Ministers Exposing Mormonism - 1831
The Telegraph - February 15, 1831
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed and done among the Mormonites, it seems good to me also (having had knowledge of many things from the beginning) to testify to my brethren of mankind, that they may know something certainly concerning these wonderful people.
About the last of October, 1830, four men, claiming to be divinely inspired, came from Manchester and Palmyra, Ontario county, N.Y., bringing a pretended revelation, entitled the "Book of Mormon." They came to the brethern of the reformation in Mentor, saluted them as brethern, and professed to rejoice at finding a people walking according to the scriptures of truth, and acknowledging no other guide. They professed to have no commands for them, nevertheless, they called upon them to receive their mission and book as from Heaven, which they said chiefly concerned the western Indians, as being an account of their origin, and a prophecy of their final conversion to christianity, and make them a white and delightsome people, and be reinstated in the possession of their lands of which they have been despoiled by the whites. -- When called upon for testimony, they appealed (like Mahomet) to the internal evidences of their book. The book was read and pronounced a silly fabrication. When farther pressed upon the subject, they required the brethern to humble themselves before God, and pray for a sign from heaven.
They took up their abode with the pastor of the congregation, (Sidney Rigdon,) who read their book and partly condemned it -- but, two days afterwards, was heard to confess his conviction of its truth. Immediately the subtlety and duplicity of these men were manifest -- as soon as they saw a number disposed to give heed to them, then it was they bethought themselves of making a party -- then it was they declared that their book contained a new covenant, to come under which the disciple must be re-immersed. When called upon to answer concerning their pretended covenant, whether it was distinct from that mentioned in Hebrews VIII, 10-13, they would equivocate, and would say, (to use their own words) "on the large scale, the covenant is the same, but in some things it is different." Immediately they made a party -- seventeen persons were immersed by them in one night. At this Mr. Rigdon seemed much displeased, and when they came next day to his house, he withstood them to the face -- showed them that what they had done was entirely without precedent in the holy scriptures -- for they had immersed those persons that they might work miracles as well as come under the said covenant -- showed them that the apostles baptized for the remission of sins -- but miraculous gifts were conferred by the imposition of hands. But when pressed upon the point, they justified themselves by saying, it was on their part merely a compliance with the solicitations of those persons. Mr. Rigdon again called upon them for proof of the truth of their book and mission: they then related the manner in which they obtained faith, which was by praying for a sign, and an angel was shown unto them. Here Mr. Rigdon showed them from the scriptures the possibility of their being deceived: "For Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" -- but said Cowdrey, "Do you think if I should go to my Heavenly Father with all sincerity, and pray to him in the name of Jesus Christ, that he would not show me an angel -- that he would suffer Satan to deceive me?" Mr. Rigdon replied, "if the heavenly Father had ever promised to show you an angel, to confirm anything, he would not suffer you to be deceived, for, says the apostle John, 'this is the confidence we have with him, if we ask things according to his will, he hearkens to us.' "But," he continued, "if you ask the heavenly Father to show you an angel when he has never promised you such a thing, if the Devil never had an opportunity of deceiving you before, you give him one now."
However, about two days after, Mr. R. was persuaded to tempt God by asking this sign, which he knew to be contrary to his revealed will; he received a sign, and was convinced that Mormonism was true and divine. Wherefore, to make use of his own reasoning, we presume the Devil appeared to him in the form of an angel of light. The Monday following he was baptised. On the morning of the preceding day he had an appointment to preach in the Methodist chapel at Kirtland. He arose to address the congregation apparently much affected and deeply impressed. He seemed exceedingly humble, confessed the sins of his former life, his great pride, ambition, vainglory, &c. &c. After he was baptized, he professed to be exceedingly joyful, and said he would not be where he was three days ago for the universe. When reminded of the scriptural objection which he had made against praying for that which was not promised, he imputed his reasoning to pride, carnality, and the influence of the evil one. In short, the whole man seemed changed, so much so that Mrs. Rigdon said that Mr. Rigdon's appearance was enough to convince any one of the truth of their religion. Mr. R. and, indeed the whole of that sect, seem rather disposed to boast of their humility and piety. Mr. R. was formerly very irascible, but now thinks he cannot be ruffled, he was formerly haughty, but now affects great humility. The males among them wear a peculiar kind of hat[s], by which they distinguish themselves, and exhibit their humility; but while they are calling upon people, as it were, to come and see their humility, we cannot but call to mind an ancient anecdote: when Diogenes the Cynic, saw Plato with a richly embroidered cloak, he caught it from his shoulders, and cast it under his feet, saying "I trample upon the pride of Plato." --"Yes," said Plato, "but with a greater pride."
