Mistakes Touching the Book of Mormon


Millennial Harbinger Campbell, Alexander, 1788-1866

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C., A. (Alexander Campbell). “Mistakes Touching the Book of Mormon.” Millennial Harbinger 1, no. 1 (January 1844): 38–42.


From the Evangelist

“MORMONISM.— The Means by which it stole the True Gospel.

“IT is well known that the Mormons preach the true gospel and plead for immediate obedience to it on the part of the hearers, as the advocates of original Christianity do. This was not an original measure of Mormonism; for, indeed, baptism for the remission of sins is a phrase not found in their book. A few of their leaders took it from Rigdon, at Euclid, on the Western Reserve, as may be learned from brother Jones’ account of their first visit to Kirtland, published in a preceding volume of the Evangelist.

Rigdon, we were perfectly aware, had possessed himself of our analysis of the gospel and the plea for obedience raised thereupon; but not choosing to rely on my own recollection of the means by, and the times at, which they were imparted to him, we wrote to Mr. Bently, who is his brother-in-law, for the necessary information. Mr. Bently’s letter shows not only whence he received his knowledge of the true gospel; but also that, coward that he was, he had not the independence necessary to preach it in his own vicinity after he had received it. Thus the knowledge of ordering and pleading the elements of the true gospel by that people, is seen to arise near the same time and from the same source as that of our own reformation. Mr. Bently’s letter is as follows:—

“SOLON, January 22, 1841.

Dear brother Scott— Your favor of the 7th December is received. I returned from Philadelphia, Pa., on the 10th, and the answer to your acceptable letter has been deferred. I was much gratified to hear from you and family, but would be much more so to see you once more in the flesh, and talk over our toils and anxieties in the cause of our blest Redeemer.

You request that I should give you all the information I am in possession of respecting Mormonism. I know that Sydney Rigdon told me there was a book coming out (the manuscript of which had been [38] found engraved on gold plates) as much as two years before the Mormon book made its appearance in this country or had been heard of by me. The same I communicated to brother A. Campbell. The Mormon book has nothing of baptism for the remission of sins in it; and of course at the time Rigdon got Solomon Spaulding’s manuscript he did not understand the scriptures on that subject.∗ I cannot say he learnt it from me, as he had been about a week with you in Nelson and Windham, before he came to my house. I, however, returned with him to Mentor. He stated to me that he did not feel himself capable of introducing the subject in Mentor, and would not return without me if he had to stay two weeks with us to induce me to go. This is about all I can say. I have no doubt but the account given in Mormonism Unmasked, is about the truth. It was got up to deceive the people and obtain their property, and was a

∗ Sidney Rigdon accompanied brother Campbell to the M’Calla debate in 1823, and must have heard what was said on baptism on that occasion, and forgot it. This was not wonderful neither; for things presented to the mind apart from an obvious and acknowledged practice, are soon forgotten. But neither Rigdon nor any other person who has seen me baptize for remission, could possibly forget the import of the ordinance. So we think W. S. wicked contrivance with Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jr. May God have mercy on the wicked men, and may they repent of this their wickedness!

May the Lord bless you, brother Scott, and family! Mrs. Bentley is much out of health, and I fear will never be better.

Yours most affectionately,


Brethren Scott and Bentley are both mistaken as to the fact of baptism for the remission of sins not having been found in the Book of Mormon; and one of them in the inference contained in the note appended to Elder Bentley’s letter.

The conversation alluded to in brother Bentley’s letter of 1841, was in my presence as well as in his, and my recollection of it led me some two or three years ago to interrogate brother Bentley touching his recollections of it, which accorded with mine in every particular, except the year in which it occurred—he placing it in the summer of 1827—I, in the summer of 1826—Rigdon at the time observing that in the plates dug up in New York there was an account not only of the Aborigenes of this country; but also it was stated that the Christian religion had been preached in this country during the first century just as we were preaching it on the Western Reserve. Now as the Book of Mormon was being manufactured at that time, for the copy-right was taken out in June, 1829, two years according to Elder Bentley, and three years according to me, after said conversation, (and certainly it was not less than two years,) the inference of brother Scott touching the person upon whom the theft was committed would be plausible, if it was a fact that baptism for remission of sins is no part of the Book, but something superadded since from the practice in Ohio in the end of [39] 1827 and beginning of 1828, a year or more after Rigdon made the aforesaid statement.

But the truth of this inference depends upon the fact whether baptism as aforesaid is found in the Book of Mormon, or was, as he imagines, borrowed in 1830 from some of the brethren on the Reserve. Baptism for remission is, however, taught in the Book of Mormon, and therefore, according to his own reasoning, the inference is wholly an imagination. It is found variously and frequently stated in the Book of Mormon. On page 479 it is expressed in the following words:—“Blessed are they which shall believe in your words, and be baptized: for they shall be visited with fire and the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.” Again, p. 581. “Baptism is unto repentance for the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.” Again, p. 582. “The first point of repentance is baptism, and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling of the commandment, and the fulfilling of the commandment is unto the remission of sins.”

Indeed, as early as page 240 it is plainly taught in the form of a precept—“Come and be baptized unto repentance, that you may be washed from your sins.” Certainly this is testimony enough, without farther readings.

