Sidney Rigdon was born February 19, 1793 in
St. Clair township, Alleghany County, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest
son of William Rigdon and wife Nancy Gallagher. His father died when he
was seventeen years of age, and his mother passed away about nine years
At the age of about twenty-four Sidney joined the
"Regular Baptists," and shortly after left the farm for the ministry. In
May, 1919, he went to Trumbull County, Ohio, where he married Phebe Brooks.
The Ancestral File lists eleven children of the union.
He later moved to Pittsburg becoming a very popular
preacher. He became greatly disturbed, however, because he could not harmonize
the teachings of that sect with the doctrine in the Bible.
He became acquainted with Alexander Campbell, a native
of Ireland, and Walter Scott, a native of Scotland. After leaving
the Baptist church, these three men met together and discussed religious
problems which resulted in the organization of a society which they called
"Disciples," but which are generally referred to as the "Campbellites."
Sidney in the course of a year or two moved to Bainbridge, Ohio where he
engaged in the work of the ministry, and built up a church of considerable
It was while engaged in the ministry in Ohio, that
he met Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson
on their way to the Lamanites, beyond the borders of Missouri. He read
the Book of Mormon and was converted. In December, 1830, with Edward
Partridge he visited Joseph Smith
where each of them received a revelation for their guidance.
The life of Sidney Rigdon from this time forth, until
the Nauvoo period, was closely knit with that of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
He was called to be a scribe for the Prophet in his translation of the
Scriptures. On March 18, 1833, he, was called and set apart as a counselor
to the Prophet Joseph Smith. In January 1838, when the trouble and apostasy
broke in that place, he and the Prophet were forced to flee for their lives
to Missouri. He was one of the brethren who were betrayed by Col. George
M. Hinkle, Oct. 31, 1838, into the hands of the mob-militia and suffered
imprisonment with the Prophet and others for many months in Liberty, Missouri.
In Ohio, while laboring with the Prophet, he and the Prophet were wickedly
abused by a mob, which greatly impaired his health.
While imprisoned in Missouri his health failed, and
he was released on bail, after having been held from November 1838 until
February 1839. He took an active part in the founding of Nauvoo, but during
the Nauvoo period, he became somewhat lukewarm and did not support the
Prophet as a counselor should. At the general conference held in October,
1842, the Prophet desired to reject him as a counselor, but due to the
pleadings of his brother Hyrum Smith
and some others, this was not done. The Prophet stated, "I have thrown
him off my shoulders, and you have put him on me. You may carry him, but
I will not." Notwithstanding the Prophet's desires, he was again sustained
as First Counselor in the First Presidency. In 1844 he left Nauvoo,
contrary to the will of the Lord, and returned to Pittsburgh, forsaking
After the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith he
hurried back to Nauvoo and claimed the right to preside over the Church
by virtue of his office as first counselor in the presidency of the Church.
Sidney took the position that Joseph was unique and no one would ever again
be a prophet. He offered instead to preside as a "guardian" to the Church.
He presented his claim before the people August 8, 1844, but was rejected..
He returned to Pennsylvania where he endeavored to
establish himself with a following. He was tried for apostasy September
8, 1844. He maintained that he had not turned from the Church, but that
Brigham Young and the Twelve had led it astray. As a result of this hearing
he was excommunicated. He died July 14, 1876. It has been the opinion of
some of the early brethren that Sidney Rigdon's mind was impaired by the
suffering and persecution that he passed through, which accounted in large
part for his indifference and opposition in his declining years. God will