Question: Sidney Rigdon is mentioned several times in the D&C. Such an amazing man, but what is the sad ending of his story?
Answer: Sidney Rigdon was born 19 February 1793 in Pennsylvania. Sidney joined the United Baptists about 1818 and preached in Ohio from 1819-1821. He married Phebe Brooks on June 12, 1820 in Warren, Ohio. Sidney was a minister for the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh from 1821-1824. He later joined the reformed Baptist or Campbellite movement and became an influential preacher.
Sidney was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by his former proselyte, Parley P. Pratt, who was en route with Oliver Cowdery and others on a mission to the unorganized Indian Territory. He was baptized by Oliver Cowdery in November 1830. He served as a scribe for the Prophet Joseph and was ordained a high priest by Lyman Wight in 1831 in Kirtland. He was then appointed to serve a mission to Missouri.
From 1832 to 1844, Sidney was appointed as a Counselor/Assistant President in the Church presidency. On March 24, 1832, Sidney was tarred and feathered in Hiram, Ohio. He was dragged by his heals, and his head was severely injured. He was delirious for several days.
In January 1833, Sidney attended organizational meeting of the School of the Prophets in Kirtland. He accompanied Joseph Smith to Upper Canada on a proselytizing mission and helped keep Joseph Smith’s journal on the trip. Sidney arrived at Far West, Missouri in April 1838.
As a result of the 1838 Mormon conflict, the Mormons were expelled from the state, and Sidney was arrested and imprisoned in Liberty Jail with the Prophet Joseph, Hyrum, and three other men. In February 1839, Sidney was released on a writ of habeas corpus (a recourse in law through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person bring the prisoner to court, to determine whether the detention is lawful) and made his way to Quincy, Illinois, where he joined the main body of Latter-day Saint refugees. The other five prisoners didn’t escape from Liberty Jail until the first part of April.
Sidney accompanied Joseph Smith to Washington DC to seek redress for the Missouri grievances, 1839–1840. In 1841, Sidney served as a member of the city council in Nauvoo and was appointed postmaster of Nauvoo in February 1841. He was admitted to the Council of Fifty in March 1844. Fearful that his family would be harmed if the mobcrats attacked Nauvoo, Sidney moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When Joseph Smith ran for President of the United States, in 1844, Sidney Rigdon, then of Pennsylvania, was selected to be his running mate.
After the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph, Sidney returned to Nauvoo and offered himself as a “guardian” of the Church. The Church membership rejected Sidney’s claims and supported the Twelve. In September 1844, a Church court was held and fellowship was withdrawn from Sidney. Sidney returned to Pittsburgh and organized the Church of Christ on April 16, 1845. His following failed to grow. A small number of the members of his church were later organized by William Bickerton, and are known today as The Church of Jesus Christ with its headquarters in Monongahela, Pennsylvania.
John Rigdon wrote: "My father . . . looked at me a moment, raised his hand above his head and slowly said, with tears glistening in his eyes: 'My son, I can swear before high heaven that what I have told you about the origin of [the Book of Mormon] is true. Your mother and sister, Mrs. Athalia Robinson, were present when that book was handed to me in Mentor, Ohio, and all I ever knew about the origin of [the Book of Mormon] was what Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed they saw the plates have told me, and in all of my intimacy with Joseph Smith he never told me but one story.'"
During the last years of his life he resided in Friendship, New York, where he died on July 14, 1876. He is buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Friendship, New York.
Source: Who's Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black; FamilySearch.org