Mormon History

The Inventor of Mormonism - 1879

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune July 25, 1879


Sidney Rigdon the Chief Inventor of
the Latter-day Dispension.

Says Orson Pratt: "The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record, written by a succession of prophets who inhabited Ancient America. It professes to be revealed to the present generation for the salvation of all who will receive it, and for the overthrow and damnation of all who reject it. This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man; if false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose themselves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are plunged with their families into hopeless despair.

"The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such that, if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive and receive it. Therefore, every soul in all the world is equally interested in ascertaining its truth or falsity. If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such. The evidences and arguments on which


should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived may perceive the nature of the deception and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion may be exposed and silenced." -- Introduction to "Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon."

When those who continue to publish the delusion shall have answered the evidences and arguments already put forth, that not only the Book of Mormon, but the entire system of Mormonism is a fraud of human contrivance, thereby manifesting to the world their candor and unfortunate sincerity, by showing at least that they have something to offer in their own defense and in behalf of their books and system, beyond the simple "feel ing" that they "know" such and such things to be true, (in spite of any amount of evidence to the contrary,) a statement perhaps painfully clear and distressingly logical of the evidences and arguments on which the imposture was detected, will be cheerfully presented. Meanwhile, the bare internal evidence that


is so apparent and so overwhelming to the present writer that it seems hardly worth the time and labor of serious consideration.

As long ago as the fore part of 1831, Mr. Thomas Campbell promptly accepted a challenge made to the world by Sidney Rigdon to disprove the Book of Mormon, addressing Rigdon a courteous, friendly letter of some dozen printed pages, in which he gave Rigdon a fair and full statement of his intended method of defenze and attack. In this letter Campbell says:

"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. 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 publicity to the proposed discussion, -- say one week after your reception of this proposal to accept the challenge you have publicly given."

My Campbell opens his letter to Rigdon thus:

" 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 the public, to which we both stand pledged, you, as a professed disciple and public teacher of


and I as a professed disciple of the supernal book of the old and New Testament 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 adjoining towns that may appear most eligible for the accommodation of the public. The sooner the investigation takes place, the better for all concerned," etc.


Rigdon, when he came to the expression "Infernal Book of Mormon," committed this letter hastily to the flames, no doubt glad of any excuse to back out of the discussion. Had he met Thomas Campbell the probability is that Mormonism would soon have ceased to exist. That "infernal Book of Mormon," like young Matthew Clapp's "it's all a lie," struck home. But who was Rigdon, that he should take the matter so seriously to heart? He was a simple and very recent convert, you know; had not been in the Church three months. He had just returned from visiting Joseph for the first time in New York. Joseph and he were acquaintances of but a few weeks; whereas Campbell and he had been companions-in-arms for years in the Disciples' fold together. Why should Rigdon manifest such a sudden sense of responsibility? It is wonderful -- wonderful, when you once commence to pick this fraud to pieces.

Here is a striking revelation to Edward Partridge, the firts bishop of the Mormon Church, given in December, 1830, when he and Rigdon visited Smith in New York. Mind, Rigdon then had only been acquainted with the Prophet Joseph a few days: "Thus saith the Lord God, the Mighty One of Israel, behold I say unto you, my servant Edward, that you are blessed, and your sins are forgiven you, and you are called to preach my gospel, as with the voice of a trump, and I will lay my hand upon you


(Rigdon) and you shall receive my spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom. And you shall declare it with a loud voice saying, Hosanna, blessed by the name of the Most High God. And now this calling and commandment give I unto all men, that as many as shall come before my servant Sidney and Joseph, embracing this calling and commandment, shall be ordained and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel," etc.

"My servant Sidney" appears to have a surprisingly sudden pre-emmence over the Lord's prophet. "The Lord" lays his hand upon Partridge by the hand of Rigdon, [here's a] "proxy" for you; the first four miles. But where is Joseph? Why are all the human family expected to present themselves before "my servant Sidney (1) and Joseph (2)" when Sidney is a raw recruit, and especially when the Lord has his prophet? Said Rigdon shortly after his "conversion" to Mormonism, "If Smith could be proved a liar, or should say himself that he never found the Book of Mormon as he reported, I should still believe the Book." What amazing faith! What a truly marvelous convert! Rigdon, it will be remembered, obtained a knowledge of the truth of the Book of Mormon almost immediately upon its being presented to him, "by the testimony of the spirit." And that is the [same?] plan laid down in the Book itself. "The things of God can only be discerned by the spirit of God." That is the one song they sing, Rigdon himself pitching the key note of the fanaticism: "open your mouths and shut your eyes." Does not all this appear odd, O! my friends? Verily it doth, "to a man up a tree." But Mr. Pratt and Mr. Any-other-Saint may spare their theories. The thing is a farce, a wicked farce, at times a tragical and bloody farce, but it is about played out to the bitter end. Here are a few more keys, and with these I shall pause, for if Mr. Pratt desires argument and evidence they are thick as leaves in Vallombrosa. Why will the most learned of the apostolic brotherhood be so stupid? Has he lost all common sense? Is all his natural clearness of discernment


He has been outrageously imposed upon in his youth, no question of that, as so many others more have been; but don't for goodness sake, impose upon your own understanding.

Do not any longer mistake Sidney Rigdon for God Almighty.

