Baptist Pastor Sidney Rigdon was a mess!

Lo and behold, I am surfing the internet, and I discover this Baptist pastor on the internet.

And then to top it off friends, I am reading The Standard (July 22, 1899); and I discover within this newspaper article, “The Relation of Sidney Rigdon to the Book of Mormon” by W. A. Stanton, D.D.

Whooaaa!  This guy, Sidney, started his “ministry” as a “Baptist” mess.

Stanton begins his article on Rigdon,

Three movements in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, each of which was claimed by its leader to be a reformation of religion, have an important place in American religious history.  The earliest of these movements was the one led by Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott, resulting in the establishment of the Disciples of Christ, or Christians, as a separate body.

The second was the beginning and rise of Mormonism under the manipulations of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.  The third was the development of modern spiritualism, or “spiritism,” beginning with the “rappings” of the Fox sisters in western New York.  The first two “reformations” had close connection with Baptist history in and about Pittsburgh, Pa.  Having been pastor of a Baptist church in Pittsburgh for about ten years, with excellent opportunities for investigations, I propose to tell what I have learned as to the relation of Sidney Rigdon to the Book of Mormon.  Of course this story will be denied by Mormons and their friends; within twelve hours of this writing I have been visited by two Mormon officials and treated to a strenuous and indignant denial; but denial is not proof.  I submit the plain, ungarnished facts to the public, and abide by its verdict. . .

LDS responses to Stanton are interesting, like here.

I would have liked to hear the two Mormon officials who came to Stanton.  I am not too much into the Spalding theory, but this guy, Rigdon, was wild!  What was Joseph Smith thinking?


  1. First, I’m reminded of the weakness of the natural man in believing whatever is said, written, or seen — why does the promise of the Book of Mormon tell us to ask God and rely on the witness of the Holy Ghost? It’s because there is no greater witness than that of the Spirit. It’s more powerful than seeing, hearing, or touching — we aren’t just physical beings, we are spiritual beings having physical experiences. The world teaches us differently.

    Second, I’m reminded that Satan is the great deceiver and imitator — of course, most of the world doesn’t understand this and most don’t even believe that Satan even exists — do you think it is by accident that there is very little information about Satan and his character in the Bible? People let their guard down when they don’t believe there is an enemy present — all you have to do is look around and you see how well this tactic of Satan is working. There is a need for a restoration of plain and precious truths.

    Wherever there is good and truth, Satan will be there also trying to counterfeit, deceive, and lead away. The Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price gives great details of Moses’ encounter with Satan in an attempt to deceive him. Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision is another witness of the reality of Satan:

    “…I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. ” (Joseph Smith-History 1:15)

    “It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy? ” (Joseph Smith-History 1:20)

    The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ and Satan will try to do whatever possible to make it look otherwise — as I read about Spaulding, I thought of Satan trying to imitate what Joseph was about to bring forth as the Book of Mormon. Satan knew about Nephi, the Lamanites, Moroni, etc. — even better than we do — he just got done trying to tempt and deceive them too! He can and does appear as an angel of light and causes deception among mortals for the purposes of trying to lead away and destroy the works of God.

    The more I study the scriptures, I have found that if you pay attention closely, you can usually see that wherever there is great good or manifestations of God, that Satan is very nearby trying to distract, counterfeit, and lead away any that might try to believe it is of God. This is why we need the power of the Holy Ghost — even though our mortal eyes are being deceived, our spirits can know the truth.

    There is a battle going on that’s even greater and bigger than we can see or realize, yet it is being fought on the smallest of battlefields — within the walls of each person’s heart and soul.

  2. Todd,

    My friend — I’m curious, what is your belief of this based on?

    I’m also curious, Todd — if I might ask without causing offense or ill feelings — if you received a revelation and witness to your soul from the Holy Ghost that God had indeed restored the fullness of the Everlasting Gospel to the Earth in these latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith — would you be willing and able to make whatever changes necessary in your life to follow a living prophet with full purpose of heart?

    In my mind, this seems like it could be a very, very hard thing to do for pastors of other faiths (1) because it would usually mean the need to support their family financially by some other means, and (2) because of personal pride in what they have been teaching and believing all of their life.

