Ep 35 – Joe the Swindler Gets Hoodwinked
On this episode, we take a dive into 1836 to catch everything up. Until this time, we’ve just covered the big ticket historical topics that occurred in 1836, so we need to get everything else caught up. We also introduce 2 new NaMo nicknames for people that have been poking around the timeline for a while now. We start off with a discussion about the Hebrew school the presidency organized to be taught by Joshua Seixas. After that, William Smith and Joe get in a fight, and Joe loses. Following the fight, Joe releases a statement clarifying the church’s position on slavery and abolitionism, needless to say, Joe does the PR friendly move, and punts down the middle. We finish up with a discussion about 1836 treasure hunting, and Joe getting swindled by a guy named Burgess, as well as a few minutes devoted to the shooting in Orlando.
LAS VEGAS MEETUP TUES 6/28 at 7 PM!!!
Outro music Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Orson Hyde Autobiography
Ebenezer Robinson autobiography
Salem Trip Apologetics
Joe’s “Slavery” letter in Messenger and Advocate April, 1836
Joe’s letter to Emma from Salem
Welcome to episode 35 of the Naked Mormonism podcast, the serial Mormon history podcast. Today is Thursday June 23, 2016, my name is Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me.
Let’s do a quick recap of the last historical timeline episode to get us caught up, and provide some context for what we’ll be discussion today.
On episode 34, we pretty much just focused on one week in Mormon history from March 26th) to April 3rd of 1836, which is the week of the Kirtland Temple dedication ceremony. Of course, it was necessary to set up the context for the temple and discuss why it was needed, and when the commandment came down from on high to build such a temple. We began with talking about a revelation in October of 1830 that told the missionaries to find a place where the house of the lord would be constructed in Independence, Missouri.
Apparently, God couldn’t figure out where to tell them to build the temple until Joe made his own trip out to Missouri, seems odd that God’s revelation would be dependent upon Joe’s own personal knowledge and location, but oh well. During this trip to Missouri, Joe gave a revelation detailing the exact location of the temple to be built in Independence, a revelation supposedly from God. To this day, the plot where this revelation set apart as the house of the lord remains empty. You can look on google maps in Independence, there’s just a big empty lot with a plaque that says “Temple Lot” on it, with the massive Community of Christ temple across the street from it.
Once the temple plot was revealed, Joe drew out a plat for the plans of Independence after the Mormons took over. There were to be 24 small temples constructed in a square plot for every possible church ordinance and office you could think of. Let’s call it how it is, Independence was the apple of Joe’s eye for years. He’d set it apart as the place where Jesus would return and Zion would be established. There’s really no telling why it was so unique and attractive to Joe, but he couldn’t let it go. Soon in our timeline, we’ll discuss the later ramifications of the Mormons in Missouri. By 1836 they had long since been kicked out of Jackson county, and were settling in Caldwell and Davies counties, which were the adjacent counties to Jackson, where Independence is; it should be noted that Caldwell and Davies counties were getting a bit fed up with the influx of Mormons too.
Back to the recap, Joe wanted to build a temple since 6 months into the establishment of the church in 1830. Kirtland would be the place where the first Mormon temple was built and dedicated. It took roughly 3 years of work to finish, and finally was completed to be dedicated on March 27th, 1836.
The dedication ceremony marks one of the most spiritual and monumental occurrences in all Mormon history up to this point, and we examined it at great length. We talked about visitations by angels and dead prophets, and people hearing a rushing wind come over the chapel. We discussed the many different things seen by many different people, and included a cornucopia of first-hand accounts from people that were there and experienced it for themselves.
We also discussed a possible naturalistic explanation for these spiritual experiences. The fact of the matter is that most people in the congregation had been fasting for 24 hours before the ceremony, and then imbibed freely the alcohol that was provided, alcohol which may have been infused with some of Joe’s special anointing oil. That may help explain why everybody saw different things, and almost nobody saw the exact same vision as the person next to them. Take it how you will, but the naturalistic explanation of Joe frequently using hallucinogens in the form of consecrated anointing oil seems to make a lot of sense to me.
After discussing the dedication ceremony, we talked about the last vision that Ollie and Joe would experience together, and I personally interpreted it as an almost last hurrah before their friendship began to take a turn for the worse.
Alright, that does it for a roundup, so let’s jump right into the meat of today’s historical timeline episode.
Currently, the timeline rests in the spring of 1836. So far, the only occurrences in 1836 we’ve discussed so far have been the Fanny Alger affair, and the Kirtland temple dedication, leaving a lot of important things out. We know what was going on with Joe and company during this time, but there were a lot of other projects going on that I’ve left out for the purpose of conciseness. Let’s catch up on some of those other projects and see if we can’t provide a little more context for the state the entire church was in during 1836.
Something we have yet to discuss is a man named Joshua Seixas, but there was another man before him named Doctor Piexotto. This is from the History of the Church vols. 2 pp. 355
“Jan. 4th—Met and organized our Hebrew school according to the arrangements that were made on Saturday last. We had engaged Doctor Piexotto to teach us in the Hebrew language, when we had our room prepared. We informed him that we were ready and our room was prepared. And he agreed to wait on us this day, and deliver his introductory lecture. Yesterday he sent us word that he could not come until Wednesday next. A vote was then called to know whether we would submit to such treatment or not; and carried in the negative; and Elder Sylvester Smith was appointed clerk to write him on the subject, and inform him that his services were not wanted; and Elders William E. M’Lellin and Orson Hyde despatched to Hudson Seminary to hire a teacher.”
The leaders of the church, for whatever reason, decided that it would be a good idea to learn Hebrew. They established a Hebrew school in one of the rooms of the unfinished temple, which would be dedicated in almost 3 months from this time, for the purposes of learning Hebrew. They hired on a guy named Doctor Piexotto, and the guy stood them up on the day they planned to start school. The leadership got pissy, and Sylvester Smith wrote Piexotto a letter saying his services were no longer required.
After Piexotto got the axe before he even began teaching, Orson Hyde and Professor Bill were sent on a quick two-day mission to hire somebody else. Here is the point in our timeline where we finally get to give a NaMo nickname to Orson Hyde. Orson Hyde has been an important part of the church since nearly the very beginning. His name has come up many times, and I’ve found myself at a complete loss for a relevant nickname to give him for our purposes. Today, he’s finally set himself apart as an important individual in the timeline, ripe for a proper NaMo nickname. Let’s introduce him properly though, and find out how he got tangled in the mess of Mormonism from such an early time.
Orson Hyde was born January 8, 1805, almost a full year before Joe, in Oxford Connecticut. At the age of seven, his mother, Sally Thorpe Hyde, died in childbirth, and his father, Nathan Hyde, enlisted in the army for the war of 1812, under the command of General Brown. When Orson Hyde was about 12 years old, his alcoholic father attempted to swim across a river in Derby, Connecticut, and was “taken with the cramp and drowned”. From the time that Orson’s mother died, the children of the family were basically scattered, fending for themselves and making their own way. Orson, being the youngest surviving child, came under the care of the Nathan Wheeler family in Derby. This is from his autobiography hosted on boap.org, a website run out of BYU, which there will be a link for in the show notes.
“After the death of my mother, the family was scattered abroad, and took their chances in life under no special protector or guide, save that of a kind Providence who ever watches, with care, over the lonely orphan and hears the plaintive cry of the young sparrows, bereft of their parent mother.
At this early age, I was placed in the care of a gentleman by the name of Nathan Wheeler, or rather, fell into his hands, residing in Derby in the same county. This was a very good family, but quite penurious. With Mr. Wheeler I continued until I was eighteen years of age, and would have continued longer; but from the consideration that suitable encouragement was not offered to me for education, and etc., I concluded that my services from seven to eighteen years of age, would abundantly repay Mr. Wheeler for his care and expense in rearing me up to that time.
In the meantime Mr. Wheeler removed and came to the Western Reserve in Ohio, having failed in business in Derby. He first visited the Western Reserve by himself, purchased a farm in Kirtland, and sent for me and his nephew, Nathan Wooster, to come out the next spring. Accordingly, Mr. Wooster and myself started early the next season (I then being fourteen years of age). This was a hard trip for a youngster to perform on foot, with knapsack upon the back, containing clothes, bread, cheese, and dried beef for the journey, and obliged to keep up with a strong man, travelling from 30 to 38 miles per day, until we had performed the entire distance of 600 miles.”
