Sidney Rigdon Faction

(RLDS History of the Church 3:8–12)

Elder Rigdon was not content to preside by virtue of his being counselor to Joseph Smith, but at a conference held in Pittsburg, in April, 1845, he perfected an organization in which he assumed to occupy the place of President of the Church made vacant by the death of Joseph Smith, and chose the following men to occupy the offices named: Samuel James and Ebenezer Robinson, Counselors to the President of the Church; Carvel Rigdon, Patriarch; Samuel Bennett, Hugh Herringshaw, Jeremiah Hatch, Jr., James Blakeslee, Josiah Ells, Benjamin Winchester, William Small, E. R. Swackhammer, D. L. Lathrop, Joseph M. Cole, G. W. Robinson, and William E. McLellin a Quorum of Twelve Apostles; A. B. Tomlinson, J. F. Olney, F. Meryweather, Leonard Rich, George T. Leach, J. M. Greig, and William Hutchings, Presidents of Seventies; D. Savary, C. A. Beck, John Smith, Thomas J. Lanyon, James Logan, J. A. Forgeus, Matthew Smith, Peter Boyer, Robert Kincaid, Lewis James, James Spratley, and John Frazier, a standing High Council; Austin Cowles, William Stanley, and Hiram Kellogg, Presidency of the High Priests’ Quorum; John Duncan, Briggs Alden, and William White, Presidency of the Elders’ Quorum; William Richards, T. L. Baker, and Richard Croxall were chosen to constitute the Bishopric and Presidency of the Lesser Priesthood. Richard Savary, James Smith, and Samuel G. Flagg were appointed a presidency over the Pittsburg Stake.

In addition to the organization of these quorums he organized a quorum of seventy-three composed of those who “had been ordained under his hands to be prophets, priests, and kings, unto God.” This quorum was not composed of men who belonged exclusively to this quorum, but the names of men in other quorums appear in this as well. This quorum was not provided for in the revelations given to the church through Joseph Smith, and what authority Elder Rigdon claimed for its introduction we do not know; nor do we know just what duties were supposed to attach to them. We observe among them several names of men who afterward severed their connection with this movement and were associated with other organizations.

Josiah Ells, Richard Croxall, Samuel James, Jeremiah Hatch, Jr., Carvel Rigdon, Thomas Lanyon, Richard Savary, Leonard Soby, Ebenezer Robinson, James M. Greig, Austin Cowles, E. R. Swackhammer, Samuel G. Flagg, Charles A. Beck, Edward McClain, William White, James Logan, Benjamin Stafford, John A. Forgeus, John Frazier, William Stanley, William Small, Hyrum Kellogg, Peter Boyer, George M. Hinkle, Samuel Bennett, Dennis Savary, James Blakeslee, Briggs Alden, Amos B. Tomlinson, Hugh Herringshaw, Fred Meryweather, Timothy L. Baker, Joseph Parsons, Christian Seichrist, George T. Leach, John Duncan, John Smith, William Richards, James Smith, Leonard Rich, George W. Crouse, Jesse Morgan, William E. McLellin, Lewis James, Joseph M. Cole, John W. Rigdon, George W. Robinson, James Twist, Sidney Rigdon, Robert Kincaid, James G. Divine, Matthew Smith, James Spratley, Algernon S. Rigdon, Jeremiah Cooper, William Hutchings, William Brothers, David L. Lathrop, Archibald Falconer.

Absentees. Joseph B. Bosworth, John W. Latson, George Morey, John Hardy, John Evans, Edward B. Wingate, Benjamin Winchester, Abram Burtis, Joseph H. Newton, John Robinson, William D. Wharton, John F. Olney, Jacob O. Jenks.—The Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, p. 168.

This organization did not seem to have within it the elements of coherency, but apostasies were frequent among its leading members. It maintained a struggling existence for many years, but is now practically extinct, though we understand there are a few persons who yet indorse Elder Rigdon’s claims. So far as we know Elder Rigdon’s followers would compare favorably in moral standing with the adherents of other factions. His teaching regarding loyalty to the laws of the land was far more commendable than the teaching of some other leaders. Others might have avoided much trouble and vexation had they heeded the instruction he gave on this point at that April conference of 1845.

