jim carrey liar liarIn 1997 Jim Carrey starred in a movie about a career driven, divorced lawyer and father who loves spending time with his young son, but his job keeps getting in the way causing him to continually break promises to the boy and then lie about why he could not keep them.  His frustrated son then makes a birthday wish that his dad would have to tell the truth for an entire day—which immediately comes true. This creates real problems for this rather shrewd lawyer, who thought that he was telling those lies for good reasons—to try and salvage his relationship with his son and excel at his career so he can reunite his family. As the movie ultimately shows the audience, Lying isn’t good (even for those who think there is nothing really wrong with doing so) because there are always unexpected consequences, or the classic “two wrongs don’t make a right”.

In Mormonism, this kind of behavior is called by some “lying for the Lord”. As lawyer and “apostle” Dallin H. Oaks explains,

Some have suggested that it is morally permissible to lie to promote a good cause. For example, some Mormons have taught or implied that lying is okay if you are lying for the Lord… As far as concerns our own church and culture, the most common allegations of lying for the Lord swirl around the initiation, practice, and discontinuance of polygamy. …The whole experience with polygamy was a fertile field for deception. It is not difficult for historians to quote LDS leaders and members in statements justifying, denying, or deploring deception in furtherance of this religious practice.[1]

Mormon General Conference Held In Salt Lake CityBut do fertile fields of deception justify lying? According to Oaks, no. But he doesn’t condemn those who did so, instead he states that he won’t “judge them”. In the course of this speech he also adds,

The children of God have always been commanded to seek the truth and to say what is true. The Ten Commandments the Lord gave the children of Israel include: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbour” (Ex. 20:16). The 13th Article of Faith declares that “We believe in being honest [and] true.” To be “true” includes appearing to be what we really are. To speak the truth is to give an accurate account of the facts (see D&C 93:24).[2]

On April 14, 2013 Rock Waterman composed an article centered around Wilford Woodruff’s claimed 1877 “vision” in the St. George Temple where George Washington and other “spirits of the dead” supposedly appeared to Woodruff in person and spent two nights demanding that he proxy baptize them as Mormons.[3]

Waterman writes,

For those who may not be familiar with the story (and I can’t imagine any member who is not), here is Wilford Woodruff’s personal testimony as delivered in the Salt Lake City tabernacle in September of 1877:

“I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights.  I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others. I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them.” (Journal of Discourses Vol. XIX, pg 229)

It’s too bad Wilford hadn’t bothered to check the records at the endowment house, because if he had, he would have seen that proxy baptisms for the founders had already been done. Sometimes repeatedly.[4]

So the whole crux of the matter here, is whether (since they had already been proxy baptized) these “spirits of the dead” would have even bothered to appear to Woodruff to chastise him that “nothing has ever been done for us”.

So what did Woodruff do after he claimed to have this visitation? He claims that he went “straightway into the baptismal font” and was baptized by proxy for the signers of the Declaration of Independence—not realizing (perhaps) that someone else had beat him to the punch.[5]

This raises questions as to whether Woodruff gave an accurate account of the facts, and perhaps turned a desire, or a dream (he recorded many) into a visitation by the “spirits of the dead”. At least this is what some think. Others … aren’t too happy with this portrayal of events.

Wilford_Woodruff_c. 1835

Kirtland Era Painting of Wilford Woodruff

I. Not Lying, Just something Else…

In an effort to try and downplay this scenario, (that there was no need for the “spirits of the dead” to appear to Woodruff and that they told him nothing had been done for them, and therefore he lied about it) some have presented us with what they consider more plausible explanations for Woodruff’s actions. Amy Thiriot, a rather well researched Historian about Mormonism writes in an article titled “Historical News Flash: Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of the Founding Fathers”,

As I’ve worked on this project, I’ve found that people sometimes become very concerned that most of the Founding Fathers already had proxy baptisms done before this vision occurred. Wilford Woodruff’s note, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us,” leaves people wondering why the Founding Fathers would have appeared to Wilford Woodruff if their baptisms had already been done?[6]

Let’s see if she really answers her own question.

George F. Gibbs_c. 1887

George Francis Gibbs, c. 1887

First she tries to suggest that George Francis Gibbs did not correctly transcribe what Woodruff said. This really doesn’t work for a number of reasons, including the fact that Gibbs recorded Woodruff in 1877, and there was long in place a tradition of having the sermons that appeared in those volumes (The Journal of Discourses) approved and if need be corrected before they were sent out for publication.[7]

On August 9, 1876, George F. Gibbs was appointed the Church’s “phonographic reporter to the Deseret News”, and was so good at his job that Brigham Young made him “Secretary and Stenographer of the Twelve”, a position he held for the next forty years.  I know of no retractions or complaints that Gibbs had ever mistranscribed any sermons during his tenure at the News, or for the Mormon Hierarchy. To make this claim is very weak speculation, at best.

Secondly, she says that the Founding Fathers just wanted Woodruff to do the proxy work himself,—even  though it was already done—because  “he had a specific responsibility and mission to develop and alter the doctrines and practices of temple work including proxy ordinances, adoptions, and sealings.”  Alter doctrines? This makes little sense.

What exactly did Woodruff alter? Direction came from the First Presidency. For example, when the St. George Temple was dedicated, Brigham Young closed down the Endowment House. John Taylor reversed this after Young died. Specific examples would help here, but she offers none. And most importantly, would that invalidate the baptisms already done? Hardly, though others try to infer this without any evidence to prove it. In an effort to try and make Woodruff seem more important than he was, she writes,

When the temple opened in January 1877, Brigham Young was mostly bedridden and he turned the practical operations over to Wilford Woodruff. President Woodruff was in charge of developing day-to-day procedures for temple work, including figuring out the doctrine and practice of the proxy endowment.

Actually, Young was not incapacitated at all at this time. Woodruff was with him constantly during the first few months the temple was open. Woodruff’s last personal visit with Young was on April 16, 1877. But they still communicated by telegraph and letter.

On January 14, 1877 Woodruff writes in his journal,

I spent the Evening with President Young. He told me their was No Necessity of dressing in the Temple Clothing while giving the second Anointing any more than in administering the first Anointing or Ordaining. He also said that we should use the Bible in the garden & Bible & Book of Mormon in the Telestial room and add the Covenants to it in the Terrestial Room. [8]

Salt Lake City Endowment House

Salt Lake City Endowment House

Woodruff certainly had authority to run the Temple. But he was in frequent contact with Young in person, by telegraph and through letters, as his journal shows.[9] 

Her third explanation for why these men appeared to Woodruff to chastise him for doing nothing for them is really strange to me. She writes,

“…when he [Woodruff] wrote in his journal, he used interchangeable language to refer to baptisms and endowments. Note the repetitive language from January 9, “the first ordinances of the Endowments,” and January 11, “the first day in which Endowments…” He was not writing in error; the baptisms that were done on January 9 were a vital preliminary part of the entirely new ordinance of proxy endowments.[10]

What does how Woodruff describes proxy baptisms or Endowments have to do with the spirits of the dead claiming that nothing had ever been done for them? What she seems to be suggesting here is that there was some kind of importance to doing the two things together. This is ridiculous. If that were so, why perform all of the thousands of baptisms for the dead in the Endowment House where they were forbidden to give Endowments for the dead? The whole point here, is that the preliminary part (baptisms for the dead) was already done for the Eminents. A repetition of this preliminary part, was both superfluous, unnecessary and frowned upon.

She just seems to miss this point altogether.  Woodruff in describing the Endowments and Proxy Baptisms would also sometimes separate the two as he did here in 1891:

“…although Joseph Smith received revelations with regard to Temples, and the ordinances and endowments afterwards administered in the Temple at Nauvoo.” [11]

 Two years later, Franklin D. Richards also separated the two,

 “We go into them [Temples] and receive ordinances and endowments… “[12]


Wilford Woodruff, Kirtland Era

This proves nothing though. Since all of these rites are called “ordinances” by the Mormon Hierarchy, this point by Thiriot doesn’t really address the question she asks, why the spirits of the dead claimed that NOTHING had been done for them. The Ordinance of Baptism, whether by proxy or not, is still something.

She next offers the explanation that because many were rebaptized in the church for various reasons,[13] and some proxy baptisms were redone (for reasons unknown, but most likely because those that redid them were unaware that they had already been done),[14] that this is somehow significant to answering her question.  This again, makes little sense, because rebaptism was an ordinance performed for the living, not the dead, and was discontinued shortly after the turn of the Twentieth Century.[15]

So would the spirits of the dead be concerned with what was never a requirement for redemption? The spirits of the dead did not appear to Woodruff and tell him that their work was invalid and needed to be repeated, (the work that could be done up to that point), they told him that nothing had ever been done for them, which (in the light of the facts) was untrue.

Finally, she writes,

“Wilford Woodruff’s actual accounts of these events differ from how they have been portrayed subsequently in artwork and story.”

How is this relevant? In her footnote to this point she mentions one person, James Godson Bleak, who I will discuss later.  But really, what does this have to do with why the spirits of the dead appeared to Woodruff? Nothing, and so we see that Amy Thiriot doesn’t really give any other plausible explanations to answer her own question.  But she does give us a reason for why this issue bothered her enough to cobble together some rather speculative scenarios. She writes,

wilford_woodruff_c. 1842

Wilford Woodruff Nauvoo Era

“I am not going to put up with anyone defaming with [sic] the memory of the good people of St. George, and that includes Temple President Wilford Woodruff.”[16]

II. More Of The Same “Something else”

Did Rock Waterman and others like Brian Stuy defame Wilford Woodruff? Do actual events differ from the way they are portrayed by Woodruff? Let’s look at the evidence, which I believe actually supports what Rock Waterman wrote based on Brian Stuy’s research.[17]

But before we do, let’s turn our attention to another effort to discredit Waterman’s conclusions, and which prompted my response here. In an article titled “Rock Waterman’s Pants Are On Fire,” Geoff Nelson writes on July 25, 2014:

“If we add a little context and a small amount of additional information then most of the conclusions in Rock’s post collapse.”

I’m all for context and any additional information, so let’s recap what Mr. Nelson has added to this issue. He writes,

“…Rock argues that because baptisms for the dead had already been performed for the Founding Fathers that Wilford Woodruff is lying about his account of their visitation to him in 1877. The assumption is made that if they had already been baptized then they would not have appeared to Wilford to request that their ordinance work be performed.”

This is exactly what Amy Thiriot was concerned with, but didn’t really address. Let’s see how Nelson fares. He writes,

 “If we read the essay by Brian Stuy (which Rock cites) it becomes clear that Rock’s post is largely a retelling of much of Stuy’s paper. However Rock seems to ignore all the alternative explanations given by Stuy and instead lands directly on lying as the solution.”[18]

Did Stuy offer alternative explanations? From reading Stuy’s article it doesn’t appear that his conclusion is any different than Waterman’s, even with the supposed “alternate explanations”:

“…the issue is not whether Woodruff experienced a dream or a literal visitation of the Founding Fathers. I believe rather that the key question concerns the need for Woodruff’s experience. Since the proxy baptismal work had already been performed for all of these individuals, what reason would they have for visiting him, either in dream or by visitation, and how could they accurately reproach him that “nothing has ever been done for us”? Since proxy endowments could not be performed in the Endowment House, the only work they could legitimately desire would be their proxy baptisms. The only explanation consistent with the evidence presented by Woodruff’s testimony and the baptismal records from Nauvoo and the Endowment House is that Woodruff, unaware of these records, felt an anxiety about redeeming the souls of these distinguished figures and acted upon it.”[19]

Stuy claims that they ONLY explanation consistent with the evidence was Woodruff’s need to act. Feeling “anxiety” or “need” and acting on it, is not the same as having the spirits of the dead actually appear to you, as Woodruff claimed. To say so, (based on the evidence) would ultimately be untruthful, exactly what Waterman and Stuy conclude (Stuy—in  a nicer sounding way).  So what are these alternative explanations that Nelson claims collapse Waterman’s (and by inference), Stuy’s conclusions?

Rebaptism (Again)?

First, his article is largely a rehash of Thiriot’s article, and so he brings up rebaptism again. He writes,

It was common upon major events for someone to be rebaptized to renew their covenants as they are about to take upon themselves further commitments. Wilford himself had been baptized 7 times prior to this vision of the Founding Fathers. People didn’t blink an eye at multiple baptisms. It was normal.

Additionally, the church used baptism as a means of healing. Many, even children under age 8, were baptized for their health. In fact, for the first 4 years after the Manti Temple was dedicated, more baptisms for health were performed in the temple than any other ordinance for the living.[20]

It may have been normal to rebaptize the living for the reasons that Nelson lists above, (in fact, it was required before entrance into the Temple from 1877 to 1893)[21] but those reasons don’t apply to the dead, and those baptisms didn’t make previous ones invalid. A dead person doesn’t need any healing, renewal of covenants, etc. As for rebaptism, George Q. Cannon explained that repentance was really enough:

We hear a good deal of talk about re-baptism, and the First Presidency and the

George Quayle Cannon, c. 1851

George Quayle Cannon, c. 1851

Twelve have felt that so much re-baptism ought to be stopped. Men, when they commit sin, think if they can only get the Bishop to re-baptize them, they are all right and their sins are condoned. It is a fallacy; it will lead to destruction. There is no such thing in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is repentance from sin that will save you, not re-baptism. If you have been baptized, then, if you commit sin, repent of the sin, confess it, and make the confession as broad as the knowledge of the sin; confess it to your brethren and sisters, and ask their forgiveness: and do not imagine that when you commit sin you can slip into the waters of baptism and you are all right again. Do not delude yourselves, brethren and sisters. Sinners, be not deceived by such a fallacy. Something more than this is necessary. We need to repent of our sins, and to confess them to God. We need to come before the Lord with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and before the Church with the spirit of confession. We should not be afraid to confess our sins; for there is no man among us that is not a sinner. Of course, there are different degrees of sin, and there is a difference in the degrees; but no man or woman, in listening to the confession of another, need pride himself or herself and say, “I am not a sinner. Here is this poor creature, a sinner; oh, how I pity him!” If we come to God in humility, He will show unto us our sins, and our imperfections, and our faults; and we will feel merciful to our brethren and sisters who, like ourselves, are weak and erring. We will be full of pity for them, and we will forgive them. This is the feeling that should exist in every bosom when men and women who commit sin come and confess their sins and are humble and contrite. When Latter-day Saints hear such things, there is a feeling of pity wells up in their hearts, and their souls overflow with sympathy, and they say, “Yes, yes, we’ll forgive you, and we’ll try and forget all about it. Go on, dear brother, (or sister) repent, and do better from this time forward, and we will give you our faith and prayers.” That is the way Saints should feel when their brethren and sisters commit sin and repent of it.[22]

Rebaptism though, was linked to proxy work, but not in the way that some might think. D. Michael Quinn writes,

“Although baptism for the dead has traditionally been regarded as distinct from rebaptism, baptism for the dead at Nauvoo was also another form of rebaptism. Since 1840 sermons and revelations had provided authorization for already baptized members of the LDS Church to be baptized in behalf of their deceased friends and relatives.  Among instances of this practice within the Joseph Smith family were Emma Smith being baptized for her father, Isaac Hale; Hyrum Smith for his brother Alvin; Lucy Mack Smith for her brother, uncle and aunts; Don Carlos Smith for his “Friend” General George Washington; and Joseph Smith performing baptisms for the dead as late as 5 July 1843. Because each living proxy had already been baptized, the ordinance thus provided a rebaptism for the living proxy as well as a first baptism for the deceased, as indicated in a certificate dated 4 July 1841: “Catharine Fory renewed her covenant with the Lord, and was baptised in behalf of. …” Therefore, each person who was baptized in behalf of another person was simultaneously renewing his own or her own original covenants of baptism.”[23]

But again we see that this was for the benefit of the living, not the dead. Thus the issue of rebaptism in relation to Woodruff’s claim that the dead spirits of the founding fathers visited him is simply a red herring.

Note also, that George Washington was baptized by Don Carlos Smith over thirty years before he supposedly appeared to Woodruff (and at least twice more by others in Nauvoo alone) to supposedly berate him for being ignored.

WilfordWoodruff_c_1848Rights of Heirship?

Nelson then moves on to another alternative explanation, but is a bit misleading in his use of a quote by Brigham Young to try and prove that this is somehow relevant. He writes,

In work for the dead, there were “rights of heirship” which were to be followed. Brigham discussed this in an 1873 address to the saints:

“There are some inquiries now with regard to officiating in ordinances, which I wish to answer. Some brethren here are anxious to know whether they can receive endowments for their sons or for their daughters. No, they cannot until we have a Temple; but they can officiate in the ordinances so far as baptism and sealing are concerned. A man can be baptized for a son who died before hearing the Gospel. A woman can be baptized for her daughter, who died without the Gospel. Suppose that the father of a dead son wishes to have a wife sealed to his son; if the young woman desired as a wife is dead and have a mother or other female relative in the Church, such mother is the heir, and she can act in the sealing ordinances in the stead of her daughter. But if the young woman desired as a wife have no relative in the Church, to act in her behalf, then the mother of the young man can be baptized for her, and act as proxy for her in the sealing ordinances.…

For instance, a man and his wife come into the Church; he says, “My father and mother were good people; I would like to officiate for them.” “Well, have you any other friends in the Church?” “Nobody but myself and my wife.” Well, now, the wife is not a blood relation, consequently she is not in reality the proper person, but she can be appointed the heir if there are no other relatives—if there are no sisters, this wife of his can officiate for the mother; but if the man has a sister in the Church, it is the privilege and place of the sister of this man, the daughter of those parents that are dead, to go and officiate—be baptized, to go and be sealed with her brother for her father and mother. If this man and woman have a daughter old enough to officiate for her grandmother, she is a blood relation, and is the heir, and can act; but if there is no daughter, the man’s wife can be appointed as the heir.” 

