Mormon History 1830-1844

Autobiographical Sketch of Sidney Rigdon to 1830 
Sidney's genealogy and early life. Joins the Regular Baptists at twenty-five, begins training to become preacher §. Accepts post at First Baptist Church, Pittsburgh, 1822 §. Has great success, but unorthodox beliefs splits the congregation. Resigns and joins Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott to form the emerging Disciples of Christ §. Moves to Ohio, pastor of largest "Campbellite" congregation in the state, at Mentor §. Preaches literal fulfillment of prophecy, gathering of Israel, second coming and millennium §.
This autobiographical sketch, written in the third person, covers Sidney's life up to but not including his first contact with Mormonism in 1830. It is part of the series, "History of Joseph Smith," published in the Times and Seasons beginning with vol. 3 no. 9 (March 1, 1842). The Sidney Rigdon installments begin in 4, no. 12 (May 1, 1843): 177–178.

 
HISTORY OF JOSEPH SMITH
Continued.
<i>Times and Seasons</i>
')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">TS 4, no. 12 (May 1, 1843): 177–178.
An earlier, longer version appears in
Manuscript History of the Church &#40;December 1805&#45;August 30, 1834&#41;, 553 pages numbered from the &#34;back&#34; of Joseph&#39;s &#34;large journal&#34; &#40;A&#45;1&#41;, written June 11, 1839&#45;Aug. 24, 1843. <i>Selected Collections</i> 1:1, Volume 1 // “Joseph Smith History, 1839” &#40;first 93 pages&#41;, <i>Early Mormon Documents</i> 1:56&#45;148; “History, 1839” &#40;first 240 pages&#41;, <i>Papers of Joseph Smith 1:265&#45;386</i>. Original, Church Archives, CR 100 102, Volume 1.
')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">MH-A, 61–75 in the hand of Robert B. Thompson, after the death of his predecessor, James Mulholland in June, 1839. Much of the text is identical to the
<i>Times and Seasons</i>
')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">TS. The Thompson text continues through the Rigdons' baptism in November 1830. Paternal genealogy Sidney S. Rigdon was born in Saint Clair township, Alleghany [Allegheny] county, State of Pennsylvania, on the 19th of February, A. D. 1793, and was the youngest son of William and Nancy Rigdon. William Rigdon, his father, was a native of Hartford county, State of Maryland, was born A. D. 1793, and died May 26th A. D. 1810, in the 62d year of his age. William Rigdon was the son of Thomas Baker, and Ann Lucy Rigdon. Thomas Baker Rigdon was a native of the State of Maryland, and was the son of Thomas Baker Rigdon, who came from Great Britain. Maternal genealogy Ann Lucy Rigdon, grandmother of Sidney S. Rigdon, was a native of Ireland, and emigrated to the city of Boston, Massachusetts, and was there married to Thomas Baker Rigdon. Nancy Rigdon's mother was a native of Freehold, Monmouth county, New Jersey, was born March 16th, 1759, and died October 3d, 1839, and was the eldest daughter of Bryant Gallaher, who was a native of Ireland. Elizabeth Gallaher, mother to the said Nancy Rigden [Rigdon], was the second wife of the said Bryant Gallaher, and whose maiden name was Reed, and who was a native of Monmouth county, New Jersey. Their parents were natives of Scotland.
Family name In giving an account of his parents, Elder Rigdon is of the opinion that he is of Norman extraction, and thinks that the name of Rigdon was derived from the French word Rig-o-dan, which signifies a dance, which language was spoken by the Normans, and that his ancestors came over to England with William the Conquerer [Conqueror].
  Farmers

Siblings
His father, William Rigdon, was a farmer, and he removed from the State of Maryland some time prior to his marriage; to the State of Pennsylvania; and his mother had removed some time prior to that, from the State of New Jersey to the same State; where they were married, and continued to follow agricultural pursuits. They had four children, viz: three sons, and one daughter. The eldest, sons, were called Carvil, Loami, and Sidney S., the subject of this brief history. The fourth, a daughter, named Lucy. Death of parents

Stays with mother until 26
Nothing very remarkable took place in the youthful days of Elder Rigdon, suffice it to say, that he continued at home with his parents, following the occupation of a farmer until he was seventeen years of age, when his father died; after which event, he continued on the same farm with his mother, until he was twenty-six years of age.
Regular Baptist In his twenty-fifth year, he connected himself with a society which in that country was called Regular Baptists. The Church he united with, was at that time under the charge of the Rev. David Phillips, a clergyman from Wales. The year following, he left the farm and went to reside with the Rev. Andrew Clark, a minister of the same order. Licensed preacher During his continuance with him, he received a license to preach in that society, and commenced from that time to preach, and returned to farming occupations no more. This was in March 1819. Moves to Ohio In the month of May of the same year, he left the State of Pennsylvania and went to Trumball [Trumbull] county, State of Ohio, and took up his residence at the house of Adamson Bentley, a preacher of the same faith. This was in July of same year. Adamson Bentley was minster of the Concord Baptist Church in Warren. <i>Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio</i>, A. S. Hayden &#40;Cincinnati: Chase & Hall, 1876&#41;.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Hayden history, 25.