Brethren, hear my voice today, obey the principles of truth delivered, and you never, no never, shall have a charge preferred against one of you. But if you do not obey the laws of this kingdom, and work out salvation, you will be cursed with sore cursings. Never break the laws of this land at the suggestion of apostle, prophet, or even angel.—The Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, p. 171.

Elder Rigdon was expelled by the faction remaining at Nauvoo soon after the death of Joseph Smith, by action of a High Council held in Nauvoo, over which Bishop N. K. Whitney presided. But the minutes of the trial as published in the Times and Seasons show it to have been an ex parte affair, where the court was under the dictation of some members of the Quorum of Twelve, who appear to have been accusers, witnesses, and, indirectly, judges. (Times and Seasons, vol. 5, pp. 647–655, 660–667.) The causes for which he was expelled as summed up by Presiding Judge Whitney were, according to Orson Hyde, very peculiar, indicating that he was not expelled because of evidence then before the council, but for other reasons entirely.

The question was then called for, whereupon Bishop Newel E. Whitney, one of the first bishops in our church, arose at the head of his counselors, and in a short and appropriate speech recounted Mr. Rigdon’s past history, having been personally and intimately acquainted with him for nearly twenty years. He observed that Mr. Rigdon, once before, in the early stages of this church, while in Kirtland, received a false revelation, and appeared to be just as certain that he was right as he now does, until he was sharply reproved by Joseph Smith, and lost his license in consequence of it, which license Bishop Whitney then held in his hands. He observed that Joseph Smith’s uniform testimony concerning him was, that he would do well if some one could hold the reins and stand over him with a rod; but that if he attempted to govern or guide, he would run directly to destruction with all who followed him. The decision of the Bishop was, therefore, that Mr. Sidney Rigdon be cut off from the church of the true and living God. His counselors all arose, one by one, and sanctioned the decision, making such other remarks as they saw fit. It was then laid before all the quorums of authority and also the whole body of the saints, all of whom sanctioned the decision, with the exception of four persons. He was then delivered over to the buffetings of Satan by the united voice of the whole church until he repent and humble himself before God and his brethren.—Speech of Orson Hyde, p. 22.

The following, published in the Messenger and Advocate for March 15, 1845, is important as indicating the attitude of the organization under Sidney Rigdon towards the organization at Nauvoo under the Twelve; their position regarding polygamy, keeping the laws of the land, and other issues of importance:—


Whereas, the connection which has heretofore existed between ourselves and the people calling themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints renders it necessary that we publish to the world a succinct statement of facts relating to the position we now sustain to God and our fellow men; and

Whereas, in consequence of the rejection by that people, of what we undoubtedly deem to be the order of the church and kingdom of God, and the introduction of doctrines and practices clearly inimical to the law of God, and altogether subversive of the laws of the land, abrogating the marriage contract, and substituting under the professed sanction of Heaven, a system of extreme licentiousness, uprooting every legal restraint, and eminently calculated in its very nature to produce the entire destruction of every virtuous tie, and pouring contempt upon every holy principle contained in the revelations of God to his creature man, and must inevitably entail upon that people abject wretchedness and woe, subjecting them to the righteous condemnation of every virtuous intelligence, whether in heaven or on earth; and

Whereas, the better to conceal the justly odious system of polygamy, duplicity, hypocrisy, and falsehood are inculcated as virtues, the most sacred obligations constantly violated, and families and individuals plunged into irrevocable ruin and despair; therefore

Resolved, that we hold no fellowship with the people calling themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and can have no communion with them, unless they repent and obey the principles of righteousness and truth.

Resolved, that we maintain the truth and the truth only, at all hazards, renouncing at once and forever, the unsanctifying dogma that it is sometimes lawful to lie.

Resolved, that our subjection to the law of God impels us to yield implicit obedience to the law of the land.

Resolved, that we maintain and do earnestly contend for the faith which was once, and is again, delivered to the saints, contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Book of Covenants.

Resolved, that we feel it a solemn and imperative obligation we owe to God and our fellow men to disseminate to the extent of our ability, correct information regarding certain pernicious doctrines and practices which are secretly taught by the leaders and many of the members of the society called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; verily believing them demoralizing and destructive, combining all the worst features of barbarism, and containing all the elements of the wildest anarchy, and would if unchecked by the power of truth, ultimately extinguish the species.—Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, p. 176.