Mormon History

An Appeal to the Latter-day Saints - 1879

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune September 17, 1879


There is a little, out-of-the-way pamphlet which Mormons should get, and which they should read, mark, and inwardly digest. I do not refer to the earliest edition of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, published in 1832, titled Book of Commandments, although that, likewise, would well repay a careful and critical perusal, but to a work known as Rigdon's Appeal.

This was published as late as 1863, and purports to have been written by three of Rigdon's friends. They may have written parts of it -- not all. The fierce and trampling "hoof" is too apparent here and there. If read with care (and, as the saying is, between the lines,) this Appeal tells who the fabricator of Mormonism was. The fact that Rigdon himself was this real, though hidden weaver amd fabricator of Mormonism, has been an open secret among the more enlightened and discerning, inside as well as outside of Mormondom, from the very first. 'Tis no new idea. It only now happens to be crowded home. And let whoever thinks he can gainsay it, make the attempt. Among the living, how many of the leading elders -- of those highest in authority and longest in the Church -- are aware of this fact, (in Brigham Young's phrase) "'tis not for me to say." That some among them must know it and do know it hardly admits of a doubt.

(Why, did not Apostle Orson Pratt, as long ago as the [winter of 1858?], know that the prophet Joseph was on record in his history --under his own hand -- using the pronoun "I," -- as having translated a portion of those hieroglyphics which Elder Pratt said, in a secret meeting, it was discovered had been made by Messrs. Fugate and Wiley and placd by them in the mound in Kinderhook, Illinois, in 1843? More secrecy, and evermore more secrecy. What's the good? Soon or late, murder will out. (The truth cannot be gagged forever. To go back to Rigdon).

It may be urged in behalf of Rigdon that he had worked himself up into a sort of half-crazed conviction that he was the agent, or messenger, of the Lord, that he had been sent forth even as John to prepare the way before the Lord's coming, etc., and that he may have been more or less sincere and conscientious in carrying out what he conceived to be certain divine purposes. But this is a shadow of extenuation -- no more. It was for him, as an honest man, if he fancied he held this agency, or ministry, to present his papers. It was not for him (as an honest man) to beat about the bush, but to come out squarely and "tell it all." It was for him (as an honest man) to be exact and explicit as to time, place and circumstances, and then let the world judge. But this is not the way fanaticism and imposture work. This is not the way imposture and fanaticism are poisted upon the world and fostered in credulous minds. They operate under cover and in secret. Their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? They are not exact, frank, direct; but obscure and tortuous. They live and move and weave their spells in the darkness and the fog. They utter forth their oracles from the cloud. In a word, they are not open but secret. We are told that every one that doeth evil hateth the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God. (This searching passage is, of course, altered in Rigdon's Inspired Translation and Correction of the Holy Scriptures.)

Said Rigdon in a sermon delivered in Nauvoo, April 1844: "The Church never would have been here, if we had not done as we did in secret." There it is: secrecy -- secrecy, from first to last, from beginning to end. Truth loves open dealing. That cannot be too often repeated. But when people are to be hoodwinked and imposed upon, when woman is to be cajoled and betrayed, secrecy is the thing. Truth loves open dealing. But Eve's daughters will still be curious, and this fatal curiosity if often their downfall. In the new Woman's Era let us hope there will be no secret conclaves. Priests, or not priests, let them know "men were deceivers ever." O, that both men and women would learn to abhor (as the high and noble ones of the race always do abhor) secrecy. Truth loves open dealing. Fling out that banner on the outward wall. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Open rebuke is better than secret love. And what a saying is this -- how it smites down this whole Latter-day folly with a breath. "If they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the secret chambers, believe it not." Yet still the News croons and twaddles, "We (Saints) shall be the first to know of Christ's coming. He is to come first to us. He will come 'suddenly' to the Temple which we are building for him here at Salt Lake, or, possibly, (if he be in a hurry --a nd who knows but he nay be -- in a desperate hurry -- possibly) to the Temple we have already erected for him at St. George. Anyhow, He is certain to come to some one or more of our secret chambers here in the desert." Be not deceived. God is not mocked.

The following are passages from Rigdon's Appeal.

Here is the sum of the whole matter. The Lord had said, in the Book of Mormon, that He would raise up to Joseph Smith a spokesman, and the Spirit said, in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, that Sidney Rigdon was that spokesman. The case then stands thus, Joseph Smith was to translate the Book of Mormon, and Sidney Rigdon was to take take it, and gather Israel. The prophet Malachi had said that before Christ came, He would send his messenger, and he should prepare the way before Him. Joseph Smith said that Sidney Rigdon was that messenger. It appears further that he (Rigdon) was called to this work before he and Joseph ever saw each other, for the Spirit says, "Thou wast sent forth even as John to prepare the way," etc. It does not say. I will send thee forth, but thou wast sent forth before this time (i. e. before December, 1830). Here is a great fact disclosed, that Joseph Smith was never called to gather Israel, and prepare the way way before Christ, but another man. He (Joseph) had the gift to make known who it was the Lord had chosen for this greatest of all works, but was not the man himself to do it. The Lord said he would prepare a priesthood with which he would gather Israel. Joseph Smith said that Sidney Rigdon held that priesthood.