About three weeks after Mr. R. was baptized by Oliver Cowdery, he went to the state of New York, to see Joseph Smith, jr. while Cowdrey, with his three companions, proceeded on to the western Indians. Before they left us, however, they threw off their mask, and showed their cloven foot. They declared Joseph Smith to be that prophet predicted by Moses, Deut. xviii. 15, and applied to O. Cowdery prophetical declarations which are directly and particularly applied to John the Baptist, harbinger of the Messiah. When the apostle Peter and deacon Stephen were brought to confront them upon their application of Deut. xviii. 15, they would express wonder, saying, "do you think Christ was like Moses?"
Immediately after Mr. R. and the four pretended prophets left Kirtland, a scene of the wildest enthusiasm was exhibited, chiefly, however, among the young people; they would fall, as without strength, roll upon the floor, and, so mad were they that even the females were seen on a cold winter day, lying under the bare canopy of heaven, with no couch or pillow but the fleecy snow. At other times they exhibited all the apish actions imaginable, making grimaces both horrid and ridiculous, creeping upon their hands and feet, &c. Sometimes, in these exercises the young men would rise and play before the people, going through all the Indian maneuvers of knocking down, scalping, ripping open, and taking out the bowels. At other times, they would start and run several furlongs, then get upon stumps and preach to imagined congregations, baptize ghosts, &c. At other times, they are taken with a fit of jabbering after which they neither understood themselves nor anybody else, and this they call speaking foreign languages by divine inspiration. Again the young men are seen running over the hills in pursuit, they say, of balls of fire which they see flying through the air.
They say much about working miracles, and pretend to have that power. Cowdery and his fellows, essayed to work several while they tarried in Kirtland, one in particular, the circumstances of which I had from the Mormonites themselves. It was a young female who had been confined to her bed for two years -- they prayed over her, laying on hands, and commanded her in the name of Jesus Christ to rise up and walk; however, no effect appeared until the next day, when she was persuaded to leave her couch and attempt to walk. She arose, walked three or four steps, (which they told as a miracle) she then almost fainted, and was assisted back to her bed from which she's not since arisen. But as all their miracles have proved to be a mere sham, to speak vulgarly, the Mormonites have endeavored to save the credit of their prophets, by declaring that they never pronounced these people whole but only prayed for them -- but when confronted by one of the disciples in Kirtland upon the instance just mentioned, as it was so public they could not deny it, one of them said that he did not know but Cowdery did command her to arise, but if he did it was in a laughing, jesting way!!! --
Another of the Mormonites said Cowdery did not command her to arise, but merely asked her why she did not arise. Another instance of a man in Painesville, who was in the last stage of consumption, was attempted to be healed by Cowdery. A few days afterwards Mr. Rigdon was heard to say "that he would get well, if there was a God in Heaven!" He has since deceased. But these prophets had the policy to cover their retreat in these things, by saying that they would not recover immediately; the Lord would take his own time; and one of these people a few days ago, when put to the worst upon the subject, said that he did not think Cowdery would have attempted to do any miracles, had he have known how things would turn out.
