Campbell, Thomas. “The Mormon Challenge.” Painesville Telegraph (Painesville, Ohio) 2, no. 35 (15 February 1831): 2.
To the Editor of the Telrgraph.
The following letter was elicited by a public challenge, given by SIDNEY RIGDON on the 30th ulto. in a public meeting held in Kirtland, at which persons from different States were present, in which he defied the world to refute the divine pretensions of the Book of Mormon. The said letter was respectfully presented on the 6th inst. by Nathan P. Goodell, accompanied by Isaac Moore, Esq. both respectable citizens of Kirtland, who informed me, that when he had read about half a dozen lines, till he came to the epithet “infernal, ” which he found applied to his beloved book, he committed it to the flames, as Jehoiakim, the pious, meek and lowly King of Judah and Jeremiah’s roll—(Jer 36, 23) Had Mr. R’s boasted humility, meekness and patience not been so quickly exhausted, he would have been duly informed, that the writer meant neither to insult him, nor yet to depreciate his beloved author, more than Christ did the cavillous Jews, when he said to them, “ye are from beneath”—(Jno. 8, 23.) not meaning that they were from hell, as he after explains himself in the following words, “ye are of this world.” Had Mr. R. exercised as much patience as did those proud infidel Jews, he would have learned from my explanation in the very next sentence, that I applied the word infernal to the Book of Mormon, in a just and appropriate sense, according to the claims of the book itself, as being dug up out of the bowels of the earth, or from beneath the bottom of a hill; and, therefore, justly styled infernal, taken in its primary literal sense, as I have explained and applied it in my letter. This however, Mr. R. knows to be the easiest way to get rid of the matter, having no intention to verify his challenge, as he declared to the above named persons before my letter was presented. It also afforded him an opportunity of gratifying his proud resentment by a consequential high-blooded act of indignant retaliation, the most severe that was in his power to inflict; and which, in the mean time, I accept as a just expression of that spirit, which the Book of Mormon is calculated to inspire, and which has been as abundantly expressed in its murderous, scalping inspirations.
Without further preface or apology, the letter and the answer are hereby submitted to the public, whose right it is to form their own judgments of the merits of the cause at issue. And although the various topics of argument stated below, and designed to have been urged in the refutation of Mormonism, have not been argued, illustrated, and applied for that purpose, through Mr. R’s failure to make good his empty, boastful challenge, which it appears he has no intention of hazarding, for he fears the light, and therefore cautiously avoids investigation—they, nevertheless, stand as the pillars of Hercules, the insuperable barriers to the feigned pretentions of Mormonism, for the defence of all who do not wilfully and blindly submit to become the dupes of a shameless combination of unprincipled religious swindlers—whose unhallowed design is to rob the simple both of their salvation and their property.
MENTOR, FEB. 4, 1831.
Mr. Sidney Rigdon:
Dear Sir—It may seem strange, that instead of a confidential and friendly visit, after so long an absence, I should thus address, by letter, one whom, for many years, I have considered not only as a courteous and benevolent friend, but as a beloved brother and fellow laborer in the gospel—but, alas, how changed, how fallen! Nevertheless, I should now have visited you, as formerly, could I conceive that my so doing would answer the important purpose both to ourselves and to the public, to which we both stand pledged from the conspicuous and important stations which we occupy: you, as a professed disciple and public teacher of the infernal book of Mormon; and I, as a professed disciple and public teacher of the supernal book of the Old and New Testaments of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—which you now say is superseded by the book of Mormon—is become a dead letter— so dead, that the belief and obedience of it, without the reception of the latter, is no longer available to salvation; to the disproof of this assertion, I understand, you defy the world. I here use the epithets infernal and supernal in their primary literal meaning, the former signifying from beneath, the latter from above, both of which are truly applied, if the respective authors may be accredited; of the latter of which, however, I have no doubt. But, my dear sir, supposing you as sincere in your present, as your former profession, (of the truth and sufficiency of which you have frequently boasted with equal confidence) neither yourself, your friends, nor the world; are therefore bound to consider you as more infallible in your latter than in your former confidence, any further thau you can render good and intelligible reasons for your present certainty. This, I understand from your declaration, on last Lord’s day, you are abundantly prepared and ready to do. I therefore, as in duty bound, accept the challenge, and shall hold myself in readiness, if the Lord permit, to meet you publicly in any place, either in Mentor or Kirtland, or in any of the adjacent towns, that may appear most eligible for the accommodation of the public.