Quite a remarkable journey for a 14-year-old boy. Could you walk 600 miles in less than 20 days at such an age? I wouldn’t be able to bicycle that far as the fat little 14-year-old nerd that I was, and still am. I wouldn’t do that today 11 years later! People were just made of sterner stuff back then, I think.
This snippet from his autobiography enlightens us as to how Orson Hyde came to live in Kirtland. Soon after arriving, he began attending the sermons of the one and only Hingepin Sidney Rigdon, and would give his life over to the dictates of the unique version of Campbellism that Rigdon was preaching. He would become a very good friend of Rigdon, taking up the mantle as his student and personal assistant. This is a later passage from the same autobiography.
“Feeling that one day I might be called to advocate it, and feeling my great deficiency in learning, I resolved to go to school. Accordingly, I took up my abode in Mentor, in the house of Elder Sidney Rigdon, and began the study of English grammar under his tuition. Elder Rigdon took unwearied pains and care to instruct me in this elementary science."
This forged a strong bond between the two men, which would be very important in the foundation and maintenance of the Kirtland and Mentor branches of Rigdon’s church. Of course, when Ollie, P-cubed, and the other missionaries came in to Kirtland to preach Mormonism in late 1830, that’s when Hingepin Rigdon, Orson Hyde, and hundreds of others converted, inflating the membership of Joe’s church to unprecedented numbers.
Orson Hyde has obviously been an important person during our timeline before now, and if you espouse the Spalding theory, he plays an even bigger role than initially perceived. If the Spalding theory is true, meaning Joe and Rigdon teamed up to write the Book of Mormon from Solomon Spalding’s Manuscript Found, Joe and Rigdon were the guys at the head of the scheme, each with their closest assistants. Ollie was Joe’s second in command, and Orson Hyde was Rigdon’s second in command. While Joe and Rigdon were busy writing portions of the Book of Mormon, it would have been Ollie’s and Orson Hyde’s tasks to run manuscript chapters back and forth between Joe and Rigdon. If the Spalding theory is true, Rigdon, Joe, Ollie and Orson Hyde are responsible for creating the Book of Mormon; that’s how important Hyde is in the timeline. Hyde claims that he was preaching against the Mormon bible until he read it for himself and spoke with Joe, but who knows exactly how accurate that is, and what exactly is meant when he says that he “preached against the Mormon doctrine, or rather against the Mormon bible”.
Like I said earlier, I’ve been at a loss to give Orson Hyde a proper NaMo nickname because he hasn’t done anything extremely distinguishing that would merit such a name, even though he’s come up in probably 5 of the last 10 historical timeline episodes, maybe even more frequently than that. Well, Hyde had a very exciting life in Mormonism, and in the 1840’s was responsible for the most amazing and successful mission to Jerusalem for the Mormon church. Believe it or not, there’s currently a monument constructed in his remembrance at the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden in Jerusalem. He has a fucking garden dedicated to him in Jerusalem! This guy was paramount in Hebrew studies and proselyting Mormonism to people in the Jerusalem/Palestine area. Giving him his own NaMo nickname calls for a celebration of good health and well-being. Everybody please give a warm welcome Orson Hyde, or as we’ll know him, L’Chydem, into our historical timeline.
To get back to our timeline, Professor Bill, who looks like a gaunt version of the most interesting man in the world with a David Beckham hairdo, and Orson L’Chydem, who looks like the assbaby of Moe after he fucked Curly, headed out to Hudson Seminary to hire on a new Hebrew teacher for the School of the Elders in the Temple. The Doctor Piexotto guy had bailed on teaching the class, so a new teacher was required, and here enters a man named Joshua Seixas.
This is taken from two days later in the History of the Church vols. 2 pp. 356.
“Attended school and spent most of the forenoon in settling the unpleasant feelings that existed in the breast of Elder Orson Pratt. After much controversy, he confessed his fault for entering into any controversy concerning so small a matter as the sound of a Hebrew letter, and asked the forgiveness of the whole school, and was cheerfully forgiven by all.
Elder M’Lellin returned from Hudson, and reported to the school that he had hired a teacher to teach us the term of seven weeks, for three hundred and twenty dollars; that is, forty scholars for that amount; to commence in about fifteen days. He is highly celebrated as a Hebrew scholar, and proposes to give us sufficient knowledge during the above term to start us in reading and translating the language.”
I simply don’t understand the reasoning behind Professor Bill and Orson L’Chydem hiring this Joshua Seixas guy. I mean, I understand that Joe and friends were accustomed to learning new things all the time, and Hebrew may have been the next thing on their list, nothing more than that, but when you take a closer look, there are some oddities.
What I mean by oddities is the lengths gone to in order to hire a legitimate Hebrew Scholar. Think about it, the church was in massive debt already nearing the completion of the Kirtland Temple. They were already somewhere between $40-60,000 in debt, even while bleeding the parishioners dry of nearly every cent they could muster. I know that Joe and friends were on a bit of a high from making so much progress with new members and building the temple, add in the fact that Missouri persecution was at fairly low level compared to 3 years prior, and Joe probably was feeling great about the church. But why take to studying ancient Hebrew so fervently when the church couldn’t afford the $8 grand of today’s money to hire Seixas to teach for a mere 7-week course. Something doesn’t add up…
Want my opinion? And that’s what this is, just an opinion, which is why you come to this show to learn Mormon history, to hear my wacky take on well documented history that’s been deconstructed dozens of times in hundreds of books so far. Well, this is my naked opinion, so take that for what it’s worth. I think Joe loved to be in the spotlight, I would recount the evidence that I’m using to make that claim, but it would require 34 episodes to do it, but suffice it to say, Joe like to be the center of attention. One way he did this was to claim knowledge that nobody could possibly have unless they were an enlightened prophet of God, which Joe claimed to be from very early in the church. Anytime that he wasn’t in the spotlight, or coming up with something new, his parish was in danger and he could be unseated as president at any time.
That’s the problem with charismatic leaders, the lack of sustainability. Joe was charismatic, and therefore a magnetic personality to the members of his church. They loved his charisma, but as soon as somebody came along with more charisma, Joe was old news. Joe had to keep setting the bar higher and higher with his divinity and charisma to keep people interested and not flocking to the next guy that came along with some kind of fuckin Rainbow chopstick unicorn Jesus that was unique and enticing. Joe always had to outdo the next guy’s church to keep his attendance up.
Well, a mere 6 months before this Hebrew school was established, Joe had purchased the Papyri from Michael Chandler, loosely promising the members that he would have a translation out soon. Up to January 1836, Joe had made absolutely no progress on this translation, with the exception of claiming they were written by Joseph of Egypt and Father Abraham; and this is where my naked opinion comes in. I think Joe was stuck. He had no way of deciphering the hieroglyphs, except for with the seer stone, which had provided mixed results before now. The convenient thing with the Book of Mormon and the gold plates is, the plates were gone. Nobody could examine them and fact check Joe. As far as the Doctrine and Covenants go, those were a collection of revelations that were given through Joe’s mind, dictated to a scribe, so there was no fact checking with those either. But with the Papyri, there was simply no way of getting around the fact that the Papyri were real, and had a real translation that Joe NEVER would have been able to provide.
There must have been people, even six months after the Papyri came into the possession of the church, that were asking Joe daily or weekly what the Papyri said. Whether they were asking credulously, like “Joseph, tell us what is on the Papyri. What message does god want us to know from the book of Abraham?” as well as people asking incredulously, like “So Joe, tell us, what’s on that ol’ Egyptian Papyri you bought for a shitload of money 6 months ago. What does ABRAHAM want to tell us?”. You see the corner Joe had painted himself into?
My honest opinion, and remember, take that for what it’s worth, because that and 5 bucks will buy you a latte at Starbucks, but my honest opinion is that Joe was getting desperate. He didn’t know what the fuck was on the Papyri, they were just full of symbols and shapes, with half-torn pictures and whatnot. He had already told some people that written on the Papyri were the writings of father Abraham, the Hebrew prophet of old, so why wouldn’t the Papyri of the Book of Abraham be written in Hebrew? Maybe, just maybe, Joe was trying to learn Hebrew to correctly translate the Papyri for fear of fact checkers. Joe didn’t have any idea that his reign would be cut short a mere 8 years after this time in the Carthage shootout, he obviously had some grand plans in the making that would take him into his late years as an insane, white-bearded, staff-carrying prophet of old that he must have had such a grand image of in his mind. If somebody came along in Joe’s 60’s while he was still prophet and proved him false by translating the actual Papyri, that may create a problem. Of course, after his death it doesn’t seem to be that much of a problem for most believing members, but during his lifetime, it may have hurt his membership numbers.
