Sidney Rigdon was influential in the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an orator and as the First Counselor in the First Presidency.Sidney Rigdon was born on February 19, 1793, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1817, Rigdon was caring for his widowed mother, and joined a church. Within a year he became qualified as a licensed preacher of the Regular Baptists. He moved to eastern Ohio to preach and learn more. In 1820, Rigdon married Phebe Brooks and was ordained as a Baptist minister. He was a successful preacher, and his congregation soon became one of the largest in Pittsburgh. Rigdon was constantly looking for the pure church of Christ as described in the New Testament. In 1830, in Kirtland, Ohio, Rigdon set up a Church that was looking for the restoration of Christ’s Church.
In October of 1830, Mormon missionaries visited Rigdon. After two weeks of learning about the Church, and reading the Book of Mormon, Rigdon announced that he believed the Church was true. In November he was baptized and ordained an Elder in the Church. More than one hundred members of his congregation also joined the Church. Almost immediately after joining the Church, Rigdon left for New York to meet Joseph Smith. He worked as a scribe for Joseph Smith for the translation of the Bible and for parts of the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.
In March of 1833, Rigdon was set apart as the First Counselor to Joseph Smith. He had been called a year earlier but not set apart. At this time Joseph Smith said of Rigdon,
“Brother Sidney is a man whom I love, but he is not capable of that pure and steadfast love for those who are his benefactors that should characterize a President of the Church of Christ. This, with some other little things, such as selfishness and independence of mind…are his faults. But notwithstanding these things, he is a very great and good man; a man of great power of words, and can gain the friendship of his hearers very quickly. He is a man whom God will uphold, if he will continue faithful to his calling” (History of the Church 1:443).
In the following years Rigdon helped Joseph teach, arrange the revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants for printing, and helped Joseph write the Lectures on Faith. In 1838, he moved to Far West, Missouri. When leaders of the Church were imprisoned, Rigdon was taken with them, but was released because of severe seizures. Because he was one of the few leaders of the Church not in prison, Rigdon was active in helping the Saints escape Missouri and establish Nauvoo in Illinois. In Nauvoo Rigdon was elected to the City Council, and appointed as the city attorney, postmaster, and the professor of Church History for the never-built Nauvoo University. During this time Rigdon was often sick and rarely preached.
Sidney Rigdon was accused of associating with people who wanted to displace Joseph Smith, but he denied these charges. Rigdon did not agree with plural marriage, and Joseph Smith lost confidence in him. In 1843, Joseph wanted to call another person as his counselor, but Joseph’s brother Hyrum convinced him not to. In 1844, after the death of Joseph Smith, Rigdon offered to be the “guardian of the Church,” but his offer was rejected by the members of the Church. Rigdon became upset and tried to set up a separate leadership. It was for this, that Rigdon was excommunicated in September 1844. Rigdon left Nauvoo and lived the rest of his life in Friendship, New York, usually emotionally unbalanced and unhappy.