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Sidney Rigdon was born in Library, Pennsylvania, on February 19, 1793. His education was nothing out of the ordinary, but early in life he showed a remarkable interest in history. When Rigdon was seventeen, his father died. Before his father's death, the young boy had fallen from a horse and seriously injured his head. Robert Patterson, in his Solomon Spalding and the Book of Mormon, [in] History of Washington County, Pennsylvania (p. 436), quotes from A. H. Dunlevy, who related in 1875 what he had heard of the consequences of the fall from Sidney's brother, Dr. L. Rigdon.
Sidney Rigdon, when quite a boy, living with his father some fifteen miles south of Pittsburgh on a farm, was thrown from his horse, his foot entangled in a stirrup and dragged some distance before relieved. In this accident he received such a contusion of the brain as ever after seriously to affect his character and
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in some respects his conduct. In fact, his brother always considered Sidney a little deranged in his mind by that accident. His mental powers did not seem to be impaired, but the equilibrium in his intellectual exertions seemed thereby to have been sadly affected. He still manifested great mental activity and power, but he was to an equal degree inclined to run into wild and visionary views on almost every question. Hence he was a fit subject for any new movement in the religious world.
As his father before him, Rigdon spent his early life on the farm and did some farming of his own. However, it was thought that he felt farming was somehow beneath his dignity (according to his neighbor, Isaac King) and he left the occupation quickly.
Drawn to city life, Rigdon, then nineteen, traveled to Pittsburgh and stayed there intermittently for the next four years (1812-16). He might have been suited for work in a leather tanner's shop -- at least the employment ads of the period show that tanners and tanner's apprentices were in high demand. During this period, he became close friends with J.H.
After Spalding moved to Amity, his manuscript disappeared from Patterson's Print Shop. Spalding told
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 93Dr. Dodd and Rev. Joseph Miller that he suspected Rigdon of the theft.
Spalding died in 1816, and the following year Rigdon was accepted into the membership of the First Baptist Church near his hometown of Library. According to Patterson, his conversion was contrived. 2 He was ordained during 1818 or 1819, and in 1820 he married Phoebe Brooks. Two years later, on January 28, 1822, Rigdon became the minister of the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, and it was during this time that he showed Spalding's manuscript to Dr. Winter.
Unfortunately, Rigdon's Baptist ministry was short-lived. He was excommunicated on October 11, 1823, for teaching irregular doctrine, and some have said he was very embittered by the action. Circumstantial evidence seems to point to the period immediately following this as the time Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith first met. 3
From the Baptists, Rigdon moved to the Disciples of Christ (Campbellites) and preached for them until shortly before he was "converted" to Mormonism in 1830. There is conclusive testimony showing that Rigdon possessed Spalding's manuscript until this period, that Rigdon knew Joseph Smith, and that through numerous visits to New York he gave the contents of the manuscript to Smith and his friends, who made some modifications to the text and subsequently published it as The Book of Mormon.
Perhaps Rigdon delivered the manuscript to Smith on September 22, 1827, and was the "angel" whom Smith later said gave him the plates! Oliver Cowdery baptized Rigdon into the Mormon Church on November 14, 1830, just seven months after the founding of the church, in Kirtland, Ohio. Rigdon traveled with Edward Partridge to Fayette, New York, where he quickly formed a deep friendship with Joseph Smith. In January, 1831, he and
94 / Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?Smith returned to Kirtland, and Rigdon was established as a leader in the church there.
As a member of the First Presidency of the Mormon Church, Rigdon worked for the Mormons in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. Discouraged and disgruntled by strife with the church, Rigdon and his family left the Mormons and moved back to Pittsburgh, where the drama had first begun. On July 14, 1876, Rigdon died in Friendship, New York, having refused to speak concerning the Spalding issue, proclaiming that his "lips were forever sealed on that subject."
The Manuscript Connection
Josiah Spalding, Solomon Spalding's brother, stated, ". . . she (Solomon Spalding's widow) informed me that soon after they arrived at Pittsburgh a man followed them. I do not recollect his name but he was afterwards known to be a leading Mormon. He got into the employment of a printer a and he told the printer about my brother's composition." 4
Mrs. Spalding (Davison) herself stated:
Sidney Rigdon . . . was at that time (1812-14) connected with the printing office of Mr. Patterson, as is well known in that region, and as Rigdon himself has frequently stated. Here he had ample opportunity to become acquainted with Mr. Spalding's manuscript, and to copy it if he chose. It was a matter of notoriety and interest to all who were concerned with the printing establishment." 5
Solomon Spalding's daughter confirmed Josiah Spalding's testimony in corroborating her mother's convictions on the matter. She declared that her mother
a Rigdon was not employed at the printshop, but often was seen there with Lambdin.