The sooner this investigation takes place, the better for all concerned; therefore, it is hoped you will not protract the time beyond what may be justly deemed necessary for giving sufficient publicity to the proposed discussion—say one week after your reception of this proposal to accept the challenge you have publicly given, for the vindication and eviction of the divine authorship of Mormonism, which, if your assertion be true, that there is no salvation for any that do not embrace it; and not only so, but I am credibly imformed you have asserted, that even those who have lived and died in the faith and obedience of the old book, in the triumphant assurance of a glorious resurrection and a blissful immortality, may be in hell for aught you know; therefore, I say again, the sooner this matter is publicly settled, the better. For my part, I do cordially assure you, sir, that if I were in possession of a nostrum, upon the knowledge and belief of which, the salvation of every soul of man depended, I should consider myself responsible to the whole world for the speedy and effectual confirmation and publication of it; and if it be at all a revelation from God for the salvation of men, he must be wonderfully changed since he gave the former revlation of his will for that important purpose, if he do not require you so to do, for he was then willing that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved; and, therefore, he not only charged all to whom he made it known, by special revelation, to go into all the world and declare it to every creature, but also furnished them with such potent and evincive arguments, both prophetic and miraculous, as no candid inquirer could mistake, without abandoning both his senses and his reason. If then, the book of Mormon, which you assume to vindicate as a divine revelation, upon the belief and obedience of which the salvation of all men stands suspended, be such, then surely the unchanged and unchangeble author, who, it seems, has communicated it to you and others by special revelations, has, doubtless, furnished you with such special, inteiligible, and convincing arguments, as are abundently sufficient to convince every candid inquirer, as he did the heralds of the former dispensations.—Therefore, woe is unto you if you preach not your gospel. But why sould I seem to doubt the philanthropy of my former friend and brother; more than I do my own; or that of the Apostle Paul, that I should thus appear to urge his performance of a challenge, which, no doubt, the purest and most benevolent motives excited him to propose, for the purpose of promoting, as fast as possible, the benign intentions of his mission? Taking this for granted, I shall farther add, in relation to the manner of conducting this all-important investigation, that, seeing it is purely for the discovery and confirmation of the truth, upon the belief and obedience of which, depends the salvation of the world, the parties realizing the deep and awful responsibility of the undertaking, and having no private or personal interest at stake, separate from the rest of mankind, will not only afford each other every facility of investigating and exhibiting the truth by all manner of fairness, both of argument and concession, but also by the mutual allowance of every assistance that can be contributed by the friends on each side, either suggesting matter to the speakers, or by correcting any mistakes that may occur in quotations, references, &c. in an amicable and obliging manner, without giving or taking offence on these accounts; that for these purposes, each party shall be at liberty to select as many of his intelligent friends as he pleases to assist with him as prompters, and if any difficulty occur, respecting time, order, &c. it shall be referred to a competent board of moderators, equally chosen by the parties, that the whole investigation may be conducted without the least shadow of disorder or partiality.
According to the spirit and tenor of the above proposals on my part, for the speedy and effectual determination of the momentous question at issue, I shall candidly inform you of the course I intend to take, for the confirmation and defence of my side of the question, that you may be the better prepared to meet my arguments with a sold & unanswerable refutation, if possible; as I can have no wish, nor can any man in this common senses, where the salvation of the soul is at stake, but to know and embrace the saving truth. The proposition that I have assumed, and which I mean to assume and defend against Mormonism, and every other ism that has has been ismed since the commencement of the Christian era, is—The all-sufficiency and the alone-sufficiency of the hole scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, vulgarly call the Bible, to make every intelligent obedient believer wise to salvation, thoroughly furnished for all good works. This proposition clearly and fully established as I believe it most certainly can be, we have no more need for Quakerism, Shakerism, Wilkinsonianism, Buchanism, Mormonism, or any other ism, than we have for three eyes, three ears, three hands, or three feet, in order to see, hear, work, or walk.
This proposition I shall illustrate and confirm by showing,
That the declarations, invitations, and promises of the gospel, go to confer upon the obedient believer the greatest possible privileges, both here and hereafter, that our nature is capable of enjoying.
That there is not a virtue that can happify or adorn human character, not a vice that can abase on dishappify, which human heart can conceive, or human language can express, that is not most clearly commanded or forbidden in the holy scriptures.
