LIAR, LIAR? PART I

ww_liar_liar_st_george

PART I:  WILFORD WOODRUFF & THE EMINENT MEN

Introduction

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_circa_Kirtland_era

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:

INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING TEMPLE ORDINANCE WORK

“…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]

And,

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

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.

NOTES

[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.

Joseph Smith & Plural Wife by grindæl

Joseph Smith & Plural Wife

FARENHEIT LDS: Book Burning, Racism & the KKK?


Mormon_Doctrine-Burning

CONTENTS:

Part I. Bigotry in Ignorance?
Part II. The “Sensible” Klu Klux Klan
Part III. Nameless Oracles

Introduction

pingbackIn the diverse world of the Blog-o-sphere we are sometimes linked in ways that might be new to some. One of these links is called a “pingback”. This occurs when someone links to a Blog Article. Most of the time I don’t bother investigating them, I just approve them and go about my business. But I recently got a pingback on one of my articles and the title of the piece that it linked to was,

Blacks and the Priesthood: Burn McConkie Now!

With that title burned into my mind, I set about reading the article that had linked to one of mine, and it was so inaccurate and full of bigotry that I decided to take the time to respond to it. The Author, who goes by the moniker  “IrWhitney” or the “Phantom Saint”, starts off by telling everyone to burn any copies of Bruce R. McConkie’s book, Mormon Doctrine, and then asks his audience to throw another on the pile:  Answers to Gospel Questions, by  Joseph Fielding Smith.

The Phantom claims that the reason that people should burn these books is because they are “officially shameful and embarrassing”.  This line of reasoning advocates that anything written by Mormon “Authorities” that is deemed shameful and embarrassing to the Mormon Church should be burned.  Now that’ll solve any problems, won’t it? It worked for Nazi Germany, didn’t it? Well… maybe not.nazi_book_burning

What I do find shameful and embarrassing is that the Phantom would actually post a defense of Mormon racism on the day we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday; as if that would somehow assuage his conscience or bolster his fantastical claim that “’the Brethren’ in their more subdued fashion essentially agree with all my various arguments, officially, and in public.”

Since he speaks of Mormon “authorities” pulling doctrine out of their backsides… well, if the shoe fits…

Seriously though, far from setting the record straight about Mormon racism, the Phantom only makes it worse, because the arguments that he claims “the brethren” are down with, don’t really explain anything; and the Phantom’s are (for the most part) simply speculations he has gathered from the four corners of the internet, into which he mixes a strong dose of his own bigotry towards Christians.

I. Bigotry In Ignorance?

And those arguments? To put Mormon “authorities” institutional racism and bigotry “in perspective”.  This is nothing new of course. Isn’t that what the skinheads try to do with Adolf Hitler’s bigotry? Put it in perspective? After all, they still admire the guy, just like Mormons still admire Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and every other racist “prophet” that inherited the mantle of Smith. But Mormon “authorities” did one better than Adolf Hitler, they made God himself into a bigot:

The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord… (First Presidency Declaration, 1949)

Poor Phantom, don’t you know that “the Brethren” aren’t agreeing with anything that you say? If one goes to the link provided by the Phantom that accesses the article he referenced above one reads,

The Church acknowledges the contribution of scholars to the historical content presented in this article; their work is used with permission.

Their work. Nameless “scholars”. Have the very oracles of God been turned over to nameless scholars? It appears so, if one is to believe Phantom, since he thinks that these are “the brethren” (or Mormon General Authorities).

And when all else fails, put the blame on those horrible Christians as Phantom does with this rant:

For the anti-Mormons out there, and certainly the non-Mormons in general: I’m not defending the bigotry in early LDS leadership at all. Just putting it into perspective. Neither am I defending the racism apparent in the writings and sermonizing of many LDS leaders over the generations. I can only offer that it was always ever based upon ignorance rather than malice, and that it never even slightly attained the level of contempt and hatred, the outright damnation of the “Negro” race as openly practiced and professed by most of “historic” Christianity over the last 2014 years. Not even slightly. It wasn’t the Mormons who brought slavery to America. That was “historic” Christianity. It’s hard to take criticism from Christian sects who were the religious arm of the KKK for generations, or tolerate the tongue clucking of other Christian denominations like the now often very liberal Lutherans, who’s founder Martin Luther (the original)  clearly and openly denounced the Jews as a filthy, contemptable race that needed extermination. Or for that matter, compared to some pretty inane reasoning relative to the Curse of Cain over the years from various Mormon leaders, I feel no moral equivalence between that and a Holy Roman Empire that slaughtered “barbarians” and “savages” all over the globe, tortured generations of mankind through ruthless rule and Inquisition, and attempted to exterminate the Jews to “liberate” the Holy Land over the course of hundreds of years and a score of centuries. Brigham Young wasn’t invented in the hills of Utah. He came from respectable Quaker stock. He and his brethren brought the Curse of Cain and all its attendant racism and bigotry from “historic” Christianity–it was never an invention of Joseph Smith or his newly “restored” One True Church. (the Phantom)

slaveryGee, if the criticism is valid, (as Phantom seems to agree with, sorta) then why not take criticism from Christians? He can’t, because he is too bigoted to do so. What he needs to do is a little more research about the affects of the Great Awakening on the problem of slavery in the United States.

But this really isn’t about taking criticism from Christians because he’s really not “defending the bigotry in early LDS writings at all”, he’s just telling us all that it was bigotry in ignorance, (an oxymoron if there ever was one) bigotry without malice, (ditto) and that it was just all those crazy Christians who are really to blame for Mormon racism (which he can’t seem to make up his mind about), not the Mormons themselves who picked up that evil doctrine and ran with it, and then had the audacity to tell everyone that it all came from God himself. Funny, how doctrines like this are classed as “carry overs”, and statements like this one from Joseph Smith are subsequently ignored,

As Paul said, “The world by wisdom know not God;” so the world by speculation are destitute of revelation; and as God in His superior wisdom has always given His Saints, wherever he had any on the earth, the same spirit, and that spirit, as John says, is the true spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus. I may safely say that the word “Mormon” stands independent of the wisdom and learning of this generation. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.400)

Or this,

Joseph Smith, Kirtland Ohio, 1836 by grindael

Joseph Smith circa 1836

It is in the order of heavenly things that God should always send a new dispensation into the world when men have apostatized from the truth and lost the priesthood; but when men come out and build upon other men’s foundations, they do it on their own responsibility, without: authority from God; and when the floods come and the winds blow, their foundations will be found to be sand, and their whole fabric will crumble to dust.

Did I build on any other man’s foundation? I have got all the truth which the Christian world possessed, and an independent revelation in the bargain, and God will bear me off triumphant.  (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.479)

I don’t think anyone would consider the Curse of Cain doctrine one of those “truths” by any stretch of the imagination. So Joseph got it from God. So he says. Brigham Young echoed this in 1855:

Brigham-Young

Brigham Young, circa 1860

The American Government is second to none in the world in influence and power, and far before all others in liberal and free institutions. Under its benign influence the poor, down trodden masses of the old world can find an asylum where they can enjoy the blessings of peace and freedom, no matter to what caste or religious sect they belong, or are disposed to favor, or whether they are disposed to favor any or none at all. It was in this government, formed by men inspired of God, although at the time they knew it not, after it was firmly established in the seat of power and influence, where liberty of conscience, and the free exercise of religious worship were a fundamental principle guaranteed in the Constitution, and interwoven with all the feelings, traditions, and sympathies of the people, that the Lord sent forth His angel to reveal the truths of heaven as in times past, even as in ancient days. This should have been hailed as the greatest blessing which could have been bestowed upon any nation, kindred, tongue, or people. It should have been received with hearts of gratitude and gladness, praise and thanksgiving.

But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowlege of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him.

No sooner was this made known, and published abroad, and people began to listen and obey the heavenly summons, than opposition began to rage, and the people, even in this favored land, began to persecute their neighbors and friends for entertaining religious opinions differing from their own. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p.171, Feb. 8, 1855)

So much for “folklore” being carried into the Mormon Church from the Christians, Mormon “prophets” deny it. As for malice, one striking example is that of John Taylor, who left us with this rant about Horace Greely:

The majority of the people think you [The Mormons] are a most corrupt people, following a doctrine something like those Free Love societies in the East. Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, was associated with one of those societies, and was its principal supporter.

John-Taylor

“Apostle” John Taylor

That is what is called a virtuous kind of an abomination, used under a cloak of philosophy, a species of philosophy imported from France. Hence they call Greeley a philosopher; and, in writing about him, I have called him the same. I believe him to be as dishonest a man as is in existence.

These are my sentiments and feelings. I have examined his articles, watched his course, read his paper daily, and have formerly conversed with him a little; but lately I would not be seen in his company. I was thrown in his society in traveling from Boston, and occasionally met him afterwards; but I would not talk to him. I felt myself superior to such a mean, contemptible cur. I knew he was not after truth, but falsehood.

This Greeley is one of their popular characters in the East, and one that supports the stealing of niggers and the underground railroad. I do not know that the editor of the Herald is any more honest; but, as a journalist, he tells more truth. He publishes many things as they are, because it is creditable to do so. But Greeley will not; he will tell what suits his clandestine plans, and leave the rest untold. I speak of him, because he is one of the prominent newspaper editors in the Eastern country, and he is a poor, miserable curse. (Journal of Discourses, Volume 5, pp. 118-119)

Not only does Taylor’s malice show in this rant towards the blacks as well as Greely, Taylor has to be dishonest to make his point. Instead of speaking to the man, he claims superiority over such a “contemptable cur”. If he had spoken to him, he might have realized that Greely didn’t advocate “free love”. Or maybe Taylor did speak to him. He lied about polygamy, didn’t he? This arrogance on the part of Taylor spilled over into his religious beliefs, too. Abraham H. Cannon recorded that,

Father [George Q. Cannon] 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… (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, Thursday, Dec. 18th, 1890)

Horace_Greely

Horace Greely

Greely didn’t support the “Free Love” movement at all, he in fact destested it as this letter to M.A. Townsend in 1860 shows:

When we were publishing Judge Edmond’s series of articles commending and extolling Spiritualism, I never heard complaints from you or other Spiritualists that we did not comment on and dissent from their inculcations. I do not see why we should do so when it proves to be your bull that is gored and not t’other fellow’s ox. Your letter is arrogant in its tone and sheds no light on the subject; so I have thrown it aside. I do not take ground for or against what is called Spiritualism, but it is my definite judgment that the abominable sophistry and lechery termed “Free Love” has received decided aid and comfort from Spiritualism. That I don’t like; and it is my sorrowful conviction that there are more adulterers and libertines, harlots and false wives in the country today than there was before or would have been but for the advent of Spiritualism. If there be any truth in Spiritualism, I am afraid the spirits who visit us mainly tenanted bad bodies while on earth and have not improved since. (Horace Greely to M. A. Townsend, March 1, 1860)

Even Brigham Young had more tact when speaking of the blacks, he knew that the word “nigger” was a slur:

Ham will continue to be the servant of servants, as the Lord has decreed, until the curse is removed. Will the present struggle free the slave? No; but they are now wasting away the black race by thousands. Many of the blacks are treated worse than we treat our dumb brutes; and men will be called to judgment for the way they have treated the negro, and they will receive the condemnation of a guilty conscience, by the just Judge whose attributes are justice and truth.

Treat the slaves kindly and let them live, for Ham must be the servant of servants until the curse is removed. Can you destroy the decrees of the Almighty? You cannot. Yet our Christian brethren think that they are going to overthrow the sentence of the Almighty upon the seed of Ham. They cannot do that, though they may kill them by thousands and tens of thousands. (Journal of Discourses Vol. 10, p.250)

And,

Brother Taylor says that language cannot express the conduct, the feelings, and the spirit that are upon the people in the States. Well, suppose you take up a labour and swear about them, what are the worst words that can be spoken? ‘Nigger stealing,’ Mobs or Vigilance Committees, and Rotten-hearted Administrators of a Government are three of the meanest and wickedest words that can be spoken. I expect that somebody will write that back to the States, as being treasonable, because spoken by a Latter-day Saint. (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p.127, August 9, 1857)

They knew. In spite of all that Brigham and his apostles said, overthrowing the sentence of the Almighty upon the supposed seed of Ham is exactly what the Federal Government did. And yes, thousands upon thousands died to make that happen. Even Wilford Woodruff showed that he was not not above demeaning the blacks:

We had a Great Celebration of the 4 to day as the 4 Came on Sunday. We had a great display of all the Mechanics Artizens tradesmen & Farmers school Children &c & A Long windy speech from Judge [Cyrus M.] Hawley on the Nigger Question & severall Edifying speeches from others.(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.485, July 5, 1869)

Cyrus Hawley was a Federal Judge appointed by President Grant. Of course what he advocated about the blacks would stick in the craw of the racist Mormons. Still, Mormons (according to the Phantom) are bigots only in ignorance, simply because they didn’t invent what they chose to believe (written into scripture by their founding “prophet”); and because the Christians are definitely the ones to blame for every racist and evil act since the time of Christ.

Case in point:

While many LDS detractors try to claim that anti-Negro racism is an essential doctrine of LDS theology, and that the basis for this prejudice is found in the uniquely Mormon, Book of Abraham, in the canonical “Pearl of Great Price,” the truth is that Christianity had been condemning Negroes to hell as the irredeemable, inherently damned seed of Cain for some 1820 years before Joseph Smith was ever in a position to give it a thought. Likewise, in Smith’s time, many of the most fundamentalist and adamant progenitors of today’s Christian critics of Mormonism’s “racism,” were eagerly buying and selling Cain’s children, forcing them into a lifetime of starvation and crippling hard labor, raping slave women for sport and breeding them for profit. Even more ironically, while the parents of the German commentator who accused Gordon B[.] Hinckley of “racism” were learning how to spot non-Aryans in the Hitler Youth, and his grandparents were burning Jews in ovens and excusing the Third Reich’s humiliating defeat in 1932 to black Olympic champion Jesse Owens by claiming it was an unfair match between God-created man and a half-evolved ape, Mormonism had by way of comparison, merely interpreted its own available canonical evidence to mean that blacks were to barred from the priesthood, at least in this lifetime. (The Phantom)Scenes in Memhis, Tennessee, April 30, 1866-001

How could it be “their own” canonical evidence if it came from the Christians? The bigotry in this paragraph is simply stunning. So all Germans were burning Jews in ovens? All Christians before the time of Joseph Smith were condemning Negroes to hell, and advocated the Curse of Cain doctrine? The hatred here of Christians by Phantom is palpable. But you can’t blame this only on the Christians. According to Historian David M. Goldenberg,

“The notion that all humanity is color coded is expressed in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim biblical interpretations that see Noah’s sons as representing the three human skin colors of the world’s population. “ (David M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, pp. 184-185)

He quotes Jewish and Islamic writings that show this, and then says

“in the third century story it was Ham who was darkened and became the ancestor of all dark-skinned people, by the eight to ninth century in Islamic sources and the ninth to eleventh century in Jewish sources it was understood that it was really Kush, one of Ham’s four sons, who was darkened and became the ancestor of dark-skinned people. In the Islamic version we can actually see how the Kush interpretation is grafted onto the earlier story mentioning only Ham: “When Noah awoke … he said to God, “Allah, blacken his face and the face of his descendants of the one who disobeyed. [i.e., Ham] and had intercourse with his wife.” So Ham’s wife had a black son and he named him Kusha (Ibn Hisham). Noah curses Ham and his descendants but the result is a blackening of Kush alone.  (pp. 186-7)

And,

This new Arabic-Islamic way of looking at the world’s population was then incorporated into the thinking and literature of others in the Near East, whether they be Jewish, such as the authors of Tanhuma and Pirqei R. Eliezer, or Christian, such as Bar Hebraeus. (p. 193)

Seems like just about everybody picked on the poor dark skinned Africans. Although the issue of slavery through the ages was complicated, (especially in the Catholic Church) there were Papal decrees against it, and in 1839 Pope Gregory XVI issued In Supremo, which cited earlier Bulls against slavery and added,

gregory xvi

Pope Gregory XVI

“The slave trade, although it has been somewhat diminished, is still carried on by numerous Christians. Therefore, desiring to remove such a great shame from all Christian peoples … and walking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors, We, by apostolic authority, warn and strongly exhort in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare to bother unjustly, despoil of their possessions, or reduce to slavery (<in servitutem redigere>) Indians, Blacks or other such peoples. Nor are they to lend aid and favor to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not humans but rather mere animals, having been brought into slavery in no matter what way, are, without any distinction and contrary to the rights of justice and humanity, bought, sold and sometimes given over to the hardest labor.”

But the Mormons are ok, they only had racist attitudes towards the blacks in this life, and unlike those he mentions like Johanna Southcott, their “interpretations” aren’t done in malice, but hers certainly must be, because she was a Christian. Funny that.

It’s obvious that the Phantom didn’t really comprehend the article that he linked to his article that explains all about this. Hint: yes some Christians had problems with accepting the Curse of Cain doctrine and used it to justify slavery, but many did not and worked hard to change it. Funny how the Mormons would defy the Federal Government’s laws when it came to polygamy, but would not when it came to slavery. (see quote from the 1835 D&C below).

And… actually, it was not just in this life that the blacks were to be second class citizens. Brigham Young taught,

Adam had two sons Kane & Abel. Cain was more given to evil than Abel. Adam was called to offer sacrifice also his sons. The sacrifice of Abel was more acceptable than Canes & Cane took it into his heart to put Abel out of the way so he killed Abel.

The Lord said I will not kill Cane But I will put a mark upon him and it is seen in the face of every Negro on the Earth And it is the decree of God that that mark shall remain upon the seed of Cane & the Curse untill all the seed of Abel should be re[deem]ed and Cane will not receive the priesthood untill or salvation untill all the seed of Abel are Redeemed. Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it. The Negro cannot hold one particle of Government But the day will Come when all the seed of Cane will be Redeemed & have all the Blessings we have now & a great deal more. But the seed of Abel will be ahead of the seed of Cane to all Eternity.

Let me consent to day to mingle my seed with the seed of Cane. It would Bring the same curse upon me And it would upon any man. And if any man mingles his seed with the seed of Cane the ownly way he Could get rid of it or have salvation would be to Come forward & have his head Cut off & spill his Blood upon the ground. It would also take the life of his Children.

It is said if a man kills another that he takes that that He cannot give. If a mans head is cut off [p.98] his life is not destroyed or his spirit that lives. His tabernacle is destroyed But I can make as good tabernacles as I can destroy. If you do not believe it look at my Children. Much blood was shed in ancient days both of man & Beast. The firstlings & best of the flock was sacrafized on the Altar & in some instances many men & almost whole Nations were sacraficed or put to death because of their sins & wickedness. This was the ownly way they could be saved at all. If Jesus Christ had not had his Blood shed the Blood that He received from his Mother Mary the world would not have been saved.

There is not one of the seed of old Cane that is permitted to rule & reign over the seed of Abel And you nor I cannot Help it.

Brigham Young 1851

Brigham Young Circa 1850

Those that do bear rule should do it in righteousness. I am opposed to the present system of slavery. The Negro Should serve the seed of Abram but it should be done right. Don’t abuse the Negro & treat him Cruel.

It has been argued here that many of the Jews were Black. Whenever the seed of Judah mingled with the seed of Cane they lost their priesthood & all Blessings.

As an Ensample let the Presidency, Twelve Seventies High Priest Bishops & all the Authorities say now we will all go & mingle with the seed of Cane and they may have all the privileges they want. We lift our hands to heaven in support of this. That moment we loose the priesthood & all Blessings & we would not be redeemed until Cane was. I will never admit of it for a moment.

Some may think I I know as much as they do But I know that I know more than they do. The Lord will watch us all the time. The Devil would like to rule part of the time But I am determin He shall not rule at all and Negros shall not rule us. I will not admit of the Devil ruling at all. I will not Consent for the seed of Cane to vote for me or my Brethren. If you want to know why we did not speak of it in the Constitution it was because it was none of their Business. Any man is a Citizens Black white or red and if the Jews Come here with a part of the [p.99] Canaanite Blood in them they are Citizens & shall have their rights but not to rule for me or my Brother. Those persons from the Islands & foreign Countries know nothing about Governing the people. The Canaanite cannot have wisdom to do things as the white man has. We must guard against all Evil. I am not going to let this people damn themselves as long as I can help it. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 4, p.97-99, February 4, 1852)

The Negroes could not hold the Priesthood because according to Young they would never rule over the seed of Abel (the whites), and that would be for “all eternity”. The whites would always “be ahead” of the Negroes “for all eternity”. But according to those like the Phantom, Brigham only spoke in ignorance, there was no malice at all to what he said above. Tell that to Jane Manning and Elijah Abel and thousands of others who were denied the blessings reserved only for white people. Imagine going through this interview with then “prophet” Wilford Woodruff:

We had Meeting with several individuals among the rest Black Jane wanted to know if I would not let her have her Endowments in the Temple. This I Could not do as it was against the Law of God. As Cain killed Abel All the seed of Cain would have to wait for Redemption untill all the seed that Abel would have had that may Come through other men Can be redeemed.(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 9, p. 322, October 16, 1894).

Not policy, but the law of God. What was stopping Woodruff from getting his own revelation? He had no problem doing it with polygamy. I guess the plight of the black man wasn’t very high up on his “to-do”list. Even with Jane Manning knocking on his door.

For a great read about how racism is justified by ignorance and stupidity, enjoy the exploits of one Petroleum V. Nasby in “Swingin Round the Crinkle”. President Lincoln loved his exploits, and used to quote him often.

"...in their enthoosiasm five nigger families were cleaned out"

“…in their enthoosiasm five nigger families were cleaned out”

I guess the Phantom must think that getting your head cut off for “mingling seed” is an act of love. At least that’s how Brigham Young described it once. Really. (See, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p.220)Go to the Top

II.  The “Sensible” Ku Klux Klan

The Phantom then tries to enlighten us with another rant, this time against the “lefty’s” or all who advocate Civil Rights and dare to call racism what it truly is:

It’s easy for the ignorant and self-interested to paint Mormonism with the Lefty’s favorite tar brush of common racism. In fact, since the Civil Rights Movement set upon the mission of bringing down the LDS church, it is even held that Mormons are close friends with the KKK, the favorite bugaboo of the “enlightened” Left. These slanders, when repeated widely, naturally become the assumptions of rational, fair-minded people as well. Frankly, Mormonism has given even the most forgiving investigator cause for suspicion. But Mormonism and its attitude toward the Negro, isn’t really a Right-Left, racist/colorblind debate in the usual Christian American sense. (The Phantom Saint)

Ku Klux Klan circa 1870

Ku Klux Klan circa 1870

So, what kind of racism did the Mormons practice, uncommon racism? To Phantom, racism just isn’t really racism if Mormon leaders are involved. Why? Because those damn Christians did it first. (It’s all Joanna Southcott’s fault) He then gives us this whopper:

Many of the members of the anti-Mormon mob that murder the first President of the Church, Joseph Smith, are members of a secret racist society called the “Knights of the Golden Circle.” After the Civil War the organization is outlawed. A few members of the Knights of the Golden Circle found a new organization called the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.—1844 (See BlackMormon)

I’ll get to the Ku Klux Klan below. But the Knights of the Golden Circle didn’t even come into existence until 1854, ten years after Joseph Smith’s death. I don’t know where BlackMormon got their information from, but they are wrong about this, and many other things. For more information on the Golden Circle, see this article by the Texas State Historical Association.

I just have to sigh when I read this next bit of information that Phantom unloads on the unsuspecting public, that the Church outright rejected the KKK, from the beginning (1868). They later actually lauded what they called “Another Ku Klux Klan”, which was what they deemed the original Ku-Klux Klan, said by them to be full of “sincere men” who “saw no other way of remedying the existing evils that threatened moral and financial ruin.” This sounds just like Joseph Smith’s Danites, who he wrote about in his diary, which said:

We have a company of Danites in these times, to put to right physically that which is not right, and to cleanse the Church of very great evils which hath hitherto existed among us inasmuch as they cannot be put to right by teachings & persuasions. (Scott Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p. 198).

This describes the KKK to a tee. But before I go into that, let’s see some of the Phantom’s quotes that are supposed to enlighten us about how Mormon racism “isn’t really a Right-Left, racist/colorblind debate”:

Soon after its formation, an LDS apostle writes that the KKK will prove a “curse” upon America.—1868  (See BlackMormon)

There is absolutely no documentation to back up this quote.  In fact, in 1868 Mormon “Apostle” George Q. Cannon claimed that the Klan was less dangerous than other secret societies. (see below)

The KKK holds anti-Mormon meetings and, in the south, kills and in some cases tortures Mormon missionaries.—1870s-1890s (See Blazing Crosses, pp.11ff)

From the Silent Film, "Birth of A Nation"

From the Silent Film, “Birth of A Nation”

This is just ill-informed. And if you pick up the book Blazing Crosses in Zion: The Ku Klux Clan in Utah,  by Larry R. Gerlach,  you might want to keep in mind that he was denied access to the Church archives, which makes it a very flawed work, according to this review by John R. Sillito, who writes,

Not only does Gerlach’s study suffer because he was denied access to these important documents, but as long as key materials are denied to scholars, efforts to chronicle Utah history and the history of the LDS church will be seriously hindered. A final irony is that if these documents were unavailable for fear they might be used to discredit the church, Gerlach’s study, and the efforts of most scholars, suggest the opposite result. (Dialogue, Vol.17, No.1, p.166, Spring 1984)

As Historian Patrick Mason writes,

“Strictly speaking, it is anachronistic to speak of Mormons being attacked by the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1870’s or 1880’s, as federal legislation and military enforcement had outlawed and effectively disbanded the paramilitary organization in the early 1870’s. Vigilante violence persisted throughout the South, or course, often led by former Klan members, and the Klan became something of a generic brand for all southern vigilantism.” (The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South, page 147).

As Mason also points out, the Klan did leave a legacy of violence that many in the South perpetuated against blacks, Mormons and other minority groups. But there was no official Ku Klux Klan during this period.  Though two Mormon Missionaries were murdered in 1884 at Cane Creek—by men wearing “masks and colorful disguises, this was a vigilante killing that had nothing to do with an official Klan, even though the Mormons later blamed it on them. Still, there is nothing here to show that the Mormons were in the least bit concerned about the Klan’s racism.

The Phantom then gives a series of quotes from the Deseret News about the resurgent Klan of the early 20th Century and how it was “rejected” by them (remember, this is all about racism now):

When a nation-wide tour of the stage version of “The Clansman,” a story that insults blacks and glorifies the KKK as white heroes, arrives in Utah, the anti-Mormon “Salt Lake Tribune” praises the production. The Church-owned “Deseret News,” however, while recognizing that the play is well done in technical terms, states that the Klan is not to be praised, for it “rode about the country at night killing or torturing negroes and their sympathizers…[and] became a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.”—1908  (See Deseret News, Nov. 2, 1908)

This is a very interesting quote, mostly because it is excised out of a larger article to make it appear that the Church (or the Deseret News which is the Church according to BlackMormon) had always come out against the Klan. Perhaps a full reproduction of the article is in order:

Deseret News Another Klan

Deseret News, Nov. 1908

ANOTHER KU KLUX KLAN.

“The Ku Klux Klan movement which has been so forcibly represented to the public at the Salt Lake Theater in the excellent performance of “The Clansman,” began in 1868, for the purpose of breaking up negro suffrage in the South. In many states negroes were members of the legislatures, and in some they were in the majority. Most of the negroes were ignorant and they were controlled by “scalawags,” and “carpet baggers,” that is to say, by white politicians who used the negro vote for the furtherance of their own personal ends. The result was that taxes were increased, public debts ran up, and the extravagance and corruption of legislatures were almost beyond belief. The state debt of Alabama increased from $8,000,000 to $25,000,000, in six years, and the legislature of South Carolina spent $350,000 in one session, for “supplies, sundries and incidentals,” alone. Such fearful exactions came after the exhaustive war and the taxpayers became exasperated.

Then the Ku Klux Klan was formed. The people undertook to break up negro suffrage. Young men, masked and disguised, rode about the country at night, killing, or torturing negroes, and their sympathizers. The “carpet baggers”—Northern adventurers who had gone to the South in order to make a living out of politics—were often caught and driven out by violent means.

There is no doubt that the Klan was at first formed by sincere men who saw no other way of remedying the existing evils that threatened moral and financial ruin. It was founded by men who believed they had a patriotic purpose in view. But when the reign of terror was over, honest men with-drew from the Klan, content with the development of society under a regime of law and order. The Klan minus its respectable, peace-loving members became a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.

The so-called night riders that now infest some of the Southern states may be considered as the successors of the terrorists of thirty years ago. In fact the ghastly procession of night riders in Georgia a short time ago exceeded in malignant wickedness the most lurid orgies of reconstruction. And laxity in dealing with these outlaws who claim to act under the authority of a “higher law” is having its dire effects.

Quentin_Rankin&R_Z_TaylorThe atrocious murdering of Capt. Rankin at Walnut Log, Tenn., and the narrow escape from a similar fate of Col. Taylor, both noted attorneys in the section, may be traced directly to the indifference which the authorities manifest toward this latest form of terrorism.

The night riders began by burning the warehouses of tobacco growers who persisted in selling their product at a price below that dictated by them. When the firebugs first showed their hands some effort was made by state officials to the end of running them down. But soon the interest of the law waned and the spirit of wantonness blazed up more fiercely than before. Murders were committed with impunity and the campaign of fright by gun and firebrand resulted in dozens of growers abandoning their properties or obeying the commands of the night riders in fear of their lives.

The decent citizens of the south will have to put down this lawlessness, by the application of law. If they do not do so without delay, the evil will grow beyond their control. (Deseret News, 11-2-1908, page 6)

La Clansman Play asked to be supressed

LA Herald, October 16, 1908.

Notice that the News states that the play is an “excellent performance”, and goes on to laud the Klan that was set up to destroy Negro Suffrage.  An article from the Los Angeles Herald reported that some in the country had a different take on the play:

The fact that “The Clansman” is to be produced at one of the local theaters has aroused the indignation of a large number of the best negro citizens, and they yesterday sent a petition to the mayor to have the play suppressed. . . . they say “The Clansman” . . . deals with features of the negro national life in such a way as to reopen wounds that have cost the life blood of the nation in their healing. They claim it excites race prejudice by portraying one of the most brutal of crimes [rape] and the triumph of mob law. The petitioners feel race prejudice should not be excited, in view of the friendly relations which exist between the races in Los Angeles. Other cities have suppressed the play, they declare, and they ask that the mayor do likewise. Mayor Harper will investigate before acting on the petition. (Los Angeles Herald, October 16, 1908)

The Deseret News was hardly denouncing the play, or what they deem as the original Ku Klux Klan, which they praise, saying that “There is no doubt that the Klan was at first formed by sincere men who saw no other way of remedying the existing evils that threatened moral and financial ruin.”

What they are denouncing in the article are the “successors of the terrorists of thirty years ago,” who they say have become “a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.”The Clansman 1905 Title Page

Why? Because it was a movement that stank of vigilantism, which soon turned on the Mormons and anyone else the vigilantes didn’t like. But it was ok when it was used to stop the Negroes from gaining political power in the South or to better themselves through equal rights.  The Phantom then once again shows off his bigotry against Christians with this gem:

The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News are fascinatingly blatant records of Mormon-v-anti-Mormon, meaning Christian populations of the State of Utah:

1908: The stage version of Thomas Dixon’s bestselling novel The Clansman, which portrayed blacks as ignorant and ravenous brutes, and glorified the KKK as white heroes, had toured all over the United States. Finally, the tour came to Salt Lake City. The Gentile (non-mormon) newspaper in the city, The Salt Lake Tribune, praised both the play and its message. The Mormon paper, the Deseret News, said that while the play itself was “an excellent production” in technical terms, the Klan was not a heroic organization as the play portrayed, but “rode about the country at night killing or torturing negroes and their sympathizers” in a “reign of terror” and “became a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.”(Deseret News, Nov. 2, 1908).Clansman Troupe

1916: The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s Gentile (non-mormon) and Anti-Mormon newspaper (which almost daily contained anti-Mormon articles) wrote a critique of the silent movie Birth of a Nation; which was a film version of the play The Clansmen. The Tribune wrote that “Mob violence and outlawry [by blacks] are depicted, followed by spectacular vies of the Ku Klux Klansmen who organized secretly to control the negroes through their superstitious fears. The Klansmen were fearless night-riders and they wore white shrouds. Acts of vengeance were perpetrated [upon blacks] under the cover of darkness, and the pictures show clearly why such extreme measures were necessary for the continuance of law and order.” (Salt Lake Tribune, April 2, 1916)

SL Tribune Apr 2, 1916 Header

Salt Lake Tribune Section Banner

Actually, the Tribune Review appeared in the News and Gossip of the Stage section of the Newspaper, and was simply a review of the movie. Not exactly front page news. It describes the movie exactly, and how the Klan was depicted in the movie and states that the movie “shows clearly why such extreme measures were necessary…”

But Phantom has to bigotize the whole of this, not realizing that the Deseret News also published a favorable review about The Birth of a Nation:

“The Birth of a Nation” is a thrilling and awe-inspiring revisitation of war—war in all its cruelties; we behold not only the tragedy on the field of battle, where fall the dead and dying, but in the home where wait the aged parents and little brother and sister, or daughter or son, for the message that too often comes telling that the dear one has died for the flag—the Stars and Stripes, or the banner of the blue with the single star. There is a great 30 piece orchestra to aid in the interpreting this photo-drama. Suffice to say, about this organization that it is one of the best musical organizations that has ever visited Salt Lake City. There are only three more performances, tonight and two on Saturday. Those who miss it will always have something to regret.  (Deseret News, April 17, 1916).

Deseret News, April 7, 1916 with favorable review of "Birth of a Nation"

Deseret News, April 7, 1916 with favorable review of “Birth of a Nation”

Don’t miss Birth of a Nation! It’s thrilling and awe-inspiring! If there were any objections to the Ku Klux Klan by the Deseret News, they are not in this article, which says that anyone who doesn’t get to see the film would regret it.  It was a favorable review of the picture, just like the Tribune’s. Funny that. The Birth of a Nation was spectacular and groundbreaking, and many people bought into it’s message, including (say it ain’t so!) many Mormons, just like (yup) many Christians.

The whole point of the movie was to promote the Klan, which it did very effectively. As for The Clansman,  we have already debunked that part of the Phantom’s argument. So much for Mormon vs. Critics in this instance, eh Phantom?

Perhaps The Phantom (or BlackMormon) are also unaware of an interesting article from the Deseret News written by George Q. Cannon from 1868 about the Ku-Klux Klan. It seems that there is more to the story than just the rejection of the Klan by Mormon “Authorities”.

DN, Apr 23, 1868 George Cannon, KKKCannon mentions the murder of George. W. Ashburn, who was assassinated by the Klan on March 30, 1868, who was the first murder victim of the Klan in Georgia.

At the end of the Civil War, Ashburn was appointed a judge by the military Governor of the state, George G. Meade, and was instrumental in authoring provisions in the new Constitution that assured civil rights for blacks. He even lived among the blacks, which infuriated the Klan. After his murder, he was vilified by his enemies, who even accused him of living with a black woman in a house of prostitution.  As Historian David Rose writes,

Historical events do not become flashpoints of contested memory without good reasons. One of the explanations for the posthumous vilification of G. W. Ashburn is the political struggle of which his murder formed a significant part: the largely successful terrorist campaign to limit or remove the rights of Georgia’s African-Americans. This “required” their most important white Columbus advocate to be demonized, and at the same time to be seen as having acted over many years against their real interests. In Telfair’s phrase, the purpose of Ashburn’s assassination was “merely to remove a public menace.” Generations after his death, the guardians of white Southern memory found that the bleakest assessments of his life and character still fitted with their overall view of Reconstruction as a time of Northern cruelty and injustice. (The Big Eddy Club: The Stocking Stranglings and Southern Justice, by David Rose, pages 69-70)

George Q. Cannon (then Managing Editor of the Deseret News) writes that,

The conclusion in many quarters seems to be that the action in the case of Ashburn [against the Klan] has been deliberate and concerted, and it is thought that it may and will be repeated, more or less generally, throughout the Southern States. Those who thus think say the motive of the act is not confined to that locality, nor to the individuals who perpetuated this particular crime. It extends, they say, throughout the Southern States, and influences to a greater or less extent the mass of the white population. Of course there are many who differ from this view, and who assert that there are other organizations in the South, which are more dangerous than the Ku-Klux Klan. There are “Loyal Leagues” and other secret organizations among both whites and blacks—organizations armed and oath-bound all over the country, which have for their object, they state, the elevation of the negro and the subjugation and abasement of the whites.Murder_Of_George_W._Ashburn-001

The condition of the affairs in the South is deplorable. Nearly all concur with this opinion. Thinking men in the North fear that the murder of Ashburn, and the other acts of the Ku-Klux Klan, are but precursors of the “war of races” in the Southern States, of which so much had been said during the last two or three years. Many of the opponents of the reconstruction measures of Congress appear to be of the opinion also that a war of races is inevitable. They expect to see internecine conflicts, and a harvest of blood and rapine follow the policy pursued at present in the South. The organizations of these secret associations are very suggestive at the present time.  (Deseret News, April 23, 1868)

According to Cannon, the Loyal Leagues, (also known as the Union League) were more dangerous than the KKK. And what was the Union League? According to wiki,

Freedman's_bureau

Anti-Black Propaganda 1869

The Union Leagues were a group of mens clubs established during the American Civil War to promote loyalty to the Union, the Republican Party, and the policies of Abraham Lincoln. They were also known as Loyal Leagues. They were composed of upper middle class members who provided financial support for organizations such as the United States Sanitary Commission, which provided medical supplies to treat wounded soldiers after battle. The Clubs supported the Republican Party, with funding, organizational support, and political activism.

