Ep 36 – Kirtland’s Gideon Society for Safety Company
On this episode, we’ll be talking about dissent in Kirtland and Bloody Brigham coming to Joe’s rescue, after which we’ll lightly touch on John Cook Bennet to compare him to Brigham Young. After that, there’s a public dispute about the nature of God between Rigdon and Ollie and we can see who Joe sided with from a later quote. Finally, to close out the episode we dive head first into the huge topic of the Kirtland Safety Society “Anti-Bank-ing” Company, and I bring on a guest to help parse out the confusing language in the articles of agreement for the bank. We also touch on something that’s been all but stricken from the historical record, but marks the blueprints for the Danites.
Outro music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Voicemail Line (864)Nake-dMo (625-3366)
Wilford Woodruff autobiography:
Manuscript History of Brigham Young:
November 1836 Messenger and Advocate:
The Ohio Observer, “Mormonism” by Truman Coe:
Painesville Telegraph, “Mormonism” by Anonymous:
Ebenezer Robinson autobiography:
Book of John Whitmer (Brother of Gideon Society):
Phil Ferugson show:
Wayward Atheists guest spot:
Welcome to episode 36 if the Naked Mormonism podcast, the serial Mormon history podcast. Today is Thursday July 14, 2016, my name is Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me. After much ado, today’s episode is the next historical timeline episode in our progression through studying Mormon history, but before jumping into the meat of today’s episode, let’s whet our palette with the milk of the last historical timeline episode.
On episode 35 we covered a lot of time and topics. We began with a discussion about the Hebrew school that Joe set up in one of the upper rooms of the temple, a room which would later be dedicated to being a “Translating room,” which I can’t figure out why the fuck Joe needed an entire room to read stuff from one language into another, but he was prophet so he could do whatever he wanted, so I shouldn’t nitpick.
After that, we talked about a little altercation between Joe and his younger brother William Smith. Often times we see the Smith family painted in a picture as this harmonious, simple-minded, agrarian family without any real conflict, which may have been true between Joe and Hyrum, or Joe and Alvin, but when it came to Joe’s little brothers, there seemed to be a little bit of sibling rivalry there, as one would expect. Apparently this fight between Joe and William was enough to call William in under ecclesiastical punishment to be disfellowshipped for assaulting the prophet. But, instead of actual excommunication, Joe’s uncle, father, older brother, and a couple of the members of the quorum of the twelve called in Joe and William to an intervention kind of gathering and apologies were made. Joe even recorded in the History of the Church, “I apologized where I had been out of the way,” quite an admission on Joe’s part, especially because he was the one who lost the physical fight, from what I can tell. William must have really done a number on Joe because it was rumored that Joe felt the effects of this beating until the day he died 8 years after this fight… that is a serious beating.
After William and Joe reconciled their differences we discussed Joe’s stance on slavery and abolitionism. Up to this point I always respected Joe to a certain extent because he’d left the question of slavery as a state’s rights issue, basically saying the North shouldn’t be able to tell the South what to do, and vice versa. However, in this screed of Joe’s, which was published in the Messenger and Advocate as the front page article, Joe established the South’s biblical defense of slavery, and said they were justified in holding slaves based solely on biblical principles. He even said that if Slavery is evil, then wouldn’t the Southern slave-holder be the first to know it? A bullshit question because the defense for American slavery was wholly taken from the bible, and beyond that, Joe had no problem overriding biblical teachings and inserting his own ideas and morality as God’s will, He could have declared right then and there that God doesn’t like slavery, but he didn’t and we can see why Joe took the PR friendly stance on slavery. Joe was afraid of taking the abolitionists side and pissing off all the Southern members of the church, and possibly making persecution in Missouri, the northern-most slave state, even worse. However, if Joe sided with the South and declared that it is righteous for people to own slaves, and the abolitionists have it all wrong, the majority of his followers, which were people from the Northern states, would disagree and possibly find another church to pay tithes to.
All of that being said, I see why Joe said what he did and took the non-partisan perspective on slavery, but I still lost a lot of respect for him in doing so. If he were a genuine prophet of God, God had a great opportunity to declare slavery immoral forever. If Joe was acting of his own accord, which I think is much more reasonable, he had a chance to make a declaration of morality that he knew to be right, but instead opted for the PR friendly version of shooting straight down the middle and saying we should all just leave each other to do what each of us will. Total PR bullshit, and I can’t wait until today’s church gets closer to the middle with LGBT rights, as opposed to their current stance of crying foul on their religious freedom to allow them to be bigots.
After covering Joe’s stance on slavery, we talked about possibly the greatest thing in all Mormon history up to this point. It wasn’t the Fanny Alger affair, nor was it Joe buying mummies and Papyri for a shitload of money the church didn’t have. It wasn’t even anything relating to the smear campaign of Doctor Philastus Hurlbut and others or some kind of legal trouble Joe stepped into. The greatest thing in Mormon history up to this point is truly more ironic than fiction could imagine. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and that is a phenomenon that was played out from July to October of 1836 which finished up the historical portion of the last historical timeline episode. This beautifully serendipitous moment in Mormon history can only be summed up as the most dramatically ironic thing in all of human history. Until the Book of Mormon came out, Joe made his living by promising people that he could find buried treasure in obscure places. Well, in July of 1836, a man named Burgess approached the presidency and promised them he knew where to find buried treasure in Salem, Massachusetts. Joe and company took the bait and left immediately for Salem, only to find that Burgess didn’t know which house the treasure was buried near. Burgess walked off, yet the leadership stayed in Salem, renting a house for just over 2 months, in order to keep searching for that damn buried treasure. The great swindler got hoodwinked all the while insurrection was building in the ranks back in Kirtland.
