What Happened to Revelation? - 1887
The Salt Lake Tribune
August 7, 1887
THE PUZZLING MORMONS.
Their Abandonment of Revelation Looks Queer
TO A WELL-POSTED MAN IN THE EAST.
Not a Voice Lifted for "the Lord" -- Strange Silence of the
Prophets and Spokesmen -- A Forthcoming Work Which Will
Throw Dismay into the Ranks of Mormon Historians.
Editor Tribune: I confess to you and your
readers that of late, in common with thousands all about me, I have been in a
state of mind, in a quandry [in regard to Mormon polygamy, etc.]...
I could name a certain professor of church history in a certain theological seminary who, in the course of his erudite investigations into the state of religious matters and things existing in the Middle and Western States from 55 to 75 years ago, has hit upon some choice facts of which hitherto little has been known and less has been made. I have been permitted to read his manuscript through from end to end, for it is well nigh ready for the press, and your readers may be sure there is richness in it, and some fine music in store for the Saints, Already in fancy I behold the church press craw-fishing, wiggling, affirming, denying, protesting with [reckless] though delicious disregard of the facts of history, and darkening counsel with multitudinous words. For this man with the true instincts and keen scent of a scholar, in a word, has been hunting away back in the record for the large ear marks and foot prints of the illustrious Elder S. Rigdon, apostate from the Baptists and Campbellites, and later from Mormons, sometimes John the Baptist, President of Kirtland "Safety" Society Bank, author of famous Salt Sermon and postmaster at Nauvoo, and fetching up finally as repudiator of celestial marriage and of the whole Brighamite regime. Our professor finds this man of many summersaults to have been always ambitious, unprincipled, vain. fickle, fanatical, crazy, continually after the last theological notion, and never doubting that the next step will bring him to a veritable bonanza of truth and blessedness. He follows this uneasy and conceited soul through all his Quixotic pereginations until he has out-Campbelled Alexander Campbell in novelities of doctrine and practice, or until he has attainted to that toothsome sugar plum known as the creed of the Latter-day Church.
more particularly he is able to prove and to illustrate in a way both thorough
and original. He finds the same lucubrations of
Sidney R. scattered everywhere throughout the Book of Mormon, which volume he
has gone through and through with a critic's eye, and assigns on its "religious"
side wholly to Rigdon's pen. With Spalding's manuscript, or some other as a
basis, Saint Sidney proceeded to manufacture a pious fraud that he might be the
better able to force his theological fancies upon the new religion. In
that desperately dull volume he is able to trace the work of revision. He
concludes that no other hand than Rigdon's could have done it, and even thinks
he finds evidence that this man Friday was "the angel" who appears to Joseph "in
vision," and at length placed in his hands "the plates." So I much fear it will
go hard with the Mormon history, between this Prof. and
Dr. Wyl. LEO.
WESTERN RESERVE, O., August 3.
Note: The theology professor here alluded to was none other than the Rev. Dr. William H. Whitsitt, author of the manuscript Sidney Rigdon biography now on file in the Library of Congress. Whitsitt's writings on the Mormons remained largely unpublished, however. See his 1888 booklet, Origins of Disciples of Christ, and his 1891 paper, "Mormonism," for some samples of what Whitsitt was able to get published before his death in 1911. Much the same argument (based upon Whitsitt's work) has been more recently taken up in a paper by Craig Criddle.
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