Lectures on Faith: Historical context w/ Gottfried The Hirsute

October 27, 2018


Lectures on Faith: Historical context w/ Gottfried The Hirsute

Everything happens for a reason, and sometimes that reason is Sidney Rigdon. Long-time listener of the show Gottfried The Hirsute joins us to give a greater context for why Sidney, we mean Joseph Smith, wrote the Lectures on Faith.

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3 Comments on “Lectures on Faith: Historical context w/ Gottfried The Hirsute”

  1. Gottfried the Hirsute Says:

    In typical fashion, after listening to my interview I keep thinking of all the things I wished I’d said. But that would take hours, and this is My Book of Mormon, not Mormon Stories! (shoutout to John Dehlin) 😉

    But I do need to give credit where credit is due, and for those who are interested in digging deeper into Sidney’s backstory, I have two main recommendations:

    First, William H. Whitsitt, who was a Baptist historian and president of the Southern [Baptist] Seminary, wrote a biography Sidney – “Sidney Rigdon, the Real Founder of Mormonism – which was unpublished at the time of Whitsitt’s death in 1899, but the manuscript is on file and available at the Library of Congress. Dale Broadhurst transcribed the manuscript and it is posted on his sidneyrigdon.com website here:


    For convenience, I reformatted the text into PDF format and uploaded it as a Google Doc here:


    Whitsitt focuses on Sidney’s early life, his time as a Campbellite minister and also the extensive history of the Scottish Baptists (Immersed Sandemanians) who ultimately became the Disciples of Christ (Campbellites) in the U.S. Whitsitt’s writing style is dense, and in typical 19th century fashion, he has no qualms about showing his personal biases (which are usually quite unfavorable toward Rigdon), so you definitely need to read with a grain of salt!

    (As a side note, Whitsitt himself is interesting in that he was removed as President of Southern Seminary for having the audacity to state that the Baptist tenet of having an unbroken chain of authority back to Jesus and John the Baptist was false on historical grounds. Damned Intellectuals! 😉 Wait, which other church claims to have an unbroken chain of priesthood authority going back to Jesus… I’ve still got my card! 😀 )

    Second, Richard Van Wagoner’s “Sidney Rigdon, A Portrait in Religious Excess” is the best source for Sidney’s post-Nauvoo period. It describes in detail how Sidney re-established his Church of Christ and quotes extensively from his revelations as ‘prophet’ and head of the church. The summary of the book on amazon.com is informative:


    Van Wagoner’s book is very readable and is similar in tone to Fawn Brodie’s “No Man Knows My History.”

    Sidney’s influence on Mormon theology has been so whitewashed out of official LDS history (I’m looking at you, Brigham Young and Willard Richards!) as to make him almost a footnote when in fact he was second only to Joseph himself in authority and influence. (And now the new 4-volume History of the Church is whitewashing Brigham and Willard’s version – karma’s gonna get ya!) It’s only by reading multiple accounts from various perspectives that you can start to get a real sense of Sidney and his place in the origins of Mormonism.


  2. Rebecca Says:

    Listening to this, I had a moment of “huh, I really should get around to reading the Apocrypha and ‘other’ books of the bible.” Can’t wait to hear the new podcast, Marie! Also, Gottfried, your explanation of the context was great. Please come back sometime and keep explaining!
    I do have a question about something you said at the end of the episode, when you were using Occam’s Razor to differentiate between the options explaining Sydney Rigdon’s influence on JS/BoM theology. You presented a false dichotomy; either SR had early influence on JS’s theology, or “god the father and the son came down and talked to Joseph… in 10 different versions of the same story.” Isn’t it also an option, considering the number of ‘revelationary’ books/doctrines/leaders in that time and place, that SR simply seized upon the particular ‘prophet’ whose ideas most closely matched his own? (one test that would make me throw my theory out is if SR had a strongly trinitarian view, since most of those edits [that I know of] occurred in 1837, long after SR entered the picture. He would hardly have used his influence to make the BoM *less* consistant with his own theology!). I have this image in my mind of someone walking along the wall from Life of Brian, plugging their ears until they heard someone saying something they agreed with, and then latching on to *that* teacher!


    • Gottfried The Hirsute Says:

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed my conversation with Marie.

      Your point about Occam’s Razor is well taken. I didn’t intend to imply a dichotomy; for the sake of simplicity I was responding to the most common rebuttal of my hypothesis. There are of course other possible explanations (of which yours is one), but I contend that Occam’s Razor would fall on the side of any natural explanation regardless of how improbable when opposed to a supernatural explanation.

      With regard to changes in theology, I was referring to changes occurring during the process of writing the Book of Mormon from 1827-1829, not the changes introduced in the 1837 edition. At that point in the conversation, we were trying to ‘wrap things up’ and so some explanatory details were missed. I can understand your confusion on this point. To clarify, the Book of Mormon as we have it was written beginning at Mosiah, proceeding to Moroni, then 1 Nephi to Omni, and finishing with the Words of Mormon. Compare the theology presented in Mosiah with that in Jacob (remembering that Jacob was written after) and you’ll see what I mean.

      I should add at this point that my use of the term “Trinitarian” was imprecise and not exactly correct in this context. I was trying to contrast the contemporary Mormon concept of the Godhead with the more ‘traditional’ Protestant conception and should have explained more clearly instead of relying on ‘shorthand’ terminology.

      I realize that my hypothesis may be considered a bit ‘out there,’ but I’m happy when it prompts questions and discussion such as this and moves the conversation out of the ruts of the past century.

      And if anyone is interested, you can listen to my conversation with Bryce about the Book of Isaiah and it’s relation to the Book of Mormon on Naked Mormonism Episode 89 [shameless plug! 😉 ]



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