Mormon History

Thomas Campbell Letter to Sidney Rigdon - 1831

MENTOR, February 4, 1831.      

Mr. Sidney Rigdon:

Dear Sir -- It may seem strange, that instead of a confidential and friendly visit, after so long an absence, I should thus address, by letter, one of whom, for many years, I have considered not only as a courteous and benevolent friend, but as a beloved brother and fellow laborer in the gospel -- but alas! how changed, how fallen! Nevertheless, I should now have visited you as formerly, could I conceive that my so doing would answer the important purpose both to ourselves, and to the public, to which we both stand pledged, from the conspicuous and important stations we occupy: -- you, as a professed disciple and public teacher of the infernal book of Mormon; and I, as a professed disciple and public teacher of the supernal book of the Old and New Testaments of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ -- which you now say is superceded by the book of Mormon -- is become a dead letter -- so dead, that the belief and obedience of, without the reception of the latter, is no longer available to salvation; to the disproof of this assertion, I understand you defy the world. I here use the epithets infernal and supernal in their primary and literal meaning, the former signifying from beneath, the latter from above, both of which are truly applied, if the respective authors may be accredited; of the latter of which, however, I have no doubt.  But, my dear sir, supposing you as sincere in your present, as in your former profession, (of the truth and sufficiency of which you have frequently boasted with equal confidence,) neither yourself, your friends, nor the world, are therefore bound to consider you as more infallible in your latter than in your former confidence, any further than you can render good and intelligible reasons for your present certainty. This, I understand from your declaration on last Lord's day, you are abundantly prepared and ready to do. I, therefore, as in duty bound, accept the challenge, and shall hold myself in readiness, if the Lord permit, to meet you publicly, in any place, either in Mentor or Kirtland, or in any of the adjoining towns, that may appear most eligible for the accommodation of the public.

The sooner the investigation takes place the better for all concerned; therefore, it is hoped you will not protract the time beyond what may justly be deemed necessary for giving sufficient publicity to the proposed discussion -- say one week after your reception of this proposal to accept the challenge you have publicly given, for the vindication and eviction of the divine authorship of Mormonism, which, if your assertion be true, that there is no salvation for any that do not embrace it; and not only so, but I am credibly informed you have asserted, that even those who have lived and died in the faith and obedience of the old book, in the triumphant assurance of a glorious resurrection and a blissful immortality, may be in hell for aught you know; therefore, I say again, the sooner this matter is publicly settled, the better. For my part, I do cordially assure you, sir, that if I were in the possession of a nostrum, upon the knowledge and belief of which, the salvation of every soul of man depended, I should consider myself responsible to the whole world for the speedy and effectual confirmation and publication of it; and if it be at all a revelation from God for the salvation of man, he must be wonderfully changed since he gave the former revelation of his will, for that important purpose, if he do not require you so to do, for he was then willing that all men should come to a knowledge of his will and truth and be saved; and therefore, he not only charged all to whom he made it known, by special revelation, to go into all the world and declare it to every creature, but also furnished them with such potent and evincive arguments, both prophetic and miraculous, as no candid inquirer could mistake, without abandoning both his senses and his reason.

If then, the Book of Mormon, which you assume to vindicate as a divine revelation, upon the belief and obedience of which the salvation of all men stands suspended, be such, then surely the unchanged and unchangeable author, who, it seems, has communicated it to you and others, by special revelations, has, doubtless, furnished you with such special, intelligible, and convincing arguments, as are abundantly sufficient to convince every candid inquirer, as he did the heralds of the former dispensations. -- Therefore, woe is unto you if you preach not your gospel. But why should I seem to doubt the philanthropy of my former friend and brother, more than I do my own, or that of the apostle Paul, that I should thus appear to urge his performance of a challenge, which, no doubt, the purest and most benevolent motives excited him to propose, for the purpose of promoting, as fast as possible, the benign intentions of his mission? Taking this for granted, I shall further add, in relation to the manner of conducting this all-important investigation, that, seeing it is purely for the discovery and confirmation of the truth, upon the belief and obedience of which, depends the salvation of the world, the parties realizing the deep and awful responsibility of the undertaking, and having no private and personal interest at stake, separate from the rest of mankind, will not only afford each other every facility of investigating and exhibiting the truth by all manner of fairness, both of argument and concession,  but also by the mutual allowance of any assistance that can be contributed by the friends on each side, either suggesting matter to the speakers, or by correcting any mistakes that may occur in quotations, references, &c, in an amicable and an obliging manner, without giving or taking offence on these accounts; that for these purposes, each party shall be at liberty to select as many of his intelligent friends as he pleases to assist him as prompters; and if any difficulty occur, respecting time, order, &c, it shall be refered to a competent board of moderators, equally chosen by the parties, that the whole investigation may be conducted without the least shadow of disorder or partiality.