What did he do between May and July 1819?
Marries Phebe Brooks While there, he became acquainted with Phebe Brook [Brooks], to whom he was married on the 12th of June, A. D. 1820. She was a native of the State of New Jersey, Bridgetown, Cumberland county, and had previously removed to Trumball county, Ohio.—   First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh After his marriage he continued to preach in that district of country until November, 1821, when he was requested by the First Baptist Church of the city of Pittsburgh, to take the pastorial charge of said Church, which invitation he accepted, and in February, A. D. 1822, he left Warren, Trumball county, and removed to that city and entered immediately upon his pastorial duties, and continued to preach to that Church with considerable success. Their son John wrote that Sidney and Phebe took their "wedding tour" to Pittsburgh to visit his parents. The church had no preacher and Sidney was invited to preach, which he did for 4 or 5 weeks, after which he was offered the position. &#34;I Never Knew a Time When I Did Not Know Joseph Smith: A Son&#39;s Record of the Life and Testimony of Sidney Rigdon,&#34; edited by Karl Keller, <i>Dialogue</i> 1, no. 4 &#40;Winter 1966&#41;: 14&#45;42.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Never knew, 20.

In 1848, Alexander Campbell wrote, "On my visits to Pittsburg in those days … I spoke to the Baptist church in that city. The result was, that, with the exception of some twelve persons, the whole church, over a hundred members, were theoretically reformers. In 1822 I induced Sidney Rigdon, then a Baptist minister of Ohio, to accept of a call to the church in Pittsburg." Millennial Harbinger 5, (Oct. 1848): 553.
Church divides At the time he commenced his labors in that Church, and for some time before, the Church was in a very low state and much confusion existed in consequence of the conduct of their former pastor.— Popular However, soon after Elder Rigdon commenced his labors, there was a pleasing change effected, for by his incessant labors and his peculiar style of preaching, the Church was crowded with anxious listeners. The number of members rapidly increased, and it soon became one of the most respectable Churches in that city.—He was now a popular minister, and was much respected in that city, and all classes and persuasions sought his society. Unorthodox beliefs After he had been in that place some time, his mind was troubled and much perplexed, with the idea that the doctrines maintained by that society were not altogether in accordance with the [178] scriptures. This thing continued to agitate his mind, more and more, and his reflections on these occasions were peculiarly trying; for according to his views of the word of God, no other church that he was acquainted with was right, or with whom he could associate; consequently, if he was to disavow the doctrine of the Church with whom he was then associated, he knew of no other way of obtaining a livelihood except by mental labor, and at that time had a wife and three children to support. "At length an old Scotch divine came to Pittsburg and wanted to know of my father if he preached and taught the Baptist confession of faith [regarding] infant damnation. He told him that he did not care if it was a part of the Baptist confession of faith. It was too horrible a doctrine for him to teach and he would have nothing to do with it. His refusal to teach the Baptist confession of faith occassioned quite a stir among the congregation. The older members of [22] the church thought he ought to teach it, … My father seeing there was to be a division in the church, tendered his resignation and the church got another minister." &#34;I Never Knew a Time When I Did Not Know Joseph Smith: A Son&#39;s Record of the Life and Testimony of Sidney Rigdon,&#34; edited by Karl Keller, <i>Dialogue</i> 1, no. 4 &#40;Winter 1966&#41;: 14&#45;42.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Never knew, 21–22. Personal sacrifice for truth On the one hand was wealth, popularity and honor, on the other, appeared nothing but poverty and hard labor. But, notwithstanding his great ministerial success, and the prospect of ease and affluence, (which frequently swerve the mind, and have an undue influence on too many who wear the sacred garb of religion, who for the sake of popularity and of wealth, can calm and lull to rest their conscientious scruples, and succomb to the popular church,) yet, his mind rose superior to all these considerations.—Truth was his pursuit, and for truth he was prepared to make every sacrifice in his power. <i>Times and Seasons</i>')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">TS 4, no.13 (May 15, 1843): 193–194. Resigns After mature deliberation, deep reflection, and solemn prayer to his Heavenly Father, the resolve was made, and the important step was taken; and in the month of August, A. D. 1824, after laboring among that people two years and six months, he made known his determination, to withdraw from the church, as he could no longer uphold the doctrines taught and maintained by it. This announcement was like a clap of thunder—amazement seized the congregation, which was then collected, which at last gave way in a flood of tears. It would be in vain to attempt to describe the feelings of the church on that occasion, who were zealously attached to their beloved pastor—or the feelings of their minister. On his part it was indeed a struggle of principle over affection and kindness.
On July 11, 1823 John Winter and a faction of twelve to twenty church members accused Sidney of heresy, but the preacher managed to hang on with seventy or eighty supporters.

