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SACRIFICE OF A BLACK SHEEP,
TO KEEP THE DEVIL AWAY WHEN THE GOLDEN PLATES OF THE MORMON BIBLE WERE FOUND. (?) (SEE FIRST ARTICLE ON MORMONISM.)
THE MORMONS: Pen and Pencil Sketches, Illustrating their Early History.—III.
BY A. W. COWLES, D. D.
IT is unquestionable that SIDNEY RIGDON was the real master spirit of the Mormon Church from the time he united his faith and his fortunes with the new movement. He was a ready speaker, a fluent controver-sialist, having at command new and plausi-ble theories, with a love of contradiction and startling novelties of interpretation. He had gathered a congregation at Mentor, Ohio, of such materials as would naturally cluster round such a man. He had evi-dently unsettled his own faith and that of large numbers of his hearers in the generally received interpretations of the Old Bible. He was eccentric and bold, and among plain, uneducated people, passed for an ora-cle. He was ripe for a new religion—ready to listen to a new revelation.
But we meet with great difficulty in as-certaining the exact truth as to his agency in furnishing the materials for the Mormon Bible. It has been strongly affirmed that RIGDON furnished SMITH with the whole manuscript, which, it is said, he obtained in Pittsburgh from a printing office. It is un-doubtedly true, according to RIGDON'S own account, that he was living in Pittsburgh at the time of the supposed revelation. He claims that he was a settled Baptist minis-ter in that city, and denies having any knowledge of any such manuscript. A con-siderable amount of evidence exists that SMITH obtained possession of a fanciful ro-mance, written in Scripture style, not un-like the quaint Chronicles that are some-times written by ingenious school girls or academy boys. The author of this is said to have been one Rev. SOLOMON SPAULD-ING, a graduate of Dartmouth College, and president for a time, of Salem, Ashtabula Co., Ohio. This manuscript has been traced to Pittsburgh; and, whether RIGDON knew of it or not, was, according to the most un-deniable testimony, the principal material out of which the Book of Mormon was com-posed. It was no doubt prepared by some one beside JOE SMITH. For, weak and ab-surd as much of it is, it is plainly beyond the ability of a shiftless, ignorant young man, who could hardly write a legible hand or construct a single correct sentence. If RIGDON had any hand in this, it was with the utmost secrecy that he gave his assist-ance to SMITH. It is due to RIGDON, who now stands well for veracity and integrity among all who know him, to give full weight to his positive denial of such a share in the production of the so-called new revelation. At least we must admit, unless his memory is treacherous, or a long habit of denial has distorted his own convictions and belief, that such a denial from a respectable and honorable man of his age, soon to render up his account, is entitled to credit.
We now turn from this period of doubtful facts and conflicting testimony as to the ori-gin of the Book of Mormon, (which will form the topic of a future sketch,) to follow the fortunes of RIGDON in his new character as the AARON of the new MOSES—the mouth-piece, the doctrinal expounder, the ecclesi-astical organizer of the new church.
JOE SMITH at once took RIGDON into his fullest confidence, and RIGDON professed the most implicit faith in the frequent revela-tions which the young prophet boldly ut-tered in the name of GOD. These so-called revelations were carefully recorded, and they now make up a volume of standard Sacred literature among the Mormons, bearing this title:—"The Book of Doctrine and Cove-nants of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints, Selected from the Revela-tions of GOD by JOSEPH SMITH, President. Third European Edition—Liverpool and London. Sold at the Latter Day Saints' Book Depot, 35 Jewin Street—1852. "This volume contains, first, a system of doctrines under the title of "Lectures on Faith." These lectures show considerable ingenuity, with some of the most absurd blunders; for example, in developing the thought that faith is an element of all power, the writer affirms that GOD himself acts by faith when he creates, and quotes as a proof text, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of GOD," and explains this to mean as if transposed thus: We understand that through faith the worlds were framed by the word of GOD; and then adds, "Who cannot see that if GOD framed the worlds by faith that it is by faith He ex-ercises power over them, and that faith is the principle of power." These lectures are drawn mainly from the Scriptures, and con-tain many valuable statements of practical truth, adapted to uneducated minds. They are accompanied by a sort of Catechism for review. RIGDON was the author of all these lectures. He was the acknowledged theo-logical authority—the expositor and doc-trinal oracle of the new church. It seems to correspond with RIGDON'S de-nial of any agency in the production of the Golden Bible that his name does not appear in the record of Revelations until more than a year after the professed discovery of the golden plates. Nearly, or quite all, the new converts of the first year have "honorable mention" by name. These men have a record as the special favorites of heaven, and a few illiterate, deluded men have gained a strange immortality. HARRIS, PRATT, COWDERY, WHITMER, PHELPS, GILBERT, KNIGHT, &c., are constantly named in the so-called revelations. Even the wife of the prophet, EMMA SMITH, was honored with a long message direct from heaven, which closes with this excellent advice:—"Con-tinue in the spirit of meekness and beware of pride. Let thy soul delight in thy hus-band and the glory which shall come upon him. And verily, verily, I say unto you that this is my voice unto all. Even so. Amen."
