The Rocky Road to Prophethood : William Bickerton's Emergence as an American Prophet
Journal of Mormon History
University of Illinois Press; Mormon History Association
[2018 John Whitmer Historical Association winner for Best Historical Article Award]
In his youth, William Bickerton probably never imagined that he would become an American prophet. Yet in the nineteenth century, as other prophets roamed the United States, Bickerton found his spiritual calling. Now, over one hundred years after his death, he has become the founding prophet of the third-largest Latter Day Saint church in the world (members are often referred to as "Bickertonites"), following the Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 2015, Bickerton's church had over twenty-two thousand members in twenty-three countries with approximately three thousand members in the United States and Canada. Its World Operations Center and print house are in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Yet Bickerton's life remains largely in the shadows. His experiences tell much about the Latter Day Saint past. By 1852, he audaciously forsook two Mormon leaders, Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young, and embarked on a mission to establish a new American church. During his prophetic journey, he strove to defy Brigham Young and endeavored to separate the Book of Mormon from Mormonism--a herculean task. Instead of weakening his faith, Bickerton's dissatisfaction with Rigdon and Young actually propelled him to reevaluate the Restored Gospel and prepare the world for Zion.