Sunday, November 9, 2014

Joseph Welles White's 1947 thesis on Sidney Rigdon

As always, Uncle Dale sniffed out Joseph Welles White's 1947 thesis on The Influence of Sidney Rigdon upon the Theology of Mormonism for us. Dale had only transcripted some of the contents, mostly to respect the possibility of later publication by the heirs of White. Eventually, the digitization process at USC, where White wrote his thesis, overtook those good intentions and made the whole thesis available as scanned PDF pages.

White makes interesting points
  • White wonders (p.26) to what extent Rigdon was influenced by a community of Shakers in Warren County by his interest in "communism, divine healings, speaking in tongues, visions, revelations, and sundry other items" (ibid).
  • White observed that Rigdon "intimated that the doctrines popular with the Baptists were not altogether in harmony with the scriptures" (p.26), but mistakenly contextualizes that with the charismata, not with the general notion of the Campbellites that Baptists were as bad as Presbyterians, as Campbell put it at the McCalla debate evening discussion (Richardson 1870, 2:88).
  • White's chronology suggests (pp.26f) that Rigdon took the job in 1822, was tried and withdrew in 1824, worked [as a tanner RCK] till 1826,  and then somehow found time to collaborate with Scott before going to Ohio to be a Campbellite preacher no later than 1827, when Scott was at Steubenville.
  • White cites (Gates 1904, p.93) in support of the fact how strongly Scott and Rigdon had permeated the Western Reserve (see also the influence of Scott's phase plan on Whitney's wife). 
  • The Pittsburg Baptist church to accept the "ancient order of things" was a fusion of the congregations presided over by Scott and Rigdon. (p.27)
  • For his depiction of the Austintown show-down (p.30), White uses Fawn Brodie's assessment of Rigdon (p.94 of 1946 edition) as "most fanatical and literal-minded of the Disciples of Christ" and Hayden's version (Hayden 1875, p.299). 
  • White (p.31) observes that "Rigdon did set up a small communistic colony in Kirtland", which supplied "the few converts that Rigdon drew from the Disciples to the Mormons" [which is an inaccurate depiction, RCK].
  • White (p.31, Fn 27) simplifies the matters when he focuses on Hayden's first-hand knowledge; the chapter is subtly dependent on Eber D. Howe's writings, even if Howe is not explicitly quoted. Thus, the phrase "At this, Rigdon seemed much displeased." (Hayden 1875, p.211) is actually a verbatim quote of a sentence start in (Howe 1834, p.103), down to the italics.
(to be continued)

White also brings good literature.
  • Catherine Cleveland, The Great Revival in the West: 1797-1805, Chicago (University of Chicago Press) 1916; (here), Private Edition (here) [seem to be page identical, RCK]
  • Erret GatesThe Early Relation and Separation of Baptists and Disciples, Chicago 1904 (various scans: onetwothree and four).
  • Eva L. Pancoast, Mormons in Kirtland, unpublished M.A. Thesis, Western Reserve University, 1929 (partial transcript at Uncle Dale's)
  • William Warren Sweet, Religion on the American Frontier: 1783-1850: A Collection of Source Materials: New York (Cooper Square Publishers)
  • --, Circuit-rider days along the Ohio:  being the journals of the Ohio Conference from its organization in 1812 to 1826, New York -- Cincinnati, 1923 (here). 

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