Early missionaries make effort to teach gospel to the Shakers

In Section 49, the Lord directed a group of elders to go to the nearby Shaker community as missionaries. Soon afterward, they did so, but without success. The journal of Ashbel Kitchell, the Shaker's leader, reflects the personalities of these early missionaries and the challenges they faced:

"We were visited on Saturday evening by Sidney Rigdon and Leman Copley, the latter of whom had been among us; but . . . had taken up with Mormonism as the easier plan and had been appointed by them as one of the missionaries to convert us. . . . We retired to rest, not knowing that they had then in possession what they called a revelation or message from Jesus Christ to us. . . ."[On Sunday morning] they came into meeting and sat quietly until meeting was through, and the people dismissed; when Sidney Rigdon arose and stated that he had a message from the Lord Jesus Christ to this people; could he have the privilege of delivering it? He was answered, he could. He then said it was in writing; could he read it? He was told he might. He then read the following Message [D&C 49 is quoted with only a few minor wording changesT.

"At the close of the reading, he asked if they could be permitted to go forth in the exercise of their gift and office - I told him . . . I wished to have nothing more to do with him [the God the missionaries representedT; and as for any gift he had authorized them to exercise among us, I would release them & their Christ from any further burden about us, and take all the responsibility on myself.

"Sidney made answer - This you cannot . . . do; I wish to hear the people speak. I told him if he desired it, they could speak for themselves, and steped (sic) back and told them to let the man know how they felt; which they did in something like these words; that they were fully satisfied with what they had, and wished to have nothing do with either them or their Christ. On hearing this Rigdon professed to be satisfied, and put his paper by; but Parley Pratt arose and commenced shakeing (sic) his coattail; he said he shook the dust from his garments as a testimony against us, that we had rejected the word of the Lord Jesus.

"Before the words were out of his mouth, I was to him, and said; - You filthy Beast, dare you presume to come in here, and try to imitate a man of God by shaking your filthy tail; confess your sins and purge your soul from your lusts, and your other abominations before you ever presume to do the like again." (Milton V. Backman and Richard O. Cowan, Joseph Smith and the Doctrine and Covenants, pp. 55-56.)

So far as is known, none of this group of Shakers ever joined the Church. In later years, Sidney Rigdon became first counselor in the First Presidency and Parley Pratt one of the most energetic missionaries the Church has ever known.

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