    In my life, I have known people who have received a witness to their soul from the Holy Ghost, but were yet unwilling or unable to do what it would take — just like the young man who went away sorrowful when he asked the Savior what he should do to have eternal life.

    I have also seen people who were unwilling to do what it takes to receive a witness because they were afraid of the answer and the change it would require.

  3. Rob, I of course cannot speak for Todd, but here is my answer: as a young man, I became convinced that Evangelicalism was not the fullness of Apostolic Christianity. As a result, I began a journey, the first leg of which involved becoming Roman Catholic. Eventually, I ended up where I am now. On a personal level, this journey has involved certain costs in terms of relationships with family, etc.

    It also involved both an inner witness and outside evidence. The same could be said, I am sure, of those many Evangelicals (and other Protestants, many of them clergy who often paid dearly in terms of income, etc.) who have become either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox over the past twenty or so years. (Then there is the case of the Mormon college student whose inner witness – and outside evidence – pointed him away from the LDS Church and into Roman Catholicism.)

    One major point is, the Holy Spirit does not operate in a vacuum. St. Paul tells us to “test the spirits” in one place and also, to “test everything”. This is obviously necessary precisely because of that battle which rages in the heart: any inspiration which we receive has three possible sources: the Holy Spirit, our own psyche, or the demons.

    Therefore, I cannot conceive of a situation in which the Holy Spirit would inspire me – or anyone else – to become LDS. The objective evidence to support Mormon claims is just not there.

  4. Rob, I take no offense at all.

    My foundation for this belief toward both Rigdon and Smith is how they approached Old and New covenant scripture.

    If I think that my personal, spiritual insights trump scripture, I am in huge danger. And so are all those who listen to me in our congregation.

  5. I’m not certain what is being suggested in this post. The post on about him being the angel is a sham, written by a detractor of the LDS Church. Regardless of what is stated in the paper, it’s similar to the musings of journalists today… riddled with personal opinion. Why would Rev. Stanton, the person credited with the writing, care to share the truth about what really happened? How would he know any of the truth anyway? Everything he says is hearsay at best. Not to mention is it riddled with falsehoods.

    If you read the Spaulding documents, they aren’t even a close facsimile to the Book of Mormon. One of the false statements I picked up on right away on the article was the statement, “In after years these three men renounced Mormonism and said that their sworn statement was false.” This is completely not true at all. In fact, even on their death beds, they reaffirmed their belief in the Book of Mormon, even though they were not members of the LDS Faith and they felt as though Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet. But they never denied seeing the plates, having a visitation from the angel and receiving witness to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

    For example, here is a book written by David Whitmer (one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon) who left the LDS Church, but still testifies of the truthfulness of the book of mormon. (

    So while this Rev. Stanton’s musings are printed in the paper, they must be taken with a grain of salt knowing they had his own biased and personal spin on what he deemed to be true. It should be set aside for the truth spoken by those who were actually there.

  6. Todd,

    Can you elaborate briefly on the approach that Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith took with the scriptures that you disagree with?

    Also, how does receiving personal and spiritual insights from the Holy Ghost trump scripture? Isn’t the greater danger misunderstanding scripture and refusing to ask the Holy Ghost to teach us personally from the scriptures?

  7. Rob, type in JST in this blog’s search mechanism. I have all kinds of problems with what Joseph Smith crossed out and what words he inserted in the KJV.

    Secondly, the Spirit of God teaches biblical truths through Spirit-led teachers. Joseph enjoyed leaving the old faith and progressively pioneering new theological frontiers. Of course, no LDS authority today comes close to the path of this original founder. All contemporary authorities are resting on Joseph’s early 1800’s authority. And so in reality, LDS authorities of today are like me. They rest on the old while not pressing for new.

    Today, it does appear that no LDS “personal and spiritual insights from the Holy Ghost trump [LDS] scripture”, but back in Joseph’s day things were much more radical.