During Reconstruction, Union Leagues were formed across the South after 1867 as working auxiliaries of the Republican Party. They mobilized freedmen to register to vote and to vote Republican. They discussed political issues, promoted civic projects, and mobilized workers opposed to certain employers. Most branches were segregated but there were a few that were racially integrated. The leaders of the all-black units were mostly urban blacks from the North, who had never been slaves. Foner (p 283) says “virtually every Black voter in the South had enrolled.”

The Union or Loyal League

The Union or Loyal League had a dual agenda that caused problems

The activities of the Union League in the defeated South during the early Reconstruction years did not meet with much favor among local whites. There, the Union League was dominated by Radical Republicans intent on controlling the black vote and disenfranchising white Democrats, in particular former Confederate soldiers whom they characterized as traitors. Historian Walter Lynwood Fleming asserts that the Union/Loyal League was successful in driving a wedge between blacks and Southern whites where little animus had existed, and used methods of political and violent intimidation—similar to those later used by the first Ku Klux Klan—to destroy the influence of Southern whites in politics and with blacks.

Interesting that Cannon would say that the organization that supported “the elevation of the negro” or civil rights for blacks, (and was not accused of being behind any murders) was more dangerous than the one that did not.

Also interesting, is that the Church thought it important enough to publish a “manifesto” devoted to rationalizing the Ku-Klux Klan in The Millennial Star a month after Cannon’s article appeared in the Deseret News.  This article claims that,

Millennial Star, May 15, 1868

Millennial Star, May 15, 1868

While citizens of the United States can only become members of the Ku Klux Klan, radicals, infidels, and negroes cannot become members of the Ku Klux Klan; for the meaning of the term is a Circle of Friends, the sole object of which is the perpetuity of constitutional liberty. The organization of the Ku Klux Klan originated from a necessity—the result of radical legislation and the formation of the secret political orders of the “Loyal League” and the “Grand Army of the Republic;” consequently the Ku Klux Klan is the effect of radical despotism and injustice. … The Ku Klux Klan is, therefore, a secret political organization, the result of necessity, the sole object of which is to thwart radicalism, arrest negro domination in the South, negro equality in the North, perpetuate the Federal Union, and preserve the constitution as the fathers made it. And whoever asserts to the contrary utters falsehood. That the Ku Klux Klan have secrets unknown to the uninitiated is not denied; so have the ancient orders of Free Masonry, Odd-Fellowship, and other secret orders and societies; but like Free Masonry and Odd-Fellowship the objects of the Ku Klux Klan have thus far been for the first time promulgated. The incredulous and guilty may carp and misrepresent; but the wicked, the ungodly, and perjured, will soon feel the keen edge of the sickle and the invisible boring of the white ant. (Millennial Star, Vol. 30, No. pp. 342-343, May 15, 1868).

Harper's Weekly, November, 1869

Harper’s Weekly, November, 1869

On May 30th, the Star published another article on Secret Societies in which they mention the Ku Klux Klan, along with the proclaimed enemies of the Klan, The Grand Army of the Republic and the Loyal League.  The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization that was composed of Civil War Veterans, (hardly a secret society) and was never linked to any violence, though it did back the Republican Party.

Though the intentions of the Union League were good, the movement in the South was mostly dominated by radical Republicans, who used some of the same tactics as the Klan (such as violent intimidation), but it died out as a political organization by 1870. It is simply illogical to say though, that this organization was involved in “subjugation and abasement of the whites, since that would go against their own interests. In fact, the term “scalawag” or “carpetbagger” meant someone who was only out for their own interests (mostly northerners) and they were for the most part, white men. Obviously, to Cannon, racial equality meant that the whites would be subjugated and abased.

Chapters of the Union League in the United States continue to exist, and have been instrumental in promoting charity work and projects like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, funding the Statue of Liberty pedestal, and Grant’s Tomb.Freedman's_Bureau_Rations

The existence of these organizations according to the Star article was a “sure sign, among others, of the speedy downfall of that once prosperous and mighty Republic “(the United States). “The Ku Klux Klan, the Loyal League and the Grand Army of the Republic” the article claims, “all secret, oath-bound orders, are spreading fear and dismay through the North and South” and “the overthrow of any nation where they are allowed to exist is only a matter of time.”

The article then mentions the murder of Mr. Ashburn, who was killed by armed and masked men “supposed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan.” It then states that “The Grand Army of the Republic and the Loyal League appear to be in the interest of the Radical party [Republicans], and we shall doubtless soon hear of dark deeds and bloody reprisals on their part.” The article tells “the Saints of God to keep free from all secret combinations and political associations” and that if the United States only repents the Lord will “give them power to search out and destroy those secret combinations.”

This article also states that God “permitted” Satan to work among the Nephites and Jaredites with his “secret and wicked suggestions and deceptions by which such bands as Gadiantons were organized, and the same measure which a guilty people had meted out to God’s Prophets, was measured to them again pressed down and running over.”

Freedmen's Bureau_whites&blacks

A Race War seemed inevitable, but never happened in spite of Mormon prophecy

The article also states that “the United States is guilty of shedding the innocent blood of the Prophet Joseph Smith and many of the Latter-day Saints, and of striving to accomplish the destruction of the people of God,” and that “the Lord is now bestowing upon them the reward of their wickedness.” They predict that if the United States continues “in their present course, their present troubles will increase, secret combinations will multiply among them, their leaders will fall by the hand of treachery, party feuds and a war of races will waste them away.”

The article also links these secret societies to Cain, claiming that “the oaths and covenants of the secret order which was established among the Jaredites, and afterwards among the Nephites and Lamanites, were the same that were had in the days of Cain, who received them from the Father of Evil.”

“It is interesting”, claims this article “to watch the progress of events in the United States, the great nation of the Gentiles, so frequently referred to in the Book [of Mormon] and to see in the gradual fulfilment of its predictions, a repetition of the same incidents and occurrences which it describes. The old secret combinations of the Gadiantons are revived, and an era of bloodshed and terror is re-inaugurated. The Chief Magistrate of the nation was smitten down in the midst of his friends in the very hour of his triumph, like Pahoran upon the judgement seat, and secret, oath-bound orders, like that which planned his death, are now bringing about similar destruction to that which overtook the Jaredite and Nephite nations upon the same land.”

Assassination of Lincoln, Currier & Ives

Assassination of Lincoln, Currier & Ives

So what is this article decrying then? So called secret societies that “lead to the shedding of blood”; certainly not racism. Joseph Smith had himself predicted that “slaves shall rise up against their masters” which would be part of a war that would be “poured out upon all nations” (D&C 76). It seems that they would help sweep the “wicked Gentiles” off the American Continent, until there were non left but the Mormons and the Indians. Parley P. Pratt was so certain that this would happen by the date Joseph Smith gave for the return of Jesus Christ that he gave a prophecy about it, declaring that if it did not come true, the Book of Mormon was false:

Concerning prophecy, he [LaRoy Sunderland – Zion’s Watchman] remarks that “it cannot be proved, that one prediction in that book, which is not taken from the bible, was written before the event, said to be described.” Again he says, “there are no predictions, peculiar to this book, yet to be fulfilled, no names of persons or places, or periods of time, are referred to, by which anything definite can be known, as to what is meant by the jargon of Mormon Prophets.” Now, Mr. La Roy Sunderland, we will prove to the world that this in one of the most barefaced falsehoods ever uttered by man. The Book of Mormon contains many prophecies, yet future, with names, places, and dates, so definite, that a child may understand; indeed, it is one of the peculiar characteristics of the Book of Mormon, that its predictions are plain, simple, definite, literal, positive and very express, as to the time of their fulfilment. Notice a prediction of Nephi, page 125, second edition. “For after the book of which I have spoken, shall come forth, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many, which shall believe the words which are written, and they shall carry them forth, unto the remnant of our seed, (the Indians) and then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us; how that we came on from Jerusalem; and that they are the descendants of the Jews; and the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be declared among them; wherefore they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers; and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers; and then shall they rejoice for they shall know, that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God. And their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people. And it shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ, shall also be a delightsome people; and it shall come to pass, that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth. * * * For the time speedily cometh, that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy, and he will spare his people.”

Also page 121, 2d edition. “Behold that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof: for the kingdom of the devil must shake; and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance. or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger and perish; for behold at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.”

Also, page 122 2nd edition. “Woe unto all those who tremble and are angry, because of the truth of God; for behold he that is built upon the rock, receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth, lest he shall fall.” Also. page 123 2nd edition. “Woe be unto the Gentiles, says the Lord God of Hosts; for notwithstanding I shall lengthen out my arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me.” See also, page 514, and read the fate of our nation, and the fate of the Indians of America; in the day that the Gentiles should reject the fullness of the gospel.–(The Book of Mormon.) See also, page 526, where a sign is given, and the time clearly set for the restoration and gathering of Israel from their long dispersion, namely, the coming forth the Book of Mormon, should be the sign; and in the day this work should come forth, SHOULD THIS GREAT EVENT COMMENCE among all nations. Also, p. 527, where all who will not hearken to the Book of Mormon, shall be cut off from among the people; and that too, in the day it comes forth to the Gentiles and is rejected by them. And not only does this page set the time for the overthrow of our government and all other Gentile governments on the American continent, but the way and means of this utter destruction are clearly foretold; namely, the remnant of Jacob will go through among the Gentiles and tear them in pieces. like a lion among the flocks of sheep. Their hand shall be lifted up upon their adversaries, and all their enemies shall be cut off. This destruction includes an utter overthrow, and desolation of all our Cities, Forts, and Strong Folds–an entire annihilation of our race, except such as embrace the Covenant, and are numbered with Israel.Parley_P_Pratt_Predicts_End_Of_The_World

Now, Mr. Sunderland, you have something definite and tangible, the time, the manner, the means, the names, the dates; and I will state as a prophecy, that there will not be an unbelieving Gentile upon this continent 50 years hence; and if they are not greatly scourged, and in a great measure overthrown, within five or ten years from this date, then the Book of Mormon will have proved itself false. And furthermore, as Mr. LaRoy Sunderland has lied concerning the truth of Heaven, the fulness of the Gospel; and has blasphemed against the word of God, except he speedily repent, and acknowledge his lying and wickedness, and obey the message of eternal truth, which God has sent for the salvation of his people. God will smite him dumb, that he can no longer speak great swelling words against the Lord; and a trembling shall seize his nerves, that he shall not be able to write; and Zion’s Watchman shall cease to be published abroad, and its lies shall no longer deceive the public; and he will wander a vagabond on the earth, until sudden destruction shall overtake him; and if Mr. La Roy Sunderland enquires, when shall these things be? I reply, it is nigh thee–even at thy doors; and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I hope Mr. Sunderland, will no more complain of the jargon of the Mormon Prophets being unintelligible or indefinite. (Parley P. Pratt, Mormonism Unveiled, 1838, p.14 – p.16)

There never was any interest in rebutting the admitted aim of the Ku Klux Klan, which their manifesto stated was to oppose “negro equality and negro domination”, and to promote “white men, and white men alone [who] are the comprehensive exponents of constitutional liberty, and must and will exclusively rule and govern the American republic.” This is exactly in line with what Brigham Young stated when he said that,

There is not one of the seed of old Cane that is permitted to rule & reign over the seed of Abel And you nor I cannot Help it. … The Devil would like to rule part of the time But I am determin He shall not rule at all and Negros shall not rule us. I will not admit of the Devil ruling at all. I will not Consent for the seed of Cane to vote for me or my Brethren. If you want to know why we did not speak of it in the Constitution it was because it was none of their Business. Any man is a Citizens Black white or red and if the Jews Come here with a part of the [p.99] Canaanite Blood in them they are Citizens & shall have their rights but not to rule for me or my Brother.  … The Canaanite cannot have wisdom to do things as the white man has. We must guard against all Evil. I am not going to let this people damn themselves as long as I can help it.

This was the reason for the Priesthood ban, which went hand in hand with the doctrine that Joseph Smith was teaching from the Bible since 1836:

“DEAR SIR: —This place (Kirtland) having recently been visited by a gentleman who advocated the principles or doctrines of those who are called ABOLITIONISTS, and his presence having created an interest in that subject, if you deem the following reflections of any service, or think they will have a tendency to correct the opinions of

"let loose upon the world"

“let loose upon the world a community of people who might… overrun our country and violate…chastity and virtue…”

the Southern public,…you are at liberty to give them publicity… I FEAR that the sound might go out, that ‘an Abolitionist’ had held forth several times to this community,…all, except a very few, attended to their own vocations, and left the gentleman to hold forth his own arguments to nearly naked walls. I am aware that many, who PROFESS to preach the Gospelcomplain against their brethren of the same faith, who reside in the South, and are ready to withdraw the hand of fellowship, because they will not renounce the principle of slavery, and raise their voice against every thing of the kind. This must be a tender point, and one which should call forth the candid reflections of all men, and more especially before they advance in an opposition calculated to lay waste the fair states of the South, and let loose upon the world a community of people, who might, peradventure, OVERRUN OUR COUNTRY, AND VIOLATE THE MOST SACRED PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN SOCIETY, CHASTITY AND VIRTUE…. I do not believe that the people of the North have any more right to say that the South shall not hold slaves, than the South have to say the North shall. “How any community can ever be excited with the CHATTER of such persons, boys and others, who are too indolent to obtain their living by honest industry, and are incapable of pursuing any occupation of a professional nature, is unaccountable to me; and when I see persons in the free states, signing documents against slavery, it is no less, in my mind, than an army of influence, and a DECLARATION OF HOSTILITIES, against the people of the South. What course can sooner divide our union? “After having expressed myself so freely upon this subject, I do not doubt, but those who have been forward in raising their voices against the South, will cry out against me as being uncharitable, unfeeling, unkind, and wholly unacquainted with the Gospel of Christ….the first mention we have of SLAVERY is found in the Holy Bible,… And so far from that prediction being averse to the mind of God, it remains as a lasting monument of the DECREE OF JEHOVAH, to the shame and confusion of all who HAVE CRIED OUT against the South, in consequence of their holding the sons of Ham in SERVITUDE…. I can say, the CURSE IS NOT YET TAKEN OFF FROM THE SONS OF CANAAN, neither will be until it is affected by as great a power as caused it to come; and the people who INTERFERE THE LEAST WITH THE PURPOSES OF GOD in this matter, will come under the LEAST CONDEMNATION BEFORE HIM; and those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the DECREES OF THE LORD, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do his own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by His counsel.” (Letter from Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, April 9, 1836, for the Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 2, No. 7, pp. 289-291. See also, History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol. 2, pages 436-438)

The Phantom blames the whole Priesthood Ban on events that involved William McCary, but if that is so, then how did this article appear in the Times and Seasons only 8 months after Joseph Smith’s death:

After the flood and after Ham had dishonored the holy priesthood, Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his younger son Ham, had done unto him. And, as the priesthood descended from father to son, he delivered the following curse and blessing, as translated by King James’ wise men and recorded in Genesis:

“And he said, cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.”

“And he said, blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.”

“God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.”

History and common observation show that these predictions have been fulfilled to the letter. The descendants of Ham, besides a BLACK SKIN which has ever been a curse that has followed an apostate of the holy priesthood, as well as A BLACK HEART, have been servants to both Shem and Japheth, and the abolitionists are trying to make void the curse of God, but it will require more power than man possesses to counteract the decrees of eternal wisdom.

Again Shem or his descendants were blessed with receiving the revelations, prophets, and Savior:-A blessing truly which even the most sagacious infidel has not been able to explain away.

Again, Japheth has dwelt in Shem’s tent, both in the land of Canaan and in America; for “tents” is a figurative expression which in Hebrew, would signify the residence or abode.

noahs-sonsNow our short chapter will soon end, for the Savior said Jerusalem should be trodden down till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, and the very movement of every nation shows the eternal truth of the above quoted passage of scripture. It frustrates the designs of sectarians; it chokes the deists; astonishes the world, and delights the saints-Amen. (Times and Seasons, April 1, 1845, Vol. 6 No. 6, pg. 857)

At that time John Taylor was the editor of the Times and Seasons. The Phantom then tries to enlighten us with a little history lesson:

Well, that was then and this is now. Except the LDS church has never authoritatively justified, apologized for, or retracted the many boldly racist theories and observations its leadership at least in singular cases has made over the generations. Was it racism in the dictionary sense? Yes, in many cases it was, but not because of the priesthood restriction itself so much, as Mormon leadership’s clearly human and bigoted attempts to rationalize this vaguely canonical restriction by inventing supplemental folk-doctrine and applying faulty and biased “scientific” or “empirical” evidence to prove the Negro race deserving of the ban. They did this, because otherwise, the[y] knew either they or God would look petty and unfair.

The curse of Cain is however, still stuck solid in the Christian canon. Christians interpreted the curse to be a black skin and being a perpetual slave. It’s clarified to mean only a restriction from the priesthood in Mormon canon. But you’re stuck with a scriptural curse on Cain and his descendants either way. If none of the Mormon canon existed you’d still have an accursed Cain. God’s curse was indeed Biblically argued as justification for institutionalizing American slavery–but not by Joseph Smith or the Mormons. That was Christian America who did that. Until they killed him for it, Ol’ Joe Smith was in fact running for US president on an Abolitionist platform.

DetailPortRoyalSouthCarolinaSlaveQuartersLOCLC-DIG-cwpb-00806sliderpanelActually, I just proved that Joseph Smith taught the Curse of Cain from the scriptures in 1836, and was against Abolitionism. And isn’t the curse of the black skin still in the Book of Mormon, and the curse of Cain doctrine still in the Book of Abraham? In fact, Smith would repeat his views against Abolitionism in 1838:

“Are the Mormons abolitionists?” No, unless delivering the people from priestcraft, and the priests from the power of Satan, should be considered abolition. But we do not believe in setting the negroes free (History of the Church, vol. 3, p. 29).

And this view was even canonized in 1835:

12. We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them, contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor to meddle with, or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men: interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every Government allowing human beings to be held in servitude. (1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Section CII. Of Governments and Laws in General.)

sustain the prophetAs for his presidential platform, that too is a myth. Smith actually opposed Abolitionism, even then:

“On the annexation of Texas, some object. The anti-Mormons are good fellows. I say it in anticipation they will repent. {page 23} Object to Texas on account of slavery. Tis the very reason why she should be received.

“Houston says, ‘Gentleman, if you refuse to receive us we must go to the British’ and the first thing they will do will be to set the negroes and indians [against us] and they will use us up. British officers running all over Texas to pick a quarrel with us — more honorable for us to receive them [Texas]and set the negroes free and use the negro and indians against our foes.

“Don’t let Texas go lest our Mother and the daughters of the land will laugh us {page 24} in the teeth. If these things are not so God never spoke by any prophet since the world began. I have been [several lines left blank] ] south held the balance of power &c. by annexing Texas, I can do away this evil liberate 2 or 3 states and if that was not sufficient, call in Canada.

Send the negroes to Texas [and] from Texas to Mexico where all colors are alike. Notice was given for the Relief Society to meet Saturday 2 P.M. to adopt “the voice of Innocence from Nauvoo” (Joseph Smith Diary, Feb. 8, 1844, Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.456-7)

negro-soldiers-fort-wagner“Use the negro and indians against our foes”. Make them equal, but separate. Of course this would not really be equal if they were forced from American Society and restricted to a country of their own, would it? He even disses the Hispanics. This is ample proof that Joseph’s views about equalization were simply politics.

Texas came into the Union as a Slave State. Smith was all for it. Smith claimed that some “objected” to Texas being admitted to the union on account of slavery, but said that “THIS WAS THE VERY REASON WHY SHE SHOULD BE RECEIVED”, and was for freeing the slaves ONLY to use against a British Invasion. And how would Smith use the negroes and Indians against our foes if they did not want to fight? Make it a condition of freedom? How is that not slavery? But he was still against intermarriage, so he was still a racist:

Thursday, Feb[ruary] 8[th] 1844 [several lines left blank] Court trial on 2 negroes trying to marry white women. Fined 1, $25.00 and 1, $5.00. Evening had a political Meeting in the assembly room and Br[other] Phelps publicly read my views of the Gen[eral] Government for the first time. Elders Hyde and Taylor made a speech and myself also.(An American Prophet’s Record)

A 19th Century interracial familyHad anything changed by 1920? No, the Church was still against any political organizations that used violence to promote their agendas, not because of racism, but because they were linked to the political secret societies mentioned in the Book of Mormon, which were supposedly all “of the devil”.  We then have the Phantom giving us a few snips from a Deseret News article from 1920. Will it condemn racism? Or will it only condemn methods? Here is what Phantom writes,

The Church owned “Deseret News” calls the KKK “an insult and a menace to orderly government” that would lead “to riot and bloodshed.”—1920s  (See Deseret News, 23 Dec., 1920)

The article states that,

“The organization is being worked out along somewhat different lines than was its predecessor of the same name years ago, but its object is avowedly the same—to maintain white supremacy. What means may be taken to attain this object will depend upon circumstances.”

The article then goes on to describe the methods of the “new” Klan, which they say “keep the superstitious negroes trembling with fear.”

The article then states that “In Virginia, for example it is pointed out that the negroes are for the most part well behaved and peaceable. Revival of the Ku Klux Klan will stir up far more trouble than it will cure—trouble that may speedily develop into riot and bloodshed.”Killing Blacks Antebellum South-001

Nowhere does the article state that the Deseret News condemns the racism of the Klan or their white supremacy views, only their methods, and even adds that the Klansmen “should realize they are proceeding in a wrong way to attain these ideals and that the method they seem to have adopted, following the same lines as the organization of years ago, is an insult and a menace to orderly government.” Again, method was at the heart of the objections to the Klan.

By 1921, the Klan had made inroads into Utah, and so Church “Authorities” spoke up. The Klan was not rejected by the Mormon people outright. As Kerry William Bate writes,

The Ku Klux Klan first organized in Utah in 1921, and after some initial struggles, false starts, and internal feuding, chapters sprung up statewide. There were fiery evidences of its success; crosses were burned in Ogden and on Salt Lake’s Ensign Peak, as well as in little hamlets and burgs throughout the state: Eureka, Tooele, Dividend, Centerville, Magna, Brigham City, Bingham, West, Jordan, Helper, Spring Glen, Richfield. The movie Birth of a Nation perpetuated the Klan’s mystique: the “problems” facing native Utahns in the 1920s gave it an immediate and practical impetus.

One of the first causes of Klan activity was hatred of southern European immigrants who were seen as Catholic, heavy drinking, whoring unionists who, if allowed to run lose, would bring Bolshevism or worse upon the state. Consequently, the KKK was most successful in areas where mining had attracted immigrants. Working closely with Masonic orders, the Klan had such a high profile that Cedar City’s college debated it as a timely issue of the day.

Once organized, the Ku Klux Klan began a campaign to gain political power in the state. On the surface, it might have seemed an easy thing, for besides the xenophobia of the local culture, racism was so acceptable that social clubs held “Nigger Night” in LDS wardhouses, and it was commonly believed that Anglo-Saxons were morally, mentally, and socially superior. The emergence of a successful immigrant entrepreneurial class further fueled resentment and seemed to guarantee Klan success in the Beehive state.

In some ways it was successful. Plenty of cross burnings indicated to immigrants that life in Utah meant they should be quiet, submissive, and fearful. Blacks were terrorized. Catholics intimidated, and in Price it was demanded that only “American” be spoken. (Perhaps English was too difficult for Utah natives.)kkk-cross-burning

Politically, the Klan made some impressive inroads. They helped defeat an Ogden mayor and were credited with a sweep of their candidates in Salt Lake City. They controlled Helper’s government, infiltrated the Salt Lake County Republican Party (pro-Klan editorials appeared in one Republican newspaper), and there were Klan sympathizers or members in several different law enforcement agencies.

These frightening successes mobilized anti-Klan sentiment. The objects of Klan hatred responded with outrage. A rally in Ogden was disrupted: despite secrecy and masks, many Klan members were identified and their businesses boycotted; the Klan’s concrete platform in Carbon County was dynamited; and Catholics burned circles in contempt for the blazing crosses.

Newspapers joined in the castigation of KKK activities. The unrelenting hostility of the Ogden Standard-Examiner practically destroyed it in that community. The Logan Journal classified the Klan with “anarchists and Bolshevists. Other papers ran letters from missionaries serving in the South, who pointed out that the Klan in that region was still harassing Mormons.

Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Logan passed anti-mask ordinances which were more successful in interrupting Halloween and de-bearding Santa Claus than they were in unmasking the KKK. but which resulted in giving the Klan the unenviable reputation as the organization that banned Santa.

One is tempted to believe the Klan was laughed out of existence, but it was not that simple. Another, stronger power structure took on the Utah Klan and overpowered it. That power structure was Mormonism. (Sunstone, Volume 7, September-October 1982, p. 66)birth-of-nation-movie-poster-big

But what exactly did they object to? The Klan’s racist ideology? Here is Charles Nibley at the October General Conference of 1921:

There are great problems also before our nation, which demand solution; they are burning, pressing questions which must be solved, and which can only be solved on the principles of righteousness. These principles will help to adjust the jarring, warring, contentious problems which selfishness very largely produces, and which can only be solved through the principles that the Lord has revealed. It is not in man that walks, to guide his steps aright. It is not in man of his own power to solve these problems, nor can any man do it of himself alone. It is only by the help of the Spirit of the Almighty that will bring us to the point where justice and righteousness can at least approximately be approached. We have had contentions in our own nation during the recent months of railroad strikes, coal strikes, and other contentions that have threatened the very existence of our government; and also there have grown up in our nation, secret organizations, combinations of men, no doubt desiring to protect their own selfish interests, even though those interests should conflict with the strict principles of justice. Some of these organizations like the Ku Klux Klan have undertaken to administer what they call justice, independent of Constitutional law, and the rights of men, and they have taken the law into their own hands and have dealt with certain people in a way which can only result in disorder, turmoil, strife, and in the breaking down of Constitutional law. For these Secret organizations undertake to administer punishment upon men and women, irrespective of the laws of the land.negroes-discussing-political-rights

It has been the counsel of the leaders of this Church from the beginning, to observe the Constitutional law of the land, and it is stated in the revelations that whatsoever is more than this or less than this, cometh of evil. We do not need anything outside of this strict letter of the law, for if we do go beyond it, or come tardy of it, we are liable to make a mistake. The agency that the Lord has given to his sons and daughters was given to all — the free agency to choose between right and wrong, and that agency makes us free, for the Lord has said, “If ye abide in my truth, then are ye free indeed.” Now, whenever any man enters any organization, secret or otherwise, that takes from him a certain degree of that free agency to choose between right and wrong, and makes of him a servant, to do as he is told in certain matters, quite irrespective of the righteousness or justice of the case, or of the right or wrong of the case, then that man surrenders that much of his free agency which he ought not under any circumstances to surrender. (Charles W. Nibley, Conference Report, October 1922, p.37)

Nibley does not mention anything about the Klan’s racist agenda. He only mentions that they take the law into their own hands, and therefore this is what results in “disorder, turmoil, strife and the breaking down of Constitutional Law. The Phantom then give us this quote by the Deseret News from 1921:

“So far as its operations are known–its secrecy, its mummery, its terrorism, its lawlessness–it is condemned…These mountain communities of ours have no place whatever for it in their social scheme of things…[he who tries to establish it among us] should be made emphatically to understand that his local endeavors will be worse than wasted, and his objects [goals] are detested, and his [absence] is preferred to his company. The people of Utah have no taste or patience for such criminal nonsense…”—1921 (See Deseret News, July 23, 1921)

Lots of ellipses in this quote. Seems to be a trend with the Phantom. The relevant section of the article without the ellipsis reads,

So far as its operations are known—its secrecy, its mummery, its terrorism, its lawlessness- it is to be condemned as inimical to the peace, order and dignity of the commonwealth.

Nothing here about racism. Again, this addresses the Klan’s methods, (as Charles Nibley did in Conference) not their racism. We are then told, according to the Phantom:

Because of the Church’s condemnation of the KKK, the KKK “Grand Wizard” of Wyoming considers the Church it’s “greatest enemy.” “In the Realm of Utah and scattered over the West in general, we have another enemy, which is more subtle and far more cunning [than other anti-KKK groups] in carrying its efforts against this organization…the Latter-day Saint Religion!”—1923 (See Papers Read at the Meetings of Grand Dragons, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, 1923, pp.112-3)Papers Read at the Meeting of Grand Dragons Knights of the Ku Klux Klan at Their First Annual Meeting Held at Asheville, North Carolina, July 1923, pages 112-113.

Here we have another case of misquoting. If one reads what is actually written in the Book cited, there is no way that the Klan considered the Mormon Church to be its “greatest enemy”, and the Grand Wizard says nothing at all about the Church’s “condemnation” of the Klan:

In addition to the Roman Catholicism, in the Realm of Utah and scattered over the west in general, we have another enemy, which is more subtile and far more cunning in carrying out his efforts against this organization.

They have excellent schools, well conducted but build their church in the same yard with the school and where this is not possible use the schoolhouse itself for religious purpose, teaching the Latter Day Saints religion constantly in the class room, ever keeping in mind the power that is exerted on American youths, yet avoiding all external appearance of being un-American.

The Mormons are unlike the Catholics in marriage, seeking rather than avoiding, the inter-marriage of their women with Protestant men, thereby hoping for conversions and the concentration of capital into their strongholds. Let us study this situation and make a decision just what is the best method to pursue.

The history of Mormon political activity has always been along the line of showing favors where something was to be obtained for their personal benefit. The first marked recorded instance of this action occurred at Nauvoo, Ill., back in 1841 when the Prophet Joseph Smith and Dr. Bennett a smooth politician, secured the Charter for the city of Nauvoo and the Nauvoo Legion, giving them military control greater than in any part of the state as though they were a separate part of the state of Illinois.

They set at naught the laws of the land when the same conflict with their teachings even going so far as to practice polygamy and other things that are equally distasteful to the majority of American citizens. Claiming they have a right to do so because the head of their church, according to their belief, is in direct communication with God.

A case is now on trial in the state of Utah to test the law with regard to whether a candidate who has been elected to office through ecclesiastical influence can hold the office to which he has been elected. Through intrigue it now looks as though the law has a good chance to be set aside in order to carry out the wishes of the heads of the Mormon church.

Instead of including the entire paragraph, Phantom (and whoever originally put this quote together) just uses ellipses to make the KKK say what he wants them to say. Some would call this dishonest.Go to the TopBirth_of_a_Nation_poster_2

III. Nameless Oracles?

In 1870, Brigham Young preached a sermon to the assembled Latter-day Saints in the newly constructed Salt Lake Tabernacle, and said:

“I will make a statement here that has been brought against me as a crime, perhaps, or as a fault in my life. Not here, I do not allude to anything of the kind in this place, but in the councils of the nations—that Brigham Young has said “when he sends forth his discourses to the world they may call them Scripture.” I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible, and if you want to read revelation read the sayings of him who knows the mind of God…” (Brigham Young, October 6, 1870. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 264)

As far as the Tabernacle (this place) is concerned, in 1952 Stephen L. Richard, then First Councilor to David O. Mckay, stated:

“In the providence of the Lord, this pulpit has never been any one man’s forum. Rather it has been the oracle of a divine dispensation where the cause has overshadowed the man, where humility has higher rating than self-assurance, where worship is measured in deeds rather than protestations.

Ponder for a moment, my brethren and sisters, and all who listen, the glorious and vital truths which have been proclaimed in this building — the nature and composition of the Godhead, the organization of the universe, the history and placement of man in the earth, his purpose in living, and the divine destiny set for him, the laws governing his conduct and his eligibility for exaltation in the celestial presence the true concept of family life in the eternal progression of the race, the truth about liberty and the place of governments in the earth, the correct concept of property, its acquisition and distribution, the sure foundations for peace, brotherhood, and universal justice. All these elemental things, and many others incident thereto, have been the burden of the message of truth which has come from this building through the generations.

…What confidence and assurance it brings to us to know that our men and women of today, surrounded by an environment radically different from that of our forebears who brought this great building into existence, proclaim the same doctrine as did they. How upsetting it would be if we had to choose between the principles and doctrines of their time and ours. We in this Tabernacle hear the same message as did the people in Kirtland and Nauvoo.Salt Lake Tabernacle

It is true that methods and practices change. They have done in the past, and they may be expected to in the future. It is within the province of a receptive priesthood, obedient to the inspiration of our Father, to adopt and adjust methods, looking toward the advancement of his kingdom. It is also within the province of his chosen servants to interpret and apply the law, but they will never change it, for the law of God is eternal.

… In all humility I bear witness that here is the seat of the government of the kingdom of God, here is the place where the authorized servants of our Lord are sustained and confirmed by the voice of the people. Here in this venerated Tabernacle has every President of the Church, save only one been upheld as prophet, seer, and revelator, and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From here has gone forth the law out of Zion, and the blessings, the love and compassion of the servants of the Lord for his children.

Every portion of the building was dedicated that it might fulfill its sacred purpose. Listen to the words regarding this historic rostrum, where my associates of the General Authorities of the Church now sit in your presence: “And we dedicate and consecrate that portion of this house where our president and thy servants now are, to be a holy and sacred place wherein thy servants may stand forth to declare thy words and minister unto thy people in the name of thy Son forever….

“May thy holy angels and ministering spirits be in and round about this habitation, that when thy servants are called upon to stand in these sacred places, to minister unto thy people, the visions of eternity may be open to their view, and they may be filled with the spirit and inspiration of the Holy Ghost and the gift and power of God; and let all thy people who hearken to the words of thy servants drink freely at the fountain of the waters of life that they may become wise unto salvation, and thereby overcome the world and be prepared for an everlasting inheritance in the celestial kingdom of our God….

“We pray thee to bless the Twelve Apostles; fill them with the spirit of their office and calling, clothe them with the intelligence of heaven, the light of revelation, and the gift and power of God.”  (President Stephen L. Richard, Conference Report, April 1952, p.43-49).

As for the changing nature of Mormon Doctrine mentioned by Richard, see Salt Lake City Messenger, Joseph Smith’s Changing Scriptures, no. 116 (May 2011).

This claim to know the mind of God and that his discourses were “good as scripture”, was not an idle boast by Brigham Young, who made this claim on more than one occasion.

In an earlier address, Young said:

Well, brethren and sisters, try and be Saints. I will try; I have tried many years to live according to the law which the Lord reveals unto me. I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom, as I know the road to my office. It is just as plain and easy. The Lord is in our midst. He teaches the people continually. I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually. In the days of Joseph, revelation was given and written, and the people were driven from city to city and place to place, until we were led into these mountains. Let this go to the people with “Thus saith the Lord,” and if they do not obey it, you will see the chastening hand of the Lord upon them. But if they are plead with, and led along like children, we may come to understand the will of the Lord and He may preserve us as we desire. (Journal of Discourses Vol. 13,  p.139, January 2, 1870).

But do the collected sermons of Brigham Young and other Mormon ‘General Authorities’, compiled in the Journal of Discourses and other publications qualify as Mormon doctrine? As with many other aspects of the Mormon Church, this view has changed over time. In recent years, the Mormon Church has made official declarations concerning the Journal of Discourses, (one of the greatest collection of early sermons in print) the most recent of which can be found on the Church’s official website:

“The Journal of Discourses is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a compilation of sermons and other materials from the early years of the Church, which were transcribed and then published. It included some doctrinal instruction but also practical teaching, some of which is speculative in nature and some of which is only of historical interest.” ( This quote can be found here).

But this has not always been the case, as we shall see below. Most Mormons today have a view of the Journal of Discourses as untrustworthy, error-filled, second-hand speeches that are of little consequence except perhaps for their historical value. In comparing them to recent General Conference Addresses, a poster on an LDS Social Network Forum put it this way:

The JOD are not necessarily the same as conference talks. They were written by second hand witnesses, and not by the speaker. Nor were they approved or edited by the apostles, and they were never sustained or approved by the body of the church. So, they are useful from a historic standpoint, but are in no way considered declarations of truth, as the Ensign transcripts are.(This quote can be found here).

Mormons seem to have convinced themselves that the Journal of Discourses are no longer a “vehicle of doctrine”, as Brigham Young Jr. attested they were in 1867. He said,

Brigham Young, Jr.

Brigham Young, Jr.

Each successive year the power of God is manifestly increasing upon his people, and more especially upon His ministers in the Holy Priesthood, whose duty it is to build up and instruct the Church in His most holy will. The “Journal of Discourses” is a vehicle of doctrine, counsel, and instruction to all people, but especially to the Saints. It follows, then, that each successive volume is more and more valuable as the Church increases in numbers and importance in the earth, and its doctrines become more abundantly developed and are brought into practical exercise by His peculiar people. Every step of its advancement is fraught with the greatest possible importance to the human family. No Saint can afford to do without these precious precepts until they are able to exemplify them in their daily lives and conversation.(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. iii (1867)

But a thorough study of their historical background, and the statements of Mormon Authorities will show that this (that they are not doctrine) is not the case.

On January 2, 1870 Brigham Young said that “the Lord is in our midst”, and that ‘the people have the oracles of God continually.”

Just what are the “oracles of God,” and what is the significance of this expression? The Apostle Paul, in the Book of Romans explains:

“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” (Romans 3:1-3 (KJV)

The New International Version of the Bible translates verse 2 as “the words of God”. So Brigham Young is telling the Saints that they have the words of God continually. Paul’s words in verse three become very important, because it goes to the heart of how the early Mormons viewed their prophets and apostles. Paul tells us, “for what if some did not believe, shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”

In the above quote about the Journal of Discourses by our Mormon friend, we read:

“Nor were they approved or edited by the apostles, and they were never sustained or approved by the body of the church. So, they are useful from a historic standpoint, but are in no way considered declarations of truth, as the Ensign transcripts are.”

We shall find that the first part of this statement is untrue (they were approved and edited as attested to by George D. Watt, See Chapter 6 of The Mormon Passage of George D. Watt), but it is the second part of the statement I wish to focus on.

