Mormon History

Mormon Baptismal Regeneration - 1881

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune

April 7, 1881


Baptism for Remission of Sins First Preached by the Campbellites.

"We did not receive any doctrine which we believe in, nor ordinance that has ever been taught, nor any principle pertaining to the salvation or exaltation of the human family, from men, nor from any system of divinity or theology. For everything we know we are indebted to the revelations of Jesus Christ made unto us. Now is this the Church of man? I do not think it is."

The above extract is from remarks made recently by John Taylor, President of Mormonism, published in the Deseret News of March 19, 1881.

"Now is this the Church of man? I do not think it is." This may be fairly taken as Mr. Taylor's ironical and sarcastical way of putting the matter. He surely knows Mormonism is not the Church of man, only he may be tired of reiterating that, and hence, (with a wink to the initiated) "I do not think it is."

Baptism for the remission of sins is a cardinal principle, doctrine and ordinance, lying at the very basis of Mormonism. It is, however, nowhere [sic] taught or even referred to in the suppletory Mormon bible -- the Book of Mormon. In "His ministrations upon this land," an account of which is given in the Book of Mormon, the American Jesus nowhere commands his American disciples to be baptized or to baptize others for the remission of sins.

To the so-called Campbellite and Irvingite systems of divinity or theology Mormonism is much more largely indebted than its dupes and unread, simple minded adherents have any idea of. It is not generally known among Mormons that the Disciples, (Campbellites,) unlike ordinary sect founders, announced the ushering in and establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth. And this is where the Mormon Kiungdom idea originated. Ridiculously wrested as the idea was by Sidney Rigdon to suit his idiosyncrasies and hobbies of a literal kingdom, with one man, (himself secretly) at the head of it, representing and inspiring, in loco Dei, until Christ should come, still the conception in its germ is to be found among the Campbellite disciples long before Mormonism was heard of.

President Garfield, himself a born Disciple, (Campbellite,) must know the utter fraud and fungus upon his own religion Mormonism is. The President's religion -- I should say, speaking in general terms, the Disciples' religion -- had the Bible alone for its base. Belonging to the town of Mentor, Ohio, where in 1830 the sham conversion of Rigdon to Mormonism occurred, although the President belongs to a younger generation, he, with the Clapps, the Haydens and others from that quarter of Ohio, known as the Western Reserve, must be exceptionally well informed respecting Mormonism and, despite his little lapse or, possibly, complaisence in referring in his inaugural to the Mormon institution as "the Mormon Church," the President knows that there is no such thing in the book as the Mormon Church, but that the concern thus designated is a most barefaced and outrageous imposition. Church indeed! Charlatanry never yet founded a church. "Tis a contradiction in terms.

The Reformation (or, more properly, Restoration) of the Disciples, as an organic movement, may be dated from the appointment, in the fall of 1827, of Walter Scott as its Evangelist.

At this Conference Jacob Osborne was moderator and John Rudolph clerk. Mr. Rudolph is the father-in-law of President Garfield. At this great conference of Campbellites convened in New Lisbon, Columbiana county, Ohio, August 23d, 1827 (the Mormon claim is that Joe Smith received from "the angel" his sacred plates, from which he translated the Book of Mormon, Sept. 23d, 1827), Sidney Rigdon was present and took part in the proceedings of the Disciples Conference, doubtless fully expecting that he himself would be set apart as its Evangelist. Rigdon was at that time living in Mentor, Ohio, close to Kirtland, having recently left the little town of Bainbridge, Ohio, where (from information for which the present writer is indebted to the neice of Mrs. Rigdon, who lived under the Rigdon roof at that time) greatly to the concern of Mrs. R. for her husband's health, Mr. Rigdon was for some months secretly and [seduiously?] engaged over a mysteriously and carefully guarded manuscript of a very questionable character, which manuscript is known to have been in Rigdon's possession in the year 1823 -- the annus mirabilis in Mormon history -- as it was shown by Rigdon at that time to Rev. John Winter (father-in-law of Justice Miller of the United States Supreme Court) and then described by Rigdon to his visitor, Mr. Winter, as "a Biblical romance that had been brought by a clergyman, whose health had failed, to a Pittsburg printer for publication."