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 95held a "firm conviction that Sidney Rigdon had copied the manuscript, which had been in Patterson's office in Pittsburgh." 6 We can see from this testimony that, at least to her family, Mrs. Davison maintained the same account concerning Rigdon that she had first proposed before 1820 -- or ten years before The Book of Mormon was published and Rigdon joined the new church.
Mrs. A. Treadwell Redfield remembered the early assertions of Spalding's widow and stated, "In the year 1818 I was principal of the Onondaga Valley Academy . . . Mrs. Spalding believed that Sidney Rigdon had copied the manuscript while it was in Patterson's printing office, in Pittsburgh. She spoke of it with regret. I never saw her after her marriage." 7 Mrs. Davison was married in 1820, and therefore Mrs. Redfield remembered her testimony from before that date and long before Rigdon became a Mormon.
So far we have examined the testimony of family members and acquaintances of Spalding concerning Rigdon's part in the affair. Mormons have raised the challenge that these witnesses might have been somewhat biased and that their testimony might not be as valid as that of a disinterested party. However, the following disinterested party substantiates the claims already set forth by the Spalding family. Mrs. William Eichbaum worked in the Pittsburgh post office during the time Rigdon and Spalding were there, and her testimony is invaluable in determining the true course of events:
My father, John Johnson, was postmaster at Pittsburg for about eighteen years, from 1804 to 1822. My husband, William Eichbaum, succeeded him, and was postmaster for about eleven years, from 1822 to 1833. I was born August 25, 1792, and when I became old enough, I assisted my father in attending to the post-office, and became familiar with his duties. From 1811 to 1816, I was the regular clerk in the office, assorting,
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making up, dispatching, opening and distributing the mails. Pittsburg was then a small town, and I was well acquainted with all the stated visitors at the office who called regularly for their mails. So meager at that time were the mails that I could generally tell without looking whether or not there was anything for such persons, though I would usually look in order to satisfy them. I was married in 1815, and the next year my connection with the office ceased, except during the absences of my husband. I knew and distinctly remember Robert and Joseph Patterson, J Harrison Lambdin, Silas Engles, and Sidney Rigdon, I remember Rev. Mr. Spaulding, but simply as one who occasionally called to inquire for letters. I remember there was an evident intimacy between Lambdin and Rigdon. They very often came to the office together. I particularly remember that they would thus come during the hour on Sabbath afternoon when the office was required to be open, and I remember feeling sure that Rev. Mr. Patterson knew nothing of this, or he would have put a stop to it. I do not know what position, if any, Rigdon filled in Pattersons's store or printing office, but am well assured he was frequently, if not constantly, there for a large part of the time when I was clerk in the post-office. I recall Mr. Engles saying that "Rigdon was always hanging around the printing office." He was connected with the tannery before he became a preacher, though he may have continued the business whilst preaching. 8
Lambdin was a printer in Patterson's shop and was several years younger than Rigdon. While it might be somewhat unusual for a strong friendship to be formed between two people of different ages, it was evidently the case here, and also later, when Rigdon and Smith (who was twelve years Rigdon's junior) became fast friends.
Could Mrs. Eichbaum have confused her statements and actually have been speaking of Rigdon's later stay in Pittsburgh (1822-23)? This is not likely, especially since
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 97she linked Spalding with the same period, and he left Pittsburgh in 1814 (and died in 1816). In addition, she dates the period to the time she was the clerk, which was between 1811 and 1816. This reputable eyewitness clearly places Rigdon in Pittsburgh, with Lambdin from Patterson's Print Shop, at the same time Spalding left his novel with the printer.
Attorney R. Patterson (son of R. Patterson, co-owner of the printshop) questioned Mrs. Eichbaum carefully concerning her testimony and concluded that she had ". . . a memory marvelously tenacious of even the minutest incidents . . . and that she had a . . . clear mind." He also wrote ". . . that one who could hear her relate the incidents of her youth, and specify her reasons for fixing names and dates with unusual distinctness, would find it difficult to resist a conviction of the accuracy of her memory." 9
From time to time others have tried to deny Rigdon's presence in Pittsburgh during the time Spalding lived there and the time his manuscript was in the printshop. There are three statements that at first glance seem to refute our theory that Rigdon was indeed in Pittsburgh before 1816.
