Ep 26 – Joseph Smith, Broken or the Breaker?
On this episode, we take on the time period from the hot Missouri summer nights of 1831, all the way to the blooming beauty of an 1832 Ohio spring. We introduce a few new characters that get their very own NaMo nicknames, e.g. William Wines (Double-Dub) Phelps, John (Goebbels) Whitmer, and Philo (Dibble-Dabble). We even get introduced to our first contact with one of Joe's to-be plural wives, Marinda Nancy Johnson-Hyde-Smith-Smith-Hyde. Hingepin Rigdon and Joe team up to continue in their efforts to complete the "Inspired Translation" of the Bible, and get a whole bunch of kooky new revelations as a side order. The episode ends with the March 1832 beating/tarring/feathering, and a special little surprise from Rigdon.
Outro music Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Links mentioned in the show:
Pope-Kahn letter exchange
Philo Dibble-Dabble autobiography
Joseph Smith movie (minute 25 for tar and feather scene)
Phil Furgeson Show Ep #153
Country Fried Freethought
Welcome to episode 26 of the Naked Mormonism Podcast, I'm Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me.
Last historical timeline episode ended on a wee bit of a low note. We discussed a bunch of new missions that Joe sent everybody on, and the fact that Joe and Emma had their second and third child in one day who both died a few hours after childbirth. Emma and Joe adopted Joseph S., and Julia Murdock, who were the twins of John Murdock, as if they were a replacement for their twins that had just died.
After this, Joe, Hingepin Sidney Rigdon, and four others went to Jackson Co MO to meet up with the remaining small missionary force that was residing in MO, including Ollie Cowdung Oliver Cowdery. According to the History of the Church, many tears were shed at this reuniting of good old friends, and I made the argument that the tears were shed not only for the long awaited reunion, but also because of the unbelievable tragedy that Joe had just been through losing his second and third child.
Let's jump right into the meat of this episode because, like usual, we have a lot to talk about. Our timeline currently sits in the fall of 1831. Let's see if we can finish 1831, and get into early 1832 on today's episode. Before getting into the situations that happened, we need to introduce a few new people to our historical analysis. We have to introduce them now because they were baptized into the church in 1831, even if these people don't distinguish themselves with anything special for a while, we still need to talk about them.
In June of 1831, Joe announced the high priesthood, not the Melchizedek priesthood, just the high priesthood in general. This was the first time it came up, and it wasn't talked about in reference to Ollie and Joe getting the priesthood in the woods in 1829.
Beyond that, another big thing happened in June of 1831. Among other things, William Wines Phelps, or William W. Phelps, or W. W. Phelps, or as we'll come to know him Double Dub Phelps was baptized into the church. This guy was a heavy hitter throughout the entire history of the church, and followed Bloody Brigham out to Utah, and died there in 1872 at the age of 80.
Double Dub Phelps is known most for writing a selection of Mormon only Hymns, one of which is "Praise to the Man", the most Joseph worshipy song in the entire Mormon hymn book. He was also wrote "If you could Hie to Kolob", a fairly bizarre Mormon Hymn about ascending and becoming gods. But more importantly, for our timeline anyway, Double Dub was responsible for printing the first Mormon publication in his own printing press in Independence, MO, called the "Evening and Morning Star".
In Double Dub's journey out to Missouri, he passed through Cincinatti, Ohio, and purchased the equipment and type set that would be used to print the Evening and Morning Star, as well as the Book of Commandments in 1833. Luckily, Once Phelps got to Missouri with all the equipment necessary to set up the printing press, Eddy Party-Boy Partridge had already purchased a lot in Independence, that would house the building that the printing press was set up in. We'll investigate the details of this on our next historical timeline episode, but for now, we need to talk about a couple of other new guys that deserve their own NaMo nicknames.
We already talked a fair amount about D-Day David Whitmer, because he was one of the three witnesses, and he had a big part in the Book of Mormon coming to fruition. Well, his two brothers Peter Jr, and John, have come up a few times in revelations and as ansullary characters to our narrative. Well, it's finally time to properly introduce John Whitmer, because he eventually became one of the most important people in church history.
Now, that's undoubtedly a tall claim. When it comes to reading about the history of the Church, it's always worth noting where the information came from. It may have come from an anti-Mormon newspaper article, or a believing Mormon's journal entry, or some other less than reliable source. Well, John Whitmer was appointed as the first official Church Historian. According to his own biography, he was somewhat reluctant to do it, but indeed, Joe came up with a revelation saying that he should become Church Historian, and John fell right into line with God's commandment.
This is from the Book of Commandments 50:1 and it was given in March of 1831.
"Behold, it is expedient in me that my servant John should write and keep a regular history, and assist you, my servant Joseph, in transcribing all things which shall be given you."
That was the divine revelation given from Joe, to John, calling him as the Church's first official historian. So, when we look at sources, it's often times a crapchute. Sometimes you can get some good historical facts from an extremely biased presentation, and sometimes the bias is embedded so deeply within the presentation, that it's worth questioning the validity of the entire thing. Well, John Whitmer became the church's first real full-time historian, and that means we need to pay a lot of attention to him, and what he wrote about the Church, and its leadership in general. We can scarcely find a more biased reporting of history and current events in the church than John Whitmer, so for that reason, we'll be calling him John Goebbels Whitmer, or just John Goebbels. One need only look a century into the future from 1831 to learn about John Goebbels' namesake. And hey, even better than that, the Whitmer family was German, and spoke with German accents, so the nickname fits even better than I initially thought.
John Goebbels Whitmer, and Double Dub Phelps, were two people we really needed to get caught up with. They had been introduced into the story long before this, and now it's time they finally made their proper debut onto our show with their very own NaMo nicknames.
One more person that is worth briefly mentioning is Ezra Booth. He was one of the first outspoken apostates of the church, and one of its earliest motivated critics. Booth was brought into the church in May 1831, and was called into leadership as an Elder on June 3, 1831. He was one of the missionaries out in MO, and he attended the meeting in Kaw, MO that Joe held once Joe and Rigdon arrived. Ezra Booth didn't stick around long, so he won't be getting his own NaMo nickname, but he is an interesting fellow, and he's also credited with the first mention of polygamy by Joseph Smith in 1831. We'll get to that soon, but for now, let's pickup our timeline.
After Joe, Hingepin Rigdon, and Ollie, along with other Elders of the church held their conference in Kaw, MO, a large portion of them made their way back to Ohio. The church had been fully established in Missouri, and Joe had seen the prospective land acquisitions the church would be making once it moved out to MO. The mood around the church was pretty good around this time, and things seemed to be going swimmingly. If you read about their visit to Missouri in the History of the Church vol 1:198, it seems almost euphoric about the situation, and it's completely out of place given the paragraphs before and after this description. Take this part for example:
"The season is mild and delightful nearly three quarters of the year, and as the land of Zion, . . . it bids fair – when the curse is taken from the land – to become one of the most blessed places on the globe. The winters are milder than the Atlantic states of the same parallel of latitude, and the weather is more agreeable; so that were the virtues of the inhabitants only equal to the blessings of the Lord which He permits to crown the industry of those inhabitants, there would be a measure of the good things of life for the benefit of the Saints, full, pressed down, and running over, even an hundred-fold."
So pleasantly optimistic, and yet inexplicable as to why it was included. I can only imagine that John Goebbels Whitmer wanted to stretch his new historian legs a little bit, and write about something other than the insane ramblings that happened to fall out of Joe's skull, so he wrote about how great Zion is. Let's get one more passage to really get a proper hold on the mood:
"But all these impediments vanish when it is recollected what the Prophets have said concerning Zion in the last days; how the glory of Lebanon is to come upon her; the first tree, the pine tree, and the box tree together, to beautify the place of His sanctuary, that He may make the place of His feet glorious. . . When the splendor of the Lord is brought to our consideration for the good of His people, the calculations of men and the vain glory of the world vanish, and we exclaim, "Out of Zion the perfection of beauty, God hath shined."
Those passages are completely apropos of nothing that was talked about before or after them. It's almost like reading the main Josephus passage that talks about Jesus, known as "Testimonium Flavianum". The paragraph before is talking about how many Jews were part of a typical Roman genocide, and then there are these 7 optimistic sentences seemingly plopped in from nowhere, and afterwords it moves on to talk about other problems the Jews were having in a very melancholy tone. That's almost how this passage reads in the History of the Church. It seems so out of place.
We know that most, if not all of Testimonium Flavianum was not actually written by Josephus, but was later added by Christians, most likely Eusebius of Caesarea. I wonder if this passage in the History of the Church was written by somebody else, other than who is chronicling the other passages before and after those paragraphs. I'm not implying anything sinister, or any underhanded authorship as in the case of Testimonium Flavianum, I'm just curious if it jumps out to anybody else, and if there is any reason it's included in here seemingly so out of place.
