SIDNEY RIGDON'S APRIL 1844
Part 1 (Apr. 6th a.m.) | Part 2 (Apr. 6th p.m.) | Part 3 (Apr. 7th a.m.) | Comments
Vol. V. No. 9. Nauvoo, Ill., May 1, 1844. Whole No. 93.
Conference met pursuant to appointment, on Saturday the sixth of April, 1844
Vol. V. No. 13. Nauvoo, Ill., July 15, 1844. Whole No. 97.
(Elder Rigdon here stopped to refresh himself. The choir sung a hymn.)
At 2 oclok the conference Assembled & [Sidney Rigdon] resumed his subject.
Said we were discusing in the morning service upon the History of the Church of Jesus Christ. Its a miserable man that could not manufactor his own tex[t]. I have known many a sermon spoiled by a bad tex[t]. The Church of Jesus Christ then -- The H[e]ights of testimony, & amount of evidence that many of those have had that have fallen away has been of such a nature that when they say they dont believe this work to be true they lie. The things that were done in secret in the begining are now seen openly and [there] is nothing secret now but what all will know in time to come.
I am aware [there] is many things I did not hint at, I will speak of them now, I have seen the time when the Presidency of the Church sitting now before me, were locked up with me in secret places waiting upon God. We did not go out at all but to eat &c. But it was soon found out, & a mob came saying God damn you to Hell, & threatend our lives. It was at this time we sat for hours in the Visions of heaven around the throne of God & gazed upon the seenes of Eternity.
(Bullock records: "[We] had been locked up for weeks and had no time only to eat... weeks seeking God with prayer and fasting... bandittis came to the place -- some 20 or 30 men came rushing to the place cursing & blaspheming. This was the reason why we were shut up. They never cease[d] their warfare")
One evening a Mexican called upon us & he went out armed to see a dozen armed men in the corner of the fence. He wanted to shoot them.
(Bullock records: "A gentleman from Mexico having heard rumors of the Mormons came to see us[.] One night he went out of my house and found in the fence one after another a dozen men -- he returned into the house in fury and got his pistols and said he would kill them but they r[a]n away.")
Afterwards the mob came in & broke the door, took me & drag[g]d me out through the streets by my heels with my head pounding over the frozen ground. Another company took president Smith, & tar & featherd him. They tried to turn Aquiphertos down our our throats. This is the reason why we were in secret under lock & key,
(Bullock records: "A mob of 20 or 30 ruffians came damming & roaring against us -- our houses were surrounded ... At last there got some hundreds of them ...they broke into my house[,] drag[ged] me out of my bed -- out of the door my head beating on the floor. [T]hey drag[ge]d me over the wood pile[,] and on they went my head thumping on the frozen ground, after which they threw tar and feathers on me -- and endeavored to throw aqua fortes in my face but I turned my face and it missed me.")
(Alternative reconstruction of Bullard's shorthand, by Mark L. Staker: "I was dragged out of my bed, was put on a large wood pile -- some were putting it on me. My head went thump thump upon the hard frozen ground -- they then threw a quantity of pitch upon me and when they attempted to throw some thing else on me I fell and the next morning when I went to the same place I found it was a quantity of aqua fortis [nitric acid] that they were going to throw on me.")
Now if you will let us work openly we will not work in secret. We will work openly as much as you want. I think I have said enough already to show that the Church has come up through great tribulation. Let this suffice then upon this subject.
Their[e] is men standing in your midst who are not afraid of men or devels & men whos[e] mouths cannol be stop[p]ed unless you take their lives. For they will speak in defence of the innocent of virtue & truth while they live.
Their[e] is men in your midst who have learned their[e] is a great God who can do as he pleases -- take up the Hills as a little thing, & such men do not fear death. They know about Heaven. They have seen it & know all about it.
Their[e] is men in your midst which you must sustain or go to Hell. Save them & you save yourselves. Reject them & you go to Hell. We are 14 years of age now. Ch[o]use your guardeen and when you get to be 21 then do business for youselves. You can save yourselves or Damn yourselves.
You have just men among you & the reason is because God has taught them chose & ordained them & this is the reason why they are so.
You have men in your midst who will not turn to the right hand or left. If you are in their path you must get out. You cannot co[u]rt by favor or we[a]lth or any thing els[e]. They do not ask poleticians, kings or people for favor. They ask God for it alone. If the world make them rich or poor they never ask for it. The man whom God has raised up to lay the foundation of this work is placed in such a situation that he cannot fall and he is so lovely that I cannot get mad at him.