I was talking to my friend Jared a couple of days ago and he recommended I watch a movie called Kumaré. He sent over a link with it, and I have to say, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. If any of you astute listeners watch Vice on HBO, you’ll hopefully recognize the name Vickram Ghandi; he’s one of the reporters on Vice, and quite a fascinating person. Basically, what Vickram does is set apart a year of his life to be followed around by a camera crew, masquerading as a Guru named Sri Kumaré. He’s completely American, born in Boston I believe, but he introduces the film with the line of, “I’m going to share with you the greatest lie I ever told, and the greatest truth I ever learned.” For the entire hour and 10 minutes of the movie, you follow him around as he pretends to be a Hindu Guru holding great wisdom. He makes up chants, and bullshit yoga moves, and slowly builds a following. You get to see clips of his followers saying, he’s so enlightened, there’s nothing fake about him, I’ve never felt so connected to anyone else in my life, and on and on and on it goes. He even meets with other self-claimed Gurus and speaks with them about how they became enlightened, and he realized they were just as full of shit as he was. Fast-forward to the end of the movie, and this is a spoiler alert, so if you don’t want to hear about the end skip ahead a minute or two because it’s pertinent to the discussion. By the end of it, Kumaré tells his parishioners that the next day is the great unveiling, where he’s going to reveal his true identity as a guy that just grew out his hair and beard, dressed up in Indian garb, and took on a strong Indian accent, and when it came to that day… he couldn’t do it. It shows him wrestling with telling these people the truth, even though it’s been his intention the entire time. The way I’m portraying it here may sound malicious, but he did it really well, and by the end I was a bit misty from how well he did the reveal, and how amazing the documentary is. But why this is relevant is to point out how much he struggled with telling his parishioners the truth, that he was just a big phony. You get to see his relationship with each person develop as the documentary unfolds, and the inner struggle he had with telling these people it was all a lie was simply heart-wrenching. He had started the documentary with the intention of revealing his identity after a year, but it was so hard for him to do.
I think the same thing happened with Joe, only he never had the intention of telling a soul that he was just fibbing from the beginning. If it was hard for Vickram to tell his parishioners he was lying to them after just one year, how hard would it have been for Joe to come clean and just walk away? The Papyri put Joe in a precarious situation, and I honestly think that Joe was on the defensive here. I wonder if it was his idea to establish the school as a cover for his own ignorance, so nobody would find out the truth, that he was lying all along. This is a passage out of the History of the Church again, and I think it may capture Joe’s apprehension to “translate” the Papyri.
“Thursday December 31 -- In the afternoon I attended at the chapel to give directions concerning the upper rooms, and more especially the west room, which I intend occupying for a translating room, which will be prepared this week. The public mind has been excited as of late, by reports which have been circulated concerning certain Egyptian mummies and ancient records, which were purchased by certain gentlemen of Kirtland, last July. It has been said that the purchasers of these antiquities pretend they have the bodies of Abraham, Abimelech, (the king of the Philistines,) Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, &c., &c., for the purpose of attracting the attention of the multitude and gulling the unwary; which is utterly false. Who these ancient inhabitants of Egypt were, I do not at present say.” … Then he goes on to detail where those bodies actually are, which he probably learned from Joshua Seixas, but finishes up the passage with a bit more telling information. “The record of Abraham and Joseph, found with the mummies, is beautifully written on papyrus, with black, and a small part red, ink or paint, in perfect preservation. The characters are such as you find upon the coffins of mummies—hieroglyphics, etc.; with many characters of letters like the present (although probably not quite so square) form of the Hebrew without points. . . Thus I have given a brief history of the manner in which the writings of the fathers, Abraham and Joseph, have been preserved, and how I came in possession of the same—a correct translation of which I shall give in its proper place.”
That was a passage less than one week before Seixas was hired to instruct Joe and 40 others in reading and writing ancient Hebrew. My naked opinion on the matter, Joe started up the Hebrew school, at great expense to the church, which it didn’t have the money to cover at the time, just to cover his own ass, and try to come up with a legit translation of the Papyri. Imagine his frustration when he compared a Hebrew alphabet to the Papyri and realized they looked nothing alike, meaning he had gone through all the work of learning Hebrew for nothing. Like I said, that’s my opinion, and it’s an assertion of a person’s motives given the historical facts, which is something we can’t put a lot of weight behind, but it sure makes sense to me.
Moving right along, another thing that happened in January of 1836 was some dissent, this time by one of Joe’s own family members. Any listeners that have siblings will hopefully empathize with this, but Joe and William Smith had a bit of a rocky relationship. For our purposes, William Smith, Joe’s younger brother will be given the NaMo nickname of Crazy Willey, and you’re just about to find out why. In October of 1835, they had a fight that nearly ended in fisticuffs. Well, on December 16th 1835, Joe and Crazy Willey got into it again. Let’s just be clear here, Crazy Willey was one of the quorum of the twelve, a definite leader in the church, but he didn’t get to that position without a little opposition. When the quorum of the twelve was organized in February of 1835, the three witnesses nominated Phineas Young, Bloody Brigham’s older brother, to be a member of the quorum of the twelve. Joe didn’t agree and called his brother, Crazy Willey, to be in the quorum, in lieu of Phineas Young, much to the dismay of the three witnesses. I think the other members of the quorum had seen how Joe and Crazy Willey acted toward each other, Crazy Willey being Joe’s younger brother, and they didn’t want the sibling tension to get in the way of more important matters. Well, on December 16th, 1835, Crazy Willey and Joe got into it, and I’ll let Joe tell his side from the History of the Church.
“This evening, according to adjournment, I went to Brother William Smith’s to take part in the debate that was commenced Saturday evening last. After the debate was concluded, and a decision given in favor of the affirmative of the question, some altercation took place upon the propriety of continuing the debate fearing that it would not result in good. Brother William Smith opposed these measures, and insisted on having another question proposed, and at length became much enraged, particularly at me, and used violence upon my person, and also upon Elder Jared Carter, and some others, for which I am grieved beyond measure, and can only pray God to forgive him, inasmuch as he repents of his wickedness, and humbles himself before the Lord.”
It’s even been claimed that the physical damage Crazy Willey inflicted on Joe that day was enough that Joe suffered from the effects until the day he died. The next day in the History of the Church starts out with “At home, quite unwell.” So Crazy Willey really tuned Joe up from what I can tell here. It wasn’t until the 29th of December, 2 weeks later, that Joe finally brought up formal charges against Crazy Willey which are as follows.
“To the Honorable Presidency of the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints, against Elder William Smith:
1st: Unchristianlike conduct in speaking disrespectfully of President Joseph Smith, Jun., and the revelations and commandments given through him.
2nd: For attempting to inflict personal violence on President Joseph Smith, Jun.”
What a little bitch, right? Joe got the shit kicked out of him by his little brother and filed a complaint to the church leaders about him two weeks later? He can’t deal with his lil’ bro beating him up like a big bro should? Joe had to run to his friends and bitch about the fight? This little “altercation” led to Crazy Willey being disfellowshipped from the church, imagine that. This seems like a recurring theme, anytime somebody pissed off Joe, he would file a complaint with the church, and the leaders would always side with him, and of course, the person that harmed Joe in some way would suffer the repercussions until they repented and turned from their ways. Well, that’s not exactly what happened here, because Crazy Willey was disfellowshipped from the church after beating the living shit out of Joe, and it turned into a reconciliation meeting later. This is from Jan 2 1836 in the history of the church.
“Brothers William and Hyrum, and Uncle John Smith, came to my house, and we went into a room by ourselves, in company with father and Elder Martin Harris. Father Smith then opened our interview by prayer, after which he expressed himself on the occasion in a very feeling and pathetic manner, even with all the sympathy of a father, whose feelings were deeply wounded on account of the difficulty that was existing in the family; and while he addressed us, the Spirit of God rested down upon us in mighty power, and our hearts were melted. Brother William made a humble confession and asked my forgiveness for the abuse he had offered me. And wherein I had been out of the way, I asked his forgiveness. And the spirit of confession and forgiveness was mutual among us all,”
You may be asking why any of this is relevant. Well, I think there are two reasons, the first of which is humanization. Every other time Joe got in a fight with somebody, somebody that wasn’t his family member, things were always resolved at the ecclesiastical level. They were punished by the church for their sins, and forced to sign a confession. With Sylvester Smith after Zion’s camp, once the disciplinary council was held, Sylvester fell back into line and continued to follow Joe. With Doctor Philastus Hurlbut, the disciplinary council didn’t work, and he went on a smear campaign against Joe and the church; but this was a family incident. Joe couldn’t just punish Crazy Willey like he did the rest of the dissenters and expect it to stick. Crazy Willey didn’t see Joe as the one true ordained prophet of god so much as he saw Joe as his asshole older brother with whom he constantly fought.