The first statement was by Peter Boyer, Rigdon's brother-in-law. Only a synopsis of it is available today, taken from the History of Washington County, Pennsylvania, by R. Patterson. Patterson says:
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also in a personal interview with the present writer in 1879 positively affirmed that Rigdon had never lived in Pittsburgh previous to 1822, adding that "they were boys together and he ought to know." Mr. Boyer had for a short time embraced Mormonism but became convinced that it was a delusion and returned to his membership in the Baptist Church.
However, Boyer says that Rigdon never lived in Pittsburgh before 1822. What we are asserting is that Rigdon traveled periodically to Pittsburgh during the period that Spalding was living there. (Library was situated less than ten miles from Pittsburgh, and therefore travel between the two places was frequent and normal.)
A second testimony raised by Patterson (page 431) was by Samuel Cooper:
Samuel Cooper, of Saltsburgh, Pa., a veteran of three wars, in a letter to the present writer, dated June 14, 1879, stated as follows: "I was acquainted with Mr. Lambdin, was often in the printing-office; was acquainted with Silas Engles, the foreman of the printing-office; he never mentioned Sidney Rigdon's name to me, so I am satisfied he was never engaged there as a printer. I was introduced to Sidney Rigdon in 1843; he stated to me that he was a Mormon preacher or lecturer; I was acquainted with him during 1843-45; never knew him before, and never knew him as a printer; never saw him in the book-store or printing-office; your father's office was in the celebrated Molly Murphy's Row."
It is impossible to determine from this that Rigdon was not in Pittsburgh at the time Spalding was there, since Cooper neglected to state when he himself was in Pittsburgh. It could well have been after 1816 -- in other words, after Rigdon took Spalding's manuscript and left Pittsburgh for the first time. In this case neither Lambdin nor Engles would have had any reason to mention Rigdon's name to Cooper.
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 99Rev. Robert DuBois was employed by Patterson from 1818 to 1820:
Rev. Robert P. Du Bois, of New London, Pa., under date of Jan. 9, 1879, writes: "I entered the book-store of R. Patterson and Lambdin in March, 1818, when about twelve years old, and remained there until the summer of 1820. The firm had under its control the book-store on Fourth Street, a book bindery, a printing office (not newspaper, but job office, under the name of Butler and Lambdin), entrance on Diamond Alley, and a steam paper-mill on the Allegheny (under the name of R. and J. Patterson). I knew nothing of Spalding (then dead) or of his book, or of Sidney Rigdon."
As was the case with Cooper, we find that Du Bois' testimony, as printed by Patterson (pages 431-32), is useless. Du Bois came to Pittsburgh after Rigdon's first tenure, and he left again before Rigdon's residence in Pittsburgh beginning in 1822. It is hardly surprising, then, that Du Bois heard nothing of Rigdon or Spalding.
Finally, Patterson printed the statement of Lambdin's widow:
"I am sorry to say I shall not be able to give you any information relative to the persons you name. They certainly could not have been friends of Mr. Lambdin."
Lambdin's wife could have known who her husband's friends were, but she did not come to Pittsburgh until 1819, a full five years after Rigdon had left Pittsburgh. Therefore, Lambdin would have had no reason to mention Rigdon to his wife.
There is no credible objection to the evidence that Rigdon was in Pittsburgh during the period from 1813-14, when Spalding's manuscript was in the printshop, when Rigdon was seen by Spalding and suspected of taking
100 / Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?the manuscript, and when Mrs. Eichbaum saw Rigdon and Lambdin together.