See <i>Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess</i>, Richard S. Van Wagoner &#40;Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994&#41;.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Sidney Rigdon, 31, for the heresies alleged in 1842 by Samuel Williams, minister of the Pittsburgh church 1827–1855,
Alexander Campbell

Walter Scott
There was at the time of his separation from that church, a gentleman of the name of Alexander Campbell, who was formerly from Ireland, and who has since obtained considerable notoriety in the religious world, who was then a member of the same association, and who afterwards separated from it. There was also another gentleman, by the name of Walter Scott, a Scotchman by birth, who was a member of the Scandinavian Church, in that city, and who separated from the same about that time.
Alexander Campbell (1788–1866) Source

Walter Scott (1796–1861) Source
Campbell's Christian Baptist Prior to these separations, Mr. Campbell resided in Bethany, Brook county, Virginia, where he published a monthly periodical, called the "Christian Baptist."
Christian Baptist and Millennial Harbinger. Source Greatest of friends After they had separated from the different churches, these gentlemen were on terms of the greatest friendship, and frequently met together to discuss the subject of religion; being yet undetermined respecting the principles of the doctrine of Christ, or what course to pursue. Sidney's Pittsburgh church and Alexander's Brush Run church belonged to the Redstone Association of Baptists. Aware of a movement to expel his church, Alexander quietly affiliated with the more tolerant Mahoning Association, so the point was moot when the Redstone Association met in September 1823. Complaints about Sidney's church were referred to a committee.

A week or two later, the two reformers traveled on horseback three hundred miles to Washington, Mason county, Kentucky, for Alexander's seven-day debate with Presbyterian minister W. L. McCalla. Alexander rejected creeds and urged a return to the Bible, baptism for immersion for the remission of personal sins (not original sin).
Sidney's claim to Campbellite origins However, from this connexion sprung up a new church in the world, known by the name of "Campbellites," they call themselve[s] "Disciples." The reason why they were called Campbellites, was, in consequence of Mr. Campbells' publishing the periodical above mentioned, and it being the means through which they communicated their sentiments to the world; other than this, Mr. Campbell was no more the originator of that sect than Elder Rigdon. Becomes a tanner

Humiliated
Having now retired from the ministry, and having no way by which to sustain his family, besides his own industry, he was necessiated to find other employment in order to provide for his maintenance, and for this purpose he engaged in the humble capacity of a journeyman tanner, in that city, and followed his new employment, without murmuring, for two years—during which time he both saw and experienced, that, by resigning his pastorial vocations in that city, and engaging in the humble occupation of a tanner, he had lost many who once professed the greatest friendship, and who manifested the greatest love for his society—that when he was seen by them in the garb suited to the employment of a tanner, there was no longer that freedom, courtesy and friendship manifested—that many of his former friends became estranged and looked upon him with coolness and indifference—too obvious to admit of deception.
Sidney worked "in a tan yard with his brother-in-law, Richard Brooks, who was a tanner and conyer by trade who started a tannery in Pittsburg. My father contributed some money to the business. At the end of two years they sold the tannery.

"Soon after that Sidney Rigdon became acquainted with Alexander Campbell, who was a very learned man but not much of an orator. He and Campbell got their heads together and started what was then called the Campbellite Church, now called Christian. Sidney Rigdon baptized Campbell and Campbell baptized him, and the church was started. There was not much to their confession of faith. It was to believe on the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, be baptized for the remission of your sins, and take the Bible for your guide was all there was of it." &#34;I Never Knew a Time When I Did Not Know Joseph Smith: A Son&#39;s Record of the Life and Testimony of Sidney Rigdon,&#34; edited by Karl Keller, <i>Dialogue</i> 1, no. 4 &#40;Winter 1966&#41;: 14&#45;42.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Never knew, 22.