The form of expression used about bringing this priesthood to light certainly calls for a remark in this place from us. It was said to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith that they had the keys of the gift to bring this priesthood to light. Rather a singular form of expression. We have seen in a former quotation, taken from the Doctrine and Covenants, 11th section and second paragraph, that the priesthood in question, at the time the revelation was given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, was only in the Divine mind; it had been communicated to no living person, not even to the one (Rigdon) who had been sent forth to discharge its duties. Joseph Smith nor Oliver Cowdery had never heard tell of him who was to hold this priesthood, and the Lord said through Joseph Smith to Sidney Rigdon, that he had been sent forth as John, but he knew it not.

This was the position things were in when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had the keys of the gift bestowed on them to bring the priesthood to light. Oliver Cowdery was the man who brought the Book of Mormon to Sidney Rigdon (entire strangers to each other), and presented it as a revelation, and asked him to give it a reading. He did so, and the Spirit of Truth which was in him pronounced it a revelation. The consequence was that Oliver Cowdery baptized him, and he was introduced into the Church. So that conjointly they had the keys of the gift, that is, they had power given to them, conjointly, to bring to light a something which was alone in the mind of the Deity. They got the man, and then the Lord told Joseph Smith that this man was the person whom He had sent forth to prepare the way before Him and Elijah which was to come * * * *

Leaving this part of the subject here, we proceed to consult the books upon the subject of the fulfillment of prophecy, as connected with the Lord's messenger. In the preceeding part of this Appeal, it has been clearly understood. the way the Lord took to perfect His priesthood by literature of the highest order. Isaiah has a saying that gives additional strength to those literary acquirements. We take as transferred into the Book of Mormon, 2d Nephi, 8th chapter, where the prophet said the Lord would give to his servant "the tongue of the learned." Its being transferred into the Book of Mormon shows that this giving of the tongue of the learned was to take place in connection with the coming forth of that book.

The extensive literature that had to be obtained by the priesthood was, as we here see, to fulfill a prophecy, and also what is said in the fifth section, 86th paragraph of the Doctrine and Covenants, that when His servant turned to the Jews, the arm of the Lord would be revealed in power, has its connections and basis in the prophecy of Isaiah. Such as the following: "The Lord will make bare his arm in the sight of all nations, and the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God." And again: "Awake! awake! Put on thy strength, O arm of the Lord!" As also: "Mone arm judge the people." All of the above are transferred to the Book of Mormon. * * * The result of all is that Christ is to raise a man to redeem Israel that will represent himself, will be a personification of himself, and will rule and direct the affairs of his kingdom exactly as he would do it, were he in person. And so comes the rule of righteousness on the earth, before Christ comes, so that when the prophet Isaiah says, "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him," etc., all this righteousness and peace will be exercised by and through a man whom the Lord has chosen for the purpose; yea, the very man whom He has called to prepare the way before Him; and his having this transferred into the Book of Mormon, was for the express purpose of letting us know this important fact. * * *

This question resolves itself into the following facts. Was Joseph Smith inspired of the Lord to translate the Book of Mormon? And did the Holy Ghost [indite] the Book of Doctrine and Covenants? If so, there can be no question about whom the Lord has chosen to be his messenger, to recover the house of Joseph and restore the tribes of Jacob. Or, on the other hand, was Joseph Smith the most scandalous and heaven-daring wretch that ever lived, not even Judas Iscariot excepted? One or the other of these is true. If the first, the Lord will indicate Himself. If the latter, our religion is false as Satan and as corrupt as the [haunts] of perdition. As the Lord is a God of truth, He will act according to what He has caused to be written, and all those who are acting in opposition wil by and by open their eyes in hell, being in torment, and of this there can be no doubt.

Pray, what is the meaning, what is the full significance of the fact of a secret association and understanding and contrivance between Rigdon and Smith for some years prior to the advent and launching forth of the Mormon work? why has the previous acquaintance between these two persons been systematically concealed and denied? Truth loves open dealing.

But the question is, not whether one of two human beings started Mormonism, but whether divinity originated and organized it, and in answer to this question rests and (in the judgment of the present writer) can solely rest, "the solution of the Mormon problem." The longest way round is the shortest way home, when "home" lies across some big Serbonian bog. And in view of the [-----ed] and multiform imbecilities of the past, government and other, the plunging up to the ears in mud, will o' the wisp policies, and what not, in dealing with Mormonism, it may well be asked if the present is not, after all is said and done, likely to prove the most direct, pacific and effectual way of finally settling the question "all round."

If for over half a century the Mormon people have been contributing of their strength, their time, their faith, their energies and their subsistence to gather together from the four quarters of the globe, to build temples, "to build up the Kingdom of God on earth," at the command of the Lord -- well, well enough, if in so doing they do not run counter to the laws of the land; but if they have been doing all this at the (covert) command of Sidney Rigdon, that should be fully known, and the man Sidney should have all the glory of it.

Note: The obscure pamphlet that James T. Cobb refers to in the above article was the 1863 booklet, An Appeal to the Latter-day Saints, compiled and published at Philadelphia by Rigdonites Joseph H. Newton, William Richards, and William Stanley. See Elder Josiah Ells' response to these 1860s Rigdonite efforts in the RLDS Saints' Herald for Jan. 15, 1864 and Feb. 1, 1864 Rigdon's biographer, Richard Van Wagoner passes over the 1860s "Philadelphia Renaissance" of Sidney Rigdon church with barely a single mention -- see his 1994 Sidney Rigdon, p. 405.