Feb. 1. -- Mr. Rigdon just returned from the state of New York. His irascible temper only left him for a little season. Two friends went from Mentor to see him -- required of him a reason for his present hope, and for his belief in the Book of Mormon; he declined, saying he was weary, having just come off his journey; had lost much sleep, and the like. After a number of words had passed, by way of solicitation on one side, and refusal on the other, one of the friends from Mentor said he thought there was no more evidence to confirm the Book of Mormon than the Koran of Mahomet. At this Mr. Rigdon seemed very angry -- rose up and said, "Sir, you have insulted me in my own house -- I command silence -- If people that come to see us cannot treat us with civility, they may walk out of the door as soon as they please." The person then made some apology. Mr. R. said he had borne everything; he had been insulted and trampled upon by old and young; and he would bear it no longer. The other of the friends from Mentor expressed his astonishment, that a man who had just been exhorting others in so meek and humble a manner, as Mr. R. had been doing a few minutes before, should manifest such a spirit. Mr. R. denied that he was angry. The two friends bade him good night and departed. Two days after, I accompanied several friends to Mr. R.'s residence, we found him in conversation with a Methodist presiding elder -- that being soon broken off, one of my friends modestly approached Mr. R. and solicited him to give some reason for his present faith. Mr. R. with great show of good nature, commenced a long detail of his researches after the character of Joseph Smith; he declared that even his enemies had nothing to say against his character; he had brought a transcript from the docket of two magistrates, where Smith had been tried as a disturber of the peace, which testified that he was honorably acquitted. But this was no evidence to us that the Book of Mormon was divine. He then spoke of the supernatural gifts with which he said Smith was endowed; he said he could translate the scriptures from any language in which they were now extant, and could lay his finger on every interpolation in the sacred writings, adding, that he had proved him in all these things. But my friends knowing that Mr. Rigdon had no knowledge of any language but his own vernacular tongue, asked him how he knew these things, to which Mr. R. made no direct reply.
Mr. Smith arrived at Kirtland the next day; and being examined concerning his supernatural gifts by a scholar, who was capable of testing his knowledge, he confessed he knew nothing of any language, save the king's English.
Mr. R. asserted that our revelation came to us upon human testimony -- this we denied, and gave him reasons which he himself formerly urged against deists. He then said the old revelation was confirmed by miracles, but the Book of Mormon would never be; it was not designed to be thus confirmed. (And Mahomet said, nearly twelve centuries ago, "Moses and Jesus were empowered to work miracles, yet the people did not receive them; wherefore God had sent him without that attestation, to be the last and greatest prophet.") But in this Mr. R. contradicts his book, for that declares it is thus to be established.
We then asked Mr. R. what object we could have in receiving the Book of Mormon -- whether it enjoined a single virtue that the Bible did not, or whether it mentioned and prohibited a single additional vice, or whether it exhibited a new attribute of Deity? He said it did not. "The Book of Mormon," said he, "is just calculated to form and govern the millennial church; the old revelation was never calculated for that, nor could it accomplish that object; and without receiving the Book of Mormon, there is no salvation for anyone into whose hands it shall come." He said faith in the Book of Mormon was only to be obtained by asking the Lord concerning it. To this scriptural objections were made. He then said that if we had not familiarity enough with our Creator to ask of him a sign, we were no Christians; and, that if God would not condescend to his creatures, in this way, he was no better than Jaggernaut!!!!