Does the fact that they were “never sustained or approved by the body of the church” make them any less “declarations of truth”? Are the Conference addresses printed in the Ensign any different in this regard? Paul answers this question with his declaration that “shall their unbelief” (or lack of a church vote) “make the faith of God” (or the statements of His ‘oracles’) “without effect”? Not according to the early Mormon Authorities.

On March 8, 1833 Joseph Smith recorded a “revelation” that has become Section 90 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Here, Smith writes that he has the ‘keys to the kingdom’ and the ‘oracles’:

“Thus saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee, according to thy petition, for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears. Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time. Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come; Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church. And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house.”  (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 90:1-5.  See also, D&C 21:1, 2, 4-6, 5:10, 1:4-5).

Daniel H. Well, Apostle and Second Counselor to Brigham Young explains that Church Authorities are ‘living oracles’:

Daniel Hamner Wells

Daniel Hamner Wells

“We are blessed in having the living oracles in our midst, and in having a standard erected around which we can rally. The Bible is good, and we believe in it more than any other people. The Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants are the word of God, and they contain many precious gems; every line is full of knowledge, intelligence, and truth, and is calculated to be a benefit to us; but yet, above and far beyond all, we have the living oracles in our midst to tell us what to do to-day. A great portion of the Scripture we have was the living oracles to the people in the day in which it was given, and it has become Scripture because it was given by the inspiration of the Almighty. It was applicable to the day in which it was given. We have the living oracles in our midst to give us that which is applicable to our day. Let us make our ways correspond to the Lord’s, for we read that “as high as the heavens are above the earth so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts.” We are blessed in having His ways made known to us, because He knows best. He has more knowledge and understanding and greater ability, and can perform and accomplish more than any other power that exists; and that people only may be said to be blessed who walk in His ways and do His bidding.” (Daniel H. Wells, Journal of Discourses Vol. 13, pages 28-29).

This is not a light claim. The “living” words of God. Marion G. Romney would make perfectly clear what this meant:

“What we get out of general conference is a build-up of our spirits as we listen to those particular principles and practices of the gospel which the Lord inspires the present leadership of the Church to bring to our attention at the time. He knows why he inspired Brother Joseph F. Merrill to give the talk he just gave. He knows why he inspired the other brethren who have talked in this conference to say what they have said. It is our high privilege to hear, through these men, what the Lord would say if he were hereIf we do not agree with what they say, it is because we are out of harmony with the Spirit of the Lord.” (Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, October 1950, p.126)

Apostle John Taylor gives the criteria for all who would “teach the things of God”:

“Well, who were the ancient Apostles? They were men chosen and selected by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Who were these Prophets? Men who were in possession of the spirit of prophecy; and you show me a man who is called and inspired of God to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I will show you a Prophet, for we are told that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy;” and if a man has not the spirit of prophecy and revelation he is not the man to teach the things of God, for that is the principle by which all God’s chosen and authorized ministers in every age have been inspired, and by which they have taught the things of eternal life to the children of men.” ( Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, page 372).

Taylor would also expound on the other ‘General Authorities’ of the Church, and their responsibility:

“And then come the general authorities, who preside over and minister in the affairs of the Church in all the earth. These general quorums are not local, are not limited to any particular Stake or quorum. Their business is to see that the Gospel is preached to the whole world; to impart counsel by the spirit of revelation according to the spirit of their apostleship and calling, as special witnesses and messengers to the world of mankind. These are the First Presidency, and the Twelve Apostles and the Seventies, whose calling and duty is to labor under the direction of the Twelve and bear the gospel to all nations and to regulate the affairs of the Church in all the world. These general authorities are therefore brought before the general conference assembled, for their approval and for them to uphold and sustain by their faith and prayers; and in like manner are they presented at the several Stake conferences so as to reach the masses of the people, to insure the confidence and prayers of the whole people, for whom they minister, and whose eyes are upon them, who are criticising their teachings, their walk and conversation before God and man.

For God proposes to deal with His Church as a whole, and as a whole to hold them responsible to work the works of righteousness and to defend the faith of the everlasting gospel committed to them, and to purify and sanctify the whole Church and see that evil is put away from our midst, whether it be in the family circle or private walks of life, or in its high officials and those who minister in public capacites; in like manner he requires of them to see that all our organizations and municipalities are in a wholesome condition, and are administered with integrity and uprightness before God and the people.

And as mouthpieces of the Almighty and as watchmen upon the walls of Zion, God requires of us his servants, the Apostles, the Elders, the Presidents of Stakes, and the Bishops everywhere, not only to minister in their several callings in a church capacity, but also to instruct officers of every kind intrusted with the municipal affairs of life, that they may be found faithful in magnifying the law and discharging the trust reposed in them in secular affairs as well as ecclesiastical; for civil organizations and powers of civil government are also appointed and ordained of heaven for the welfare of mankind, for the protection of all flesh. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p. 183-4, Apr. 7, 1879).

Wilford Woodruff circa 1880

Wilford Woodruff circa 1880

Wilford Woodruff, would take this thought to the entire Church in 1880:

The Lord, in a revelation given to Orson Hyde and William McClellan in the early days of the Church, in sending them out to preach the Gospel, told them that when they preached they should speak as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and that if they did not have the Holy Spirit to direct them, they were told not to teach. “And,” said the Lord, “when you do speak as you are moved upon by the Holy Ghost, your words are the words of God, they are scripture, and they are the mind of the Lord to the people.” (Sec. 68.) Many have an idea that it is something very strange for men now-a-days to have revelation, and that nobody should have revelation excepting Brother Taylor.

Here, my brethren and sisters, you are upholding the quorum of the Twelve twice a year in General Conference, besides doing so at your quarterly conference, as prophets, seers and revelators, and you pray for them twice a day, and perhaps oftener, and should it be anything very strange if they should receive a revelation? How strange, indeed! There are in this Church some six thousand seventies, and four thousand high priests, and for thousand elders, who hold the Melchisedec priesthood, which is after the order of the Son of God, besides many thousands of priests holding the Aaronic priesthood, and I would like to ask, if it was wrong to desire revelation? What business have we with this priesthood, if we have not power to receive revelation? What is the priesthood given for? If we do not have revelation, it is because we do not live as we should live, because we do not magnify our priesthood as we ought to; if we did we would not be without revelation, none would be barren or unfruitful.

We have one man who holds the keys of the kingdom of God upon the earth, and it is his business to give the word of the Lord for the guidance of the Church. But here we have apostles and men of God, holding the holy priesthood, acting in behalf of the Church in different parts of this Territory, and also in different parts of the earth; and we have men, say, acting as Church agents in Europe, part of whose business it is to charter ships for the transit across the ocean of tens of thousands of the people of God; is it the right of such men to have revelation from the Lord to guide them in their operations? Yes, it is; and no man should undertake to act in positions affecting the interests of Zion, unless he lives so as to be guided and directed by revelations of God.

And every man who presides over a temple should live day by day in the revelations of Jesus Christ. And every seventy, and every high priest, and every man bearing the holy priesthood should live in that way to get revelation to guide and direct him in his labors. This idea that no man has any right to call upon God and receive revelation is wrong, and it has been wrong wherever it has existed in any age of the world. As was said of old, when a complaint was made concerning certain of the elders prophesying in the Camp of Israel, so say I: “I would to God that all were prophets;” because the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.” (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 21, p. 297-98, August 1, 1880).

There is no room in this equation for “folklore”. None. Unless these men are not what they claim to be. Doctrine & Covenants, Section 68, verses 1-5 read:

My servant, Orson Hyde, was called by his ordination to proclaim the everlasting gospel, by the Spirit of the living God, from people to people, and from land to land, in the congregations of the wicked, in their synagogues, reasoning with and expounding all scriptures unto them. And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.

Orson F. Whitney

Orson F. Whitney

In 1916 Apostle Orson F. Whitney would explain “the great distinguishing feature that differentiates God’s Church [Mormonism] from all other churches under the sun”, and that, he says, is “that while they are founded upon books and traditions and the precepts of men, this Church is built upon the rock of Christ, upon the principle of immediate and continuous revelation.” He then concludes:

“The Latter-day Saints do not do things because they happen to be printed in a book. They do not do things because God told the Jews to do them; nor do they do or leave undone anything because of instructions that Christ gave to the Nephites. Whatever is done by this Church is because God, speaking from heaven in our day, has commanded this Church to do it. No book presides over this Church and no book lies at its foundation. You cannot pile up books enough to take the place of God’s priesthood, inspired by the power of the Holy Ghost. That is the constitution of the Church of Christ.” (Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, October 1916, p.56)

Whitney would go on to say,

In saying this, I speak with all due reverence of the written word of God, that which is printed in the books part of which may be obsolete, having fulfilled its purpose and been laid upon the shelf, while the other part is virile, full of life, and applicable to our present state–our present degree of development. But even this part must be interpreted aright. No man ought to contend for what is in the books, in the face of God’s mouthpiece, who speaks for him and interprets his word. To so contend is to defer to the dead letter in preference to the living oracle, which is always a false position. What the Lord said to the Jews and Nephites, two thousand years ago, or what he said to the Latter-day Saints fifty or sixty years ago, has no force whatever at this time, unless it agrees with present-day revelation, with the Lord’s most recent instructions to his people through his chosen or appointed servants or servant; and they who ignore this fact are liable to get into trouble. It is the latest word from God that must be heeded, in preference to any former revelation, however true. The same God who says do thus and so today, can repeal that commandment tomorrow, without being changeable or inconsistent. The legislature, meeting every two years, repeals old laws, or such of its former enactments as have served their purpose; but no one thinks of charging the law makers with inconsistency or self-contradiction. How then can God be considered inconsistent if he says one thing today, and changes it tomorrow, or next month, or next year, in order to suit altered circumstances? He commanded Abraham to slay his son, and Abraham was about to do so, when the same God said: “Lay not thy hand upon the lad.” Abraham was under obligation to carry out the first command, until the second one was given, and then he was under obligation to obey the second command instead of the first; and he would have been a transgressor had he failed.” (ibid, p.57).

This of course is a false dichotomy, because how can you repeal “truth”? This idea of “folklore” simply dismisses the whole reason the church was supposedly set up with “prophets” and “apostles”, and that living “prophets” can repeal truths given by dead “prophets”. This idea has been denied by those very “apostles” and “prophets”. Take this example, given by George Q. Cannon:

When I think of the mighty men that have stood in our midst, filled with the power of God—Prophets and Apostles, whom God chose and whom He honored, and upon whom He bestowed His gifts and graces; and how many of them have worn themselves out preaching to this people, entreating them in the most eloquent

George Q. Cannon

George Q. Cannon

manner, adducing the greatest and strongest reasons that could appeal to our human natures, and revealing to us the mind and will of God, it does seem to me that a terrible responsibility rests upon us if we depart from the path which God has marked out. We can never say we have not been taught, that we have not had opportunities. We can never blame our Father for not imparting to us, in the utmost plainness, and through the demonstration of His Holy Spirit, His word and His counsel. President Young, while he lived, labored indefatigably to the utmost of his ability; never sparing himself, but constantly teaching the people, teaching them with his counsels, and giving them suggestions that are unequalled. I do not know such a record anywhere to be found as even the record of his discourses to this people; and then, think of President Taylor, and the others associated with President Young, and the effect their labors have had in teaching this people.

Now we are brought face to face with this question, shall we take these counsels to heart, shall we listen to the voice of God through his servants which we have heard now these 42 years in these valleys, and follow the direction which they have given concerning the people of Zion, or shall we make a new departure? Shall we throw aside all that we have heretofore been taught as the correct course and policy to be adopted in building up the kingdom of God, shall we throw it aside, cast it behind us and adopt some new principles, some new policy and practice concerning the Zion of our God in the earth? This is a question that is forcing itself upon us. I have seen things already which I never believed I would see; I have witnessed conduct I never believed I would witness. I had hoped better things. I have observed a disposition to disregard the counsels of the servants of God, to turn aside from the path that God has marked out, to spurn that authority which He has said shall reign. I have seen a disposition to bend and bow to the wishes of the world, to take to heart and to partly believe as true the accusations and the misrepresentations and the charges that have been made by the enemies of the Kingdom of God against the [p.349] Kingdom of God and its policy, and against the men whom God has chosen. And today in our midst there is a great amount of falsehood in circulation concerning the truth, concerning the work of God, and concerning the servants of God; and a disposition to believe evil and to misconstrue conduct and counsel and various things of this character.

If this spirit should prevail among the Latter-day Saints it will certainly prove disastrous to those who receive it and afford it a lodgment in their hearts.

I do not think that those who are present today are the ones who are susceptible to this influence—at least very few, if any. Many of those that are absent I am afraid are the ones who ought to be talked to and reasoned with upon this point. The men and women who attend meetings regularly, and who think it important to come here to receive instructions are not the ones, as a rule, who require censuring or reproof; as a general thing they are found in the path of duty and are walking in the ways of the Lord.

One of the speakers at our meeting last evening called your attention to and spoke upon the subject of union. Whenever the Latter-day Saints become divided; whenever you see one Latter-day Saint arrayed against another, you may know that one or both are in the wrong. When they become divided in their interest, when they seek their own aggrandizement, careless about the rights of their fellowmen; whenever you see this spirit prevail, then it betokens trouble among ourselves and we shall lose power. Let me ask you what is it that gives us strength? Are we numerous? Why, we are but a small handful of people; our opponents outnumber us by millions. Are we wealthy? Our wealth is not to be mentioned in comparison with the wealth that is opposed to us. Are we learned? We do not compare in worldly learning with those who are arrayed against us. In what then does our strength consist? It consists in the union of the people, and their faithfulness in keeping the commandments of God; it consists in our obedience to the counsels of God’s servants. Whenever this people shall fellowship a spirit to disregard the counsels of the Priesthood, seeking to accomplish ends by methods that are popular in the world, then they become like other people, and their strength leaves them. Samson, after he disregarded certain commandments to him personally by shaving his head and divulging the secret of his wonderful strength, easily fell a prey to the Philistines. This will be the case with us if we take the course advocated by many so-called Latter-day Saints, and which they think it right to take. I will tell you, and risk my reputation as a prophet upon it, although I don’t often talk about being a prophet; I say, I am willing to risk my reputation as a prophet upon this, that the man who takes this course, the family or the community that takes it will become as weak as water, and eventually become part of the world for departing from the way that God, through his servants, has pointed out. Our strength consists not of being part of Babylon, but the very opposite of that. Our strength consists in God; and the fact that this is so has made us a peculiar people. Divest ourselves of this peculiarity and we then become like the rest of the world, no better, no stronger than they are; and we will be overcome by them, for their forces are stronger and greater than ours. Can you not see this? To me, it is as clear as the light that shines. If we are strong at [p.350] all, we are strong because we are Latter-day Saints. That is the cause of our strength—the strength which God has given unto us through His Gospel. Whenever we depart from that policy we become weak like other men. It is time we understood this; it is time we looked at it in its true light. We are going arm and arm with the world, are we? We are going to be like them? Whoever has that spirit will apostatize as sure as God lives, unless he repents. I do not mean by this to say there is any antagonism between us and the world. We have no warfare to wage, none whatever. All we have to do is to be true to our principles. If our enemies conspire against us, let us be true to our God, true to Zion, true to the methods that God has revealed unto us for the building up of His Kingdom, and take the course that will be right and pleasing in the sight of God. I do not mean by this that I wish to put myself in opposition to the laws, or to that which is now the counsel concerning matters. I want to define my position so you will understand it, that no advantage be taken of it.

God has established His Zion, and He is building it up in the way He has revealed and that He communicates to His servants from time to time. (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 1, p. 348-50, Salt Lake City, Monday Afternoon, September 2nd, 1889).

What Cannon describes above is what we see now with the Curse of Cain and Priesthood Ban doctrine, Mormons pitted against Mormons. So according to Cannon both are wrong. This presents quite the dilemma, as it does with other issues.

Brigham Young taught that the father was Adam, and said it was true by revelation. How does one repeal a revelation on the nature of God and then supplant it with another (that renders the previous false) that is also the truth? Of course this statement came at a time when the church was re-inventing the Godhead, claiming that Jesus was now Jehovah, and backpedaling from Brigham Young’s “revelations” about Adam. This quote is very instructive though, because it gives us the modern Mormon stance on why they no longer accept some of the doctrinal statements of previous “prophets”.

Apostle Alonzo A. Hinckley (uncle of Gordon B. Hinckley) would speak of the ‘oracles of God’ in a 1935 General Conference Address. He states that “my brethren live in the love and favor of God and that they carry their responsibilities with fidelity.” He recognized the “unswerving integrity under every condition of life,” of President Heber J. Grant, and that his counselor J. Reuben Clark, was “a born straight thinker, a righteous defender of the truth, is a man of undeviating and unfaltering devotion to the Church” and that David O. McKay with his “manly physique, a perfect physical specimen,” was “presided over by a trained and a keen mind,” and that “he enjoys a spirituality that has made him, not of his own volition but by common consent, the idol of youth.” He then concludes that,

Alonzo Hinckley

Alonzo Hinckley

“These men constitute the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the oracles of God chosen to receive the mind and the will and the word of the Lord and to impart it unto the people. I bear testimony that the avenues of revelation are open. The brethren are worthy. Jesus is at the helm. This is his work and he leads his servants.”

“God bless the leaders of Zion and bring into our hearts a renewed felling of reverence, that henceforth their voices, as they speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost, shall be unto us as the voice of God.” (Alonzo A. Hinckley, Conference Report, October 1935, p. 24).

These are the very men who made the First Presidency Statement about the Negro Doctrine that banned them from the Priesthood, and agreed with Young that they would not be able to have it until all the seed of Abel did first. Apostle George F. Richard made it clear that,

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God. When a man speaks by the power and authority of the Priesthood of the Son of God and under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, what he speaks will be scripture; it will be the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, the word of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (George F. Richard, Conference Report, October 1939, p.107).

Milton R. Hunter

Milton R. Hunter

In 1948, Milton R. Hunter of the First Council of Seventy declared,

“I wish to emphasize the fact that this revelation [D&C 68] is not limited to Joseph Smith and the other great prophets who preceded him. We have standing at the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today living oracles through whom God reveals his will. Certainly the words of this revelation apply to President George Albert Smith, to his Counselors, to the Twelve Apostles, and to me Patriarch to the Church just as much as they did to Joseph Smith, or to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, Nephi, Alma, Peter, Paul, or to all of the other ancient prophets of God.” (Milton R. Hunter, Conference Report, April 1948, p.31).

He would add,

The greatest job that a prophet has to accomplish is to be teacher of the divine truths revealed to him from on high. He is God’s mouthpiece here on earth–God’s spokesman, the revelator of the plan of salvation. Through the keys and power of the priesthood which he holds, the kingdom of God is established upon earth and all the ordinances requisite for the salvation and exaltation of the human family are performed. It is in their capacity of teacher and dispenser of the mind and will of God  that the holy prophets in all ages have made their greatest contributions.” (ibid, page 32).

On January 27, 1860, Orson Pratt met with the First Presidency and most of the Authorities of the Church to discuss certain of Pratt’s teachings, especially some found in his periodical, The Seer. The meeting did not go well, because Pratt could not agree with two of Brigham Young’s doctrines, that God was Adam, and was still progressing in knowledge. But a few days later, Pratt had come around, and made this statement to the assembled Church:

“This I consider is a very important item—Behold, “I say unto you, Be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine.” This is very pointed, plain, and definite language, that no man can misunderstand. Upon what principle are we to he one? It is by hearkening in all things to that eternal and everlasting Priesthood which has been conferred upon mortal man upon the earth. When I say that Priesthood, I mean the individual who holds the keys thereof. He is the standard—the living oracle to the Church.

“But,” says one, “suppose that we hearken to the word of God in the Old and New Testament—suppose that we hearken to the word of God in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants—suppose we hearken to the word of God in the Book of Mormon, and at the same time we feel disposed in our hearts to lay aside the living oracles, what then? I would answer, in the first place, that the premises are false. Why? The very moment that we set aside the living oracles we set aside the revelations of God. Why? Because the revelations of God command us plainly that we shall hearken to the living oracles. Hence, if we undertake to follow the written word and at the same time do not give heed to the living oracles of God, the written word will condemn us: it shows that we do not follow it according to our profession. This is what I wish to bring home to myself as an individual; and if the same thing will suit any other person in the congregation, I hope that he will take it home to himself.

Orson Pratt

Orson Pratt

“But,” inquires one, “how is it that you are going to apply this to yourself?” I will tell you. But first let me quote from another revelation contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. [Section 21:1-5] Perhaps I had better read the passage which I wish now to bring to your understanding:—”Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a Seer, a Translator, a Prophet, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, an Elder of the church, through the will of God the Father and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith; which Church was organized and established in the year of our Lord, eighteen hundred and thirty, in the fourth month, and in the sixth day of the month which is called April. Wherefore (meaning the Church,) thou shalt give heed unto his words and commandments, which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; for his word shall ye receive as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.”

Here, then, we perceive what is binding upon the Church of the living God, what was binding upon them thirty years ago, and what has been binding upon them ever since, from the day that it was given, until the day the Prophet was martyred, down until the year 1860, and until the present moment of time. All this time there have been a kingdom and Church of the living God on the earth, and a man placed at the head of that Church to govern, direct, counsel, preach, exhort, testify, and speak the truth to the people, and counsel them in the things pertaining to their duties and pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p.372-73 January 29, 1860).

How did an apostle of Jesus Christ, directed by his prophet Brigham Young to teach doctrine in a publication go so wrong? Funny that it was Pratt’s views about Adam and God not progressing, that were later taken up by the Church, not “the living prophet” Brigham Young. A few months later, Apostle Heber C. Kimball would declare,

Heber C. Kimball

Heber C. Kimball

“This is the religion of Jesus Christ as taught in these books—the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and it is in accordance with that which is in my breast and which is a better book, for it is life in Christ; and that living being that receives light and intelligence from the heavens through the revelations of the Holy Ghost is a living oracle. It is the living Oracle that is within us that will guide us in the way of life.

Now, you require brother Brigham to live in that manner that he can hold the oracles of God and be to you a living oracle—the mouthpiece of the Almighty, to communicate line upon line, and precept upon precept and have the word of truth constantly on hand. Now, why should you require more of the head than of the other members? The Lord has said that upon those members that you consider the least honourable he has conferred the most honour; and he will confer upon every man and woman that honours the Priesthood, the Presidency, the Bishops, and all the members of the body. We cannot honour God except we honour his authority: there is no possible way of honouring the kingdom of God only by honouring its authorities. (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8,  p. 86, June 3, 1860).

As early as 1843 Brigham Young emphasized that the Quorum of the Twelve should follow their superiors without asking questions:

In the evening I met with the Quorum; Bro. Joseph was not present. B. Young was called to the chair who addressed the meeting in a very feeling manner and interesting to our minds. He reasoned clearly that we should follow our file leaders and our Savior in all His laws and commandments without asking any questions why they were so. (Wilford Woodruff Journals, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.331, December 10, 1843)

With this in mind, now read the Phantom’s take on how this all works:

What Joseph Smith actually restored was the “Church,” a system of mortal government, through which allows man to regulate man’s own participation in God’s Kingdom. God doesn’t need the Church. Man needs the Church. The Church is a mortal institution run by and for mortals. The difference between Mormonism and any other “Christian” church, is authority. Mormonism, if you care to buy it, claims to have direct authority from Jesus Christ to administer to His believers in His name. That’s authority mind you. Along with authority comes power and inspiration, and there’s where it gets a bit sticky. The Mormon hierarchy holds the “keys,” which means the token authority to talk directly to God, to commune with angels, the Holy Spirit, or see visions, heal the sick, raise the dead, any of all that miraculous stuff. I fully believe that the current LDS president for example, could talk to Jesus personally. I take that on faith. But I don’t have to believe that he doesn’t do that however, because he has said he doesn’t. I therefore know he doesn’t talk to God and Angels. That is not faith based. So what I know for a fact is, that Jesus doesn’t sit in the Salt Lake Temple and directly administer HIs church. And more to the point, Jesus isn’t up in the Church Office Building passing on daily lessons to the Brethren about bigger and bigger doctrinal concepts just for entertainment purposes. The Church is about salvation. It’s about serving Christ and feeding His sheep. You just don’t need to know that much to accomplish this mission. Jesus doesn’t need to come down and micromanage the operation. And sure, by the time you read this some LDS “Prophet” may say he’s had a face-to-face with Jesus, and I’ll gladly accept this as the truth if and when it happens. It simply hasn’t happened since Joseph Smith to date. (The Phantom)

It is so easy to rationalize anything, isn’t it? So easy. What the Phantom does here is say that God gave the “keys” to His kingdom on earth and “authority” to act in his name to a bunch of liars who don’t really talk to Him at all. They just kind of make up things as they go along, and that is all right, because they have supposedly been given the “authority” to save people by a guy who doesn’t have a track record any better than his successors.

They could talk to Jesus if they really want to, but yet “it simply hasn’t happened since Joseph Smith”. This is the kind of convoluted thinking that one has to go through to try and give “perspective” to the men that claim that Jesus gave them authority to act in his name. Kind of boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

And then it comes back to those hateful “Christians”:

The problem we have with Mormonism in the area of ongoing prophecy, is that starting with Joseph Smith, you do now in fact have a highly structured bureaucracy leading a permanently constituted organizational “Church” structure. Its president takes upon himself the title of “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” and then uncomfortably waits for the next church-related job God feels a need to personally take an interest in. It’s like the Book of Mormon system only it happens in real-time. You end up with caretakers making perfunctory notes for posterity just to say they did something, as did Omni and Jarom and Enos, just handing down the book generation after generation, sometimes adding a note about how nothing much was happening so they’re just passing down the records like they were told to do. This, honestly speaking, is exactly what the “Restored” Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) has become since the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. This is not necessarily a reflection upon LDS leadership. Joseph Smith was shot all to hell by Christian mobs to shut him up and kill the movement, and perhaps that was part of God’s plan, but it is mostly a good indication that God generally calls any given “major” prophet to do a specific job and then whatever happens to him afterward just happens, because the job is done. In Smith’s case the claimed job was “Restoration,” and having “Restored” the structure and key doctrines necessary, we can assume that not only was Joseph Smith done with the assignment, but God was fairly happy with the wisdom and knowledge He’d revealed in the process, and therefore Smith’s successors could expect not a whole lot of additional conversation with Deity until conditions according to God’s timetable and desires warranted it. (The Phantom)

Just throw everybody after Joseph Smith under the bus. They don’t matter. A bunch of monkeys could run the church (and probably do it better) because they don’t talk. They wouldn’t be able to embarrass the church with what comes out of their mouths. And they don’t know much, either. A perfect solution to the Phantom’s problem.

Christians killed Joseph Smith. Great job at broad brushing that incident. But I’m not surprised that the Phantom thinks so; they’re so obviously to blame for every thing else, aren’t they? Well folks, I’m about done here. I think you have enough to go on, to realize that the Phantom is the one who is really pulling things “out of his backside”.

Perhaps the Phantom can benefit from the words of James E. Faust,

I do not believe members of this church can be in full harmony with the Savior without sustaining his living prophet on the earth, the President of the Church. If we do not sustain the living prophet, whoever he may be, we die spiritually. Ironically, some have died spiritually by exclusively following prophets who have long been dead. Others equivocate in their support of living prophets, trying to lift themselves up by putting down the living prophets, however subtly. In our lifetime we have been favored with ongoing communication from the heavens, which have been open to the prophets of our time. (James E. Faust, Continuous Revelation, Conference Report, October 2013)

As Phantom says folks, don’t expect a lot. As James E. Faust says, Phantom is dead spiritually. This is the dilemma of Mormonism. Thankfully, I leave that to those who are still members of the Church to try and figure out. And whether to start burning books. I’ll be keeping mine, and encouraging every one I know to read them.

Joseph Fielding Smith & Bruce R. McConkie

Joseph Fielding Smith & Bruce R. McConkie

Go to the Top

The Hicks “Caractors” Photo

 

David Whitmer at Hicks Photo Gallery 1867 by grindaelPart IV of 19th Century Photo of Joseph Smith’s “Caractors” Discovered

If you missed the Introduction or Part IPart II or Part III of this Article, just click on the respective link.

With the discovery of the “Caractors” photo in the Hicks Collection in December of 2012, we now know a little bit more about the “Caractors” document than we did before. Through an analysis of the handwriting found on the original (complete) document, it is possible to make some reasonable guesses about its origins, which I will provide below.

Joseph Smith employed many scribes who helped him write his “revelations” over the years. During the Book of Mormon dictation, Smith used his wife Emma as a scribe, along with Reuben Hale (Emma’s brother), Martin Harris, Samuel H. Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and a few that were “unidentified”.  According to H. Michael Marquardt,

There were a number of periods when Joseph Smith dictated or wrote the text of what became the Book of Mormon.

1. ca. January – April 1828 scribes:

Emma Hale Smith (wife of Joseph Smith Jr.)
Reuben Hale (brother of Emma Hale Smith)

2. ca. 12 April – 14 June 1828 scribe:

Martin Harris (farmer)
Note: About 116 manuscript pages were lost (ca. June – July 1828)

3. ca. September 1828 – March 1829 scribes:

Emma Hale Smith (wife of Joseph Smith Jr.)
Samuel H. Smith (brother of Joseph Smith Jr.) (farmer)

Note: Not known how many manuscript pages were written

4. ca. 7 April – 26 June 1829 scribes:

Oliver Cowdery (school teacher, printer assistant)
Unknown Scribe – Scribe 1
Unknown Scribe – Scribe 2[217]

In 1884 David Whitmer gave an interview to the Daily Missouri Republican recalling that,

The manuscript was written from the dictation of Joseph Smith by the following amanuenses: Oliver Cowdery, Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith; Christian Whitmer and Martin Harris, and it is supposed that Alva Hale was also employed as one of the scribes, but Hale only wrote a small portion.[218]  

Joseph Smith himself stated that “John Whitmer, in particular, assisted us very much in writing during the remainder of the work.”[219] More than likely David Whitmer confused Reuben Hale with Alva Hale, but he affirmed in many interviews that his brother Christian’s handwriting was to be found on the Manuscript that he had in his possession; and since David constantly claimed that the Printer’s Manuscript in his possession was actually the Original Manuscript (the one that Joseph had placed in the foundation of the Nauvoo House), it is a good assumption that Christian Whitmer is one of the “unknown scribes” on both manuscripts.  Dean Jessee wrote in 1970 that,

of the 144 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript in the Church Historian’s Office, 124 pages are in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery; eleven were probably written by John Whitmer; and twelve others are the work of an unidentified scribe.[220]

In a lecture given on February 26, 2013 titled “The Original and Printer’s Manuscript”, Royal Skousen proposed that the unknown scribes (from period 4) were Christian and John Whitmer. (The identification begins at the 31min mark).[221] 

In analyzing the Hicks Photo two things become clear. The first is that if the Book of Mormon characters had been written first on a blank sheet of paper, then there would have been plenty of room for the copyist of those characters to transcribe all of the them without bunching them up, or making some of them smaller, because the characters are actually written at the top of the sheet. The second is that the phrase “The Book of the Generations of Adam” is from the Book of Moses.[222]

OT Manuscript 1, pg. 12, first appearance of the phrase "The Book of the generations of Adam" handwriting of John Whitmer c. December, 1830

OT Manuscript 1, pg. 12, first appearance of the phrase “The Book of the generations of Adam” handwriting of John Whitmer, October 21, 1830.

These two observations generate a lot of questions. Unfortunately there will never be any sure answers to some of them unless more discoveries come to light, so we can only make guesses or reasonable conclusions.

The Book of Moses is part of the Joseph Smith New Translation (or revision), parts of which can be found on three manuscripts. The part of the Book of Moses that has the phrase the book of the generations of Adam was written between October and December of 1830, depending on the manuscript.

In January of 1831 the Church had a Conference in Fayette, New York and on January 2, Joseph dictated a “revelation” which was later to become Doctrine and Covenants Section 38, which elaborated on a previous command for the Church to move to Ohio. This is important for a number of reasons as H. Michael Marquardt explains,

After the January 1831 conference John [Whitmer] was commanded to go to Kirtland, Ohio, to preside over church members in the area. He copied more of Joseph Smith’s revelations including all of the revision of Genesis completed in New York. [223]

The text worked on in New York that Whitmer copied included the introductory revelation of June 1830, RLDS D&C 22; LDS Moses 1 and Genesis 1:1-5:32 (KJV); LDS Moses 2:1-8:12; RLDS Holy Scriptures, Genesis 1:1-7:85. [224]

Concerning the New Translation and the Manuscript now designated OTman3, Kent Jackson writes that,

When John Whitmer traveled for the first time to the Kirtland, Ohio, area in January 1831, Joseph Smith instructed him to “carry the commandments  and revelations” with him.  Among them was a manuscript copy of Joseph Smith’s new text of the early chapters of Genesis. The manuscript was a transcription, in Whitmer’s hand, of all of Joseph Smith’s Bible revision that had been produced to that point. It corresponded with Genesis 1B5 and with Moses 1:1B8:12 in the current Latter-day Saint Book of Moses.

Joseph Smith had begun the process of preparing a corrected translation of the Bible in June 1830. It is now commonly called the Joseph Smith Translation, but the Prophet and his contemporaries referred to it as the New Translation. Over the course of about three years, he dictated the text to his scribes, the final product eventually totaling 446 pages. Whitmer was an important contributor to the project, both as a scribe and as a transcriber (copyist) of previously dictated pages. Altogether, his handwriting appears on 136 of the pages. The manuscript Whitmer took to Ohio is now known by the archival designation Old Testament Manuscript 3 (OT3). It was a copy of Old Testament Manuscript 1 (OT1), the original dictated text of the Genesis translation. Whitmer probably made the transcription at about the beginning of January 1831. It appears that he made it for the purpose of the trip, but it soon became his private copy, and it remained with him throughout his life. [225]

If one analyzes the Hicks photo, it is obvious that it had been folded in the same way that John Whitmer’s OTman3 was folded (into fourths). Here is a comparison of the two:

OTMan3 and the Hicks Photo of the "Caractors" Document

OTMan3 and the Hicks Photo of the “Caractors” Document

As you can see from the photos, the right hand side of OTMan3 is very frayed, as is the document in the Hicks photo.

One possibility is that the document in the Hicks photo was a cover that had been made for John Whitmer’s OTMan3; and that perhaps while Whitmer was copying other documents he added the Book of Mormon characters also.

Joseph initially misspells the word “character” (leaving out the “h”) in his 1832 History,[226], so it is possible that Joseph in 1829 may have misspelled the word when he prepared the original document, and then when John Whitmer copied it, he kept the original spelling.[227]

Another possibility is that the top portion of the document was created by Joseph Smith, and was then used as the cover for OTMan3. Why would they do so? Possibly because of the wipe erasures[228] that are in the document; that may have caused Joseph to discard it and so it was never finished. This scenario though, seems very tenuous, because Joseph Smith’s handwriting can’t be matched to the document. [229]

Wipe Erasures on the "Caractors" Document

Wipe Erasures on the “Caractors” Document

So why are the characters so large at the top, but then smaller at the bottom? It may be that they were originally this way on the copy made by Smith and given to Harris in 1828. In March of 1831 an article appeared in the Palmyra Reflector, which has David Whitmer describing the Book of Mormon characters:

This witness [David Whitmer] describes the book as being something like 8 inches square; (our informant did not recollect precisely,) the leaves were plates of metal of a whitish yellow color, and of the thickness of tin plate; the back was secured with three small rings of the same metal, passing through each leaf in succession; — that the leaves were divided equi-distant, between the back & edge, by cutting the plates in two parts, and united again with solder, so that the front might be opened, as it were on a hinge, while the back part remained stationary and immovable and in this manner remained to him and the other witnesses a sealed book, which would not as yet be revealed for ages to come, and that event the prophet himself was not as yet permitted to understand. On opening that portion of the book which was not secured by the seals, he discovered inscribed on the aforesaid plates, divers and wonderful characters; some of the large and some small, but beyond the wisdom of man to understand without supernatural aid.[230] 

When Martin Harris showed the BOM characters to John Clark in the fall of 1827 (before his trip to New York City), Clark recalled that the paper “contained three or four lines of characters .”[231]

It may be possible then, that the smaller characters were added in later, from the document that Joseph had finished which supposedly included both columns and concentric circles as described by Orasmus Turner and Charles Anthon.

This scenario presupposes that Harris would have been showing a long piece of foolscap paper with only four lines of characters on it, which Joseph may have discarded because of mistakes in copying, and that later the other characters were added to it from the one taken to Charles Anthon, and then it was used as a cover for John Whitmer’s OTMan3. This scenario also seems very tenuous.

These (of course) are only conjectures; but one thing is certain, Joseph had his own copy of the characters that he kept with him that he showed to various people until shortly before his death.

I have often thought that like the Whitmer “Caractor” document (which was kept by John Whitmer as a cover for OTMan3), Joseph may have kept the original “Anthon Transcript” with the Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, and that when he placed it into the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in 1841 it was destroyed along with a large portion of that manuscript. [232]

Charles Anthon described the document he was shown as,

a singular scrawl. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calender given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived.[233]

Orasmus Turner wrote that “an informant” described the document that Harris showed to them as “the manuscript title-page” and that “on it was drawn, rudely and bunglingly, concentric circles, between, above, and below, which were characters, with little resemblance to letters, apparently a miserable imitation of hieroglyphics.” [234]

This description seems to agree with the one made by Charles Anthon, but since Turner’s book was published long after the Anthon letters were written, there is a chance that he may have borrowed from them, but again, that seems very tenuous.

As for the calendar that Anthon mentions, there are actually two calendars in Alexander Von Humbolt’s books, one called the “Calendrier Lunaire des Mayseas” or the Lunar Calendar of the Muiscas, who were an ancient people that inhabited the northern Andes in Columbia, Central America, and the other the more famous Aztec Sun Stone discovered in 1790 in Mexico City.

Humboldt's Mexican & Musica Calanders pp. 104, 276.

Humboldt’s Mexican & Musica Calanders pp. 276, 104.