This is an important part in the History of the Church. The cry of some is I shall not get office if these men are not put down. Well God intended to keep them fearing. When God sets up his kingdom He will sustain it above all laws & kingdoms of the world & the world has no power over the kingdom of God. The laws will be so strict that the world will make to try to ketch the saints that it will hang themselves by the wholesale. We want to build up the Laws of God in Hancock Co. I dont care anything about all the laws in the world for I will live above them. God teaches his servants to respects kings Gov[ernorsl Presidents, & men in authority. But I have a right to proclaim myself a king and priest unto the most High God. Yet I will not transgresss your laws. But dont do as they did in Missouri -- kill people because they would not break the law.
I dont want any office in this goverment for I am determined to be a king in the kingdom of God. What be king in heaven and quarrel about the office of constable on earth?
The kingdom of God may rise up in the midst of the kingdoms of the world and live above all laws, and not be a law abiding man, I will live above all law. I will pay my taxes & obey all requirments that the goverment has upon me. The reason we was mob[bed] in Mo was because we would not have any thing to do with the laws. We did not break any. We lived above them so they sent a mob upon us. The kingdom of God to the world would be a light in a dark place. The kingdom of God could be set up in any kingdom or country & not break the law but live above it.
Conference adjourned till tomorrow morning,
Vol. V. No. 14. Nauvoo, Ill., Aug. 1, 1844. Whole No. 98.
Continuation of last April's Conference.
At two o'clock, P. M., Patriarch Hyrum Smith arrived at the stand, and said he wanted to speak something about the Temple....
(To be continued.)
Vol. V. No. 15. Nauvoo, Ill., Aug. 15, 1844. Whole No. 99.
The president having arrived; the choir sang a hymn. Elder A. Lyman offered prayer.
Vol. V. No. 13. Nauvoo, Ill., July 15, 1844. Whole No. 97.
(Elder Rigdon here stopped to refresh himself. The choir sung a hymn.)
Vol. V. No. 14. Nauvoo, Ill., Aug. 1, 1844. Whole No. 98.
Continuation of last April's Conference.
[ PATRIARCH HYRUM SMITH'S TALK ]
At two o'clock, P. M., Patriarch Hyrum Smith arrived at the stand, and said he wanted to speak something about the Temple....We want 200,000 shingles, as we shall resume the work on the Temple immediately; all who have not paid their tithing, come on and do it. We want provisions, money, boards, planks, and anything that is good; we dont [don't] want any more old guns or watches. I thought some time ago I would get up a small subscription, so that the sisters might do something. In consequence of some misunderstanding, it has not gone on as at first; it is a matter of my own, I do not ask it as a tithing. I give a privilege for any one to pay a cent a week, or fifty cents a year. I want it by next fall to buy nails and glass. It is difficult to get money, I know that a small subscription will bring in more than a large one; -- the poor can help in this way. I take the responsibility upon myself, and call again upon the sisters; I call again until I get about $1,000, it only requires 2,000 subscribers. I have sent this subscription to England, and the branches; I am not to be dictated to, by anyone except the prophet and God; I want you to pay in your subscriptions to me, and it shall always be said boldly by me -- the sisters bought the glass in that house -- and their names shall be written in the book of the law of the Lord. It is not a tax but a freewill offering to procure something which shall ever be a monument of your works. No member of the Female Relief Society got it up; I am the man that did it; they ought not to infringe upon it; I am not a member of the Female Relief Society; I am one of the committee of the Lord's House. I wish to accomplish something; I wish all the saints to have an opportunity to do something; I want the poor to have a chance with the purse of five dollars. -- The widow's two mites, were more in the eyes of the Lord, than the purse of the rich; and the poor woman shall have a seat in the house of God, she who pays her two mites as much as the rich; because it is all they have. I wish all to have a place in that house; I intend to stimulate the brethren; I want to get the roof on this season; I want to get the windows in, in the winter, so that we may be able to dedicate the house of the Lord by this time next year, if nothing more than one room; I will call upon the brethren to do something.
