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At Symposium of Mormon Academia, Author Reveals Anew on Prophet of Mormonism’s Third-Largest Denomination

Updated on September 4, 2018
Rhett Wilkinson profile image

Rhett has won 12 awards from the Society of Professional Journalists or Religion Newswriters Association. He's on Twitter @rhettrites.


“The church … tucked him away,” Daniel Stone told attendees of the 2018 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium, a conference of critiques of Mormonism.

Growing up in that religion, The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite), Stone was interested in William Bickerton, the religion’s founding prophet.

Stone is a PhD candidate studying American religious history at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom. He realized that Bickerton’s story as told by the Monongahela, Penn.-based church comprised “heritage history versus the actual history."

So Stone researched and wrote a book, “William Bickerton: Forgotten Latter Day Prophet.” He submitted the first five chapters to the apostles of the church, for which he is a deacon, before silence from the leadership ensued. He was later permitted to publish it independent of the church.

“I hope this is as close to the history as we have,” Stone said.

Sidney Rigdon was a high-ranking church elder in the church started by Joseph Smith, who began the overall Latter-day Saint movement. After Smith died, various men strived to claim they were the successor to Smith and/or start another church. Rigdon went to Pittsburgh and created “a church of Christ” that resembled Joseph Smith’s church at the time it was in Kirtland, Ohio.

When Rigdon was “big news” in the Steel City, Bickerton joined his religion, Stone explained.

But the church went bankrupt and Rigdon left Pittsburgh for New York. He said that if anyone asks where he went, “I have gone to hell on a 1,000 years’ mission,” Stone reported Saturday morning in Sandy, Utah.

Bickerton was converted to Mormonism through The Book of Mormon and wanted to stick with that Latter-day Saint movement. He met with missionaries from Brigham Young’s church that moved to Utah. They talked about similarities and differences, Stone said.

“He joins the LDS church,” Stone noted. “William Bickerton is a devout Mormon.”

But then Young practiced polygamy in his church, as Smith had done. Bickerton couldn’t stomach it, Stone said.

But still, he maintained belief in the book distinctive to Mormonism. He also noted that Joseph Smith prophesied of the Civil War and believed that the "choice seer" in The Book of Mormon was not Smith, but a Native American, given Mormonism's doctrine of "Lamanites."

And Bickerton had a dream of being on “the highest mountain on Earth,” where he was told, “you are in a good place.” Bickerton was also told that if he departed from that place, he would “tumble” into a “chasm,” Stone reported.

Bickerton proceeded to create The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. (It's the same name as Young’s church except for a hyphen between “Latter” and “day”).

He was very much an “evangelist preacher,” Stone said.

“He believes in a spiritual feast,” Stone added at the Mountain America Credit Union Exposition Center. “He believes in speaking in tongues, prophecy, restoration.”

Bickerton departed from the church after believers got upset with him about “conduct” that amounted to him being friends with a woman who was married.

“He’s no longer the prophet of the movement,” Stone reported.

Stone’s book begins with a quote from Job that was read at Bickerton’s funeral, Stone said.

Community of Christ Seventy John Hamer was a co-presenter with Stone. The book was published by Signature Books.

© 2018 Rhett Wilkinson


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