Doesn’t this humanize the Smith family relations, and specifically Joe a little bit more? We have a rather grandiose view of Alvin before he died, and we know that Hyrum and Joe saw eye to eye on basically everything, meaning their relationship was fairly stable, but as soon as we get to Joe’s younger brothers like Crazy Willey and Samuel, we can see that harmony begin to breakdown. It kinda portrays Joe as just a regular dude with regular family problems in a way we haven’t really seen up to this point, doesn’t it? The more I learn about Joe, the more I become fascinated with the real person behind the historical portrayals that may or may not be accurate. This stuff just blows my fuckin mind.
But there’s also another reason this whole brotherly spat is significant, and that reason is Bloody Mutha-fuckin Brigham Young. Earlier I told you lovely listeners that the three witnesses had nominated Phineas Young to be a member of the quorum of the twelve, but that nomination was turned over by Joe, and Crazy Willey was put in Phineas’ place in the quorum of the twelve. Well, Bloody Brigham wasn’t happy about this, and this forever shitstained their relationship in the quorum. I don’t think Bloody Brigham liked Crazy Willey at all, and I don’t blame him. Brigham was Joe’s friend, and Crazy Willey was the dickbag loose cannon younger brother that was always fighting with Joe. Imagine how much that damaged the already rocky relationships in the quorum. Add in the fact that, if Phineas Young were in the quorum with Bloody Brigham, that could really help in influencing church policies in a way that Brigham saw fit. It would have been much more advantageous to Brigham if Phineas would have been in the quorum the whole time, but instead, it was this monumental fuckwit, Crazy Willey, Joe’s unhinged younger brother, sitting in Phineas’ spot.
The feud between Bloody Brigham and Crazy Willey will become a major problem during the succession crisis after Joe and Hyrum’s deaths in Carthage. Crazy Willey was the rightful successor to become Patriarch over the church in Hyrum’s place, but Bloody Brigham released a statement in a church newspaper that said Crazy Willey was a Patriarch to the church, as opposed the patriarch over the church; very subtle differences that stripped power away from Crazy Willey. Brigham really didn’t like Crazy Willey, and he was the last Smith that was really a problem during the succession crisis in 1844; he was one of the last Smith men alive that had any claim to power. Of the Smith men, BDC had died in 1840, Alvin had died before the church even started, Hyrum and Joe died at the same time in Carthage, Samuel was possibly poisoned to death leading up the Brigham taking over, and Don Carlos had died in 1841, 3 years before Joe and Hyrum. There’s almost no writing about Ephraim Smith, in church history books and otherwise, so he wasn’t very important to the overall timeline, so Crazy Willey Smith was the last surviving male Smith that posed an existential threat to Bloody Brigham’s rule. He was the final Smith man that held any sort of lineal claim to the throne and he couldn’t just go missing, or die mysteriously like Samuel Smith had only a month after Joe and Hyrum, so Crazy Willey was one very important piece of the puzzle, and why it’s important to focus on him during this time in church history. His story helps to humanize Joe and the Smith family, and he would be a thorn in Bloody Brigham’s side for years to come. He would even accuse Brigham Young and Willard Richards of killing Samuel Smith in 1892, a year before his own death. Some dramatic shit is really starting to happen in church politics by this time in 1836.
Hopefully that gives enough of a background on Crazy Willey and justifies his NaMo nickname, because he’s a fairly important person in our timeline. So let’s move on from Crazy Willey and Joe’s little quarrels here and advance the timeline.
One quick thing to throw in to the timeline here, Lilburn W. Boggs began his term as Governor of Missouri in 1836, which is important, because he would be the primary civil agent dealing with the tensions that were slowly building between the Missourians and the Mormons living in Missouri until he signed the Mormon extermination order in October of 1838. Just keep in mind, January of 1836 is when he assumed his office as Governor.
Moving on in our timeline, on March 27th the Kirtland temple was dedicated, and you can listen to Episode 34 for the entirety of that batshit hallucinogen induced insanity. Everything was going along peachy fuckin dandy for a little while, the Hebrew school was open and Joshua Seixas was instructing Joe and 39 others on ancient Hebrew, the leadership was back into order after Joe and Crazy Willey reconciled their differences, the temple was finally done and dedicated; things were going along fine. On March 29th, the last day of Hebrew school was held, and Joshua Seixas left, having completed his contract for $320.
After that, on April 9th, Joe published an article in the Messenger and Advocate, which was a letter to the editor in chief, our buddy Ollie Cowdery. I’ll read a couple of excerpts from it and see if we can understand Joe’s view on something very controversial for his time. Just for some context, this letter was written to discuss a man that had come to Kirtland preaching abolition of slavery, and this was Joe’s way of taking an official church stance on the issue. It’s recounted in the History of the Church vols. 2 pp 436-439, but I took it from the actual April 1836 issue of the Messenger and Advocate hosted on centerplace.org. Turns out this article was front page news for the April issue, and there will be a link to it in the show notes.
“This place 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 the Southern public, relative to the views and sentiments I entertain, as an individual, and which I am able to say from personal knowledge are the sentiments of others, you are at liberty to give them publicity in the columns of the Advocate. . .”
There is more to read, but this was Joe’s PR friendly reply to this man that was preaching abolitionism in Kirtland. Joe didn’t want to take a hard stance on it because the members in Southern states would lose their minds and leave the church, and the Northern members would see it as their duty to preach Abolitionism to the Missourians, which was already a bit of a sore spot that had incited mob violence up to this point multiple times. Abolitionism was the gay marriage of the 1830’s, to put it into context, only a little more meaningful because it dealt with OWNING PEOPLE AS PROPERTY!!!!
“I am happy to say that no violence, or breach of the public peace, was attempted: so far from all this, 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 Gospel, complain 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.”
Joe knew the ramifications of taking a hard stance for or against slavery; it was a very polarizing political issue, so he took the safe option and punted down the middle. The next passage brings it all together in a very sensible way, but still misses the point of good morality and the proper answer to the question of “SHOULD PEOPLE OWN OTHER PEOPLE AS PROPERTY?!”
“No one will pretend to say that the people of the free states are as capable of knowing the evils of slavery, as those who hold slaves. If slavery be an evil, who could we expect would first learn it: Would the people of the free states, or the people of the slave states? All must readily admit, that the latter would first learn this fact. If the fact were learned first by those immediately concerned, who would be more capable than they of prescribing a remedy? And besides, are not those who hold slaves, persons of ability, discernment and candor? Do they not expect to give an account at the bar of God for their conduct in this life? It may no doubt with propriety be said that many who hold slaves live without the fear of God before their eyes; but the same may be said of many in the free states. Then who is to be the judge in this matter? So long, then, as the people of the free states, are not interested in the freedom of the slaves, in any other way than upon the mere abstract principles of equal rights, and of the Gospel; and are ready to admit that there are men of piety, who reside in the South, who are immediately concerned, and until they complain and call for assistance, why not cease this clamor, and no further urge the slave to acts of murder, and the master to vigorous discipline, rendering both miserable, and unprepared to pursue that course which might otherwise lead them both to better their conditions? 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.”
You see what I mean? Joe was so close to making a solid moral point, but instead punted to saying everybody should just be nice and not tell each other what to do, wrapping it up in a State’s rights issue. He could have taken a hard stance and been on the right side of history with decrying slavery and calling it an abomination, forcing Mormonism into the small realm of very progressive churches in that time, but no, he decided to take the soft approach and not offend anyone with saying that people should just leave each other alone. My point is, if Joe were divinely inspired by God, how could God not see 30 years into the future to the civil war and know this would be a sticking point. Why wouldn’t God reveal abolitionism to Joe and put the church on the right side of history? God condones slavery and even proscribes finer points of how slavery should be carried out, so Yaweh missed the mark with the Bible, but He could take this opportunity with Joe to correct his previously immoral doctrines on slavery.