The problem here, is that Nelson left out an important part of this quote. Notice the ellipses? What he didn’t quote by Brigham Young undermines his argument that right of heirship should have been followed, and therefore those that performed the baptisms before Woodruff were somehow wrong in doing so. Here is the entire Young quote with the omitted text in bold,

With regard to the heirship, I can not enter into all the matter tonight. The subject would require a good deal of explaining to the people, consequently, I will pass over it at present. I can merely say this, however, that we see that the Lord makes his selection according to his own mind and will with regard to his ministers. Brother Joseph Smith, instead of being the first born, was the third son of his father’s family who came to maturity, yet he is actually the heir of the family; he is the heir of his father’s house. It seems to us that the oldest son would be the natural heir; but we see that the Lord makes his own selection.

There are some inquiries now with regard to officiating in ordinances, which I wish to answer. Some brethren here are anxious to know whether they can receive endowments for their sons or for their daughters. No, they cannot until we have a Temple; but they can officiate in the ordinances so far as baptism and sealing are concerned. A man can be baptized for a son who died before hearing the Gospel. A woman can be baptized for her daughter, who died without the Gospel. Suppose that the father of a dead son wishes to have a wife sealed to his son; if the young woman desired as a wife is dead and have a mother or other female relative in the Church, such mother is the heir, and she can act in the sealing ordinances in the stead of her daughter. But if the young woman desired as a wife have no relative in the Church, to act in her behalf, then the mother of the young man can be baptized for her, and act as proxy for her in the sealing ordinances. We can attend to these ordinances now before the Temple is built here; but no one can receive endowments for another, until a Temple is prepared in which to administer them. We administer just so far as the law permits us to do. In reality we should have performed all these ordinances long ago, if we had been obedient; we should have had Temples in which we could attend to all these ordinances. Now, the brethren have the privilege of being baptized for their dead friends—when I say the brethren, I mean the brethren and sisters—and these friends can be sealed.

For instance, a man and his wife come into the Church; he says, “My father and mother were good people; I would like to officiate for them.” “Well, have you any other friends in the Church?” “Nobody but myself and my wife.” Well, now, the wife is not a blood relation, consequently she is not in reality the proper person, but she can be appointed the heir if there are no other relatives—if there are no sisters, this wife of his can officiate for the mother; but if the man has a sister in the Church, it is the privilege and place of the sister of this man, the daughter of those parents that are dead, to go and officiate—be baptized, to go and be sealed with her brother for her father and mother. If this man and woman have a daughter old enough to officiate for her grandmother, she is a blood relation, and is the heir, and can act; but if there is no daughter, the man’s wife can be appointed as the heir.[24]

Young also says, in prelude to the above comment:

If you recollect, you that were in Nauvoo, we were very much hurried in the little time we spent there after the Temple was built. The mob was there ready to destroy us; they were ready to burn our houses, they had been doing it for a long time; but we finished the Temple according to the commandment that was given to Joseph, and then took our departure. Our time, therefore, was short, and we had no time to attend to this. My father’s children, consequently, have not been sealed to him. Perhaps all of his sons may go into eternity, into the spirit world, before this can be attended to; but this will make no difference; the heirs of the family will attend to this if it is not for a hundred years.[25]

Brigham Young, c. 1864

Brigham Young, c. 1864

Did Brigham Young seem worried about time frames here? Not at all. This is instructive when trying to determine why the spirits of the dead would be in such a hurry to have work already done that would let them out of the prison house.[26]

Before I comment further on the above it will be instructive to relate what Nelson writes about the above quotation by Brigham Young:

This “right of heirship” was the policy of the church in performing proxy ordinances. Was it always followed? No. Frequently people did not know about details of church policy and there was no fast, easy means of getting information about them. It is clear that it Wilford was aware of this teaching of the right of heirship because he was concerned that he would never be capable of performing the temple work for his ancestors.[27]

This is probably the most important piece to Nelson’s argument because it would then require the “heirs” to do the proxy work which would invalidate the work done by others, thus providing a need for Woodruff to do them all over and have a reason for the spirits of the dead to appear to him. The problem with this is that it doesn’t work, for a number of reasons which I will discuss below, chief among them that Woodruff wasn’t an heir to the “Eminents”. Also, Nelson left out the part about doing proxy baptisms for dead FRIENDS, which made it seem like the quote was only about relatives doing work for relatives.

Let’s recap what Young was saying about the rights of heirship. It is important to note that Young declares that what he says here, isn’t all that he wishes to reveal about it beause that would take a good deal of explaining. This shows that there really was no policy in place about the “right of heirship”, but only what Young chose to reveal at that time, which was basically that it was in flux because “sometimes the Lord makes the selection”.

With that in mind, Young introduces the concept with an example that Nelson does not include in his quote. It is about Joseph Smith being the 4th Son, but still being the designated heir to the family.

It is important to note that Young had a much broader view of what constituted family and heirs. He also stated that it was the Lord who makes his own selection with regard to those who minister for him and are designated as heirs. Therefore there was no set policy, or you could expect lots of exceptions, something that Nelson does acknowledge as he claims that it was not always followed.

Young makes this clear when he states that “now, the brethren have the privilege of being baptized for their dead friends… and these friends can be sealed.”

What Young is saying is that it was the descendants right to officiate if they could, but that might not always be the case. This was taken into account when a policy was written up in 1905, and left any decisions about heirs up to the discretion of the Temple President. (see below) This essentially destroys any argument that work must be done by the heirs as some kind of set policy, or that this had anything to do with the “Eminents”. As early as 1847 Young taught,

“While treating upon the principle of Adoption He said some men were afraid they would loose some glory if they were sealed to one of the Twelve And did not stand alone And have others sealed to them. President Young said there kingdom consisted of their own posterity And it did not diminish that at all by being sealed to one of the Twelve but ownly bound them by that perfect Chain according to the law of God and order of Heaven that will bind the righteous from Adam to the last Saint And Adam will claim us all as members of his kingdom we being his Children.”[28]

Work for the dead was to help bring about this “perfect chain”, just as much as ordinances done for the living. To Young, heirship was not a rigid concept:

“I am entitled to the Keys of the Priesthood according to linage & Blood. So is Brother H. C. Kimball & many others [      ] Have taken Kingly power & grades of the Priesthood. This we would have taught in the Temple if time had permitted. Joseph Smith was entitled to the Keys of the Priesthood according to Blood. Still He was the fourth son. But when we get another Temple built then we will teach you concerning those things. Suffice it to say that I will extend the Chain of the Pristhood back through the Apostolic dispensation to Father Adam just as soon as I can get a temple built.”[29]

Young was waiting for a Temple to be built before revealing everything, which is important to keep in mind. Nor was heirship a rigid concept to John Taylor. As Abraham H. Cannon wrote in his journal,

Thursday, Dec. 18th, 1890: . . .Father holds that we who live on the earth now and are faithful, will stand at the head of our lineage and will thus become Saviors as has been promised us. Pres. John Taylor was not sealed to his parents though they died in the Church, as he felt that it was rather lowering himself to be thus sealed when he was an apostle and his father was a high priest; but this is rather a questionable proceeding.[30]

It seems that the apostles from Woodruff’s time just did what they pleased, further evidence that the right to heirship was not strictly followed nor enforced and so really has no bearing here. Why was it so important for family members to do the work for their own families when they could, but not so important that it could only be done by family? This was explained by Wilford Woodruff:

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1853

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1853

“You have had laid before you, during this Conference, some things pertaining to the redemption of our dead, and some things in regard to the building of temples. These, brethren and sisters, are important works. They are works which we do for others that they cannot do for themselves. This is what Jesus Christ did when He laid down His life for our redemption, because we could not redeem ourselves. We have fathers and mothers and kindred in the spirit world, and we have a work to perform in their behalf. As an individual I have had great interest in this work of redeeming the dead, and so have my brethren and sisters. This is a labor we must continue as far as we have opportunity. This principle was taught by the Apostle Paul. He asks, “If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?” This is a work that rests upon the Latter-day Saints. Do what you can in this respect, so that when you pass to the other side of the vail your fathers, mothers, relatives and friends will bless you for what you have done, and inasmuch as you have been instruments in the hands of God in procuring their redemption, you will be recognized as Saviors upon Mount Zion in fulfillment of prophecy.”[31]

Even Woodruff includes “friends” with family.  If it was the policy that the family should do the work, then why did Woodruff himself do the work for so many that were not part of his own family? Why did he feel the need to take away the recognition of family members as “Saviors upon Mount Zion”? To take that glory to himself? Perhaps this had something to do with Woodruff’s need to do the work himself?

Did the Lord make Wilford Woodruff the heir to all the “Eminent Men” on Woodruff’s list? Where is there any evidence of that? The evidence available leads to a different conclusion.

It is also worth noting here, that written instructions concerning the rights of heirs was not written up until 1905:


“…Those who do Temple work, or get it done, should be careful to designate their proper relationship to each one of the dead. A clear distinction should be made between blood kindred and those to whom they are married; the latter whom are known as relatives in law, thus a man is nephew-in-law to his uncle’s wife, cousin-in-law to his cousin’s wife, etc. If the dead are known to be blood relations, but the degree of relationship cannot be stated, the word RELATIVE is to be given. When there is no family connection, the word FRIEND should be used. The relatives, or friends[,] of a wife should be listed separately from those of her husband, and the work for her kindred should be at the instance of her brother, if he is a member of the Church, or of her eldest son. In the performance of work for the dead, the right of heirship (blood relationship) should be sacredly regarded. When practicable, relatives should represent the dead. The name of the individual at whose instance (by whose authorization or permission) the work is done, and his or her relationship to each of the dead is required for [the] record, if the relationship is known. As a rule, the eldest living MALE representative of the family, who is a member of the Church, is the recognized heir. Any individuals who are eligible may act as proxies for the dead but, unless the proxy is the heir, their relationship to the dead, if any, is not to be entered. It is advised that individuals having Temple ordinances performed should limit that work to persons bearing the SURNAMES of their parents and grandparents, and who resided in localities where those ancestors lived; that provides four family lines. To include other lines than those involves the probability of repeating Temple ordinances that individuals representing other families may have a better right to have performed. Every possible precaution should be taken to prevent such undesirable repetition. Temple work may be done for dead individuals who were married to your blood relations, but the family lines of such relatives-in-law must not be included in that work.  —Joseph F. Smith, ca. 1905; emphasis in original.”[32]

St. George Temple c. 1880

St. George Temple c. 1880

Still, it was only “when practicable”, that relatives should represent the dead. Did Woodruff himself violate the right of heirship by performing the work for the Eminents? Perhaps. Even though the instructions above speak of “undesirable repetition”, they do not say that previous work was to be considered invalid. So we see that using this as an alternative explanation for Woodruff’s claim that the spirits of the dead appeared to him claiming that nothing had been done for them is another red herring argument.

What is interesting is that ten years after Woodruff baptized the “Eminents”, he penned a letter to Temple President Marriner W. Merrill which included a response to James H. Martineau concerning heirship:

Marriner Wood Merrill

Marriner Wood Merrill

We send the enclosed letter to you for Brother James H. Martineau, and send it unsealed that you may read its contents and obtain therefrom our views concerning the principle alluded to by him. We must be more strict in enforcing the rule which is here mentioned in regard to heirship in our Temples, and people must not be permitted to follow their whims in being baptized for any and every body whom they may choose to officiate for; and persons should be questioned upon this subject of being baptized for those not of their own kin. We are satisfied that no man has a right[,] outside of his own kindred[,] to attend to ordinances for the dead without consultation and permission from the Presiding authority of the Church. But as this, perhaps, would lead to great delay and large correspondence, you as President of the Temple are authorized to exercise a wise discretion in permitting persons to be baptized for friends, when they satisfy you that they have no representative in the Church.[33]

The letters to Martineau read,

I think it is better for you to defer the ordinance of second anointing for this Indian girl who has been sealed to you since her death. It will be no los[s] to her for the present. As to the martyrs of whom you speak, we see no impropriety in having the ordinance of baptism attended to for them, especially if you know who they are: but before having them sealed to you, you should certainly have some knowledge of them and of your right to have them, as others may claim that they have a better right than you hereafter.[34]


You ask if you are right in doing temple work for some noted Indian chiefs who are deceased. I am glad that you have asked this question because in officiating for those whom you mention, you have gone too fast. A man has a right to officiate for his own dead ancestry, if he be the heir, or if it be done with a knowledge and consultation of the heir, but he has no right to go into other families and officiate for them, even though they may have no representatives in the Church[,] without in the first place consulting the presidency of the Church.[35]

 Daniel H. Wells was in charge of the Endowment House and a member of the First Presidency when Haden Wells Church and John Bernhisel performed the proxy baptisms for the signers of the Declaration of Independence. There is no reason to assume that he did not have the same “wise discretion” that was given to Marriner W. Merrill.

Wilford Woodruff with plural wife Sarah Brown c. 1860

Wilford Woodruff with plural wife Sarah Brown c. 1860

III. So, Why The Big Hurry?

Brian Stuy points out that it was Brigham Young’s remarks at the dedication of the St. George Temple that perhaps motivated Woodruff to perform the proxy baptisms for the Founding Fathers:

What do you suppose the fathers would say if they Could speak from the dead? Would they not say we “have lain here thousand of years here in this prision House waiting for this dispensation to Come. Here we are bound and fettered in the association of those who are filthy.” What would they whisper in our Ears? Why if they had the power the vary thunders of heaven would be in our Ears if we Could but realize the importance of the work we are ingaged in. [36]

Woodruff would claim in 1877 that the concept of redeeming the founding fathers had never entered his heart due to his only thinking about close friends and family, but a year before he made that comment he said,

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1860

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1860

And if there is anything I desire to live for on the earth, or that I have desired, it has been to get a record of the genealogy of my fathers, that I might do something for them before I go hence into the spirit world. Until within a few years past it has seemed as if every avenue has been closed to obtaining such records; but the Lord has moved upon the inhabitants of this nation, and thousands of them are now laboring to trace the genealogical descent of the Puritan fathers, those who landed at Plymouth Rock, and whose descendants built up New England. Their lineages are coming to light, and we are gradually obtaining access to them, and by this means we shall be enabled to do something towards the salvation of our dead. [37]

Here we see Woodruff’s “need” to do something about those that “built up New England” proclaimed by him a year before the claimed visitation in the St. George Temple. Those mentioned by him above would be classed as “Eminent Men” (and women).  There is also something else that Woodruff was aware of, and that was the claimed vision of Ann Booth in March, 1840 which Woodruff recorded in his Journal:

I Ann Booth wife of Robert Booth of the Town of Manchester England had the following vision on the 12th Day of March in the year of our Lord 1840. Being caried away in a vision to the Place of departed spirits I saw 12 Prisons, one abov another, verry large, and builded of soled stone. on ariveing at the <dore of the> upermost Prision I behe[l]d one of the 12 apostles of the Lamb who had been martered in America, standing at the dore of the Prison holding a key in his hand with which he opned unlocked the dore and went in and I fol[low]ed him. he appeard to be of a large sise, thick set, darke hare, darke eyes, and eyebrows of a smiling count[e]nan[c]e, and on <his> had was a crown of gold or somthing brighter. he was dresed in a long, white robe, with the sleves plated from the sholder down to the hand. upon his brest ware fore [four] stares [stars] apparently like gold <or briter> and a

John Wesley

John Wesley

golden girdle about his Loins. his feet was bare from above the Ancles down<w>ard and his hands were also bare. as he entred the prison he seemed to stand about 3 feet from the floor (which was of Marble) as if the place was not worthy for him to stand upon. a verry brilient and glorie<u>s light surounded him, while the res[t] of the prison was dark. but his light was peculiar to him self and did not reflect upon others who was in the prison who ware surounded with a gloom of darkness. on the right hand of the dore stood Jhon Wesley, who on seing the glories personage, rased his hands and shouted ‘glory, honer, praise, and Power be ascribed unto God and the Lamb forever and ever. Deliverance has Com. the Apostle then commecd to preach the Baptism of repentence for the remision of sins and the gift of the Holy Gost by the laing of hands when the hundreds of prisners gave a shout with aloud voice saying ‘Glory be to God for ever and ever’. the marble floor was then removed and a River of watter clere as Cristall seemed to f[l]ow in it place. the Apostle then called to John Wesley by name who came fawrd quickley and both went down in to [fold in paper worn, obscuring the text] and the Apostle Baptized him and coming up out of the water he lade his hands upon him for the gift of the Holy Gost, at the same time ordaining him to the Preasthood of Aaron. the Apostle then retired to the place ware he first stod and John Wesley then proseded to Baptize a man by the [name] of Kilbham and next John Madison and Wm. Scott and John Tongue <who> ware Methodest Prachers with whome I had ben aquanted personly. the next he Baptized was my grand father

David W. Patten

“Apostle” David W. Patten

Edmond Whitehead. the next was my unkel Johon [John] Whitehead and the next was my sister Elizabath Oland, the <next> was Joseph Lancashere. next Samuel Robinson Robinson and the next was my own Mother. all these had lived and died Methodest and I had had ben personly aquanted with them all. and after this he Baptized all the Prisoners amounting to menny hundreds. after they ware all Baptized, the Apostle Lade his hands on them all and confermed them. then instantly the Darkeness dispersed and they ware all surrounded and envellopd in a Brilint light, such as suround’d the Apostle at the first. and they all lifted up theyr voices with one accord giving glory to God for deliverence. My gra<n>d fatheer then came to me and Blest me saying ‘the Lord bless [you] forever and ever. art thou com to see us deliverd? my mother then came to me and clasped me in hir arms and kissed me three times and said ‘the Lord Almightly Bless the for ever and evere.’ [38]

It was a month after the vision of Ann Booth began circulating that Joseph Smith preached his first public sermon on baptism for the dead in Nauvoo. [39] It may have been this vision that prompted Smith to publically proclaim the doctrine in Nauvoo in August of 1840, since Booth’s claimed vision obviously contains doctrinal errors. [40]

What is interesting is that Woodruff writes on July 5, 1877 that he had been reading from his first journal. [41]

Brian Stuy points out that Woodruff began reading about Daniel Boone in Evert Augustus Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans. [42]

Daniel Boone from Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans

Daniel Boone from Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans

This was just a few months after he spoke of “the descendants who built up New England”, which would include the Founding Fathers.  His journal entry for August 3-5, 1876 reads,

In my leasure moments of late I have read the life of Daniel Boone the great explorer & pioneer of Kentucky and afterwords Early setler of Louisianna and it is vary Strange that Kentucky should have Cheated him out of his land & home after locating the Country & fighting Indians 40 years. Also the Lands in Louisianna that the spanish Government gave him was taken from him By Congress and he never had any land given him untill he was about 80 years old and a short time before his death. His life was a remarkable one. He lived 3 Months in the wilderness of Kentucky 500 miles from any white men without bread, sugar, or salt in a Camp surrounded with Indians and was taken twice a prisioner by them & escaped. Built a fort gathered his family and white Emigration to it & maintained it through many years of Indian wars & was then deprived of his home By Lawyiers and Land speculators. [43]

However Woodruff got motivated, why did he feel pressed to perform the proxy work for the “Eminents” that he did in 1877?