Now, courteous reader, I have given a simple statement of facts for the purpose that you might not be deceived by the pretensions of these false prophets. They proclaim the ancient gospel, putting their own appendages to it. When they think it will best suit their purpose, they say nothing about the Book of Mormon, and at other times make it their chief topic. -- Mr. R. said to me, since he became a Mormonite, that it was no part of his religion to defend the Book of Mormon, he merely wished the people to give heed to the old revelation, to humble themselves, and enter into the privileges which it conferred upon its believing subjects. Again, there is no salvation without receiving the Book of Mormon! Mr. R. now blames Cowdery for attempting to work miracles, and says that it was not intended to be confirmed in that way. How then are we to obtain faith? Does the book offer any internal evidence of its divinity? If it does, it has not been discovered. It contains nothing but what might have been, and evidently was, borrowed from the sacred writings and from the history of the world. Was it so with the revelation that was from the beginning? far otherwise. A celebrated English writer, (Soam Jenyns) has proved to a demonstration, that the Christian religion is demonstrably divine, irrespective of any miracle that was ever wrought, from these premises, viz. that there were no writing or systems, then in the world, from which it could have been borrowed. Again, respecting Smith and his followers, do they give any proof of their honesty? They can give none but their own assertion; they have no sacrifice to make -- no loss of fortune or reputation to sustain -- they are in a land of liberty. Very different were the circumstances of those who first promulgated the "faith once delivered to the saints;" -- They had to forsake their relatives, leave their possessions, and forfeit their reputation. Scourging and torture, imprisonment and death, were often staring them in the face, and always in the prospective. Thirteen apostles, all, save one, sealed their testimony with their blood. So whether their religion was true or false, they proved their honesty. But Mormonism is to be proved from beginning to end by assertion, and this we have in whole numbers, without fractions. But we know that they cannot more roundly and positively assert than hundreds of impostors who have gone before them.
But we know who has said, "evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived," for which cause we are admonished to "continue in the things which we have learned, and been assured of, knowing from whom we have received them." The Pharisees said to the blind man, who had been healed by Jesus Messiah," we know that God spoke unto Moses, but as for this fellow we know not whence he is." So we say we know that "God has spoken unto us in these last days by his Son," but as for Joseph Smith we know not whence he is. But we know the scripture has said, "cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord; for he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land not inhabited." But the contrast is, "blessed is the man who trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is; for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that putteth out her root by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."
Now let me conclude with the conclusion of that revelation which begins with the beginning of time and ends with the end of time: "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." --
"And all the people shall say amen."
M. S. C.
To the Editor of the Telegraph.
THE MORMON CHALLENGE.
The following letter was elicited by a public challenge, given by SIDNEY RIGDON on the 30th ulto. in a public meeting held in Kirtland, at which persons from different States were present, in which he defied the world to refute the divine pretensions of the Book of Mormon. The said letter was respectfully presented on the 6th inst. by Nathan P. Goodell, accompanied by Isaac Moore, Esq. both respectable citizens of Kirtland, who inform me, that when he had read about half a dozen lines, till came to the epithet "infernal." which he found applied to his beloved book, he committed it to the flames, as Jehoiskim, the pious, mock and lowly King of Judah did Jeremiah's roll -- (Jer. 36, 23). Had Mr. R's boasted humility, meekness and patience not been so quickly exhausted, he would have been duly informed, that the writer meant neither to insult him, nor yet to depreciate his beloved author, more than Christ did the cavillous Jews, when he said to them, "ye are from beneath" -- (Jno. 8, 23.), not meaning that they were from hell, as he after explains himself in the following words, "ye are of this world." Had Mr. R. exercised as much patience as did those proud infidel Jews, he would have learned from my explanation in the very next sentence, that I applied the word infernal to the Book of Mormon, in a just and appropriate sense, according to the claims of the book itself, as being dug up out of the bowels of the earth, or from the bottom of a hill; and, therefore, justly styled infernal, taken in its primary literal sense, as I have explained and applied it in my letter. This, however, Mr. R. knows to be the easiest way to get rid of the matter, having no intention to verify his challenge, as he declared to the above named persons before my letter was presented. It also afforded him an opportunity of gratifying his proud resentment by a consequential high-blooded act of indignant retaliation, the most severe that was in his power to inflict; and which, in the mean time, I accept as a just expression of that spirit, which the Book of Mormon is calculated to inspire, and which has been as abundantly expressed in its murderous, scalping inspirations.
Without further preface or apology, the letter and the answer are hereby submitted to the public, whose right it is to form their own judgments of the merits of the cause at issue. And although the various topics of argument stated below, and designed to have been urged in the refutation of Mormonism, have not been argued, illustrated, and applied for that purpose, through Mr. R.'s failure to make good his empty, boastful challenge, which it appears he has no intention of hazarding, for he fears the light, and therefore cautiously avoids investigation -- they, nevertheless, stand as the pillars of Hercules, the insuperable barriers to the feigned pretentions of Mormonism, for the defence of all who do not willfully and blindly submit to become dupes of a shameless combination of unprincipled religious swindlers -- whose unhallowed design is to rob the simple both of their salvation and their property.