Moving on from textual criticism, after their conference in Kaw, MO., Joe, Ollie, Rigdon, Double dub Phelps, and a bunch of others made their way back to Kirtland, which took most of the month of August to cover. They arrive on August 27, 1831, and immediately get busy.
What happened over the next few months can be summed up in a sentence. "Joe is the financial planner of the church, and he needs shitloads of money!" Let's look at the next few revelations that came out of Kirtland in August and September of 1831.
This is BOC 59:43-50
"But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above. And now I give unto you further directions concerning this land. It is wisdom in me, that my servant Martin should be an example unto the church, in laying his moneys before the bishop of the church. And also, this is a law unto every man that cometh unto this land, to receive an inheritance; And he shall do with his moneys according as the law directs. And it is wisdom also, that there should be lands purchased in Independence, for the place of the storehouse; And also for the house of the printing. And other directions, concerning my servant Martin, shall be given him of the Spirit, that he may receive his inheritance as seemeth him good. And let him repent of his sins, for he seeketh the praise of the world."
I don't feel like it's terribly necessary to comment on that passage very much. The church needed money, so Joe came up with a revelation telling everybody that follows to give some money. He even used his beaten down, wifeless, landless, jobless, and nearly moneyless ol' pal NSSM as an example, telling him to give every last penny he has to the church, and telling everybody how righteous Marty was, and how he would be blessed as seemeth him good for his faith and willingness to give.
This petition for money must not have worked, because very soon after this, we find another revelation telling people to give money to the church again for the purpose of purchasing Zion. You would think that the almighty god of the universe would have no need for land ownership agreements, the God of the Old Testament sure didn't seem to mind much when it came to land ownership.
This is BOC 64:25-32
"And now, behold this is the will of the Lord your God concerning his saints, that they should assemble themselves together unto the land of Zion, not in haste, lest there should be confusion, which bringeth pestilence. Behold the land of Zion, I the Lord holdeth it in mine own hands; Nevertheless, I the Lord rendereth unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; Wherefore I the Lord willeth, that you should purchase the lands, that you may have advantage of the world, that you may have claim on the world, that they may not be stirred up unto anger; For satan putteth it into their hearts to anger against you, and to the shedding of blood; Wherefore the land of Zion shall not be obtained but by purchase, or by blood, otherwise there is none inheritance for you. And if by purchase behold you are blessed; And if by blood, as you are forbidden to shed blood, lo, your enemies are upon you, and ye shall be scourged from city to city, and from synagogue to synagogue, and but few shall stand to receive an inheritance."
The last time David Michael and I were talking he made a really good point to me. You see, it may not be apparent from my lack of knowledge on the Roman empire, or Alexander the Great, or the Huns, or plenty of other historical figures, but I really enjoy military history quite a lot. David and I get in discussions all the time about history nerd stuff, and it's a lot of fun because I don't talk to many other history nerds like David.
Anyway, the point he made was that Joe was the right guy in the wrong time. What he means by that is Joe seemed to give plenty of revelations that could have been carried out in a very bloody manner, in a different time.
Of course, the post-enlightenment European settlers of the 19th century United States wouldn't allow a religious tyrant to get too far out of control without answering violence for violence, so Joe was stuck with weaksauce revelations like the one we just read. If Joe were living in 1150 c.e., in Temujin Khan's time and place, who knows, he may just have become the next great Kahn, or the next Alexander the great if Joe were living in 338 b.c.e, Macedonia. Joe could have been the next divinely inspired war tyrant, working under direct revelation from God.
This may be a rabbit hole, or a tangent, but hang in there with me for a second. I love the letter sent from Pope Innocent IV to Guyuk Kahn in 1245. It's this convoluted description of the Catholic faith, and Christianity in general. The original letter was full of lots of God speak, and typical confusing Christian gobbledy-gook, and by the end it sounds almost like it is trying to call the Kahns to repentance, or inviting them to embrace Christianity. Altogether, if the Pope would have known who he was writing to, it very possibly would have been worded quite differently, because by the end, it's basically a desperate plea to stop killing Christians, and taking their lands.
This letter marked the Pope trying to gain the fealty of Guyuk Kahn by proxy of the Christian God. I find it interesting that most people see their fortune as god inspired. The Pope thought that his amazing come to Jesus letter would soften the heart of the almighty ruler and Christian persecutor in the Eastern step, but the Kahn sends back a letter that sums everything up so very well, and this will get me to the point I'm trying to make. If you want to read the letter exchange between Pope Innocent IV and Guyuk Kahn, there will be a link to the letters translated to english in the show notes.
The Kahn replied to the Pope with a letter containing this as the last few passages:
"Furthermore, you have sent the following message: “You have conquered all the lands of the Hungarians and other Christians. This seems strange to me. Tell me what was their crime” I have also not understood this message of you the order rs. Chinggis Khan and the Great Khan Ögedey have both transmittedof the Eternal God that all the world should be subordinated to the Mongols to be taken note of. But they disregarded God’s order to such an extent that those mentioned by you even held a great council, and they behaved arrogantly in refusing, and they killed our messengers and envoys. Thus the Eternal God Himself has killed and exterminated the people in those countries. How could anybody, without God’s order, merely from his own strength, kill and plunder? And when you go on to say, “I am a Christian, I honor God.” How do you think you know whom God will absolve and in whose favor He will exercise His mercy? How do you think you know that you dare to express such an opinion?
Through the power of God, all empires from the rising of the sun to its setting have been given to us and we own them. How could anyone achieve anything except by God’s order? Now, however, you must say with a sincere heart: “We shall be obedient, we, too, make our strength available. You personally, at the head of the Kings, you shall come, one and all, to pay homage to me and to serve me. Then we shall take note of your submission. If, however, you do not accept God’s order and act against our command, we shall know that you are our enemies.
This is what we make known to you. If you act against it, how then can we know what will happen? Only God knows."
You see, the Kahns had a much more intelligent and testable perspective of god than the Christians did. They figured that God was with whoever was the most successful, which is not entirely ridiculous when you think about it. Guyuk told the Pope that the Kahns were obviously working with the strength of God, for how could any nation do what the Mongols had done by this point, without the help of God. That seems like a fairly reasonable question, based on testable facts.
The Mongols had come out on top of amazing battles against incomprehensible odds, with minimal casualties. From their perspective, how could they not be doing Gods will? If God really is almighty, and he didn't want the Mongols killing 40 million people, or conquering 12 million square miles, why did God let it happen. That's 11% of the world's population, and 22% of it's landmass, all killed and conquered by one empire. If God didn't want this empire to flourish, then why did it happen? If the Christian God was the ruler of the universe, why did he allow millions of Christians to fall to the swords of the greatly superior human Mongols?
Let's shift our focus from the Mongols. Think about it this way from an Old Testament perspective, the only reason the Hebrews were able to conquer so many cities (Midian, Ameleck, Canaan) was because of Moses' divine mandate to do so. Yahweh was responsible for interfering on behalf of the Israelite nomads for almost every battle they encountered. I do have to point out that there is absolutely no evidence of any of this happening, or of Moses even existing, but it's still worth pointing out that OT God seems to side with whoever is winning in wartime.
The only time we see this rule being violated is in the case of Mormonism. If you're the god of the New New Testament, aka BoM, speaking through Joseph Smith, then you conform nicely to the laws of the land in early 19th century America. Isn't it weird how that works? Isn't it odd how god tends to operate within the parameters of the society that worships him?
My overall point is this, and this is the point that David made much better than I am right now. Joe was the right guy, living in the wrong time. He had the divine mandate from his own personal God concept, and he eventually had the armies to raise some serious hell, but he just didn't live in a time and place that was conducive to his behaving in a way like Alexander, or the great Kahns did. Joe couldn't get away with mass murder like these arguably great men had in the past. The time and place Joe lived in restricted his ability to conquer land by any means other than legal purchase.
This brings us to a larger point, given Joe's revelation we just read. Not only were Joe's actions restricted by the time and place in which he was living, but so was his own personal God. You see, most people act within the confines that society dictates, and their god usually fits very nicely into that hole. Anybody that doesn't have this harmonization between god and reality is seen as a wackaloon, or an extremist to some degree. Anybody who has a personal god belief that is outside the dictates of the time and place they are living in, becomes a problem to society in general. We can see that Joe's revelations, and by extension his God, operated within the confines of his society, for now anyway. Once the Nauvoo years come along, then Joe becomes the almighty worldly ruler, and King of Israel, with very little regard for reality in any way whatsoever.
That being said, I would make the argument that Joe, or somebody, was coming up with these revelations out of his head, as opposed to being divinely inspired. I know that's basically a forgone conclusion given the stance I usually take on this show, but I still figured it was a point worth hashing out, and giving some historical analogies for.