Perhaps some further information on the spirits of the dead and where they go after they die might be in order and shed some context on Young’s 1877 remarks. In 1856, Brigham Young taught,

When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? Into the spiritual world. Are you going into Abraham’s bosom. No, not any where nigh there, but into the spirit world. Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? Yes, they do. Do they both inhabit one kingdom? Yes, they do. Do they go to the sun? No. Do they go beyond the boundaries of this organized earth? No, they do not. They are brought forth upon this earth, for the express purpose of inhabiting it to all eternity. Where else are you going? No where else, only as you may be permitted.

When the spirits of mankind leave their bodies, no matter whether the individual was a Prophet or the meanest person that you could find, where do they go? To the spirit world. Where is it? I am telling you. The spirit of Joseph, I do not know that it is just now in this bowery, but I will assure you that it is close to the Latter-day Saints, is active in preaching to the spirits in prison and preparing the way to redeem the nations of the earth, those who lived in darkness previous to  the introduction of the Gospel by himself in these days.

The Spirit World

The Spirit World

He has just as much labor on hand as I have; he has just as much to do. Father Smith and Carlos and brother Partridge, yes, and every other good Saint, are just as busy in the spirit world as you and I are here. They can see us, but we cannot see them unless our eyes were opened. What are they doing there? They are preaching, preaching all the time, and preparing the way for us to hasten our work in building temples here and elsewhere, and to go back to Jackson County and build the great temple of the Lord. They are hurrying to get ready by the time that we are ready and we are all hurrying to get ready by the time our Elder Brother is ready.

The wicked spirits that leave here and go into the spirit world, are they wicked there? Yes.

The spirits of people that have lived upon the earth according to the the best light they had, who were as honest and sincere as men and women could be, if they lived on the earth without the privilege of the Gospel and the Priesthood and the keys thereof are still under the power and control of evil spirits, to a certain extent. No matter where they lived on the face of the earth, all men and women that have died without the keys and power of the Priesthood, though they might have been honest and sincere and have done every thing they could, are under the influence of the devil, more or less. Are they as much so as others? No, no. Take those that were wicked designedly, who knowingly lived without the Gospel when it was within their reach, they are given up to the devil, they become tools to the devil and spirits of devils.

Go to the time when the Gospel came to the earth in the days of Joseph, take the wicked that have opposed this people and persecuted them to the death, and they are sent to hell. Where are they? They are in the spirit world, and are just as busy as they possibly can be to do every thing they can against the Prophet and the Apostles, against Jesus and his kingdom. They are just as wicked and malicious in their actions against the cause of truth, as they were while on the earth in their fleshly tabernacles.

Joseph, also, goes there, but has the devil power over him? No, because he held the keys and power of the eternal Priesthood here, and got the victory while here in the flesh. [44] 

Young claims here the the spirits of the dead all go to a “spirit prison”.  Young’s remarks in 1877 seem to be a contradiction to his earlier teachings about the spirit world. Joseph F. Smith in 1918 claimed to have a vision of the Spirit World, which was later canonized. He wrote,

As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place, an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality, and who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemers name. All these had departed the mortal life firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection through the grace of God the Father and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fullness of joy. While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful, and there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on condition of repentance. But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised, neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face. Where these were darkness reigned, but among the righteous there was peace and the saints rejoiced in their redemption and bowed the knee and acknowledged the Son of God as their Redeemer and Deliverer from death and the chains of hell. Their countenances shone and the radiance from the presence of the Lord rested upon them and they sang praises unto his holy name. …jesus_spirit_world

I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotton Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead. The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, and after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions and are washed clean shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.[45]

According to Smith and others, the “prison doors” were opened by Jesus, who then sent messengers to preach to them. Those that accepted the Gospel were released from the prison and “the association of those who are filthy” . This is where many Mormon Authorities claimed that David W. Patten went after he was killed at the Battle of Crooked River when he engaged Missouri State Militia. [46] George W. Cannon explained about how this happens,

What is that Gospel? Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, who left His glorious abode on high and came on earth to endure and to die for our salvation. Repentance. Is it not a glorious thing to be able to say to a wicked man, “Only repent with all your heart, and God will forgive you.” This is what is being preached unto the spirits in prison. They are being told how they can escape from their evil surroundings and from the power of Satan. Then if they will repent, there are men on the earth who will perform for them, in places expressly dedicated to God for that purpose, those ordinances that cannot be administered there. They can be baptized for them, they can act for them in receiving the ordinance of laying on of hands, and thus they can receive the Spirit of God, and be snatched from the evils to which they have become subjected through sin, and be placed in the path where they can continue to progress eternally. [47]

This is exactly what was done for the “Eminents” in the Endowment House. According to Ann Booth, men like John Wesley and others accepted the Gospel, repented, and Haden Wells Church, John Bernhisel and others performed their baptisms and the ordinance of laying on of hands which enabled them to escape from their bondage and association with the “filthy”.  Five years after he redid the work for the “Eminents”, Woodruff declared,

Our mission is more extended and extensive than we realize. There have been no Prophets, no Apostles, upon the earth for the last 1,800 years, that we are much acquainted with, except Nephi, who dwelt upon this continent several hundred years after the death of Christ. There has been no one upon the earth with authority to preach the Gospel to the nations of the earth. Many  [p.331] generations have passed away. Many thousands of millions have passed into the spirit world. We are now at the end of the sixth thousand years. We are bordering upon the millennium. We are living in the great and last dispensation, in the which the God of Israel expects us, his servants, his sons and daughters, to perform the work which has been left to our charge. It is our duty to build these temples. It is our duty to enter into them and redeem our dead. Joseph Smith is preaching to the spirits in prison; so are all the Elders who have died in the faith. There are millions of them there, and they must have the Gospel offered to them. Joseph Smith and others cannot baptize the spirits in water, it is not the law; but their posterity, their sons and daughters who are living in the last dispensation, are expected to go into these temples and there redeem their dead. This is a good work, and it is a great blessing for men and women to have this privilege. We have one of these temples finished, and we are doing a great work in that temple. A hundred and sixty-two thousand persons have been baptized for the dead, and nearly seventy thousand endowments have been given in that temple. We have only just begun this work. We want the Logan temple finished, as also the temple at Manti, that the people may go forth and redeem their dead. Our forefathers are looking to us to attend to this work. They are watching over us with great anxiety, and are desirous that we should finish these temples and attend to certain ordinances for them, so that in the morning of the resurrection they can come forth and enjoy the same blessings that we enjoy. We are living in the flesh and have the privilege of receiving the Gospel of Christ for ourselves. Our forefathers had not this privilege; and as their posterity when we meet them in the spirit world we shall have the joy and satisfaction of knowing that we did our duty by them while here upon the earth. We occupy a position in this capacity towards them the same as we do to this generation. We occupy the position of Saviors upon Mount Zion.[48]

Again we can ask the question, why would the “Eminents” appear to Woodruff and ask for work to be done that had already been done, which had freed them from their association with the wicked in the Spirit World and placed them on a path to “progress eternally”?

IV. Other Concerns

Woodruff’s Sources And Knowledge

“Wilford Woodruff”, writes Stuy, “apparently left Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans in Salt Lake City when he left for St. George on 1 November 1876. That he did not have the two volume [set] that he had been reading during the previous months is strongly supported by the fact that he did not perform the baptismal work for anyone whose biography is found only in this work, including Daniel Boone, Patrick Henry, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—men who were greatly admired and whom Woodruff certainly would have considered worthy of proxy attention.”[49]

Stuy also notes that all of the Presidents for whom Woodruff did proxy work for had biographical sketches in Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans, but the biographical data that Woodruff included for these Presidents was so dissimiliar from Duyckinck’s that he is certain that Woodruff did not have the work with him in St. George. [50]

Why is this important? Because Woodruff got so many details wrong in his documentation about the Eminents. As Stuy points out,

Portrait Gallery“It seems likely that, if the signers had literally appeared to Woodruff, he would have used all of the resources at his disposal to compile as complete and comprehensive a listing of worthies as he could. Woodruff’s use of Duyckinck’s volumes does nothing in and of itself to cause us to question his experience as a literal visitation from the spirit world. But because the baptismal work had been previously performed for every individual who had signed the Declaration of Independence—the very men Woodruff explicitly states appeared to him—we must consider the nature of his experience with these men. It seems unlikely that they would have literally appeared to him in August 1877, after their proxy baptisms had been done, to express their unhappiness that no proxy work had been performed for them, yet this was certainly the main message that Woodruff understood from his experience. [51]

Woodruff apparently spent two consecutive nights with these men, but didn’t get any details that would help him with their genealogies and recorded inaccurate information about them? He didn’t question them about their marriages, their children and forefathers? Woodruff certainly was aware of the lack of avenues of information.

As Stuy observes, “…a comparison between the two listings (Duyckinck’s Portrait Gallery & Woodruff’s list) shows not a single instance in which Woodruff’s proxy record contains accurate biographical information not contained in Duyckinck’s volumes.” (page 73) Stuy adds, “In several instances, Woodruff has information not found in Duyckinck’s volumes, but these additions are always inaccurate.[52]

It seems that Woodruff had the ultimate access, but didn’t make use of it, or the Eminents were feeding him false information. Another thing to consider that hasn’t really been addressed, is how likely it was that Woodruff would have known that the Eminents baptisms had been done, long before the move to Utah. Guy Bishop writes,

Baptisms for deceased friends often reflected personal reverence for historical figures. In addition to the previously mentioned noted historical figures, other Saints showed a fascination with saving the greats of bygone generations such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, and “Gen’l. Montgomery [who] fell at Quebec,” for whom John Harrington was proxy. Also Stephen Jones was baptized for Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de LaFayette. The greater the historical reputation, the more times proxy baptisms were performed. In 1841 alone, George Washington, for example, benefitted from proxy baptisms done by Don Carlos Smith, Stephen Jones, and John Harrington. Many of these eminent men from thepast, including most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and former U.S. presidents, as well as several noted women, were again baptized in the St. George Temple in 1877.” [53]

wilford-woodruff-baptisingWoodruff himself was familiar with and participated in many baptisms for the dead in Nauvoo.  Even Charlotte Haven, who was visiting relatives in Nauvoo, witnessed baptisms for the dead, including the baptism of George Washington:

Last Sunday morning the Judge came in and soon proposed a walk, for it was a balmy spring day, so we took a bee-line for the river, down the street north of our house. Arriving there we rested awhile on a log, watching the thin sheets of ice as they slowly came down and floated by. Then we followed the bank toward town, and rounding a little point covered with willows and cottonwoods, we spied quite a crowd of people, and soon perceived there was a baptism. Two elders stood knee-deep in the icy cold water, and immersed one after another as fast as they could come down the bank. We soon observed that some of them went in and were plunged several times. We were told that they were baptized for the dead who had not had an opportunity of adopting the doctrines of the Latter Day Saints. So these poor mortals in ice-cold water were releasing their ancestors and relatives from purgatory! We drew a little nearer and heard several names repeated by the elders as the victims were douched, and you can imagine our surprise when the name George Washington was called. So after these fifty years he is out of purgatory and on his way to the “celestial” heaven! It was enough, and we continued our walk homeward. [54]

One other thing to consider if you are inclined to believe that Woodruff did know about the proxy baptisms performed for the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Woodruff said that he didn’t know of any:

I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. [55]

Here Woodruff claims that the thought never entered his heart that anything had been done for these men. Woodruff also claims that it never entered “our” minds. But that is obviously not true, since it had certainly entered the minds of many since proxy work first started being performed in Nauvoo. Who is he including here? Certainly not John D. T. McAllister, who did recording and confirmations in the Endowment House.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1865

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1865

Woodruff Misquoted (Again)?

This brings us to Nelson’s next point, which is to blame George Gibbs. I have already addressed this speculation above, but Nelson also claims that because Woodruff only mentions the Endowment House in his September 16, 1877 address and no others, that this is evidence that Gibbs misquoted him. Here is what Woodruff said once again,

“I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights.  I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them.”[56]

Let’s reconstruct this without mentioning the Endowment House. “Said they, … nothing has ever been done for us… I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them.”

We still have the problem of Woodruff claiming that the spirits of the dead said “nothing has ever been done for us”, and we have Woodruff repeating that “nothing had been done for them” at the end. So Gibbs misheard this entire paragraph? This is simply an unreasonable speculation, especially since we know that Gibbs surely had the sermons he transcribed checked by those who gave them, as George D. Watt did when he was the chief recorder.[57] 

Wilford Woodruff's Temple Lot Case Testimony - Journal of Discourses Sermons

Wilford Woodruff’s Temple Lot Case Testimony – Journal of Discourses Sermons – Where he states that it was a General Rule for them to correct their sermons – Transcript Courtesy of The Church History Library

Nelson adds that because in Mormon theology one needs more than just a baptism, we can suppose that Woodruff was misquoted. But is that what Woodruff meant when he spoke about redeeming the dead in 1877? For example, ten years later Woodruff claimed that,

As an individual I have had great interest in this work of redeeming the dead, and so have my brethren and sisters. This is a labor we must continue as far as we have opportunity. This principle was taught by the Apostle Paul. He asks, “If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?” This is a work that rests upon the Latter-day Saints. Do what you can in this respect, so that when you pass to the other side of the vail your fathers, mothers, relatives and friends will bless you for what you have done, and inasmuch as you have been instruments in the hands of God in procuring their redemption, you will be recognized as Saviors upon Mount Zion in fulfillment of prophecy. [58]

One must look at this in historical context. At that time redeeming the dead did not include Endowments, because Brigham Young would not authorize any to be done outside of a Temple. That is why in later quotes Woodruff expands the definition to include Endowments more often. Four years later Woodruff again broaches this subject and once again links redeeming the dead to baptism, even after there were multiple temples in operation:

The Latter-day Saints have gone to work and labored in these Temples by the commandment of God, for the blessing of the living and redemption of their dead, and a million of men and women, whose bodies are returned to dust, and whose spirits are in the spirit world, have received the benefits of the Gospel by [p.209] the power of God and the work of the Elders, under the direction of President Young. Is this a loss of prestige? Is there no hand of God in this? Is there no progress in this? These things certainly were not accomplished in the life of Joseph Smith, although Joseph Smith received revelations with regard to Temples, and the ordinances and endowments afterwards administered in the Temple at Nauvoo. He also built the first Temple, in Kirtland, and many blessings were revealed in that Temple, and this work was continued while he lived, as far as he had the power. I remember well the first time I read the revelation given through the Prophet Joseph concerning the redemption of the dead—one of the most glorious principles I had ever become acquainted with on earth.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1877

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1877

To think that I and these Latter-day Saints could go forth into the waters of baptism and redeem our fathers, our mothers, and those that have gone before us, in the lineage of our father’s house, and they come forth and receive a part in the first resurrection! Well might the Prophet say God has fulfilled His promise that in the last days He would raise up saviors upon Mount Zion, and the kingdom should be the Lord’s. Never did I read a revelation with greater joy than I did that revelation. I have often referred to the course we pursued in connection with that. Joseph Smith himself (many of you may recollect the time) went into the Mississippi river one Sunday night after meeting, and baptized a hundred. I baptized another hundred. The next man, a few rods from me, baptized another hundred. We were strung up and down the Mississippi, baptizing for our dead. But there was no recorder; we attended to this ordinance without waiting to have a proper record made. But the Lord told Joseph that he must have recorders present at these baptisms—men who could see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and record these things. Of course, we had to do the work over again. Nevertheless, that does not say the work was not of God.[59]

To be sure, there are many quotes by Woodruff that include Endowments when he speaks of redeeming the dead, but not always. Notice also, that Woodruff claims that though the work had to be done over in Nauvoo because there was no recorder, (as per a clarifying “revelation” by Joseph Smith) that the work was still “of God”.  Since there were recorders when work was done in Utah, there would be no reason to redo any of that work, nor was it ever suggested that this be done.