In 1795, Dr Jose Domingo Duquesne, a priest of the church of Gachancipa in Columbia published a paper detailing the Muisca calendar, which information he claimed to have received from the Indians themselves. His paper was later ridiculed as being nothing but an invention of his.[235]

In his description of the Muisca numbers, father Duquesne says that they used written signs to denote them, and gives a plate showing the graphic symbols for each name and number.[236]

Joseph Smith was familiar with this work and published an article in 1842 in the Times and Seasons titled ““Traits of the Mosaic History, Found among the Aztaeca Nations,” which quoted from Humboldt’s books.[237]

The Musica Calander is depicted with concentric circles divided into compartments, not unlike the magic circles on the Holiness to the Lord Parchment, one of three “lamans” inscribed with signs and names of ceremonial magic which were found among Hyrum Smith’s possessions after his death.[238] D. Michael Quinn writes in his groundbreaking work, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View that,

Smith Family Ceremonial Magic Parchment

Smith Family Ceremonial Magic Parchment

The three magic parchments attributed to the Joseph Smith family have three different, but interrelated, purposes. The “Holiness to the Lord” parchment is a lamen of ceremonial magic, the “Saint Peter bind them” parchment is a talisman for personal protection, and the faded “Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah” parchment is a talismanic house charm. [239]

Pages 334-335 of the "Discoverie of Witchcraft" by Reginald Scot, published in 1584 (1886 reprint)

Pages 334-335 of the “Discoverie of Witchcraft” by Reginald Scot, published in 1584 (1886 reprint can be viewed here)

Quinn also notes that,

At the lower right quadrant of the “Holiness to the Lord” lamen is an emblem of five points and seven internal spaces that combines the Jehovah (JHVH) “Tetragrammaton” with “Adonay”. Whoever put this symbol on the “Holiness to the Lord” lamen incorrectly drew it with seven internal compartments, for as early as 1656, an English translation of Paracelsus’ writings specified that the figure should have “six spaces, and outwardly five angles, wherein are written five syllables of the supreme name of God; to wit, Tetragrammaton” .[240]

One could describe the Smith lamans as drawn, rudely and bunglingly, with concentric circles, between, above, and below”, which were “divided into various compartments, [and] decked with various strange marks, to quote Anthon and Turner.

Another possible scenario is that Joseph gave Martin a document in the fall of 1827 with only four lines of characters on it. Harris took this to John Clark, which according to Lucy Smith were copied by his future son-in-law Flanders Dyke at the behest of his wife Lucy Harris.[241]

Reuben Hale supposedly later helped Joseph prepare the transcript that was to be presented to Charles Anthon and Samuel L. Mitchill which would have included more of the characters.[242]

Then, when Martin Harris returned to Harmony, Pennsylvania, three additional lines of characters were added to the first copy, written smaller than the first four lines. A few years later in 1831, John Whitmer made an exact copy of that document, while Joseph Smith kept the original; which he subsequently showed to various people in Kirtland and Nauvoo, from which the 1844 broadside characters were copied.

If Joseph did place the transcript shown to Anthon with the Book of Mormon manuscript in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in 1841, then he would have been left with a copy of the characters that was almost exactly like the Whitmer copy, and from which the 1844 Stick of Joseph Broadside was produced.

These are of course conjectures that may or may not bear out in the light of further discoveries.

In analyzing the characters from the last three lines, I noticed something peculiar. There are a lot of “stand alone” dash like characters between groups of characters.  There are quite a few in between groups of characters, which I reproduce below:

Dash like (--) Characters within the last three lines of the "Caractors" Document

Dash like (–) Characters within the last three lines of the “Caractors” Document

These “stand alone” dash like characters do not appear to be found on the first four lines of the larger drawn characters.[243] Perhaps these smaller groups of characters were originally within the concentric circles (the two larger groups around the outside or inside edges) or were in vertical columns on the document taken to Anthon, and the dashes were inserted to separate them.

Grouping of Characters, lines 5-7

Grouping of Characters, lines 5-7

These are intriguing possibilities, and perhaps someone will someday see a pattern in the numbers.  It does though, seem hard to believe that this document is one that took Joseph “a whole week to copy” as David Whitmer later recalled,[244] but it must also be remembered that Whitmer was prone to exaggerate and that he clung tenaciously to his erroneous testimony that he had both the Original Manuscript and the original Anthon Transcript .

It is very clear though, from analyzing the Hicks photo, that whoever copied the document would have had plenty of room to enlarge the bottom four lines of characters or copy more of them (if there were more), even if the document had already been folded, but only if the characters were drawn before the Cover Title.

Cover Title is left justified

Cover Title is left justified

During my study of the photo below, I noticed that the Cover Title was not written out in one line, but in three, and that it is “left justified”. This may indicate that the “Caractors” portion of the document was written first, or that the paper was folded before the Cover Title was written and Christian used the fold to the left to justify the Title. If the Cover Title was written before the “caractors”, then why not just write the Title across the entire page? This (to me) is a good indicator that the Cover Title and the “Caractors” were written after the page was folded in an effort to fit them in between the folds.

Hicks photo of "Caractors" Document

Hicks photo of “Caractors” Document

Would someone who thought those characters so important to copy and keep – only copy some of them? And why wasn’t the document that Harris took to Anthon reproduced in it’s entirety? Was Whitmer directed not to reproduce the circles? If so, why?

Or did Joseph (by 1831) only have a copy of the Book of Mormon characters that looked like the one that Whitmer copied? If so, what happened to the “Anthon Transcript”? Was it the copy that Harris took to New York that Flanders Dyke made a copy of? If so, was Joseph leery of keeping the original “Anthon Transcript” for the same reason that he did not “retranslate” the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon that were lost by Martin Harris? Could Joseph have produced another copy of the characters after this that were entirely different from the ones that Harris took to Anthon to thwart the designs of Lucy Harris?

This line of thought brings to mind what Anthon himself said, that the copy that he saw was “evidently copied after the Mexican Calender given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived.” If this criticism was related to Joseph by Martin Harris, perhaps Joseph destroyed the document, or entombed it with the Original Manuscript to avoid having to answer such criticisms. Perhaps in the light of facing such criticism, (and the problems he might encounter because of the Flanders Dyke copy) Joseph made another copy with the changed format and absence of concentric circles and other symbols.

Also, if the ‘Caractors’ document had been folded, it would have been newly folded and so it probably would have been easy to write over the fold and include more characters if there were any – if it was created before the Cover Title had been written.

One thing that lends credence to the theory that this document was created in 1831 or later is the handwriting on the document itself.  For many years those who only could analyze the top portion of the document have speculated about who may have written it.

Some, like Dean Jessee, thought it might have been Joseph Smith’s handwriting, possibly because of the spelling of the word “Caractors” which was initially misspelled by Joseph in his Summer 1832 History.[245]

Others thought it might have been John Whitmer who wrote the word. With the publication of the Book of Mormon Original Manuscript pages and other items in the Church of Christ Archives, I believe I can identify the handwriting on the document.

As I mentioned above, Royal Skousen identifies the two unknown Book of Mormon scribes from the Original Manuscript as John and Christian Whitmer.[246] Since there is a large body of evidence which identifies John Whitmer as one of the scribes, I will focus here on identifying the other one.

Christian Whitmer Marriage Notice, Geneva Gazette, March 9, 1825, which misspells his name as "Wilmer" instead of "Witmer".

Christian Whitmer Marriage Notice, Geneva Gazette, March 9, 1825, which misspells his name as “Wilmer” instead of “Witmer”.

Christian Whitmer was born on January 18, 1879, in Pennsylvania, and was the oldest son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman Whitmer. Christian moved from Pennsylvania to Seneca County New York, and in 1825 he married Anna Schott[247] and took of the trade of shoe making.

In that same year Christian joined the New York State Militia and received the commission of an Ensign with the 102 Regiment of the Seneca County Grenadiers. His brother-in-law, Daniel Schott[248] was made a Captain of the same Regiment a few days earlier. Christian’s brother David Whitmer would join the Grenadiers a month later as a Sargent.[249]

February 26, 1825 Christian Witmer, "Ensign of Grenadiers in the 102d Regt. of Infantry (Seneca County)

February 26, 1825 Christian Witmer, “Ensign of Grenadiers in the 102d Regt. of Infantry (Seneca County)

There are few accounts that mention Christian Whitmer  during the New York period of the church, and most are the later reminiscences of his brother David Whitmer. In this interview from 1878, he spoke to Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith about how his family became involved with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon:

Before I knew Joseph, I had heard about him and the plates from persons who declared they knew he had them, and swore they would get them from him. When Oliver Cowdery went to Pennsylvania, he promised to write me what he should learn about these matters, which he did. He wrote me that Joseph had told him his (Oliver’s) secret thoughts, and all he had meditated about going to see him, which no man on earth knew, as he supposed, but himself, and so he stopped to write for Joseph.[250]

In 1881 David gave a more expanded account of how Joseph came to reside at the home of Peter Whitmer, Sr.:

Peter Whitmer Reconstructed Log Cabin

Peter Whitmer Reconstructed Log Cabin

“I first heard of what is now termed Mormonism in the year 1828. I made a business trip to Palmyra, New York, and while there stopped with one Oliver Cowdery. A great many people in the neighborhood were talking about the finding of certain golden plates by one Joseph Smith, Jr., a young man of the neighborhood. Cowdery and I, as well as others, talked about the matter, but at that time I paid but little attention to it, supposing it to be only the idle gossip of the neighborhood. Cowdery said he was acquainted with the Smith family, and believing there must be some truth in the story of the plates, he intended to investigate the matter. I had conversation with several young men who said that Joseph Smith had certainly golden plates, and that before he had attained them he had promised to share with them, but had not done so and they were very much incensed with them. Said I, ‘how do you know that Joe Smith has the plates?’ They replied, ‘we saw the plates [sic, place] in the hill that he took them out of just as he described it to us before he obtained them.’ These parties were so positive in their statements that I began to believe there must be some foundation for the stories then in circulation all over that part of the country. I had never seen any of the Smith family up to that time, and I began to inquire of the people in regard to them, and learned that one night during the year 1827, Joseph Smith, jr., had a vision, and an angel of God appeared to him and told him where certain plates were to be found, pointing out the spot to him, and that shortly afterward he went to that place and found the plates which were still in his possession. After thinking over the matter for a long time, and talking with Cowdery, who also gave me a history of the finding of the plates, I went home, and after several months Cowdery told me he was going to Harmony, Pa. — whither Joseph Smith had gone with the plates on account of persecutions of his neighbors — and see him about the matter. He did go, and on his way he stopped at my father’s house and told me that as soon as he found out anything, either truth or untruth he would let me know. After he got there he became acquainted with Joseph Smith and shortly after, wrote to me telling me that he was convinced that Smith had the records and that he (Smith) had told him that it was the will of heaven that he (Cowdery) should be his scribe to assist in the translation of the plates. He went on, and Joseph translated from the plates and he wrote it down. Shortly after this, Cowdery wrote me another letter in which he gave me a few lines of what they had translated, and he assured me that he knew of a certainty that he had a record of a people that inhabited this continent, and that the plates they were translating gave a complete history of these people. When Cowdery wrote me these things and told me that he had revealed knowledge concerning the truth of them, I showed these letters to my parents, brothers and sisters. Soon after I received another letter from Cowdery telling me to come down into Pennsylvania and bring him and Joseph to my father’s house, giving as a reason therefore that they had received a commandment from God to that effect. I went down to Harmony and found everything just as they had written me. The next day after I got there they packed up the plates and we proceeded on our journey to my father’s house, where we arrived in due time, and the day after we commenced upon the translation of the remainder of the plates. I, as well as all of my father’s family, Smith’s wife, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, were present during the translation. The translation was by Smith and the manner was as follows:  “He had two small stones of a chocolate color, nearly egg-shape and perfectly smooth, but not transparent, called interpreters, which were given him with the plates. He did not use the plates in the translation, but would hold the interpreters to his eyes and cover his face with a hat, excluding all light, and before his eyes would appear what seemed to be parchment, on which would appear the characters of the plates in a line at the top and immediately below would appear the translation, in English, which Smith would read to his scribe, who wrote it down exactly as it fell from his lips. The scribe would then read the sentence written, and if any mistake had been made the characters would remain visible to Smith until corrected, when they faded from sight to be replaced by another line. The translation at my father’s occupied about one month, that is from June 1 to July 1, 1829.”[251]

When George Q. Cannon visited David Whitmer in 1884 he reported that David told him that his brother “Christian” was one of those “who assisted the Prophet Joseph” in transcribing what was dictated by Joseph.[252]

?????????????????A year later in another interview for the Chicago Tribune, David related that “The work of translating the tablets consumed about eight months, Smith, acting as the seer and Cowdery, Smith’s wife, and Christian Whitmer, brother of David, performing the duties of amanuensis…”[253]

From these statements it is clear that David believed that his brother Christian was involved as a scribe for Joseph Smith during the translation of the Book of Mormon. In 1887 David wrote that while “the Book of Mormon was still in the hands of the printer” his “brother, Christian Whitmer, had copied from the manuscript the teachings and doctrine of Christ, being the things which we were commanded to preach.”[254]

Christian Whitmer and his wife Anna were baptized on April 11, 1830 according to Joseph’s 1839 History,[255] just a few days after the organization of the church. When Hiram Page was receiving “revelations” through a peep stone like Joseph did, the whole Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery believed the revelations were of God. Joseph later declared them to be of Satan [256] and according to Joseph’s account of the matter it was Christian Whitmer that helped convince the others to side with Joseph in the matter.[257]

Christian Whitmer like his brother John, was sent to Jackson County Missouri in 1832, where he was called as President of the Elders Quorum there. With the expulsion of the Mormons in 1833 he moved into Clay County and was chosen to be one of the high council on July 3, 1834. He died there in 1835 “of severe affliction upon one of his legs, which he bore for a long time with great patience.” [258]

As I mentioned above, there are many examples of John Whitmer’s handwriting and so it is relatively easy to identify him as Unknown Scribe 1. Identifying Unknown Scribe 2 has been a bit more difficult because that handwriting is very similar to John Whitmer’s handwriting; and there are few known samples of Christian Whitmer’s handwriting. Still, the signature of Christian Whitmer from 1825 has some striking similarities with Unknown Scribe 2.

Christian Whitmer Signature comparison with Unknown Book of Mormon Scribe

Christian Whitmer Signature comparison with Unknown Book of Mormon Scribe

It is immediately apparent that Christian Whitmer has some common style characteristics in his signature that John Whitmer does not. For example, his ‘s’ is very elongated in his signature, he makes his “i” and “t” stand alone, and there are other unique style characteristics documented in the photo above.

Though John Whitmer has some of them, and used some of them in his handwriting, (like the elongated first “s” in his double “s” combos), he does not consistently do so as Christian Whitmer does. I am therefore very confident that the unknown scribe’s handwriting from the Book of Mormon (sampled above) is that of Christian Whitmer, and that using those handwriting samples, Christian can also be identified as the author of various “revelations” authored by Joseph Smith and the Cover Title for OTMan3.

Since this article has taken me longer than I anticipated to finish and get up on the Blog, I now know a bit more about what others who have been working on this have concluded about the document. Brent and Erin Metcalfe have concluded that the entire document was written by Christian Whitmer. [259]

In the current issue of Mormon Historical Studies, Michael Hubbard Mackay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, and Robin Scott Jensen have concluded that the entire document was written by John Whitmer.[260]

They write, “Upon examination, the title exhibits significant signs that it was not written by Joseph Smith but by John Whitmer.” [261]

John Whitmer's Handwriting compared with "Caractors" Document. Samples Taken from Revelation Book 1.

John Whitmer’s Handwriting compared with “Caractors” Document. Samples Taken from Revelation Book 1.

I concur with this conclusion (in part), as my own comparison shows. This would include the characters themselves, of which they write,

Because it seems likely that there was one continuous flow of the document, the characters were also likely in John Whitmer’s handwriting. This was confirmed by x-ray florescence done in September 2012 at the Community of Christ Library – Archives by the authors. [262]

Since the bottom half of the document is not extant, no ink tests can be done, and therefore it is impossible to determine if the entire document was written at the same time. We must therefore rely on handwriting analysis for the portion of the document which contains the Cover Title, “The Book of The Generations of Adam”. It is here where I diverge with Mackay, Dirkmatt and Jensen.

When I first studied the handwriting on the Hicks photo, I thought the entire document was written by John Whitmer.  The reason I thought so, was because John Whitmer always writes his capital “A” in the traditional way. Christian, on the other hand, always makes his capital “A” as a large lowercase “a”. But a document in the Community of Christ archives, (JST185) has helped to clarify this important distinction between John and his brother Christian and provide a scenario that explains my two authorship theory.

But there was another problem with identifying John Whitmer as the person who wrote “The Book of the Generations of Adam” on the “Caractors” document, which has to do with the style characteristics of the capital “G”. In all of the samples of John Whitmer’s handwriting, he never makes his capital “G” in the same way it appears on the “Caractors” document.  But Christian Whitmer does, very consistently.

I was helped in my identification of the handwriting by a number of documents from the Community of Christ archives supplied by H. Michael Marquardt via Dan Vogel, who was kind enough to provide them when I asked him for anything written by the Whitmer brothers or unknown scribes that could be one of the Whitmers.

Having the phrase “The Book of the Generations of Adam” to go on, Rachel Killebrew at the Community of Christ Archives was contacted,[263] and she found a document in the Joseph Smith Translation Collection (JST185) that has two sentences written on it.  On one side is written,

jst185

jst185

The bok of the Generations of adam
The Book of the generations of Adam

Analysis of the top line from the document above has yielded the following result:

JST 185 Top Line Comparison with Christian Whitmer Handwriting

JST185 Top Line Comparison with Christian Whitmer Handwriting

I believe that John asked Christian to write the cover for OTMan3. This document (pictured above) is (I believe) the Title chosen for the cover that John Whitmer asked his brother Christian to write for OTMan3, which Christian then wrote down on this sheet of paper.

The top line is written by Christian, and below that is what I believe is the corrected way that John wanted it written. The handwriting on the top line matches the handwriting of the same phrase on the “Caractors” document, while the bottom line does not, but that line does match John’s handwriting from other documents. John’s capital “T” has a distinct style characteristic which is different from Christian’s, and John does not make his capital “G” in quite the same way as the person who wrote the top line.

JST185 Bottom Line Comparison with John Whitmer Handwriting

JST185 Bottom Line Comparison with John Whitmer Handwriting

In comparing the two sentences with the known handwriting samples of Christian and John Whitmer, it is obvious (to me) that Christian wrote the top line, and John the bottom one.  It may be possible that John asked Christian to write the Cover Title for OTMan3, and Christian wrote it down, (the top line) and John then corrected it with what Christian eventually wrote on the Cover Page (Note that the word “book” is misspelled, and “Adam” is written with a lower case “a”, which Christian was prone to do with names). [264]

Why did John ask Christian to write the Title for the cover of his manuscript? That remains a mystery. Perhaps he was busy with other projects and so assigned this task to his brother. But I believe that both of them contributed to the document because the similarities between John’s handwriting and the word “Caractors” are significant, and John’s handwriting can’t be matched to the sentence “The Book of the Generations of Adam” that appears below (or to the right of depending on how the page is displayed) the Book of Mormon characters.

Also, When Christian wrote Titles to documents, they look nothing like the “Caractors” Line, but John Whitmer’s title lines do. If the document was entirely written by Christian Whitmer, then why are the style characteristics of the two title lines (“Caractors” and “The Book of the Generations of Adam”) so different?[265]

After Christian wrote the Cover Title, John most likely added the “Caractors” which he copied from another document to the Cover of OTMan3 so that he would have them with his personal manuscript of the Book of Moses. I believe that this was done hurriedly and on impulse by John, to preserve a copy of the “caractors” before the move to Ohio.

This seems, to me, like the most likely scenario, because the word “Caractors” is more like the style of John Whitmer’s writing, and they seem to have been made to fit in the section above the first fold of the document.

Also, Christian Whitmer’s Cover Title was justified to fit between the folds of the document, and so the manuscript was probably already folded into fourths, and the Cover Title was positioned in a way to display it within the middle fold – as was done with a later “revelation” penned by Christian Whitmer which he titled “Commandment to the Churches”. (See picture of June 15, 1831 “revelation” below).

John & Christian Whitmer Title Comparison

John & Christian Whitmer Title Comparison

But why would John Whitmer put the characters there, on the cover, when he had a whole blank sheet of paper that only had two sentences on it (The book of the generations of Adam), which could have easily been flipped over and used, and then inserted inside the manuscript?

It may well be that the “Caractors” part of the document was made first, and then the title was added. The smaller characters may have been copied smaller because that was the way they appeared on the document that John Whitmer was copying. I find this scenario less likely, and only present it as a possibility.

If you look closely as JST 185, (click to enlarge) you can see some faint writing that looks like it was transferred (from being kept together) from another document.  H. Michael Marquardt was told by Rachel Killebrew (the Librarian at the Church of Christ) that this has been identified by Brent Metcalfe as the January 2, 1831 “revelation” that is now Doctrine and Covenants Section 38. The flip side of this “unnumbered flyleaf” (as it is catalogued by the COC) is completely blank.[266]

On December 9, 1830, Joseph Smith dictated a revelation to Edward Partridge which is now known as Doctrine and Covenants Section 35 (COC) or 36 (LDS).[267] This document was copied (as were many others) by one of Joseph’s scribes and taken to Missouri where Joseph and others traveled to “lay the foundation of Zion”. [268]

Part of "revelation" given on Dec. 9, 1830. Handwriting of Christian Whitmer

Part of “revelation” given on Dec. 9, 1830. Handwriting of Christian Whitmer

Some of those revelations were inadvertently left in Missouri or unattended for a time, and came into the hands of Symonds Ryder, possibly by way of Ezra Booth, who had been sent on a mission there with Isaac Morley.[269] Ryder was an early convert to the Church in Ohio who became disaffected with Joseph Smith after reading those revelations; then allegedly participated in an 1832 assault upon the persons of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.[270] In a letter written to A.S. Hayden in 1868, Ryder wrote:

“DEAR BRO. HAYDEN:
“* * * To give particulars of the Mormon excitement of 1831 would require a volume — a few words must suffice. It has been stated that from the year 1815 to 1835, a period of twenty years, ‘all sorts of doctrine by all sorts of preachers had been plead;’ and most of the people of Hiram had been disposed to turn out and hear. This went by the specious name of ‘liberal.’ The Mormons in Kirtland, being informed of this peculiar state of things, were soon prepared for the onset.

Symonds Ryder

Symonds Ryder

“In the winter of 1831 Joseph Smith, with others, had an appointment in the south school-house, in Hiram. Such was the apparent piety, sincerity and humility of the speakers, that many of the hearers were greatly affected, and thought it impossible that such preachers should lie in wait to deceive.

“During the next spring and summer several converts were made, and their success seemed to indicate an immediate triumph in Hiram. But when they went to Missouri to lay the foundation of the splendid city of Zion, and also of the temple, they left their papers behind. This gave their new converts an opportunity to become acquainted with the internal arrangement of their church, which revealed to them the horrid fact that a plot was laid to take their property from them and place it under the control of Joseph Smith the prophet. This was too much for the Hiramites, and they left the Mormonites faster than they had ever joined them, and by fall the Mormon church in Hiram was a very lean concern.

“But some who had been the dupes of this deception, determined not to let it pass with impunity; and, accordingly, a company was formed of citizens from Shalersville, Garrettsville, and Hiram, in March, 1832, and proceeded to headquarters in the darkness of night, and took Smith and Rigdon from their beds, and tarred and feathered them both, and let them go. This had the desired effect, which was to get rid of them. They soon left for Kirtland.

“All who continued with the Mormons, and had any property, lost all; among whom was John Johnson, one of our most worthy men; also, Esq. Snow, of Mantua, who lost two or three thousand dollars.

“SYMONDS RYDER.”[271]

Scott Faulring believes that Ryder stole the documents himself, which were hidden by Ryder and found years later and returned to the church by Ryder’s descendants:

Ryder was in Kirtland on June 6, 1831, when he was ordained an elder by Joseph Smith. Two weeks after Symonds’s ordination, the Prophet, accompanied by many of the leading brethren in Ohio, departed from Kirtland on their first visit to Independence, Jackson County, Missouri—the site of the prophesied city of the New Jerusalem and the land designated as Zion. Allegedly, with the Church leaders away, Symonds Ryder traveled north from his farm in Hiram, Ohio, up to the Church headquarters in Kirtland. Somehow, without being discovered, he accessed the Church records. Symonds apparently knew what he was looking for. He secured a certain group of manuscript revelations. The documents he took detailed, in one way or another, the organization, procedures, or laws of the Church. Included in these materials was Oliver Cowdery’s 1829 Articles. Ironically, also among the manuscripts was a copy of the revelation in which Ryder’s name was misspelled. More than 125 years later, in 1958, Symonds Ryder’s descendants discovered these manuscript revelations tightly rolled up in a linen handkerchief inside the drawer of a dresser that had been in the Ryder family for many years. The family believes that Ryder himself hid these documents for unknown reasons and they remained untouched until being discovered in 1958. It was his great-great-granddaughter who unrolled the precious old documents and flattened them in books. Two years later, the Ryder family, assisted by a Latter-day Saint family living in the community of Ravenna, Ohio, forwarded these priceless historical revelation documents to the Church historian in Salt Lake City.[272]

June 15, 1831 "Revelation" (D&C 56) Handwriting of Christian Whitmer

June 15, 1831 “Revelation” (D&C 56) Handwriting of Christian Whitmer and the cover title for this document, made to fit after it was folded.

Using these “revelations” that have now been identified as having been written by Christian Whitmer, one can see that they are the same handwriting as the Cover Title for John’s OTMan3.

Christian Whitmer Handwriting Comparison with Cover Title from the "Caractors" Document

Christian Whitmer Handwriting Comparison with Cover Title from the “Caractors” Document

Another mystery that begs to be solved is when the document was photographed and cut from the larger page.  Mackay, Dirkmatt and Jensen write,

“…a recent discovery has helped clarify the format and content of the original “Caractors” document and provides a more likely time frame for its creation. Sometime before early 1886, a photographer from Clay County, Missouri, Jacob T. Hicks, photographed the “Caractors” manuscript in David Whitmer’s possession. His photograph reveals that the currently extant portion of the document is only between one-fourth or one-third the size of the original document it was once attached to. …The 1886 image opens the possibility that the copies of the characters were written onto the document as a secondary thought and that the original document had a completely different purpose initially than to capture a copy of the characters.[273]

Modern Photo of cut off 'Caractors' Document

Photo of cut off ‘Caractors’ Document

To support this theory that the document was photographed in 1886, they reference George Edward Anderson’s[274] diary entry for May 12, 1907, which contains an interview Anderson had with Julia Schweich, the daughter of David Whitmer.[275] The entry reads,

Mrs. Julia [Whitmer] Schweich says they promised her father [?], David Whitmer, a nice Book of Mormon. She would like to have it. “Considerable Thomas about me. I must see before I believe.”

“Oh, he never deviated from what he told us at first. What he taught us that high [blank?]. No one could harm my father. I could knock him down and drag out.”

Reporter called. She would not admit him. Shut the door in his face. Wrote an article saying David Whitmer died in his arms.

Jacob T. Hicks, Liberty, Missouri, Clay County, photographer, made picture when he, [David Whitmer], [was] 82 years old. “The day I am at my own table am eighty-two years old and can carve my own turkey.” [p. 33]

Mrs. Josephine [Helen Schweich] Van Cleave lives in Springfield, Illinois. Josie, her daughter, has the trunk the manuscript was kept in. Mrs. Van Cleave’s mother is a relative of Lew Wallace, who wrote Ben Hur.

Parties came to purchase the manuscript and said it would help Father Whitmer in his old age and his grandchildren and others. He said, “they could work for their living as he had. I have never wanted for bread.”

“Name your price.”

“Would I sell my soul?”

The characters that Martin Harris took to Professor Anthon of New York were with the manuscript.

Once, Father WHitmer had not looked at the manuscript for a long time, and when they opened the trunk, found it was mouldy. But on examining the manuscript, it was not mold. Tied with the same yarn strings for years.[276]

Mackay, Dirkmatt and Jensen seem to be unaware that David Whitmer sat for two portraits by Jacob Hicks, one in 1867 when he was mayor and the other probably between 1880 and 1882, as you can see below, and so the document could have been photographed anytime during that period, but was most certainly not photographed by Hicks after 1884.

Photos of David Whitmer by Jacob Hicks. Left Photo taken in 1867 when David was 62 years old, Right Photo taken in 1882 when David was 77 years old.

Photos of David Whitmer by Jacob Hicks. (Left Photo) taken in 1867 when David was 62 years old, (Right Photo) probably taken in 1882. (See Note#276)

Why? Because there are witnesses who, well before 1886, attest that the “Caractors” document was the same size when they examined it as it is today, about 3 1/4 inches by 8 inches.[277]

One witness was James H. Hart who wrote in 1884:

James H. Hart

James H. Hart

I was shown the reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics, that were copied from the plates by the Prophet Joseph, and taken by Martin Harris to Profesors Anthon and Mitchell, of New York City, in Febuary, 1828. They are written on unruled paper, about three and a half inches by seven, and fill up seven lines, making about thirty-five inches of writing. [278]

Another was a reporter for the Daily Missouri Republican who interviewed Whitmer in 1884 and wrote that,

Mr. Whitmer showed those present a specimen of the characters copied from the plates. It is on a piece of strong paper about four by eight inches, and covered with one hundred or more hieroglyphics and figures. [279]

So when was the document cut? My guess is shortly after David acquired it from his brother John after his death in July of 1878.[280] Remember, P. Wilhelm Poulson interviewed John and David just a few months prior to this, and wrote that,

John Whitmer was in possession of copies from the plates with the translation below, and showed that to me, and also of other valuable records.[281]

Then, when he asked David about the engravings on the gold plates, Poulson was told that,

They were characters. We copied some, and if you visit my brother John, one of the eight witnesses, who wrote for Joseph, John can show you some of the old manuscript which he borrowed from me. I must have it returned to me again, as it belongs to the Church, in connection with other records. [282]

Two things about these statements are striking. David doesn’t relate the later claim that the characters were the original paper that Martin Harris took to Professor Anthon. If there were more than one character document in possession of the Whitmers as some have speculated, why didn’t David show him his document? David instead tells Poulson that “we copied some” (of the characters), and links them with an “old manuscript”.

He then says that John could show him “some of the old manuscript”. What manuscript? Perhaps it was OTMan3, which had the copy of the characters David spoke of written on the wrapper. If Poulson saw that, he would have seen the phrase “The Book of the Generations of Adam” which he could have mistaken for a “translation below”, and which he may have concluded was continued in the short manuscript of less than 20 pages.  David Whitmer had told others that just one character could generate a whole sentence or more of translation material,[283] and this may also have been related by Whitmer to Poulson.

The evidence does not bear out that this was David’s manuscript that he “loaned” to John. It was John’s manuscript, written in his own hand. It may be that John loaned the wrapper to David for a brief time and that David had Jacob Hicks take a photo of it when he posed for his portrait in 1867.

David then returned the wrapper to John, but still thought of it as his. It was quite the feather in his cap to have both the Original Manuscript to the Book of Mormon and the original transcript of the “Caractors” in his possession, and David stuck to this story for the rest of his life, even when faced with evidence from the Utah Mormons that this was incorrect, and knowing that his copy of the characters was not the original. It may have been the reason that the document was cut, to give David’s story more credibility. John may have also promised his papers to David, as the new head of the church (Church of Christ) they had established in 1876.

It is also possible that David had Hicks take a photo of the “Caractors” document sometime after 1878, when he posed for the second portrait. So why did David cut the document? I believe that it was to bolster his story that it was the original “Anthon Transcript”. Others believe that it was done to keep people (like Poulson) from thinking that the line below the characters was translated from them. [284]

But why cut the document when it would be very easy to just explain that they were not a translation of the characters? Perhaps because Whitmer had started telling others that he had the original “Anthon Transcript” and he did not want to change his story, or have others (like Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt did) claim that because it was only a copy, it was less valuable than an original.[285]

It certainly must have been frustrating to Whitmer to have the Utah Mormons come to Missouri, correct him, and then devalue his Printer’s Copy of the Book of Mormon manuscript as they did in 1878.

It may be of interest to note that Hicks took two photos of the “Caractors” Document.[286] Here is the other one:

Alternate Photo of 'Caractors' by Jacob Hicks

Alternate Photo of ‘Caractors’ by Jacob Hicks

It looks as if Hicks tried to focus on the characters themselves in this photo, (perhaps at the behest of David Whitmer) but still got some of the Manuscript Cover Title in the picture. This photo is centered better, but it is darker and some of the characters on the right edge are hard to see. It is impossible to know in what order the two photos were taken.

There is also the possibility that David actually believed that Joseph Smith had authored the “Caractor” portion of the document and that it was taken to Anthon, but if this is so, why did he tell Poulson that “we copied some of them”, and how could Whitmer reconcile his copy to the description that Anthon gave of the transcript shown to him by Martin Harris, of which David was well aware of and had quoted in his Address to All Believers In Christ?[287]

David Whitmer’s own knowledge about the “Anthon Incident” and his penchant for exaggeration discredit his later statements about the “Caractors” document and give credence to the theory that he cut the document to bolster those later statements.

CONCLUSION

Understanding the history behind the characters supposedly copied from the gold plates that Joseph Smith claimed to have found in the fall of 1827 has been difficult, but also of great importance to many.

This was well understood by Mark Hoffman who created his famous forgery of the “Anthon Transcript” in 1980. For almost two centuries historians have been trying to add pieces to the puzzle of historical accounts left behind; and discover more evidence that will bring answers to the many questions that still linger about the “Caractors” that Jospeh Smith claimed were “Reformed Egyptian” writing.

We now know that the document that was in the possession of John and David Whitmer was not the original transcript that was taken to Charles Anthon in 1828 by Martin Harris, but that it was a copy made by John and Christian Whitmer a few years later.

What we still don’t know is what happened to the original “Anthon Transcript”, or some of the other copies that are mentioned in various accounts during the lifetime of Joseph Smith, and how they relate to the reproductions produced after his death.

The Hicks Photos are important pieces of evidence that answer some of those questions; but as with other discoveries generate even more. Still, finds like this one give hope to future historians that answers can be found, and that more discoveries are still out there waiting to be uncovered by diligent researchers and students of Mormon History.

NOTES

[217] Online here, accessed August 30, 2013.

[218] Daily Missouri Republican, July 16, 1884. Online here, accessed August 30, 2013. In an interview with by her son in February, 1879, Emma Smith answered some questions about the Book of Mormon scribes,

Q. Who were scribes for father when translating the Book of Mormon?
A. Myself, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and my brother, Reuben Hale.
Q. Was Alva Hale one?
A. I think not. He may have written some; but if he did, I do not remember it.… (Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 541).

In another interview with the Chicago Times in November 1881 David Whitmer said,

“Christian Whitmer, his brother, occasionally assisted Cowdery in writing, as did Mrs. Joseph Smith, [Jr.], who was a Miss Hale before she was married.”

[219] History of the Church, 1:49.

[220] Dean C. Jessee, “The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript,” Brigham Young University Studies, 10:3, Spring 1970, page 276.

[221] Royal Skousen, “The Original and Printer’s Manuscripts” (Book of Lecture, 1 of 3), The Maxwell Institute YouTube Page, published on July 17, 2013. Online here, accessed August 20, 2013.

[222] Moses 6:8

[223] H. Michael Marquardt, “John Whitmer and the Revelations of Joseph Smith”, Web Version © 2009 by H. Michael Marquardt, Online here, accessed August 20, 2013.

[224] ibid, note 11.

[225] Kent P. Jackson, “The Sword of My Indignation”: John Whitmer’s Genesis Manuscript and 1861 Revelation, Mormon Historical Studies, Spring 2008, page 119. Online here, (PDF), accessed August 30, 2013.

[226] Revelation Book 1, page 11, Online here, accessed August 30, 2013.

[227] For more on the spelling issue and its possible ramifications about who may have authored the document, see note #259.

[228] Dan Vogel brought this to my attention during our email discussions about the document last summer, which was pointed out to him by Brent Metcalfe. He wrote,

Those are called wipe erasures and are done while the ink is still wet. Note that one of them is an erasure of a repeated character. These tend to show that the document was visually copied from another document. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t JS copying his own material. It may be because of these erasures that the document was discarded and restarted and when complete included the circle. Although Anthon says the characters were arranged in columns, he adds that the “whole ended” with the circle. (Email, July 7, 2013)

Note: at this time we were discussing possible scenarios for the authorship of the document before all of the handwriting samples were analyzed; therefore it doesn’t mean that Dan thinks that Joseph authored the document.

[229] See “The ‘Caractors’ Document: New Light on an Early Transcription of the Book of Mormon Characters, by Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmatt, and Robin Scott Jensen, Mormon Historical Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, Spring 2013, pp. 140-141.

[230] “Gold Bible No. 6”, The Reflector, Palmyra, New York, March 19, 1831.

[231] Gleanings by the Way, p. 227.