But, in order to show conclusively and beyond cavil, to the misguided and imposed upon Mormon that this doctrine -- baptism for the remission of sins -- was no matter of special "revelation" whether to a Mormon or to any one else, but that it was gradually evolved by dint of critical and scholarly investigation, some gleanings may be given from the writings, personal and general, of that dear saint in glory now, who was the Disciples' historian, and who, with his brother, founded the Hiram Eclectic Institute, the Presidency of which Garfield left to go into the war, in a letter of the 3rd of April, 1879, Mr. Hayden writes

"Mr. Campbell never learned the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins from the Baptists, as I understand President J. Smith, (the 'Josephite President,) to say. He got a help toward it in a work by A. McLean, of Scotland, in a treatise, titled 'The Great Commission,' but he laid fully hold of it only from an extended and critical study of the New Testament, He was long coming to it. In his great discussion, in 1823, with W. L. McCalla, of Kentucky, he used the doctrine in an argumentative way against his opponent. Sidney Rigdon attended that most instructive debate. From that time the doctrine was occasionally the subject of essay in Mr. Campbell's periodical, the Christian Baptist, afterward the Millennial Harbinger. But in 1827 it was practically put forth and used in conversions, and set this whole land ablaze."

Rigdon's defection from the Baptist society occurred in 18[23]. On page 141 of his history, Mr. Hayden says

"Perhaps Bro. Osborne, more than any other man, prepared the way for the more complete ministration of the gospel which was soon to surprise the churches, and reform their modes of speech and action. He led on biblical investigations quite regardless of the dogmata of creeds and conventional forms of speech. He saw clearly the need of an extensive and thorough revision and correction of the terms and phrases, hackneyed and human, in which people were accustomed to talk of conversion and its kindred themes, and the substitution for them of the more appropriate and divinely authorized language of the Holy Spirit. In all this he was only abreast, scarcely ahead, of many others."

At a meeting between Osborne, and Scott, and Bentley in the fall of 1827 (Hayden's history, p. 69)

"Osborne, turning to Scott, asked him 'if he had ever thought that baptism in the name of the Lord was for the remission of sins?' * * * adding, 'it is certainly established for that purpose.'"

"A little later Scott said to Osborne, 'You are the boldest man I ever saw! Don't you think so, Bro. Bentley?' (Bentley was Rigdon's brother-in-law) 'Why he said in his sermon that no one had a right to expect the Holy Spirit till after baptism.'" -- (page 70)

In the winter of 1827-8 Brother Scott opened


"He contended for the restoration of the true, original Apostolic order, which would restore to the Church the ancient gospel as preached by the Apostles. In powers of analysis and combination Scott has been rarely equaled. Under his classification the great elements of the gospel bearing on the conversion of sinners, assumed the following definite, rational, and scriptural order: 1, faith, 2, repentance, 3, baptism, 4, remission of sins, 5, the holy spirit; 6, eternal life, through a patient continuance in well doing. * * * The Key of Knowledge was now in his possession. * * * The whole scripture sorted itself into a plain and intelligible system in illustration and proof of this elementary order of the gospel. The darkened cloud withdrew. A new era for the gospel had dawned."