So a rebaptism does not nullify the original baptism. In the case of the “Eminents”, this was not an issue since their baptisms were recorded and performed under the supervision of one of the First Presidency (Daniel H. Wells) who oversaw the work in the Endowment House at that time (1868-1884) and was frequently there participating in the work.[60]

Proxy baptisms were also performed by Haden Wells Church, a respected Seventy who had served multiple successful missions for the church, and John M. Bernhisel who was the first Mormon Congressional Delegate from Utah Territory to Washington, had close ties to the First Presidency of the church, and Wilford Woodruff. [61]

There is nothing at all upon which to base Nelson’s inference that because the proxy baptisms performed on behalf of the “Eminents” were not done by a descendant or with the approval of a church authority, they were invalid or that there was some need for Woodruff to do them himself.  He offers only speculation.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1880

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1880

When All Else Fails Speculate

Nelson then tries to undermine the validity of the work already done by Haden Wells Church[62] (who performed about half of the baptisms for the signers of the Declaration of Independence) by speculating that he may not have had authorization and may have been commanded to stop doing their work.

I could perhaps agree that this was plausible if not for the fact that Church performed the baptisms for about half of the signers on more than one occasion, a year apart, and that those that helped him were prominent men in the Church. Brian Stuy writes,

Haden Wells Church

Haden Wells Church

[Haden Wells] Church performed the proxy baptisms for twenty-nine of the fifty-four signers—just more than half. Why he did not perform the work for the remaining signers is unknown (Endowment House, 23 August 1871, 17 April 1872, #183384). Oliver Wolcott, one of the signers for whom Church did not perform the work, nevertheless had his work performed by a descendant, Phineas Wolcott Cook (ibid., 13 September 1872, #183384).

John Adam’s baptism was repeated in Utah by Samuel H. B. Smith and by Haden Wells Church (Endowment House, 15 November 1871, 17 April 1872, #183384).[63]

From this, Nelson infers that it is “plausible” that,

“partway through his efforts Hayden Church was told that because he wasn’t a descendent and didn’t have authorization that he needed to stop. Notice that just months after this Oliver Wolcott was baptized by a descendent. [64]

There of course may be more plausible reasons why Church did not finish the work for the signers—he may have been busy with other responsibilities. It took him a year and two visits to complete half the list, but the next year, 1873, Church spent time as a traveling missionary, and one news article has him visiting Kanab in Kane County in September of that year.[65]

Haden Church News Article 1873Again, this would not invalidate what Church did, even if he was told to stop which does not seem at all plausible. If this were so, why was John M. Bernhisel allowed to do proxy work for the remaining signers just two years later, after Oliver Wolcott did some work for only one of the signers? It is very plausible that Wolcott was the only descendant at that time that was available and ready to do the work.  As explained above in Wolcott’s case, that would invoke the “right of heirship”.  What this shows is that there was a very coordinated effort in performing these proxy baptisms, as we shall see.

Even though John Hancock’s baptism was done by his descendant Levi Ward Hancock, this was not done in the Endowment House, but in the St. George Temple on May 29, 1877. The same was true of William Floyd, whose proxy work was done by descendant Addison Everett in March of the same year.

From what Stuy writes, Bernhisel was aware of Church’s work, because he did not do any of the work for those that Church had served as proxy for. [66]

What this evidence suggests is that this was a coordinated effort, and they did not do the work for those they knew had descendants able to do the work at that time. What it does not suggest, is that the work was discontinued solely on the basis of right of heirship.


John M. Bernhisel

I find it interesting that Nelson will try and undermine Haden Church’s authority to do the work, and yet will make the conjecture that others who may not have been heirs somehow got permission:

John Hancock’s work was done by a relative, Levi Hancock, again fitting well with the idea of heirship making proxy ordinance work valid. William Floyd’s work was performed by Addison Everett. In this case, I am not aware of a relationship between the two. It is important to note that under Wilford’s tenure as Temple President that Addison Everett was the one who completed the proxy work for William Floyd. Perhaps if Everett is not related to Floyd, permission from a presiding authority had been granted to do the work.[67]

Where does Nelson get the idea that proxy work would be more valid if done by an heir? I can find no evidence that any Mormon Authorities ever said so. The best explanation that I can come up with is that if an heir redid a baptism, it would only change the details which were recorded, transferring the proxy work to the heir. This would not invalidate the original baptism though.  And this point is rather moot, because the hiers would be sealed to their ancestors, regardless of who did the baptism. None of the men who did the proxy work for the “Eminents” requested to have them sealed to their lineage. So, why would this (getting permission to proxy baptize) not be the case with Church and Bernhisel? This begs the question,

Was Woodruff aware of the work that had been done for these men? I find it hard to believe that he was not. He exchanged many letters with John M. Bernhisel, and mentions Haden W. Church and his son in his Journals, and he was very close to John D. T. McAllister, who did some of the confirmations and recordings.[68] On the other hand, Stuy writes,

But Woodruff apparently did not know of the proxy baptisms Haden Church and John Bernhisel had completed earlier for the signers of the Declaration of Independence and past U.S. presidents. In fact, every signer of the Declaration of Independence had been baptized by proxy before Woodruff performed that ordinance in the St. George Temple in 1877.[69]

He relegates to a footnote that Woodruff may have known of Bernhisel’s work. I find it personally hard to believe that Woodruff did not know about the previous work. But this point is also moot, as I have explained above, because the baptisms performed by Church and Bernhisel were valid and Woodruff claimed that it never entered his or others hearts to do anything for them in his September 19, 1877 discourse.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1890

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1887

V. Rogue Baptisms?

There are a few other things worth mentioning that are perhaps relevant in understanding the circumstances surrounding these events.  Brian Stuy writes,

On one occasion Church was confirmed by an individual who would play an important role in Woodruff’s experience, John Daniel Thompson McAllister, who also served as recorder for many of the baptisms. Church’s wife, Matilda, was proxy baptized for many of the signers wives.[70]

Woodruff had worked with McAllister as early as 1864 in the Endowment House where they performed sealings for the living.[71]

At On the 13 of June, 1868 Woodruff took J. D. T. McAllister with him to visit the dying Heber C. Kimball who was blessed by them along with Brigham Young, Daniel H. Wells and Albert Carrington.[72]

McAllister was appointed by Brigham Young as President of the St. George Stake, and Woodruff writes that,

“I went down to the Temple with Br Angel and looked over the rooms to see how we would [be] organized to prepare for Endowments. I wrote the Ceremony (or assisted Br Mcallister in doing it) for work in the Temple.[73]

At the time that McAllister did the confirmations and recordings for the proxy baptisms performed by Haden Church, he was a Counsellor to Bishop Elijah F. Sheets, and was the Salt Lake City Marshall.  Elijah Sheets served as bishop of the Salt Lake City Eighth Ward from 1856 to 1904. He also served at the central Church level as a traveling bishop, as the Church’s head livestock agent, and as an assistant trustee-in-trust.[74]

John Daniel Thompson McAllister c. 1870

John Daniel Thompson McAllister c. 1870

McAllister like Sheets had the confidence and trust of the First Presidency.  He was elected Fire Chief and City Marshall and also served as a Territorial Marshall. He worked in the Endowment House for many years and was Superintendent of Brigham Young’s Woolen Mill. He was elected foreman of the Council in the Legislature in 1862 and 1863. In 1867 he was appointed to be in charge of the Tabernacle.

All three of these men, Haden Church, John McAllister and John Bernhisel were exemplary in their respective duties and assignments. There is no reason to believe that any of them did not act within proper Priesthood channels in doing proxy work for the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  I know of no systematic program to nullify all (or any) of the proxy baptisms done in the Endowment House by performing them again in a temple, therefore Woodruff’s decision to rebaptize the “Eminents” was his own choice, not some kind of policy decision based on lack of authority to perform them the first time.  And since Woodruff himself was not an heir, this makes his motive to do so even more questionable as a legitimate need. Woodruff as Temple President certainly had the authority to rebaptize the Eminents, but that still leaves us right back where we started: Why would the signers of the Declaration of Independence need to appear to Woodruff and tell him that no work had been done for them, when it obviously had been?[75] 

Marriner W. Merrill would comment on duplicate work in 1895:

Of course, there was quite an amount of work done in the Endowment House; but we have found that a great deal of that work has been duplicated, from the fact that people did not keep a record of the work themselves, and the records of the Endowment House in times past were not available to everybody.[76]

This would not be Woodruff’s problem, since he would have had access to any records he cared to search for. I can’t imagine that if Woodruff was somehow not aware of the proxy work done for the “Eminents”, that McAllister would not have told him in St. George. Therefore it is very probable that Woodruff knew about the proxy baptisms before he performed them, but went ahead anyway, disregarding the rule not to perform duplicate work.

Woodruff claimed that McAllister knew about the visit of the spirits of the dead, yet he, like Woodruff did not record anything about it in his Journal; but he did write about the proxy work that he performed. On 21 August 1877, McAllister recorded:

At the Temple as usual. 682 baptism for the dead. Myself 170, Wilford Woodruff 21, Joseph Hammond 226,and A. P. Winsor 225. On this day I was baptised for all the dead presidents of the United States except Martin Van Buren and Jas. Buchanan.[77]

On August 22 John wrote,

I received endowments for General George Washington and Sister Lucy B. Young received Endowments for Mary Ball, Washington’s Mother. I was also ordained a High Priest for Washington.

On Thursday 23, I received Endowments for Millard Filmore. I also acted for Augustine Washington and my wife, Ann, for his 1st wife and for his 2nd. Mary Ball, George Washington’s mother in the sealing. Ann also acted for Maria Fackrell who was sealed to John Washington, great-grandfather of George. I was also baptised for Daniel Park Custin [sic] and John Park Custin, sons of Martha and her first husband. I was also ordained a High Priest for Benjamin Franklin, on this day.[78]

Brian Stuy writes that,

“McAllister frequently performed proxy ordinances for famous historical personalities. In addition to acting in the confirmation of eleven signers proxy baptized by Haden Wells Church in 1871, McAllister was baptized for several prominent individuals, including the first Emperor of Russia and Austria (Endowment House, 9 August 1871, 12 June 1872, #1183384).[79]

David H. Cannon

David H. Cannon

Years later Woodruff would mention McAllister in connection with a retelling of the supposed visitation, along with two others, James Godson Bleak and David H. Cannon.  David H. Cannon was a bishop, high counselor, and a member of the Stake Presidency in St. George for many years which required traveling to visit the wards and branches throughout southern Utah and Nevada. After the building and dedication of the St. George Temple Cannon served first as an assistant to then temple president Wilford Woodruff, then as an assistant to temple president John D.T. McAllister and finally on 28 August 1893 he was called to be President of the St. George Temple.[80]

Canon never mentioned that he had any direct knowledge of the claimed visitation of the spirits of the dead to Wilford Woodruff. In 1922 he gave a speech to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers where he recounted important events in his life. Concerning the events of the time in question he said,

On January 9, 1877 I was called by President Young to labor in the St. George Temple. I was set apart April 17, 1877 to assist President Woodruff in the performance of the higher ordinance in the House of the Lord.[81]

This would have been the perfect time to recount something about the claimed vision of Woodruff, but Canon does  not mention it. If these men witnessed the same events that Woodruff did, they never mentioned it or wrote about it in their journals.

In 1905 Canon did mention that he had knowledge of the dead manifesting themselves at St. George, but gave no specific examples or what he meant by “manifested”:

Pres[iden]t [David H.] Cannon said we should seek to do our own work for our immediate relatives when we are able so to do. If we engage proxies, let them labor for those not so closely related to us. Our relatives in the other world will ask, why we did not [do] the work for them; by this we shall certainly be confronted. It is a fact that while we represent the dead, they have, at times, manifested themselves[,] to his knowledge, in this temple.[82]

According to Franklin D. Richards the dead could manifest themselves in many different ways in addition to seeing the dead:

When we dedicated the Temple at Manti, there were many brethren and sisters that saw the presence of spiritual beings, which could only be discerned by the eyes of the inner man. The Prophets Joseph, Hyrum, Brigham, and various other Apostles that have gone, were seen; and not only so, but the ears of many of the faithful were touched and they heard the music of the heavenly choir that was there. Then what a happy thing it would be if everybody went to that house, when it comes to be dedicated, so upright in their hearts before the Lord as to be pleasing in His sight![83]

Then there is the James Godson Bleak account. Amy Thiriot mentions this in a footnote to her article. The account reads,

James Godson Bleak

James Godson Bleak

”I was also present in the St. Geo. Temple and witnessed the appearance of the Spirits of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and also the Spirits of the Presidents of the U.S. up to that time. And also others, such as Martin Luther and John Wesley. (The man that started the Methodist Faith) who came to Wilford Woodruff and demanded that their baptism and endowments be done. Wilford Woodruff was baptized for all of them. While I and Brothers J.D.T. McAllister and David H Cannon (who were witnesses to the request) were endowed for them. These men that we did work for were choice Spirits, not Wicked men. They laid the foundation of this American Gov., and signed the Declaration of Independence and were the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth to perform this work. Martin Luther and John Wesley helped to release the people from religious bondage that held them during the dark ages. They also prepared the peoples hearts so they would be ready to receive the restored gospel when the Lord sent it again to Men on earth. Wilford Woodruff,  ‘Said, Would those spirits have came to me and demanded at my hand as an Elder in Israel, that I should go and attend to the saving ordinances in the House of God, for them if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not. I bear testimony because its true. The Spirit of God bare record to myself and these brethern while we were laboring in thier behalf.’”[84]

This account has been cited by many as an actual diary entry, but that is not the case. It is obviously a late account given well after Woodruff dedicated the Salt Lake Temple.

The story of James Godson Bleak is an interesting one. He was a close friend of Wilford Woodruff’s, but Bleak is not mentioned by Woodruff in his Journals until well after the supposed visitation took place.[85]

In 1883 Woodruff gave an account of the History of the St. George Temple and said,

Wilford Woodruff, age 86 (6 April 1893)

Wilford Woodruff, 1893

The corner stones were laid on the 10th day of March, 1873, and labor was continued thereon until Jan[.] 1st, 1877, when it was dedicated to God. (See W[ilford] Woodruff ‘s Journal of Jan[.] 1st, 1877, which contains the dedicatory prayers of W[ilford] Woodruff, Erastus Snow, and B[righam] Young Jr., also the speech of President [Brigham] Young.) I, Wilford Woodruff, bear testimony, that Pres[iden]t B[righam] Young told me to go to work and prepare the Temple for giving Endowments, and I had made the preparations according to his acceptance; and on the 9th of Jan., 1877, we repaired to the Temple and for the first time the ordinance of baptism for the dead was performed in the Temple of St. George[.] Wilford Woodruff went into the font by the direction of Pres[iden]t Brigham Young and administered the ordinance of baptism for the first 140 persons, and confirmed the first person, Pres[iden]t Young laying on hands at the same time. John L. Smith administered the ordinance of baptism for the next 83 persons, making 223 baptisms and confirmations during that day. Wilford Woodruff Confirmed one 1. J[ohn] D. T. McAllister confirmed 64, A[lonzo] H. Raleigh 15, H[enry] W. Bigler 123, and Erastus Snow 20. Susie Amelia Young Dunford was the first baptized and confirmed by W[ilford] Woodruff. Pres[iden]t Brigham Young requested me to take charge of the Temple, which I did. He also requested me to write all the ordinances of the Church from the first baptism and confirmation through every ordinance of the Church. Geo[rge] Q. Cannon assisted some in this writing, and when I had finished it to the satisfaction of the President, he said to me, “Now you have before you an ensample to carry on the endowments in all the temples until the coming of the Son of Man.” On the 8th of April, 1877, W[ilford] Woodruff was appointed in the public assembly to take charge of the Temple and preside over it, and in private conversation with the President, he said he wanted me to take the whole charge of the Temple and attend to all affairs connected with the endowments, sealings &c. I told him I was not able to go to the altar and do all the sealings as I had injured myself at that labor in the Salt Lake Endowment House. Pres[iden]t Young told me to go to work and ordain some men to help me to do the sealing[s]. He told me to set apart J[ohn] D. T. McAllister and David H. Cannon for that purpose and, if I needed more, to set them apart. I set apart Br[other] McAllister to that work April 14th, 1877. I set apart David H. Cannon for the same purpose on the 27th of April. I also set apart James G. Bleak to officiate at the altar some time afterward (I do not recollect the date). (2d March 1881.) Pres[iden]t Young gave me power and authority to give second anointings and seal women to men as I might be led by the Spirit of God. I parted with Pres[iden]t Young for the last time in the flesh at 9:30 A.M. on April 16th, 1877, when he started for Salt Lake City. Brigham Young Jr., was very sick at the time. When I left St. George, I placed the presidency of the Temple in the hands of John David Thompson McAllister, who was to preside over it in my absence. This is the testimony which I Wilford Woodruff bear to all whom it may concern.[86]

In 1953 Caroline S. Addy wrote her Master’s Thesis about the life of James Godson Bleak and had access to all of his papers and diaries.[87] She never mentions any account by Bleak about the “Eminents” appearing either to Woodruff or Bleak, even though she devotes a whole chapter on their relationship as friends.[88]

Addy’s assessment of Bleak as an Historian is a mixed one. She writes that,

The main defects of the work (Bleak’s “Annals of the Southern Utah Mission”) are its chronological form, its lack of interpretation, its avoidance of events uncomplimentary to the church, and its over-emphasis on affairs in St. George. Points in its favor are the vital facts it furnishes from sources which are lost or which would be difficult for students of the present day to go over, and the basis it forms for future studies in Southern Utah history.[89]

I believe that Bleak wanted to prop up his old friend Wilford Woodruff, and that after he heard Woodruff’s speech in 1898 where he (Bleak) was mentioned, he gave the above account, parts of which are taken directly from Woodruff’s 1898 speech:

“I am going to bear my testimony to this assembly, if I never do it again in my life, that those men who laid the foundation of this American Government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord. Another thing I am going to say here, because I have a right to say it. Every one of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence with General Washington called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the house of God for them. Men are here, I believe, that know of this–Brothers J. D. T. McAllister, David H. Cannon and James C. Bleak. Brother McAllister baptized me for all these men, and I then told these brethren that it was their duty to go into the Temple and labor until they got endowments for all of them. They did it. Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder in Israel, to perform that work, if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not. I bear this testimony because it is true. The spirit of God bore record to myself and the brethren while we were laboring in that way.”[90]

Haden W. Church, John Bernhisel and others were also “Elders in Israel”, who had all the authority necessary to perform the work, which they did. There is absolutely no reason that the work that they did would (or should) have been declared invalid, especially since Woodruff himself was not a proper heir.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1894

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1894

VI. Stuy To The Rescue?

From what has been revealed above, it is clear that there are no alternative explanations to answer the question why the spirits of the dead would appear to Wilford Woodruff on those warm nights in the summer of 1877 and claim that nothing was ever done to redeem them from the clutches of the wicked and filthy in the Spirit World.This does bring to mind what Brigham Young once said,

Brother John [Young] referred to some persons receiving revelations. I say to such persons, Go ahead, and get all the revelations you can. If brother Joseph visits you every night, go ahead, and tell him to bring brother Hyrum, father Smith, Don Carlos Smith, St. Paul, Peter, James, and John, and Jesus Christ, if you can induce him to do so. But I could almost lay my hand on that Bible and swear that the man or woman who gets such revelations has been guilty of adultery, or of theft, or has been rebellious and apostatized in feelings, but has come back again, and now professes to have such revelations. Hell is full of such revelations; and I could almost testify that a man or woman who receives them has been guilty of some outrageous crime. I have had men come to me and tell the wonderful great dreams and visions which they have, when those very persons have apostatized heretofore, have denied their God and their religion; and I knew it. Many come to me and tell me what wonderful visions they have—that their minds are open to eternal things—that they can see visions of eternity open before them and understand all about this kingdom,—many of whom have at some time been guilty of betraying their brethren, or committing some atrocious crime. I never notice them much. I sit and hear them talk about their wonderful knowledge, but it passes in and out of my ears like the sound of the wind. It is for me to see to this kingdom, that it is built up, and to preserve the Saints from the grasp of the enemy. The visions of the class I have mentioned are nothing to me. They may exhibit their great knowledge before me; but when they have done, it is all gone from me.[91]

Why is this relevant? Because both Woodruff and Young can be checked in relation to their “visions” and “revelations”. That brings me back to Brian Stuy, who really does give us an alternative explanation about what might have happened, and which even Geoff Nelson (in the comments to his article, seems persuaded by).