I suppose the argument could be made that if Joe would have released an actual doctrine or revelation against slavery, then persecution would have ramped up, and there would be a lot more Mormon bodies littering the streets of Missouri, but in the grand scheme of things, many people died for their faith in this church. Just last week in my discussion with Trent, we talked about how many hundreds of people died in the Martin Handcart company for their beliefs, and I bet that God would be willing to accept their souls into the celestial kingdom if they were shot for embracing abolitionism. My overall point is, it’s an absolute moral truth that it is never a good thing to own another person as property. Slavery is always wrong, as is killing, and I’m willing to debate and defend those moral imperatives. But the almighty Elohim of Kolob was unable to convey these simple moral truths to his one true prophet during one of the most controversial times in American history. Joe simply missed the mark on this one, and it was so clearly a bullshit political tactic to keep his church relevant, and keep the Missourian parishioners safe.
Where I take issue is the fact that moral imperatives simply aren’t subject to controversial politics, and that’s the point I’m trying to make. By definition, a moral absolute, like owning people as property is always immoral, doesn’t care what people think about it. Moral absolutes don’t care if they are unpopular, because they are absolute. It doesn’t matter if you’re a democrat or a whig, owning people as property and killing one another are always morally wrong. Nice try Joe, but you fucked this one up.
I have to take issue with the next paragraph in the same article that Joe wrote in the Messenger and Advocate. This is the in the History of the Church, and it’s very important to understand where this came from. Joe was trying to clarify the church’s position on slavery in the most PR bullshit friendly way, and then he goes on to say this.
“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.”
That’s his way of saying, I know some of you are going to bitch at me for not calling slavery immoral or a teaching of the Gospel of Christ, but…. And this is Joe’s way of saying “but”
“It is my privilege then to name certain passages from the Bible, and examine the teachings of the ancients upon the matter as the fact is uncontrovertible that the first mention we have of slavery is found in the Holy Bible, pronounced by a man who was perfect in his generation, and walked with God.”
And here we have a prophet of god about to use the bible to justify something that is innately and wholly immoral.
“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. “And he said, cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant” (Gen 9:25-26)”
Joe was a machine when it came to revelation that superseded or altered the Bible, and yet, the bible is his justification for not coming up with a revelation that condemns slavery?
“Trace the history of the world from this notable event down to this day, and you will find the fulfillment of this singular prophecy. What could have been the design of the Almighty in this singular occurrence is not for me to say; but 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 council.”
Does anybody else see the issue that I’m having with Joe here? Joe was capable of speaking for God and repealing every commandment in the Bible that justifies slavery, and he didn’t. This was during a time that a church could do such a political stunt and still survive, and possibly gain more membership from Northerners for being so progressive, but Joe still didn’t do it. Joe could have made one moral decree in his lifetime that’s more important than how many women you can fuck and still say you’re married, or how tobacco should be used, or what kind of underwear is bulletproof. Joe could have denounced every action of slavery, and disparage every person who would even think about owning a person as physical property, but he didn’t. Joe could have been a beacon of progressive equalism and overall egalitarianism for all people, regardless of color, but he just used the Bible to justify slavery just as every Christian slave owner had done for centuries before. He even said that until the curse is lifted by the same power that put the curse on their skin, meaning until all black people are righteous enough to turn into white people, the curse will never be lifted, and he, as a prophet of God, doesn’t know why that is. Lately I’ve come to respect Joe in a lot of ways, if nothing else, for his ability to do whatever the fuck he wanted without ever losing one ounce of his charisma, but this justification of Slavery, from Joe’s authoritative position as prophet and president of the church, is deplorable and makes me lose a lot of respect for the historical Joe.
Up until this point I’ve even read a couple of statements that he published both in 1835, and during his 1844 bid for president of the U.S., and he seemed quite progressive in simply saying that the South should be able to own slaves and the North shouldn’t be able to tell them they can’t, it was just a state’s rights issue, but he never went on to further establish and defend the South’s position; he always just left it as a state’s rights issue. He could have done the same here, and it wouldn’t be so offensive to look back on, but instead, Joe said the South should be able to treat human beings as livestock like a fucking sheepdog because the Bible and God say they can.
He goes on to further deal with the apologetic that some others use to say they were just indentured servants in the bible with the story about the slave being locked in servitude for 7 years, and the owner driving an awl through his ear to claim ownership forever. Joe claims that they must be slaves because their servitude isn’t up to the free will of the servant, they are stuck in slavery until released by their masters. The article doesn’t go on to recite Exodus 21:20-21, which is as follows, but it probably should have.
“Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.” (the kjv says “money” right there)
I’m surprised that Joe didn’t simply continue on justifying the beating of slaves right along with the ownership because of the Bible, but it would still be considered moral if we’re using Joe’s morality measuring stick here, right? Joe used the Bible to explain God’s will about slave ownership, so why wouldn’t the next book after Genesis be just as relevant when it says you can beat slaves nearly to death, but if they get back up in a couple of days, the owner won’t be punished because they were just beating the fuck out of their PROPERTY! Yup, really lost a bit of respect for Joe there. He didn’t take a golden opportunity to call slavery evil, and instead explained why it’s moral to OWN PEOPLE AS PROPERTY!, and his answer is the Bible, just like the argument against gay marriage today, fuck you Joe and anybody else who uses the Bible as their defense to do something immoral to somebody else.
You have to take a step back and wonder why he did that. I think the answer is hidden in the first few lines of the article. “I am happy to say that no violence, or breach of the public peace, was attempted: so far from all this, all, except a very few, attended to their own vocations, and left the gentleman to hold forth his own arguments to nearly naked walls.”
Does that help to explain anything? Was Joe afraid that the walls of his brand new temple would become naked if he started preaching abolitionism just like that random guy that came in to Kirtland and did the same thing? This is the same goddamn thing that keeps today’s LDS church from embracing any LGBTQ members, and giving women the priesthood. If they change their stance on something controversial, they will lose membership, which takes money out of the pockets of the leadership. Today’s LDS church does it to protect their precious $7bn/year tax-free income, but Joe didn’t have the luxury of massively positive cash flow. The church was already wallowing in debt. This was made exponentially worse by the construction of the Kirtland Temple, which cost anywhere from $30-40,000 to construct, putting the church in debt of $800,000-$1.1mn of today’s money. Joe couldn’t take a hard stance against slavery because his church would buckle at the seams and hemorrhage cash and parishioners. The pews would dry up, the money river that was flowing in by this point would slow to a trickle at a desperate time, and the mountain of bullshit that Joe had heaped onto the situation would collapse in the biggest shitslide Joe had ever seen. But, he didn’t. He didn’t say anything that would offend Northerners, Southerners, slave owners or abolitionists; he just punted and did the PR friendly thing, so the church just kept on treading water while the shit-sharks circled in tighter and tighter formations.
Speaking of the endless money problems Joe and friends had, they were desperate for a way to ameliorate this hemorrhaging of cash to keep the church afloat. As they were edging ever closer to bankruptcy, it posed a truly existential threat to the church. You can’t run a church without any money, and when that church has an overall debt gap of over $1mn of today’s currency, with no way of bouncing back, we’re really looking at some serious problems.
Joe and company were looking for nearly any means to get that debt paid down just a little bit, or maybe get a little more spending cash without being swallowed further into debt. What they do to help with the money problem is fucking pathetic, so to introduce our next point in the timeline, I’m going to read from the autobiography of Ebenezer Robinson, which is hosted by BOAP out of BYU, and will be linked in the show notes.
“A brother in the Church, by the name of Burgess, had come to Kirtland and stated that a large amount of money had been secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem, Massachusetts, which had belonged to a widow, and he thought he was the only person now living who had knowledge of it, or to the location of the house. We saw the brother, Burgess, but Don Carlos Smith told us with regard to the hidden treasure. His statement was credited by the Brethren, and steps were taken to try and secure the treasure, of which we will speak more fully in another place.”
Yes, Joe’s youngest brother, Don Carlos Smith, told the leadership that some guy named Burgess told him there was money hidden away in a widow’s home in Massachusetts, and that was enough to get Joe and company on the road again, and on July 25th, that’s exactly what they did; they went to Massachusetts to go digging for money, just like old times. You thought Joe’s days of digging for hidden treasure were over, well so did I until I saw this in the timeline, and what happens next is fucking priceless, and such a great analog of everything Joe ever tried to do when chasing the fast money. This is further on in the same autobiography of Ebenezer Robinson.