Getting back to the meat here, given this revelation for Joe to acquire Zion through legal means, and LEGAL MEANS ONLY!, Joe and the church were obviously desperate for some sustainable income. He had people giving when they could, but he hadn't set out an actual rule for it yet. Joe had merely called certain people to purchase certain things, and then extended the call to give, to anybody else in the congregation that may have been paying attention. This was not sustainable, and sustainability is what the Church of Christ needed the most at this time. Fast forward to September of 1831 in the BoC 65:29-33
"For I the Lord requireth the hearts of the children of men. Behold now it is called today, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; For he that is tithed shall not be burned; for after today cometh the burning; This is speaking in the manner of the Lord; For verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of hosts;"
That was the official installation of the law of tithing on the members of Joe's church. For many obvious reasons, it was completely necessary in order for the church to continue to grow. There was absolutely no way for the church to survive without sustainable income. The LDS Church could survive today if it's $7Bn per year in tithing dried up, but that's only because of remarkable diversity of investments, and an huge umbrella of separate companies that are for profit, and financially solvent. I mean, an insurance agency with $3.5Bn in assets isn't going anywhere anytime soon, nor is its mother company. But that's the church today, that has a lot of really smart people working for it.
Joe's little church didn't have all these billions of dollars in assets and investments. Joe's church didn't have 670,000 acres of cattle ranches and orange farms in Florida like they do now. Joe's church was completely insolvent until this steady stream of tithes started. Money becomes a bit less of an issue to Joe, at least until the United Firm comes along for a couple of years and then collapses. Until that time comes, we have a brief hiatus of talking about the money part of Joe's early Mormonism.
I know we've discussed Joe's begging for money a few times on the show, but we can't put it to bed quite yet. I want to draw a circle around this revelation before moving on. The revelations dealing with money that we've talked about on this show, are a very small percentage of the total revelations Joe gave that relate to, or deal with, money directly. I've skipped over covering soooo many of them for fear of redundancy. The BoC and D&C are filled to the brim with revelations asking people to give money to the church, or commanding them to purchase something directly. There's simply no studying Mormon history without pointing out the abundance of revelations regarding money. Risking that redundancy one more time, I just want to point out when this revelation was given, relative to others seemingly important revelations.
This revelation that put the law of tithing into place was a considerably early revelation. I have to point out that it's the last revelation included in the Book of Commandments before it was compiled, but in the grand scheme of Mormon history, this was a really early revelation. The law of tithing was instated 1 year into Joe's 14 year reign, and before a lot of relevant things in the church. It came along way before the temple ceremonies, baptisms for the dead, the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthoods, the Word of Wisdom, the doctrine on Kolob, the basis of leadership roles in the church, polygamy, the quorum of the twelve, the secret passwords and handshakes, magic underwear, doctrine on tatoos and piercings, current first vision account, high priests, before blacks couldn't explicitly have the priesthood, before all of this. Why is this? Was money the most prominent issue on God's mind?
If you think about it, it's understandable from a naturalistic perspective, right? If Joe was setting up his religion for people to follow, there is no possible way to run it without some source of steady income, so he needed to set up that portion fairly early on. The problem comes when we consider the roots of the church, foregoing the naturalistic perspective of it's foundation.
The church claims that it's the product of the one true church being restored to the earth. They claim that Jesus set up the one true church while he was here, and it was lost during the medieval age, which is why it's called the dark ages. Joe merely restored Jesus' one true church to the earth, starting with the Book of Mormon. From this perspective, I find it hard to believe that tithing was the most pressing thing that God wanted people to know about once his church was finally restored to the earth, especially given the problems that money creates in churches. Most of the early divisions and disagreements in the church were over nothing more than money. A disagreement about money and priestcrafting is what drove a wedge in between childhood friends, and cousins Joe and Ollie. Why was it so pertinent for God to restore that one doctrine, so early in the formation of Joe's church?
Well, hashing out God's reasoning here is a matter of positing a naturalistic, versus divine origin for the church. Which side makes the most amount of sense, and explains the evidence best? Did God really want people to give tithing before they put on their magic underwear, and did all the other things I listed a second ago? Or, did Joe just need money for his early church, and came up with these revelations first to answer that need? You decide.
Alright, now that the money part of Joe's early church is out of the way for a minute, we can talk about some of the other important things that happened in 1831.
The thing that marks the biggest transition involving Joe was his move out to Hiram, Ohio. On September 12, 1831, the day after the tithing revelation was given, Joe moved to Hiram, Ohio, to live with John Johnson for a short time. He took his young family with him. At this time, Joe and Emma had little Joseph and Julia Murdock, the twins they had adopted. They wouldn't be having another child for a little while after this.
Next, something very interesting happens. But before we talk about it, we need to talk about Joe and his insatiable libido. If we recall back to some of the earliest episodes of this show, Joe was accused of being flirty, or maybe even fooling around with Emma's best friend, Eliza Winters. This happened a couple of weeks after Joe and Emma were married, and may have been the driving factor behind Joe and Emma moving from Harmony, PA., to Fayette, N.Y. If this wasn't a red flag to Emma, it should have been, and she only had herself to blame for not paying attention or acting on it.
The next instance we have of Joe acting a little frisky is in the 1830 trials in South Bainbridge, and Colesville. If we recall back to Episode 21, we found the court records of those trials, and there was a very interesting detail buried therein. The court was held in recess until the two daughters of Bossman Josiah Stowell, named Miriam and Rhoda, could be called onto the stand, to testify against Joe on adultery charges. The court really was just trying to charge Joe with anything that would stick at this point. Well, it didn't stick, and Joe was released on the disorderly person charges, as well as the adultery charges.
In July of 1831, when Joe and company were in Jackson County, MO, he gave a revelation that is considered to be the first signal of polygamy. We only really know about this revelation because Ezra Booth brought it into the white hot light of scrutiny when he apostatized. I believe we covered this in a recent episode, so I'll just go over the highlights of the revelation really quickly here.
This revelation was given in July of 1831, but they didn't have pen or paper in Kaw, MO. It was later recounted by our new friend William Wines Double Dub Phelps.
Part — of a revelation by Joseph Smith Jun. given over the boundary, west of Jackson Co. Missouri, on Sunday morning, July 17, 1831, when Seven Elders, viz: Joseph Smith Jun. Oliver Cowdery, W.W. Phelps, Martin Harris, Joseph Coe, Ziba Peterson and Joshua Lewis united their hearts in prayer, in a private place, to inquire of the Lord who should preach the first sermon to the remnants of the Lamanites and Nephites, and the people of that Section, that should assemble that day in the Indian country, to hear the gospel, and the revelations according to the Book of Mormon.
Among the company, there being neither pen, ink or paper, Joseph [Smith, Jr.] remarked that the Lord could preserve his words as he had ever done, till the time appointed, and proceeded:
Verily I say unto you that the wisdom of man in his fallen state, knoweth not the purposes and the privileges of my holy priesthood. but ye shall know when ye receive a fulness by reason of the anointing: For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and Just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles.
Reported by W.W.P. [William W. Phelps]
About three years after this was given, I asked brother Joseph [Smith, Jr.] privately, how "we," that were mentioned in the revelation could take wives from the "natives"—as we were all married men? He replied instantly "In th[e] same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Katurah [Keturah]; and Jacob took Rachel Bilhah and Zilpah: by revelation—the saints of the Lord are always directed by revelation."10
This was the earliest account we have of Joe trying to start up polygamy, and it was supposedly given mere months before Joe and Rigdon moved out to Hiram, Ohio. Let's just take a second to appreciate it. This was arguably the best idea that anybody had to start integrating with the Natives.
Until this point, most people had been trying to force the Native Americans into slavery, or proselyte Protestant Christianity to them, and when those didn't work like hoped, the early American government just pushed them out into increasingly smaller reservations. Once the reservations idea wasn't quite good enough, and the Americans wanted to expand further, they just killed the Natives. Hundreds of thousands of Lamanites fell by cannon, gunshot, disease, illness, or malnutrition, and the ones that didn't die, were irrevocably relegated to reservations, most of which were just chunks of land that nobody wanted, so the government gave them to the Natives.
Now, I'm not one for advocating patriarchal polygyny, especially when it's so rife with abuse and misogyny like Mormon polygamy was, but wouldn't that have been a better solution than killing all the Natives? Us humans have a weird tendency to put up imaginary barriers between different looking humans, and fight to the death to maintain those barriers. If we just intermingle, and try our hardest NOT to kill each other, it seems like everybody would be better off. I think Joe was on to something here. He just wanted to marry a bunch of really hot Native Americans, but I think he was right, even if it was for the wrong reasons in this case.
If we could rewind the clock 400 years and not kill almost all the Natives, imagine how enriched American culture really would be today. It's hard to make a cogent argument against how great that would have been, if only we didn't have their deaths as the unnecessary byproduct of an "us vs them" mentality. Joe kind of had the right idea. That's just my personal perspective on the situation, let's get back to the topic.