MENTOR, Feb. 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 superseded by the book of Mormon -- is become a dead letter -- so dead, that the belief and obedience of it, 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 adjacent towns, that may appear most eligible for the accommodation of the public.
The sooner this 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 wonderful changed since he gave the former revelation of his will for that important purpose, if he do[es] not require you so to do, for he was then willing that all men should come to the knowledge of the 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 referred 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 & 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 ismed since the commencement of 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 all good works. 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 shall illustrate and confirm by showing,
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
1. By examining the character of its author and his accomplices, as far as documents for that purpose may have come to hand.
2. 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.
3. We shall next proceed to expose the anti-scriptural assertion, 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, Matt. xvi. 18.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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, & 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 millennium, 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 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 & 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 benefited; 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,
Note 1: The correspondent "M. S. C." was undoubtedly the Rev. Matthew S. Clapp, son of the Campbellite Deacon, Orris Clapp. Matthew was Sidney Rigdon's first convert in Mentor, Ohio, to the new Campbellite "reformation" of Baptist doctrine. Rigdon baptised Matthew in Mentor during the late spring of 1828, effectively beginning the transformation of Rigdon's Baptist congregation in that town into a group fully supporting the religious views of the Rev. Alexander Campbell. See Matthew's biographical sketch on page 197 of Amos S. Hayden's Early History of the Disciples... Matthew's brother, Henry H. Clapp (1812-1897), also furnished some personal reminiscences of Rigdon, Mormonism, etc. in 1879.
Note 2: For Sidney Rigdon's and Joseph Smith's less than positive opinion regarding Matthew and his family, see the Dec. 1835 issues of the LDS Messenger & Advocate.
Note 3: The Rev. David Staats Burnet reprinted the 1831 Matthew S. Clapp article, along with other material from Howe's newspaper, in the Mar. 7, 1831 issue of his Campbellite paper, the Evangelical Inquirer. Burnet's compilation, entitled "Something New -- The Golden Bible" was a sort of precursor to Eber D. Howe's own 1834 book, Mormonism Unvailed. The Rev. Clark Braden, in 1891, credited his fellow Campbellite minister, Matthew S. Clapp, for furnishing a considerable portion of the material published in Howe's book. See chaps. 8 & 9 of that book for most of the material apparently supplied or confirmed by Mr. Clapp.
Note 4: Dan Vogel, in the fifth volume of his Early Mormon Documents, assigns the probable date of Sidney Rigdon's Mormon baptism to Monday, Nov. 8, 1830, basing his calculation largely upon Matthew S. Clapp's words: "The Monday following he [Rigdon] was baptised. On the morning of the preceding day he had an appointment to preach in the Methodist chapel at Kirtland." Rigdon's biographer, Richard S. Van Wagoner concurs on these dates and they are very likely the correct ones for Rigdon's first public preaching of Mormonism among his followers in Kirtland and his baptism there the following day.
Note 5: Rev. Rigdon's reported remark, "The Book of Mormon is just calculated to form and govern the millennial church; the old revelation was never calculated for that, nor could it accomplish that object," evidently states, in a nutshell, Rigdon's reason for promulgating the book and its message. Rigdon's sentiments in this regard were also recollected by several of his auditors, through the years, and additionally they can be found scattered through the pages of his own paper, the Messenger and Advocate, published at Pittsburgh in later years. Rigdon's basic argument seems to have been that the gathering of Israel upon the American continent, the rise of the millennial church there, and the re-establishment of the "ancient gospel" in latter days is not clearly spelled out in the Christian Bible -- and that additional revelation/scripture was required "to form and govern the millennial church" he so much desired to create and promote.
WORD FAITH INDEX
CATHOLIC CHURCH INDEX