  8. Todd,

    It seems a person can look at Joseph Smith in one of two ways — either (1) he was just another revivalist trying to make sense of the confusion all around him and so he went around modifying the Bible as he saw fit, or (2) he was called of God as a prophet in these latter days through which God restored the pieces of His Gospel that were lost from the Bible.

    Did Joseph “pioneer” or *invent* new theological frontiers?? — yes, but only if you chose (1) above.

    Was Joseph “led” by the Spirit of God to teach biblical truths?? — yes, but only if you chose (2) above.

    In geometry, if you are off on a tangent — depending on how far off you are — it takes a noticeable change to get back to the original path — this is why Joseph is seen as bringing about “new theological frontiers” — in reality he was restoring gospel truths that had been lost. (seems new if you’ve been on the wrong path long enough)

    I humbly disagree with your statement that all contemporary LDS authorities are just *resting* on Joseph’s authority — it’s actually completely to the contrary, they continue the work acting as prophets, seers, and revelators to the world as directed by the same Jesus Christ who appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820. They are preparing the world and especially those who hath ear to hear for the millennial return of the Savior.

    Are we constantly seeking for a sign as a wicked and adulterous generation (lot of wickedness and adultery going on all around us right now) or are we tasting the fruit of the tree that has been planted?

    The Lord has already restored the gospel truths through the Prophet Joseph Smith — and today the Lord directs His prophets and apostles to teach the saints to study and seek after these truths that they already have in their hands.

    The Lord does not cast pearls before swine — the truth has been restored, and more can be received, but only if that which has been given is understood.

    LDS members aren’t the ones that need a “Proclamation on the Family” to tell them that marriage is sacred and ordained of God between only a man and a women. They *should* already know that from the teachings of the restored gospel. It’s the world who doesn’t understand this and therefore needs a reminder of this eternal truth acting as a lighthouse in the dense fog all around them.

  9. I’m sorry, but I had been under the impression that Sidney Rigdon was a Campbellite preacher prior to his association with Joseph Smith. Had he already left his Baptist beginnings?

  10. According to Wikipedia (the respository of all knowledge), Rigdon started out as a Baptist. (Of course, Baptists, Campbellites, and Mormons all reject infant baptism.)

  11. Colan, Stanton (1899) records the mess at Peter’s Creek Baptist Church in Library where Rigdon was baptized (May 31, 1817), then his mess pastorate at the First Regular Baptist Church in Pittsburgh (starting Jan. 28, 1822), and all the way to his preaching a sermon on Aug. 23, 1827 in New Lisbon, Ohio for the Mahoning Baptist Association.

    And according to Stanton, “just thirty days after that sermon Joseph Smith proclaimed his finding of “The Golden Bible, better known as the Book of Mormon, at the little village of Manchester, six miles from Palmyra, N.Y. Rigdon soon went thither, professed immediate conversion to the “find,” and straitway preached the first Mormon sermon.”

    And it appears that Alexander Campbell influenced Rigdon all along the whole way.

    Greg, read this post by Douglas Wilson: “Calvin was a fundamentalist” and then the thread that follows . . .

    Yes, we Baptists do cry foul on infant baptism.

  12. Todd, I think it quite likely that many of Campbell’s concerns influenced the foundation of the LDS movement via Rigdon, but Campbell was no fan of Smith, and vice-versa, and therefore, Campbell certainly would not have supported Rigdon’s association with Smith.

    Regarding the article you link to above, it is clear, of course, that knowing where a community stands on paedo vs. believers’ baptism will a priori reveal little about where that community stands on other issues. My point, farther above, was that Campbell – and Smith – apparently adopted what is essentially a Baptist rationale for rejecting infant baptism, seeing the administration of baptism as a response to one’s repentance and confession of faith. In a sense, Calvin’s position on baptism is about halfway between the Traditional position, that of baptismal regeneration (requiring repentance and faith in those old enough to manifest same), and the Baptist position. In retaining infant baptism, and supported by his whole theology, Calvin rejects the voluntarism associated with exclusive believers’ baptism, but, given his total monergism, he also essentially denies baptismal regeneration, seeing it merely as the means whereby someone is admitted to the community of the New Covenant, analogous to circumcision.

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