In 1893 there were many who witnessed the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple and heard Woodruff speak about his claimed vision in St. George.  One of them wrote,

While at St. George there was a class of men come to me in the night visions, and argued with me to have work done for them. They were the signers of the Declaration of Independence.[92]

Wilford_Woodruff c 1885In an effort to understand and put Woodruff’s experience into some kind of coherent context, Stuy writes,

After the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, Woodruff, reflecting on his accomplishments for that year [1893], wrote in his journal: “Two nights in succession before John Taylor[‘]s death [in 1887] President Young gave me the Keys of the Temple and told me to go and dedicate it which I did.” It seems clear that Young, who had died in 1877, had literally appeared to him and conveyed keys that allowed Woodruff to complete and dedicate the Salt Lake Temple.

But Woodruff’s contemporary journal entries about these visitations convey a completely different idea. On 12 March 1887, Woodruff recorded the dreams in which Brigham Young visited him:

I dreamed last night that the L D Saints holding a great Conference at Salt Lake City at the great Temple and thousands of Mechanics were laboring hard to finish the Temple. I was requested to open the Conference As I was an Exile and they might not have me with them long. The Key of the Temple was given me to open it. As I went to the door A large Company were assembled and I overtook Presid[en]t Brigham Young and He asked what the matter was with the great Company at the Door. Some one Answered the Elders did not want to Let the people into the Temple. He said Oh, oh, oh and turned to me & said let all[,] all into the Temple who seek for Salvation. I saw several who were Dead and among the Number my wife Phebe. I believe there is some meaning to this dream.

Woodruff records that he received similar dreams for the next three nights, and wrote on 15 March: “I dream almost Ev[er]y night of these great Meetings. I do not understand what those Dreams Mean.” It is significant that, at the time he had these dreams, Woodruff could not readily interpret them. I believe that these dreams, and their later metamorphosis into his claim of an actual visitation from Brigham Young, set a helpful clear context in which we can better consider the events surrounding the St. George proxy baptisms and endowment work. I hypothesize that the same process of metamorphosis was at work here.[93]

Wilford Woodruff Banquet PartyUnfortunately, there was no dream, vision, or anything else written in Woodruff’s Journal in August of 1877 or earlier to morph into a vision of the spirits of the dead appearing to him and claiming that nothing had ever been done for them. This is not insignificant, since Woodruff was very faithful in writing down his dreams and impressions, some of which are documented in Stuy’s article.

In Part II of this study I will explore more of Woodruff’s Journal entries and show how they are sometimes quite different from his later recollections, and also analyze Woodruff’s claim to being a “prophetic historian” and how this may have affected how he recounted his experiences.

Though Woodruff did claim to have a spiritual experience that involved his own ancestor’s proxy work while in the St. George Temple, that had nothing to do with the “Eminents”.[94]

And even though Stuy does try hard to rescue Woodruff from himself, his conclusion that he did the proxy work in response to dreams still doesn’t absolve Woodruff from what I would term good old fashioned bullshit, or “statements made by people more concerned with the response of the audience than in truth and accuracy”. [95]

As the old proverb goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, but do the ends really justify the means? That is for the individual to decide. For those who subscribe to this philosophy, crying “defamation” in relation to Woodruff and the “Eminents” at those who do not, may reveal more about them than they may realize.

Wilford Woodruff Funeral

Wilford Woodruff’s Funeral

Woodruff bust blog back

Part II of Liar, Liar? “If You Can’t Be True To Yourself…” will be published in a few weeks.


[1] Dallin H. Oaks, “Gospel Teachings About Lying,” BYU Fireside Address, 12 September 1993.

[2] ibid.

[3] Rock Waterman, “Wilford Woodruff’s Pants Are On Fire”, Pure Mormonism Blog, Sunday, April 14, 2013, Online here, accessed August 1, 2014.

[4] ibid.

[5] Since Woodruff went “straightway to the baptismal font” and records August 21 as the day he performed those baptisms, the spirits of the dead should have appeared to him the previous two nights (19th & 20th). I here present the Journal entries from August 13, 1877 through August 25, 1877:

13 We drove to Kanarr and I ordained Brother [Roundy?] a Bishop and his Brother his 2d Councillor. We then rode to Belview & spent the night with Jacob Gates. 30 M.

Aug 14, 1877 We drove to St George over a vary rough road as it was yesterday. I telegraphed to Presidet Young of my arival and had one in return. 30 M.

15 I spent the day in the Temple. We gave 55 Endowments. Ordained 22 Elders. J D T McAllister sealed 5 Couple & D H. Cannan 6. I wrote 2 letters to Mr Sorrenson & Delight.

16 I spent the day in the Temple. Gave Endowments to 83. Ordained 30 Elders. W Woodruff sealed 6 Couple E Snow 25. I wrote 3 letters to Elias Smith, John Morgan and H. B. S[tetl?]er.

17 I spent the day in the Temple. Gave Endowments to 95 One half of them Swiss. Ordained 32 Elders. J D. T. McAllister sealed 13 Couple D H Cannon 11. I attended the funeral of Sister Moody [p.367] wife of John M Moody. I wrote 2 letters to Sarah and B[ell/ulah?].

18 I wrote 2 letters to G. Q. Cannon & Wilford. I spent the day writing.

19 Sunday Met at the Tabernacle at 11 oclok. Prayer By Wm Smith. Augustus Hardy spoke 10 Minuts, Thomas Hall 10 M, B F Pendleton 14 Minuts. Afternoon. Prayer By James Nixon. Frank B. Woolly spoke 2 M, Moroni Snow 2 M, Seth Pimm 1. Erastus B Snow spoke 6 M, W Woodruff 35 M D. H. Cannon 35. I wrote 2 Letters to Bulah & Emma.

I spent the Evening in preparing a list of the Noted Men of the 17 Centaury and 18th including the signers of the declaration of Independance and the Presidents of the United States for Baptism on Tuesday the 21 Aug 1877.

20 I sent a letter to Presidet Young, L J Nuttall, Nellie Asahel Clarie and Owen. 6.

Aug 21, 1877 I Wilford Woodruff went to the Temple of the Lord this morning and was Baptized for 100 persons who were dead including the signers of the Declaration of Independance all except John Hancock and [William Floyd]. I was Baptized for the following names:

William Hooper Benjamin Franklin
Joseph Hewes John Morton
John Penn George Clyme
Button Gwinnett James Smith
Lyman Hall Francis Lightfoot Lee
Edward Rutledge George Taylor
George Walton James Wilson
Thomas Heywood Jr George Ross
Thomas Lynch jr Caezer Rodney
Arthur Myddleton George Read
Samuel Chase Thomas McKean
William Chase Paca Philip Livingston
Thomas Stone Francis Lewis [p.368]
Charles Carroll of Carrolton Lewis Morris
George Wythe Richard Stockton
Richard Henry Lee John Witherspoon
Thomas Jefferson Francis Hopkinson
Benjamin Harrison John Hart
Thomas Nelson Jr Abraham Clark
Francis Lightfoot Lee Josiah Bartlett
Carter Braxton William Whipple
Robert Morris Samuel Adams
Benjamin Rush John Adams
Robert Treat Paine Samuel Huntington
Elbridge Gerry William Williams
Stephen Hopkins Oliver Wolcott
William Ellery Mathew Thornton
Roger Sherman

Baptized for the following Eminent Men:

Daniel Webster Edward Gibbon
Washington Irving David Garrick
Michael Faraday Sir Joshua Reynolds
William Makepeace Thackerey Robert Burns
John Calwell Cahoon Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Baron Justus Von Liebig John Philip Kemble
Henry Clay Frederick Von Schiller
Edward George Earl Lytton Bulwer
George Peabody Henry Grattan
Charles Louis Napoleon Bonapart Lord Horatio Nelson
Thomas Chalmers John Filpot Corran
William Henry Seward George Stephenson
Thomas Johnathan Jackson Sir Walter Scott
Frederick Henry Allexander Von Humboldt
David Glascoe Farragut Lord Henry Brougham
Hiram Powers William Wordsworth
Lewis John Rudolph Agassis Daniel O Connell
Lord George Gordon Byron Richard Cobden
David Livingstone Christopher Columbus
Americus Vespucius
Count Camillo Bonso di Cavour John Wesley
Samuel Johnson Oliver Goldsmith
Thomas Babington Macauley Benito Juarez
Frederick 2d king of Prussia Count Demetrius Perepa [p.369]

When Br McAllister had Baptized me for the 100 Names I Baptized him for 21, including Gen Washington & his forefathers and all the Presidets of the United states that were not in my list Except Buchannan Van Buren & Grant.

It was a vary interesting day. I felt thankful that we had the privilege and the power to administer for the worthy dead esspecially for the signers of the declaration of Independance, that inasmuch as they had laid the foundation of our Government that we Could do as much for them as they had done for us.

Sister Lucy Bigelow Young went forth into the font and was Baptized for Martha Washington and her famaly and seventy (70) of the Eminent women of the world. I Called upon all the Brethren & Sisters who were present to assist in getting Endowments for those that we had been Baptized for to day.

 I wrote Letters to D D MCArthur. I wrote to Susan Dunford. There were Baptized in all to day 682.

22 We gave Endowments to 88. /WW/ Ordained 2 High Priest for George Washington and John Wesley, and 4 Elders. Total Ordained 40. W Woodruff sealed 9 Couple and 7 Children to their parents. D H Cannon sealed 26 Couple.

23 W Woodruff ordained Brother Ellis Sanders a High Priest for Benjamin Franklin and got Endowments for him, also ordained 6 Elders. We gave 138 Endowments. Ordained 60. W Woodruff sealed 3 Couple J McAllister 18, D H Cannon 3.

24 We gave Endowments to 130. W Woodruff Ordained 2 High Priest One for Christopher Columbus. Ordained 60. W Woodruff gave 2d Anointings to 3 Persons 1 Living & 2 dead. J. McAllister Sealed 12 Couple D. H. Cannon 18 and Sealed 10 Children to parents.

25 I spent the day in a variety of Business.(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.366-369, August 18, 1877-August 25, 1877).

What is interesting about the entry on the 19th, is that Woodruff writes that he prepared the names for Baptism on Tuesday the 21st. Were they scheduled ahead of time or was this added to the entry on that page?

[6] Amy Tanner Thiriot,  “Historical News Flash: Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of the Founding Fathers”, The Keepapitchinin Blog, October 22, 2013, Online here, accessed August 1, 2014.

It may be of interest to some that on another article at this site involving a strange prophecy copied by Woodruff in his journal, I made a comment to clarify what I thought were some erroneous conclusions in the article, which was answered by the owner of the site, Ardis E. Parshall, with some hostility.  When I submitted a follow up comment to answer the hostile accusations and erroneous conclusions leveled at me, it was never published and I am unable to comment further on this site. This strange prophecy will be addressed in Part II of this article.

[7] It may be instructive here to understand how the sermons in the Journal of Discourses were transcribed and readied for publication. In his Book, The Mormon Passage of George Watt (researched by descendant Ronald G. Watt for 30 years and published in 2009), writes:

“When Watt suggested to Brigham Young that he publish a journal of sermons from which Watt could receive his salary, Young and Richards agreed. The Journal of Discourses ensured that all Mormons and even non-Mormons would know what the Lord wanted through the speeches of his representative, Brigham Young. From then on, Watt had a permanent desk in the president’s office and the Tabernacle, taking down the speeches in his SWIFT, curious symbols.”

“On the first day of the new year, [1852] Watt also began teaching a class in Pitman shorthand. His students included Brigham Young, Thomas Bullock, Thomas W. Ellerbeck, William C. Staines, Nathaniel H. Felt, Albert Carrington, and Daniel Wells, some of the most influential men in Salt Lake City. He probably received a dollar from each student. To prepare for this course, Watt wrote and published his own exercise book, a shortened version of the Pitman manual. He included within it instructions in phonography and some lessons. Young began to practice shortly after his first lesson, and on January 5, he spent all day with his shorthand studies. (The Mormon Passage of George D. Watt: First British Convert, Scribe for Zion, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, pages 126-7)

So Young, and others were very familiar with Watts and his process, and had full confidence in his abilities, not only that, he taught it to others, who used it to transcribe those sermons, that John Widtsoe and many others (who produced collections from them) affirmed were accurate, and approved.  As Ronald Watt explains,

“Watt’s potential employment must have been on the mind of Brigham Young. Finally, Watt wrote a letter to Young early in May 1853. He suggested that he be allowed to prepare “a few of your sermons which have not  yet been in print with Elder P. P. Pratt’s two discourses at the conference on the spirit world and birthright to send to England for publication in  the form of a magazine of about 150 or 200 pages to sell.” He suggested that part of the profit go to satisfy his economic necessities and the rest be used for Young’s purposes. Almost immediately his suggestion brought assent from the members of the First Presidency. It would enable Brigham Young and the First Presidency to have the written word to send to the members of the church and the missionaries.

The next day Young notified Watt of the First Presidency’s agreement, and Watt began transcribing and editing sermons.  On May 25 and 26, YOUNG SPENT MOST OF HIS TIME EXAMINING THE WRITTEN DISCOURSES. On June 1, 1853, the First Presidency officially granted Watt  the privilege of preparing and publishing Young’s discourses in magazine-LIKE form, recognizing that “Elder George D. Watt, by our counsel, spent  much time in the midst of poverty and hardships to ACQUIRE THE ART of reporting in Phonography which he has FAITHFULLY and fully accomplished.” Since publication would be less expensive in England, the sermons were to be sent to Liverpool as Watt had suggested.  All the profits from the venture would go to Watt, who would also take care of all the costs. The First Presidency encouraged all church members to purchase the journal for  Elder Watt’s benefit. Watt now had a permanent income and a place of employment.

More importantly for the church, the Journal of Discourses was a watershed, essentially the beginnings of a worldwide publication. Even though the Journal of  Discourses was a private venture, it was an OFFICIAL CHURCH PUBLICATION and the  most important source of President Young’s and other church authorities’  sermons. Watt also joined OTHER CLERKS in the First Presidency’s office. Albert Carrington was Brigham Young’s clerk and attended to his correspondence.  Thomas Bullock, an early convert from England, was also there.” (ibid, pages 133-34)

The JOD was an OFFICIAL publication, and was reviewed beforehand by those that gave the talks:

“In November the Deseret News announced that Watt’s service as a reporter was available not only to the News but anybody who wanted CORRECT reports, and “if the brethren will employ him, and sustain him in his employment, time will prove it a BLESSING to all concerned.” (ibid, p. 135)

This is essentially the same process that George Francis Gibbs went through years later. He worked for the Deseret News, and was then called as chief stenographer to Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve. As Ronald Watt writes about George Watt,

“With permission to publish speeches of the church authorities, Watt needed to concentrate on the Journal of Discourses. The process of publishing each volume was laborious. He needed to be at all the meetings, recording the speeches in shorthand. Then, WITH THE HELP OF PRESIDENT YOUNG, he chose the talks that would be transcribed. In the first volume, twenty-six of the fifty-three sermons were by Young. Heber C. Kimball and Parley P. Pratt had the next most sermons published with six each. In the second volume, Brigham Young had composed seventeen of the fifty-six sermons. Young’s sermons were spoken without notes and from memory.  The phonographer had to work very hard to keep up with each speaker.  Watt grew accustomed to the delivery style and speed of each speaker.  If Young was not the first speaker, Watt sometimes did not arrive at the Tabernacle on time, and when he arrived late for the meeting, he slipped into his desk very quietly.