That there are no greater motives, that can possibly be expressed or conceived, to enforce obedience, or discourage and prevent disobedience, than the scriptures most clearly and unequivocally exhibit.
These propositions being proved, every thing is proved that can affect our happiuess, either here or hereafter.
We shall, however, if deemed necessary next proceed to expose the blasphemous pretensions of Mormonism, by examining both its external and internal evidences.
By examining the character of its author and his accomplices, as far as documents for that purpose may have come to hand.
Their feigned pretensions to miraculous gifts, the gift of tongues, &c.; a specimen of the latter we shall afford them an opportunity of exhibiting in three or four foreign languages.
We shall next proceed to expose the anti-scriptural assertion, that there has been none duly authorized to administer baptism for the space of fourteen hundred years up to the present time, by showing that the church, or kingdom, of Christ, must have been totally extinct during that period, provided its visible administration had actually ceased during that time, is an express contradiction of the testimony of Jesus, Matt. xvi. 18.
We are prepared to show that the pretended duty of common property among Christians is anti-scriptural, being subversive of the law of Christ, and inimical to the just rights of human society.
We shall next proceed to show that re-baptizing believers is making void the ordinance of Christ; and that imposition of hands for communicating the Holy Spirit, is an unscriptural intrusion upon the exclusive prerogative of the primary apostles.
We shall also show that the pretensions of Mormonism, as far as it has yet been developed, are in no wise superior to the pretensions of the first Quakers, of the French prophets, of the Shakers, of Jemima Wilkinson, &c. That all these pretended to as high degrees of inspiration, to prophecyings, to visions, to as great humility, self denial, devotion to God, moral purity, & spirital perfection; declaimed as much against sin, denounced as heavy judgments against their neighbors, and against the professing world at large, for their corruptions of Christianity, &c. &c. as the Mormonites have done or can do; the two latter have also insisted as much upon the supposed duty of common property, and have spoken as certainly of the near approach of the millennium, and of their relation to that happy state, as any of the Mormonite prophets, especially the Shakers, who pretend to be living subjects of that happy period, and who have also given us an attested record of their miraculous operations.———
————————The obvious conclusion of this sixth argument is evident, that if the Mormonite prophets & teachers can show no better authority for their pretended mission and revelations than those impostors have done, we have no better authority to believe them than we have to believe their predecessors in imposition. But the dilemma is, we can’t believe all for each of them was exclusively right in his day, and those of them that remain are still exclusively right to this day; and if the Shakers be right, the whole world, the Mormonites themselves not excepted, are in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity—quite as far from salvation as you yourself have pronounced all the sectarians on earth to be, namely in a state of absolute damnation.
In the last place we shall examine the internal evidence of the Book of Mormon itself, point out some of its evident contradictions, foolish absurdities, shameless pretensions to antiquity, restore it to the rightful claimant, as a production beneath contempt, and utterly unworthy the reception of a schoolboy.
Thus, my dear sir, I have given you a fair and full statement of my intended method of defence and attack, of the principal topics of argument pro and con, which I shall use, provided you stand to your proposed challenge. I have also used great plainness of speech, and spoken of things just as I believe they deserve, as you yourself are in the habit of doing; and who can do otherwise upon a subject of such vast importance if he duly realize them? Nevertheless, I would not have you think, although I consider things just as I have spoken, that I suppose myself more infallible than you do yourself; but I should blush to fall short of any one, of any sect whatever, in my expressions of confident certainty of the truth of my profession, which has stood the test of most rigorous investigation for nearly eighteen hundred years, and which I have scrupulously examined for upwards of forty, especially when the investigation is with sectarians of little more than three months standing.
But though I have spoken as positively as you have done, and we have both spoken positively enough, I will yet venture to assure you that you will find me as changeable as yourself, provided you afford me evidence paramount to the evidence which I have proposed to produce for the ground I at present occupy, for it has ever been with me a fixed principle, that the less should give way to the greater.
But in case I should fail to convince you, or that you should fail to convince me, others may be benefitted: and we shall have the consolation of having discharged our duty both to each other and to the public; for no man liveth to himself.
In the mean time I wait for your reply, which you will please forwards per bearer. I hope you will be as candid and plain with me as I have been with you. My best respects to Mrs. Rigdon, and sincerest wish for the happiness of your family.
I remain, with grateful remembrance of the past, and best wishes for the future, your sincere friend and humble servant,