conyer: a rabbit warren (orig., a piece of land set aside for the breeding of rabbits).
To a well regulated and enlightened mind—to one who soars above the arbitrary and vain lines of distinction which pride or envy may draw, such conduct appears ridiculous—while at the same time it cannot but cause feelings of a peculiar nature, in those who, for their honesty and integrity of heart, have brought themselves into situations to be made the subjects of it. Supportive wife These things, however, did not affect his mind, so as to change his purpose. He had counted the cost before his separation, and had made his mind known to his wife, who cheerfully shared his sorrow and humiliation, believing that all things would work together for their good, being conscious that what they had done was for conscience sake, and in the fear of the Lord.
Moves to Bainbridge

Becomes preacher

Bible as rule of faith
After laboring for two years as a tanner, he removed to Bainbridge, Geauga county, Ohio, where it was known that he had been a preacher, and had gained considerable distinction as a public speaker, and the people soliciting him to preach, he complied with their request. From this time forward, he devoted himself to the work of the ministry, confining himself to no [194] creed, but hold up the Bible as the rule of faith, and advocating those doctrines which had been the subject of his, and Mr. Campbell's investigations, viz: Repentance and baptism, for the remission of sins.
In Dec. 1825, Sidney, Phebe, and their four children moved to land owned by Pehebe's father in Bainbridge. <i>Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess</i>, Richard S. Van Wagoner &#40;Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994&#41;.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Sidney Rigdon, 39.

Regular Baptists subscribed to the Philadelphia Creed of 1742 (source), which was a revised version of the Second London Confession of Faith of 1689. Source
Large church in Mantua He continued to labor in that vicinity one year, and during that time, his former success attended his labors. Large numbers invariably attended his meetings. While he labored in that neighborhood, he was instrumental in building up a large and respectable church, in the town of Mantua [Center], Portage county, Ohio. Great excitement over new doctrine The doctrines which he advanced being new, public attention was awakened, and great excitement pervaded throughout that whole section of country, and frequently the congregations which he addressed, were so large that it was impossible to make himself audible to all. The subjects he proposed were presented in such an impressive manner to the congregations, that those who were unbiased by bigotry and prejudice, had to exclaim, "we never heard it in this manner before." Ridicule There were some, however, that opposed the doctrines which he advanced, but not with that opposition which ever ought to characterize the noble and ingenious. Those by whom he was opposed, well knew that an honorable and public investigation, would inevitably discover the weakness and fatality of their doctrines; consequently they shunned it, and endeavored, by ridiculing the doctrines which he promulgated, to suppress them. Repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost

Bible, not creeds or traditions
This, however, did not turn him from the path which he felt to be his duty; for he continued to set forth the doctrines of repentance, and baptism for remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, according to the teachings of Peter, on the day of Pentecost, exhorting his hearers in the mean time, to throw away their creeds of faith—to take the Bible as their standard, and search its sacred pages—to learn to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of the Lord, and to rise above every sectarian sentiment, and the traditions of the age, and explore the wide and glorious fields of truth which the scriptures holds out to them.
Mentor invitation After laboring in that neighborhood one year, he received a very pressing invitation to remove to the town of Mentor, in the same county, about thirty miles from Bainbridge, and within a few miles from Lake Erie, which he sometime afterwards complied with. The persons by whom he was more particularly requested to move to that place, were the remnants of a Baptist Church, which was nearly broken up, the members of which had become attached to the doctrines promulgated by Elder Rigdon.
<i>Times and Seasons</i>')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">TS 4, no. 14 (June 1, 1843): 209–210. Wealthy residents The town of Mentor was settled by wealthy and enterprizing individuals, who had by their industry and good management made that township one of the most delightful in that country, or probably in the Western Reserve. Its advantages for agricultural purposes could hardly be surpassed, while the splendid farms, fertile fields, and stately mansions made it particularly attractive to the eye of the traveller, and gives evidence of enterprize and wealth.—In that beautiful location he took up his residence, and immediately commenced his labors, with that zeal and assiduity which had formerly characterized him.
Slander But being a stranger, and many reports being put in circulation of a character calculated to lessen him in the estimation of the people, and consequently destroy his influence. Some persons were even wicked enough to retail those slanderous reports which were promulgated, and endeavored to stir up persecution against him; consequently many of the citizens were jealous, and did not extend to him that confidence which he might otherwise have expected.
Persecution His path was not strewed with flowers, but the thorns of persecution beset him, and he had to contend against much prejudice and opposition, whose swol[l]en waves might have sunk one less courageous, resolute, and determined; yet, notwithstanding these unfavorable circumstances, he continued to meet the storm, to stem the torrent, and bear up under the reproach for some time.
Wins people over in 8 months At length the storm subsided, for after laboring in that neighborhood about eight months, he so wrought upon the feelings of the people by his consistent walk and conversation—his sociability, combined with his overwhelming eloquence, that a perfect calm succeeded—their evil apprehensions and surmisings were allayed, their prejudices gave way, and the man whom they had looked upon with jealousy was now their theme of praise, and their welcome guest. Those who had been most hostile, now became his warmest admirers, and most constant friends.
Throngs The churches in which he preached, which had heretofore been filled with anxious hearers, were now filled to overflowing, the poor flocked to the services, and the rich thronged the assemblies. Regional success The doctrines he advanced, were new, but at the same time were elucidated with such clearness, and enforced with an eloquence altogether superior to what they had listened to before, that those whose sectarian prejudices were not too deeply rooted, who listened to the deep and searching discourses which he delivered from time to time, could not fail of being greatly affected, and convinced that the principles he advanced were true, and in accordance with the scriptures. Nor were his labors and success confined to that township alone, but calls were made in every direction for him to preach, which he complied with, as much as he possibly could, until his labors became very extensive, and spread over a vast extent of country.
Wherever he went, the same success attended his ministry, and he was every where received with kindness, and welcomed by persons of all classes. Prejudice after prejudice, gave way on every hand—opposition after opposition, was broken down, and bigotry was rooted from its strong holds. The truths he advanced, were received with gladness, and the doctrines he taught had a glorious ascendancy wherever he had the opportunity of promulgating them.
Thousands listen His fame as an orator and deep reasoner in the scriptures continued to spread far and wide, and he soon gained a popularity and an elevation which has fallen to the lot of but few, consequently thousands flocked to hear his eloquent discourses.
Throngs of people come When it was known where he was going to preach, there might be seen long before the appointed time, persons of all classes, sects and denominations, flocking like doves to their windows, from a considerable distance. The humble pedestrian, and the rich in their splendid equipages—might be seen crowding the roads Outdoor meetings The churches in the different places, where he preached, were now no longer large enough to contain the vast assemblies which congre-[210]gated from time to time, so that he had to repair to the wide spread canopy of heaven, and in the woods and in the groves, he addressed the multitudes which flocked to hear him—Nor was his preaching in vain. It was not empty sound that so closely engaged the attention of his audiences, and with which they were so deeply interested, but it was the truths which were imparted, the intelligence which was conveyed, and the duties which were enforced.
New interpretations Not only did the writings of the New Testament occupy his attention, but occasionally those of the ancient prophets, particularly those prophesies which had reference to the present and to the future, were brought up to review and treated in a manner entirely new, and deeply interesting. No longer did he follow the old beaten track, which had been travelled for ages by the religious world, but he dared to enter upon new grounds; called in question the opinions of uninspired men; shewed the foolish ideas of many commentators on the sacred scriptures—exposed their ignorance and contradictions—threw new light on the sacred volume, particularly those prophesies which so deeply interest this generation, and which had been entirely overlooked, or mystified by the religious world—cleared up scriptures which had heretofore appeared inexplicable, and delighted his astonished audience with things "new and old"—
Gathering of Israel

Second coming

Millennium
proved to a demonstration the literal fulfilment of prophesy, the gathering of Israel in the last days, to their ancient inheritances, with their ultimate splendor and glory; the situation of the world at the coming of the Son of Man—the judgments which Almighty God would pour out upon the ungodly, prior to that event, and the reign of Christ with his saints on the earth, in the millenium. Baptizes families, societies These important subjects could not fail to have their weight on the minds of his hearers, who clearly discerned the situation in which they were placed, by the sound and logical arguments which he adduced; and soon, numbers felt the importance of obeying that form of doctrine which had been delivered them; so that they might be accounted worthy to escape those things which were coming on the earth, and many came forward desiring to be baptized for the remission of sins.
Like John the Baptist He accordingly commenced to baptize, and like John of old, there flocked to him people from all the region round about—persons of all ranks and standings in society—the rich, the poor, the noble and the brave, flocked to be baptized of him. Nor was this desire confined to individuals, or families, but whole societies threw away their creeds and articles of faith, and became obedient to the faith he promulgated, and he soon had large and flourishing societies throughout that whole region of country. Courted by all He now was a welcome visiter wherever he travelled—his society was courted by the learned, and intelligent, and the highest encomiums were bestowed upon him for his biblical lore, and his eloquence.
Diligence The work of the ministry engaged all his time and attention, he felt deeply for the salvation of his fellow man, and for the attainment of which, he labored with unceasing dilligence.

Sidney Rigdon
Biographies




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