The note on the text of brother Bentley’s letter shows how easily men may reason wrong from false facts, or from assumed premises. If the Editor of the Evangelist were not above the imputation of ambition, envy, jealousy, or vanity, the whole affair might be construed disadvantageously. But as it is, it seems to show the necessity of a scrupulous examination of the premises before we presume on such grave conclusions.

Men remember what they hear, as well as what they see. Again, if men are said to “steal” what they see, may they not be said to “steal” what they hear? And if nothing short of seeing an action performed could explain this mystery, how comes the good Baptist Taylor to insert in his history of churches in Kentucky, writing about the time of the aforesaid conversation, the same views on this subject which are contained in the Book of Mormon? It is, therefore, no disparagement of these views of baptism that they are found in the Book of Mormon, more than that they are found in Taylor’s History of Ten Baptist Churches in Kentucky, published three years before the Book of Mormon.

But that Sidney Rigdon had a hand in the manufacture of the religions part of the Book of Mormon is clearly established from this fact, and from other expressions in that book, as certainly “stolen” from our brethren as that he once was amongst them. Our brother of the Evangelist seems on other occasions, as well as this, to draw con-[40]clusions equally false, and as apparently invidious, as will appear from another article from the September Evangelist, to which my attention has been specially called:—


“Baptism is for the remission of sins. And when the current plea for obedience was introduced the rite was publicly administered for the remission of sins,’ the baptizer saying audibly, ‘For the remission of your sins I baptize you,’ &c. Was not this enough?∗

Is it necessary to harp forever on this ordinance as if it were the grand essential? Is baptism the alpha and the omega of reformation?

Some persons seem to have hanged their immortality with posterity upon baptism for remission.† We have at present no less than three debates on the subject announced; one already in progress, and two in contemplation.

But what has all this talking, writing, and debating done for the cause?‡ There are several things which it has done. First, it has turned the minds of the brethren very generally outward upon the ordinance, instead of inward upon faith and penitence.

Secondly, it has made them very lightly esteem the most evangelical faith and unfeigned repentance in others who do not understand the ordinance as we do. Thirdly, it has made very wrong impressions upon the public mind in relation to our views of the comparative value of gospel truth, for the world both see and feel that in the discourses of many of our evangelists, “Christ and him crucified”—the pains, and groans, and tears of Calvary—are made to give way to a silly and irreverent oratory on baptism, its adjuncts, or its corruptions. So that while many persons among us speak and write about baptism for the remission of sins, they have not a syllable to utter concerning a crucified Redeemer. This is a fatal mistake. Finally, this eternal talk about baptism for remission by our more eminent brethren, encourages those among us of no character (and we have thousands

∗ It was not enough, as our experience proves. Had it not been for writing, debating, talking, and ‘harping on the subject,’ it would have attracted comparatively but little attention. So testify both history and my experience.

† Who those persons are that have hung up their immortality, &c. upon baptism for remission, I know not. Some, indeed, seem to regard the baptizing and being baptized for remission, &c. a very good basis for immortality! But I never knew any of these have any public debate on the subject.

‡ It has in a good measure, and primarily in my knowledge, placed it where it is. The States where these debates occurred have more disciples now, by thousands, than any other States in the Union; and there the cause has always flourished first and last most successfully. Some there are, however, who too much depreciate the labors of others to enhance their own. Now as this is not the case with the Editor of the Evangelist, he ought not to appear to so much disadvantage by thus speaking of other men’s labors in contrast with his own. such) to argue for baptism, when all the world knows that they have themselves dishonored their baptism.”§

I know not why our engaging in this discussion should have called forth such remarks from our old friend and fellow-laborer of the Evangelist. I can neither explain them nor his recent essays on organization, which seem, though written at considerable intervals of time, to have been influenced by some unpropitious star. Editors owe to each other common courtesy, as well as fraternal affection; and while I extend to all the privilege of canvassing all my views with the most perfect freedom, I only ask from my juniors and my coevals the usual civilities. If these strictures on debating were not, as far as my knowledge goes, universally applied to me, I should rather have suffered them to find that merited oblivion to which many similar imputations have already descended.

A. C.

§ Certain portions of this address appear to have been written too much under the influence of Millerism too much, at least, to be copied into this work. I do not think that the brethren are worthy of such unmeasured reprobation. Though I admit that there is a reason to complain of multitudes being drawn and urged into the Christian profession by an improper preaching of baptism for the remission of sins. But, then, as the brethren say, no man in the nation is more to blame for this than the Carthage Evangelist. I have long remonstrated against the passion for bringing in multitudes of untaught persons into the Christian church. Some of our Evangelists have done much damage to the cause, as well as to men’s souls, by pressing them by improper arguments and antievangelical appeals to be baptized. This I am in duty bound to say: and urge upon our [41] brethren to reflect more gravely upon this practice. As to wrong impressions made on the public mind by ‘a silly and irreverent oratory on baptism, its adjuncts and its corruptions.’ I consented to the recent debate for the relieving of the cause from all that calumny and obloquy brought on it by injudicious writers, evangelists, and speakers, and I trust it will appear that in this particular the public will stand disabused of many ill-founded objections, by a candid perusal of the whole discussion.

A. C.

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