“We soon learned that four of the leading men of the Church had been to Salem, Massachusetts, in search of the hidden treasure spoken of by Brother Burgess, viz: Joseph Smith, Jr., Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery. They left home on the 25th of July, and returned in September. They were at Salem, when we had that vision of the woman full of sores, on the evening of the 12th of August, at my brother Joseph's.
Joseph Smith, Jr., in his history, as published in the 15th volume of the Millennial Star, pages 821, and 822, says:
"On Monday afternoon, July 25th, in company with Sidney Rigdon, Brother Hyrum Smith, and Oliver Cowdery, I left Kirtland and at seven o'clock the same evening, we took passage on board the steamer Charles Townsend, S. Fox, master, at Fairport, and the next evening, about ten o'clock, we arrived at Buffalo, New York, and took lodgings at the `Farmer's Hotel.'
From New York we continued our journey to Providence, on board a steamer; from thence to Boston, by steam cars, and arrived at Salem, Massachusetts, early in August, where we hired a house, and occupied the same during the month, teaching the people from house to house, and preaching publicly, as opportunity presented: visiting, occasionally, sections of the surrounding country, which are rich in the history of the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, in Indian warfare, religious superstition, bigotry, persecution, and learned ignorance.
I received the following--
Revelation, given at Salem, Massachusetts, August 6th, 1836.
I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey; notwithstanding your follies; I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion; and many people in this city whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality! therefore it is expedient that you should form acquaintance with men in this city, as you shall be led, and as it shall be given you; and it shall come to pass in due time, that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours. Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them. Concern not yourselves about Zion, for I will deal mercifully with her. Tarry in this place, and in the regions round about; and the place where it is my will that you should tarry, for the main, shall be signalized unto you by the peace and power of my Spirit, that shall flow unto you. This place you may obtain by hire, etc. And inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants and founders of this city: for there are more treasures than one for you in this city; therefore be ye as wise as serpents and yet without sin, and I will order all things for your good, as fast as ye are able to receive them. Amen.
Thus I continued in Salem and vicinity until I returned to Kirtland, sometime in the month of September."
We were informed that Brother Burgess met them in Salem [Massachusetts], evidently according to appointment, but time had wrought such a change that he could not for a certainty point out the house, and soon left. They however, found a house which they felt was the right one, and hired it. It is needless to say they failed to find that treasure, or the other gold and silver spoken of in the revelation.
We speak of these things with regret, but inasmuch as they occurred we feel it our duty to relate them, as also some of those things which transpired under our personal observation, soon after.
Failing to secure the Salem [Massachusetts] treasure, and no demand for city lots, with their debts pressing heavily upon them, it evidently seemed necessary that some ways and means should be devised to extricate themselves from their present embarrassments. To this end a banking institution was organized, called the "Kirtland Safety Society," as we see by the following quotation from the history of Joseph Smith, Jr., as published on the 823rd page of the Millennial Star.
"On the 2nd of November the brethren at Kirtland drew up certain articles of agreement, preparatory to the organization of a banking institution, to be called the `Kirtland Safety Society.”
And you thought Joe’s treasure hunting days were over…. I checked all over the Mormon apologist websites including FAIR, BYU.edu and history.lds.org, and all of them wrestle with this trip to Massachusetts and the subsequent revelation. Check the show notes for a few of the articles I found that discuss this trip. They do say that Joe was able to spend a month there, and while not finding the treasure promised by Burgess, was able to attain treasures of knowledge, like his family lineage. Apparently Joe and friends were able to go to some museums and graveyards where Joe could learn about his family line, but this is the best scenario that any apologist can twist this into a successful mission with. Apparently they did convert a family or two to the faith, and I suppose that could be deemed a success by any believer, but it wholly ignores the reason they went to Salem in the first place. Let’s review the facts.
Joe and friends heard about a buried treasure near an old widow’s home in Salem through Joe’s youngest brother, Don Carlos, who learned about it from a guy named Burgess. With the church in the financial state it was in, and the Missourian Mormons basically squatting on their land, it seemed like a good idea to go treasure hunting, just like ol’ times, so they packed their bags and took a steamer to Boston, with the promise they would meet this Burgess guy when they got to Salem.
They arrived in Salem and apparently met up with Burgess, but for some reason, he just couldn’t remember the right house the treasure was buried near. Joe and company were disheartened, but hired a nearby house anyway, and proceeded to live there for a month looking for treasure, working, and sight-seeing until they had enough money to make the voyage back to Kirtland.
So let me get this straight. Burgess was basically hired by Joe with church funds to help them find buried treasure. Joe and friends made the trip, went digging around without finding a single shekel, while spending a fair amount of money to live in Salem for a month. They were taken away from their regular jobs and families and spent money they didn’t have, all in an effort to find buried treasure, and Burgess may have even lived on Joe’s dollar for a short amount of time. When all was said and done, Joe came up with a revelation from god saying he wasn’t angry at them for attempting to find the buried treasure, but that there are other treasures in Salem.
How fucking serendipitous is this?! Did I fall asleep and wake up in a dreamland where Joe finally gets his? Did I take a shitload of acid before researching this and just hallucinate Robinson’s autobiography into the script? I mean, this is fucking brilliant. Whoever this Burgess guy was, total fuckin props to you bro. Merely ten years after Joe was hauled in to court for telling Bossman Josiah Stowell he knew where hidden buried treasure was, intel which Bossman Joe financed a treasure digging expedition based on, only to come back empty-handed; this guy Burgess did the same goddamn thing to Joe. How beautiful is that?! Oh how the tables have turned in such a beautifully ironic way.
The best part about it is how much it confuses Mormon historians today. Nobody knows why they believed Burgess, nor who he was, nor where he came from, he’s just some random dude that came along and was able to convince Joe’s little brother that he knew where to find BURIED TREASURE! Believing historians used to claim that the trip didn’t even happen because it was so embarrassing, and ironic considering Joe’s past, but they have this revelation that was canonized in the 1876 edition of the D&C as section 111, as well as a letter written to Emma by Joe while he was in Salem. This letter seems to dispel any apologetics used to defend the point of the trip. Some may claim that they were there to research Joe’s genealogy, or that they needed to convert people in Salem, both acceptable defenses, but this letter eradicates both defenses entirely. There will be a link to it in the show notes on Joseph Smith Papers.org where you can see the actual letter in Joe’s own handwriting.
“Salem, Mss., August 19th, 1836.
My beloved wife
Brother Hyram [Hyrum Smith] is about ~~to start for home~~ to start for home before the rest of us, which seems wisdom in God, as our buisness here cannot be determined as soon as we could wish to <have it>, I thaught a line from me by him would ~~not~~ be acceptible to you, even if it did not contain but little, that you may know that you and the children are much on my mind, with regard to the graat[great] object of our mishion you will be anxtiou [anxious] to know, we have found the house since Brother Burjece [Burgess] left us, very luck ily and providentialy, as we had one spell been most discouraged, but the house is ocupied and it will require much care and patience to rent or b[u]y it, we think we shall be able to effect it if not now within the course of a few months, we think we shall be at home about the midle of septtember, I can think of many things concerning our busi ness but can only pray that you may have wisdom to manage the concerns that invol ve on you and want you should believe me that I am your sincere friend and husband in hast yours &c—
Joseph Smith Jr”
If the point of the mission to Salem was to learn about Joe’s heritage, or convert people to the church, why weren’t either of those mentioned in the letter to Emma? Let’s ask the flipside of that question, why is it that the only thing that WAS mentioned concerning the trip, talks about Burgess, the house, and the treasure buried near the house, which also details Joe’s plan to get ahold of the house? Joe had one objective in this mission, to find and basically steal the treasure that Burgess claimed to be buried in the ground near a house, and the treasure wasn’t there, or they were unable to get it if it was. Burgess just left, probably after having been roomed and boarded by Joe for a few days. This trip was a waste of time, and Burgess swindled Joe into looking for buried treasure they could steal from some old widow in Salem, just as Joe had done to countless others before this time in his history.
Let’s just talk about this thing as a whole for a minute. At the end of the quote from Ebenezer Robinson’s autobiography, it spoke briefly about how much debt weighed on the church, and said in the final line that the “Kirtland Safety Society” would be organized in November of 1836. We’ll be getting to that very soon, as well as its collapse and reincorporation and the subsequent collapse of the rebranded Kirtland Safety Society; that will all be discussed in later episodes. What is important to focus on is the fuck-bucket of shit syrup Joe had made for the leadership to writhe in.