SIDNEY RIGDON'S 1844 SPRING CONFERENCE TALK
Comments by Dale R. Broadhurst
(under construction)The published transcript of Sidney Rigdon's April 6, 1844 speech was never continued after the notice of its postponement in the Times & Seasons on page 579. Instead, the Church's newspaper skipped over the conclusion of his sermon and not long thereafter began to report on his excommunication trail, a trial which ended in Rigdon's being cut off from the Latter Day Saint Church. Rigdon's relationship with Joseph Smith and other Church leaders became increasingly strained between 1840 and 1843, when Joseph attempted to have him excommunicated at the Fall General Conference in Nauvoo. It appears that Sidney was attempting a come-back among the saints during the Spring 1844 Conference and that the results of this attempt extended even into the pages of the Times & Seasons reports. In May the Mormons nominated him to be Joseph's running mate in a short-lived bid for the US presidency. But after the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith the following month Sidney's hopes for reinstatement in the Church power circles ended. In not bending to the authority of Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles, and in trying to set up his own following, he only succeeded in alienating himself even further from the ranks of the Church at Nauvoo.
It is important to note that in his trial he was accused of lying in the name of the Lord, both in Kirtland and in Nauvoo. Bishop Newel K. Whitney went even further, saying that Rigdon had often, throughout the history of the Church, lied in the name of the Lord. While this defamation of Rigdon's character was largely successful in destroying his claimed right to lead the Church, allegedly received through divine revelation in Pittsburgh, it also had the effect of destroying Rigdon's reputation right back to the earliest days of the Mormon movement.
The polemic voiced in the T&S during this period was that Sidney Rigdon had repeatedly lied in the name of the Lord, throughout his years as one of the guiding lights of Mormonism. The readers of the T&S must have wondered whether Rigdon's teachings and testimony were to be trusted at any point in the history of the Church. Had he lied when he had related the details in his story of being converted to Mormonism? Had he lied when he had made claims of receiving visions and revelation along with Joseph Smith, jr.? Had he actually conversed with the risen Christ? Was he fully truthful in his 1839 letter refuting the Spalding Theory for the Authorship of the Book of Mormon? Could people even trust his repeated denials of having no knowledge of the Book of Mormon prior to obtaining it from the four "missionaries to the Lamanites" in 1830?
In the published portion of his speech Rigdon spoke proudly of grand plans hatched in secret NY meetings with the other founders of Mormonism. He said those plans and their results were events "which we can now tell." Did the unpublished continuation of his speech elaborate further on the secret activities in NY and their effect upon early Mormonism? If Sidney Rigdon had often lied in the name of the Lord, did such lies extend back to the time of those first secret meetings and were any other of those early Church members partners with him in religious deceptions? If Rigdon was the kind of person who fabricated accounts of divine visions and revelations, had he also fabricated Pentacostal experiences in Kirtland? Did Rigdon tell lies in name of the Lord when he worked with Smith in revising the text of the Bible, first in NY and later in OH? Had he and others secretly fabricated latter-day holy scripture before this altering of the Bible to conform to Mormon doctrines? Did Rigdon have a hand in the writing of the so-called "Book of Moses" or some part in bringing forth the Book of Mormon?
The T&S accusations opened the saints to some disturbing new ideas as to the truthfulness of anything ever said or done by the one time OH preacher. Ten years later they could find a shred of consolation when Joseph's mother placed some of Sidney's religious lying in the context of mental agitation following the terrible abuse he and Joseph suffered at the hands of an anti-Mormon mob. But, whether Rigdon's lies are excused on the grounds of his mental breakdown, of his being a pious fraud, or of his being a man possessed by demonic powers, he forever stands accused of being the sort of person who could and did fabricate latter-day revelations.
"Gazed upon the scenes of Eternity... for hours"
Many contemporary Latter Day Saints would probably agree that Sidney Rigdon was a religious liar for a short time in Kirtland, and again following the death of Joseph Smith. Those who take a critical view of the "Inspired Version" of the Bible, might even agree that Rigdon is not to be trusted at any point where his activities intersected with the production of latter-day scriptures. It becomes problematic, however, to extend these "religious liar" reports to a more specific accusation that Rigdon had a hand in producing the Book of Mormon. For example, writing in 1910, Harriet T. Upton mentioned that "The present home of James H. Stevens [in Hiram, Ohio] was said to be the place where the Mormon Bible was written by Joseph Smith, and from this house Mr. Smith was taken and tarred and feathered in the back yard; Sidney Rigdon was treated similarly at the same time." If the writer intended the term "Mormon Bible" to stand for the Book of Mormon, her report would indicate that the John Johnson home in Hiram (later the Stevens' residence) was the location where the Book of Mormon was surreptitiously compiled, well before Rigdon and Smith's first known encounter, at the end of 1830. This kind of speculation has been the bread and butter of anti-Mormon writers and the Latter Day Saints have long since learned how to ignore or defend themselves against such unsubstantiated conjecture.
