly believed that he was "inspired of God" as were many of the "Former-Day Saints." This inspiration led him first to edit, then partially to re-edit the performance of Spaulding, and to employ the arts and invention of Smith to bring the completed product forward. It does not seem unreasonable to allow that a person whose mind had been that way unbalanced might do every act that is laid to the charge of Sidney in connection with the Book of Mormon without any stains of conscious dishonesty.
In brief words those who will persist in the conclusion that Mr. Rigdon was nothing else than a roguish knave must be content to [fore] go every kind of hope to find a right understanding of his career and character, and of the structure of doctrine and polity which he organized. If they relish their voluntary imbecility they are welcome to the benefits it may bring them, but when Sidney is judged, as he has a fair right to be, by the facts, and by his own productions, it becomes probable that he was an honest fanatic. "And the words which I have written in weakness, will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure unto the end, which is life eternal" (2 Nephi 33:4).
The question is not whether the production of Rigdon actually "makes for righteousness"; but did he intend that it should "make for righteousness"? That inquiry must be answered in the affirmative; it was not his purpose to earn money or fame from its circulation; he desired to promote the interests of Christ and of the "ancient order of things."
Even upon his own standing-point, however, there is room for serious doubt whether the Book of Mormon is calculated to foster the practice of religion. Though it denounces polygamy and proclaims the good confession and the "ancient gospel" it is at bottom an immoral performance, from the circumstances that it everywhere indicates that iniquity thrives better in the presence of the Lord of righteousness.
This serious charge is founded upon the the fact it sets forth that the Lamanites who were the enemies of God from the beginning of the history to its close were spared and even favored. That they were spared is clear from the circumstance that they survived their brethren and are still in existence on the western plains of this country; that they were favored is argued from the incident that the Nephites who are praised as the chosen people were steadily driven before their arms, and by that means finally exterminated. Every one who candidly considers this record must conceive that by the teaching of the Book of Mormon they who defy the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", are in the safest way. The fundamental lesson of the volume is that moral pollution of every name and style is the nearest road to prosperity in the present life. If it should be replied to this that the Nephites were cut off at last because of their apostasy in the fourth generation after Christ, then it might be inquired why were not the Lamanites cut off because of their greater apostasy in the sixth generation before Christ? Why do they still keep their place in the world, after so many additional ages of iniquity and rebellion? But while the wicked Lamanites were favored above the pious Nephites in the present world, and the Lord consented to "prolong their days" (Helaman 15:11-13), it is not clear that their chances for eternal life and happiness
were much worse than those of the Nephites. Mr. Rigdon's theory about the salvation of the ignorant has been previously pointed out (Mosiah 9,3,11; 2 Nephi 9:25-26). ]
In more than one passage he is conceived to apply the benefits of this provision to the behoof of the Lamanites, who had sinned so long and so deeply as almost totally to forget the God of their fathers (Helaman 7:23-24; Alma 9:15-16). From this showing, in case it is just. it would appear that one of the surest means by which to enter the heavenly world is to walk in the broad way which has been supposed to lead to a different region.
But the above fault is an error of the head and not of the heart. It [hardly] seems probable that Sidney was capable of consciously and with settled purpose inciting his followers to lead a life of rebellion against God.
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Mr. Rigdon is believed to have entertained strong hopes of proselytizing largely among his fellow Christians of the Disciple persuasion. A rather distinct allusion which he allows himself to make to them might have helped him that way; but it also serves to disclose the hand of the author too clearly to permit the critic to pronounce it entirely skillful. Speaking of other religious people he says: "They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea and because of pride and wickedness and abominations they have all gone astray." Then for the behoof of his former associates he adds: "Save it be a few, who are humble followers of Christ; nevertheless they are led, that in many instances they do err, because they are taught by the precepts of men" (2 Nephi 28:14). The closing clause of the above might be a neat blow against Mr. Campbell.