On July 2, 1854, he noted in his shorthand notes, “Phineas Young spoke but I was too late to report it.” At the same meeting, Young called upon Watt to speak. After he recorded the speeches, Watt transcribed them word for word, spending many hours at his desk. Next he read the sermons to those who gave them and corrected them. Sometimes Thomas Bullock read Watt’s transcribed sermons, and Watt corrected them again. Albert Carrington copy-edited them, and then Watt sent the final collection of sermons by post to Liverpool for publication. The president of the British Mission also wrote a short preface. The sermons FIRST came out in pamphlet, serial form and were sold to church members both in Britain and Utah by subscription. The publication of the Journal of Discourses meant that the sermons of the Mormon leaders were some of the first religious works to be available for potential world consumption. It helped both the missionary effort and membership.” (ibid, pp. 135-136)

Here, we see that the sermons were read back to those that gave them, and they were corrected BEFORE they even went into print. Hence we have this statement by Brigham Young, with the full meaning very clear:

“I say now, when they [his discourses] are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible . . . “ (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 264).

As a general rule, those sermons were copied and approved by Young and others, and even corrected beforehand. As Brigham Young Jr. wrote in the preface to Vol. 11, “The Journal of Discourses is a vehicle of Doctrine”. They are ‘as good as scripture’, according to Brigham Young. Brigham Young was involved in every aspect of what was published by the Church, and was very adept at ferreting out what he deemed to be false doctrine. This tradition was continued after Young’s death, and those that later transcribed the sermons for the Journal of Discourses like George F. Gibbs were subjected to the same scrutiny and process.

[8] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.322.

[9] See Journal entry above for the 14th and 20th. See also note #94. Woodruff writes that Young was present at the Temple on the 9th of January to witness the first ordinances performed there, Young himself did sealing work on the 11th, 12th, and on the 14th Woodruff spent the evening with Young. On the 15th he also spent the evening with Young. On the 18th, Young was again doing sealing work in the Temple. On the 20th, Woodruff spent the day writing and the evening at Young’s house. Again, on the 21st, 22nd, and called upon Young “for a short time” on the 24th.

On February 1st, Young “delivered a lecture at the veil” for 30 minutes. On the 3rd he rode to the Price Settlement with Young and spent the evening with him. He was with Young on the 5th, and Young was again in the Temple on the 9th. On the 10th and 11th he spent the evening with Young. On the 12th they spent the day writing the Ceremonies. On the 13th he spent the evening with Young and on the 15th he wrote that “Presidet Young was with us [at the Temple] and felt well. On the 19th he “spent several hours” with Young and Young “visited us” at the Temple on the 21st. On the 23rd, Woodruff claimed to have his “revelation” about the redemption of his dead and sent a copy to his wife Phoebe. Young was back at the temple on the 24th and on the 25th he “spent the evening” with Young.Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff

March is much the same with nightly visits to Young and Young performing sealings in the temple. He gave one of his daughters in marriage to Woodruff in the Temple on the 10th. He records that on March 14th that,

“I washed And Anointed Presidet Brigham Young for and in behalf of John Sanderson Twiss to get Endowments for his [him] the first time that Presidet Young has Ever got Endowments for any person on Earth.  also gave Presidet Young his Second Anointing for John Sanderson Twiss.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.339).

On March 30, Woodruff records that “The Quorum of the Twelve arived to day in the Temple to day. We met in Council in the Presidets office in the Evening,” and the next dayYoung “spent the afternoon” with the Twelve at the Temple.

The early part of April is filled with evening visits to Young until his return to Salt Lake City on the 16, which Woodruff records as the last time he ever saw Brigham Young alive. But they were still in close contact by telegram and letter until his death in August.

Young is not portrayed by Woodruff as being too sick to give counsel, direction or to visit the temple during the first five months of 1877, and so Amy Thiriot writing that he turned over the “practical operations” of the temple to Woodruff because of illness is simply sloppy research. He gave Woodruff authority to run the Temple. But this does not mean that Woodruff did not work closely with Brigham Young until he was familiar with all the operations of the Temple and defer to Young’s authority in all matters.

Also, Woodruff wrote out the Endowment Ceremony with Brigham Young Jr. as assigned and supervised by Brigham Young, who then reviewed it with them:

Spent the Evening with Presidet Young. He requested Brigham jr & W Woodruff to write out the Ceremony of the Endowments from Begining to End. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.322, Janurary 14, 1877)

On the 15th he records,

Brigham Young jr & Myself wrote out a part of the Ceremony of the Endowment. We rode out in the afternoon. (ibid)

On the 10th of February Woodruff records that he “spent the day writing on the Ceremony”, he “spent the evening” of the 11th with Young and then on the 12th records that “I spent the day writing on the Ceremonies & we [probably Brigham Young Jr.] spent the Evening with President Young reading the Ceremony.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.327).

It is interesting to note that Woodruff records that he had never even heard the Ceremony of Adoption until March 22, 1877:

22d I presided in the Temple to day. We gave Endowments to 174. Their was 66 Elders ordained for the Dead. W Woodruff sealed 11 dead persons to John Sanders Twist Presidet B Young & Sister Twiss as Proxy.   I also Adopted two Couple to Presidet B Young.   E Snow sealed 41 Couple. This day was the first [p.341] time in my life that I Ever herd or performed the Ceremony of Adoption. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.341)

[10] Thiriot, op. cited.

[11] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.2, p. 209, April 6, 1891.

[12] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.3, p. 226, February 12, 1893.

[13] See, “The Practice of Rebaptism at Nauvoo,” by D. Michael Quinn, BYU Studies (1978) Vol. 18, No. 2. PDF Download here. Also, “Rebaptism And Church Governance”, by J. Stapely, at By Common Consent Blog, Posted January 18, 2010, online here, both Accessed August 1, 2014.

[14] See remarks by Marriner W. Merrill at Note #76.

[15] See Note # 13.

[16] The accusation of defamation seems to be a current trend with Mormon apologists. For example, see the recent “Big Trouble in River City: American Crucifixion and the Defaming of Joseph Smith”, by Craig L. Foster and Brian Hales. To defame someone is to use falsehood to try and damage their reputation. This of course, is often in the eye of the beholder but can be checked with the facts, as we will do here with Woodruff. As for Alex Beam defaming Joseph Smith, one example may suffice. Foster and Hales write,

Beam writes that Eliza admitted she had been “the Prophet’s wife and lover” (89). He provides no documentation and obviously missed Eliza’s 1877 letter to RLDS missionary Daniel Munns where she flatly denied having ever been Joseph Smith’s “carnal” wife but freely acknowledged that there were “several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith.”33 During a June 9 interview with MormonStories podcaster John Dehlin, Laura Hales, wife of Brian Hales, addressed this lack of evidence for this statement during the question and answer period. Beam appeared nonplussed by the fuss regarding his use of the term “lover,” which he admitted was an ill-chosen word to describe Eliza’s relationship with Joseph. This speaks of his willingness to infuse dramatic prose into his text without regard to documentary evidence.

The letter in question reads,

You ask (referring to Pres. Smith), “Did he authorize or practice spiritual wifery? Were you a spiritual wife?’ I certainly shall not acknowledge myself of having been a carnal one” . . . . I am personally and intimately acquainted with several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith.” (Eliza R. Snow, Letter to Daniel Munns, May 30, 1877, Community of Christ Archives)

It is important to note the ellipses. Since I don’t have access to the entire letter, this quote should be read with caution. Still, what did Snow mean by “a carnal one”? That she didn’t have sex with Joseph Smith? This contradicts another statement made by Snow,

He [Joseph Smith III] said, “I am informed that Eliza Snow was a virgin at the time of her death.” I in turn said, “Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked her the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, ‘I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.’” (Angus Cannon, Statement, in 1905 interview with Joseph Smith III, LDS Church History Library.)

So what’s the deal here? Simply that Snow did not like the term “spiritual wifery”. Why? Because it implied the system attributed to John C. Bennett that was unspiritual or carnal. If one simply reads the 1828 definition of the word carnal, this becomes clear:

1. Pertaining to flesh; fleshly; sensual; opposed to spiritual; as carnal pleasure. (1828 Webster’s Dictionary)

Snow was not denying that she ever had sex with Smith, but that the relationship was carnal, or unspiritual.  That is why she adds that she is “personally and intimately acquainted with several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith.”

“Pure and Sacred” doctrine (or spiritual), verses “spiritual wifery” (carnal).  Bona fide wives, not simply sex partners as in Bennett’s system.

These are the kinds of examples that the article by Foster and Hales are full of. It is easy to bandy about the term defamation, but a lot harder to prove it in relation to Joseph Smith’s polygamy.  As for the supposed defamation of Wilford Woodruff, read on.

Addendum to this Note, January 1, 2015:

I made the above points concerning Eliza R. Snow’s disdain for the term “spiritual wife” and how she linked this with carnality. I did so not having the context of the full letter, but i had a feeling I was right. Since this article was written, Brian Hales has posted much of his polygamy research online, and among those items was the complete letter from Eliza R. Snow to Daniel Munns. I post it here:

Eliza R. Snow to Daniel Munns 1

Eliza R. Snow to Daniel Munns 2

The entire letter makes it perfectly clear what Eliza R. Snow was getting at when she was asked about being a “spiritual wife”. She writes,

You ask (referring to Pres. Smith), Did he authorize or practice spiritual wifery? Were you a spiritual wife?’ I certainly shall not acknowledge myself of having been a carnal one

Here is where Brian Hales employs the ellipses. Here is what he left out which totally explains Eliza R. Snow’s context:

It would be rather difficult to measure the amount of spirituality, I was in possession of, so as to make an estimate I candidly confess “spiritual wifery” I know nothing of only as the term was used as an epithet with which to stigmatize those of us who valiantly moved forward in obedience to the commands of God, in establishing the practice of plurality. 

I am personally and intimately acquainted with several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith — noble and intelligent woman, who live to honor him, and who revere his memory and anticipate holding the same endearing relationship with him in eternity — having been connected to him by the same power and authority which Christ conferred on the Apostle Peter, by which “whatsoever he bound on earth should be bound in heaven” &c. 

What is also interesting here (and you don’t see Hales quote) is that Eliza Snow expressly claims that she was,

I was married to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, more than two years previous to his death — not by a hireling Priest with usurped authority, but by a man of God who has been legally authorized to preform the sacred ordinance of marriage, An ordinance which unites for time and for eternity. 

Snow claims that she was married in an ordinance that UNITES for TIME and eternity. The letter above shows that Snow considered the term “spiritual wife” repulsive and that it was only used as an epithet to stigmatize (disgrace) those who moved forward in obedience in ESTABLISHING the PRACTICE of plurality. These are not the words of someone who was simply “sealed” to Joseph Smith. This strongly implies the marriage was for TIME and consummated. Using this letter to try and claim that the evidence is conflicting about sexuality in the marriage is quite simply disingenuous of Brian Hales.

[17] Brian Stuy, Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 26, No. 1, Spring 2000, pp. 64-90, hereafter cited as “Stuy 2000”. Online here.  You can sign up for a free JSTOR account and view up to three articles a month. You can also read the article here, with no hassles, here. Accessed, August 19, 2014. (Link courtesy of Brent Metcalfe).

[18] Geoff Nelson, “Rock Waterman’s Pants Are On Fire,” Rational Faiths Blog, July 25, 2014, Accessed, August 2, 2014, Online here.

From reading the comments to this article by Geoff Nelson, he seems more concerned with another subject that Waterman brought up in regards to Woodruff, that he was responsible for the Mormon belief in prophetic infallibility.

Woodruff was not, but was simply repeating what previous Mormon “prophets” had been touting since the time of Joseph Smith as Nelson documents. Mormon “prophets” do claim doctrinal infallibilty, simply because they have stated time and again that they would never be permitted to lead the church astray because they would be removed from office by God before that could happen. Smith himself taught that,

I never told you I was perfect, but there is no error in the revelations I have taught.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 369).

What gets debated now is what “revelation” is. The trend in Mormonism now is to label all embarrassing “revelation” as opinion, or folklore.

[19] Stuy 2000, page 81.

[20] Nelson, op. cited.

[21]  As per President John Taylor,

“It will be well for persons presenting themselves at the Endowment House to receive the ordinances thereof, to be prepared to reply to the following questions:— “When were you born?” “Where were you born?” “When were you first baptized?” “What is your Father’s name?” “What was your Mother’s maiden name?” No person will be eligible to receive these blessings except they have been rebaptized.” (John Taylor to Angus M. Cannon, Nov. 15, 1877, cited in Devery S. Anderson, The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, 1718-1728). See also, Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, 431.

Anderson notes that rebaptism as a temple requirement was discontinued in 1893.

[22] President George Q. Cannon, Conference Report, October 7, 1897.

[23] Quinn, “The Practice of Rebaptism at Nauvoo”, p. 229. Accessed, August 2, 2014, Online here.

[24] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 16, p.188.

[25] ibid, bold mine.

[26] John W. Taylor explained the spirit prison:

Yesterday reference was made to the preaching of the Gospel to the dead. I wish to use the same quotation in order to illustrate to your minds that there is hope for men though they fail to obtain forgiveness in this world. There will be an opportunity in the next world if they have not committed the unpardonable sin. The Apostle Peter speaks of this in his epistle. He refers to the Savior, after He was put to death, having gone, during the three days that His body lay in the tomb, to preach to the spirits in prison who were disobedient when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing. What does this mean? It simply means what we read here in the Book of Genesis, that the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. They were committing whoredoms and all kinds of abominations before the Lord, and He concluded that the better way would be to drown them all with a flood after being warned to repent by His Prophet Noah. A few thousand years afterwards Christ preached to these spirits in prison. Did He go to preach to perfect men? No. They were sinners, liars, whoremongers, seducers, and Christ, to carry out His own mission, went to them in the spirit world to release them from the prison house, after they had paid the penalty of their crimes. Christ preached the Gospel to them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. Therefore, I say unto you look up unto God the Father of  the spirits of all flesh. There is hope. Repent and renew your covenants. (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 1, p. 96, April 6, 1888).

Woodruff gave the halt of Temple work and his concern for the spirits in prison as his reason for discontinuing polygamy:

The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for Brother Merrill, for Brother Edlefsen, for Brother Roskelley, for Brother Leishman, or for any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed. A large number has already been delivered from the prison house in the spirit world by this people, and shall the work go on or stop? This is the question I lay before the Latter-day Saints. You have to judge for yourselves. I want you to answer it for yourselves. I shall not answer it; but I say to you that that is exactly the condition we as a people would have been in had we not taken the course we have. (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.2, p. 288, November 1, 1891).

Of course, they could have left the United States and settled elsewhere, as Brigham Young did, who did not seem as constrained with timeframes pertaining to the work of the dead as Woodruff was. It is important to note that all of Woodruff’s recorded “visions” and “revelations” showed exactly the opposite of this scenario. This is also a far cry from his Testimony to the World he gave as an “Apostle”,

When both the Congress of the United States and Judges of the Law have taken a step to deprive a Hundred and fifty thousand of her Citizens the right to Enjoy their religion which the Constitution garantees unto them, Will not the Same God who has given this Nation a free Government and an Inspired Constitution of Equal rights to all Men who dwell beneath its broad folds, Hold the Rulers and Judges of the Land responsible for the use they make of the power in their Hands? He will.

The Congress of 1862 And the Supreme Judges of 1878, in there acts and Decision have taken a Dangerous and fearful Step. Their acts will sap the vary foundation of our Government and it will be rent in twain and the God of Heaven will hold them responsible for these things. For what men Sow they will reap And the measure they meet unto others will be meeted unto them saith the Lord. When the Constitution is once broken by the rulers of the Land there will be no stoping place untill the Nation is broaken in peaces, and no power beneath the Heavens Can save this Nation from the Consequences thereof. And all Rulers of this Nation as well as other Nation will have to give an account to the Judge of all the Earth for the use they make of the power put into their hands. Virtue Exhalteth a Nation while sin is a reproach to any People.

The question was asked the Hebrews what God is there that is able to deliver you out of the Hands of [p.462] King Nebuchadnezzar. A righteous answer of faith was given. We do not know that our God will deliver us out of your hands, But be it known unto the O King that we will not serve thy Gods, nor worship the golden Image which thou hast set up. So I say as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I will not desert my wifes and my Children, and Disobey the Commandments of God for the Sake of accomidating the public Clammers of a generation steeped in sin and ripened for the Damnation of Hell. I would rath[er] go to prision and to Death.

If I would not I would never be fit to associate with the prophets and Patriarchs of old, and I Could not But despise in my heart any man who professed to be a latter day Saint who would do otherwise. Why should we fear man who ownly has power to kill the Body more than him who has power to Cast both body and Soul into Hell? Christ says when men Speak all manner of Evil against you and persecute you for Righteousness sake rejoice and be Exceding Glad for so persecuted they the Prophets and Apostles who were before you. I would say to all Israel treat your wives and Children Kindly and keep the Commandments of God and trust in him and He will fight your battles. And I will say in the Name of Jesus Christ the Son of the living God That Mormonism will Live and prosper, Zion will flourish, And the Kingdom of God will stand in Power, Glory, and Dominion as David saw it when this Nation is broaken in peaces as a potters vessel and laid in the dust and brought to Judgment Or God never spake by my mouth. Therefore I say to all the Saints throughout the world be faithful and tru[e] to your God, To your religion, to your families and to yourselves. (“Testimony of the Apostle Wilford Woodruff to be published to the whole World”, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.461-2, February 22, 1879, emphasis mine.)

[27] Nelson, op. cited. But how does the right of heirship apply to Woodruff himself performing the proxy work for the “Eminents”? Nelson never addresses this point.

[28] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 3, p. 118, Janurary 16, 1847.