Mention of RIGDON "by revelation," ap-pears in the following announcement to EDWARD PARTRIDGE, given December, 1830, (see page 209,)—"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 by the hand of my servant SIDNEY 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 be the name of the most high GOD."
The divine call revealed to RIGDON, as-sumes to be given in the name of JESUS CHRIST. It is enough to make one shudder to read such bold blasphemy. The message is in these words:—"I am JESUS CHRIST, the son of GOD, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as believe on my name that they may become the sons of GOD. Behold, verily, verily I say unto my servant SIDNEY, I have looked upon thee and thy works, I have heard thy prayers, and prepared thee for a greater work. Thou art blessed for thou shalt do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth, even as JOHN, to prepare the way before me. Thou didst baptize by water unto repentance, but they received not the Holy Ghost; but now I give unto thee a commandment that thou shalt baptize by water, and they shall receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, even as the apostles of old. I am GOD, and mine arm is not shortened, and I will show miracles and signs and wonders unto all those who believe on my name."
Another revelation, dated December, 1830, reads thus:—"Behold, I say unto you (Jo-SEPH SMITH, Jr., and SIDNEY RIGDON), that it is not expedient in me that ye should trans-late any more until ye shall go to the Ohio. And again I say unto you that ye shall not go until ye have preached my gospel in those parts, and have strengthened up my church, especially in Colesville, for behold they pray much unto me."
In March, 1833, RIGDON attained the sec-ond place in the Church as the Chief Coun-sellor, and, with FREDERICK G. WILLIAMS, formed the two assistant presidents under SMITH. These were the "three mightiest" names of the new church. The revelation ran thus, addressed to JOSEPH SMITH, Jr.: "Again, verily, I say unto thy brethren, SID-NEY RIGDON and FREDERICK G. WILLIAMS, their sins are forgiven them also, and they are accounted as equal with thee in holding the keys of the last kingdom."
The early operations of SMITH and RIG-DON were conducted chiefly in sparse rural districts—in country school houses—as in Fayette, about two miles south of Waterloo, N.Y. Here in a small stream the first bap-tisms were administered. Here, a so-called church was organized in a school house, which is still standing. In Co., at Colesviile, another cluster of converts was gathered, and also a few in South Bainbridge, Chenango Co. Here JOE SMITH found his wife, Miss EMMA HALE. Something was also accomplished in the interest of the new faith in Harmony, Pa. In all these districts, how-ever, success was not at all satisfactory. In Palmyra and Manchester, the home of the Prophet and the scene of his first visions and labors, everything was "played out."
At the instance of RIGDON, and under his lead, the new church emigrated from the vicinity of the Sacred Hill Camorah, by revelation, "to the Ohio." Here the Saints gathered together in the town of Kirtland, near Mentor, Lake Co. Here RIGDON had numerous disciples, over whom he exerted a strong influence. Many of these accepted the new faith of their erratic leader and late pastor. Here in Kirtland was the first col-ony of Mormons. Here they purchased prop-erty, and SMITH, by convenient revelation, obtained control of the tithings and most of the property of the Saints beyond their mere support. Here he opened the Kirtland bank and issued a large circulation of what in those days were known as "wild-cat" bills. He also had a mill and store. Here, by reve-lation, the Saints were commanded to build a commodious dwelling for the prophet, and things went on swimmingly until the bank became insolvent and general bankruptcy ensued. SMITH and RIGDON, to escape ar-rest, left in haste and by night. This was the hegira of the prophet to the Land of Zion—twelve miles west of Independence, Mo.,—where the Saints had before purchased a refuge and selected a site for a temple, and where RIGDON had the chief command for a considerable period previous to the difficul-ties at Kirtland. It was on a casual visit from the West to the former scene of their operations that the two principal leaders were in such imminent danger as to make it convenient to leave in great haste.
At Kirtland a new convert was gained who was destined to exert a most powerful influence upon the history and success of the Mormon Church. This was BRIGHAM YOUNG, and all his family. This was in the year 1832. His department was that of For-eign Missions, and all the wonderful success of the Mormons abroad has been due to the early plans, shrewd management and thor-ough organization which he gave to this fea-ture of the new Church of Latter Day Saints. BRIGHAM soon began to be a power in the new church. The first few years, while RIG-DON was rising, YOUNG was more or less abroad, gathering converts and organizing the admirable emigration plans which have given life and power to the Mormon Church. The emigrants were of course devoted to YOUNG, and knew little of RIGDON; and when, by the death of SMITH, a successor was to be chosen, BRIGHAM YOUNG out-gen-eraled RIGDON and reached the Presidency; and to this day RIGDON cannot conceal his disgust for his old rival. He says he won-ders how Satan himself can consent to make use of such a blockhead!
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