Rev. Joseph Miller, who lived in Amity during Spalding's time there, and who tended him during his last illness and made his coffin (see Chapter 4, pages 66-74), stated:
My recollection is that Spalding left a transcript of the manuscript with Patterson for publication. The publication was delayed until Spaulding could write a preface. In the meantime the manuscript was spirited away, and could not be found. Spaulding told me that Sidney Rigdon had taken it, or was suspected of taking it. I recollect distinctly that Rigdon's name was mentioned in connection with it. 10
When Miller was carefully questioned he emphatically confirmed that it was Spalding himself who mentioned Rigdon as the culprit, and that he was in no way influenced in his testimony by subsequent events surrounding the rise of Mormonism and Rigdon's prominent position in it. 11
Miller repeated the essentials of his statement for the book New Light on Mormonism, in which he said, "Patterson said he, Patterson, would publish it, if he, Spalding, would write a title page. He told me he kept a little store in Pittsburgh. He then moved to Amity (1814) leaving a copy of the manuscript in Patterson's hands. After being at Amity some time, he went back to Pittsburg, took his title page; he called it the lost manuscript found. When he went to Pittsburg, the manuscript could not be found. He said there was, or had been, a man by the name of Sidney Rigdon had stole it." 12
Dr. Cephas Dodd was Spalding's physician in Amity (see Chapter 4, pages 74-75) and was by his side at his
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 101death in 1816. Dodd early declared his knowledge of the subject, and never once through the years wavered in this testimony concerning Rigdon and Spalding. On June 6, 1831, only a year after the founding of Mormonism, Dr. Dodd received a copy of The Book of Mormon and inscribed its flyleaf with the following terse indictment of Rigdon:
This work I am convinced by facts related to me by my deceased patient, Solomon Spaulding, has been made from writings of Spaulding, probably by Sidney Rigdon, who was suspicioned by Spaulding with purloining his manuscript from the publishing house to which he had taken it; and I am prepared to testify that Spaulding told me that his work was entitled, "The Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon; or Unearthed Records of the Nephites." From his description of its contents, I fully believe that this Book of Mormon is mainly and wickedly copied from it. 13
At a ceremony in honor of Spalding in 1905, Dr. Dodd's son Elias (1823-1908) told the crowd present there essentially the same thing, remarking that his father had told him this is what had happened. 14
George French, whose wife was related to Rigdon, confirmed that in 1832 Dr. Dodd accompanied him to Spalding's grave in Amity and declared that Rigdon was the person who had taken the manuscript and converted it into The Book of Mormon.15
Rev. R. McKee, who had bearded with the Spaldings in Amity (see Chapter 4, pages 75-85) adds to our testimony, although his statement seems to reflect that he was not very knowledgeable about this specific event, even though he was well-versed on other areas of Spalding's life, as shown in his other testimony. He declared:
Mr. Spaulding told me that he had submitted the work to Mr. Patterson for publication, but for some reason it
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was not printed, and afterwards returned to him. I also understood he was then occasionally re-writing, correcting, and he thought improving some passages descriptive of his supposed battles. In this connection he spoke of the man Rigdon as an employee in the printing or book-binding establishment of Patterson and Lambdin, in Pittsburgh; but about him I made no special inquiries. 16
In an interview with A.B. Deming, in Washington, D.C., McKee reiterated his previous testimony, stating that
. . . he kept store in Amity, Pa., for a Pittsburgh firm, and that he bearded with Solomon Spaulding and heard him tell about his "Manuscript Found," and that he did not read a copy that was in the house because there was a corrected copy at Patterson's Printing Office in Pittsburgh, Pa., and he intended to purchase a copy when published. (Deming continues) . . . Rigdon obtained possession, I know not how, of the corrected copy Patterson had. It is not improbable that Spaulding rewrote the "Manuscript Found" several times; it was such an original and strange work. 17
Rigdon's acquaintances also testified about the Spalding/Rigdon episode. Consider the statement of Dr. J. C. Bennett, who was intimately acquainted with both Smith and Rigdon during the Mormon tenure in Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1842 he quarreled with Smith and quickly issued the following testimony:
I will remark here... that the Book of Mormon was originally written by the Rev. Solomon Spaulding, A.M., as a romance, and entitled the "Manuscript Found," and placed by him in the printing-office of Patterson and Lambdin, in the city of Pittsburgh, from whence it was taken by a conspicuous Mormon divine, and re-modeled, by adding the religious portion, placed by him in Smith's possession, and then published to the world as the testimony exemplifies. This I
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 103
have from the Confederation,b and of its perfect correctness there is not a shadow of a doubt. There never were any plates of the Book of Mormon, excepting what were seen by the spiritual, and not the natural, eyes of the witnesses. The story of the plates is all chimerical. 18Mormons have often attacked the testimony of John C. Bennett, since he left the Mormons after disagreeing with Joseph Smith. However, Parry Pratt, the wife of an early Mormon leader, testified to the veracity of Bennett's statements:
Salt Lake City
b The inner circle of Smith's friends.
104 / Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?As we previously stated, Rigdon left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1844. At that time he spoke to James Jeffries while both he and Jeffries were in St. Louis. Jeffries relates the incident:
Forty years ago I was in business in St. Louis. The Mormons then had their temple in Nauvoo. I had business transactions with them. I knew Sidney Rigdon. He told me several times that there was in the printing office with which he was connected, in Ohio, a manuscript of the Rev. Spaulding, tracing the origin of the Indians from the lost tribes of Israel. This M.S. was in the office several years. He was familiar with it. Spaulding wanted it published, but had not the means to pay for the printing. He (Rigdon) and Joe Smith used to look over the M.S. and read it on Sundays. Rigdon said Smith took the MS. and said, "I'll print it," and went off to Palmyra, New York. 19
Although Jeffries mislocated the printshop in Ohio (since both Rigdon and Spalding had each previously lived in Ohio), his testimony agrees in substance with the previous statements. At the time of this statement (1884) Jeffries was living in Maryland and dictated his words to Rev. Calvin D. Wilson in the presence of his wife and Dr. J.M. Finney.