Joseph issued this polygamy revelation in mid 1831, and then by September, he had moved to Hiram, Ohio to live with the Johnson family on their 300 acre farm. Since then, the church has purchased the farm and refurbished the home, and it's currently a tourist attraction in Hiram, Ohio.
Now we need to introduce some other people into the mix. Joseph didn't just show up on some random guy's doorstep and ask to live with him, that's absurd. The Johnson family had acquired a Book of Mormon in the winter of 1830, possibly early 1831, we're unsure. Once Joe rolled into town, never to look back to New York, John and Mary Elsa Johnson took their family the 30 miles North to Kirtland to see what the fuss was about. John and Elsa, as well as Lyman Johnson, who was John and Elsa's son, converted and were baptized in February of 1831. Lyman's brother Luke Johnson was baptized soon afterwards on May 10, 1831.
While the Johnson family is very important to Mormon history, John, and Elsa don't play a very big role themselves. They were merely the older couple that housed Joe and Rigdon during an important time in church history. The family members we need to focus on are John and Elsa's sons, Lyman, and Luke Johnson. These boys have a very sordid past with the church, and there were even rumors that the Danites killed Lyman in 1859, some time after his excommunication. But that's all details to hash out on another episode. For the purposes of today's episode, let's talk about what happened in the Johnson home.
First off, we need to discuss the occurence that made the Johnson's, and a few others, believe that Joe was a real prophet. I'm going to take this directly from the History of the Church vols 1:215-216. The story is recounted in the footnotes, yet bore only a brief mention from Joseph himself in his own dictated history. It's originally recounted in a Campbellite work titled "Hayden's History of the Disciples" page 250, but I'm reading it out of the History of the church. You would think if this were such a miraculous occurence, that Joe would have talked about it at least briefly, but he didn't. To fill this void, it is necessary to dive into outside sources, and put them in the footnotes of the History of the Church.
"Mrs. Johnson had been afflicted for some time with a lame arm, and was not at the time of the visit able to lift her hand to her head. The party visited Smith partly out of curiosity, and partly to see for themselves what there might be in the new doctrine. During the interview the conversation turned on the subject of supernatural gifts, such as were conferred in the days of the apostles. Someone said, "Here is Mrs. Johnson with a lame arm; has God given any power to man now on the earth to cure her?" A few moments later, when the conversation had turned in another direction, Smith rose, and walking across the room, taking Mrs. Johnson by the hand, said in the most solemn and impressive manner; "Woman, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I command thee to be whole," and immediately left the room. The company were awe-stricken at the infinite presumption of the man, and the calm assurance with which he spoke."
It goes on to say that Mrs. Johnson returned to work the next day without any trouble or pain. This signifies one of the earliest miracles that Joseph supposedly performed, yet he didn't seem to recall it when he was dictating his own history. I personally find it odd that we had to go to a non-Mormon source to find the story of Joe's healing powers that convinced a lot of people in Hiram, Ohio to join the church.
Regardless of where we find this miraculous healing scenario, this was the one main thing that convinced the Johnson family that Joe was a real prophet, thus spurring them to join the church. Well, the whole family joined. We had John and Elsa Johnson, and their children were Lyman, Luke, John jr., Olmsted, Eli, Edward and finally Marinda Nancy. I'm having trouble finding any more offspring of John and Elsa. They may have had more children, but without diving into hours of research to find them, these are the important names that we need to keep in mind for our timeline.
Once Joe had moved to Kirtland in early 1831, he began mustering up quite a stir. One of the people that he had a dramatic impact on was named Philo Dibble. I'm going to read an excerpt from Philo's autobiography that describes the series of events that we're currently discussing.
"When Joseph came to Kirtland his fame spread far and wide. There was a woman living in the town of Hiram, forty miles from Kirtland, who had a crooked arm, which she had not been able to use for a long period. She persuaded her husband, whose name was [John] Johnson, to take her to Kirtland to get her arm healed.
I saw them as they passed my house on their way. She [Elsa Johnson] went to Joseph and requested him to heal her. Joseph asked her if she believed the Lord was able to make him an instrument in healing her arm. She said she believed the Lord was able to heal her arm.
Joseph put her off till the next morning, when he met her at Brother [Newel K.] Whitney's house. There were eight persons present, one a Methodist preacher, and one a doctor. Joseph took her [Elsa Johnson] by the hand, prayed in silence a moment, pronounced her arm whole, in the name of Jesus Christ, and turned and left the room.
The preacher asked her if her arm was whole, and she straightened it out and replied: "It is as good as the other." The question was then asked if it would remain whole. Joseph hearing this, answered and said: 'It is as good as the other, and as liable to accident as the other.'
The doctor who witnessed this miracle came to my house the next morning and related the circumstance to me. He attempted to account for it by his false philosophy, saying that Joseph took her by the hand, and seemed to be in prayer, and pronounced her arm whole in the name of Jesus Christ, which excited her and started perspiration, and that relaxed the cords of her arm. I subsequently rented my farm and devoted all my time to the interest of the Church, holding myself in readiness to take Joseph wherever he wished to go."
Here we have Philo's reaction to this miraculous incident, and it was the second, first hand account we have of the arm healing occurence, which means it's fairly reliable as a historical occurence. Of course, on a personal level, I don't think Joe did anything different from what Peter Popoff used to do with his mega-church ministry, and continues to do with blessed mineral water on late night ads. Popoff is only one of countless other faith healers that have caught public attention and made millions from it. People have been performing these spiritual healings for millenia, and the results are nothing but a mixed bag of ritualism, placebo effect, chemical reactions happening in the brain, all ruled by confirmation bias. That seems to be the one recurring theme behind these healings, prior belief. Joe even asked Elsa the day before if she believed he could heal her arm. Then Joe took her arm in his hand, and commanded it to be healed in the name of Jesus Christ, playing even further into Elsa and Joe's confirmation bias, and then Elsa thought she was healed, or didn't experience pain for a while, or something to that effect. This convinced a lot of people that Joe was indeed a prophet, and Philo even says he "subsequently rented my farm and devoted all my time to the interest of the Church". What more could Joe want than more loyal servants willing to give time, money, and resources to his church. Joe looks more and more like Popoff the more I study him.
I also love how there's also a doubting Thomas in the crowd that watched Joe perform the miracle. According to Philo, he spoke with the doctor that was present during the miracle, and he was understandably perplexed, much like modern doctors are when somebody claims to be healed by divine intervention. Faith healing is undoubtedly an odd phenomenon that educated people are studying quite a bit. Some doctors try to incorporate that aspect into a regimented medical procedure for a "whole body wellness" or something like that which I think is great, but it doesn't really directly help in the study of faith healing. But, it is something that we're working on. The simple fact that Joe put his hands on an old lady, and told her that her arm is healed, doesn't necessarily mean that it was healed, it just means she didn't feel pain in it for a while. There was never a followup with dear old Elsa to see if it was healed in the long term.
That was a terrible way to explain, and try to skepticize faith healing, but for the purposes of what this show is, that'll be plenty to satisfy my own skepticism and understanding of it. Let's move on to the rest of Philo Dibble's quote, and let him carry the storyline into late 1831.
"On invitation of Father [John] Johnson, of Hiram, Joseph removed his family to his home, to translate the New Testament. This was in the year 1831.
At this time Sidney Rigdon was left to preside at Kirtland and frequently preached to us. Upon one occasion he said the keys of the kingdom were taken from us. On hearing this, many of his hearers wept, and when some one undertook to dismiss the meeting by prayer he said praying would do them no good, and the meeting broke up in confusion."
Once Joe left Kirtland to live in the Johnson home 30 miles South of Kirtland in Hiram, Ohio, Hingepin Rigdon was left to his own devices, and began preaching contrary to Joe's teachings. This period in Mormon history is losely referred to as "Rigdon's depression". Rigdon preached in Kirtland that the keys were lost. For any never-mos out there, this is a big deal. It's taught that every man gets the priesthood, but he's given different keys to the kingdom based on his calling in the church. Rigdon preaching that the "Keys had been taken", implied that Joe wasn't a true prophet anymore. This was the biggest insurrection in Mormon history up to this point.
Before now we had little schisms like the Hubble woman that claimed to be a prophetess, or Wycam Clark and Northrop Sweet breaking off to start the "Pure Church of Christ", but all of those schisms were minor and were just members that felt wronged by the church or Joe in some way. This was the biggest problem that Joe was to face, and it was against his own friend, and co-founder of Mormonism Sidney Rigdon. Let's find out how Joe dealt with the problem, compliments of Philo Dibble-Dabble.
"Brother Hyrum [Smith] came to my house the next morning and told me all about it, and said it was false, and that the keys of the kingdom were still with us. He wanted my carriage and horses to go to the town of Hiram and bring Joseph. The word went abroad among the people immediately that Sidney [Rigdon] was going to expose "Mormonism."