[232] There is an amazing amount of historical documents that were kept, copied and saved by the efforts of Joseph Smith and those that he put in charge of Church records during his time. Smith himself developed a theology which made the saving of documents imperative, (See D&C 127), and Joseph had always stressed the importance of writing down the minutes of meetings as he explained to the Kirtland High Council in 1835:

Here is another important idea. If you assemble from time to time, and proceed to discuss important questions, and pass decisions upon the same, and fail to note them down, by & by you will be driven to straits, from which you will not be able to extricate yourselves because you may be in a situation not to bring your faith to bear with sufficient perfection or power to obtain the desired information, or perhaps, for neglecting to write these things, when God revealed them, not esteeming them of sufficient worth the Spirit may withdraw and God may be angry, and here is or was a vast knowledge of infinite importance, which is now lost. What was the cause of this? It came in consequence of Slothfulness, or a neglect to appoint a man to occupy a few moments in writing all these decisions. Here let me prophesy. The time will come, when, if you neglect to do this thing, you will fall by the hands of unrighteous men. Were you to be brought before the authorities, and, be accused of any crime or misdemeanor, and be as innocent as the angels of God, unless you can prove yourselves to have been somewhere else, your enemies will prevail over you, but if you can bring twelve men to testify that you were in a certain place at that time, you will escape their hands. Now, if you will be careful to keep minutes of these things, as I have said, it will be one of the most important records ever seen for every such decision will, ever after remain as items of doctrine and covenants. I have now placed before you these items, for your consideration, and you are left to act according to your own judgments. The council then expressed their approbation, concerning the foregoing remarks of President Smith, and proceeded to appoint Elders, Orson Hyde & Wm. E. McLelin, to serve as clerks for the meeting. (Kirtland Council Minute Book, February 27, 1835)

Still, Joseph was not above having church records destroyed, as William Clayton records in a diary entry from June of 1844:

Joseph whispered and told me either to put the r[ecords] of K[ingdom] into the hands of some faithful man and send them away, or burn them, or bury them. I concluded to bury them, which I did immediately on my return home. (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, p.135, June 22, 1844).

The next day, Clayton recorded that “ I went to Joseph and got all the public and private records together and buried them.” (ibid, June 23, 1844).

Concerning the Book of Mormon Original Manuscript, Ebeneezer Robinson would later write that,

The foundation [of the Nauvoo House] was prepared, and the ceremony of laying the corner stone was attended to on the 2nd day of October, 1841. One thing transpired on that occasion worthy of note.

After the brethren had assembled at the southeast corner of the foundation, where the corner stone was to be laid, President Joseph Smith said: ‘Wait, brethren, I have a document I wish to put in that stone,’ and started for his house, which was only a few rods away, across Main Street. I went with him to the house, and also one or two other brethren. He got a manuscript copy of the Book of Mormon, and brought it into the room where we were standing, and said: “I will examine to see if it is all here,” and as he did so I stood near him, at his left side, and saw distinctly the writing, as he turned up the pages until he hastily went through the book and satisfied himself that it was all there, when he said: “I have [had] trouble enough with this thing,” which remark struck me with amasement, as I looked upon it as a sacred treasure.

It was written on foolscap paper, and formed a package, as the sheets lay flat, of about two or two and a half inches thick, I should judge. It was written mostly in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting, with which I was intimately acquainted, having set many pages of type from his handwriting, in the church printing office at Kirtland, Ohio. Some parts of it were written in other handwriting.

He took the manuscript and deposited it in the corner stone of the Nauvoo House, together with other papers and things, including different pieces of United States’ coin. I put in some copies of the Times and Seasons; all were carefully encased in sheet lead to protect the contents from moisture, and a stone had been cut to closely fit into the cavity which had been made in the corner stone to receive these things, which stone was fitted in its place and cemented, when it was thought the papers and other articles would be preserved without decay or injury for ages, if not disturbed.

From this circumstance we know there must have been at least two manuscript copies of the Book of Mormon, which necesssarily must have been the case, as the printer who printed the first edition of the book had to have a copy, as they would not put the original copy into his hands for fear of it being altered. This accounts for David Whitmer having a copy and Joseph Smith having one. They were both mostly written in Oliver Cowdery’s hand writing, as I have seen both. He was scribe for Joseph most of the time he was translating the Book of Mormon. (Ebeneezer Robinson, The Return, Vol. 2, No. 8, August, 1890, pp. 314-315, online here, accessed August 20, 2013, bolded italics mine).

Dean Jessee in his article “The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript” for some reason does not quote Robinson in full, but leaves off before Joseph’s statement that he had “had enough trouble” with the manuscript. He does quote Warren Foote who wrote in his diary that,

“I was standing very near the cornerstone, when Joseph Smith came up with the manuscript of the Book of Mormon and said he wanted to put that in there, as he had had trouble enough with it. It was the size of common foolscap paper, and about three inches thick.” (Dean C. Jessee, “The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript”, B. Y. U. Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1970, pg. 4. Online here, accessed August 20, 2013.)

In his footnote to the Foote citation Jessee writes,

This statement agrees with that of John Brown, who also witnessed the proceedings. He quoted Joseph Smith as saying: “I have had a great deal of trouble to preserve it. I now deliver it up to the Lord and will not have the care of it any longer.” (ibid, pg. 14)

Unfortunately, these two statements do not agree, for Foote and Robinson say nothing about Joseph having trouble preserving the manuscript or that he wanted to “deliver it up to the Lord”. Brown’s statement was written in a letter to John Taylor on December 20, 1879 and seems to want to interpret the event in a different, or more faith promoting light. If Joseph had actually placed the manuscript in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo house with the intention of simply “delivering it up to the Lord” to preserve it, Ebeneezer Robinson’s account surely would have reflected this, as would Warren Foote’s journal entry for that date. One also wonders why Joseph could not have simply given it to an angel to “preserve”, as he claimed to have done with the gold plates. (See, Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials In Church History, p. 68).

[233] See Note #92.

[234] Orasmus Turner, History of Pioneer Settlement of Phelps And Gorham’s Purchase, 1849, page 215.

[235]“Cracking the Muisca Calendar”, online here, accessed, August 25, 2013.

See also, Manuel Arturo Izquierdo Pe~na, “The Muisca Calendar: An approximation to the timekeeping system of the ancient native people of the northeastern Andes of Colombia,” Dissertation presented to the Departament d’Anthropologie, Faculte des etudes superierures, Universite de Montreal, as prerequisite to obtain the diploma of Maitre es Sciences en Anthropologie, v. 3, 2008. Online here, accessed August 25, 2013.

[236] ibid, pp. 28-29. These are the Hieroglyphs given in Humboldt’s Researches Concerning The Institutions & Monuments of The Ancient Inhabitants of America, published in 1814.

[237] Times and Seasons 3, no. 16, June 15, 1842, 818–20, See also, “An Analysis of Joseph Smith’s Statements Associated with the Origins of the Aztecs in the Country of Aztlan”, by Ted Dee Stoddard, Online here, accessed, August 25, 2013.

[238] D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, Chapter 4. An excerpt from this book may be found here, accessed, August 30, 2013.

[239] ibid, p.97.

[240] ibid. The page taken from “The Discoverie of Witchcraft” by Reginald Scot, first published in 1584 may be found here. Part of the ritual for conjuring the dead reads,

“And about eleven a clocke in the night, go to the place where he was buried, and saie with a bold faith & hartie desire, to have the spirit come and thou doost call for, thy fellow having a candle in his left hand, and in his right hand a CHRISTALL STONE, and saie these words following

And I will sweare to thee an o[a]th, by the perill of my soule, that if thou wilt come to me, and appeare to me this night, AND SHEW ME TRUE VISIONS IN THIS CHRISTALL STONE, …

[241] Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. I, pg. 352. See Note 64. Vogel writes,

Lucy Harris (?-c. 1841), oldest daughter of Martin and Lucy Harris, was evidently born in Palmyra, New York. She married Flanders Dyke, probably in the late 1820s. She had seven children (Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 26 [July 1935]: 108).

According to Lavina Fielding Anderson, Dyke was reported to have died in the Civil War. (Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s family memoir, Signature Books, 2001, pg. 814.)

[242] See Note #53.

[243] There are four possible instances of the dash like character that appear in the first four lines, but they all appear to be part of another character (except perhaps No. 2), not “stand alone” characters. I include them here for study.

BOM Dash Characters

Left to Right: A. Line 1, 4th character; B.Line 1, 17th & 18th character; C. Line 2, 1st character; D. Line 2, 13th character

[244] See Note #212.

[245] See Note #259. Stanley B. Kimball wrote in 1970:

One interesting, and possibly very meaningful, detail about the RLDS transcript is the word “Charactors” written across the top. Four students of early Church history, R.D. Webb, Ariel Crowley, Dean Jessee of the LDS Church Historian’s Office, and the anti-Mormon writer, I. Woodbridge Riley, think that this word is in the hand of Joseph Smith. If so, the authenticity of the RLDS transcript would be strengthened greatly. (Stanley B. Kimball, “The Anthon Transcript: People, Primary Sources, and Problems,” B.Y.U. Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, Spring, 1970, p. 349).

[246] See Note #221.

[247] The Geneva Gazette, March 9, 1825.

Anne [Anna] Schott was probably born at Fayette, Seneca, New York about 1804. She was the daughter of Frederick Schott and his wife Anne. They had moved from the vicinity of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1802 to Fayette. Anne married Christian Whitmer on 22 Feb 1825 in Seneca County. Anne was baptized on 11 Apr 1830 at Seneca Lake by Oliver Cowdery, along with her husband. Moved to Ohio and then Missouri in 1831, settling in Jackson County. From there the couple moved to Clay County where Anne’s husband died 27 Nov 1835. After this Anne returned to New York to live with her parents. She married Francis Hulett, but later divorced him. She died in Seneca County, New York. There is no indication in any records of any children being born to Anne and Christian. (Lyman D. Platt, “Members of th Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints baptized by September 26, 1830,” (PDF) p. 23, Online here, accessed August 20, 2013.

At the time of Christian Whitmer’s marriage, he was spelling his name “Witmer” without the “h”. I am grateful to Brent Metcalfe who informed me that he has seen the signature of Christian’s grandfather and that he also spelled his last name without the “h”. I discovered the marriage notice of Christian and Anna Witmer while doing research for this article.

[248] Frederick Schott (1766-1858) was married to Anna Rathfon, (1752-1853) and had 7 children, Mary Esther, Anna, Elizabeth, Edwin, Sally, Vincent, and Daniel who was born in 1799 and died the same year as John Whitmer, in 1878. He joined the Seneca County Grenadiers in 1825 and became a Justice of the Peace in 1829. (See the Geneva Mercantile Advertiser, Dec. 9, 1829)

[249] The Seneca Farmer, March 23, 1825.

[250] “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, Millennial Star 40 (9 Dec 1878):771-7.

[251] Kansas City Daily Journal, June 5, 1881.

[252] Juvenile Instructor 19 (1884):107

[253] Chicago Tribune, 15 Dec 1885.

[254] David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, p.33.

[255] Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents Vol. 1, p. 99.

[256] Hiram Page was,

Born in the state of Vermont in 1800, little has been Iearned of his earlier life. He became a physician, traveling through New York and Canada before locating in Seneca County, New York. Here he married Katherine Whitmer 10 Nov 1825. He became one of the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. He and his wife were baptized by Oliver Cowdery at Seneca Lake on 11 Apr 1830. They moved to Kirtland in 1831 and to Jackson County, Missouri in 1832. During the persecutions in Jackson County, Hiram was brutally whipped by the mob. In 1836 he was one of the settlers at Far West. In 1838 he left the church and moved to Ray County. He died near the present site of Exelsior Springs, some fourteen miles northwest of Richmond, 12 Aug 1852. He and Katherine were the parents of nine children. (Platt, op. cited, p. 22-23)

Michael Quinn writes,

The Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon were also involved in folk magic. Oliver Cowdery was a rodsman before he met Smith in 1829 and was soon authorized by divine revelation to continue the revelatory use of his “rod of nature.” David Whitmer revered Smith’s use of a seer stone, may have possessed one of his own, and authorized a later spokesman for his own religious organization to obtain revelations through a stone (figs. 11-12). Martin Harris endorsed Smith’s use of a seer stone for divination and treasure seeking, and participated in treasure digging himself after the discovery of the gold plates. Of the remaining Eight Witnesses, John Whitmer possessed a seer stone which his descendants preserved (fig. 13), his brothers Christian, Jacob, and Peter were included in their pastor’s accusation of magic belief, and Hiram Page, their brother-in-law, had a stone for revelations.

The influence of magic was equally pervasive among the twelve men [p.195] who comprised the first quorum of apostles in 1835. As will be seen, almost half of the first apostles—Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, and Orson Pratt—gave specific evidence of a belief in various magical practices, while William Smith, Parley P. Pratt, and Lyman E. Johnson may have shared the views that their brothers expressed and implemented. Thus, at least two-thirds of Mormonism’s first apostles may have had some affinity for magic. (D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, pp. 194-195).

Page’s continued use of his stone created a problem for Joseph in September 1830 when Page claimed that he was receiving “revelations” about Zion and other matters concerning the new church. In 1864, George A. Smith recounted that,

When the Church was organized, persons came into it bringing along some of these enthusiastic notions individuals who professed to have revelations on every subject, and who were ready to banish every moral principle under the guidance of false spirits. Joseph the Prophet had also to learn by experience, and to teach the Elders and the early members of the Church, how they should judge of the manifestation of spirits. (Book of Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 17, Par. 7.)

“Wherefore it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus, and if he give not unto you that spirit, that you may know that it is not of God: and it shall be given unto you power over that spirit, and you shall proclaim against that spirit with a loud voice, that it is not of God; not with railing accusation, that ye be not overcome; neither with boasting, nor rejoicing, lest you be seized therewith,” and refers to Hiram Page who began to get revelations through the medium of a black stone, certain characters appearing on that stone which he wrote down.

Joseph Smith in his history wrote thus:

“To our great grief, however, we soon found that Satan had been lying in wait to deceive, and seeking whom he might devour. Brother Hyrum Page had got in his possession a certain stone, by which he had obtained revelations concerning the up-building of Zion, the order of the Church, &c., &c., all of which were entirely at variance with the order of God’s house, as laid down in the New Testament, as well as our late revelations. As a Conference had been appointed for the first day of September, I thought it wisdom not to do much more than to converse with the brethren on the subject, until the Conference should meet. Finding, however, that many, especially the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery, were believing much in the things set forth by this stone, we thought best to inquire of the Lord concerning so important a matter; and before Conference convened, we received the revelation to Oliver Cowdery given at Fayette, New York, September, 1830, in the 4th paragraph of which the Lord says:[p.3] “And again, thou shalt take thy brother, Hyrum Page, between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me, and that Satan deceived him; for, behold, these things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this Church contrary to the Church covenants, for all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the Church, by the prayer of faith.”

Joseph’s history continues:

“At length our Conference assembled. The subject of the stone previously mentioned, was discussed, and after considerable investigation, brother Page, as well as the whole Church who were present, renounced the said stone, and all things connected therewith, much to our mutual satisfaction and happiness.” (Journal of Discourses Vol. 11, p.3, November 15, 1864).

Emer Harris brother of Martin Harris, would later recount that,

…the Apostle said we have to fight against principalities and powers in high places. Bro. Hiram Page dug out of the earth a black stone [and] put it in his pocket. When he got home, he looked at it. It contained a sentence on paper to befit it. As soon as he wrote one sentence, another sentence came on the stone, until he wrote 16 pages. Bro. Joseph was told of the fact. One person asked Joseph if it is right. He said he did not know, but he prayed and got revelation that the stone was of the devil. Then it was broke to powder and the writings burnt. It was a work of the power of darkness. Amen.” (Emer Harris statement, 6 Apr. 1856, Utah Stake general minutes, archives, Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah).

Quinn writes that,

In this instance, Smith’s move away from instruments of folk magic as church president contributed to the apostasy of early Mormon folk believers. Members of the Whitmer family were so devoted to the importance of seer stones that David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Hiram Page later dated the beginning of ,their own disenchantment with Mormonism at the time when Joseph Smith stopped using the seer stone as an instrument of revelation. (D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, p.201).

For more on Page’s stone see “Hiram Page’s Seer Stone and Checking Your Sources,” found here, accessed August 20, 2013.

[257] Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents Vol. I, p. 129, see also Times and Seasons, Vol.4, No.7, p.109, which account reads,

Shortly after we had received the above revelations, Oliver Cowdery returned to Mr. Whitmer’s, and I began to arrange and copy the revelations which we had received from time to time; in which I was assisted by John Whitmer, who now resided with me. Whilst thus (and otherwise at intervals) employed in the work appointed me, by my heavenly father, I received a letter from Oliver Cowdery, the contents of which gave me both sorrow and uneasiness. Not having that letter now in my possession, I cannot, of course, give it here in full, but merely an extract of the most prominent parts, which I can yet, and expect long to remember. He wrote to inform me that he had discovered an error in one of the commandments: Book of Doctrine and Covenants, Sect. 2d, page 7th-“And truly manifested by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of sins.” The above quotation, he said, was erroneous, and added, I command you in the name of God to erase these words, that no priestcraft be amongst us!! I immediately wrote to him in reply, in which I asked him by what authority he took upon him to command me to alter or erase, to add or diminish to or from a revelation or commandment from Almighty God. In a few days afterwards I visited him and Mr. Whitmer’s family, were I found the family, in general, of his opinion concerning the words above quoted; and it was not without both labor and perseverence that I could prevail with any of them to reason calmly on the subject. However Christian Whitmer at length got convinced that it was reasonable, and according to Scripture, and, finally, with his assistance, I succeded in bringing, not only the Whitmer family, but also Oliver Cowdery, to acknowledge they had been in error, and that the sentence in dispute was in accordance with the rest of the commandments. And thus was their error rooted out, which having its rise in presumption and rash judgment, was the more particularly calculated (when once fairly understood) to teach each and all of us the necessity of humility and meekness before the Lord, that he might teach us of his ways, that we might walk in his paths, and live by every word that proceedeth forth from his mouth.

In an interview given in 1881 David Whitmer related that “The first good suit of clothes he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] had ever worn was presented to him by (my brother) Christian Whitmer.” (“David Whitmer Interviewed,” Saints’ Herald, November 15, 1881, 347.)

It may also be of interest that in 1829 Solomon Chamberlain published A Sketch of the Experience of Solomon Chamberlin, and mentioned that he had stopped in Palmyra and visited the Smith Farm where he met Christian Whitmer and Hyrum Smith:

I soon arrived at the [Smith] house, and found Hyrum walking the floor; as I entered the room, I said peace be to this house; he looked at me and said “I hope it will be peace.” I then said is there any one here that believes in visions and revelations. He [Hyrum] said yes, we are a visionary house. I then said I will give you one of my pamphlets, (which was visionary and of my own composition). . . .
* * *
They then called the people together, which consisted of five or six men who were out at the door. Father Smith was one and some of the Whitmer’s. They then sat down and read my pamphlet. Hyrum read first, but was so affected he could not read it, He then gave it to a man, which I learned was Christian Whitmer, he finished reading it. I then opened my mouth and began to preach to them, in the words that the angel had made known to me in the vision, that all Churches and Denominations on the earth had become corrupt, and [that] no Church of God [was] on earth but that he would shortly raise up a Church, that would never be confounded nor brought down and be like unto the Apostolic Church. They wondered greatly who had been telling me these things, for said they we have the same things wrote down in our house, taken from the Gold record, that you are preaching to us. (Marquardt & Walters, Inventing Mormonism, Ch.6, p.129).

This incident would probably have made a strong impression on Christian Whitmer and may have helped him overcome any doubts raised about Joseph Smith by others.

But Smith was to have further problems and challenges to his desire to be the president and spokesman for the Church. A year before the Church was organized, Joseph penned a “revelation” to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris which stated that they should not go “beyond things which are written; for in them are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my rock,” and that they “had received the same power, the same faith, and the same gift like unto him [Joseph Smith].” (Book of Commandments, Chapter XV:1,3, History of the Church, Vol. I., p. 53)

David Whitmer later wrote that,

I was present when Brother Joseph received it [the above “revelation”] through the stone. It is Chapter 15 Book of Commandments, Sec. 16 Doctrine and Convenants. In the Book of Commandments it reads thus:

“Behold I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my rock. Wherefore if you shall build up my church, and my gospel, and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”

But in the Book of Doctrine and Convenants it has been changed and reads thus: “Behold I give unto you a commandment, that you rely “upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written, concerning `the foundation of’ my church, my gospel, and my rock; wherefore, if you shall build up my church `upon the foundation of’ my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”

The change in this revelation is of great importance; the word “them” refers to the plates–the Book of Mormon: We were commanded to rely upon it in building up the church; that is, in establishing the doctrine, the order of offices, etc.: “FOR IN THEM ARE ALL THINGS WRITTEN CONCERNING MY CHURCH, my gospel, and my rock.” But this revelation has been changed by man to mean as follows: That therein is not all things written concerning the church, but only all things concerning “the foundation of” the church–or the beginning of the church: that you must build up the church, beginning according to the written word, and add new offices, new ordinances, and new doctrines as I (the Lord) reveal them to you from year to year: As a Seer to the Church; High Priests; Three of the First Presidency; Baptism for the Dead; Polygamy, etc., etc. When the Book of Doctrine and Convenants was compiled in 1834, the church had then received many revelations to establish new offices and doctrines that are not even mentioned in the New Convenant of either of the two sacred books. They changed this revelation in order to sustain these new doctrines: If they had not made this change, the plain language of the original revelation would have condemned the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. I want to repeat that I was present when Brother Joseph received this revelation through the stone: I am one of the persons to whom it was given, therefore I know of a surety that it was changed when printed in the Doctrine and Convenants in 1834. Likewise concerning all these changes of which I will speak, I know that these changes were made. I was present when nearly all the early revelations were received. There are several of the old Books of Commandments yet in the land; bring them to light and see for yourselves that these revelations were changed just as I tell you.

These changes were made by the leaders of the church, who had drifted into error and spiritual blindness. Through the influence of Sydney Rigdon, Brother Joseph was led on and on into receiving revelations every year, to establish offices and doctrines which are not even mentioned in the teachings of Christ in the written word. In a few years they had gone away ahead of the written word, so that they had to change these revelations, as you will understand when I have finished. (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, p.58-59).

[258] The Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Vol.2, No.3, December, 1835, p.240.

[259] Brent and Erin Metcalfe have discovered another signature of Christian Whitmer from a petition that he signed in 1834, which Brent assure me “exhibits an evolution in style that even more closely resembles” the “Caractors” ms. and Scribe 3 in the Book of Mormon Original Manuscript and other documents. Since I have not seen this discovery, I can’t make any kind of determination about it, other than to give some evidence of what I feel may bolster the fact that Christian may have written the word “Caractors” in addition to the Cover Title. One strong reason that bolsters Brent and Erin’s conclusion (without their additional discovery) is that Christian Whitmer was a notorious bad speller. Below are some examples, (and this is only from four pages of material and it isn’t all of them):
Christian Whitmer Handwriting spelling mistakesThe reason I bring this up, is that I feel it is a weak spot in my analysis. John Whitmer also had misspellings, but not near as many as Christian Whitmer did. When Joseph Smith initially misspelled the word characters in his 1832 Summer History, he did not do so with an “o” in it. He merely left out the “h”. Now, it is possible that by 1832 his spelling had improved, and that he may have had problems misspelling the word. But this is not definitive proof, and my conclusion that it is John Whitmer who wrote the word “Caractors” depends on him copying a misspelling, which even I have problems with, given that John corrected Christians rendering of the Cover Title (JST 185).

But the handwriting analysis to me, still weighs in the favor of John Whitmer for the word “Caractors” and Christian Whitmer for the Cover Title.

[260] Mormon Historical Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, Spring 2013, p. 138.

[261] ibid.

[262] ibid, p. 144.

[263] I would like to thank Don Bradley for his help with this, and his encouragement and interest in this project.

[264] See Note #259.

[265] Even though I have great confidence in Brent and Erin Metcalfe’s research and conclusions, I am still troubled by the obvious differences in those style characteristics. The word “Caractors” and the fact that it is misspelled seem to point towards Christian Whitmer, yet the style of writing seems to point to his brother John. One possible explanation may be that there was an original document with that spelling on it penned by Joseph Smith himself, and John Whitmer wanted to preserve the original as it was written (which I’m not entirely convinced of, but have no better explanation at this time).

If Christian penned the entire “Caractors” document, why would John not have his brother write it out first and spell check it (if he did not want to preserve an original spelling of the word that way), when he went to the trouble to do so with the Cover Title? If the whole document was indeed penned by Christian Whitmer at the same time, then why is the word “Caractors” not included with the Cover Title on JST185?

[266] The identification of D&C 38 was related by H. Michael Marquardt to Dan Vogel, who gave me this information in an Email on July 22, 2013.

[267] For more on Edward Partridge, see D. Brent Collette, “In Search of Zion: A Description of Early Mormon Millennial Utopianism as Revealed Through the Life of Edward Partridge.” M.A., Brigham Young University, 1977, Online here, accessed August 20, 2013.

[268] Thomas G. Alexander writes,

In August 1831 Joseph Smith and a group of Mormon converts originally from Colesville, New York, met near Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, to lay the foundation for an American Zion. Designated as a place of refuge where church members could escape the tribulations preceding Jesus Christ’s second coming, Jackson County was to be the location of a communitarian enterprise called The Law of Consecration and Stewardship or the United Order of Enoch and as a site for a temple for the most sacred rites associated with Mormon worship. (Thomas G. Alexander, Things in Heaven and Earth, The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet, p.26).

The Smith family was to be immortalized and instrumental in bringing this to pass, as a portion of a blessing by Church Patriarch John Smith to his son George A. Smith emphasizes, according to Irene Bates and E. Gary Smith:

In a blessing to his eldest son, George A., on September 20, 1853, he promised that “all the inhabitants of the earth shall know that the Lord did choose the Smith family to build up Zion & did by them lay the foundation of this Church which shall never be overthrown neither shall the name of the Smith family be blotted out under Heaven.” (Irene M. Bates, E. Gary Smith, Lost Legacy: The Mormon Office of Presiding Patriarch, p.117).

Concerning the events that took place in Jackson County Missouri in August 1831, John Whitmer wrote,

I hereby give a copy of the proceedings of the laying of the first logs of the City of Zion. As written by Oliver Cowdery. “After many struggles and afflictions, being persecuted by our enemies, we received inteligence by letter from our brethren, who were at the East. That br[others] Joseph and Sidney, and many others elders, were commanded to take their journey to this land, the Land of Missouri. Which was promised unto us should be the land of the inheritance of the Saints, and the place of the gathering in these last days. Which inteligenc cheered our hearts, and caused us to rejoice exceedingly. And by the special direction protection of the Lord, br Joseph Smith Jr. and Sidney Rigdon, in company with eight other elders, with the church from Colesville New York, consisting of about sixty souls, arivd in the month of July and by Revelation the place was made known where the Temple shall stand, and the City should commence. And by commandment twelve of us assembled ourselves together Viz. Elder Joseph Smith Jr. the Seer, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Newel Knight,4 William W. Phelps, and Ezra Booth who denied the faith.

On the second day of August 1831, Brother Sidny [p. 32] Rigdon stood up and asked saying: Do you receive this land for the land of your inheritance with thankful hearts from the Lord? answer from all we do, Do you pledge yourselves to keep the laws of God on this land, which you have never have kept in your own land? We do. Do you pledge yourselves to see that others of your brethren, who shall come hither do keep the laws of God? We do. After prayer he arose and said, I now pronounce this land consecrated and dedicated to the Lord for a possession and inheritance for the Saints, (in the name of Jesus Christ having authority from him.) And for all the faithful Servants of the Lord to the rimotest ages of time Amen.

The day following eight Elders viz. Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Peter Whitmer Jr., Frederick G. Williams,6 Wm. W. Phelps, Martin Harris, and Joseph Coe. assembled together where the temple is to be erected. Sidney Rigdon dedicated the ground where the city is to Stand: and Joseph Smith Jr. laid a stone at the North east corner of the contemplated Temple in the name of the Lord Jesus of Nazareth. After all present had rendered thanks to the great ruler of the universe. Sidney Rigdon pronounced this Spot of ground wholy dedicated unto the Lord forever: Amen.

Some of the Elders who travelled to the land of Missouri and preached by the way tarried here in this land, among whom is the Bishop E[dward] Partridge[,] Isaac Morley[,] and John Corrill. Some were sick on their way to this land but all were restored to health[.] among those who were sick was John Murdock Parley P. Pratt and Thomas B. Marsh—They all tarried until after they attended a conference in this land. They have since all gone to preach [p. 33] the gospel and call sinners to repentance.

There were some churches built by the way as they journeyed to this land (Mo.) and the people were warned of the danger they were in, if they did not repent.

And now when the Elders had returned to their homes in Ohio,9 the churches needed much exortation in the absence of the Elders[.] many apostitized: but many have returned again to from the fold from whence they have strayed—And many mighty miracles were wrought by the Elders—one in particular which I shall here notice—which was wrought by Elders Emer10 Harris Joseph Bracke[r]berry11 and Wheeler Baldwin.12 [This] Is [an incident regarding] an infirmity in an old lady who had been helpless for the space of eight years confined to her bed. she did not belong to this church but sent her request to the Elders who immediately attended to her call, and after their arrival praid [prayed] for her and laid their hands on her, and she was immediately made whole and magnified and praised God. and is now enjoying perfect health[.]

And thus the churches again prospered and the work of the Lord spread[.]

Shortly after Joseph Smith Jr[,] Oliver Cowdery[,] and Sidney Rigdon Returned [to Ohio] Sidney wrote a discription and an epistle according to commandment.13 And Oliver Cowdery and Newel K. Whitney14—were commanded to go and visit the churches speedily—as you will see by reading the Revelation given August thirty at Kirtland15— The following is a copy of the Epistle written by S. Rigdons own hand.

I sidney a servant of Jesus Christ by the will of God the Father and through the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ unto the Saints who are scattered abroad in the last days, may grace [p. 34] mer[c]y and peace, rest upon you from God the father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who is greatly to be feared, among his saints and to be had in reverance of all them who obey him.

Beloved brethren,

It has pleased God even the Father to make known unto us m these last days, the good pleasure of his will concerning his Saints; and to make known unto us, the things which he has decreed upon the nations even wasting and destruction until they are utterly destroyed, and the earth made desolate by reason of the wickedness of its inhabitants according as he has made known in times past by prophits and apostles, that such calamities should befall the inhabitants of the earth in the last days, unless they should repent and turn to the living God. And as the time is now near at hand, for the accomplishment of his purposes and the fulfilment of his prophesies, which have been spoken by all the holy prophets, ever since the world began, he has sent and signified, unto us by the mouths of his holy prophets, that. he has raised up in these last days—the speedy accomplishment of his accomplish ment purposes which shall be accomplished, on the heads of the rebellious of this generation—among whom he has been pleased in much mercy and goodness, to send forth the fulness of his gospel in order that [p.89] they might repent and turn to the living God, and be made partakers of his Holy Spirit[.]

But by reason of their wickedness and rebellion against him and wicked and unbelieving hearts the Lord withdrew his spirit from them, and gives them up to work all uncleanness with greediness, and to bring swift destruction on themselves—[p. 35] and through their wickedness to hasten the day of their calamity, that they may be left without excuse in the day of vengeance.
But it has pleased our heavenly Father to make known some better things, concerning his Saints and those who serve him in f[e]ar and rejoice in meekness, before him, even things which pertain to life everlasting, for godliness has the life promise of the life, that now is, and that which is to come; Even so it has pleased our heavenly Father to make provisions for his saints in these last days of tribulation that they through faith and patience, and by continuing in well doing may preserve their lives; and attain unto rest and endless felicity—but by no other means, than that of a strict observance of his commandments and teachings in all things as there is and can be no ruler nor lawgiver in the Kingdom of God save it be God our Saviour himself—and before him he requires that all his saints & those who have named the name of Jesus, should be carful to depart from iniquity—and serve him with fe[a]r and rejoicing and trembling least he be angry and they perish from their way.
According to the prediction of the ancient profits that the Lord would send his messengers in the last days, and gather his elect. (which is the elect according to the covenant, viz. those who like Abraham are faithful to God and the word of his Grace.) from the four winds even from one end of the earth to the other as testified of by the Savior himself—so in these last days he has commenced to gather together, into a place provided before of God and had in reserve in days of old, being kept by the power and providence of of God, for this purpose and which he now holds in his own hands, that they through faith, and patience may inherit the blessings promises—A land which God by his own [p. 36] commandment has consecrated to him self where he has said, that his laws shall be kept, and where his saints can dwell in safety, through their perseverance in well doing and their unfeigned repentance of all their sins, our heavenly Father has provided this land himself because it was the one which was [best] adapted, for his children, where Jew and Gentile might dwell together: for God has the same respect to all those who call upon him in truth and righteousness whether they be Jew or Gentile; for there is no respect of persons with him.

This land being situated in the center of the continent on which we dwell with an exceeding fertile soil and ready cleared for the hand of the cultivator bespeaks the goodness of our God, in providing so goodly a heritage, and its climate suited [to] persons from every quarter of this continent. wither East West North or South yea I think I may say, for all constitutions from every part of the world and its productions nearly all varieties of both grain and vegitables which are common in this country together with all means, [for] clothing: in addition to this it abounds with fountains of pure water[,] the soil climate and surface all adapted to health[.] indeed I may say that the whole properties of the country invite the Saints to come and partake their blessings[.] but what more need I say about a country. which our Heavenly Father holds in his own hands[,] for if it were unhealthy he could make it healthy and if barren he could make it fruitful. Such is the land which God has provided for us, in these last days for an inheritance, and truly it is a goodly land, and none other as well suited for all the saints as this and all those who have faith and confidence in God who has ever seen this land will bear the same testimony. In order that you may understand the will of God respecting this land and the way and means [p. 37] of possessing it, I can only refer you to commandments which the Lord has delivered by the mouth of his Prophet which will be read, to you, by our brethren Oliver Cowdry and Newel K. Whitney whom the Lord has appointed, to visit the churches and obtain means for purchasing this land of our inheritance that we may escape in the day of tribulation which is coming on the earth. I conclude by exhorting you to hear the voice of the Lord your God, who is speaking to you in much mercy and who is sending forth, his word and his revelation in these last days, in order that we may escape impending vengeance; and the Judgements which await this generation, and which will speedily overtake them—Brethren pray for me, that I may be counted worthy to obtain an inheritance in the land of Zion and to over come, the World through faith, and dwell with the sanctified, forever, and ever Amen.

Written at Kirtland Ohio Aug. 31, 1831. (Bruce N. Westergren, From Historian to Dissident:The Book of John Whitmer, pp. 86-91).

[269] For more on Ezra Booth, see H. Michael Marquardt, Ezra Booth on Early Mormonism: A Look at His 1831 Letters , John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 28 (2008):65-87. He writes,

Ezra Booth was an early convert in the Church of Christ. At the June 3, 1831, church conference he was ordained to the high priesthood. Called by revelation to go to Missouri he witnessed the laying of the foundation of the latter-day Zion including the cornerstone of the proposed New Jerusalem temple. Ezra wrote nine letters explaining his experiences with Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. He also touched on what he regarded as failures in prophetic leadership. The letters to Rev. Ira Eddy were written during the period of September 12 through December 6, 1831. As an eye witness and participant Booth explores some of the earliest teachings of church leaders. (page 31)

That Booth had some early “revelations” in his possession is attested to in his letters. For example, Marquardt mentions that,

In his eighth letter Booth discussed the Book of Mormon. He wrote, “We now know that the Natives who inhabit the forests of America, are a ‘branch of the House of Israel;’ and by the means of this blessed book, they are soon, even in this generation, to be restored to the knowledge, and the true worship of the God of Israel.”

Booth then reproduced two documents written before he joined the church. One was an early text of a September 1830 revelation for Oliver Cowdery to preach the gospel to the Lamanites and “cause my Church to be established among them.” The second item was two covenants made by the four missionaries that they would bring the gospel to the Lamanites and is dated Manchester, October 17, 1830. Also mentioned was the New York episode relating to Hiram Page having revelations that appeared and disappeared from a stone, this being termed a satanic fraud. (pages 42-43)

For a debunking of the Mormon myth that Symonds Ryder left the church simply because of a misspelling of his name in a “revelation” dictated by Joseph Smith, see “Symonds Ryder and a Crisis of Faith,” found online here, at the Mormon Matters Blog.

[270] I will have more on this subject in an upcoming article scheduled for publication in 2014.

[271] A. S. Hayden, Early History of the Disciples In the Western Reserve, Ohio, (Cincinnati: Chase & Hall Publishers, 1876), pp. 220-221. Online here, accessed August 20, 2013.

[272] Scott H. Faulring, “An Examination of the 1829 ‘Articles of the Church of Christ’ in Relation to Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants”, B.Y.U. Studies 43, No. 4, (2004) pg. 76. Faulring’s scenario that Ryder somehow accessed Church records in Kirtland and stole a few “revelations” is a tenuous allegation.

On July 20, 1831 Smith dictated a “revelation” which stated that,

And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William W. Phelps be planted in this place, and be established as a printer unto the church. And lo, if the world receive his writings—behold here is wisdom—let him obtain whatsoever he can obtain in righteousness, for the good of the saints. And let my servant Oliver Cowdery assist him, even as I have commanded, in whatsoever place I shall appoint unto him, to copy, and to correct, and select, that all things may be right before me, as it shall be proved by the Spirit through him. (Revelation, 20 July 1831, in 1835 Doctrine and Covenants Section 27:5).

Also during the summer of 1831 “Edward Partridge purchased a lot near the center of town upon which the building that likely became the printing office already stood”. (The JSP Website, see also, Berrett, LaMar C., ed. Sacred Places: A Comprehensive Guide to Early LDS Historical Sites. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999–2007, 4:51–52).

Since Kirtland was to be a temporary refuge for the church until the move to Missouri as attested to by many statements from the period, and the “revelations” were soon to be published there, it is entirely feasible that Smith carried them with him to Missouri, and that some were inadvertently left unattended for a time, (or left behind as Ryder thought) giving Ezra Booth the opportunity to read them and take several of them.