When in the year 1838 (Pearl of Great Price, p. 68). Joseph set himself to polish up the narrative of his early adventures he was rather too free in his talk about a certain breastplate. The angel (who was named Nephi at first, Joseph Smith the Prophet, p. 71, but later editions got the name Moroni), said to him on the night of the 21st of September 1823, "that there were two stones in silver bows and these stones fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim deposited with the plates (Pearl of Great Price, p. 63). This article is
further mentioned on p. 64, p. 66, & p. 67, of the Pearl of Great Price and in the Doctrine & Covenants, Sect. 17:1: there is no authority for it anywhere in the Book of Mormon. Notice is taken there of certain breastplates which had been brought from the land of the Jaredites (Mosiah 8:10), but they had no sort of connection with the interpreters which before that date had been in the possession of king Mosiah of the land of Zarahemla. The two rims of a bow into which the two stones were fastened are indeed mentioned (Mosiah 28:13), but the breastplate was a subsequent invention of Mr. Smith's. The explanation of it is likely to be sought at Exodus 28:30 - "And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and Thummim: and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the Lord." The seer-stone of Willard Chase had, in the way that has been explained, supplied Mr. Smith with the Urim and Thummim, and he would naturally feel uneasy until after the fashion of Moses he had also got a breastplate to which he might fasten them. It is a contradiction on the part of Mr. Rigdon that he should have insisted so strenuously that when Christ appeared the law of Moses was fulfilled (3 Nephi 9:17,12:18,19:46,15:2,8; 4 Nephi 1:12), and yet should have introduced a priesthood and other appurtenances of this abrogated law into the system which he organized. Notwithstanding the above plain and undeniable declarations in their own sacred book, the Mormons are still clinging to that law by the use of temples, by a theocracy, the practice of polygamy, and by the proposition to adopt animal sacrifices.
It was useless trouble for Joseph to invent the story about the stone box in which the plates were given out to be deposited. That business was already sufficiently provided for without any such clumsy expedient. In the book of Helaman the statement is set forth that the plates should be miraculously cared for: "And behold it has been prophesied by our fathers that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord, until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained therein. And now behold, if they are kept they must retain their brightness; yea, and they will retain their brightness; yea, and also shall all plates which do contain that which is holy writ (Helaman 37:4-5).
According to the above representation there was no danger of injury if the plates had been buried in the sea, or anywhere else, and that without the slightest advantage of a covering of other protection.
In order to provide ways and means for lifting the Book of Mormon to the same level as the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, Mr. Rigdon makes some concessions which are liberal enough to place him in the ranks of the advocates and promoters of what has been designated as Comparative Religion. Assuming the person and position of the Lord he says: "Wherefore, because ye have a Bible, ye need not suppose that it contains all my words neither
need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written: for I command all men both in the east and in the west, and in the north and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them: for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written. For behold I shall speak unto the Jew, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it" (3 Nephi 29:10-12).
If all the nations of the earth may receive the inspired word of the Lord and duly record the same, there is no kind of reason why the Koran of the Mohammedans, the Vedas of the Brahmins, or any other writings, claiming to be sacred, may not stand as high in the regards of the Mormon people as their own Book of Mormon. That point being conceded, the interest the Mormons feel in the prosecution of missions is scarcely justifiable.
And Mr. Rigdon did not shrink from assuming that position; on one occasion the High-Priest Alma was seized with a violent desire to become an angel that he might "cry repentance unto every people" (Alma 29:1). But cooler second thoughts brought him to another conclusion as follows: "why should I desire that I was an angel, that I could
speak unto all the ends of the earth? For behold the Lord doth grant unto all nations of their own nation and tongue to teach his word; yes, in wisdom, all that he seeth fine that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true (Alma 29:7-8). If the Lord has given to each nation "all that he seeth fit that they should have, it is difficult to discern the propriety of disturbing his plans by translating the Book of Mormon into numerous foreign languages where it may now be read.
The anachronisms that are contained in the work have been frequently the subject (of) remark; but when Mr. Rigdon permits himself to make an acknowledged citation he is not frequently at fault. A considerable portion of the prophecy of Isaiah has been inserted, which was entirely legitimate, because that document was composed prior to the year 600 B.C. at which time Lehi is reported to have departed from Jerusalem. Two chapters from the prophecy of Malachi are supplied, but as explained above, they are claimed to have been derived from the lips of Christ himself. The same remark applies to a section from the Third Book of Nephi, chapters twelve to fourteen -- where the sermon on the mount is recited from the lips of Christ on the visit he is fabled to have made to the American "promised land."
But in the matter of (unconceded) quotations Mr. Rigdon is every way unfortunate. John Hyde, one of the very few writers upon
the subject who has considered it worth his while to give any serious study to the Book of Mormon, says" "From page 2 to page 428" (of the third English edition) "pretending to embrace a period from 600 B.C. to A.D. 1, I have counted no less than 298 direct quotations from the New Testament; some of them paragraphs of verses; some of them sentences from verses."
(Mormonism, Its Leaders & Designs, by John Hyde Jun., N.Y. 1857, p. 233) survey includes that portion of the work which precedes the Third Book of Nephi. It has not been regarded as important to verify the correctness of the above cited number; it will be sufficient to affirm the fact that citations from the New Testament are numerous, and that each one of them is an anachronism which ruins the prospects of Mr. Rigdon's volume to be accepted as a revelation.