Joseph came up to Kirtland a few days afterwards and held a meeting in a large barn. Nearly all the inhabitants of Kirtland turned out to hear him. The barn was filled with people, and others, unable to get inside, stood around the door as far as they could hear.
Joseph arose in our midst and spoke in mighty power, saying: "I can contend with wicked men and devils--yes with angels. No power can pluck those keys from me, except the power that gave them to me; that was Peter, James and John. But for what Sidney [Rigdon] has done, the devil shall handle him as one man handles another."
Alright, let that sink in for a minute. Rigdon preached something that was contrary to what Joe was preaching. This was really nothing new to Joe, he had been dealing with insurrection like this for a while, but not from his second in command, Hingepin Rigdon. Upon hearing Rigdon had said such horrible things, Hyrum Smith, Joe's older brother, borrowed Philo's horses and carriage to pick up Joe from Hiram, Ohio, and bring him up to Kirtland to put out this new fire that had just ignited. Joe gathered a barn full of people and told them that Rigdon was inspired by the devil to say such blasphemies. Joe finished it off saying that Rigdon would come in to some unfortunate circumstance very soon. Let's find out what happened from Philo. He tells us about a woman telling Rigdon what Joe had said, but I can't find any reference to this anywhere other than Philo's recounting here, whereas the rest of this story is attested multiple times. After telling us what the woman said to Rigdon, something very important happens, and we'll pick up there.
"Thomas B. Marsh's wife went from the meeting and told Sidney [Rigdon] what Joseph had said, and he replied: "Is it possible that I have been so deceived? But if Joseph says so, it is so."
This is the quote I couldn't find anywhere but here. I don't know if Rigdon said that, or if Marsh's wife even went to see Rigdon, but we do know for a fact that what Philo recounts next really did happen.
"About three weeks after this, Sidney [Rigdon] was lying on his bed alone. An unseen power lifted him from his bed, threw him across the room, and tossed him from one side of the room to the other. The noise being heard in the adjoining room, his family went in to see what was the matter, and found him going from one side of the room to the other, from the effects of which Sidney was laid up for five or six weeks. Thus was Joseph's prediction in regard to him verified."
Alright, I'm not sure how to take this exactly, but I have an idea in my mind of how it all went down. You can feel free to come to your own understanding of the circumstances, but I'll give you my synopsis as I understand it. For starters, I think Joe kicked the living shit out of Rigdon. I really do believe that. Joe was a scrapper, which we'll discuss later in this episode, but his entire growing up life up to this point, he had been in various fights, much like every other kid did growing up in that time. The thing is, Joe was tough, and damn good at fighting and standing his ground.
We should also remember that Joe had a knack for predicting harm coming upon people a little while before said harm happened. Take Lilburn Boggs for example. This guy signed the Mormon extermination order, and Joe said that harm would befall him. A little while later, we can't account for Orrin Pistol-Packin Porter Rockwell's whereabouts, and amazingly Boggs was shot with a shotgun. Joe seemed quite prophetic in both of these claims, and his prophecies did NOT disappoint in either circumstance.
So, forgive me if this seems like anti-mormon propoganda, or it seems like it's unfounded in some way, but I think it's reasonable to assume that Joe pretty much beat the hell out of Rigdon, which layed him up for more than a month after that.
Let's take into account the circumstances that may have caused Rigdon to be displeased with Joe, and motivated him to say such horrible things about the modern-day prophet. Joe had rolled into town, took over Rigdon's congregations, demanded money, and then went to Jackson County and preached to the Natives, claiming that the leaders of the church should take them as wives to lighten up their skin. After that, Joe came back to Kirtland, and asked more people for more money. Then he instated the law of tithing to ensure he would always have a steady stream of income. In doing this, Joe was exploiting all the work Rigdon had done in bringing together the congregations in Mentor and Kirtland. Joe had been claiming Rigdon's ideas and revelations as his own for a very long time, and now that Rigdon and Joe were working on the inspired translation of the Bible, Rigdon may have wanted more credit. Maybe Rigdon wanted to take his church back from the ravenous clutches of his frienemy Joe. Arguably, Rigdon was merely contending with the monster he'd created, so maybe he didn't want to sleep in the bed he made.
Maybe this is why Rigdon was depressed during this time. He didn't like
the direction the church was going, and wanted to bring it back to what
he'd spent so much time and energy building. As soon as Joe was gone for
a little while, Rigdon tried to convince some people that Joe wasn't the
one true prophet, and Joe took care of the problem in a way he was very
I know I made a few jumps in the historical narrative there, but I hit on a lot of very important points that may have spawned contention between Rigdon and Joe, and all these pressures could have served as the impetuss for Rigdon's insurrection. But, I must be clear, that summary was speculation trying to find a naturalistic perspective for how Rigdon suffered such a horrible physical beating. I think it makes sense, and that's my perspective, but I suppose that it could have been God on Joe's side, and the Devil on Rigdon's side, so God beat the fuck out of Rigdon to teach him that following the Devil is a bad..... You figure it out, which perspective makes the most sense?
Let's talk about Philo for a second before we discuss Rigdon moving to Hiram, Ohio where Joe was living with the Johnsons. Philo joined the church in either October or November 1830, baptized by P-cubed Parley P. Pratt during the first westward mission of the church. This was the same mission that Hingepin Rigdon supposedly was converted during. Philo was a land dealer, or as we might call him today, a real estate agent. This man definitely wasn't hurting for money before Joe came along.
When Joe moved to Kirtland, he lived for a very short time on the farm of Frederick G. Williams, or as we know him Freddy Willey. Joe lived there for possibly a week, but found out the farm was $400 in debt, and Freddy Willey was about to lose it. After a few things transpired to try and save it, Philo ended up selling 1200 acres of his own land at $1.25, and paid Freddy Willey's debt.
Philo Dibble was quite clearly a great guy, and he stayed with the church until his death in Springville, Utah in 1895. His autobiography is known in church history as "Early Scenes in Church History," subtitled "Four Faith Promoting Classics". Apologists and Mormon historians like to dabble into his autobiography from time to time, like to tell the story about Elsa's arm being healed by Joseph. This guy was just a genuinely nice guy meaning we can't give him a mean nickname like Not-So-Smarty-Marty's or something. For the purposes of our examination and giving all important characters a proper NaMo nickname, we'll go with Philo Dibble-Dabble from now on, primarily just because it's fun to say.
Let's get back to the timeline here. Seemingly we had Hingepin Rigdon trying to strip Joe of his leadership claims, effectively taking the wind out of Joe's prophet sails (you can spell that profit either way there). Rigdon got some sense knocked into him, and then him and Joe reconcile their differences and head out to Amherst, Ohio, where there would be a general conference. With the number of missions that were active, in lots of places throughout New York, Ohio, Missouri, and touching some other states, there were occasionally members in some of these outerlying towns that had big enough homes to hold a conference in.
When we think about conferences that the church holds today, it's nothing like these conferences that Joe and Rigdon were holding in various places. Church conference today is held in a 21,000 seat cathedral, a vastly different version of confernece than in 1832. Most of the time the conferences back then were just a couple of families gathered together in a living room to hear what the prophet had to say. So in February of 1832, a family in Amherst, Ohio held a conference.
Soon after this conference, Joe and Rigdon were preaching in Ravena, Ohio, a mere hop-skip-and-a-jump from Amherst and Kirtland. After this, Joe and Hingepin make their way back to Hiram, Ohio. They both go crazy on the inspired translation of the Bible for a few weeks. They were either translating John, or Revelation at this time, I'm not completely sure, but they were cranking away.
But that's not all, because something else that comes out of Hiram, Ohio during this time are an assload of new revelations. When Joe and Hingepin Rigdon got together without much outside stimulations or distractions, they really busted out a lot of revelations. One of these revelations told Joe and Double Dub Phelps to compile all the existing revelations into one book, and call it the "Book of Commandments". We'll call this edition of the official church revelations, the Joe years.
Everything in the Book of Commandments up to this point had been a fairly clinical take on the new religion. Most of the revelations were fairly pragmatic at this time. Almost every one of them claims that Joe is indeed the one true prophet of God, and that certain people should go on missions and whatnot. Of course one of the main unique revelations that came about during this time was the current D&C 20. This tells about all kinds of important leadership things that were needed to establish a pecking order. Interestingly enough, this revelation was actually given by Ollie Cowdung Oliver Cowdery. That means that the more mundane and repetitive revelations were given by Joe, and one of the main revelations used in organization of the Church, was actually given by Joe's second in command at the time, Ollie. Isn't that fascinating? You see how the Cowdung can just pop in and pop out like that without anybody expecting him. It happens throughout a lot of revelations, and even some of the Book of Mormon.