In March of 1831 Martin Harris was reported to have declared “that all who believed the new bible [The Book of Mormon] would see Christ within fifteen years, and all who did not would absolutely be destroyed and dam’d. (Painsville Telegraph, March 15, 1831)

On June 14, 1831 the Painesville Telegraph (edited by Eber D. Howe) reported that,

After all the good followers of Jo. Smith from York state had got fairly settled down in this vicinity, which Rigdon had declared to be their “eternal inheritance,” Jo must needs invent another ‘command from God.’ At a meeting of the tribe on the 3d. inst. the fact was made known to them that 28 elders must be selected and ordained, to start immediately, for Missouri. Jo accordingly asked the Lord in the assembly whom he should select, and the Lord named them over to him, as he made them believe. The ceremony of endowing them with miraculous gifts, or supernatural power, was then performed, and they were commanded to take up a line of march; preaching their gospel, (Jo’s Bible) raising the dead, healing the sick, casting out devils, &c. This squad comprises Jo himself, Rigdon, Martin Harris, Gilbert, Morley, Murdock, Partridge, and all the other leading and influential men among them. The flock are to be left to shirk for themselves the best way they can. It is said they are about to commence an establishment some 500 miles up the Missouri, where they contemplate building the New Jerusalem, and they have expressed doubts whether few if any of them will ever return to this “land of promise”; but in due time a command will be sent for the remainder of their deluded and infatuated followers to move — we opine however, that very few will obey the summons. The chosen few are to be off during the present week, going by pairs in different routes, all on foot, except Jo., Rigdon, and Harris, the contrivers and commanders of the expedition. (Painesville Telegraph, June 14, 1831)

A month later it was reported by the same source that “the leaders have already departed,” and that,

Before Jo left, he had a special command for all those of his followers who had located themselves in the township of Thompson, to depart forthwith for Missourie, and all those who did not obey were to be deprived of all the blessings of Mormonism. There were in that township about twenty families, the most of whom started last week for the Ohio River, leaving their spring crops all upon the ground. Those who preferred staying to following Jo any farther, were handed over to the devil. It is verily a melancholy spectacle to view with what facility the human mind may be enslaved, under the name of religion. The main object of the Mormons leaders appears now to be, to drag their deluded followers from pillar to post, leaving behind all those who presume to doubt the infallibility of Jo Smith or question any thing he may say as being a command of God — thereby obtaining in the end a certain set of slaves who will obey most implicitly every thing which is suggested. Many have left them on account of the various, diversified, and contradictory commands which Jo has given out to his slaves. (Painesville Telegraph, June 28, 1831)

Those “followers” were mostly immigrants from the New York Colesville Branch of the Church, who were promised by Smith that they could settle on land owned by Elder Lemon Copely, who, when they arrived in Thompson refused to settle them on his land.

On September 13, 1831 the Telegraph published a “revelation” (Doctrine and Covenants Section 42) which the article titled the “Secret Bye Laws Of The Mormonites,” which Howe claimed he received from “a responsible and intelligent individual, who has devoted much time to make himself acquainted with the principles, practices and objects of the Mormon leaders…” In a note at the end of the article Howe wrote,

(We have no hesitation in giving our unqualified belief that the above is a true extract from the Mormon records. We have had the same communicated to us verbally from other sources. They have also manuscripts among them sufficient to make several [copies] of similar [ones], which are, however, kept from the view of the weaker brethren. Jo Smith pretends that they are communicated to him by the Deity. Smith dictates to another, who writes them down, generally but a few sentences at a time. All among them who make bold to even doubt that these “commands” are the words of God, [who] made known to them, are immediately expelled as heretics. Such is human nature. (Painesville Telegraph, Sept. 13, 1831)

It is of interest to note that if Symonds Ryder had stolen the “revelations” he had in his possession sometime after the leadership of the church left for Missouri in June of 1831, why did he then wait until the fall, when Ezra Booth had returned from Missouri, to have them published? In the very next issue of the Telegraph, Howe publishes Booth’s first letter to the Reverend Ira Eddy.

Evangelist Nancy Towle interviewed some of the Mormon leadership in Kirtland on October 15, 1831 and wrote in 1832 that,

They believe, according to the Book: “That a day of great wrath, is bursting upon all the kindred, of the earth; and that in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, alone, shall be deliverance in that day,”(even in the land, which the Lord Jesus had given to them, for a dwelling-place, and an everlasting possession). The place where they then had their stay, was not the “Land of Promise;” – but that, lay, on the western boundary of the State of Missouri; In which place, they were then assembling; and where they believed, In process of time, they should have a temple; and a city, of great magnificence, and wealth; and that shortly, they should increase, and tread down all their enemies, and bruise them beneath their feet. After which period, Christ Jesus should descend and reign with them, personally one thousand years upon the earth. And then their enemies should be loosed for a season; (or, as one said to me, for the space of three months,) when, — should take place, the General Judgment; and the “final consummation of all things.” (Anna Nancy Towle, Vicissitudes Illustrated, Charleston, 1832, p. 153. (2nd Edition, 1833).

By 1832 the Mormons were preaching that they, “should never die, but be translated, after the manner of Enoch, and that in eighteen months Mormonism would be the prevailing religion; and, that in five years the wicked were to be swept from the face of the earth.” (The Liberal Advocate, April 14, 1832).

By the end of 1832 many had gathered to the “New Jerusalem” in Missouri, and were observed by Alexander Evans, a Baptist Missionary who wrote about the Mormons in a letter from the Shawnee Mission on December 20, 1832:

Among the wonders of the present day, you may record the following. Many of the people called Mormons, have arrived at this place, and it is said, more are on the way. The condition of those that are here, must be very unpleasant, and their sufferings are, in no small degree, from the want of comfortable houses, and something on which to subsist. Their settlement extends to the West line of Missouri State, two miles and a half from this place; they manifest a disposition to, and no doubt soon would, go among the Indians, were they permitted; which by the way is not the case. They call this place the Mount Zion, or New Jerusalem, so often spoken of in Scripture; — though it is not more elevated than the common face of the country, nor yet is there in it any thing strange or peculiarly prepossessing in its favor, more than any other portion of the West.

Here, they tell us, will be gathered the Gentiles from the east, and the Jews (the Indians) from the west, to their temple, which shall subsequently be built on the very spot now selected by them, to which, they say, their God will come in person, destroying all who shall be so daringly wicked, as to reject their Gospel; when Christ comes, which at most will not be more than fifteen years, he will bring all the Apostles, and old saints, and will reign with them here a thousand years; during this reign, the rest of the dead, shall not live (that is, all who are not Mormons,) for this is the first resurrection. To support the idea of their Christ suddenly coming to their temple, to purify and refine them, they read Malachi, 3d chapter to the 6th verse inclusive, with other Scriptures found in Zephaniah, Zechariah, and elsewhere, all of which refer to the coming of Christ.

They have a revelation of their own, which, they affirm. was given to the people of this continent, (the Indians,) on plates and deposited in the earth and kept concealed in the earth of the Lord, till the fulfilment of its time, which has now been accomplished; and to prove that Joseph Smith is that wonderful prophet, to whom these marvelous plates and their profound mysteries should be revealed, they recite the 29th chapter of Isaiah, saying that the prophet Smith is that unlearned man, to whom the book was given, to read, and he said I cannot, for I am not learned! But this difficulty was soon removed by the spirit which came upon him, and blest him with the gift of tongues. The Book then was clearly opened to his understanding, and he translated it to one of the witnesses, who wrote it in our language. Thus according to the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, say they, the sticks there spoken of, (the Mormon book and our Bible,) are become one, in the hand of the prophet Smith; or shall, when our Bible shall be rightly translated by him, under the outpouring of his holy spirit, and its directions. Every person, who tells them that he wishes to forsake sin, is, without further ceremony, taken by the Elder, and baptized for the remission of his sins; he is now told that he shall soon receive the spirit; this being accomplished, the Elder lays his hands on him, and imparts to him his holy spirit, which they say they then feel immediately, and know that it is the truth. The Elder now sings to the new converts, consecrating songs of their own diction, (composing,) and to them he reads prophecies about giving their possessions to the Lord’s store, which if they fail to do, they forfeit the fellowship of the fraternity, nor will they long be considered worthy members with them. When their property is thus laid at the Bishop’s feet, he places it in the store, and they lose sight of it forever; their store-keeper will not trust them for a single dollar, though he willingly gives credit to others.

If the brotherhood is once taken, and any should choose to leave them, he must go out empty, however much he had deposited in the Treasury. Much is said among them about the Holy Ghost being given, by the laying on of the Elder’s hand, about prophecying, healing the sick, and the interpretation of tongues; all this however they carefully avoid, saying that these things can only be done, when they are in the spirit, which perhaps but seldom happens in this land of pilgrims; since no miracles have been done here at any time by them, though greatly needed, and they have been abundantly pressed to it. They eat, they drink, are sick, and die, as all others do. When they are sick, unfortunately, they have not faith to be healed. Of the dying they say, their work is done, they must go: they also say, it is self-evident that disease is the natural effect of unbelief. If this be true, I am sure, their faith cannot be as large as a mustard seed, for none are more liable to sickness, and all contagions than themselves, the cholera not excepted, even among their preachers. Perhaps when their Christ comes, and brings their old Apostles and saints, some of them may profess more power and faith than these, that are already here; if this should not be so, I shall finally despair of seeing miracles done by them.

Although they have prophesied, the graves have not yet opened: the bones are yet dry, nor are they yet collecting; we have heard no voice in the valley; we know some have professed, but nothing is moved; if others have spoken to the winds they have not obeyed them; there are no symptoms of life among the slain, all these things continue, just as they were.

Let none be anxious, or burn with desire, to set their faces for the mount (or rather I would say for the Valley Zion,) of the west, supposing they will see the Lord in person, for he is not here; nor will they live more holy, more free from temptation, or sin, in this land of pilgrims, than any other place. Let me say once for all, that if any come hither, whether they expect it or not, they will be sure to meet all if not more than all, the difficulties that emigrants to other new countries meet. Of these the Mormons have their share. (Alexander Evans, “Mormonites, In Their Promised Land”, December 20, 1832, as published in the Baptist Weekly Journal of the Mississippi Valley, February, 1833, and excerpted in the Christian Register, April 6, 1833. Online here, accessed August 25, 2013.)

Once again we see a contemporary account that the Mormons were preaching that only in “Zion” or Missouri would anyone be safe, and that the destruction of the wicked would occur “in not more than fifteen years” from that time.

Also, we see the writings of Isaiah and Ezekiel being used to support the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

[273] Mormon Historical Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, Spring 2013, p. 145.

[274] A biography of George Edward “Ed” Anderson may be found here, as well as a link to his diaries.

[275] A short biography of Julia Ann Whitmer Schweich may be found here.

[276] George Edward Anderson Diary, May 12, 1907, Sunday, Richmond, pg. 32, online here, accessed August 25. 2013. Julia may have been mistaken about her grandfather’s age. I believe that Hicks took the photo in 1882, not 1886 and that Julia confused the year with her grandfather’s age. (She was recalling an event which happened over 20 years past).  Since Whitmer was born in 1805, he would have been 77 years old in 1882.

This is Brent Metcalfe’s theory, and it has a sold basis, for the “Caractors” document was most certainly cut before 1884 and so would have to have been photographed before that time. Brent has communicated to me that he is trying to find the bank records that would show when the safe where the documents were kept was accessed, and this would bolster this theory, especially if there is a description of the documents that were kept there.

If Hicks did indeed take the later photo of David Whitmer in 1886, it does not preclude him (or John) from having had the “Caractors” document photographed at an earlier time, say between 1867 (when Hicks first photographed David Whitmer) and 1884 (for by 1884 we have accounts that prove it was cut).

And according to David Whitmer’s Proclamation, published in 1881 “a facsimile of the characters he now has in his possession with the original records…”

Even though his Proclamation does not reveal anything about the document, we know that Whitmer had it “in his possession” by 1881, and that it had been removed from the safe where it was kept by Van Cleave sometime between 1878 and 1881.

Hicks lived about 25 miles from Richmond, which was not that long of a journey to make for whatever reason, even to photograph a document, but it would have been much more convenient to have both done at the same time and this is the more likely scenario.

[277] See Note above. For the size of the document, see the Improvement Era, Vol. 14, No. 1, January, 1842.

[278] James H. Hart, Deseret News, March 25, 1884.

[279] Daily Missouri Republican, 16 July, 1884.

[280] See Note #214. It reads in part,

At some point, some of John Whitmer’s papers apparently passed into the possession of James R. B. Van Cleave, a Chicago newspaper reporter and Illinois politician.

In March 1881, Van Cleave conducted a significant interview with David Whitmer that subsequently appeared in the October 17, 1881, Chicago Times. Then Van Cleave successfully courted and married David Whitmer’s granddaughter, Josephine Helen Schweich. Van Cleave planned to write a history of Mormonism from the Whitmers’ perspective. In preparation, he “obtained consent of John Whitmer’s daughters to remove the papers he had selected . . . and brought them to Richmond, Mo.”

John Whitmer’s papers were deposited in a Richmond, Missouri, bank vault. But Van Cleave was ultimately unable to compile his book, and Whitmer’s papers next passed to George Schweich (fig. 4)—Van Cleave’s brotherin-law and David Whitmer’s grandson. In 1903, when Schweich sold the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon and “Caractors” document, four leaves of BCR materials also passed to the RLDS Church.

Brent Metcalfe has shared with me that he believes that the “Caractors” document was among those that Van Cleave was given by John Whitmer’s daughter who then placed them in a Richmond bank vault. Sometime after this David Whitmer removed the document from the vault and had it photographed by Jacob Hicks in the fall of 1880. He then cut the document so that people would not think that the English text below was a translation of the “Caractors”.

David may have had the document photographed in 1880 or 1882, and further discoveries may help to determine this. The document may also have been photographed by Hicks in 1867. I do not ascribe to the theory that David cut the document to avoid confusion; but rather to bolster his story that what he possessed was the original “Anthon Transcript”.

[281] See Note #199.

[282] See Note #201.

[283] Richmond Conservator, 18 November, 1881. Whitmer was reported to have said that “Frequently one character would make two lines of manuscript, while others made but a word or two words.”

[284] See Note #280 (above). An example of David’s penchant for exaggerating is with this story that he told to Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith in 1878:

Joseph sent for me to come to Harmony to get him and Oliver and bring them to my father’s house. I did not know what to do, I was pressed with my work. I had some 20 acres to plow, so I concluded I would finish plowing and then go. I got up one morning to go to work as usual and, on going to the field, found between five and seven acres of my ground had been plowed during the night. I don’t know who did it; but it was done just as I would have done it myself, and the plow was left standing in the furrow.

Thirty years earlier, Lucy Smith remembered the incident a little differently and wrote,

In the mean time Joseph was 150 miles distant and knew naught of the matter [A complaint by Lucy Harris against Joseph Smith to a Magistrate in Lyons, New York] e[x]cept an intimation that was given through the urim and thumim for as he one morning applied the to his eyes to look upon the record instead of the words of the book being given him he was commanded to write a letter to one David Whitmore this man Joseph had never seen but he was instructed to say him that he must come with his team immediately in order to convey Joseph and his back to his house which was 135 miles that they might remain with him there untill the trans lation should be completed for that an evil designing people were seeking to take away Joseph’s life in order to prevent the work of God from going forth among the world This was accordingly done and the letter received and Mr Whitmore showed it to his Father mother sisters and brothers and asked their advice as to what it would be best for him to do his Father said why David know you have sow ed as much wheat as you can harrow in tomorrow and next day and then you have a quantity of plaster to spread that is much needed on your land and you cannot go unless you get an evidence from God that it is very necessary. This suggestion pleased David and he asked the Lord for a testimony of the fact if it was his will that he should go he was told by the voice of the spirit to (sow) <(har) inn his wheat> his wheat and then go straightway to Penn In the morning he went to the field and found that he had 2 heavy days work before him He then asked the lord to enable him to do this work sooner than the same work had ever been done on the farm before and he would receive it as an evidence that it was the will of God for him to engage in forwarding the work which was begun by Joseph Smith. he then fastened his horses to the harrow and drove round the whole field he continued on till noon driving all the way round at every circuit but when it came to be time to eat dinner he discov ered to his surprize that he had harrowed in full half the wheat. after dinner he again went on as before and by evening he finnished the whole 2 days work 

[285] “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, Millennial Star 40 (9 Dec 1878):771-7, Online here, accessed August 25, 2013.

[286] The alternate photo of the “Caractors” may be viewed here, accessed August 25, 2013.

[287] In his 1887 publication “An Address to All Believers In Christ”, Whitmer wrote,

I have in my possession the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery and others, also the original paper containing some of the characters transcribed from one of the golden plates, which paper Martin Harris took to Professor Anthon, of New York, for him to read “the words of a book that is sealed:” but the learned professor, although a great linguist could not read the language of the Nephites. There is some evidence in the American Cyclopædia favorable to the Book of Mormon that I will speak of. It is as follows:

“Martin Harris called upon Prof. Anthon, of New York, with a transcript on paper which Smith had given him of the characters on one of the golden plates. ‘This paper,’ Prof. Anthon said, in a letter dated New York, Feb. 17, 1834, ‘was in fact a singular scroll. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters, disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters, inverted or placed sideways, were arranged and placed in perpendicular columns,” etc. The “learned” could not read it, and the book was delivered to him that is not learned. I will quote two verses from the twenty-ninth chapter of Isaiah, which is the prophecy regarding this matter.

The entry from The American Cyclopædia of 1879 reads,

The printing of the “Book of Mormon” was done at the expense of Martin Harris, who had some property, and was persuaded that he could make money by the speculation. While the work was in progress, this man called upon Prof. Anthon of New York with a transcript on paper which Smith had given him of the characters on one of the golden plates. “This paper,” Prof. Anthon says in a letter dated New York, Feb. 17, 1834, “was in fact a singular scroll. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters, disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters, inverted or placed sideways, were arranged and placed in perpendicular columns; and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle, divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican calendar given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived.” This letter was written to contradict a report set afloat by Smith that Prof. Anthon had pronounced the characters to be Egyptian hieroglyphics. (The American Cyclopædia (1879))

If one reads the entire quote, it is hardly “favorable” to the Book of Mormon. It is obvious that the complete description of the Book of Mormon characters given by Anthon was reproduced by the American Cyclopædia, including the last part about the circle; but Whitmer conveniently leaves that part out of his account.

This proves that Whitmer was well aware of Anthon’s description of the original transcript, which did not match up with the document that he was promulgating as the original, and that he left out the part of the description which would have cast doubt on his story that he had the “original transcript” taken to Charles Anthon in 1828 by Martin Harris.

Whitmer also published in his Address in 1887 that he had the “Original” Book of Mormon Manuscript, knowing full well that this was not true. This creates a serious credibility issue for David Whitmer which is not answered by the theory that he cut the document simply to avoid confusion, when it would have been very easy for Whitmer to simply say the document was a copy and that the text below had nothing to do with the characters that appeared above the Cover Title.

This leads me to believe that David Whitmer did not have the document photographed in 1880 or 1882, but that it was photographed much earlier, (in the 1860’s) before Whitmer had established his Church, and perhaps felt that having original documents in his possession somehow bolstered his credentials and importance.

Tracing the Various “Caractors” Documents

4 CaractorsPart III of 19th Century Photo of Joseph Smith’s “Caractors” Discovered

If you missed the Introduction or Part I or Part II of this Article, just click on the respective link.

After finishing his translation of the Book of Mormon Joseph Smith spoke little about the events surrounding its origins, the original manuscripts or the copies he made of the characters he claimed were taken from the gold plates.

A little more than a year after the Book of Mormon was published, at an 1831 Church conference in Orange, Ohio, Joseph’s older brother Hyrum,

said that he thought best that the information of the coming forth of the book of Mormon be related by Joseph himself to the Elders present that all might know for themselves.

Joseph’s answer was no.  He then explained,

that it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon, & also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things &c. . . .[143]

Joseph Smith & Oliver Cowdery

Joseph Smith & Oliver Cowdery

Less than a year later (in the summer of 1832) Joseph would privately attempt to write up those “particulars”, but abandoned that history after only six pages.  In the intervening years up to his death Joseph would show the Book of Mormon characters to certain individuals, but he seldom elaborated about them in public or in private (that we have record of); and gave conflicting details about when he copied and translated them in his 1838 official history. On the introductory page of the Joseph Smith Papers website they write that,

Smith understood early on that he must keep an account, even though his training did not qualify him to write such a record himself. He had only a modest education and no literary aspirations. He keenly felt the limitations of writing.[144]

In a letter to W.W. Phelps written after his first attempt at penning his history, Joseph lamented:

“Oh Lord God deliver us in thy due time from the little narrow prison almost as it were totel darkness of paper pen and ink and a crooked broken scattered and imperfect language.”[145]

This frustration that Smith felt may have been one reason for abandoning the 1832 history.  On April 6, 1830, Oliver Cowdery was assigned to keep the records of the newly organized Church, and thus began his own history, helped along by Joseph. Joseph had relied on Oliver as his chief scribe for the Book of Mormon manuscript and to help him with literary projects, and later on others:

Only gradually did Smith establish a pattern of assigning scribes to work on histories, journals, letters, minutes, and other documents. Spotty at first, his record keeping eventually settled into more consistent patterns. By the early 1840s, he and his clerks were composing a comprehensive history, keeping a continuous diary, accumulating minutes from meetings and councils, preserving correspondence, and taking notes of many of his numerous discourses.[146]

John Whitmer

John Whitmer

One of Joseph’s early scribes was John Whitmer. John was the third son of Peter and Mary Whitmer. He was born August 27, 1802, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As a young boy he moved with his family to New York in 1809, and they settled amongst some other German families near Fayette. It was there that he learned from Oliver Cowdery and his younger brother David about Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon. With the removal of Joseph Smith from Harmony to the Whitmer home in June of 1830, John became more interested in Joseph and his translation. John was baptized that same month and would help Joseph with the translation. Smith’s official history notes that John Whitmer “assisted us very much in writing during the remainder of the work”[147]

In July, 1830 Joseph wrote these instructions to Whitmer:

Behold, I say unto you, that you shall let your time be devoted to the studying of the scriptures, and to preaching, and to confirming the church at Colesville; and to performing your labors on the land, such as is required, until after you shall go to the west, to hold the next conference; and then it shall be made known what you shall do.[148]

In July of 1830, Joseph Smith and John Whitmer “began to arrange & copy the revelations and commandments which we had received from time to time.”[149]

Revelation Book 1, Page 1 Handwriting of John Whitmer

Revelation Book 1, Page 1 Handwriting of John Whitmer

A few weeks earlier, Joseph Smith had begun to dictate what would be called his New Translation of the Bible, which was actually a revision of the King James Version of the Bible which Joseph felt had been corrupted by “ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests …”[150]

About his method of translation Richard P. Howard writes,

For Smith, translation was something very different. Through what he perceived as the power of the Holy Spirit, his mind and heart intuited language symbols and a flow of ideational content which was specified as the stories of Book of Mormon migrations, wars, and civilizations, propositional information about John the beloved, propositional truth about forms and functions of ministry and mission in the church of Jesus Christ, and divine laws and procedures by which the economic life of the community is to be governed, and on and on.

Employing his notion of translation, Smith began a task of Bible revision which was to engage his mind and energies from 1830 until his death in 1844. Of significance is the fact that his early work (summer 1830 through 7 March 1831) in Genesis was almost entirely devoted to “receiving revelations” for the benefit of the church. This carried him through Genesis 19:35. Then on 8 March he began working on the New Testament with Sidney Rigdon. At the top of the very first page of manuscript was inscribed “A Translation of the New Testament translated by the Power of God.”[151]

John Whitmer along with Sidney Rigdon and a few others, would be crucial in helping Joseph with this project.  It took three years for Joseph to complete his New Translation which totaled over four hundred pages.   According to Kent P. Jackson and Scott Faulring, John Whitmer took dictation for the following portions of the New Translation:

Genesis 4:18–5:11; Moses 5:43–6:18 21 October 1830; 30 November 1830

Moses 6:52–7:1 Between 1 December and 10 December 1830

Matthew 26:1–Mark 9:1 26 September 1831 to before 20 November 183[152]

Old Testament Manuscript 1, page 1, Handwriting of Oliver Cowdery

Old Testament Manuscript 1, page 1, Handwriting of Oliver Cowdery

The “New Translation” was written on foolscap paper, a common stock used in Europe and the British Commonwealth and in turn America in Joseph Smith’s day. A full foolscap paper sheet was actually 17 x 13 ½ in (432 x 343 mm) in size, and this was folded or cut in half to get the traditional folio size of 8 1/2 × 13 1/2 in. Joseph Smith’s Genesis revision is on a manuscript designated Old Testament Manuscript 1 (OTman1), and the part of the translation called The Book of Moses is on the first twenty-one pages, written in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Emma Smith and Sidney Rigdon.[153]

After OTman1 was completed, a copy was made which was completed by April 5, 1831 which is now designated OTman2.[154] Whitmer had been set apart as a historian for the church on March 8, 1831 by Joseph Smith who dictated that,

John should write and keep a regular history, and assist you, my servant Joseph, in transcribing all things which shall be given you, until he is called to further duties. Again, verily I say unto you, that he can also lift up his voice in meetings, whenever it shall be expedient.[155]

Various "New Translation" Covers

Various “New Translation” Covers

As Kent Jackson and Scott Faulring explain,

That same month, [March 1831] Joseph Smith interrupted his Old Testament translation at Genesis 24 to work on the New Testament as he had been instructed in a revelation (see D&C 45:60–61). When the New Testament was finished in July 1832, he returned to finish the Old Testament. But when he did, he used OT2 rather than OT1 as the working document. It was on OT2 that he continued his translation to the end of Malachi, which he finished in July 1833. And it was on OT2 that he made additional revisions to the work in Genesis that he had already translated. When it was completed, OT2 was 119 pages long.

Unlike OT1, which was an original dictation and contains very few later changes, OT2 shows signs of subsequent correcting, editing, and emending. In the Book of Moses section (pages 1–27), some editing was done to correct copying errors or errors made when the Prophet was dictating from his Bible and his eyes skipped from one line to the next, resulting in omitted material. The manuscript shows that John Whitmer made corrections to his own copying, and Sidney Rigdon made corrections when he compared the transcription to corresponding Bible passages. OT2 contains verse divisions and verse numbers that were inserted by Joseph Smith’s clerks, as well as punctuation and capitalization changes that were made by unknown hands. [156]

Old Testament Manuscript 1, page 14, Handwriting of Emma Smith (first 3 words) and John Whitmer (rest of page)

Old Testament Manuscript 1, page 14, Handwriting of Emma Smith (first 3 words) and John Whitmer (rest of page)

These two manuscripts, according to Jackson and Faulring were kept by Joseph and in his possession throughout his life, and were among his private property when he died. [157] In January 1831 John Whitmer (who was still in New York) started a third manuscript copy of the New Translation which is now designated as OTman3, which was actually completed before OTman2. This manuscript is sixteen pages long and is also written on foolscap paper.  It covers Genesis 1:1–5:32 (Moses 1:1–8:12), which is the entire book of Moses except for the last eighteen verses.[158] According to Jackson and Faulring,

OT3 probably was created for Church purposes originally, but eventually it became Whitmer’s private copy, and it remained with him throughout his life. It was not as conscientiously transcribed as were the manuscripts he prepared after his revealed call, and it never became part of the documents that led to later publications.[159]

Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyrus #7

Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyrus #7

In the summer of 1830 when John Whitmer was assisting Joseph Smith “to arrange & copy the revelations and commandments which we had received”; no mention is made of the facsimile of the characters that Joseph said that he copied from the gold plates. Like the New Translation Manuscripts, we know by several accounts that Joseph had access to a copy of the characters that he would show people from time to time.  The first mention of the characters being shown by Joseph was in 1835, when he showed them to Michael Chandler who had in his possession some Egyptian mummies and papyrus scrolls that Joseph was interested in purchasing:

The morning Mr. Chandler first presented his papyrus to bro.-Smith, he was shown, by the latter, a number of characters like those upon the writings of Mr. C. which were previously copied from the plates, containing the history of the Nephites, or book of Mormon.[160]

Not long after Joseph Smith showed the Book of Mormon characters to Michael Chandler both Oliver Cowdery and Frederick G. Williams produced translation documents that supposedly utilized characters from the gold plates. These documents date to about December, 1835 according to Edward H. Ashment:

Frederick G. Williams Document - front

Frederick G. Williams Document – front

Frederick G. Williams Document - back

Frederick G. Williams Document – back

Both Cowdery and Williams served as scribes to Smith from 1832 to 1835. Cowdery’s tenure effectively ceased in late October 1835, while Williams’s ended in January 1836. The previous summer Smith had purchased some Egyptian papyri and had been trying to decipher one of the scrolls as well as develop an Egyptian alphabet and grammar. Both Williams and Cowdery were connected with the Egyptian papyrus project. It is certainly conceivable that there would be heightened interest in the language of the Book of Mormon at this time, with its peculiar mix of Egyptian and Hebrew, just as Smith and his close associates were beginning to study Hebrew in earnest.

As they were studying Hebrew with the prophet in December 1835 they must have asked him a question about the language of the Book of Mormon, requesting a back-transliteration, according to Williams: “Question asked in English & answered in Hebrew.” Then they asked Smith to decipher four Book of Mormon Egyptian signs. Each man recorded the results for his own “profit and learning,” in the words of Cowdery.

Transliterations from English into Book of Mormon Hebrew

Questions asked in English & answered in Hebrew

English For it grieveth me that I should lose this tree & the fruit thereof
Hebrew Ans. ofin Zimim ezmon E, Zu onis i f s veris etzer ensvonis vineris
[Modern transliteration: ki car li ki yo’bad li ha’ec hazzeh upiryo]
English Brethren I bid you adieu
Hebrew Ans. i f s E Zamtri
[Modern transliteration: ‘aHay ‘omar lakem shalom]

The textual selections in the documents are from Jacob 5:13 and 7:27. Fresh out of Palestine, the Hebrew known to Jacob should have been biblical Hebrew. But as Figure 1 illustrates, it [The highlighted translation by Joseph] bears no resemblance to Hebrew at all.

Lack of any resemblance between Book of Mormon “Hebrew” and actual Hebrew from material on the small plates (written only fifty years after Lehi left Jerusalem) further confirms that the Cowdery and Williams documents date prior to January 1836, when Smith began his formal study of Hebrew. After that time all of Smith’s Hebrew transliterations are recognizable as such.[161]

This entire document had long been unreleased by the Mormon Church, but was recently released through the Joseph Smith Papers.[162]

Oliver Cowdery document - Book of Mormon Characters

Oliver Cowdery Book of Mormon characters

One of these characters (from the Cowdery and Williams documents) bears a striking resemblance to one of the glyphs from the bogus Kinderhook plates, and with that in mind it may be one reason that Joseph Smith was interested enough in those plates to make a partial translation of one of them. [163]Kinderhook Cowdery Comparison

The next instance of Joseph showing the Book of Mormon characters took place seven years later in Nauvoo, when Joseph showed them to the Reverend George Moore of Quincy Illinois in December of 1842. Moore wrote in his diary,

Rev. George W. Moore

Rev. George W. Moore

Called on the “Prophet Jo Smith.” His carriage was at the door and he was about going away, but he received me very kindly, asked me into his house. I remained about 10 minutes. He was very communicative. We conversed about the golden plates, which he professes to have dug up and translated into the Book of Mormon. “Those plates are not now in this country,” he said–“they were exhibited to a few at first for the sake of obtaining their testimony–no others have ever seen them–and they will never again be exhibited.” He showed me some specimens of the hieroglyphics, such as, he says, were on the gold plates.  . . . He expressed a desire to have a long conversation with me, but he had an engagement, and I was soon going away, so that we could not have much conversation. Our interview was short, but pleasant.[164]

A few months later on May 7, 1843 Joseph once again displayed a copy  of the Book of Mormon characters, this time to an anonymous person who called himself  “A Gentile”, who described the encounter in a letter published in the New York Herald on May 30:

Another set of plates have been found in Pike county, in this State; they were dug out of a large mound, fifteen feet from the summit, by a company of persons, fifteen in number, who all affirm to the fact of their situation when found. There were six in number, about three inches in length, and two and a half broad at one end, and one inch broad at the other, being something of the form of a bell, about the sixteenth of an inch thick, with a hole in the small end of each, fastened together with a ring, apparantly of iron or steel, but which was so oxidised as to crumble to pieces when handled. The plates are evidently brass, and are covered on both sides with hyerogliphics.  They were brought up and shown to Joseph Smith. He compared them in my presence with his Egyptian alphabet, which he took from the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and they are evidently the same characters. He therefore will be able to decipher them. There can be no doubt but they are a record of some kind, buried with an individual, centuries ago; a skeleton was found with them – some of the bones in such a state of preservation as to show the size of the individual, whose height must have been eight and a half feet. You may expect something very remarkably pretty soon.[165]

The New York Herald, May 30, 1843.

The New York Herald, May 30, 1843 with Letter from “A Gentile” in Nauvoo.

After the death of Joseph Smith the Book of Mormon characters were finally printed for the public on a limited placard or broadside of which only a few have survived.  In an article that appeared in 1980 which discussed the then recent discovery of what some thought was the original “Anthon Transcript” (but was proved to be a forgery by Mark Hofmann) that Martin Harris had in his possession in 1828, Danel Bachman included this about the 1844 publication of the characters,

Book of Mormon Characters as Published in "The Prophet", December 1844

Book of Mormon Characters as Published in “The Prophet”, December 1844

The two published versions of portions of the document Martin Harris took to New York both appeared in 1844. The first version is a broadside or placard printed in gold on black stock exhibiting three lines of characters. Among the few known copies of this version are two copies in the LDS Church Archives and a copy in special collections Harold B Lee library Brigham Young University. A statement in the hand of Thomas Bullock written on the back of the broadside in the Church Archives reads, “1844 placard Stick of Joseph. This was formerly owned by Hyrum Smith and sent to the Historians Office March 22, 1860, by his son, Joseph Fielding Smith.”  What appears to be the pencil signature of Mary Fielding Smith, who died in 1852, is also on the back. The title of the broadside reads:

“The Stick of Joseph taken from the hand of Ephraim. A correct copy of the characters taken from the plates of the BOOK OF MORMON!! Was translated from–the same that was taken to professor Anthon of New York, by Martin Harris, in the year 1827 in fulfillment of Isaiah 29:11, 12.” This placard contains characters which are on the Hofmann document but not on the Whitmer text.

The broadside most likely was published in early December 1844 by Samuel Brannan, editor of The Prophet, a Church-owned newspaper in New York City. The following announcement appeared in The Prophet on 14 December 1844:

“We have published a very neat specimen of the original characters on hieroglyphics that were copied from the plates which the book of Mormon was translated from, and were presented by Martin Harris to professor Anthon for translation. –We have been to some trouble in having it en graved by Mr. Strong: one of the most skillful engravers in the city of New York; those who wish to obtain a copy to preserve as a memorial, can procure them by applying to the Prophet Office New York .”

The second version was published on 21 December 1844 by Brannan in The Prophet. It duplicates the same three lines of characters as the placard, but the last half of the third line is inverted, or upside down and backwards. The text printed with the characters on the broadside was also printed in this second version.” [166]

1844 Broadside of Book of Mormon Characters

1844 Broadside of Book of Mormon Characters

What happened to the copy of the Book of Mormon characters that Joseph had in his possession is something of a mystery. Could it have been the same document that Martin Harris once possessed? Was it given to “Mr. Strong” so he could copy the characters for the 1844 broadside? If so, was it taken to New York and then lost; or did Samuel Brannan take it with him to California? It is hard to imagine that if it was still in Nauvoo at the death of Joseph Smith that it would not have been conveyed by the Church to Utah; or kept by the Smith family along with the New Translation manuscripts.

Samuel Houston Brannan

Samuel Houston Brannan

Here the story of the characters might have ended, but another copy was to turn up, this time in the hands of Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer, who would claim that he had the same copy of the characters that Martin Harris took to New York in 1828. With information gleaned from the discovery of Jacob Hicks photograph, it is possible now to trace the history of the Whitmer character document.

In the fall of 1831 Church leaders decided that some of the revelations written by Joseph should be prepared for publication as a Book of Commandments.[167] Joseph was appointed to prepare the revelations for publication and Oliver Cowdery was chosen to carry them to Independence, Missouri, where the church printing press was located.  Joseph then wrote another revelation which designated himself, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Sidney Rigdon, and W. W. Phelps as “stewards over the revelations and commandments.”[168]

This group was called the “Literary Firm,” and was created in part to give additional personal income for the temporal salvation of church leaders who had the promise that “the things of this world shall be added unto him even an hundred fold.”[169]

Oliver and John left for Missouri in November 1831, followed by Joseph and Sidney in April 1832.[170] When Oliver Cowdery left for Independence in the fall of 1831, John Whitmer went with him, taking OTman3, which had now become his own personal copy. John Whitmer wrote,

About this time it was in contemplation for Oliver Cowdery to go to Zion and carry with him the revelations and commandments; and I also received a revelation to go with him. We left Ohio on the 20th of November, 1831, and arrived in Zion, Missouri, January 5, 1832.[171]

John Whitmer settled with the rest of the body of the Church in Jackson County, Missouri, purchased lands and wrote that by December 1, 1832 there were “five hundred and thirty-eight individuals in this land belonging to the Church.”[172]  

Less than a year later, Whitmer wrote that “the Church was driven by the mob of Jackson County on the 4th of November, 1833.”[173] Whitmer then took refuge with the rest of the church in Clay County Missouri, and wrote that ,

We had hard struggling to obtain a living, as may well be understood, being driven, having no money or means to subsist upon, and being among strangers in a strange place; being despised, mocked at, and laughed to scorn by some, and pitied by others; thus we lived from November, 1833, till May 1834, and but little prospect yet to return to our homes in Jackson County in safety–the mob rages and the people’s hearts are hardened, and the Saints are few in number, and poor, afflicted, cast out, and smitten by their enemies.