I say this deliberately, without irreverance. That terrible mistake has been made too long. As the Mormon coin is seen to bear the Rigdon image (if not the Rigdon superacription,) now let us render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

An editorial on "Keys" Times and Seasons, Dec. 25th, 1844), John Taylor editor, thus concludes, "And even the great Anti Christ of the last days, who would fain make the world believe -- the Saints know better -- that he is 'my Servant, the Branch,' holding the before-mentioned key of David, has gone to Pittsburg to prepare for war." This has reference to Rigdon.

Rigdon of course dared not make open claim of having been the founder of Mormonism; the cardinal pretension was that God instituted the system through Joseph Smith, Jr., who was set up to be the "prophet," the target and figure-head, his notorious illiteracy was to be both shield and spear. It is highly edifying to learn what Rigdon did think prudent and safe to arrogate to himself --


and to trace his maneuverings. He claimed, -- did he -- to be "my servant, the Branch," spoken of in the Bible (Zechariah v, 12) and in the Book of Mormon; and to be the person spoken of, Revelation iii. 7, as "he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth."

O ho! By indirection, then, after his prophet's death, and when figuring for the successorship, Rigdon did claim, as pointedly as he dared, to be the one who "opened" this Latter-day Dispensation, holding authority to open and to shut, etc. We find this key on the house of David again referred to in the Bible, Isaiah xxii. 22: "And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulders; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut and none shall open." Rigdon would fain have made the Saints believe he held that wonderful key of David. But "the Saints knew better." Did they, though?

It is a striking and suggestive fact, that Rigdon, alone of the Latter-day Apostates, whould have been characterized as Anti Christ by his former brethren and by the present President of Mormondom; that he should have been proclaimed to the world as "the great Anti Christ of the last days," yet the Church which he founded be the Church of Christ.

There was a scheme and a carefully elaborated scheme in this man's plunderings and perversions and expansions of Scripture: half conscientious, half crazed. By poring over the Bible, and especially the prophecies, Rigdon had worked himself up to the belief that these were indeed the last days and that he himself was an instrument in the hands of God to open "the dispensation of the fullness of times." But as to being exactly a prophet, he was shrewd enough to know that he was not thus called, that in the political role he would not and could not prove a success. He had been too long before the public, his peculiarities were too well known. Were he to discover the same plates, those pesky "Campbellites" would be after him with a sharp stick. And did he not read that the weak things of the world were to confound the wise? If he could act more safely and with better effect as spokesman, and a wire-puller behind the scenes -- Conscientious! Yes, in a degree, if there be any conscience in a religious craze.

"My Servant the branch shall build the temple of the Lord" (Zach. vi. 12). Who does give [demensions], directions, etc., for building the first temple, at Kirtland? Why, who but Sidney Rigdon? What is the substituted name for Kirtland in the Mormon revelations? Shinehah. "To build a house in the land of Shinar," says Zechariah v. 11. Let the reader who is interested in finding out who is really the author and finisher of his or her faith in Mormonism, read the account of the services at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. Note, that Rigdon, in the


that of washing of feet, is the boy to ape Jesus and gird himself with a towel and that he first washes Jospeh's, then old man Smith's and Hyrum's feet, and then has his feet washed by the prophet of the Nineteenth Centry. Who's boss, pray? Note Rigdon's text xviii Maithew, 18, 19, 20 verses. Note especially the bearing of the 19th verse: "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven." Inspired translation and correction has this verse, "so that they ask not amiss," showing that the passage in which the "two" were spoken of had been dwelt upon. Who dedicates the centre stake of Zion, with its temple lot? Why, Sidney Rigdon. Again, the "two olive trees" so nauseatingly dwelt upon and elaborated in the Book of Mormon, and the "two olive branches." We had the germ of this ridiculous and preposterous expansion in Zechariah, fourth chapter, toward the end, and which is likewise strikingly suggestive of


in the revelation business. "Then," said he, "these are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The inspired translation and correction of the Holy Scriptures renders this verse, "the two anointed ones that stand before the Lord of the whole earth." This verse, then, was likewise dwelt upon long enough to be changed. And is not this just what these two individuals have done -- thrust themselves with their vapid revelations before the Lord and elbowed him out of the way? The world does not require human mediators and go betweens. All priesthood is summed up in Christ, who is the


Such, as I understand, is the Christian scheme.

The system known as Mormonism can never be thoroughly understood and successfully grappled with until the nature and character of its real founder are understood. We may go blindly and blunderlingly dealing with results and secondary causes till Doomsday; the true solution of the anomaly will not be reached. Viewed superficially, as a lawless fanaticism and excrescence, idle the thought of extirpating it from the hearts of its votaries by force of law, while the idea expressed now and again of subduing Mormonism by the sword is, to say the least, extremely far fetched and premature. It is continually provocative of "bad blood," is altogether gratuitous, confusing and unnecessary. The rational, the humane, the common-sense method is best, and that is to know and to show who originated and started Mormonism. This point once clearly settled and made plain to the comprehension, whether of Mormon or non-Mormon, there will thenceforth be but little difficulty in the


Then, and not till then, will the root of bitterness, altercation, distrust and hate be plucked out of the deluded Mormon mind. God speed that day! Enough said about "our enemies." That is over -- the slogan of selfish, hate-breeding Imposture. Let Mormons but once find out and become clearly satisfied, that they have been grossly and most outrageously imposed upon by pretended divine revelation, by a pretended divine ordination of priestly rule, and that the man Sidney Rigdon was the author and contriver and fashioner of both divine revelation and divine ordination, and they will themselves solve the Mormon problem in short order. Meanwhile if any individual Mormon feels himself so secure in the divine authority of his system as to flout the idea of its merely human origin, there never was a better opportunity than the present to have the matter squarely tested.