This same phenomenon of Joe not being the creative one, shone brightly once Him and Hingepin spent a lot of time in the same house together. The main revelation that is so paramount that came out of this time is the current D&C 76. Most believing members will know that section 76 holds a lot of revelations that set Mormonism apart as the weird ones. If you want to learn all about crazy Mormon heaven, Sun, Moon, Stars, hell, and all, D&C 76 is where you need to look. It's one of the longest revelations, and was obviously given in multiple sittings, which is made apparent by the writing style. Given how it's written, it seems that the revelation was written in smaller sections, and then pieced together later on.
It is worth noting that it required Rigdon and Joe to be away from the sense of the real world, in order for some of these more unique and certifiably crack-ass revelations to come out of Joe's deranged skull... or was it Rigdons deranged skull? Hang in until the end of this episode for a fun little treat that I recently stumbled upon. I'll leave it up to you to decide if these revelations came from half-assed Joe himself, or puppet-master house of crazy-pants Hingepin Rigdon.
The next thing we need to talk about is Joe's education. That may seem like a weird place to go given everything we talked about, but it's necessary. You see, Joe received an education similar to what most people got in his day. He attended a few years here and there, maybe had a fifth grade education at best, so his education was a bit different than what we consider an education today.
This may seem like a tired phrase, but clearly Joe went to the school of hard knocks. He was smart enough to always be learning from people, but it occasionally came at a cost. Joe was a hell of a scrapper, alpha-male type, because he was so educated in fighting his siblings, friends, and foes alike. Most young men were just like this in his day, our upbringing today is much different than what Joe and company experienced in their formative years.
Well, Joe was about to get a proper lecture in the school of hard-knocks, and we're going to use historical empathy to put ourselves in Joe's shoes. We're going to read his own lecture notes very soon, right from the History of the Church. It's rather fascinating to see it dictated from Joe's perspective, and it really helps us to get into his shoes, and see it through his eyes when it was happening.
But before reading that, we need to understand the context a little better. We know that Joe dealt with a fair amount of persecution on many different levels. He went to court a few times for being a "disorderly person," which can mean a great number of things, but generally meant that people didn't like what he was doing when it came to business practices, or as an impartial observer might term it, constantly fucking various people out of small amounts of money. But, Joe didn't stop at money,
In one instance, it almost seemed like people were angry at Joe for getting a little hanky panky with Bossman Josiah Stowells daughters. They were so pissed off about what Joe was doing, and just who he was in general, they were trying to catch him with any legal technicality that would stick. But, Joes disorderly person, and adultery charges weren't proven in court, so nothing must have happened, and Joe must have been a stand-up guy.
Earlier we talked about Joe's insatiable libido, and how much it got him in trouble. I mean, shit, it's what he died for. He blew up the printing press in Nauvoo because he didn't want people to know about how much pipe he was laying. Well, the argument can be made that he was about to learn another lesson from the school of hard-knocks, as consequenced by his all-to-frequent bumpin uglies.
Remember when I said that the whole Johnson family converted after Joe healed mother Elsa's arm? Pay attention to the Johnsons in the story we're about to read from the History of the Church, as dictated by Joseph Smith.
This is starting on page 261 of vol 1 of History of the Church, and it starts with talking about some recent apostates, as well as Joe and Emma's adopted twins, Joseph S., and Julia Murdock Smith. Just a heads up, it is censored, but I'm going to fill in those blanks myself, for entertainment purposes only.
"In addition to the apostate Ezra Booth, Simonds Ryder, Eli Johnson, Edward Johnson and John Johnson, Jun., had apostatized.
On the 24th of March, the twins before mentioned, which had been sick of the measles for some time, caused us to be broken of our rest in taking care of them, especially my wife. In the evening I told her she had better retire to rest with one of the children, and I would watch with the sicker child. In the night she told me I had better lie down on the trundle bed, and I did so, and was soon after awakened by her screaming murder, when I found myself going out of the door, in the hands of about a dozen men; some of whose hands were in my hair, and some had hold of my shirt, drawers and limbs. The foot of the trundle bed was towards the door, leaving only room enough for the door to swing open. My wife heard a gentle tapping on the windows which she then took no particular notice of (but which was unquestionably designed for ascertaining whether or not we were all asleep) , and soon after the mob burst open the door and surrounded the bed in an instant, and, as I said, the first I knew I was going out of the door in the hands of an infuriated mob. I made a desperate struggle, as I was forced out, to extricate myself, but only cleared one leg, with which I made a pass at one man, and he fell on the door steps. I was immediately overpowered again; and they swore by G-- --, they would kill me if I did not be still, which quieted me. As they passed around the house with me, the fellow that I kicked came to me and thrust his hand, all covered with blood, into my face and with an exulting hoarse laugh, muttered "Ge, gee, G-- d-- ye, I'll fix ye." They then seized me by the throat and held on till I lost my breath. After I came to, as they passed along with me about thirty rods from the house I saw Elder Rigdon stretched out on the ground, whither they had dragged him by his heels. I supposed he was dead. I began to plead with them, saying, "You will have mercy and spare my life, I hope." To which they replied, "G--d--ye, call on yer God for help, we'll show ye no mercy;" and the people began to show themselves in every direction; one coming from the orchard had a plank; and I expected they would kill me, and carry me off on the plank. They then turned to the right, and went on about thirty rods further; about sixty rods from the house, and thirty from where I saw Elder Rigdon, into the meadow, where they stopped, and one said, "Simonds, Simonds," (meaning, I supposed, Simonds Ryder,) "pull up his drawers, pull up his drawers, he will take cold." Another replied: "Ain't ye going to kill 'im? ain't ye going to kill 'im?" when a group of mobbers collected a little way off, and said: "Simonds, Simonds, come here;" and "Simonds" charged those who had hold of me to keep me from touching the ground (as they had done all the time), lest I should get a spring upon them. They held a council, and as I could occasionally overhear a word, I supposed it was to know whether or not it was best to kill me. They returned after a while, when I learned that they had concluded not to kill me, but to beat and scratch me well, tear off my shirt and drawers, and leave me naked. One cried, "Simonds, Simonds, where's the tar bucket?" "I don't know," answered one, "where 'tis, Eli's left it. They ran back and fetched the bucket of tar, when one exclaimed, with an oath, "Let us tar up his mouth," and they tried to force the tar-paddle into my mouth; I twisted my head around, so that they could not; and they cried out, "G--d--ye, hold up yer head and let us give ye some tar." They then tried to force a vial into my mouth, and broke it in my teeth. All my clothes were torn off me except my shirt collar; and one man fell on me and scratched my body with his nails like a mad cat, and then muttered out: "G-- d---ye, that's the way the Holy Ghost falls on folks!" They then left me, and I attempted to rise, but fell again; I pulled the tar away from my lips, so that I could breathe more freely, and after up[that], whereupon I saw two lights. I made my way towards one of them, and found it was Father Johnson's. When I came to the door I was naked, and the tar made me look as if I were covered with blood, and when my wife saw me she thought I was all crushed to pieces, and fainted. During the affray abroad, the sisters of the neighborhood had collected at my room. I called for a blanket, they threw me one and shut the door; I wrapped it around me and went in. In the meantime, Brother John Poorman heard an outcry across the corn field, and running that way met father Johnson, who had been fastened in his house at the commencement of the assault, by having his door barred by the mob, but on calling to his wife to bring his gun, saying he would blow a hole through the door, the mob fled, and Father Johnson, seizing a club, ran after the party that had Elder Rigdon, and knocked down one man, and raised his club to level another, exclaiming, "What are you doing here?" when they left Elder Rigdon and turned upon Father Johnson, who, turning to run toward his own house, met Brother Poorman coming out of the corn field; each supposing the other to be a mobber, an encounter ensued, and Poorman gave Johnson a severe blow on the left shoulder with a stick or stone, which brought him to the ground. Poorman ran immediately towards Father Johnson's, and arriving while I was waiting for the blanket, exclaimed, "I'm afraid I've killed him." Killed who? asked one; when Poorman hastily related the circumstances of the rencounter near the corn field, and went into the shed and hid himself. Father Johnson soon recovered so as to come to the house, when the whole mystery was quickly solved concerning the difficulty between him and Poorman, who, on learning the facts, joyfully came from his hiding place. My friends spent the night in scraping and removing the tar, and washing and cleansing my body; so that by morning I was ready to be clothed again. This being the Sabbath morning, the people assembled for meeting at the usual hour of worship, and among them came also the mobbers; viz.: Simonds Ryder, a Campbellite preacher and leader of the mob; one McClentic, who had his hands in my hair; one Streeter, son of a Campbellite minister; and Felatiah Allen, Esq., who gave the mob a barrel of whiskey to raise their spirits. Besides these named, there were many others in the mob. With my flesh all scarified and defaced, I preached to the congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day baptized three individuals. The next morning I went to see Elder Rigdon, and found him crazy, and his head highly inflamed, for they had dragged him by his heels, and those, too, so high from the ground that he could not raise his head from the rough, frozen surface, which lacerated it exceedingly; and when he saw me he called to his wife to bring him his razor. She asked him what he wanted of it; and he replied, to kill me. Sister Rigdon left the room, and he asked me to bring his razor; I asked him what he wanted of it, and he replied he wanted to kill his wife; and he continued delirious some days. The feathers which were used with the tar on this occasion, the mob took out of Elder Rigdon's house. After they had seized him, and dragged him out, one of the banditti returned to get some pillows; when the women shut him in and kept him a prisoner some time. During the mobbing one of the twins contracted a severe cold, continued to grow worse until Friday, and then died. The mobbers composed of various religious parties, but mostly Campbellites, Methodists and Baptists, who continued to molest and menace Father Johnson's house for a long time. Elder Rigdon removed to Kirtland with his family--then sick with the measles--the following Wednesday; and, on account of the mob, he went to Chardon on Saturday, March 31st."