A brief statement has come down through the years to us from Judge W. Lang, who was Oliver Cowdery's law partner in Tiffin, Ohio (Cowdery was one of the witnesses to The Book of Mormon and its chief scribe). Lang related that "Rigdon got the original (Ms. Found") at the job printing office in Pittsburg . . ."
Finally, another founding Mormon, Martin Harris, revealed the true source of The Book of Mormon to R. W. Alderman in 1852 (Harris was one of the three witnesses to The Book of Mormon but had by this time left the church). Harris and Alderman were snowbound in a hotel in Mentor, Ohio, and shared some conversation
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 105while waiting for the weather to clear. Alderman remembered, "Rigdon had stolen a manuscript from a printing office in Pittsburgh, Pa., which Spalding, who had written it in the early part of the century, had left to be printed, but the printer refused to print it, but Jo (Smith) and Rigdon did, as the Book of Mormon." 20
Rigdon was a Baptist minister for just over three years, until he was excommunicated in October, 1823. During the time he was a Baptist minister, there was some talk by him of Spalding's manuscript being in his possession. Our only witness of this time who has left us a record of Rigdon's assertions is Dr. J. Winter, who was an acquaintance of Rigdon's. History has left us one of Dr. Winter's own statements and two supporting statements concerning him, one by his stepson and one by his daughter. Dr. Winter declared:
A Presbyterian minister, Spalding, whose health had failed, brought this to the printers to see if it would pay to publish it. It is a romance of the Bible.
Rigdon reportedly said the above words to Winter while both men were looking at the manuscript in Rigdon's church office in Pittsburgh. Rev. A. G. Kirk stated that in 1870-71 Dr. Winter repeated the same statement to him in New Brighten, Pennsylvania. 19-b
Dr. Winter's stepson, Rev. Bonsall, remembered his father's comments about Rigdon and Mormonism, and that his father had seen the manuscript. He said, "Rigdon had shown him (Winter) the Spalding manuscript romance, purporting to be the history of the American Indians, which manuscript he (Rigdon) had received from the
Mrs. Mary W. Irvine, Winter's daughter, remembered just what her stepbrother had remembered
106 / Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?concerning the affair. She was adamant in her remembrance that her father had frequently repeated his sentiments.
I have frequently heard my father (Dr. Winter) speak of Rigdon having Spaulding's manuscript, and that he had gotten it from the printers to read it as a curiosity; as such he showed it to my father; and that at that time Rigdon had no intention of making the use of it that he afterwards did; for father always said Rigdon helped Smith in his scheme by revising and making the Mormon Bible out of Rev. Spaulding's manuscript. 22
A.B. Deming solicited her testimony for his book, Naked Truths about Mormonism, and Mrs. Irvine replied with the following letter:
Mr. A. B. Deming -- Sir: Your letter of November 1 received two days since. My father left no papers on the subject, but I distinctly recollect his saying that Sidney Rigdon showed him the Spaulding Manuscript as a literary curiosity left in the office to be published if it was thought it would pay. When father saw the "Book of Mormon" he said it was Rigdon's work, or he had a hand in it; I do not remember his words entirely, so many years have elapsed, but that was the import.Respectfully,
Planning a New Religion
From the specific testimony concerning Spalding's manuscript and Rigdon's possession of it, we move now to the activities of Sidney Rigdon during the time when we believe he became acquainted with Joseph Smith and the two formulated their new religion.
The testimony of his contemporaries leads us to believe that Rigdon not only desired a new religion that was more in line with his visionary ideas, but that the
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 107religion he was looking for was what came to be known as Mormonism. Contemporaries testify that he hinted at many of the Mormon doctrines as much as two years before he was "converted" to Mormonism; that he was frequently engrossed in a manuscript that had great future religious implications; and that Mormonism itself was well-known to him long before he officially joined the Mormon Church and before he was ever supposed to have heard of it.
In 1826-27 Rigdon was living in Bainbridge, Ohio. During this time he was seen reading a manuscript and engaged in writing and studying. We think he was preparing Spalding's novel for its debut as the Mormon Bible.