Unless reliable sources can be produced, showing that Rigdon was in communication with persons from the Manchester-Palmyra area of New York, prior to December 1830, it is probably not possible to link his 1820s activities in Ohio to Smith's "translation" of the Book of Mormon. And, even if some evidence of their pre-1830 historical proximity were uncovered, that record alone would not demonstrate that Sidney and Joseph worked together on the Book of Mormon text in the same way they later cooperated in producing the "Inspired Version" of the Bible. Even computerized word-print analysis, demonstrating Book of Mormon textual contributions from both Rigdon and Smith, cannot serve as proof that the two men engaged in joint visions and cooperative scripture writing prior to 1830.
While considering this subject, it might be useful to present here a synthesis of the Bullock and Woodruff transcripts of Sidney Rigdon's April 6th, afternoon Conference talk. At least such a compilation can begin to reconstruct show what Rigdon himself said:
Synthesized Excerpt from Rigdon's 1844 Discourse
I am aware there are many things I did not hint at [this morning]. I will speak of them now. -- I have seen the time [at Hiram, in 1831] when the Presidency of the Church were locked up for weeks in secret places waiting upon God. We [had no free time and] did not go out [of a room in the Johnson house] at all, [except] to eat [and sleep].
For some ideas on who the "gentleman from Mexico" might have been see comments attached to page 115 of Richard S. Van Wagoner's 1994 Sidney Rigdon.
For a possible linkage of local opposition to the Mormon leaders' 1832 joint visions at Hiram, see Mark L. Staker's comments in his 2002 article, "Remembering Hiram, Ohio," where the writer attributes that opposition to a "planned migration" of Hiram area converts to Missouri, "as well as differences in religious doctrine." Staker more directly addresses this issue in a 2008 interview, where he remarks, "a number of [the March 24, 1832 assailants] wanted to stop family members from going to Missouri -- Zion -- and thought that harming the Prophet would somehow prevent the gathering, which was to take place in a couple of weeks. Others apparently were upset about the vision now contained in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants about seeing God and Jesus Christ and the new doctrine that there are many kingdoms in the hereafter." See also chapters 26-27 of Dr. Staker's 2010 book, Hearken, O Ye People.
Whatever the final answers might be to accusations concerning the character of Sidney Rigdon and his reputation as a controversial religious reformer, his influence on the doctrines and structure of the early Church of Christ remains a fact. Even the Mormons' use of the term "Latter Day Saints" was probably his idea. And, while the details of Sidney's first knowledge of the "golden bible" may forever remain in doubt, its effect upon his followers in Ohio was the catalyst which helped transform Joseph Smith's tiny Church of Christ into a religion with adherents now numbering in the millions.
Final Segment of Rigdon's Speech
Woodruff's text on this page is briefer than is that obtained in a reading of Bullock's notes for this same initial section of Rigdon's speech. Woodruff eliminates Rigdon's comment as recorded by Bullock: "Shall not be as explicit as yesterday." Clearly Rigdon's brief admission here was an embarrassment to the LDS leadership. Rigdon was both admitting that he felt the pressure to limit the content of his spoken words and that he had previously somehow overstepped the bounds of what the LDS leadership felt was proper communication from the rostrum at a general conference in Nauvoo.
The pressure on Rigdon to limit his comments to "the party line" may have come in reaction to his accenting the political aspects of the Mormon conception of the Kingdom of God in his previous two speeches. He had bragged his own living above the laws of the land and of the Siants having gotten mobbed in Missouri for following similar convictions. Such talk was inappropriate for a man apparently then being chosen as Joseph Smith's vice-presidential running-mate in the 1844 election campaigns.