Sorry that was a long quote, but I wanted to get the whole thing in, and then talk aobut it. So, we have a lot of wrap up to cover to get us all the way to that little something extra I promised that'll finish out the episode.
Let's start out with the names that Joe told us about in the mob. First we had mention of Ezra Booth. Booth is a very interesting fellow in that he was the first guy to make mention of polygamy in the church merely months before this. He was also the first big apostate. He was the first guy in a leadership position that actively apostatized, and wrote "anti-mormon" literature, primarily talking about Joe's polygamist intentions with the Natives. Remember that revelation we read earlier that was recounted by Double Dub Phelps giving the commandment to take the Natives to wife the way Abraham did? Well, that revelation first came to light, thanks to Ezra Booth's apostasy. Double Dub Phelps merely recalled it from memory a little while later. So Ezra Booth is definitely a character worth mentioning in this context.
In that list that began with Booth, it also listed Symonds Ryder. This man has a fairly interesting story that can more or less be covered in a paragraph or two. Symonds had heard a Mormon woman make a prophetic claim that the city of Pekin, China would be destroyed soon. 6 weeks after he heard this revelation, Ryder picked up a newspaper article that told of a major earthquake that had destroyed a large percentage of Pekin. In all my searching, I couldn't find a single record of that happening, but nevertheless, Ryder saw it as divine providence, and thus joined the church a little while after his friend Ezra Booth did. Ryder was called on a mission by Joe, but he didn't go, because. . . God spelled his name wrong. Symonds Ryder is spelled with "y's" where one would expect "i's", and Ryder thought that the almighty god of the universe would never make such a mistake as to misspell his name in a divine revelation. To this day, his mission call is in D&C 52:37, spelled wrong, as it was in the History of the Church where I just read it. That was Ryder's main red flag when it came to Joe, and why he didn't embark on his mission.
Soon after Ryder received this mission call, Booth came home from his mission to Missouri, both of these men lived in Hiram, Ohio at the time. When these two old friends met up, as the story goes, they both asked each other "How's your faith?" seemingly incredulously. At that point, they both knew that they had the wool pulled over their eyes by Joe, and both set out to correct the wrongs somehow. That's why both are mentioned here, and why both were in the mob that dragged Joe out of the house, and tarred and feathered him.
The next people listed in the beginning sentence were Eli Johnson, Edward Johnson and John Johnson, Jun. Does anything ring a bell with those young men? They were John Johnson's sons that didn't buy Joe's thinly veiled bullshit. Lyman and Luke Johnson stayed in the church, and Luke even died in Utah having served his entire life in the church. The other Johnson boys, didn't quite fall for Joe's shenanigans. They had converted with the rest of the family in early 1831, after Joe healed their mother's arm, but by this time, a year later, they had given up all semblance of holiness and piety that Joe was trying to portray. I have a theory about why they were included in the mob, but let's talk about the actual occurence before I propose this theory. Just to be clear, this theory is by no means original. People have thought this for a long time, but that will be discussed after we deconstruct this fateful night of March 24, 1832.
To start us off, Joe and Emma had been taking care of little Joseph S., and Julia Murdock Smith who were both sick with the measels. They were just shy of 11 months old at this time. Emma went to bed with Julia taking care of her, while Joe took little Joseph S., to bed with him on the trundle bed in the living room of the Johnson house.
Soon after dozing off with little Joseph Murdock in his arms, Joe awoke to a dozen men rushing into the house, with Emma screaming in the background. The group of men dragged Joe outside, first by the hair, then by grabbing his limbs so he couldn't struggle free. Joe was able to free up one leg, and kicked a man with it, inflicting enough damage to make the man bleed.
After Joe inflicted this hit, the mob was sure not to let Joe get any footing, or let any of his limbs free. I said earlier that Joe was a scrapper, and this goes to show just how hardcore he was. He said "those who had hold of me to keep[kept] me from touching the ground (as they had done all the time), lest I should get a spring upon them" probably because it was true. The mob knew that if Joe could get any advantage, he would exploit it, and he may overpower a couple of them and get away.
The group of men dragged Joe about 500 feet from the house, stripped him naked and discussed what to do with him. Joe looked over and saw Hingepin Rigdon laying on the ground covered in tar, supposing him dead. Here, a small detail comes into play that Joe sort of left out. This was written by Luke Johnson, and it's a very important detail, recounted in an 1858 publication of the Deseret News.
"While Joseph was yet at my father's, a mob of forty or fifty came to his house, a few entered his room in the middle of the night, and Carnot Mason dragged Joseph out of bed by the hair of his head; he was then seized by as many as could get hold of him, and taken about forty rods from the house, stretched on a board, and tantalized in the most insulting and brutal manner; they tore off the few night clothes that he had on, for the purpose of emasculating him, and had Dr. Dennison there to perform the operation [castration]; but when the Dr. saw the Prophet stripped and stretched on the plank, his heart failed him, and he refused to operate."
We'll talk about that in a minute, because it implies premeditation, and an act of passion. Upon stripping Joe naked, and attempting to castrate him, the mob decided to feed him some hot tar, but Joe wouldn't allow the tar paddle to get in his mouth. Instead, the mob tried to feed him a vial of poison, thus breaking one of Joe's teeth in the mix. From this point on, Joe would have a very subtle lisp because of that broken tooth.
Somehow, the vial broke, and didn't end up going down Joe's throat, which is good, because it probably would have made him very very ill for a while, and Joe had a lot to do after this beating. Once the mob failed to kill or castrate Joe, one man went into Rigdon's house to grab a couple of pillows for the feathers. It's recounted that "a woman" trapped this man in the house for a moment, but I assume that's referring to Pheobe Rigdon, Hingepin's wife.
While this was going on, the mob scratched Joe "like a mad cat". About the time the man got free from the woman in Rigdon's house with pillows in hand, John Johnson came running out of the house to help Rigdon and Joe. He ran up to the men that were beating up Rigdon, and swung his club at one man hitting him, probably doing a fair amount of damage. After this, the mob presumably turned on John Johnson, forcing him to run back towards his house where Emma was undoubtedly inconsolable, thinking the mob was killing her husband. As John Johnson made his way back to the house, a man named John Poorman, in an effort to help Joe and Rigdon, thought that John Johnson was part of the angry mob. It was the middle of the night, and you see a man running towards a house with screaming children and a weeping Emma in it, you're going to assume the worst.
So Poorman intercepts Johnson, and hits him with a rock or hammer or something very painful, sending Johnson to the ground. That's right, the two good guys in the story just fought it out. Once Poorman struck Johnson, he realized what had happened, and he ran to hide in the bushes, thinking he had killed Johnson.
The man came back from Rigdon's with the pillows, and coated the tar covered Rigdon and Joe with feathers, and the mob disbanded.
Joe came to conciousness, and walked his bruised and scratched body to the Johnson's house, where Emma saw him covered in tar, and thinking it was blood fainted straightaway. That night, the Johnsons and some other friends spent hours scraping off the cooling tar from Joe and Rigdon's flesh.
When tar cools, it tends to harden, adhering to whatever surface it's on. That means that when these people were pulling the cooling tar off Joe and Rigdon, it was peeling off layers of skin at the same time, leaving their skin tender and bleeding. I can't imagine a worse night than cleaning up after something like this.
The day following this incident was Sunday, wherein Joe was smart enough, and able bodied enough to preach to the Hiram, Ohio congregation. This was one of the smartest things Joe ever did in his entire career.
With any given religion or cult, there is a correlation between religious persecution, and growth in size and membership. A religion needs the perfect amount of persecution in order to flourish, but if there's too much persecution, the religion suffocates under the pressure. Well, if a religious leader is able to use that persecution to light a fire under the collective asses of the parishoners, they instantly feel validated, and that leader has a lifetime worth of followers.