The church was in such bad shape from poor management that Joe was willing to go digging for treasure to try and relieve a little bit of pressure from the debt. The way I picture it, so take this for what it’s worth, just my wacky naked opinion on the matter, but the way I picture it, Joe was one of those people that if he won the lottery, he would go broke in a matter of months. The guy couldn’t handle money, a point which seems abundantly obvious by now. He was acting like he had won the lotto with the way he was spending money, but the income of the church simply couldn’t match his reckless spending. I think Joe was a very impulsive person. You don’t get in the situations Joe got into without being driven by an impulsive fuck-it kind of attitude.
Even though he was impulsive and reckless with money, and revelations, and authority claims, and just about anything he did, Joe was no moron. Joe was smart, and just calculating enough that he could understand the negative ramifications of his actions, even if he still did said actions. Let’s go back to an example earlier in the episode.
There was a guy who came preaching abolitionism in Kirtland, and Joe reported in his front-page Messenger and Advocate article that the man was preaching to nearly naked walls by the end. Joe saw what happened when this guy was preaching something unpopular, the people left. Joe’s church needed more parishioners, preferably with deep fuckin pockets, not less of them; and if he took a stance against slavery, the walls of the newly dedicated Kirtland Temple may become naked as well. People might have left. Pro-slavery advocates may have gone on smear campaigns against Joe’s church, just like they were of other progressive abolitionist churches all throughout the northern states. Joe’s numbers would suffer if he made this policy change, and his church simply couldn’t survive an exodus of members like that. The walls of Joe’s church would simply collapse on top of him.
Joe couldn’t take the moral position when it came to abolitionism because it would threaten the existence of his church. Punch me if I’m wrong here, but didn’t the Jesus of the bible decry organized religion and religious leaders, and try to advocate for the poor and maligned of society? Whether or not Jesus was a real person doesn’t matter here, but according to the gospels, Jesus hated the Sadduccees, Pharisees, and any other religious leaders in all of Palestine, he spent most of his time hanging out with the poor, maimed, and downtrodden of society. Say what you want about Jesus, but those were moral actions that we can all agree on. The people in our society that need the most help are the ones who have been treated the most wrong.
In Joe’s time, slavery was a hot-button issue, and slaves were the maligned people of his society. Pro-slavery advocates rioted against abolitionists constantly until it led to an actual civil war. The country nearly ripped itself apart when the issue of black people’s rights came into the spotlight. We’re still dealing with the repercussions of it today, 150 years after the civil war. There are probably still people today who would claim that blacks never should have been freed, and the North never actually won the civil war. That’s how deep our powers of pointing the finger are within human nature. We have an amazing ability to put ourselves into little boxes and say my box is better than your box, simply because I say it is. Humans have the power to dehumanize a subsect of the population with stunning ignorance to the reality of what they’re doing. It’s an innate feature of the human experience, to label ourselves, and put ourselves in these little boxes, and just because somebody looks or smells different, they’re in another box with another label, and therefore deserve to be mistreated.
I’m about to weigh in on something that is the abolitionist topic of today. I’m sure everybody that listens to other podcasts, or watches the news has heard people weigh in on the Orlando mass shooting, and I’ll tell you right off the bat that I won’t be able to offer anything that more educated and informed people haven’t already said about the topic. If you don’t want to hear about it, or my take on the situation, skip to the 10 second music bumper and be sure to listen to the C segment of the show, but for everybody else that sticks around, I want to talk about the Orlando shooting.
People who are caught up will probably know what I’m talking about, but for anybody listening in the backlogs, a couple of weeks ago, a man named Omar Mateen strolled into the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, at 2 in the morning, and opened fire on over 300 people with high capacity semi-automatic weapons. I’m not going to talk about gun control provisions that this tragedy has rightfully sparked, I’m a gun owner, I like my guns, but common sense gun-control is a discussion for a different forum. You can listen to my most recent appearance on Imaginary Friends Show podcast to understand where I am on such issues. The more important thing I want to talk about, and I’m late getting to the game on this topic, so I won’t be saying anything that hasn’t been said many times already, but I want to discuss the more important issue of degrees of hate.
Hatred comes in many forms, ranging from a person judging another because they feel like their own box or label is better than the other person’s box; all the way to something like this mass shooting wherein 50 people died, and more than 100 altogether were wounded. I have friends in the LGBTQ community that have been absolutely devastated by this horrible tragedy, and I hate to say this, but I’m tired of it. I’m not tired of people’s reactions to Mateen’s horrible actions, I’m tired of the whole situation.
Hang in there with me for a minute, because I don’t want to sound complacent here, but how many times do a bunch of people in a gay club, or at a planned parenthood have to be mowed down before we actually ask the hard questions? We’ve been through this same song and dance so many times and, frankly, it’s exhausting. There have been more mass shootings in the U.S. in 2016 than there have been days in the year so far, by no small margin, and each one has its own motivation.
There’s no telling what the motivation is for the majority of these shootings, probably because the shooter is unknown in more than 90% of these shootings, but when the shooter’s target is a gay club, and we know the shooter to have an affiliation with an inherently homophobic religion, it doesn’t take long to connect the dots, and ascertain the motive. This is the highest degree of hatred that homophobia can manifest itself as. When a person hates a group of people just because they are the “other” so much that they feel justified in slaughtering them wholesale, we need to address the genesis of that hatred. Where does it come from? How could a person hate somebody so much, simply for being who they are, that the person feels morally obligated to pump round after round of searing hot led through their flesh at supersonic speed until more than 100 of them are wounded or dead? Where the fuck does this come from? How did Mateen get to the point where he was justified in performing such a horrendous act of aggression against people that could be his friends and neighbors in any other circumstance?
I know you think I’m about to point to religion and say it was the cancerous belief that put his mind in such a place that he could justify his actions, and while that is the case, there’s more to it than just saying he’s a radical Muslim, therefore death to all fags and apostates. That’s too simplistic and it ignores how Mateen got to the breaking point of actually pulling the trigger. I love history because it informs us on how we got to where we are. What of Mateen’s history led him to pull the trigger? Sure, a literal interpretation of the Quran is one strong point, but he didn’t interpret it that way in a vacuum, he was probably steered that way by homophobic religious leaders, right?
Humans will look at the “other” group, the group that lives in a different box than the one they are occupying, and treat them as the “other”. Humans will always try to dehumanize somebody they don’t agree with. I’m an atheist and I could be accused of dehumanizing church leadership for their bullshit, claiming they should be smarter, or more informed, or simply embrace their own shitty history, and that just goes to show that we don’t need the excuse of religion to put somebody in a box that’s different than our own, and treat them like some kind of sub-human animal in need of being maligned as inferior in some way.
But, just because it’s in our nature to treat other humans in deplorable ways, doesn’t mean we can’t reason our way out of it. I mean, it’s in our nature to fuck as many people as possible to spread our DNA to the most successful partners possible, yet we somehow find ourselves reasoned into a monogamous society. It’s part of human nature to shit in the woods, but we’ve stepped in somebody else’s shit enough times that we finally built toilets to get rid of it. There are parts of human nature that can be altered or wholly abandoned with proper education and reasoning, and treating blacks as apes, and gays as perverts are both antiquated things in human nature that we can reason our way out of. I feel like there’s actually hope for humanity in so many ways, because as soon as this massive tragedy happened, the public outcry against the action, and the overwhelming support for the gay community shows us that these acts of violence can be overshadowed by love for our fellow humans, black, white, straight, gay, any variation of any part of humans can be ignored if we simply love our fellow humans…. And then I see something like this.
From Jeremy Harris of KUTV Utah on June 1st, 2016 “Defeated in the U.S., LDS Church takes fight against same-sex marriage to Mexico.”
“Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have issued a declaration to church members in Mexico instructing them to oppose a new initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage in the country.
Similar to the Church's efforts in the United States, Mormon leaders said their opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in 'religious liberty' and 'free thought'.
"We encourage members of the Church to unite our voices with those of other citizens in exercising our rights, as they are listed in the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, which establish and honor religious liberty, expression of beliefs and thoughts, both in public and private," LDS Mexican area authority Elder Benjamin DeHoyos said.”
This article was published 12 days before a radical Muslim shot and killed 50 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Do you see where this idea of degrees of hatred comes from? Hate is a spectrum, on one side you have a Mormon that gives a crusty look at a gay couple holding hands walking through the City Creek Center, on the other end of the hate spectrum, you have a radical Muslim opening fire with a high-powered rifle into a crowd of over 300 unarmed people in a gay club.