Mrs. Amos Dunlap was the niece of Rigdon's wife. She remembered the manuscript which her uncle possessed from when she was a small child:
When I was quite a child I visited Mr. Rigdon's family (1826-1827). He married my aunt. They at the time lived in Bainbridge, Ohio. During my visit Mr. Rigdon went to his bedroom and took from a trunk which he kept locked a certain manuscript. He came out into the other room and seated himself by the fireplace and commenced reading it. His wife at that moment came into the room and exclaimed, "What! you're studying that thing again?" Or something to that effect. She then added, "I mean to burn that paper." He said, "No, indeed, you will not. This will be a great thing some day." Whenever he was reading this he was so completely occupied that he seemed entirely unconscious of anything passing around him. 24
Rigdon had by this time left the Baptist Church and had become a preacher for the Disciples of Christ (Campbellites). He was always known to be a flowery speaker, and his sermons were often punctuated with emotional utterances concerning the coming great religious
108 / Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?truths. He did not confine himself to preaching in Disciple churches, but would espouse his views in almost any church or congregation that would have him. In the period of 1826-27, Rigdon was living in Bainbridge, Ohio, and in addition to the above testimony of his niece, there were other testimonies from that period from his acquaintances -- contemporaries that together build a framework around the picture of Rigdon as a manuscript purloiner. Harvey Baldwin, of Aurora (Portage County), Ohio, was the son of one of the members of a Baptist church in which Rigdon preached at that time. Baldwin declared that his father heard Rigdon preach in the church in Bainbridge and visited Rigdon's home several times. When he would arrive at the Rigdon home, he would often find Rigdon in a room by himself, and each time Rigdon would hurriedly put away books and papers he was examining, as if he did not wish them to be seen.
Deacon Clapp, of the same Baptist church in Bainbridge, said that he was eighteen when Rigdon came to Mentor, and that he often saw Rigdon's large chair where he spent much of his time writing. The chair had a leaf on one arm on which to write and a lockable drawer underneath. The chair was covered with ink spots, and Rigdon told Clapp that "he had much use for it." 25
The Book of Mormon has several striking teachings, among which is its clear teaching about holding possessions in common, a situation frequent among the characters of Spalding's epic. Stephen H. Hart stated:
I came to Mentor, O., in 1826 and have since resided here. I was well acquainted with Sydney Rigdon and other Mormon leaders.... I attended Rigdon's preaching
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 109
and heard him urge the church to put their property in the common fund and have all things common. I have heard Mrs. Mann and other members of Rigdon's church say that weeks before he joined the Mormons, he took the Bible and slapped it down on the desk and said that in a short time it would be of no more account than an old almanac; that there was to be a new Bible, a new Revelation, which would entirely do away with this. It caused the church to distrust him and but few followed him into Mormonism. 26
Rev. S.F. Whitney not only corroborated the testimony of Hart, but also expanded on it. He declared:
I was born in Fairfield, Herkimer County, N.Y., March 17, 1804. I saw the Battle of Platsburgh on Lake Champlain; it lasted two hours and forty minutes. I followed boating as hand and captain on the lakes and ocean. I was soundly converted at eighteen on Grand Island, and united with the Methodists. I came to Kirtland, O., in 1826, where my brother, N. K. Whitney kept store. I heard Sydney Rigdon preach in Squire Sawyers' orchard in 1827 or '28. He said how desirable it would be to know who built the forts and mounds about the country. Soon it would all be revealed. He undoubtedly referred to the "Book of Mormon" which was published in 1830. Revival meetings were held in Kirtland in 1827 or'28, by Rigdon, in which he preached orthodox Baptist doctrine on the work of the Holy Spirit. In Mentor he preached against it. 27
Rev. Darwin Atwater was a zealot for the gospel in his youth and was not afraid to take anyone, preacher or layman, to task if he thought someone was neglecting the fundamentals of the Bible. R. Patterson interviewed Atwater and declared him to be "... noted for his strict regard for truth and justice . . . "
Atwater declared that Rigdon hinted about a book to
110 / Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?be published that would answer all of the questions concerning the history of the inhabitants of the Americas -- precisely what The Book of Mormon "revealed" just months later. Atwater's statement gives us a great deal of information concerning this period.