[29] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 3, p. 132, February 16, 1847, emphasis mine.

[30] Abraham H. Cannon Journal, December 18. 1890.

[31] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 1, p. 80, Wilford Woodruff, Oct. 9, 1887.

[32] Devery Scott Anderson, The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History,  Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 3811-3891. This is an impressive collection of documents that anyone who is interested in Temple research will find invaluable.

[33] Wilford Woodruff to Marriner Wood Merrill, Sept. 5, 1887, ibid,  2439-2451.

[34] Wilford Woodruff to James H. Martineau, Sept. 5, 1887, ibid,  2467-2471.

[35] Wilford Woodruff to James H. Martineau, Oct. 26, 1887, ibid.

[36] Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.318, January 1, 1877.

[37] Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses Vol. 18,  p.191, April 6, 1876

[38] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, p.478, July 2, 1840.

[39] The practice of baptism for the dead was first introduced by Joseph Smith in the summer of 1840 at the funeral of Seymour Brunson, five months after Sarah Ann Booth began circulating her claimed vision. (See Alexander Baugh, “For This Ordinance Belongeth to My House”: The Practice of Baptism for the Dead Outside the Nauvoo Temple, Mormon Historical Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring, 2002, page 47, online here, Accessed August 5, 2014.)

Baugh writes that Smith first taught this concept in 1838, utilizing the answer to this question by Smith as a proof text,

“If the Mormon doctrine is true, what has become of all those who have died since the days of the apostles?” The Prophet answered, “All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the gospel, and being administered to by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter before they can be finally judged.” (Elders Journal  of The Church of the Latter Day Saints, 1 (July 1838): 43).

Smith though,  is not advocating that “the dead must have someone in mortality administer the saving ordinances for them to be saved in the kingdom of God,” (Baugh, op. cited) rather, he is simply stating that all those who die without hearing the gospel on earth, must have it (the gospel) administered to them by someone with authority before they can be finally judged. This would be done in the Spirit World.

Parley P. Pratt affirmed this two years later when he said that if “the thief on the cross [was] saved without baptism,” that he was “included in the same mercy as the heathens, who have never had the offer of the Gospel, and therefore, are under no condemnation for not obeying it.” (“The Gospel Illustrated in Questions and Answers,” Millennial Star, 1 (June 1840): 27, cf., Gregory A. Prince, Power From On High, Ch.4, p.144).

As Joseph Smith taught in this “revelation”:

Q. What are we to understand by sealing the one hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel—twelve thousand out of every tribe?

A. We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 1, p.254)

This was echoed by Warren Cowdery, who wrote in 1837 “that the dead could inherit the Celestial Kingdom on condition that the gospel were preached to them and they accepted its message. He cited 1 Peter 4:6 to defend the concept of preaching to the dead. Once again, however, there was no mention of any requirement for ordinances to be performed in behalf of the dead. (Prince, op. cited).

Sidney Rigdon taught,

The whole matter then comes to this, that the gospel as set forth in the New Testament, is an order of things through which men were made partakers of the power of God while in the flesh, and that by one man administering to another by the authority of God in the name of Jesus Christ, this is what is called the gospel in the New Testament. It was enjoyed by the ministry of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists &c. and through the ministry of these men the power of God was received; they administered to the believers by the laying on of the hands, and the power of God attended, and thus men in days of old received the power of God unto salvation, and it was because of this, that the gospel is called the power of God unto salvation. (The Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Vol.2, No.6, p.274, July, 1836).

In December,1841 Joseph Fielding recounted to Ebeneezer Robinson his thoughts about the new doctrine of baptism for the dead,

The object of the Baptismal Font is also truly interesting to me, and I have no doubt to all the saints: for some time I had thought much on the subject of the redemption of those who died under the broken covenant, it is plain they could not come forth in the kingdom of God, as they had not been adopted, legally into it, neither could they be while there was no priesthood, they had not been born of water and the spirit, and if they should come into the kingdom without this it would falsify the plain word of Jesus Christ, yet how would those who died martyrs and all those who have lived up to the best light they have had, and would no doubt have rejoiced in the fulness of the gospel had they had it, be denied this privilege? I thought, perhaps those who receive the priesthood in these last days would baptize them at the coming of the Savior, and this would fulfil the words of the Savior; many shall come from the east and from the west &c., and shall sit down in the kingdom of God,–but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out, as foolish virgins, but a touch of the light of revelation has at once dispelled the darkness and scattered the doubts which once perplexed my mind and I behold the means which God hath devised that his banished ones may be brought back again; every step I take in surveying the plan of heaven, and the wisdom and goodness of God, my heart feels glad, but when I have listened to the teachings of the servants of God under the new covenant and the principles of Baptism for the Dead the feelings of my soul were such as I cannot describe. (Times and Seasons 3,1 Jan. 1842, pp. 648-49).

[40] Like Joseph Fielding (above), Ann Booth probably also “thought much” on the subject of the redemption of those who had died without the gospel and according to her, was answered with a vision of the Spirit World. This claimed vision by Booth is obviously the pattern for many later teachings about the Spirit World, including Joseph F. Smith’s claimed “Vision of the Redemption of the Dead” in 1916, except for the doctrinal changes that Smith made in regard to ordinances having to be performed on earth, instead of the Spirit World.

Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon claimed to have seen this in a vision in 1832,

And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo! these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the first born, who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun of the firmament. Behold, these are they who died without law; and also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it: these are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men: these are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness; these are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father: wherefore they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies of celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun: these are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus: wherefore they obtained not the crown over the kingdom of our God. And now this is the end of the vision which we saw of the terrestrial, that the Lord commanded us to write while we were yet in the Spirit. (Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, 1835, Section 91:7).

He then revised that vision with another claimed vision, which supposedly took place on January 21, 1836 in the Kirtland Temple:

Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, whowould have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 137:7-10)

Ann Booth references several Biblical passages in her account including, “the 3d chapter of Peter 18, 19, 20 speaking of the spirits in Prison.” Joseph F. Smith also references these verses, claiming that they inspired his own claimed vision. Erastus Snow taught 30 years before F. Smith’s claimed vision,

The mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, between his death and resurrection was a similar mission, but a very short one. It lasted only three days. While his body lay in the tomb his spirit visited the spirits in prison, turned the key and opened the door of their prison house, and offered unto them the Gospel of salvation. How many of them were prepared to avail themselves of it at that time? Comparatively few. But he opened the door and offered the message of life and salvation, and having done this, His fellow laborers—the Seventies, Elders and others whom He ordained to the ministry—as fast as they finished their ministry in the flesh—continued their work among’ the spirits in prison. So is the Prophet Joseph Smith officiating and ministering to those spirits, and so are all His brethren, the Apostles, who have gone in his wake, who have followed, as it were, in his track. They have just gone behind the veil. Who shall we say? Let us call to mind a few of the brethren who have passed away—Brother David Patten (the first of the Apostles who was slain), Parley P. Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Charles C. Rich, and others of the Apostles; also Patriarchs Father Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith; Elders Samuel H. Smith, Don Carlos Smith—all the first Elders of this Church and the Presidents of all the early quorums, and a vast company of the members of their quorums. All these and many more are laboring in the spirit world preparing the spirits thereof to receive the benefits and blessings which are now about to be offered to them in the temples of God. In other words, “a ticket of leave” is about to be sent to them to the effect that their friends on the earth have officiated in their behalf, have complied with the ordinances which are appointed for their redemption, which will enable them to advance into a higher sphere, to walk upon a higher plane, to enter a higher class where they can be further instructed and prepared for a glorious resurrection. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 25, p.34, February 2, 1884)

I believe that the timing of Smith’s first teachings about baptism for the dead just months after the claimed vision of Ann Booth is not a coincidence.

[41] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.359.

[42] Evert Augustus Duyckinck, National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans, Vol. 1, may be found online here. Volume 2 here.

[43] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.28.1

[44] Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p.369-70, June 22, 1856.

[45] Joseph F. Smith, 3 October 1918, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 138:11-24, 57-59.

[46] D. Michael Quinn writes,

In the early summer of 1838, [Sampson] Avard was the stalking-horse for the First Presidency. The Danite constitution specified: “All officers shall be subject to the commands of the Captain General, given through the Secretary of War.” Joseph Smith had held the latter position “by revelation” in the church’s “war department” for three years,  [footnote 87 Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &c In Relation to the Disturbances With the Mormons, 102; Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, 2:42n2.] and had been commander-in-chief of the Armies of Israel for four years. What the Danites did militarily during the summer and fall of 1838 was by the general oversight and command of Joseph Smith.

In the skirmishes that both sides called “battles,” Mormons used deadly force without reluctance. Benjamin F. Johnson wrote that Danite leader (and future apostle) Lyman Wight told his men to pray concerning their Missouri enemies: “That God would Damn them & give us pow[e]r to Kill them.” Likewise, at the beginning of the Battle of Crooked River on 25 October 1838, Apostle David W. Patten (a Danite captain with the code-name “Fear Not”) told his men: “Go ahead, boys; rake them down.”  [footnote:  Dean R. Zimmerman, ed., I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. [S.] Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1976), 27; Nathan Tanner reminiscence, in George S. Tanner, John Tanner and His Family (Salt Lake City: John Tanner Family Association/Publishers Press, 1974), 386. At the time of this 1903 letter, Johnson was a patriarch and George S. Gibbs was an assistant in the LDS Church Historian’s Office. His name has often been misread as George F. Gibbs, his father who was secretary to the First Presidency at the same time. The back cover of this publication described editor Zimmerman as “Supervisor of Academic Research for LDS Department of Seminaries and Institutes.” ] The highest ranking Mormon charged with murder for obeying this order was Apostle Parley P. Pratt who allegedly took the careful aim of a sniper in killing one Missourian and then severely wounding militiaman Samuel Tarwater. This was after Apostle Patten received a fatal stomach wound. [footnote:  Indictment of Parley P. Pratt for murder of Moses Rowland, filed 2 Apr. 1839, Boone County Circuit Court Records, Case 1379, fd 17, Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, University of Missouri; John D. Lee autobiography in Mormonism Unveiled: or the Life and Confessions of the Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee (St. Louis: Bryan, Brand & Co., 1877), 73, with similar description in Reed Peck manuscript, 99-100 of the unnamed Parley P. Pratt, a “cold hearted villain (I know him well).” Neither History of the Church, 3:170-71, nor The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt, Jr. (New York: Russell Brothers, 1874), 195-97, explains the reason for Pratt’s murder indictment or imprisonment.] In their fury at the sight of their fallen leader, some of the Danites mutilated the unconscious Tarwater “with their swords, striking him lengthwise in the mouth, cutting off his under teeth, and breaking his lower jaw; cutting off his cheeks…and leaving him [for] dead.” He survived to press charges against Pratt for attempted murder.  [footnote:  James H. Hunt, Mormonism…Their Troubles In Missouri and Final Expulsion From the State (St. Louis: Ustick & Davies, 1844), 190-91. Although he did not acknowledge that Tarwater sustained these injuries after he was shot and lying unconscious on the ground, an assistant LDS church historian gave a more gruesome description of his injuries, including “a terrible gash in the skull, through which his brain was plainly visible.” See Andrew Jenson, “Caldwell County, Missouri,” The Historical Record 8 (Jan. 1888): 702.]

Nevertheless, Mormon marauding against non-Mormon Missourians in 1838 was mild by comparison with the brutality of the anti-Mormon militias. Three days after Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued a military order that the Mormons “must be exterminated, or driven from the State,” a Missouri militia unit attacked the LDS settlement at Haun’s Mill on 30 October 1838. They shot at and wounded thirteen fleeing women and children, then [p.100] methodically killed eighteen males, including two boys (ages nine and ten). When one of the Missouri militiamen found ten-year-old Sardius Smith’s hiding place, he put “his rifle near the boy’s head, and literally blowed off the upper part of it,” testified survivor and general authority Joseph Young shortly thereafter. Other Missourians used a “corn-cutter” to mutilate the still-living Thomas McBride. When the survivors found the elderly man, his corpse was “literally mangled from head to foot.” Aside from Young’s status as a near-victim along with his wife and children, Haun’s Mill struck at the heart of other general authorities: Sardius was a nephew of former Seventy’s president Sylvester M. Smith whose brother also died in the massacre, and recently appointed apostle Willard Richards lost a nephew there.

A generally unacknowledged dimension of both the extermination order and the Haun’s Mill massacre, however, is that they resulted from Mormon actions in the Battle of Crooked River. Knowingly or not, Mormons had attacked state troops, and this had a cascade effect. Local residents feared annihilation: “We know not the hour or minute we will be laid in ashes,” a local minister and county clerk wrote the day after the battle. “For God’s sake give us assistance as quick as possible.” Correspondingly, the attack on state troops weakened the position of Mormon friends in Missouri’s militia and government. Finally, upon receiving news of the injuries and death of state troops at Crooked River, Governor Boggs immediately drafted his extermination order on 27 October 1838 because the Mormons “have made war upon the people of this state.” Worse, the killing of one Missourian and mutilation of another while he was defenseless at Crooked River led to the mad-dog revenge by Missourians in the slaughter at Haun’s Mill. (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Signature Books, 1994, p. 100)

[47] George Q. Cannon, Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 5, p.374, January 22, 1898.

[48] Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses,  Vol. 23, p.331, Dec. 10, 1882.

[49] Stuy 2000, op. cited, pp. 74-75.

[50] Stuy 2000, op. cited. p.75, note 28.

[51] Stuy 2000, op. cited. p. 76.

[52] Stuy 2000, op. cited. p. 73.

[53] M. Guy Biship, “What Has Become of Our Fathers?” Baptism for the Dead at Nauvoo, Dialogue, Vol. 23, No. 2, page 90.

[54] Charlotte Haven, “A Girl’s Letter’s from Nauvoo”, Overland Monthly, Vol. 16, No. 96, December 1890, pp. 629-630.

[55] This is one point that no one seems to be addressing. Woodruff here states that it “never entered his heart” that nothing had been done for them, prior to his work in August 1877. He is therefore stating that he didn’t know about any previous work. He also states that “our” minds were not focused on historical figures, but more immediate friends. Could Woodruff not have known about the many baptisms for Eminent people that had been going on since the days of Nauvoo?

[56] Journal of Discourses, Vol. 19, p.

[57] See Note #7. Although there is always a chance that some of the sermons in the Journal of Discourses contain blatant misquotations, it might be well to remember that there is always a chance that you can be struck by lightning or die in a plane crash. Odds are though, that you won’t, and that they don’t.

[58] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 1, p. 80, Wilford Woodruff, Oct. 9, 1887.

[59] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.2, p. 209, Wilford Woodruff, April 6, 1891.

[60] Here are some of the many entries that place Daniel H. Wells in the Endowment house during the years 1868-1876:

Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.383; Vol. 6, p.393; Vol. 6, p.397; Vol. 6, p.400; Vol. 6, p.401; Vol. 6, p.403; Vol. 6, p.432; Vol. 6, p.478; Vol. 6, p.486; Vol. 6, p.495; Vol. 6, p.533;

I was Baptized to day for Ten of my Dead Friends in the font in the Endowment House. Samuel Smith Baptized. D H. Wells & Joseph F Smith officiated in Confirming. Joseph F Smith was Mouth. At the Same time Phebe W Woodruff was Baptized for Seven of our Dead Friends. See record in this Journal. (WIlford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.489, August 31, 1869)

25 I Came to the City & spent the day in the Endowment House. We Baptized for the dead 489. Joseph F Smith & Samuel Smith done the Baptizing. D H Wells W. Woodruff Joseph F. Smith & Samuel Smith Done the Confirming. I laid on hands in the [p.543] Confermation of Nearly the whole. D H Wells Also sealed 33 Couple & W Woodruff sealed 26 Couple. (WIlford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.543, May 25, 1870.)

Vol. 6, p.545; Vol. 6, p.561; Vol. 7, p.107; Vol. 7, p.161, 18; Vol. 7, p.175; Vol. 7, p.176; Vol. 7, p.185; Vol. 7, p.188; Vol. 7, p.191; Vol. 7, p.206; Vol. 7, p.217; Vol. 7, p.226; Vol. 7, p.239; Vol. 7, p.280; Vol. 7, p.282.

17 I spent the day at the Endowmet House. There were near 1,000 of the Dead Baptized for to day. D H Wells Confirmed for some 5 Hours. W. Woodruff sealed 92 Couple for the dead then D. H. Wells sealed till night. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.186, June 17, 1874).

On this day, John M. Bernhisel was performing proxy work Declaration signer Benjamin Rush, British political philosopher John Locke and U. S. President Millard Fillmore:

[July] 8 I spent the time in the Endowmet House. There was Baptized 693. W Woodruff Confirmed 200. D H Wells sealed 73 Couple for the dead W Woodruff 68 Couple. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.188, July 8, 1874)

On this day, August 9, 1876 John M. Bernhisel did proxy work for many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Woodruff records that he and Daniel H. Wells were present:

Aug 9 I spent the time in the Endowment House. We baptized some 500 persons for the dead. W. Woodruff sealed 33 for the dead & D H. Wells 13. (WIlford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.282)

[61] Bernhisel is mentioned in Woodruff’s Journals over 150 times. He exchanged many letters with Dr. Bernhisel, who would send him clippings from papers, news from the east, along with tree cuttings for his orchards and gifts that Woodruff would deliver to Bernhisel’s family. They also wrote each other about personal matters.

[62] For a brief biography of Haden Wells Church, go here. Accessed August 5, 2014.

[63] Stuy 2000, p. 68, note #7.

[64] Nelson, op. cited.

[65] The Deseret News, Oct. 1, 1873, p. 11. James Godson Bleak also knew Church, and mentions him in his Annals of the Southern Utah Mission.

[66] Stuy 2000, p. 69.

[67] Nelson, op. cited.