That KUTV news article links to a couple of Mexican news sites that are covering the issue, and when I saw the article hours after reading about the mass shooting in Orlando, I posted it on the show’s Facebook page, because it seemed to capture everything that’s wrong with the church right now.
This is the caption that I posted it with on the Fb page, and I wish I would have included a little something that connected the reports of the mass shooting to this, but it didn’t occur as a profound enough connection until I began writing this ending rant.
“How the fuck did they not get the message when they were soundly defeated in American courts?! You can't take the fight to different soil and expect to win! When will they learn!?!? Amazingly enough, they use freedom of religion for the bullshit cover to retreat behind. It's not religious freedom if you're forcing others to conform to your religion, that's called theocratism!!!”
But now I think it’s time to add in the connection that I should have drawn when originally posting that on the page. How does a person get to the point of justifying shooting hundreds of bullets into a crowd of hundreds of people? Reinforcement. Mateen had the human ability to otherize gay people, and put them in their own box, we all have that ability; but there was something else that put him over the edge of any rational thought, and sucked him over the event horizon of sadism, allowing him to call himself the hero while he fired round after round into the unwitting crowd of people trapped in the nightclub like fish in a fucking barrel. He was a member of a religious community that somehow reinforced the idea of killing gay people as a moral action. There was somebody over his shoulder, a religious leader in some capacity, that put those ideas into Mateen’s mind, making him capable of shrugging off human empathy and loading up clip after clip of deadly full metal jackets and expelling them from the chamber of his destroying engines.
How long is it going to take us before we draw this connection?! How long do we have to see these abominations of human fuckin cruelty, to point out that it’s the religion part of a person’s life that reinforces ideas of micro genocide as being a moral good?! Anybody that looks at the Orlando shooting and says, well my religion wants to fix gays instead of kill them, you are equally culpable in the deaths of every single one of those 50 people in Orlando. I’m pointing at you, Mormon church. You are just as responsible for the deaths of those people because you are on the same spectrum of hate that Mateen was on that justified this catastrophe! You don’t see Mormons walking around with assault rifles and shooting up gay clubs, because they know that the pen is mightier than the sword. As soon as Mormons started actually killing gay people, you would have Trump taking credit for claiming that it’s only a matter of time before those radical Mormons did something like this. We should go after the Mormon’s families, and put them in internment camps just like Roosevelt did back in the good ol’ days. Mormon leadership knows that they won’t get anything done with automatic guns, but when it comes to millions of dollars and a couple of lobbying groups, fuckin step right this way president Monson.
The radical sect of Mormonism isn’t the polygamist cult living in Colorado city, the most radical Mormons are called general authorities, with lobbying being their weapon of choice. They were defeated with Prop 8 in California, and dozens of other similar bills in up to 30 other states, and they just can’t take a fuckin hint. They’ve moved the fight to Mexico as almost a final battleground for hating gays, and cite religious freedom and the “proclamation to the world” as their defense for their bigoted policies on gays. How many times does the church get to speak out of both sides of their mouth, reinforcing homophobia, while at the same time denouncing those that act against gays in any violent capacity? You don’t get to wash the blood of these people off your hands when you’re reinforcing the same bigotry that allowed a sadist like Mateen to do what he did, and claim he was doing God’s will by doing so.
The only correct stance to take here is unequivocal condemnation of any person or policy that treats gays as different than every other person on the fucking planet. You may want to say, oh… well… if we change our stance on gays, then people would leave our church, just like when we gave blacks the priesthood. Isn’t that the FUCKING POINT! If you have members that hate gay people so much that they would leave the church if the church accepted gay marriage, why the fuck wouldn’t you want to distance yourself from those people in any way possible. If people are willing to leave or join a religion based on that religion’s policy on gays, those people are one VERY small step away from acting violently towards somebody in the LGBT community anyway, and nobody should want to be associated with miserable hateful bigoted fucks like that anyway! The problem with the Mormon church is that the leadership is made up of hateful miserable bigoted fucks with a disgusting amount of money and political power. Where can we draw the line? At what point can we say if you are a church that forwards bigoted homophobic policy, you are a hate group? That’s what we’re talking about, degrees of hatred. Mateen committed a hate crime, and the Muslim religion is a hate group. The Mormon religion is a hate group, they just commit crimes against humanity of immoral policy lobbying with millions of dollars; they prefer fucking over gay people in a legal way, instead of directly shooting at them with an AR-15. Every single piece of shit pastor, bishop, cleric, caliph, apostle, reverend, cardinal, imam, evangelist, sri, patriarch, deacon, prophet, guru, elder, abbot, minster, swami, ayatollah, mujaddid, rabbi, counselor, bard, witch, druid, or dastur that claims to be part of a religion that justifies treating somebody as the “other,” has just as much blood on their hands as Omar Mateen! They might believe in hating gays at a lesser degree than Mateen, they may even say we don’t hate gays, we just want to help them, FUCK YOU! You are on the same spectrum of hate that makes a person shoot up a gay club and say he’s doing it while God smiles down at him, and prepares the 72 untouched vaginas that await him after he kills himself.
The leadership of the Mormon church may claim that they can’t change what the bible says, and the bible explicitly hates gays, but isn’t changing scripture your fuckin calling card?! Isn’t that why you’re the one true church, because you’re led by a prophet that can come up with revelation that supersedes previous revelation at any time?! You’re already behind society on this, and I recommend you take the public outcry against Mateen as the canary in the coal mine. Look at how many people support the LGBTQ community, and look how few people agree with what Mateen did. You are already on the wrong side of history, how long will it be before you actually embrace that fact, and make a change in policy that removes you from that spectrum of hatred for gays?! To every single Mormon out there, you should be totally and completely ashamed of being part of this hate group. How dare you call yourself a person that enjoys religious liberty, when you give money to an organization that constantly works to limit freedom with millions of dollars in lobbying. A man shooting up a gay club in the middle of the night might be a sexy headline, but there’s shit working way under the radar that nobody talks about. There are forces unseen that are working to take away freedom every single day. A single shooter won’t affect policy change, maybe in the long run, but only by a small margin. A single bigoted hate organization throwing millions of dollars at government officials does way more damage than any high powered rifle with extended magazines.
The question is, how do we stop it?! The headlines of the Orlando shooting will dry up, and the conversations about gun control and mental health will die off as soon as there’s another outbreak of Zika virus in a first world country. Nothing good will come from the wake of the Orlando shooting except a statistic, the deadliest radical Islam attack since 9/11, that’s a sexy statistic and great to bring up in a conversation, but that’s all this will do in the long run; all the while, the real stories about how the Mormon church or some other filthy rich hate group is affecting public policy by lobbying public officials around the world, are completely overshadowed by the river of blood flowing out of a gay club in Orlando.
And maybe that’s what I’m tired of. This massacre hurts. I’m fucking mad as hell about it. Nobody in their right mind can see a headline about 100 people dead or wounded by a single gunman and not be affected by it. My brothers and sisters in the LGBTQIA community are the most hurt, I think, and my heart goes out to them, and to everybody that’s been affected by this, but I’m just so tired of this shit. I love people, and I want the best for the most people possible. There have been headlines all over, covering the witch hunt going on, to learn as much as possible about Mateen, is he a member of ISIS, does he have friends that will try something similar, you know, the usual witch hunt that occupies us after an incident like this. But I had to dig through CNN archives to find the real story of somebody trying to affect change. Senator Chris Murphy filibustered for 15 hours, refusing to yield the floor until some form of gun-control measures were discussed. Spoiler alert, it was all for not because it’s an election year, and nothing promising passed, but I had to dig through CNN’s site to find any mention of this guy that’s actually trying to make a change.
We need to keep the news coverage of the Orlando shooting in mind, but the article about the Mormon church influencing public policy in Mexico, has gone completely dark. This is the real battleground, this is where policy happens, and real changes occur, and nobody’s talking about it anymore. Public policy is the hill for us to fight and fucking die on, if that’s what it takes, and the battleground isn’t being talked about anywhere by anybody. The Mormon Church has known for a long time that the pen is mightier than the bullet, fuck, Joe knew that during Zion’s camp in 1834; how long until we realize what the Mormon church has known for so long, and take the fight to them on their own fucking battlefield, because hate-groups don’t win these fights!
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