According to the spirit and tenor of the above proposals on my part, for the speedy and effectual determination of the momentous question at issue, I shall candidly inform you of the course I intend to take, for the confirmation and defence of my side of the question, that you may be the better prepared to meet my arguments with a solid and unanswerable refutation, if possible; as I can have no wish, nor can any man in his common senses, where the salvation of the soul is at stake, but to know and embrace the saving truth. The proposition that I have assumed, and which I mean to assume and defend against Mormonism and every other ism that has been assumed since the Christian era, is -- The all-sufficiency and the alone-sufficiency of the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, vulgarly called the Bible, to make every intelligent believer wise to salvation, thoroughly furnished for any good work. This proposition, clearly and fully established, as I believe it most certainly can be, we have no more need for Quakerism, Shakerism, Wilkinsonianism, Buchanism, Mormonism, or any other ism, than we have for three eyes, three ears, three hands, or three feet, in order to see, hear, work, or walk. This proposition, I will illustrate and confirm by showing --

1st, That the declarations, invitations, and promises of the gospel, go to confer upon the obedient believer the greatest possible privileges, both here and hereafter, that our nature is capable of enjoying.

2nd, That there is not a virtue which can happify or adorn the human character, nor a vice that can abase or dishappify, which human heart can conceive, or human language can express, that is not most clearly commanded or forbidden in the holy scriptures.

3rd, That there are no greater motives, that can possibly be expressed or conceived, to enforce obedience or discourage and prevent disobedience, than the scriptures most clearly and unequivocally exhibit.

These propositions being proved, every thing is proved that can affect our happiness, either here or hereafter.

We shall, however, if deemed necessary, next proceed to expose the blasphemous pretensions of Mormonism, by examining both its external and internal evidences.

1st. By examining the character of its author and his accomplices, as far as documents for that purpose may have come to hand.

2d. Their feigned pretensions to miraculous gifts, the gift of tongues, &c.; a specimen of the latter we shall afford them an opportunity of exhibiting in three or four foreign languages.

3d. We shall next proceed to expose the anti-scriptural assertions, that there has been none duly authorized to administer baptism, for the space of fourteen hundred years up to the present time, by showing that the church or the kingdom of Christ, must have been totally extinct during that period, provided its visible administration had actually ceased during that time, is an express contradiction of the testimony of Jesus, Mat. xvi. 18.

4th. We are prepared to show that the pretended duty of common property among Christians is anti-scriptural, being subversive of the law of Christ, and inimical to the just rights of society.

5th. We shall next proceed to show, that re-baptizing believers is making void the law of Christ; and that the imposition of hands for communicating the Holy Spirit, is an unscriptural intrusion upon the exclusive prerogative the primary apostles.

6th. We shall also show that the pretensions of Mormonism, as far as it has yet been developed, are in no wise superior to the pretensions of the first quakers, of the French Prophets, of the Shakers, of Jemima Wilkinson, &c. That all these pretended to as high degrees of inspiration, to prophecyings, to visions, to as great humility, self-denial, devotion to God, moral purity, and spiritual perfection; declaimed as much against sin, denounced as heavy judgments against their neighbors, and against the professing world at large, for their corruptions of Christianity, &c. &c. as the Mormonites have done or can do; the two latter have also insisted as much upon the supposed duty of common property, and have spoken as certainly of the near approach of the millenium, and of their relation to that happy state, as any of the Mormonite Prophets, especially the Shakers, who pretend to be living subjects of that happy period, and and [sic] who have also given us an attested record of their miraculous operations.

The obvious conclusion of this sixth argument is evident, that if the Mormonite prophets and teachers can show no better authority for their pretended mission and revelations than these impostors have done, we have no better authority to believe them than we have to believe their predecessors in imposition. But the dilemma is, we can't believe all, for each was exclusively right in his day, and those of them that remain, are still exclusively right to this day; and if the Shakers be right, the whole world, the Mormonites themselves not excepted, are in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity -- quite as far from salvation as you yourself have pronounced all the sectarians on earth to be, namely, in a state of absolute damnation.

In the last place, we shall examine the internal evidence of the Book of Mormon itself, pointing out its evident contradictions, foolish absurdities, shameless pretensions to antiquity, restore it to the rightful claimant, as a production beneath contempt, and utterly unworthy the reception of a schoolboy.

Thus, my dear sir, I have given you a fair and full statement of my intended method of defence and attack, of the principal topics of argument pro and con, which I shall use, provided you stand to your proposed challenge. I have also used great plainness of speech, and spoken of things just as I believe they deserve, as you yourself are in the habit of doing; and who can do otherwise upon a subject of such vast importance, if he duly realize them? Nevertheless I would not have you think, although I consider things just as I have spoken, that I suppose myself more infallible than you do yourself; but I should blush to fall short of any one, of any sect whatever, in my expressions of confident certainty of the truth of my profession, which has stood the test of most rigorous investigation for nearly eighteen hundred years, and which I have scrupulously examined, for upwards of forty, especially when the investigation is with sectarians of little more than three months standing.

But though I have spoken as positively as you have done, and we have I both spoken positive enough, I will yet venture to assure you that you will find me, as changeable as yourself, provided you afford me evidence paramount to the evidence which I have proposed to produce for the ground which I at present occupy, for it has ever been with me a fixed principle, that the less should give way to the greater. But in case I should fail to convince you, or that you should fail to convince me, others may be benefitted; and we shall have the consolation of having discharged our duty, both to each other and the public, for no man liveth to himself.

In the mean time I wait for your reply, which you will please to forward per bearer. I hope you will be as candid and plain with me as I have been with you. My best respects to Mrs. Rigdon, and sincerest wish for the happiness of your family.

I remain, with grateful remembrances of the past, and best wishes for the future, your sincere friend and humble servant,