[68] Woodruff knew Haden Church and took an interest in his family after he died while on a mission for the Church. On May 10, 1868, Woodruff writes,

A P Rockwell Prayed. B Young jr spoke 30 Minuts E D Woolley 50 Minuts. Afternoon. Prayer By W Woodruff. Haden Ch[urch] spoke 10 Minuts. R. [T?] Burton spok 6 minuts Joseph [ ] 3 M and Presidet Young spok one hour & 20 Minuts. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.407).

This speech by Church was also reported in the Deseret News,

“Elder Haden W. Church said some few years ago he had been called to go on a mission, to settle in the south of the Territory, which he had labored to fulfill with all the ability and power he had. Now, being called to go on a mission to preach the gospel, he felt to go, having faith in God that His blessings would be with him.” (Deseret News, May 11, 1862).

In 1882 Woodruff writes about Church’s son,

I obtained a Donation of $40 from the Trustee in trust for Haden Church to assist him in necessities and deliverd the Money to him.  (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 8, p.96, April 17, 1882)

And in October writes,

19   I received a letter from Haden W Church & He informed me his wife & ownly Daughter was Dead and Buried. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 8, p.128, October 19, 1882).

[69] Stuy 2000, pp. 70-71.

[70] Stuy 2000, p. 68.

[71] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.173.

[72] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.411.

[73] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.292, November 13, 1876. Three months later, Brigham Young asked Woodruff and his son Brigham Jr. to write up the ceremony, which they read to Young when they were finished. See note #9.

[74] Life of John D. T. McAllister, by Blanche Sullivan Spendlove, p. 6.3, Online here, Accessed August 5, 2004. See also Gene L. Pace, Elijah F. Sheets: The Half-Century Bishop, Supporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons, ed. Donald Q. Cannon and David J. Whittaker (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 1985), 255–73. Online here, Accessed August 5, 2014.

[75] Wayne Hinton, John D. T. McAllister: The Southern Utah Years, 1876-1910, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2003, p 116. As to motive, what was worth more to Woodruff than gold and silver?

Brother George Q. Cannon has referred to your labors in settling here. You were called to come here by the servants of God. You left your homes to come here and you have done what was required of you in this matter. You have had power to finish the Temple, and you have had power to go in and redeem your dead. A great many of you have done this, and I hope all of you will continue as long as you have any dead to redeem. Never cease that work while you have the power to enter into the Temple. I have greatly rejoiced in my work in this Temple, and in the blessings that I have received at the hands of the Latter-day Saints here. Gold and silver are no comparison to these things. I have had some thousands redeemed here. I have had baptisms, ordinations, washings and anointings, endowments and sealings for them, the same as if they were standing in the flesh themselves. I shall go and meet them on the other side of the veil. You will go and meet your relatives. You will hold the keys of their salvation to the endless ages of eternity, if you attend to this labor for them. (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol.3, p. 82, Wilford Woodruff, June 12, 1892, emphasis mine.)

How would it be, to be some kind of a celebrity on the other side of the veil for the endless ages of eternity?

[76] Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 4, p.359, Marriner W. Merrill, October 4th, 1895.

[77] McAllister Journal, August 21, 1877, p. 55-57, op cited, pp. 116-117, online here. Accessed August 5, 2014.

[78] ibid.

[79] Stuy 2000, p. 79.

[80] David H. Cannon, Meeting of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in St. George, Utah, February 19, 1922. Online here, Accessed August 5, 2014.

[81] ibid.

[82] Temple Minute Book, St. George, Jan. 25, 1905, Devery S. Anderson, The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, 3898-3902.

[83] Franklin D. Richards, “Temple Manifestations of the Spirit,” February 12, 1893, Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol.3, p. 233. Stories about Temple Manifestations were not uncommon during this time period. Brian Stuy in his article “”Come, Let Us Go Up to the
Mountain of the Lord”: The Salt Lake Temple Dedication” for Dialogue, Vol. 31, No. 3, recounts many that took place there. See especially pp. 107-108, Online here, accessed August 5, 2014.

[84] Jennifer Mackley gives the Bleak account and writes,

His statement was “copied from some of his own records” by his great-granddaughter and the version I have is in her handwriting. My estimate is James Bleak’s statement/record was made 20-40 years after 1877. (It was at least 21 years after the fact because he repeats parts of Wilford Woodruff’s April 1898 Conference address regarding the experience and less than 40 years because he died in 1918.)

[85] The first time that Bleak is mentioned in his Journals is on November 10, 1877:

10 I received No 32, 3 Letters from Bleak & E Snow. Wrote No 41 in return. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.381).

Jennifer Mackley though, mentions in her note (cited above) that Bleak was proxy for two of the Endowments performed the day after Woodruff and McAllister performed the baptisms.

[86] Wilford Woodruff, “History of the St. George Temple, Its Cost & Dedication and the Labor Thereon”, Mar. 26, 1883, Anderson, Devery; The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History, Kindle Edition,

[87] Addy’s Master’s Thesis may be found here. Accessed August 10, 2014.

[88] Caroline S. Addy, “James Godson Bleak, Pioneer Historian of Southern Utah”, unpublished Master’s Thesis, Brigham Young University, June 1953, pages 56-62.

[89] ibid, p. 144

[90] Wilford Woodruff, 10 April 1898, Conference Report, pp. 89-90.

[91] Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p.352, Brigham Young,

[92] Joseph West Smith Journal, 11 April, 1893, Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.3, p. 274, Wilford Woodruff, Minutes of the Salt Lake Temple Dedication, Held April 6-24, 1893).

[93] Stuy 2000, pp. 77- 78.

[94] Woodruff recorded that on the night of February 23, 1877,

23 I presided in the Temple to day. <While meeting at the altar I received a revelation concerning the redemption of my dead.> / While praying at the Altar I received a Revelation Concerning the redemption of my dead./ We gave Endowments to 159. E Snow sealed 33 W. Woodruff 13 Couple. D H Cannon Ordained 27 Elders A H Raleigh 11, J L Smith 11, W Woodruff 2 A P Winser 1, Wm. W Smith 2. I spent the Evening with [ ]. I wrote 2 letters to Phebe <and sent her the revelation>. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.329).

A week later, on his 70th birthday Woodruff would speak to an assembled group of women in the Celestial Room of the St. George Temple,

Ever Since I have been working in this Temple my mind has been Exercised in behalf of the dead, And [I] have felt a great desire to see my dead redeemed before I passed away. A few days ago I went into the Cealing room whare I often go to Pray for I Consider there is no spot on this Earth more acceptable than this Temple and while there I went befor the Lord with this subjet resting upon my mind and I Pray the Lord to open My way to see my Dead Redeemed. And while I prayed the spirit of the Lord rested upon me and Conveyed the following Testimony to me:

Let my servant Wilford Call upon the virgins Maidens, Daughters, & Mothers in Zion and let them Enter into my /Holy/ Temple on the 1 day of March the day that my servant Wilford has seen the time alloted to man, Three score years and Ten, and there let them received their washing and Anointing and Endowments for and behalf of the wives who are dead and have been sealed to my servant Wilford, or those who are to be Sealed to him, and this shall be acceptable unto me Saith the Lord, and the dead of my servant shall be redeemed in the spirit world and be prepared to meet my servant at the time of his Coming which shall be at the time appointed unto him, though not revealed to man in the flesh. Now go to and perform this work and all shall be accomplished according to the desire of your heart.

[p.332] This was merely a key to me. Light burst upon my understanding. I saw an Eff[etual?] door open to me for the redemption of my dead. And when I saw this I felt like shouting Glory Hallalulah to God and the Lamb.

Now in this matter you Can be baptized for any number on the same day, but when you come to giving Endowments one person Can ownly attend to one in a day. Some of those women you have been officiating for have been sealed to me, some have not. Those that were sealed to me were sealed at various times during the last twenty years, By Presidet Young, H C. Kimball, D. H. Wells, G. Q. Cannon and J F Smith. I have never taken this Course without consulting Presidet Young. When this thing was manifest to me I said to some of the sisters that I would like to have them Come on my Birth day and make me a present by getting Endowments for some of my dead, and as a testimony to me all were willing. When I saw the magnitude of this I spoke to Presidet Young about it. He said he would furnish half a dozen himself and He has in this assembly 5 daughters and 3 wives. I feel thankful to you my sisters for this manifestation of Kindness for you might have searched the world over and you Could not have found a present as dear to me as this.

What is gold or silver in Comparison to the redemption of our dead? Nothing. If I Can redeem my dead, and save myself and family I will be satisfyed. I feel that when we get into the spirit world we shall see the importance of this days work. This is my birth day. I am three score years and ten to day. You are to day in this Endowment without a man with you. But we shall furnish one Man as an Adam. L John Nuttall will officiate as such. Sisters you have the Blessings and Gratitude of my heart, And I hope I may not ownly partake of Eternal life with those whom you are redeeming to day, But with all of you who are laboring for them this day. I pray that we may all meet with them in the Celestial kingdom of our God. Amen.

I went through the Endowments of the day more like being in vision than a reality. These 154 Sisters [p.333] were led to three veils and three of us Wilford Woodruff J. D. T McAllister & L John Nuttall all dressed in Temple Clothing took them all through the three veils. I took through about 60, at the Middle veil, which I attended (there was no sealing to day). Presidet Young was preset at the Temple in witnessing the Ceremonies. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.331-333, March 1, 1877).

Again we see Woodruff as Temple President still consulting Brigham Young, and that Young was not too sick to attend these ceremonies.

[95] Wikipedia page, under the subtitle, “In the philosophy of truth and rhetoric”, online here, accessed August 12, 2014.

2 thoughts on “LIAR, LIAR? PART I

  1. First, let me say, great post. Incredibly comprehensive and replete with primary sources.

    I feel that you misrepresent my intentions or motives in my post, which is likely my own fault because of my frequent tendency to talk about things out of order and omit steps of my thought process.

    My intention in writing my post was not to prove that Wilford was not lying. That is quite obviously not possible. Woodruff lying is a legitimate possibility given the evidence. My goal was to undermine the certainty with which Waterman proclaimed Woodruff a liar, and to show the error of making Woodruff out as the origin of “prophetic infallibility.”

    That said, I’d also like to bring up some points of clarification from this post.

    You say that I don’t address how Stuy’s article differs from Waterman’s post. I think you answer the question by the end of the post when you articulate Stuy’s explanation of Wilford’s experience. Stuy does not end by saying that Wilford was a liar.

    As a preface to the following, I’d again mention that I’m discussing these things as possibilities, not probable possibilities.

    You again discount the idea that Gibbs misquoted Woodruff about the Endowment House. I understand that Gibbs would present his transcriptions to church authorities prior to publication, but I don’t think this means he presented them to every speaker prior to publication. My understanding was the Brigham or the First Presidency were the ones who gave approval to Gibbs transcriptions. If you know otherwise, I’d love to find out. I say that honestly. I’m just a person who looks at this stuff in my limited free time and I’m rarely able to devote the amount of time I’d like to researching things like this that.

    Regarding heirship, I agree that this was a fuzzy concept during this time period. That said, the idea was around since 1840. In Phoebe Woodruff’s letter to Wilford about Joseph’s revelation on baptisms for the dead, she indicated that Joseph taught of the important role the eldest in the family had as the heir of the family related to these proxy ordinances. So while ambiguous at best, there was some precedent prior to Brigham.

    It seems to me that Brigham’s description of Joseph not being the eldest but being the heir can bolster the idea of heirship being necessary. Heirship is very analogous to the way birthright is treated in the OT. Just because it frequently doesn’t go to the firstborn, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply. It’s true that the others who performed the ordinances were high ranking priesthood leaders, but it could be argued that they didn’t have the specific stewardship to deal with heirship issues. There is a strong case to be made that in 1877 as Temple President that Wilford did have that stewardship.

    You also mention John Taylor not being sealed to parents as somehow undermining the idea of heirship, but this had to do with the law of adoption, not heirship. Heirship could still apply even if Taylor is adopted to the church President rather than his biological parents.

    As far as the Eminent Men possibly wanting endowments, proxy endowments had begun prior to Woodruff’s account of the Eminent Men. Woodruff had overseen this practice for months as temple president prior to his experience with the Eminent Men. That is why I felt that if you consider the inclusion of the Endowment House in Wilford’s quote to be erroneous, the rest could stand as relating to endowments and priesthood. It could be seen as them saying something like ‘you’ve had this temple for months and as Temple President you’ve done nothing for us.’

    I agree that these other possibilities are not probable. Frankly, I’m inclined to think that Stuy’s analysis is most probable. Regardless, thanks for writing this and bringing a lot of quotes to my attention that I hadn’t seen before. Also, please point out errors in this comment as I’d like to learn more and be capable of eliminating even the long-shot possibilities.

    • Hi Geoff,

      You know, I realize that your post was kind of a mixed bag. You actually, to me, seemed to vacillate between concepts, like supporting heirship and then casting doubt on it, so I took the quotes as they came in order and dealt with them that way. I also commented that you seemed more concerned with Rock’s other argument, about the infallibility of Mormon prophets (in the case of revelation only).

      I actually do think that it is certain that Woodruff is a liar, because it was in his nature to do so (as I will show in the next part). Now, that is not to say that he had evil motives for doing so, I don’t think he thought what he did was evil, but then Mormonism ascribes lying as coming from Satan, so that is something to think about.

      There were steps in the approval of transcripts. I advise reading Ronald Watt’s book on George for a complete picture of how this worked. As for the First Presidency approving transcripts, I don’t think they always did. I think to an extent they relied on those who gave them for corrections and Watt and the later editors like Brigham Young, Jr. included what they wished. A good example of this is Amasa Lyman’s discourse on Jesus that is absolutely declared later as false doctrine, but somehow found its way into the Journals. (Vol. 7, pp. 297-299). Many try to use this to try and prove that this is what Mormonism teaches, but it absolutely is not. It was kind of oblique, so may not have been caught until later, but it still was never denounced in the same way that Young denounced Pratt’s views on God in the Seer. Views that are now mainstream in the Mormon Church while Young’s views are considered false doctrine. I don’t think that would have slipped by Young if he had proofed it for publication. He was more concerned with his own discourses, and let his apostles and other be concerned with theirs.

      Again, with Gibbs, you can absolutely say that he may have made a blatant transcription error, but I would put it in the same category as being struck by lightening. Very remote, and therefore a red herring argument. And I also know that many worked off of written transcripts that they gave for their discourses, unlike Brigham Young who spoke off the cuff most of the time. If you have read the JOD and Conference Reports as much as I have, you see that whole paragraphs from certain discourses from different dates are almost word for word. Some of these men had “favorite” subjects and would repeat themselves over and over again in subsequent Conference addresses obviously drawing from earlier discourses.

      As for John Taylor, I believe it absolutely undermines the concept of heirship, because Taylor’s father would have been the rightful heir to the family, and John Taylor by refusing to be sealed to him, made himself heir (or someone else if he was sealed to their lineage) to his future descendants by his own choice. But the whole concept is full of conundrums and contradictions, and that is why I made the point that these men did what they felt like, and that was more of an example of that concept than heirship. Heirship is such a convoluted concept in practice, (when it applies, how it applies and who it applies to), given the fact that Mormon Authorities can and have overruled it at their whim, that to try and apply it as an alternative explanation doesn’t work. And if Taylor were sealed to his father, he wouldn’t be ADOPTED, because he was already of his LINEAGE, therefore this was about HEIRSHIP (he didn’t want to be an heir to his father, but to someone else more important perhaps).

      I don’t see how if you eliminate the Endowment House out of Woodruff’s comments, your logic works. Woodruff said that they told him NOTHING was done for them. Twice. Even if you eliminate the Endowment house out of that, you are still left with why they would say this. There is no good answer for it. You are simply applying wishful thinking to what you want them to have told Woodruff. That is not what he claimed they told him. And if that were true, what you speculate, then why not just do the Endowments and skip the baptisms? They were done, and valid. He supposedly had two nights to speak to those men. Don’t you think that if you had that kind of time, they would have made that clear? That they would have told Woodruff, “we’re cool with baptisms, just do the other work”? And if all this was so very crucial to them, why did it take years and years for Woodruff to get an impression about the Second Anointings in relation to Ben Franklin, something really that is not essential to the dead in my estimation and in the estimation of many modern authorities not even really essential for the living any more. The Second Anointing, was to be sealed up to eternal life IN THIS LIFE, according to Joseph Smith, by having Jesus appear to you and teach you himself and declare it to you. Later, the anointing part came out of Smith’s teachings on the binding power of the priesthood. (If you are sealed here by that power, it is binding in heaven). It is truly superfluous to apply it to dead people, given the fact that they can’t sin anymore.

      Another thing to think about, was Woodruff the ultimate authority here? Who directed these men to come and visit Woodruff? They had to get permission first from someone (most likely Smith, since he is head of the dispensation in the Spirit World), to even visit Woodruff, and why would they not have had instructions? “Joseph says do this work for so and so, ordain this person to this priesthood, etc.” We see none of that, really just Woodruff doing what he felt like. In my opinion you take ALL of what they teach into account, not some things. This is why I have many reservations about this incident. It doesn’t add up.

      And actually Stuy does conclude that Woodruff is a liar. He just says it in a nice way. He says that Woodruff didn’t really have a visitation. Woodruff says that he did. I know that I’ve had some dreams that seemed very real. But I absolutely knew when I woke up that they were dreams, not actual visitations from the dead. To say so, would be a lie. Lying seems like a harsh word to use, that is why I prefer BS. What Stuy was trying to do, was explain why Woodruff lied. Was Paul H. Dunn a liar? I think so, and I also think that what Woodruff did wasn’t any different. He honestly believed that he was doing what he did for a good reason, but again, does that make it right? I don’t think so. A lie, is ultimately a lie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s