As a Campbellite preacher, Rigdon associated with other such preachers during the period under consideration. One preacher he spoke with concerning the "plates" and their story was Rev. Adamson Bentley. One conversation between the two men took place in the presence of Alexander Campbell, the founder of the Churches of Christ (Campbellites). History has preserved for us, fortunately, both Rev. Bentley and Rev. Campbell's statements. Bentley said:
You request that I should give you all the information I am in possession of respecting Mormonism. I know that Sidney Rigdon told me there was a book coming out (the manuscript of which had been found
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 111
engraved on gold plates) as much as two years before the Mormon book made its appearance in this country or had been heard of by me. The same I communicated to brother A. Campbell. The Mormon book has nothing of baptism for the remission of sins in it; and of course at the time Rigdon got Solomon Spaulding's manuscript he did not understand the scriptures on that subject. I cannot say he learnt it from me, as he had been about a week with you in Nelson and Windham, before he came to my house. I, however, returned with him to Mentor. He stated to me that he did not feel himself capable of introducing the subject in Mentor, and would not return without me if he had to stay two weeks with us to induce me to go. This is about all I can say. I have no doubt but the account in Mormonism Unmasked (Unveiled) is about the truth. It was got up to deceive the people and obtain their property, and was a wicked contrivance with Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jr. May God have mercy on the wicked men, and may they repent of this their wickedness!
Campbell's statement agrees with Bentley's in every particular except that Campbell placed the conversation one year earlier than did Bentley (but still at least three or four years before Rigdon is supposed to have first heard about Mormonism). Here is Campbell's statement:
The conversation alluded to in Brother Bentley's letter of 1841, was in my presence as well as his, and my recollection of it led me, some two or three years ago, to interrogate Brother Bentley touching his recollection of it, which accorded with mine in every particular, except the year in which it occurred, he placing it in the summer of 1827, I in the summer of 1826,
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Rigdon at the same time observing that in the plates dug up in New York, there was an account, not only of the aborigines of this country, but also it was stated that the Christian religion had been preached in this country during the first century, just as we were preaching it in the Western Reserve. 30
John Rudolph, along with his brother, heard Rigdon's sermons consistently for two years before Rigdon joined the Mormon Church. Rudolph remembered well Rigdon's allusions during that time to the coming great religion:
For two years before the Book of Mormon appeared Rigdon's sermons were full of declarations and prophecies that the age of miracles would be restored and more complete revelations, than those in the Bible would be given. When the Book of Mormon appeared all who heard him were satisfied that he referred to it. 31
In line with Hart's testimony (previously presented) concerning some of Rigdon's 'pre-Mormonism" teachings (which were remarkably consistent with the later teachings of The Book of Mormon) are the following three statements. It is quite evident from the mass of this testimony that Rigdon was, in a sense, preparing his listeners for the religion to come -- Mormonism. First, Dr. S. Rosa, a prominent physician in the state of Ohio, comments on Rigdon's repeated references to the coming new religion:
In the early part of the year 1830, when the Book of Mormon appeared, either in May or June, I was in company with Sidney Rigdon, and rode with him on horseback a few miles. Our conversation was principally upon the subject of religion, as he was at that time a very popular preacher of the denomination calling themselves "Disciples," or Campbellites. He remarked to me that it was time for a new religion to
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 113
spring up; that mankind were all rife and ready for it. I thought he alluded to the Campbellite doctrine. He said it would not be long before something would make its appearance; he also said that he thought of leaving Pennsylvania, and should be absent for some months. I asked him how long. He said it would depend upon circumstances. I began to think a little strange of his remarks, as he was a minister of the gospel. I left Ohio that fall and went to the state of New York to visit my friends who lived in Waterloo, not far from the mine of golden Bibles. In November I was informed that my old neighbor, E. Partridge, and the Rev. Sidney Rigdon were in Waterloo, and that they both had become the dupes of Joe Smith's necromancies. It then occurred to me that Rigdon's new religion had made its appearance, and when I became informed of the Spaulding manuscript, I was confirmed in the opinion that Rigdon was at least accessory, if not the principal, in getting up this farce. 32
Mrs. Eri M. Dille's memories of her father's description of Rigdon were committed to paper, and they present us with a picture of Rigdon, just before he joined Mormonism, as a person having visions and experiences almost of the caliber of those Joseph Smith, Jr., claimed to have.