I will further state, because of the scattered situation and the many perplexities, I am not in possession of all the letters and information that I wish I was, and some that are in my possession are not arranged according to date because of the situation I am in, being poor, and write as I can obtain intelligence, and find time between sun and sun to write.[174]

Having failed to persuade the State of Missouri to have their lands in Jackson County returned to them by the spring of 1834, Joseph Smith left Kirtland, Ohio with an armed body of men for Missouri to “reedeem Zion”. Whitmer wrote that,

The Saints here are preparing with all possible speed to arm themselves and otherwise prepare to go to Jackson County, when the camp arrives; for we have had some hints from Joseph the Seer, that this will be our privilege; so we were in hopes that the long wished-for day will soon arrive, and Zion be redeemed to the joy and satisfaction of the poor suffering Saints.[175]

Marching to Zion, 1834

Marching to Zion, 1834

Upon arriving in Missouri Joseph’s camp was stricken by cholera, and disbanded. According to Whitmer,

The camp immediately scattered in the counties of Ray and Clay. Some returned immediately while others tarried. Received a revelation that it was not wisdom to go to Jackson County at this time, and that the armies of Israel should become very great and terrible first, and the servants of the Lord (shall have) been endowed with power from on high previous to the redemption of Zion. Thus our fond hopes of being redeemed at this time were blasted at least for a season.[176]

John Whitmer would later write that,

After the camp dispersed at Fishing River, Smith and F. G. Williams came to Clay County together with many others who scattered in Clay County and elsewhere, Smith called a conference at the house of Lyman Wight, three miles west of Liberty, in which conference the most of the official members belonging to Zion were present, where Smith organized the high council of Zion, as I said in a former chapter, in which David Whitmer was ordained president of Zion, and John Whitmer and W. W. Phelps his counselors. Here at the same time, he ordained David Whitmer prophet, seer and revelator and translator.[177]

Whitmer was called back to Kirtland, Ohio by Joseph Smith and left Missouri in April of 1835, and began editing the Church publication, The Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate.  A year later, Whitmer would be back in Missouri writing that, “Edward Partridge, I[saac] Morley, John Corrill, and W. W. Phelps were appointed wise men and were sent to Missouri with some money to purchase land for the Saints, to seek a place for them &c.”[178]

Joseph Smith & Sidney Rigdon Flee Kirtland, 1838

Joseph Smith & Sidney Rigdon Flee Kirtland, 1838

Two years later Joseph would flee Kirtland for good, leaving it in the hands of those who were called “the dissenters”, which included Book of Mormon witness Martin Harris. If Harris still had any of the original character documents in his possession, they have never come to light. The difficulties dividing the Church at that time arose from the demise of the Kirtland Safety Society and land purchases in made in Kirtland and by the Presidency in Missouri.[179] Reed Peck, an early convert of the Church from New York wrote that in Kirtland,

A bitter quarrel originated in these transactions between the Smith’s and S. Rigdon on one part and Cowdery[,] [Lyman]Johnson[,] and David Whitmer on the other[,]and each party having their particular friends the church in Kirtland became partially divided and their animosities carried many of them to great extremes, producing confusion and cruel oppression when either party could wield the balance of power[.] Very many credible persons in the Society have assented that while the “mon[e]y fever raged in Kirtland the leaders of the church and others were, more or less, engaged in purchasing and circulating Bogus money or counterfeit corn and a good evidence that the report is not without foundation is that, each of these contending parties accuses the other of this crime[.] In the latter part of March 1838[,] the Smith families[,] S. Rigdon and many of their favorites arrived in Far West[,] one of the “Stakes of Zion” and found the church in prosperous circumstances—O. Cowdery[,] D Whitmer[,] an[d] Lyman Johnson had preceded them which placed in Caldwell County all the materials for an explosion.[180]

The explosion came, and resulted in many of the “dissenters” being expelled from the church:

In order to pay the debts in New York, and elsewhere, many of the Church in Kirtland turned out their farms and stripped themselves of property, took orders on the bishop in Far West, and in their poverty followed [Joseph] Smith and [Sidney] Rigden [Rigdon] to Far West as soon as practicable. Some of the dissenters came also, and notwithstanding, they affected a sort of reconciliation of their difficulties, yet it was plain that hard feelings existed. W.[William] W. Phelps and John Whitmer had served as presidents of the Church, in the upper country, from the time they came from Kirtland, but some time in the winter of 1836-7, a difficulty arose between them and the Church, on account of their having entered the town plot and some other lands in their own names, but on an investigation of the matter they gave the town plot and some other lands into the hands of the bishop, as the property of the Church. However, a perfect reconciliation of feelings was not restored; but in the fall of 1837, Smith and Rigden [Rigdon] and others came to Far West on a visit. A general meeting was called for the Church to choose whether they would have the old Presidency rule any longer over them or not. Their old difficulties were talked over, and so far reconciled, that they still choose to have Phelps and Whitmer their presidents; but in the winter following, the old difficulty broke out again, and the excitement rose so high that they turned them out of their presidential office, and T.[Thomas] B. Marsh and two others served as presidents , pro tempore, until Smith and Rigden [Rigdon] arrived…[181]

William Wines Phelps

William Wines Phelps

John Whitmer would write in his history that,

The situation of the Church both here and in Kirtland is in an unpleasant situation in consequence of the reorganization of its authorities, which was not satisfactory to all concerned. And has terminated in the expulsion of some members, as also some temporal movements, have not proved satisfactory to all parties has also terminated in the expulsion of many members among whom is W. W. Phelps and myself.[182]

Following the expulsion of John Whitmer and W. W. Phelps came the excommunication of Book of Mormon witnesses David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery a month later, in April, 1838. When Cowdery left the church, he took the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon with him.  After the church was driven from Missouri, Joseph would settle in Illinois with the Saints; Cowdery would move back to Ohio; and the Whitmers would remain in Missouri, David in Richmond and John in Far West, who purchased large amounts of land there including the temple site.

John Whitmer kept possession of his copy of the Genesis manuscript, along with the history he had written “by commandment”, later called the Book of John Whitmer. After the death of Oliver Cowdery in 1850 at the home of David Whitmer, the printers manuscript to the Book of Mormon was kept by his brother-in-law David Whitmer.  Along with his Genesis Manuscript (OTman3) John Whitmer also had in his possession a copy of the Book of Mormon characters.  This interview by RLDS church member E.C. Brand,places the character document in the hands of John, not David Whitmer in 1875:

“I visited Mr. John Whitmer at his residence at Far West, Caldwell Co., Mo., on the 18th of February, 1875. He also bore his testimony to me concerning the truth, and declared that his testimony, as found in the testimony of “Eight Witnesses,” in the Book of Mormon, is strictly true. He showed me a facsimile of plates, copied from the plates in the handwriting of Joseph Smith. Both of these men (David and John) are respectable, and looked up to as truthful, honorable men, in the vicinity where they live. The above is a brief and correct statement of my interview with them. . . .”[183]

Joseph Smith III, Israel L. Rogers & Ebeneezer Robinson

Joseph Smith III, Israel L. Rogers & Ebeneezer Robinson

The manuscripts, at Cowdery’s death, in 1844, were left in the hands of his widow, where they remained until the spring of 1866, when they were delivered to Wm. Marks, I. L. Rogers, and Wm. W. Blair, a committee appointed by the Annual Conference, of April, 1866, to procure them for publication; and were, by them, delivered to the Committee of Publication consisting of Joseph Smith, Israel L. Rogers, and Ebenezer Robinson.[184]

During the 1850’s and 60’s John and David Whitmer gave few interviews that were recorded, and none of them (that I am aware of) mention the Book of Mormon Characters.   After settling in Richmond,  Whitmer ran a successful Livery Stable and in 1867, David was elected  the Mayor of Richmond . That same year Whitmer sat for a portrait by a photographer named Jacob Hicks. The Richmond Conservator ran this article about the sitting,

Handsome. –The poet has well said “a thing of beauty is a joy forever,” and glancing at some porcelan pictures taken by our friend Jake Hicks, we were struck with the application of the thought.  What is more pleasing than to have a fac simile of one’s self, or some loved one taken by an artist in a style that must evoke praise from all, and such are the pictures now before us, perfect likenesses of Mayor Whitmer, and D. J. Whitmer. They are taken in Hicks happiest manner, and reflect great credit upon him as an artist.[185]

David Whitmer 1867 by Jacob Hicks

“Handsome” David Whitmer 1867 by Jacob Hicks

At about this time, Joseph Smith III decided to publish the New Translation that his father [Joseph Smith, Jr.]had worked on and completed on July 2, 1833. In a letter to her son in 1867, Emma wrote,

My own dear Joseph . . . Now as it regards the M of the new translation if you wish to keep them you may do so, but if not I would like to have them. I have often thought the reason why our house did not burn down when it has been so often on fire was because of them, and I still feel there is a sacredness attached to them.[186]

It was after his stint as a Mayor that Whitmer began giving more interviews and speaking about the Book of Mormon manuscript he had acquired from his brother-in-law Oliver Cowdery. In 1875, David Whitmer claimed to a reporter for the Chicago Times that,

he had in his possession the original records, and was conversant with the history of the Church of Christ from the beginning, but was under obligation to hold both history and records sacred until such time as the interests of truth and true religion might demand their aid to combat error. [187]

Whitmer did not speak of the Book of Mormon characters in that interview. A little over a year later, David Whitmer organized what he called the Church of Christ, as explained by the Editor of The Return in 1892:

For about forty years, during which time the original manuscript and historical records came into his possession, he [David Whitmer] made a “morale” for the Book of Mormon, and placed it before the world as one of the books that has come to stay. In September, 1875, John C. Whitmer, becoming convinced that he should be baptized, asked the same of David Whitmer, which was accomplished, and your correspondent was a witness to his ordination, January 28, 1876. Like a tree growing in its proper season arose the necessity to perpetuate the Church of Christ. Since this time membership has been slowly advancing, and here and there are small congregations.[188]

In 1875 Martin Harris died in Utah, leaving David Whitmer the last of the three witnesses, and consequently he was interviewed far more often at this time than at any other in his life.[189]

In addition to giving interviews, David would sometimes display what he called “the original manuscript” of the Book of Mormon. David would also sometimes display for visitors what he called “the original characters presented to Professor Anthon of New York by Martin Harris”, but there are no accounts that have been discovered of him displaying the characters before 1878.

Whitmer kept these documents at his house in Richmond, and had the same attitude about them that Emma Smith had about the New Translation Manuscripts, that they were sacred and those who possessed them would be protected with them. This was affirmed in the mind of David Whitmer and others when in May of 1878 a cyclone (tornado) ravaged the city of Richmond.[190]

In the summer of 1878 Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt were sent on a mission to the east “in the interest of the history of the Church.”[191] In the fall of that year they visited Richmond and Joseph F. Smith wrote in his diary of the cyclone’s devastation:

Joseph F. Smith c. 1875

Joseph F. Smith c. 1875

After breakfast Brother Pratt and I took a walk several blocks around the ruined district of the town. We were satisfied that the reports of the cyclone were not at all exaggerated if sufficiently drawn. Although rapid improvements have been made, the whole breadth of the town visited by the tempest presents a wrecked, desolate and ruined aspect. The debris of wrecked houses, fences, sidewalks and trees bitterly strewing the face of the ground. Scarcely a tree was standing in the wake of the tornado, much less a house, shed or fence. The very bark stripped from the trunks and stumps of many of the trees which were left standing. Many houses have been rebuilt on the sites of those blown down, and the work of clearing up debris, rebuilding houses, fences, board sidewalks, etc., still goes on.[192]

It appears that David Whitmer was injured when the cyclone struck Richmond. Sarah Whitmer (the daughter of John Whitmer) wrote to P. W. Poulson that,

“I visited Richmond directly after the storm and it was a sad looking-sight to behold. Uncle David has about recovered from his injuries and is out once more on the street.”[193]

Smith reported that “a large mechanic’s shop” behind the Whitmer property “with all its contents was literally demolished by the cyclone. I saw the remains of a carriage just finished for Whitmer and Co.’s livery service, but not delivered when the cyclone passed over. It was absolutely smashed, twisted and riven to atoms. Such a wreck I could not have conceived, even the tires were twisted into inconceivable shapes and not a spoke, felloe, or scarcely a bolt left in its place. Some of the spokes being taken clean out of the hubs, where they had just been compressed by powerful machinery with a pressure of 20 tons. One man from this shop was blown a great distance right through a house.”[194]

Later that year an account of their visit appeared in the Millennial Star where it was reported that David Whitmer told them that,

While camping around here in a tent, all my effects exposed to the weather, everything in the trunk where the MSS. [manuscripts] were kept became mouldy, etc., but they were preserved, not even being discolored (we supposed his camping in a tent, etc., had reference to his circumstances after the cyclone, in June last). As he and others affirm, the room in which the MSS. were kept was the only part of the house which was not demolished, and even the ceiling of that room was but little impaired. “Do you think,” said Philander Page, a son of Hiram Page, one of the Eight Witnesses, “that the Almighty cannot take care of his own?”[195]

In a second meeting the next day with Whitmer, Joseph F. Smith recorded in his diary that,

After the usual ceremony of introduction, David Whitmer brought out and showed us the manuscript of the Book of Mormon, mostly in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery, some of the writings was thought to be in the handwriting of John and Christian Whitmer, but only comparatively a few pages.[196]

Smith also wrote in his entry for that day that,

Brother Pratt felt closely after the subject of procuring the Ms., but we found that this was impossible to all human appearances. The whole Whitmer family are deeply impressed with the sacredness of this relic, and are actually so imbued with the idea and faith that it is under the immediate protection of the Almighty, that not only the Ms. itself is safe from all possible contingencies, but that it is a souvenir of protection to the place, or house, in which it might be kept, to the possessor. I do not therefore believe they could be induced to part with it for love or money, nor fear or favor.[197]

Richmond Cyclone 1878

Richmond Cyclone 1878

What is interesting about this visit of Smith and Pratt is that there is no mention of the Book of Mormon characters.  Where was the document that John Whitmer showed to E.C. Brand in 1875? An answer may lie in two interviews given by P. Wilhelm Poulson,  who Dan Vogel describes as “an eccentric Mormon with serious involvement with psychic and spiritualistic phenomena.”[198]

Poulson claimed that he interviewed John Whitmer in April of 1878, a few months before his death on July 11, 1878. In this interview it is reported by Poulson that,

John Whitmer was in possession of copies from the plates with the translation below and showed that to me and also of other valuable records. I shall correspond with Sarah Whitmer, and hope she will be willing, with the permission of David Whitmer, to restore those documents to the Church.[199]

Dan Vogel writes:

Unfortunately, John Whitmer was dead when Poulson’s account was published and could not challenge the accuracy of the reported interview. However, Poulson’s subsequent publication of his interview with David Whitmer was challenged by the interviewee as containing invented conversation. In a letter to S. T. Mouch, 18 November 1882, David Whitmer complained about Poulson’s account of the interview: “As to what you Say about the correspondence published by P Wilhelm Poulson M D Aug[ust] 20th 1878. I surely did not make the Statement which you Say he reports me to have made, for it is not according to the facts. And I have always in the fear of God, tried to give a true statement to the best of my recollection in regard to all matters which I have attempted to Explain. And I do not now remember of talking to Mr Poulson on the subject referred to.” Unfortunately, we do not know what portion of the interview Whitmer referred to since we do not have Mouch’s letter of inquiry. That there was an inaccuracy suggests that Poulson probably did not keep careful notes during his interviews. At the end of the present account, Poulson states that his conversation “was mostly written down word for word half an hour after the interview.” “Mostly” suggests that in some instances it may have gone beyond his notes and drew from memory about four months later.[200]

John Whitmer

John Whitmer

If this part of Poulson’s account can be trusted, John Whitmer may have had the “Caractor” document in his possession until his death in 1878.  Poulson also may have seen the entire document, and thought that the words “The Book of the Generation of Adam” may have been part of a translation.

Poulson also interviewed David Whitmer in April of 1878, and asked him about the engravings on the gold plates.  According to Poulson, Whitmer replied that,

They were characters. We copied some, and if you visit my brother John, one of the eight witnesses, who wrote for Joseph, John can show you some of the old manuscript which he borrowed from me. I must have it returned to me again, as it belongs to the Church, in connection with other records.[201]

If this part of the interview is accurate[202] then David did not have a copy of the characters in his possession at this time and referred Poulson to his brother John if he wanted to see them. David also states that “we copied some of them”, which doesn’t agree with what Whitmer always said about the “Caractor” document –  that it was the original document that Martin Harris took to Charles Anthon in 1828.

Could Poulson have heard this (“we copied some”) from John Whitmer since he interviewed both of the brothers during the same month in 1878? It is also possible that David knew the actual history of John’s document, and that it was a copy of the original transcript, and then changed his story later. It is hard to know for sure until further information comes to light.[203]

Also, what “old manuscript” was David Whitmer talking about? OTman3? Possibly. So, if David had a copy of the characters in 1878 why aren’t they mentioned by Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt?  It is hard to imagine that they were simply left out of the account written by Smith, so they must not have been shown to the Utah Mormons.

Joseph F. Smith may give us a reason why they were not shown to them in his diary account. After leaving David Whitmer in Richmond, Smith and Pratt took the short journey to Far West where they visited with Jacob D. Whitmer, the son of John Whitmer, who Smith reported was “insolently gruff and abrupt.”[204]

After asking if he could show them around Far West (to which Jacob refused), the conversation turned to the matter of John Whitmer’s papers:

O[rson] P[ratt]. — Your father was once the historian of the Church, and I am the present historian; we are anxious to preserve all the items of history we can, we would therefore like to see the MS. your father kept, and if possible, to make satisfactory arrangements with you, to purchase the same, provided there is anything in the MS. which we have not already published. I suppose you are aware that the history of the Church has already been published.

J[acob] W. — We’ve got no history here, all father’s papers have gone to Richmond long ago.

O. P. — We had a very pleasant interview with your uncle David, at Richmond. We arrived there last Friday, and remained two days, he showed us the MS. of the Book of Mormon, but said nothing about having any other papers.

J. W. — We have got no papers here.

Convinced that there was no use of making any further efforts where the spirit of bigotry and opposition was so intense, we turned away… [205]

In 1881 the Richmond Conservator reported that,

There is no doubt that Mr. Whitmer, who was one of the Three Witnesses of the authenticity of the gold plates, from which he asserts that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon (a fac simile of the characters he now has in his possession with the original records), is firmly convinced of its divine origin, and while he makes no effort to obtrude his views or beliefs, he simply wants the world to know that so far as he is concerned there is no “variableness or shadow of turning.” [206]

At this time Whitmer began to claim that the copy of the Book of Mormon characters in his possession was the original document taken by Martin Harris to Charles Anthon.  Jesse R. Badham wrote,

He, Whitmore [Whitmer], has in his possession the original manuscript—and the original characters presented to Professor Anthony [Anthon] of New York by Martin Harris both of which I saw and handled. Also heard a blessing read pronounced for him by Joseph the Prophet which he holds very sacred.[207] 

Whitmer also had published in 1881 a “Proclamation” in which he stated that,

I have in my possession the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery and others, also the original paper containing some of the characters transcribed from one of the golden plates, which paper Martin Harris took to Professor Anthon, of New York, for him to read “the  words of a book that is sealed:” but the learned professor, although a great linguist could not read the  language of the Nephites.[208]

Des Moines Daily News 16 Oct 1886, with facsimile of the torn "Caractors" Document.

Des Moines Daily News 16 Oct 1886, with facsimile of the torn “Caractors” Document.-Image courtesy of Dan Vogel

In 1884 James H. Hart included a description of the document that David Whitmer had in his possession:

I was shown the reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics, that were copied from the plates by the Prophet Joseph, and taken by Martin Harris to Profesors Anthon and Mitchell, of New York City, in Febuary, 1828. They are written on unruled paper, about three and a half inches by seven, and fill up seven lines, making about thirty-five inches of writing. They remind me very much of some Egyptian hieroglyphics I have seen in the British Museum, London, and in other collections. [209]

Hart also gave an account to the Bear Lake Democrat a few days later which reads,

I was shown, moreover, the Egyptian characters copied by the Prophet Joseph Smith and taken by Martin Harris to Profs. Anthon and Mitchell of this city, in February 1828. They are written on unruled paper, about three and a half inches deep, by seven inches wide. The writing is in seven lines, making about 34 inches; and reminds me very much of some hieroglyphics I have seen in the British Museum, London, and other collections.[210]

During that same year, George Q. Cannon paid a visit to David Whitmer at his home in Richmond, who showed him the Book of Mormon manuscript he had in his possession.  But Cannon seemed far more interested in

George Q. Cannon

George Q. Cannon

a paper with this, which, if anything, was still more interesting than the manuscript. It was the characters drawn by Joseph [Smith, Jr.] himself from the plates for Martin Harris to take to show the learned professors, so wonderfully predicted in the 29th chapter of Isaiah. There were seven lines of these characters, the first four being about twice as large in size as the last three. In English Joseph had written over the lines the word “characters.” He had spelled this word, “caractors.” Though these characters had evidently been written for a long time, they were as clear and distinct as though just penned. Here was the very paper which Isaiah saw in vision about 2,600 years before, and which he called “the words of a book.”[211]

In 1886 Whitmer was still affirming that he had a copy of the characters taken by Martin Harris, but in this interview added some new details:

At this particular state of the recital, an inspection of a copy of the hieroglyphics made from the first of the gold plates by Joseph Smith and preserved with the same solicitude that is thrown around the original manuscript, becomes of curious interest. The accompanying cut is a perfect fac-simile of the little sheet which took Joseph Smith a whole week to copy, so particular was he that the characters should be perfectly reproduced, and that the “reformed Egyptian” language should be shown up in all its native simplicity, for, it must not be forgotten, there was a singular significance in errand which this scrap of paper was destined to perform.[212]

Omaha Herald 17 Oct 1886

Omaha Herald 17 Oct 1886-Image courtesy of Dan Vogel

The year before he died, Whitmer published a rambling, 75 page pamphlet which he titled An Address To All Believers In Christ, that condemned the Utah branch of the Mormon Church, called Joseph Smith a fallen prophet, and admonished all men to believe in the Book of Mormon. Endeavoring to correct those that claimed he had denied his testimony; Whitmer also reprinted his “Proclamation” from 1881 which stated that,

I have in my possession the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery and others, also the original paper containing some of the characters transcribed from one of the golden plates…[213]

Thus David Whitmer would affirm until his death that he had possession of the original Book of Mormon Manuscript and the copy of the characters that Martin Harris took to New York City in 1828.

After David Whitmer’s death, these items were passed to his son, David J. Whitmer, along with John Whitmer’s Church History and OTMan 3.  This collection of documents were eventually given into the care of George Schweich, a nephew of David J. Whitmer, who subsequently sold them to the RLDS Church for $2450 in 1903.[214]

George Schweich

George Schweich

Interest in the “Charactors” document has only increased over the years, but little could be determined about it because it was obviously torn from a larger document. In 1942 Ariel Crowley published an in-depth study of the document in the Improvement Era, and analyzed all of the conclusions about it that had been written up to that time.  Crowley writes that the document was in the hands of the Whitmer family,

in early 1903 at the time of the preparation of Chapter V in volume 2 of B. H. Roberts’ New Witnesses for God.” In April, 1903, the Whitmer heirs transferred the transcript to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where it now remains. This is confirmed by a recent letter from President Frederick M. Smith of the Reorganized Church.[215]

The letter to John A. Widtsoe from Frederick Smith was written on May 9, 1941, and Smith wrote:

“Without reasonable doubt we have the original paper taken by Martin Harris to Professor Anthon. In 1884, a committee of the Reorganized Church had a conference with David Whitmer. From July 8 to August 17 of that year this committee worked with Father Whitmer in comparing published Books of Mormon with the manuscript then in his possession. At this time this paper was with the manuscript, and it was exhibited by him to the committee and he stated it was the original taken to Professor Anthon.

In 1890 a “cut” was made which was published in a book written by William H. Kelley called Presidency and Priesthood: and in 1896 it was reproduced in our Church History, Vol. 1, p. 22.

When the Book of Mormon manuscript was delivered to my father [Joseph Smith, III] in April, 1903, this fragment was tied up with it and has remained in our possession.

Our historical department states that “possibly the first published reference to such a document was a letter of Professor Anthon dated February 17, 1834, published by E. D. Howe in his book that year.”

In the Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, p. 773, appears the statement of Martin Harris doubtless made some time before.

Of course many published accounts are now to be found.

Mr. S. A. Burgess comments:  “In addition to the history of the fragment, the word ‘caractors,’ their uneven size and growing smaller with each line, all indicate an unskilled copyist. Also, the paper itself is old, and of the same quality and appearance of the paper of the manuscript and of early revelations, manuscripts undoubtedly made before 1833.”

The appearance of the fragment, eight inches by three and one-fourth inches, evidences its antiquity, and since 1924 we have kept it under glass.[216]

There the matter has stood since 1924. But with my discovery of the photo taken by Jacob Hicks sometime around 1867, perhaps a little bit more can be added about the origin of this mysterious fragment that has had so much written about it over the years.

Go to Part IV.

NOTES

Dan Vogel was instrumental in helping me with research on this part of the article.

[143] “Minutes of a General Conference held at the dwelling of br. Serenes Burnet in the Town of Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, October 25, 1831,” Far West Record, p. 13.

[144]  The Joseph Smith Papers website, online here, accessed, August 5, 2013. (Hereafter, JSPW). 

[145] JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, p. 4. Online here, accessed August 5, 2011.

[146] JSPW, op. cited, here.

[147] Times and Seasons, Vol.3, No.20, p.885.

[148] Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected From the Revelations of God, F. G. Williams & Co.,1835,),  Section 50:1.

[149] Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 1,p. 128.

[150] Documentary History of the Church, (D.H.C.), Vol. 4, p. 57.

[151] Dan Vogel, The Word of God, p.12.

[152] “Old Testament Manuscript 3: An Early Transcript of the Book of Moses”, Kent P. Jackson and Scott H. Faulring, Mormon Historical Studies No. 8, Fall 2004, pages 113-114. Online here, accessed August 5, 2013. (Hereafter, Jackson & Faulring, 2004).

[153] Kent P. Jackson, The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005), p. 1–52. Online here, accessed August 5, 2013.(Hereafter, Jackson, 2005).

[154]  ibid.

[155] Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected From the Revelations of God, F. G. Williams & Co.,1835, Section 63:2. See also, Times and Seasons, Vol.5, No.2, p.401.

[156] Jackson, 2005.

[157]  ibid.

[158] Jackson & Faulring, 2004, pages 114-115.

[159] ibid, page 114.

[160] Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 2,  No. 3, December 1835, page 235.

[161]  Edward R. Ashment, “A Record in the Language of My Father”, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, ed. Brent Metcalfe, pp..334-335, online here, accessed August 5, 2013. These are curious documents to be sure, because they contain more than just a showcase of Joseph Smith’s translation abilities. The History of the Williams document is fascinating, and there is some interesting background about it as some letters (found here in the online Church History Library) that passed between Nancy A. C. Williams, George Albert Smith and Joseph Fielding Smith attest. The letter from Nancy A. C. Williams (Mrs. Frederick G. Williams, II) and addressed to George Albert Smith is dated November 28, 1949. She writes,

Dear Brother Smith:

I have in my possession an acknowledgement signed by Joseph Fielding Smith, dated August 4, 1934, wherein he had received from me eighteen (18) miscellaneous letters and papers of Frederick G. Williams filed in big green safe. Brother Alvin Smith carefully covered them with Scotch paper. On different occasions I have looked them over. Then they were reported lost. Now they seem to be mutilated and some are gone, one which read, “turn deed to Joseph Smith, Jr. May 5, 1834”. These were numbered, with a typewritten account of  contents of each to compare with the originals. …

The idea is this. Inasmuch as all proof concerning his life and labors were in the historian’s office and no one used them but me, I desire to withdraw and preserve with is left of them. …

I am asking if you would write an order to release all my notes and papers, and, if the Lord wills to spare my life, I will preserve all in book form. … (williams to Smith, page 1)

Williams also included this post-script:

The following is an appendage taken from my book, Chapter Six:

 A number of years ago the author, in comparing he writing of Dr. William’ notes with that in the Historian’s Office, was shown the original paper written in pencil, bearing the revelation given in the Kirtland Temple concerning Lehi’s travels. Recently, February 25, 1949, she was shown the ink transcript which the Doctor made on his return home, which she had never seen before and with which she received a wonderful manifestation that it was indeed a revelation given to Frederick G. Williams for him and his family.” The pencil original cannot be found at this time.

 The following is recorded in Dr. Frederick G. Williams ledger, page 321, claiming that at the time of receiving the revelation an angel appeared to him and sat between him and Joseph Smith, Sr. Frederick G. Williams then transcribed the message on paper, which he kept during his life time and Mrs. Williams kept it sacred until her demise. It then came into possession of Dr. Ezra G. Williams, who loaned it to Apostle George A. Smith. Mr. and Mrs. Williams tried several times to secure the manuscript again but were unsuccessful. This revelation later appeared in print in the Compendium, page 289, and was accredited to Joseph Smith, the Prophet. From an interview with Mrs. Henrietta E. Williams, wife of Ezra G. Williams at Ogden, Utah. Signed – Merlin J. Stone.

 Nancy A. C. Williams

Anthon H. Lund then wrote to Joseph Fielding Smith,

January 10, 1950
Dear Brother Smith:

Sometime ago the First Presidency sent you a letter, signed only in typewriting, from Nancy A. C. Williams. I have tried to locate all of the letters, notes, journals, etc. that she mentions in her letter and attached to this letter is a list of these articles mentioned as far as I can locate them.

Also her letter needs some answering as her statements are not altogether correct. I am trying to five you an account of just what has been said to her in regard to these matters.

I have taken each paragraph in her letter and given my answers in the spirit of trying to defend our Office and not to harm Sister Williams. (Lund to Smith, page 1)

Cordially
Anthon Lund

In his answers addressing Williams letter, Lund comments about the “Lehi’s Travels” portion of the Williams Document:

On page 2 of the Postscript – Paragraph One In all of the years I have been with the Historian’s Office, I have never seen any other account of “Lehi’s Travels” than the one we have locked in the Small Safe. I gave Sister Williams a photographic copy of this information which I thought was much better than a typed copy. (see note at bottom of page)

The material mentioned in this paragraph Sister Williams claims was written by pencil on paper that Brother Frederick G. Williams had in his pocket while at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple and later copied by ink on the paper which is filed in our Library. She also claims that this paper upon which Frederick G. Williams transcribed his revelation was in the possession of Mrs. Williams, then came to Dr. Ezra G. Williams and then loaned to Apostle George Albert Smith. On the paper which is in our possession there is the following written upon it in the handwriting of Ezra G. Williams: “G.S.L. City, April 11, 1864. This paper is in the handwriting of my father, Frederick G. Williams. The characters there on I believe to be a representation of those shown to him at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. Ezra G. Williams.”

Brother Ezra G. Williams does not say anything about the revelation (Doc. & Cov. Sec. 7) at the top of one of the pages, nor the answers to questions asked in English and answered in Hebrew, nor the characters from the Book of Mormon in the center of the page, nor the course of Lehi and his family being revealed to his father, but only that they were in the handwriting of his father.

The statement of Sister Williams that “The following is recorded in Dr. Frederick G. Williams ledger” might lead one to believe that he wrote that which is written there. However, that which is written on page 321 of that ledger is a statement made by the wife of Ezra G. Williams to Merlin J. Stone on January 24, 1913.

The words of the course of Lehi and his family as written in the ledger are word for word as written in the Compendium 1882 edition page 289. However, these words are not exactly the same as on the paper claimed to be the paper upon which Frederick G. Williams transcribed his pencil notes. On the paper it reads: “The course that Lehi traveled from the city of Jerusalem to the place where he and his family took ship” and from the Compendium: The course Lehi and his company traveled from Jerusalem to the place of their destination.”

I am inclined to believe Dr. Frederick G. Williams may only have copied all that is on this one side of the page for the following reasons:

Section 7 of the Doctrine and Covenants was given in 1829 and published in the Book of Commandments in 1833.

The center could be copied from writings of Oliver Cowdery, which we have, and by inference the course of Lehi could have been copied also.(Lund to Smith, pp. 2-3)

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote a postscript at the bottom of the last page of the Williams letter which reads,

P.S. The family is very desirous to have possession of the “Revelation” [which?] he wrote in his own hand, as loaned to Uncle Geo A. Smith & which [no] one has ever believed he received but his family who knows. (Williams Letter, page 2)

Thank you kindly-
Pres. Smith

Joseph Fielding’s comment is interesting in that he seems to perceive that Lehi’s Travels portion of the document as a “revelation”, but not to Williams, but probably to Joseph Smith. It is also obvious that they were familiar with the Cowdery copy (pictured beolw). I’m sure there must have been follow up letters, but they are not posted at this time.

[162] The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Vol. 1: July 1828 – June 1831, by  Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, William J. Hartley, Appendix 2: Copies of Book of Mormon Characters, p. 362. The document is small, and I don’t have a hi-res photo of it yet, but this will give you an idea of what it looks like. The first three sections are the English/Hebrew “translations” given by Joseph Smith, then the Book of Mormon  and the Interpreter of languages section. The last line says “Written and kept for profit & learning by Oliver.”

"Written and kept for learning & profit"

“Written and kept for profit & learning Oliver”

[163] As much as I would like to write about the Kinderhook Plates here, I’ll have to save it for another time. There are, however some serious studies in progress concerning them being undertaken by Don Bradley (a good overview which may be found here) and Brent and Erin Metcalfe. I will have to disagree however, that Don had “solved” the “mystery” of the Kinderhook Plates. But his 2011 FAIR presentation is insightful and informative. My own study will be published next year. I will mention that there are dozens of striking matches between the Kinderhook Plates glyphs and the “caractors” from the Book of Mormon which more than outweigh Don’s tentative “match” with a G.A.E.L. character and make his scenario much less likely to have occurred.

[164] Diary of George Moore, Tuesday, December 20,1842, pp. 105-106, cit. Donald Q. Cannon, “Reverend George Moore Comments on Nauvoo, the Mormons, and Joseph Smith,” Western Illinois Regional Studies 5 (Spring 1982):6-16.

[165] The New York Herald, May 30, 1843. I believe that “a Gentile” was an “undercover” member of the Church who knew that James Gordon Bennett was friendly to the Mormons and wrote to the paper for that reason.

Many thanks to Erin Metcalfe for finding this article. It is important not only in the study of Joseph’s “caractors”, but also crucial in helping to understand how Joseph Smith viewed the Kinderhook Plates, which was as a Jaredite record, or as one of the editors of the Times and Seasons put it, “A sequel to the Book of Mormon.”

I am writing a lengthy article (“Is there Wisdom in Zion?”) on this fascinating chapter of Mormon History which will be published here in 2014.

[166] “Sealed in a Book: Preliminary Observations on the Newly Found “Anthon Transcript”” by Danel W. Bachman,  B.Y.U. Studies, Vol. 20 No. 4, 1980, pages 324-325. This article focuses on the transcript forged by Mark Hoffmann, but has valuable analysis about the Book of Mormon characters. Online here, accessed August 5, 2013.

Whoever “Mr. Strong” was, he did a poor job of copying the characters. Because of this, it is difficult to determine if there are different characters on the 1844 placard when compared to the Whitmer “caractors” document. I will be addressing this and other concerns in my article “Is there Wisdom In Zion?”.

[167] History of the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 221-22.

[168] Doctrine and Covenants, Section 70, v. 3.

[169] Kirtland Revelation Book, page 146.

[170] History of the Church, 1:266.

[171] Bruce N. Westergren, From Historian to Dissident: The Book of John Whitmer, p.108. The Book of John Whitmer can also be read online here, accessed August 5, 2013. The “revelation” spoken of by John Whitmer was dictated by Joseph on 11 November, 1831 and says,

Hearken unto me saith the Lord for verily I say unto  you for my Servent Olivers [Oliver Cowdery’s] sake it is not wisdom  in me that he should be intrusted with the commandments  & moneys which he shall carry unto the Land of Zion  except one go with him who will be true & faithfull  wherefore I the Lord willeth that my Servent John (Whitmer)  shall go with my servent Oliver & also that he observe to  continue in writing & makeing a history of all the  important things which he shall observe & know concerning  my Church & also that he receive council & assistance  from my Servent Oliver & others3 & also that my Saints  which are abroad in the Earth should send forth their accounts  to the Land of Zion for the Land of Zion shall be a seat  & a place to receive & do all these things nevertheless  let my Servnt John travel many times from place  to place & from Church to Church that he may the more  easily obtain knowledge Preaching & expounding writing  cop[y]ing & selecting & obtain[in]g all things which shall be  for the good of the Church & for the rising generations  which shall grow up on the Land of Zion to possess  it from generations to generations forever & ever Amen (The Joseph Smith Papers Website, Online here, accessed August 5, 2013).

[172] ibid, p.103

[173] ibid. Even this disheartening event was followed by Whitmer adding that “on the 13th of the same month the stars fell” and was written about almost immediately afterward in The Evening and Morning Star, edited by W. W. Phelps who wrote,

“We have received a communication on the subject of the Millennium, which we insert in this number of the Star,” and adds that “we presume we shall be favored with more from the same pen…” (The Evening and Morning Star, Vol. II, No. 15, December, 1833, p.116).

The article reads (in part):

On the morning of the 13th of November last, about 3 or 4 o’clock, was seen a singular appearance in the heavens, which seemed to produce no small excitement in the minds of those who were up in season to gaze upon the sublime, yet strange phenomenon. We were roused from our slumber by the voice of one of our neighbors, “Rise and see the signs in the heavens!” Immediately we were on our feet, and on looking out at the window, beheld a scenery as sublime, apparently, as though the Great Majesty of heaven was riding forth through the firmament upon a cloud that was passing slowly towards the east, from whose presence worlds seemed to be moving with mighty rapidity, whose flaming orbits lighted down through the dark weather and shown upon this earth! But on walking out it was plain to be seen that it was not merely one place in the heavens thus illuminated, but the whole heavens were lit up with the same appearance, except here and there a small cloud as they were moved to the east by a gentle wind.

