If you’re Mormon, you’ve probably heard the myth that Alice Cooper was a Mormon. Most of you have probably dismissed the myth as complete hogwash. Well, it turns out there is an element of truth to the myth. For example, his father’s middle name is Moroni and his grandfather was an apostle! Yes it is true!
Alice Cooper was born with the name Vincent Damon Furnier in Detroit, Michigan. His father was a preacher by the name of Ether Moroni Furnier for The Church of Jesus Christ, based in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Cooper’s grandfather Thurman Sylvester Furnier served as an apostle for the church. The church is also known as the Bickertonite church, and has roots with Sidney Rigdon. According to Cooper’s biography, he was active in the church until the age of 11 or 12. His family moved to Phoenix, Arizona when he was about 16 years old.
So, I thought it might be nice to give some information about his church. As you may remember, just prior to Joseph Smith’s death, he was running for President of the United States. His Vice Presidential candidate was Sidney Rigdon. The US Constitution prohibits the President and Vice President from residing in the same state, so Joseph sent Sidney on a mission to his home state of Pennsylvania to establish residency. Rigdon settled near Pittsburgh (the place of his birth) when he received the news of Joseph’s death. Rigdon was there just a few weeks.
Rigdon returned to Nauvoo with the rest of the apostles. There was a special meeting on August 8, 1844. I blogged about it previously when I discussed the Sidney Rigdon Biography I read. Let me quote the stunning meeting again.
As Assistant President of the Church, and also known as “Spokesman for the Church”, Sidney told Jedidiah Grant ‘that he felt prepared to claim “the Prophetic mantle” and that he would “now take his place at the head of the church, in spite of men or devils, at the risk of his life.’ Rigdon seems to have underestimated Brigham Young, who had succession ideas as well. From page 338, “Rigdon was without question Young’s oratorical superior, but Young, never a passive observer, was more clever, ambitious, and politically astute. Not content to let the mantle of leadership pass him by, he simply wrestled it away from Rigdon in mid-descent.”
On August 8, 1844, the saints met for what was supposed to be merely a prayer meeting. From page 339,
Hyde reported that Rigdon was just “about to ask for an expression of the people by vote; when lo! to his grief and mortification, [Brigham Young] stepped upon the standâ€¦ and with a word stayed all the proceedings of Mr. Rigdon. Young, who later recalled the event in 1860, stated: “[W]hen I went to meet Sidney Rigdon on the ground I went alone, and was ready along to face and drive the dogs from the flock.”
Anyway, most of you know that Rigdon and Young excommunicated each other. Rigdon went back to Pittsburgh and started his own church. In the appendix is a reference to the Bickertonites on page 473.
Sidney’s Rigdon’s Church of Jesus Christ of the Children of Zion disintegrated within a decade after his death. And both the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relegated him to footnote status when their official histories were written. But the Church of Jesus Christ, a small sect organized in 1862 by William Bickerton, still venerates Rigdon.
Bickerton, an 1845 convert to Sidney Rigdon’s Church of Christ, found himself adrift after Rigdon’s failures in Pittsburgh and the Cumberland Valley. For a brief period in the early 1850s Bickerton affiliated with a branch of the Utah Mormons at West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, although he personally declared that “his testimonyâ€¦ is that the blessing he received came thru obedience to the restored Gospel in 1845 with Rigdon’s people.”
After the Utah church publicly announed its long-term practice of polygamy in 1852, Bickerton left that organization. In 1854 he held a successful conference in West Elizabeth at which several persons were baptized. By 1858 he had attained a following of nearly 100 persons and had organized them into branches in Wheeling, West Virginia; Pine Run, Allegheny; and Greenock, Pennsylvania.
In an 1859 conference Bickerton was acknowledged as a prophet by his followers. Two years later he was sustained a “Prophet and President of the Church” with counselors Charles Brown and Beorge Barnes. During a July 1862 conference at Greenock twelve apostles and a number of evangelists were ordained. The church was officially organized during this conference although not legally incorporated until 10 June 1865.
The church, which maintains its world headquarters today in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, at last report numbered 10,000 members. The current First Presidency is Dominic Thomas, Paul Palmieri, and Robert Watson. The church is organized into seven districts in the U.S., and has missions in Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, India, England, Italy, Holland, and Germany.
The Bickertonite Church is the 3rd largest Mormon sect, behind the LDS Church and RLDS Church (known now as the Community of Christ.) Alice Cooper’s grandfather was an apostle of this church. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Cooper was raised with a pretty firm knowledge of the Book of Mormon.
I’ve heard Cooper attends a Methodist Church, and an Assembly of God Church. I don’t know if either of these rumors are true. He has been interviewed and said,
Although he tends to shy away from speaking publicly of his faith, Cooper has confirmed in interviews that he is in fact a born again Christian.[Article in which Cooper speaks at some length about his faith and career][World Net Daily article in which Cooper speaks of his wish to shun so called celebrity Christianity] He has avoided so called “celebrity Christianity” because, as Cooper states himself: “It’s really easy to focus on Alice Cooper and not on Christ. I’m a rock singer. I’m nothing more than that. I’m not a philosopher. I consider myself low on the totem pole of knowledgeable Christians.[Interview with Radio Talk Show HostDrew Marshall] So, don’t look for answers from me”.[Cooper speaking in a a World Net Daily article]
When asked by the British Sunday Times newspaper in 2001 how a rebellious shock-rocker could be a Christian, Cooper is credited with providing this response “Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s real rebellion!”[Cooper’s response to The Sunday Times is quoted in an online Good News magazine article dealing with well known rock musicians who have a Christian faith]
So, what do you make of the Bickertonite’s most famous member? I don’t believe Bickertonite’s like to call themselves “Mormons”, but they firmly believe in the Book of Mormon, so I think the label could apply in this case. So no, Alice Cooper is not technically a Mormon, but I bet the rumors hold a bit more truth than you ever believed. Am I right?