In the autumn of 1830 Sidney Rigdon held a meeting in the Baptist meeting-house on Euclid Creek. I was sick and did not attend the meeting, but my father repeatedly remarked while it was in progress that he was afraid that Rigdon was about to leave the Disciples for he was continually telling of what marvelous things he had seen in the heavens and of wonderful things about to happen and his talks indicated that he would leave the Disciples. 33
Almon B. Green gave a more extensive testimony regarding Rigdon's activities and convictions immediately preceding his alliance with Smith. Mormonism's
114 / Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?most basic doctrine, that of the apostasy of the church and the need of restoration, was clearly preached by Rigdon the summer before he was supposed to have first encountered the "restored gospel." His sermon, recalled by Green, has marked similarities to Smith's first vision:
In the annual meeting of the Mahoning Association held in Austintown in August, 1830, about two months before Sidney Rigdon's professed conversion to Mormonism, Rigdon preached Saturday afternoon. He had much to say about a full and complete restoration of the ancient gospel. He spoke in his flowing style of what the Disciples had accomplished, but contended that we had not accomplished a complete restoration of the Apostolic Christianity. He contended such restoration must include community of goods -- holding all in common stock, and a restoration of the spiritual gifts of the apostolic age. He promised that although we had not come up to the apostolic plan in full yet as we were improving God would soon give us a new and fuller revelation of his will. After the Book of Mormon had been read by many who heard Rigdon on that occasion, they were perfectly satisfied that Rigdon knew all about that book when he preached that discourse. Rigdon's sermon was most thoroughly refuted by Bro. Cambell, which very much offended Rigdon. 34
Clearly, Rigdon knew more than he was telling, although his sermons and private conversations were telling enough! He knew more than a Campbellite unfamiliar with the Golden Bible should know, who claimed never to have heard of it until the end of 1830. Affidavits show Rigdon already teaching that a new religion was coming, including 1) a history of the people of America, 2) communal living, 3) apostasy and restoration of the gospel, and 4) more and complete revelations, including the return of miracles. This is precisely what The Book of
Spalding to Rigdon: The Manuscript Journey / 115Mormon contained, and precisely what was supposed to have been preached to him for the first time in October of 1830.
Even this moderate amount of information should be more than enough to clearly show Rigdon's connection in The Book of Mormon/Spalding saga before his official alliance with the Mormon Church in 1830. However, there is much more information, even more conclusive than that which we have already presented. In the next chapter we will examine the gaps in Rigdon's official itinerary, and we will see how those gaps correspond perfectly with Rigdon's visits to Smith, seen and sworn to by Smith's neighbors and acquaintances.
1. Howe, pp. 278-80.
2. Patterson, p. 436.
3. Smith's mother said that at about this time a man attempted a union of the different churches in the area. This could possibly have been Rigdon. See Smith, Biographical Sketches, p. 90, and McFarland, Twentieth Century History of the City of Washington and Washington County (Book of Mormon), pp. 187-88.
4. Spalding, The Spalding Memorial, p. 238.
5. Shook, p. 81.
6. Dickinson, p. 23.
7. Ibid., pp. 241-42. She was mistaken in thinking Rigdon copied it -- he took the printer's copy. See Patterson, p. 433.
8. The Pittsburgh Mercury, May 20, 1813, states: "Wanted immediately -- A tanner and currier -- apply at the office of the Mercury." Rigdon may have answered this or a similar ad.
9. Ibid., p. 433.
10. Pittsburgh Telegraph, February 6, 1879, p. 1, "The Book of Mormon."
11. Patterson, p. 432.
12. Dickinson, pp. 240-41.
13 Shook, p. 120.
14. Patterson, pp. 432-33.
116 / Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?15. Ibid.
16. Ibid., p. 432.
17. Deming, p. 6.
18. Wyl, Mormon Portraits, p. 241.
20. Deming, p. 12.
21. Patterson, p. 434.
23. Deming, p. 29.
24. Patterson, p. 434.
25. Deming, p. 8.
26. Ibid., p. 50.
27. Ibid., p. 16.
28. Patterson, p. 435.
29. Shook, p. 121-22. Mr. Thomas Clapp, who was a deacon in the Baptist church in which Rigdon often preached, supports Bentley's statement with his own recollections:
Elder Adamson Bentley told me that as he was one day riding with Sidney Rigdon and conversing upon the Bible, Mr. Rigdon told him that another book of equal authority with the bible, as well authenticated and as ancient, which would give an account of the history of the Indian tribes on this continent, with many other things of great importance to the world, would soon be published. This was before Mormonism was ever heard of in Ohio, and when it appeared, the avidity with which Rigdon received it convinced him that if Rigdon was not the author of it he was at least acquainted with the whole matter some time before it was published to the world.
30. Ibid., p. 122.
31. Braden-Kelly debate, p. 45.
32. Ibid., pp. 123-24.
33. Ibid., p. 46.
34. Ibid., p. 46.