For example the text upon which he supports his chief argument for the continuance of miracles - "for he is the same yesterday, today and forever" occurs at Hebrews 13:8. It is apparent that a writer who flourished in the sixth century before Christ had no good right to be acquainted with it, and yet it is brought forward as early as 1 Nephi 10:18 to say nothing of the innumerable times afterwards. The apostle James says that with God "is no variableness neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17), but Alma who lived ages before had no good right to be familiar with that form of expression. (Alma 7:20). What right had Nephi (3 Nephi 9:16) to declare: "the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still", when that word of the
Lord did not befall until the last chapter of the Revelation of St. John. A number of incidents in the natural history and astronomy of the volume seem to be quite impossible, but it would carry the present discussion too far to treat them at this point. Those who are careful to follow out such faults and errors may consult Chapter IX of Mr. Hyde's work on Mormonism. where he gives an "Analysis of the Internal Evidences of the Book of Mormon."
It is hardly necessary that Sidney and Joseph should have taken the public so unreservedly into their confidence as they have several times done in the progress of their work. One instance is the famous reference to Sidney as Joseph's spokesman at 2 Nephi 3:17-18: "And the Lord hath said, I will raise up a Moses; and I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing. Yet I will not loose his tongue that he shall speak much; for I will not make him mighty in speaking. But I will write unto him my law by the finger of mine own hand; and I will make a spokesman for him. And the Lord said unto me also, I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins and I will make for him a spokesman. And I will give unto him that he shall write the writings of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it."
This was the division of labor which had been adopted by the two associates at the early period here in question, owing to
the circumstance that Mr. Smith had not yet acquired any experience in public address and was unconscious of his powers that way: but it was a careless oversight performed (at) a later date to reveal their secret, and by this means add a new argument to the many that already existed to show that Mr. Rigdon was from the beginning connected with the business. In the course of a "Revelation given in, N.Y. to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, Oct. 12th, 1833", the Lord ordains as follows: "And it is expedient in me that you, my servant Sidney, should be a spokesman unto this people; yea verily I will ordain you unto this calling, even to a spokesman unto my servant Joseph; and (I) will give unto him power to be mighty in testimony; and I will give unto thee power to be mighty in expounding all scriptures, that thou mayest be a spokesman unto him, and (he) shall be a revelator unto thee" (D&C, 100:9-11).
If the fact that Sidney was the spokesman who was provided in the Book of Mormon had been kept under cover, instead of parading it thus abroad, in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants it might have been possible to exercise a larger degree of respect for (the) mental agility of the parties engaged.
Another mishap of this kind occurs at 2 Nephi 8:19-20. Sidney has introduced at this point the whole of the 51st chapter of Isaiah, by way of quotation. In the authorized version, Isaiah 51:19-20 is given in the following terms: "These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation and destruction and the famine and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee? Thy sons have
fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net." In the version which the Book of Mormon supplies of the same two verses Joseph and Sidney show their own faces in the following style: "These two SONS are came unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee: thy desolation and destruction and the famine and the sword: and by whom shall I comfort thee? Thy sons have fainted SAVE THESE two; they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net."
The faith of Mormon believers might be confirmed by the enactment of a change like this, but it is not calculated to help the faith of other people, since it lets them into a secret which does not go far to promote belief, The well known early Mormon antithesis between the East and the West, New York being the East and Kirtland the West is unnecessarily displayed at 1 Nephi 21:13. The entire chapter is quoted from the 49th chapter of Isaiah of which King James' revisers set forth the thirteenth verse in the following language: "Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people and will have mercy upon his afflicted."
On the other hand, Joseph renders it: "Sing, O heavens, and be joyful O earth: FOR THE FEET OF THOSE WHO ARE IN THE EAST SHALL BE ESTABLISHED; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people and will have mercy upon his afflicted."
If proofs should be required of the existence of the alleged antithesis between the East and the West in early Mormon history, they are well supplied by the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. Such passages as D&C, 26:1, 45:64, 48:2-5 may be consulted.
The above prophetical expedient by which the success of the eastern part of the enterprise was assured to the minds of the faithful, and the existence of the western part of it was suggested, might have been very useful (in) the circumstances where Joseph was situated in the spring time of the year 1829, but it must be apparent that on the whole it would have been a wise thing to abstain from employing it, inasmuch as it offers to criticism a hint and handle which it must be entirely undesirable that it should now possess.
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