Imagine the speech that Joe gave on the stand after he'd spent the night getting beaten up, and subsequently more damaged from the removal of the tar. He must have stood up there, skin red and raw, chunks of hardened tar still on some of his face and all through his hair, pounding the pulpit saying these apostates and anti-Mormons will never take us down. The Church of Christ will not go quietly into the night! It will set at defiance man and his god for generations to come! And the persecution complex is made real for the rest of the entire Mormon religion. They just tend to leave out the possibility that it all could have been due to Joe's rapacious lust for younger women.
I remember being a young child watching movies depicting the faceless mob that dragged the holy prophet out of his house and tarred and feathered him. You can see this depicted in the legacy movie called "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" . It's free on youtube, look it up minute 25 is what we're talking about here, and yes there will be a link for it in the show notes. Watch the whole thing if you can stand it. I recently tortured myself with it, and exactly 0 out of a hundred percent of me enjoyed it. The church uses this persecution to further their message all of the time, and it works beautifully. This is a great example of a religion needing the perfect concoction of religious persecution and missionary work in order to thrive.
After Joe stood in front of the congregation raw and bruised, he went to see how Hingepin Rigdon was faring. Apparently the mob had dragged Rigdon out by the heels bumping his head against the frozen ground, causing his brain to swell. We know that Rigdon wasn't necessarily mentally stable before this, and this incident certainly couldn't have helped.
I would also like to point out that what happened is a bit of a call back to Rigdon's childhood. If we remember from episode 14, Rigdon's brother gave testimony stating that Rigdon at a young age fell off a horse, and caught his leg in the stirrup. The horse dragged Rigdon for quite some time with his head bouncing against the dirt and rocks on the ground, possibly even getting trampled by the horse a couple of times. His brother said that Hingepin was never the same after that. We also know that Rigdon was prone to trances and occasional siezures, possibly due to this childhood accident. So Rigdon being dragged by the mob with his head bouncing against the ground for almost 500 feet, must have been at least a little bit reminiscent of his childhood accident.
When Joe went to see him, Rigdon's brain was probably swollen, according to Joe's description. Once Joe got there, Rigdon asked his wife Phoebe for his razor for the purpose of killing Joe. Let's think about this for a minute. It's understandable that Rigdon was fever crazed, and arguably brain damaged when this happened, which can cause a person to have homocidal thoughts very easily. But, let's try and understand this from a naturalistic perspective.
Let's take a step back for a moment here, why did the mob attack Joe in the first place? It's too easy to default to calling it religious persecution, even though that's what the explanation has been since it happened, but was there something more to it?
Earlier in the episode I listed off the names of the Johnson family that converted to Mormonism in 1831. Well, one of the names listed was Marinda Nancy Johnson. She would later come to be known as Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde Smith Smith Hyde. Those last four marriage names are chronological, I think she actually only went by Marinda Hyde.
Marinda's story is quite interesting in that she married Orson Hyde, and then in typical Joe fashion, Joe sent Hyde on a mission to Jerusalem and other places for 3 years, during which, Marinda married Joe twice, once in 1842, once in 1843. Once Orson Hyde returned, he took her back as his wife, while marrying two other women soon after. Thus the name Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde Smith Smith Hyde. Those were all of her marriage names in chronological format.
To get back on board with the story, Marinda was 16 when Joe moved in to the Johnson household with Emma and the twins in mid September of 1831, Joe was 26. Now there isn't really any tangible evidence that we can point to, in order to properly assert that Joe and Marinda had a very special night together, but, we can consider the character of Joe, look at the evidence, pay attention to the names of the people that were part of the mob, and draw a line between the dots.
At least two of the people in the mob were the brothers of Marinda Johnson, and they wanted to CASTRATE JOSEPH SMITH!!! They even had Dr. Dennison on hand to perform it, implying that it was premeditated, and it was an act of passion. You don't castrate a man, just because he claims to be the one true prophet of god, you castrate him because he fucked your 16 year old sister!
I have to clarify, this is all up to conjecture. I'm merely speculating on the circumstances, and like I said, drawing a line between the dots. We don't have any smoking gun proof that Joe and Marinda went toe to toe in 1832. We have it on good authority that they had a good ol' time in 1842 during the Nauvoo years, but in this specific instance, we don't have any tangible proof. But really, what more do you need? Do we need to attempt to perform a semen sample test on a century old corpse? Do we need to find Joe's teeth imprint on Marinda's shoulder to prove they were engaged in passionate bed shaking? The smoking gun evidence simply doesn't exist here, as much as we would like it to. But, we do know Joe's character, and we know that he got around A LOT! We know that there had been multiple accusations from multiple people in very different locations claiming that Joe was a frisky sumbitch, and it would eventually get him killed. And then, to top it all off, we have Marinda's brothers wanting to cut Joe's balls off. I'll ask again, what more do you need? Is it any mystery why Rigdon wanted to kill Joe too? Joe's balls elicited Rigdon's most horrible beating of his life, and his brain was swollen from physical damage, and a fever brought on by said swollen brain and the measels. That can drive any man to want to kill another man, much less the man that was responsible for the beating in the first place. It wouldn't even require the implied brain damage to want to kill Joe at this point.
To close out this episode, let's follow in that vein. Let's really talk about Hingepin Rigdon, and bring in that special little something I promised earlier.
Leading up to the time that this bad night occured, Joe and Rigdon had been working tirelessly on their inspired translation of the bible. By this time, they were in the new testament, possibly working on the book of Revelation. In addition to the bible, they were coming up with all kinds of amazing revelations, including some that are considered to be the most distinguishing revelations that make Mormonism it's own religion, as opposed to just another repackaged Christianity. This is a list taken from LDS.org about the revelations that came around during this 6 month period from mid September 1831 to early April of 1832. If anybody listens to the MyBoM podcast, they've heard David and I reading the D&C during the Joe years. The revelations are so boring and repetitive, saying the same exact things in slightly different ways over and over again. Well, this list of revelations are quite unique, and tend to stand out from a lot of the other revelations contained in the D&C.
This was a magical time in the history of the church. Rigdon and Joe together in harmony producing amazing revelations that set mormonism apart from all the other off the wall Christianities that were cropping up all over new America at the time.
There is one main question I want to ask. Is there something more to this time that Hingepin Rigdon and Joe were working together. If you read the revelations that I just listed off, you can see that some of them are a fair amount more mystical and spiritual than the others, especially section 76.
Let's get to that treat I've been promising for a while. After Joe died in the Carthage shootout, Hingepin Rigdon set out to form his own congregation, colloquially called the Rigdonite sect. Rigdon lead his church by revelations that he was constantly spouting off until he died in July 1876. Unfortunately for everybody, when Rigdon was on his death bed, he told his wife Phoebe to burn everything, and she did. There's no telling what amazing things were lost in that one selfish act, maybe a marked up and heavily edited Manuscript Found was somewhere in there, we will never know. But, luckily for us, Rigdon sent copies of his revelations to various people to direct the actions of his church, which was called "The Church of Jesus Christ of the Children of Zion". The main person he sent these revelations to was a man named Stephen Post, who was a very active member with a leadership role in Rigdon's church. He collected all the revelations he could, and compiled them together, and that collection is currently held in the University of Utah archives. I'm going to read a little excerpt from that collection of over 100 individual revelations.
This is from the revelations of the Rigdonite church, given January 1st, 1874, almost 30 years after Joseph Smith was dead. To provide some context, Rigdon is channelling a DEAD PROPHET in this revelation.
"Behold I am Phineas the son of Eliezur who was the son of Aaron, and according to the law and power of the holy priesthood, which priesthood has power as ministering angels, when they maintain their priesthood in the flesh during all their fleshly existence in purity. I Phineas being of the high priesthood and having been adjudged by the courts above as one who had honoured the holy priesthood during all my days I obtained the privilege and power of ministering to those in the flesh who had obtained & were consecrated to the priesthood.
Therefore I Phineas speak to you my son in the priesthood as a father to his son knowing the character of you[r] calling & the solemnity of its influence, and the manner in which you will be assailed by the devices of the adversary that he may bring you under condemnation and cast you down at his feet. To preserve the priesthood of his church from begin[being] overcome by the Devil, the Lord of Zion has given a law, the strict obedience to which will shield them against all the subtle artifices of Satan, and enable them to overcome the devil, the world, and the flesh."
And it goes on, and on, and on like that. Chapter after chapter, divine revelation after divine revelation from the almighty god, Rigdon produced these almost constantly after starting his own Rigdonite church in 1856. It's odd, but a similar writing style that was present in Joe's Mormonism, was also present 12 years after his death in Hingepin Sidney Rigdon's church.
Now, this seems to lead us to a couple of damning questions. Who was really coming up with these revelations once Joe and Rigdon were able to sequester themselves away from the world for a short time? Was it Joseph Smith who was convicted for being a fraud, or was Sidney Rigdon more of a Hingepin piece in Mormon history than he's been given credit for?
Bonus: Joe and Rigdon flipped their canoe = divine revelation to not travel by water
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