The Conversion of Sidney Rigdon – 1830
The Geauga Gazette - November 16, 1830
About a couple of weeks
since, three men, calling themselves Oliver Cowdry, David Whitmer, and Martin
Harris, appeared in our village, laden with a new revelation, which they claim
to be a codicil to the New Testament. They preached in the evening in the
Methodist Chapel, and from certain indications, conceiving they might do more
good otherwheres, departed for Kirtland, where is a "common stock family," under
the charge of Elder Rigdon, a Campbellite leader of some notoriety. The men
claim to act under a "commission written by the finger of God" -- they are very
enthusiastic, tolerably resolute -- but from what we can learn need that
steadfast determined resolution, and popular talent, which are necessary to
ensure any considerable degree of success in a new project.
The account which they give is substantially as follows: -- at a recent period an angel appeared to a poor, ignorant man residing in or near Palmyra, in Ontario County, in the state of New York, directed him to open the earth at a place designated, where he would find the new revelation engraved on plates of metal. In obedience to the celestial messenger, Smith repaired to the spot, and on opening the ground discovered an oblong stone box, tightly closed with cement. He opened the sacred depository and found enclosed a bundle of plates resembling gold, carefully united at one edge with three silver wires, so that they appeared [sic - opened?] like a book. The plates were about 7 inches long and 6 broad, and the whole pile was about 6 inches deep, each plate about the thickness of tin. -- They were engraved in a character unintelligible to the learned men of the United States, to many of whom it is said to have been presented. The angel afterwards appeared to the three individuals, and showed them the plates. To Smith it was given to transcribe the character[s], which he was enabled to do by looking through two semi-transparent stones, but as he was ignorant of writing, Cowdry and others wrote as Smith interpreted. They say that part of the plates escaped from them in a supernatural manner and are to be again revealed when the events of time shall require them.
The three individuals above named, have subscribed their names to an article in the book, in which they solemnly declare that they saw the angel, and that he assured them that the book was a divine revelation. They say it was written by the prophets of God during the period embracing the time for 600 years before, and several hundred [years] after the Christian era. It predicts, we understand, almost all events which have come to pass, such as the American Revolution, &c.
These men are believed by their followers to be prophets -- and they say that the world is soon to come to an end, within 15 years at longest.
By the world coming to an end, they only mean, that the incorrigible will be cut off by a variety of means, leaving only the true believers. They have now gone west for a country they know not where, west of the Mississippi, where they say is a holy spot, and there they are to establish a New Jerusalem, into which [they say] will be gathered all the natives who they say are descendants of Manesseh. They [say they] are led by a [sic - the?] Spririt, and will know the ground when they place their feet on it.
Immediately after their arrival here, Elder Rigdon embraced the new doctrine and was baptised for the third time -- once as a regular Baptist, once as a Campbellite, and now as a disciple of the new revelation. He says he has hitherto, ignorantly preached heresy. His flock, we understand, have principally followed their shepherd, and for the second, and some for the third time, have gone down into the water. We are told that the [whole] number baptised into the new order, is rising to one hundred.
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