More likely, however, is the probability that the pressue to soften his words came in the wake of Joseph Smith and others in the LDS leadership becoming a bit alarmed at Rigdon's many previous comments regarding the secret activities of the LDS Church in its earliest years. Rigdon had just been inducted into the secret Council of the Fifty in Nauvoo and ecclesiastical secrecy was perhaps very much on his mind at the time. However, the unpredictable Rigdon was prefectly able to ride off on some rhetorical flight of fantasy in his speech-making and begin to reveal actual secrets of the Church before a multitude of Saints in Nauvoo.
Finally, Rigdon had hinted previously as to his differences of opinion with Joseph Smith. Although he had kept the references vague in his previous speech, no doubt Smith did not care for any further public explanations of their private relationships and problems. All of the above considerations probably entered into the decision (made by Smith most likely) not to print Rigdon's second and third speeches in the pages of the "Times and Seasons"
Here Woodruff continues to follow the same general textual sequenceas provided by Bullock', but he softens or omits the material presented by Bullock's regarding the interior principle within man that "takes power over everything." Bullock's version of Rigdon's comments on this "power" are no doubt closer to the original spoken text. Rigdon was either at this point still a true believer in the approaching millennial rule of the kingdom of God, or he had grown so used to preaching sermons constructed along those lines that his millenarian talk had become his stock phrases. What Rigdon speaks of as a resident power within humankind, Smith more likely thought of at the "power of the hierarchical Mormon priesthood.
Both Rigdon and Smith continued to hold similar views on establishing a political kingdom of God -- though Smith's purposes by 1844 may have been a bit more earthbound than Rigdon's lofty religious restorationism. Rigdon continued to promise what the Mormons had never been able to deliver to their converts: a heavenly city set up on earth where "miracles" would be a matter of everyday affairs. The promise had been made in Kirtland and then quickly transferred to "Zion" in Missouri. Now he was attempting to place it in Nauvoo. At least Sidney had become more reserved in making wild predictions of impending great heavenly endowments. etc. He seems to have fallen in with Smith's plan to create an independent Mormon state in the west and leave the details of its management and expansion for the future.
Both Woodruff and Bullock pick up and pass on Rigdon's "Disciple" doctrine that mental assent to their teachings regarding Christ and salvation is all that is required for entry of a new convert into the Church through baptism. Rigdon appears ready to admit anyone who will mouth the words to his Disciple baptismal formula. A change of heart is not required of the sinner. A murderous Porter Rockwell or a ploygamous, money-grabbing top leader were equally welcome among Rigdon's version of the Saints of God.
Both reporters converge in their notes regarding the fact that the Mormon kingdom was destined to "swallow up" all other governments on earth. Still, that pronouncement probably sent a chill down the spines of Rigdon's gentile listeners.
Here Woodruff reports much less than Bullock. Rigdon spends a good deal of time telling his listeners how the angels in heaven rejoice when sinners make the decision to accept the Mormon gospel and be baptised. But Woodruff sums the whole Rigdon excursus into the loving fatherhood of God and rejoicing angels in just a few short lines.
For a speaker who had established a reputation for being "eloquent," Rigdon presents no good example of this speaking power in his printed words. No doubt the tone of his voice, bodily movements, and such contributed greatly to his reputed persuasive powers over audiences of religious seekers. His text itself is rambling and repetitive -- it shows no real evidence of superior compositional talent on Rigdon's part. What does show through is Rigdon's ability to flatter and reassure his audience. Entry into the Mormon kingdom comes through exercise of the intellectual prowess of the convert and exercise of the great "power" resident within him. Nothing more is needed for entry onto the pathway to "eternal glory."
And, as before stated, Rigdon does not call upon his intended converts to make nay great changes in their previously sinful lives. Though the audience listening to him was overwhelmingly Mormon, the few "sinful" gentiles reflecting upon his words may have been a bit reassured that upon joining the Saints they could continue to be sinners. To the faithful LDS listening to Rigdon, his teaching no doubt washed away as much lingering guilt as his baptism had washed away from their burden of pre-conversion "sins."
After economizing so well in his previous reporting, finally contributes more to the preservation of Rigdon's speech than does Bullock. Both reporters supplement one another in telling about Rigdon's Baptist days and a good reconstruction of the original speech at this point probably must incorporate both writers' notes. Woodruff gives a much fuller report than does Bullock, when it comes to telling about Rigdon's view of Joel's predictions and Peter's sermon at pentecost. Most likely Woodruff has let his own sermonizing inclinations color and expand the content of his earlier notes. The comment about the Baptist "anxious bench" is, however, a pure Rigdonism.