Mr. Hayden says: "In 1827 baptism for the remission of sins was practically put forth and used in conversions, and set the whole land ablaze." No words I have power to put together and employ can adequately measure the awful, the stupendous iniquity this man Rigdon has, under the guidance of wicked spirits, and still all in the economy of Divine Providence, been instrumental in working out. Lying in the name of the Lord -- can anything go beyond that in enormity? Is not murder itself involved in it? Has not murder, nay massacre, been the fruit, the natural, the inevitable fruit of that first taking the name of God in vain? Ah, young Utah, think of these things and lay them well to heart. So far as finite vision or judgment can reveal, so far as one may measure, not judge, between man and man (only He who sees everything can judge righteously of aught) the wrong doing of Joseph Smith sinks almost into insignificence alongside the crazed, colossal iniquity of Sidney Rigdon. Try the spirits. Yes, never was it more imperatively incumbent to try the spirits than at this very hour. 'Tis a master spirit of delusion, this Mormon master spirit. And yet, for all that, a child may master it. Resist the devil and he will flee from you, but yield to him a hair's breadth and, a million to one, he will get you in his fatal, benumbing clutch. The Book of Mormon -- that's the first hair's breadth in this Satanic delusion. Find out with your own natural, God given powers all you possibly can about that wretched book and its real origin, counting no fact valuless, no way to the exact truth laborious, and if then you are not satisfied in your inmost soul that that book is fraud, if you still have any feeling of doubt concerning its truth or falsity, then it may become a proper subject of petition; then if you find that you still "lack wisdom" in the matter ask God to enlighten the eyes of your understanding concerning it. You will get an answer to prayer then, and a truthful one. But most Mormons have neglected to take this all essential first step, (as it was fully calculated they would,) and the consequence has been, a spirit, whose power is not to be underrated nor despised, but borne testimony, in thousands upon thousands of cases, that a palpable lie is Heaven's own truth. Thus this poor infatuated people have been led deeper and deeper into the vortex of folly and delusion and sin. The spirit of truth never yet bore testimony to one single soul that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be....

It only required some Rigdon (the Disciples' Judas and Janus) to claim special divine authority and commission to baptize. This was done. Mormonism is the result. "No counterfeit," says Mr. Hayden, "ever showed more clearly a corrupted copy."

Is to-day the 7th of April, 1881? That is no surer than that authoritative Mormonism is a bogus thing.

This is a sweeping assertion, and it is meant to be. The qualifying word, "authoritative," is not loosely but designedly here placed before "Mormonism," since, while the possession of spiritual mediumship, with all that term implies, may be conceded -- a fatal dowry -- to Joseph Smith, extenuating and in some sort accounting for him and his vagaries, in view of all the well known and compromising facts of his career, in which the dupe and the charlatan are both palpably to be seen, neither he nor his sayings and doings can, by any impartial jusgment, be received as authoritative. And it is of prime importance to every thoughtful and conscientious Mormon man and woman to separate the strange youth Joe -- the visionary spiritual medium, and eventually the "Prophet Joseph" -- (Rigdon's "Prophet") from the conscious and responsible impostor. This is a work of no slight difficulty, but it can be done and it will be done. A long step was taken in this direction by the "New Movement" of Godbe and Harrison some years ago (Their "coming man," by the bye, never came. He died near Pittsburgh, 1876). But there must be no more blinking of ugly and patent facts. What is demanded is the exact truth, the round unvarnished facts so far as these can now be dragged to light, with malice toward none, living or dead, but with charity to all stat justitia, ---- ------

Once [you] get the clew of this Mormon labyrinth in the concealed hand of Sidney Rigdon and the whole mystery is as plain as A. B. C., and it is almost incredible that old Mormons should not have discovered it years and years ago. But "judge not." It is possible that you are so infatuated with it, so fatally involved in it, that you do not know Mormonism to be a fraud, John Taylor? And yet hundreds, perhaps thousands, of persons who are but born idiots, are looking up to you for spiritual light and guidance, temporal and spiritual, yourself by no means a born idiot.   VINDEX.

Note: The above anonymous correspondent contributed a number of similar letters to the Tribune editors during the early 1880s. His familiarity with both the situation in Utah and the early history of the LDS movement, suggests that he was a serious, albeit it religiously zealous, student and critic of Mormonism. The correspondent's reference to his being "indebted to the neice of Mrs. Rigdon" for certain historical information, links him in some way with the 1879 statement of Mrs. Amos Dunlap, as first published on page 434 of Boyd Crumrine's 1882 History of Washington County, Pennsylvania -- in Rev. Robert Patterson, Jr's. section on "Religious History." Evidently the Tribune's anonymous contributor was also in contact with Pittsburgh's Rev. Patterson at an early date.