This scenery continued visible till near sunrise, when it fled by the rising splendor of the “King of day.” While we were gazing upon this new wonder with surprise and admiration, we remembered the exhortation of the Lord to Israel, [Isa. XL. 26.] Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names, by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. This saying seems to be peculiarly well adapted to an occurrence of this kind: for notwithstanding the great commotion in the heavenly bodies, yet, the same power that brought them into existence and regulated their various circumvolutions, was still sufficient to retain them in their proper position by his immutable decree, till the judgement [judgment] of the great day; or until the time of the fulfillment of certain prophecies contained in the holy scriptures. We were also reminded of that remarkable saying of the Savior, [Matt. XXV. 6.] while speaking of his kingdom in the last days, at the time of his second coming, when the cry is to be heard at midnight, Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.(ibid)

In January 1833 Joseph had written a letter to to N. O. Saxton, editor of the American Revivalist and Rochester Observer in which he declared that,

I am prepared to say by the authority  of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass  away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the hystory  of our nation pestalence hail famine and earthquake will  sweep the wicked off this generation from off the face of  this Land to open and prepare the way for the  return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north  country— The people of the Lord, those who have  complied with the requsitions of the new covenant  have already commenced gathering togethe[r] to Zion  which is in the State of Missouri. Therefore I decl are unto you the warning which the lord  has commanded me to declare unto this  generation, rembring [remembering] that the eyes of my maker  are upon me and that to him I am accountabl  for evry word I say wishing nothing worse to  my fellow men then their eternal salvation  therefore fear God, and give glory to him for  the hour of his Judgment is come, <Repent  ye> Repent, ye and imbrace the everlasting  Covenant and flee to Zion before the over flowing scourge overtake you, For there are  those now living upon the earth whose eyes  shall not be closed in death until they see  all these things which I have spoken fulfilled (The Joseph Smith Papers Website, Online here, accessed August 5, 2013). 

When this letter was not published in its entirety by the newspaper, Smith wrote a follow up letter and admonished them to do so stating that,

I was somewhat disappointed on receiv ing my paper with only a part of my  letter inserted in that it. The letter which I  wrote you for publication I wrote by the commandment of God, and I am quite anxious  to have it all laid before the public for it is  of importance to them…” (ibid, online here, accessed August 5, 2013).

Smith’s plea was apparently ignored, but this did not deter him from believing that the night of the falling stars was a fulfillment of prophecy:

In the morning at 4 o’clock i was awoke by Brother Davis knocking at my door saying: Brother Joseph come get up and see the signs in the heavens, and I arose and beheld to my great joy the stars fall from heaven; yea, they fell like hail stones, a literal fulfillment of the word of God as recorded in the holy scriptures and a sure sign that the coming of Christ is close at hand. O how marvellous are thy works O Lord and I thank thee for thy mercy unto me thy servant. O Lord save me in thy kingdom for Christ sake. Amen.

The appearance of these signs varied in different sections of the country: in Zion, all heaven seemed enwrapped in splendid fireworks, as if every star in the broad expanse, had been suddenly hurled from its course, and sent lawless through the wilds of ether: some at times, appeared like bright shooting meteors with long trains of light following in their course, and in numbers resembled large drops of rain in sunshine. Some of the long trains of light following the meteoric stars, were visible for some seconds; those streaks would cut and twist up like serpents writhing. The appearance was beautiful, grand and sublime beyond description; as though all the artillery and fire works of eternity were set in motion to enchant and entertain the saints, and terrify and awe the sinners on the earth. Beautiful and terrific as was the scenery, which might be compared to the falling figs or fruit when the tree is shaken by a mighty wind; yet, it will not fully compare with the time when the sun shall become black like sack cloth of hair, the moon like blood; Rev. 6:13; and the stars fall to the earth — as these appeared to vanish when they fell behind the trees, or came near the ground. (“History of Joseph Smith,” Times and Seasons, Vol.6, No.1, p.898, See also, Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.14)

David Whitmer would reminisce about this event years later, with a claim that it had been prophesied about just days before,

When Brother Joseph was humble he had the Spirit of God with him; but when he was not humble he did not have the Spirit. Brother Joseph gave many true prophesies when he was humble before God: but this is no more than many of the other brethren did. Brother Joseph’s true prophesies were almost all published, but those of the other brethren were not. I could give you the names of many who gave great prophesies which came to pass. I will name a few: Brothers Ziba Peterson, Hiram Page, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Peter Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, John Whitmer, myself and many others had the gift of prophesy. Hiram Page prophesied a few days before the stars fell in November, 1833, that the stars would fall from heaven and frighten many people. This prophesy was given in my presence. I could give you many instances of true prophesies which came through the above named brethren, but I desire to be brief. I could also tell you of some false prophesies which some of them gave, when they were not living humble. ( David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, p.32)

In a footnote to this event in the History of the Church edited by B. H. Roberts, he writes,

 Speaking of this event as it appeared to the exiled Saints bivouacked on the Missouri bottoms, Elder Parley P. Pratt in his Autobiography, (page 110) says: “About 2 o’clock the next morning [November 13th], we were called up by the cry of signs in the heavens. We arose, and to our great astonishment all the firmament seemed involved in splendid fireworks, as if every star in the broad expanse had been hurled from its course, and sent lawless through the wilds of ether. Thousands of bright meteors were shooting through space in every direction, with long trains of light following in their course. This lasted for several hours, and was only closed by the dawn of the rising sun. Every heart was filled with joy at this majestic display of signs and wonders, showing the near approach of the coming of the Son of God.” Stephens in his History of the United States (page 455), thus speaks of the same event: “During the fall of 1833 occurred a natural phenomenon of a most wonderful character. This was on the night of the 13th of November. It was what is known as the ‘meteoric shower,’ or the ‘falling of the stars.’ It was witnessed with amazement and astonishment throughout the entire limits of the United States.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 1, p.439, Note 13)

W. R. Hine would later recount that,

The night the meteors fell in 1833, the Mormons sent men on horseback for miles about Kirtland to arouse the people. They got me up at three o’clock A.M., they claimed it was the fore-runner of some wonderful event, and it was said and believed. Prophet Jo said there would be no more stars seen in the heavens. (Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reexamined, by Rodger I. Anderson, Signature Books, 1990, p. 160)

Others like Philo Dibble would recount that it was Joseph Smith, not Hiram Page that prophesied about the meteor shower. Dibble, whose late reminiscences are full of errors and exaggerations wrote,

On one occasion Joseph was preaching in Kirtland sometime in the fall of 1833. Quite a number of persons were present who did not belong to the Church, and one man, more bitter and skeptical than others, made note with pencil and paper of a prophecy uttered on that occasion, wherein Joseph said that “Forty days shall not pass, and the stars shall fall from heaven.”

Such an event would certainly be very unusual and improbable to the natural man, and the skeptic wrote the words as a sure evidence to prove Joseph to be a false Prophet.

On the thirty-ninth day after the utterance of that prophecy a man and brother in the Church, by the name of Joseph Hancock, who is yet living, in Payson, Utah, and another brother were out hunting game and got lost. They wandered about until night, when they found themselves at the house of this unbeliever, who exultingly produced this note of Joseph Smith’s prophecy, and asked Brother Hancock what he thought of his Prophet now, that thirty-nine days had passed and the prophecy was not fulfilled.

Brother Hancock was unmoved and quietly remarked, “There is one night left of the time, and if Joseph said so, the stars will certainly fall tonight. This prophecy will all be fulfilled.”

The matter weighed upon the mind of Brother Hancock, who watched that night, and it proved to be the historical one, known in all the world as “the night of the falling of the stars.”

He stayed that night at the house of the skeptical unbeliever, as it was too far from home to return by night, and in the midst of the falling of the stars he went to the door of his host and called him out to witness what he had thought impossible and the most improbable thing that could happen, especially as that was the last night in which Joseph Smith could be saved from the condemnation of “a false prophet.”

The whole heavens were lit up with the falling meteors, and the countenance of the new spectator was plainly seen and closely watched by Brother Hancock, who said that he turned pale as death, and spoke not a word.

After that event the unbeliever sought the company of any Latter-day Saint. He even enticed Mormon children to keep him company at his house. Not long afterwards, too, he sent for Joseph and Hyrum to come to his house, which they did, but with no noticeable results, for I believe he never received the gospel. (The Juvenile Instructor, No. 27, p. 23, 1892. For more on Philo Dibble, See my articles, “Playing F.A.I.R” and “Joseph Smith’s Moonmen”)

To see the transformation of this collection of folklore into actual history, see, “How a Meteor Shower Inspired a Favorite Hymn”, in Meridian Magazine, May 30, 2013, where Larry Barkdull claims that the event that took place in November 1833 inspired a poem (which became a Hymn) written by W. W. Phelps almost a year before the event took place.  (Phelps’ Poem, “Now Let Us Rejoice In The Day Of Our Salvation”, first appeared in The Evening and Morning Star, Vol. 1, No. 10, March 1833, p. 80, well before (8 months) the Meteor Shower that took place on the night of November 13, 1833).

Barkdull writes,

On the night of November 12, the mob assembled for a slaughter. Defenseless and with no place to retreat, the Mormons would be easy prey – shooting fish in a barrel. Jackson County was about to see mass murder on an unprecedented scale, and all that the defenseless, starving, shivering Saints could do was huddle in the mud and wait for their demise.

It was in that moment of hopelessness and defeat that the Lord sent a miracle.”

Barkdull then quotes from the Parley P. Pratt account cited by Roberts in The History of the Church (cited above) and claims that the Meteor Shower was a “miracle” sent by God to protect the “Saints” from the evil Missouri mob:

The fiery display in the heavens continued all through the night, striking the mob with such awe that they halted their advance on the Saints to watch the magnificent celestial display. In the morning, they simply turned around and went home, and immediately thereafter, the Saints safely escaped to Clay County. (Meridian Magazine, May 30, 2013, online here, accessed August 5, 2013.)

The account penned by Parley Pratt reads,

Thursday, November 7. The shore began to be lined on both sides of the ferry with men, women and children; goods, wagons, boxes, provisions, etc., while the ferry was constantly employed; and when night again closed upon us the cottonwood bottom had much the appearance of a camp meeting. Hundreds of people were seen in every direction, some in tents and some in the open air around their fires, while the rain descended in torrents. Husbands were inquiring for their wives, wives for their husbands; parents for children, and children for parents. Some had the good fortune to escape with their families, household goods, and some provisions; while others knew not the fate of their friends, and had lost all their goods. The scene was indescribable, and, I am sure, would have melted the hearts of any people on the earth, except our blind oppressors, and a blind and ignorant community.

Next day our company still increased, and we were principally en gaged in felling cottonwood trees and erecting them into small cabins. The next night being clear, we began to enjoy some degree of comfort.

About two o’clock the next morning we were called up by the cry of signs in the heavens. We arose, and to our great astonishment all the firmament seemed enveloped in splendid fireworks, as if every star in the broad expanse had been hurled from its course, and sent lawless through the wilds of ether. Thousands of bright meteors were shooting through space in every direction, with long trains of light following in their course. This lasted for several hours, and was only closed by the dawn of the rising sun. Every heart was filled with joy at this majestic display of signs and wonders, showing the near approach of the coming of the Son of God. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pp.. 109-110, online here, accessed August 5, 2013)

Pratt records no miracle, just makes an observation that was being made by many of the same time period. Abraham Lincoln had a much more pragmatic view of this event, as retold by him years later to Walt Whitman:

“When I was a young man in Illinois,” said he, “I boarded for a time with a Deacon of the Presbyterian church. One night I was roused from my sleep by a rap at the door, & I heard the Deacon’s voice exclaiming ‘Arise, Abraham, the day of judgment has come!’ I sprang from my bed & rushed to the window, and saw the stars falling in great showers! But looking back of them in the heavens I saw all the grand old constellations with which I was so well acquainted, fixed and true in their places. Gentlemen, the world did not come to an end then, nor will the Union now.” (Walt Whitman, “A Lincoln Reminiscence”, Specimen Days & Collect (1882) as quoted in Sky & Telescope, November 1999, pp. 34-35, online here, accessed August 5, 2013)

For more on how this event influenced others besides the Mormons, see “Apocalypse Now? Part I – The Great Disappointment”, online here, accessed August 5, 2013.

Joseph Smith would later denounce William Miller (cited in the article above) as a false prophet, declaring that his date of 1843 for the return of Christ was in error, and give his own which was 1891.

The situation was dire for those forced from Jackson County in the winter of 1833, as Whitmer records in Chapter 11 of his History:

The situation of our brethren after leaving their homes in Jackson in the most distressing circumstances, in the cold month of November, found it difficult to preserve life in many instances. Some fled with but few clothes, leaving their beds and bedding; others taking with them what they could carry and running for their lives; women losing some of their children while fleeing for their lives; and thus you may judge how the poor Saints have suffered, after having given only a few hints of the distress.

Whitmer does not mention anything about a mob pursuing them in an effort to pick them off “like fish in a barrel”.

Year later, Brigham Young would speak of the events in Missouri and use the metaphor of falling stars to describe those like John Whitmer who left the faith:

Are the Latter-day Saints ready to receive Zion from above? Have they wisdom and knowledge to receive and conduct themselves properly in the society of angels? I think not. While I was in Far West, and the mob began to gather there, determined to kill Joseph, he preached to the people and said, “If you had faith and would live your religion, you would prove the revelation to be true where the Lord says, ‘I will fight your battles, and, if necessary, send down angels to save you from the wicked grasp of your enemies.'” There was an armed mob of some 3,500 arrayed against some 300 of us. They sent in a deputation, saying they wanted about three persons out of the town, for they were calculating to destroy the people and the place. Some of those self-glorious stars of “Mormonism”—stars that fell in that crisis, looked round for the angels. They did not see them, and straightway turned their backs upon their God and their religion, and joined the enemy. ( Journal of Discouses, Vol. 7, p.143, May 22, 1859)

[174] ibid, p. 125.

[175] ibid, p. 132..

[176]  ibid.

[177] ibid, p. 195.

[178]  ibid, p. 175.

[179] There are many studies that have been done of the Kirtland Safety Society and Joseph’s involvement in land speculation.  Mormon Apologist Marvin S. Hill, with C. Kieth Rooker and Larry T. Wimmer published this one in B.Y.U. Studies: “The Kirtland Economy Revisited: A Market Critique of Sectarian Economics,” which can be read online here. Also see, “Joseph Smith’s Kirtland Bank Failure”, by Jerald & Sandra Tanner, found online here.

Even though Hill, Rooker and Wimmer have presented an impressive amount of data about the Kirtland economy between 1830 and 1840, they still leave many questions unanswered, or ambiguous.

Yet, they still conclude that “Joseph smith was eventually unable to meet all his financial obligations and in that sense he was obviously responsible for an excessive amount of debt,” (p. 403) and then try to mitigate this by claiming that $102,000 of debt is somehow not as bad as the $150,000 that Fawn Brodie estimated in No Man Knows My History.

“An intriguing question, they ask, “is why Joseph Smith sought to undertake and thereafter continued to support a venture with such high risk as the Safety Society Bank.” (p. 432) To which they answer, “we have suggested perhaps the principal advantage [was] to Joseph Smith himself.”  (p. 432)They add that the failure of Joseph’s “anti-Bank” was primarily due to “its lack of a corporate charter,” (p. 435) which was denied by the State of Ohio.

Why would Joseph still push ahead with the Safety Society when (as Hill, et. all, claim) “it was poorly capitalized”, “the lack of a charter created enormous handicaps, bad publicity and great personal risks”? (p. 436)

They give several answers, among them that Joseph’s credibility as a Church leader would come into question (it did).

This was because Joseph’s bank venture was directly tied to his prophetic claims, for Joseph had not only promised that the Bank would succeed, but that God had promised that it would.  Wilford Woodruff wrote in his Journal that he,

herd President Joseph Smith jr. declare in the presence of F Williams, D. Whitmer, S. Smith, W. Parrish, & others in the Deposit Office that he had receieved that morning the Word of the Lord upon the Subject of the Kirtland Safety Society. He was alone in a room by himself & he had not ownly the voice of the Spirit upon the Subject but even an audable voice. He did not tell us at that time what the LORD said upon the subject but remarked that if we would give heed to the Commandments the Lord had given this morning all would be well.

May the Lord bless Brother Joseph with all the Saints & support the above named institution & Protect it so that every weapen formed against it may be broaken & come to nought while the Kirtland Safety Society shall become the greatest of all institutions on EARTH. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, p.120)

Warren Parrish wrote:

“I have listened to him [Joseph Smith] with feelings of no ordinary kind, when he declared that the audible voice of God, instructed him to establish a banking—anti banking institution, who like Aaron’s rod shall swallow up all other banks (the Bank of Monroe excepted,) and grow and flourish and spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and survive when all others should be laid in ruins.” (Painesville Republican, February 22, 1838)

At the April 1837 Conference of the Church, Joseph Smith spoke about the “temporal affairs of the church in this place,” and that “large contracts have been entered into for land on all sides”, and that “our brethren abroad have only to come with their money, take these contracts, and relieve their brethren of the pecuniary embarrassments under which they now labor…” Smith then,

closed at about 4 P. M. by uttering a prophesy saying this place must be built up, and would be built up, and that every brother that would take hold and help secure and discharge those contracts that had been made, should be rich. (Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 3, No. 7, April 1837, pp. 487-88).

Why would Joseph then, need a bank to relieve him of his debt, especially when they claim that Joseph “owned land equal in value to at least $88,000”? (p. 426) And why would Joseph give heed to (as Hill, et all claim), “some Democratic newspapers and political groups”(page 456) about continuing on without a charter, when God had apparently told him that all that was needed was the brethren to come with their money and take over his land contracts?

Ronald E. Ronig and Michael S. Riggs tie the problems with Joseph’s finances in Kirtland directly with his obsession to “redeem Zion”:

A look at Joseph Smith’s indebtedness through the lens of Marvin Hill, C. Keith Rooker, and Larry T. Wimmer, The Kirtland Economy Revisited: A Market Place Critique of Sectarian Economics (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977), suggests the LDS president was probably not overleveraged. However, sources cited in this study suggest that at least one significant aspect of Smith’s debt problem was not considered for the purposes of their book. Contemporary sources strongly suggest Joseph Smith’s multilayered plan for the redemption of Zion seriously overextended the resources of the young movement. Smith, try though he did, could not extract enough funds from his followers to accomplish his entire prophetic agenda. Something had to be sacrificed and the only priority that did not require immediate attention (would not result in a lawsuit) was his plan for a military operation to retake Jackson County.  (“Reassessing Joseph Smith’s “Appointed Time for the Redemption of Zion”, The Missouri Mormon Experience, edited by Thomas M. Spencer, University of Missouri Press, 2010, page 49).

For more on the Bank of Monroe and Oliver Cowdery’s tenure as Vice President, see Mark L. Staker, “Raising Money in Righteousness: Oliver Cowdery as Banker”, in Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery, ed. Alexander L. Baugh (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 143–254, online here, accessed August 5, 2013.

[180] Reed Peck Manuscript, 1839, pages 17-20. Reed Peck was the son of Hezekiah Peck and Martha Long, and was born in Afton, New York in 1814. Previous to the division of the town of Bainbridge, the village and post-office at Afton were known as South Bainbridge.  This is where Joseph Smith married Emma Hale in 1827. Reed Peck married Clarissa M. and they were the parents of four sons:

Presson R, Frank F., Charles D., George W, and a daughter Kate.  Hezekiah Peck was baptized on 28 June, 1830, and most likely Reed was baptized during the same month or shortly thereafter.

The first postmaster [of South Bainbridge] was probably Albert Neely or Joseph P. Chamberlin, at least fifty years ago. Josiah Wright succeeded Chamberlain about 1830. Next was Zaccheus Smith, who came here from Delaware county and kept hotel in the Sullivan House. He held the office till about 1840 and was succeeded by Murlin Jackson. Cornelius Atherton was appointed about 1855 or ‘6, and was followed in 1861 by Lewis Post, who held it till his death February 12, 1863, aged 54 when Daniel A. Carpenter was appointed. Carpenter was succeeded in a short time by E[li]. M. Shay, who held the office till June 12, 1877, when Theodore L. Willey, the present incumbent, was appointed. (“History of Chenango County”, rootsweb @ ancestry.com, online here, accessed August 5, 2013).

In 1903, Harriet E. Shay wrote,

I knew Reed Peck, son of Hezekiah, well after he deserted the Mormon sat Kirtland, Ohio, or Nauvoo. He came back to Afton and spent his days above the village on east side of the river. His place is known as Pecks Mills. He died about three years ago. He was a man highly respected. Mrs. Harriet E. Shay being duly sworn deposes and says, that the above statement is true to the best of her knowledge and belief. (Larry C. Porter, “Colesville, B.Y.U. Studies, 1970, p

The Pecks migrated to Jackson County Missouri in the summer of 1831 and had relocated to Clay County by the fall of 1835. They subsequently moved to Far West in Caldwell County by 1837, where Reed Peck was an eyewitness to the events that led up to the “Mormon War” of 1838. Along with John Corrill and John Whitmer, Reed Peck also wrote a history of those events, which was critical of Joseph Smith and the Kirtland Hierarchy of the Church. Peck called himself an “antiDanite” and helped to broker a deal for the surrender of the Mormon Hierarchy to Generals Atchinson and Doniphan of which John Corrill wrote,

On Sunday, the fourth of November [1838], we heard that Generals Atchinson and Doniphan, with an army, were encamped on Crooked River.

On Sunday evening Smith came to me to have me accompany Reed Peck the next day to meet their army with a white flag, in order to open a correspondence, if possible, and agree upon some terms of peace. We went in company with Colonel Hinkle and about one hundred and sixty horsemen. When we got near Crooked River we learned that the army had moved on to Log Creek, and were making their way to Far West. We thought proper to return, and it was with difficulty that we got back, for the militia had come between us and town. When we arrived, we saw a line of battle drawn up by the militia, and the Mormons also arrayed to meet them, but the militia, for some cause, withdrew to their camp on Goose Creek. About dark, Reed Peck took a white flag, and went into their camp. He saw General Doniphan and others. General Lucas, with his troops from Jackson County, had joined the army, and they were about thirteen hundred strong. When Peck returned he said that General Doniphan had appointed the next morning at eight o’clock to meet a committee of Mormons and make proposals of peace. He promised that no harm should befall us that night; he stated that their object was to bring the guilty to punishment, but the innocent should have an opportunity to escape before they would attack the place.

That night, the Mormons built a sort of breast-work of rails, house- logs, boards, etc., on that side of town next to the army, but it was about as good a defence as a common fence would be. Much has been said abroad about the Mormons building forts, entrenchments, etc., but this breast-work spoken of above is all that they ever had. In the night both armies were alarmed more or less, each being afraid of an attack from the other.

Next morning, at the time appointed, Reed Peck, Colonel Hinkle, and myself, went with the white flag, and met Generals Lucas, Doniphan, and some other officers, who informed us that they were waiting for General Clark, whom they expected soon with the Governor’s order; that they were not prepared to make proposals of peace until it arrived, for they knew not what it would require of them or us. They agreed to let us know as soon as they received it. At the same time, General Doniphan informed us that General Lucas had the chief command. Smith appeared to be much alarmed, and told me to beg like a dog for peace, and afterwards said he would rather go to States- prison for twenty years, or would rather die himself than have the people exterminated. About three o’clock in the evening we received word that the Governor’s order had arrived, so we went again to meet them, and see what it was. Colonel Hinkle, W. W. Phelps, Captain Morrison, Reed Peck, and myself went, and General Lucas read the order to us.

Smith had previously requested that after receiving the order, or finding out what the Governor required, we should see him before we agreed to any proposals. We did so, and although the Mormons have accused us of giving up their leaders by intrigue, yet Smith himself was the first man that agreed to the proposals. (John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, pp. 40-41)

For those (called dissenters) who had objected to Joseph Smith’s policies in Missouri, and most especially his involvement with the Danites, the Mormon leader wrote an epistle to the church from Liberty Jail on December 16, 1838, which included this bitter and vindictive rant against them:

Look at the dissenters. Again, “If you were of the world the world would love its own.” Look at Mr. Hinkle—a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Look at his brother John Corrill. Look at the beloved brother Reed Peck, who aided him in leading us, as the Savior was led, into the camp of His enemies, as a lamb prepared for the slaughter, as a sheep dumb before his shearers; so we opened not our mouths.

And now, brethren, we say unto you—what more can we enumerate? Is not all manner of evil of every description spoken of us falsely, yea, we say unto you falsely. We have been misrepresented and misunderstood, and belied, and the purity and integrity and uprightness of our hearts have not been known—and it is through ignorance—yea, the very depths of ignorance is the cause of it; and not only ignorance, but on the part of some, gross wickedness and hypocrisy also; for some, by a long face and sanctimonious prayers, and very pious sermons, had power to lead the minds of the ignorant and unwary, and thereby obtain such influence that when we approached their iniquities the devil gained great advantage—would bring great trouble and sorrow upon our heads; and, in fine, we have waded through an ocean of tribulation and mean abuse, practiced upon us by the ill bred and the ignorant, such as Hinkle, Corrill, Phelps, Avard, Reed Peck, Cleminson, and various others, who are so very ignorant that they cannot appear respectable in any decent and civilized society, and whose eyes are full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin. Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them. Marsh and “another,” whose hearts are full of corruption. whose cloak of hypocrisy was not sufficient to shield them or to hold them up in the hour of trouble, who after having escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, became again entangled and overcome—their latter end is worse than the first. But it has happened unto them according to the word of the Scripture: “The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”

After the conference had fully expressed their feelings upon the subject it was unanimously voted that the following persons be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, viz.: George M. Hinkle, Sampson Avard, John Corrill, Reed Peck, William W. Phelps, Frederick G. Williams, Thomas B. Marsh, Burr Riggs, and several others. After which the conference closed by prayer. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 3, p.231)

History is an apt judge of the character of those like Reed Peck and John Corrill, who after writing their frank and forthright histories, lived their lives as upstanding members of their respective communities; while it could easily be said of Joseph Smith that his eyes were “full of adultery,” and “cannot cease from sin”.

In fact, Smith would go so far as to say in 1841 that “charity coverd a multitude of Sins & what many people called sin was not sin” to try and justify his Nauvoo adulteries. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal,  Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.136, November 7, 1841).

Just 6 months earlier, Joseph had proposed to Zina Huntington that she be his “spiritual wife,” but she had refused and married Henry Jacobs. This did not deter Smith, who then, according to Huntington,

sent word to me by my brother, saying, ‘Tell Zina, I put it off and put it off till an angel with a drawn sword stood by me and told me if I did not establish that principle upon the earth I would lose my position and my life’”. (Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 5, p.31)

Joseph had made Zina his spiritual wife a little less than two weeks before telling his apostles that “some sin is not sin”.

In the case of Reed Peck, he returned to Afton, New York, where he labored as a millwright, and served as a Justice of the Peace.  Larry C. Porter writes of the “highly respected” Reed Peck that he,

“turned antagonistic towards Mormonism during the “Missouri Period” and witnessed against the Saints at a trial in Richmond, Missouri in November 1838. He was subsequently excommunicated from the Church at a conference in Quincy, Illinois, March 17, 1839. Peck prepared a strong anti-Mormon treatise containing his observations of the Mormon conflict in Missouri, which manuscript was extensively quoted by Lu B. Cake in his examination of the rudiments of Mormonism.” (Larry C. Porter, “Colesville, B.Y.U. Studies, 1970, pp. 9-10).

To say that Peck was simply “antagonistic towards Mormonism” and therefore wrote an “anti-Mormon treatise”, does an injustice to the man and what he wrote.  Reed Peck was not antagonistic towards  Mormonism, rather, he had a problem with Joseph Smith’s leadership of the church. He writes,

In the course of the fall of 1836 and succeeding winter nearly all all the Mormons in the state had collected in Caldwell county) and by persevering industry <soon> opened extensive farms and it seemed by magic that the wild prairies over a large tract were converted into cultivated fields Persons visiting the county remarked , “that no other people of the same number could build a town like Far West and accomplish as much in the agricultural line in five years as the Mormons had in one” Confidence was established (to a certain degree) among all parties. Merchants did not hesitate to furnish individuals of the society with large stock of goods on credit so that in 1837 there were six Mormon stores in Far West and all doing very good business–The good conduct of the Mormons under the auspices of W. W. Phelps John Whitmer Edward Partridge and John Corrill as leaders had gained them an honorable character among their immediate neighbors, which with their industry and economy bade fair to make caldwell one of the most respectable & thriving counties in Upper Misso[uri.] Land was entered at One dollar and twenty five cents per acre and nearly every family was in possession of a farm & the Summer of 1837 found them actively engaged in cultivating the same… (Reed Peck Manuscript, pp. 11-13).

It was only after Joseph Smith fled Kirtland (because of his massive debts and the failure of the Safety Society and the lawsuits that followed) and arrived in Missouri to “set the church in order” that the problems with Peck and the other “dissenters” began.  He elaborates,

The people of the surrounding country were still friendly & harmony prevailed among the Mormons till the middle of June when the enmity of the two parties from Kirtland manifested itself to an alarming degree At this period measures were concerted no doubt by instigation of the presidency to free the community of the cowderies, Whitmers, Lyman Johnson and some others, to effect which a secret meeting was called at Far West, by Jared Carter and Dimick B. Huntington two of Smiths greatest courtiers where a proposition was made and supported by some as being the best policy to Kill these men that they would not be capable of injuring the church. All their measures were strenuously opposed by John Corrill and T. B. March one of the twelve apostles of the church and in consequense nothing could be effected until the matter was taken up publicly by the presidency the Sunday following (June 17th) in the presense of a large congregation. S. Rigdon took his text from the fifth chapter of Mathew “Ye are the Salt of the Earth but if the salt have lost his savour wherewith shall it be salted, it is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and be trodden underfoot of men” From this Scripture he undertook to prove that when men embrace the gospel and afterwards lose their faith it is the duty of the Saints to trample them under their feet He informed the people that they had a set of men among them that had dissented from the church and were doing all in their power to destroy the presidency, laying plans to take their lives &c., accused them of counterfeiting lying cheating and numerous other crimes and called on the people to rise en masse and rid the county of Such a nuisance He said it is the duty of this people to trample them into the earth, and if the county cannot be freed from them any other way I will assit to trample them down or to erect a gallows on the Square of Far West and hang them up as they did the gamblers at Vicksburgh and it would be an act at which the angels would smile with approbation

Joseph Smith in a Short speech Sanctioned what had been Said by Rigdon though said he I don’t want the brethren to act unlawfully but will tell them one thing Judas was a traitor and instead of hanging himself was hung by Peter, and with this hint the subject was dropped for the day having created a great excitement and prepared the people to execute anything that should be proposed. (ibid, pp. 21-26)

Having been run out of Kirtland because of his illegal banking practices and the “dissenters” there, Smith was determined not to let this happen to him in Missouri:

On the next Tuesday [June 19, 1838] these dissenters as they were termed were informed that preparations were being made to hang them up and if they did not escape their lives would be taken before night, and perceiving the rage of their enemies they fled to Ray County leaving their families and property in the hands of the Mormons The wrath of the presidency and the threats of haning &c. were undoubtedly a farce acted to frighten these men from the county that they could not be spies upon their conduct or that they might deprive them of their property and indeed the proceedings of the presidency and others engaged in this affair fully justify the latter conclusion, for knowing the probable result, Geo W. Robinson Son in law of S. Rigdon had prior to their flight sworn out writs of attachment against these men by which he took possession of all their personal property, clothing & furniture, much of which was valuable and no doubt very desirable leaving their families to follow to Ray County almost destitute–That the claims by which this property was taken from these men were unjust and perhaps without foundation cannot be doubted by any unprejudiced person acquainted with all parties and circumstances and no testimony has ever been adduced to show that the men were ever guilty of a crime in Caldwell County

These unlawful and tyrannical measures met with the censure of John Corrill W. W. Phelps, John Clemenson myself and a few others but we were soon made sensible that we had excited suspicion, and perhaps endangered ourselves by venturing to speak unfavourably of these transactions

We found that the events of a few days had placed Caldwell County under a despotic government where even liberty of speech was denied to those not willing to unite in support of the new order confidential subjects were appointed to converse with all suspected members and by pretending to be displeased with the antirepublican measures enforced against the dissenters were able to learn the feelings of many, and by reporting to the presidency drew down thundering anathemas from the pulpit upon those so unwary as to speak their sentiments where long tried friendship was swallowed up in bigotry and fanaticism

A friend of long standing asked me if I did not think the dissenters were dealt harshly by and that the presidency did wrong in exciting the people against them[?]

Saying at the same time that he “blamed Joseph &c” I answered that the dissenters deserved punishment if they were guilty as represented. Thinking from my answer that I had become satisfied with what had been done, he acknowledged that he was only endeavouring to learn the true state of my feelings, and then to give me an idea of his attaachment to the cause, said that if Josep Smith Should tell him to cut my throat he would do it without hesitation I hear expressions of this nature from several and shuddered at the thought of living in a community where the nod of one man if displeased would deprive an individual of every privilege and even life if the consequence had not been feared more by him than his following On the Sunday succeeding the flight of the dissenters, S. Rigdon in a public discourse explained satis factorily no doubt to the people the principles of republicanism (After informing them as an introduction that “some certain characters in the place had been crying you have broken the law–you have acted contrary to the principles of republicanism” he said that “when a country, or body of people have individuals among them with whom they do not wish to associate and a public expression is taken against their remaining among them and such individuals do not remove it is the principle of republicanism itself that gives that community a right to expel them forcibly and no law will prevent it” He also said that it was not against the principles of republicanism for the people to hang the gamblers in Vick’sburgh as it was a matter in which they unanimously acted”

Soon after the delivery of this speech he informed the church in an address, that they would soon be called upon to consecrate their property and those who would not comply with the law of consecration should be delivered over to the brother of Gideon, whom he represented as being a terrible fellow. We are[,] said he[,] Soon to commence building the ‘Lords House’in Far West which will enhance the value of property ten fold in its vicinity and such and such proprietors as will not consecrate the whole amount of that increase of value for the building of the house and [p. 35] other church uses should be delivered over to the brother of Gideon and be sent bounding over the Prairies as the dissenters were a few days ago

In short we found that all matters comprising anything not completely subject to the will of the presidency were to be managed by the terrible brother of Gideon. All the requirements of the presidency must be complied with, peacably if you will forcibly if we must always making the brother of Gideon the terror of all that would not heartily join in the Support of their government and views

A few individuals of us were ever after this opposed to the rule of the presidency perceiving that all spiritual and temporal affairs were under their control and no monarch on earth ever had supreme power over his subjects more than they over the inhabitants of Caldwell County only they durst not exercise it to so great a degree Their word was law in religious civil and military matters, but the secret springs of their power and influence we did not yet understand

In the latter part of June a young man from Ohio having reported something about J Smith & S Rigdon, was taken by constable D. B. Huntington Geo W Robinson and a few others compelled <to sign a libel &> to Kneel before S. Rigdon and ask pardon as the only alternative to escape a caining from the constable who held his staff over him in an attitude for striking until be bent the knee

For these offences application was made for writs VS J Smith S. Rigdon D. B. Huntington Sampson Avard and others but they would not permit the clerk of the court to issue them declaring that they would never suffer vexatious lawsuits to be instituted against them in Caldwell county-

Some time previous to this Secret meetings had been held in F West that excited much curiousity among those that had not been permitted to attend as it was easily discovered that something more than ordinary was in progress among the male members of the church Ignorant of the nature of these meetings I attend one about the last of June, and heared a full disclosure of its object=Jared Carter Geo W. Robinson, and Sampson Avard, under the instructions of their presidency, had formed a secret military Society, called the “daughter of Zion” and were holding meetings to initiate members The principles taught by Sampson Aard as spokesman, were that “as the Lord had raised up a prophet in these last days like unto Moses it Shall be the duty of this band to obey him in all things, and whatever he requires you shall perform being ready to give up life and property for the advancement of the Cause When any thing is to be performed no member Shall have the privilege of judging whether it would be right or wrong but Shall engage in its accomplishment and trust God for the result It is not our business or place to know what is required by God, but he will inform us by means of the prophet and we must perform If any one of you see a member of the band in difficulty in the surrounding country contending for instance with an enemy, you shall extricate him even if in the wrong if you have to do with his adversary as Moses did with the Egyptian put him under the Sand and both pack off to Far West and we will take care of the matter ourselves. No person shall be suffered to speak evil or disrespectfully of the presidency The secret signs and purposes of this society are not to be revealed on pain of death” &c &c About 50 persons were initiated into the Society at the time I was introduced and to sam time the oath was administered to all the novices at once of which I took advantage by remaining silent and accordingly avoided taking it (ibid, pp. 26-41)

These “Danites” as they were also called, were affirmed by Joseph Smith in his own diary on July 27, 1838:

Thus far, according to the order /revelation/ of the Danites. We have a company of Danites in these times, to put to right physically that which is not right, and to clense the Church of very  great evil[s?] which has hitherto existed among us inasmuch as they cannot be put to right by teachings and persuasyons. This company or a part of them exhibited on the fourth day of July [ – ] They come up to consecrate, by companies of tens, commanded by their captain over ten (The Joseph Smith Papers website, online here, accessed August 5, 2013.)

Just a few days before his July 27 diary entry Joseph penned this “revelation” for Thomas Marsh and his “apostles”, which promised that,

 vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants  of the earth. A day of wrath! A day of burning! A day of des olation! Of weeping! Of mourning and of lamentation! And as  a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth saith the Lord.  And upon my house shall it begin and from my house shall it go forth  saith the Lord. First among those among you saith the Lord; who  have professed to know my name and have not known me and  have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house saith the Lord (Revelation, July 23, 1837, JSPW, online here, accessed August 5, 2013.)

According to Historian D. Michael Quinn:

… it is anachronistic to apply Smith’s later rejection of Avard to the Danite general’s actions four months earlier. In the early summer of 1838, 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 br