Alright, that does it for the roundup of our historical timeline from episode 35, let’s jump into the meat of today’s episode. To give you a quick rundown, today we’ll be talking about dissent and Bloody Brigham coming to Joe’s rescue; we’ll lightly touch on John Cook Bennet (crazy motherfucker), there’s a dispute about the nature of God between Rigdon and Ollie and we can see who Joe sided with from a later quote, and to close out the episode we jump into the huge topic of the Kirtland bank, and I bring on a guest to help parse out the confusing language in the articles of agreement for the bank.
Let’s assess the situation. At this point, Joe, Ollie, Rigdon, and Hyrum were all in Salem about to return to Kirtland. They had spent a fair amount of time there which may have created some issues. They had left the quorum of the twelve in the command seat while they were gone at a time when dissent was rife throughout the church. To be clear, dissent was always going on since the very beginning of the church, but there were a few factors that had amped up the level of dissent by this point. The Missouri Mormons were being led completely by proxy because persecution had caused Joe to fear Missouri. Joe made as few trips out to Missouri as possible while still being called their leader. He was running everything in Missouri through his liaisons, W.W. Phelps and John Goebbels Whitmer. The Missouri Mormons had been kicked completely out of Independence, and as far as I can tell there weren’t any practicing Mormons left in Independence, they had all fled to the counties north of Jackson County, namely Clay county, and the soon to be designated Caldwell county. In August 1836, Double-Dub Phelps and John Goebbels Whitmer began settling the little town of Far West in Daviess county, which would be changed to Caldwell county very soon after this. Amazingly enough, the plat that Joe drew out for Independence of the 24 temples that we discussed in episode 34 was used to plan out Far West in a 1 square mile plot. After multiple buildings were erected and more Mormons moved to Far West the plot was blown up to a 4 square mile plot and declared an actual township. Double-Dub and John Goebbels Whitmer were responsible for a lot of the church’s success in Missouri.
Beyond this tumultuous time in Missouri, the saints had finished the temple in Kirtland, dragging the church into $40-50,000 in debt, and the dedication ceremony was nothing more than a drunken hallucinogen party. Most of the Mormons that were living on property purchased by the church were essentially squatting because the church was defaulting on every one of its debts, to the point that Joe and friends had gone treasure hunting to hopefully pay back some of the debt.
In addition to these internal problems, there were many pastors and preachers that were making quite a healthy living going on anti-Mormon preaching circuits. Smear campaigns were everywhere trying to expose Joe and the church for the fraud that it was. It had become fairly public knowledge by this point that Joe and Fanny were having an affair, which was really a big problem for a lot of people and started rumors of polygamy in Kirtland. How could the one true prophet of god be having an affair with a little servant girl living in his house? The people didn’t have guaranteed proof of the affair, but they do know that Emma used to love Fanny, then her mood changed to the polar opposite of hating Fanny, and kicking her out of the house, forcing her to move to Indiana with her family. Any suspicions that people had of Joe and Fanny getting busy were basically confirmed by her expedited flight from Missouri after the allegations arose.
To add to all of these pressures that were causing people to question Joe’s authority claim as the one true prophet, Joe had the Papyri, but still hadn’t delivered the translation of it as promised. People were excited to see what Abraham and Joseph of Egypt had written on the Papyri, as Joe claimed, and the fact that Joe wouldn’t produce what was promised sat wrong with a lot of people.
Needless to say, the church was, as usual, balancing on a knife edge. Anybody could come along and give it one little push and take the church in a whole new direction. Well, there is evidence to suggest that somebody was trying to influence the church during Joe, Ollie, Hyrum, and Rigdon’s absence. This is taken from the autobiographical history of Wilford Woodruff, the same Woodruff that would become the 4th prophet of the church in SLC. This is taken from BOAP.org, a website called the Book of Abraham Project run by BYU, a frequent source I use for these first-hand accounts. There will be a link in the show notes for the rest of the autobiography.
“I attended meeting at the temple. President Joseph Smith [Jr.] had been absent on business for the Church, but not half as long as Moses was in the mount away from Israel; yet many of the people in Kirtland, if they did not make a calf to worship, as did the Israelites, [apostasy] turned their hearts away from the Lord, and from his servant Joseph, and had engaged in speculation, and given way to false spirits, until they were darkened in their minds; and many were opposed to Joseph Smith, and some wished to appoint David Whitmer to lead the Church in his stead. In the midst of this cloud of dark spirits, Joseph returned to Kirtland, and this morning arose in the stand. He appeared much depressed; but soon the Spirit of God rested upon him, and he addressed the assembly in great plainness for about three hours, and put his enemies to silence. When he arose he said, "I am still the President, Prophet, Seer, Revelator and Leader of the Church of Jesus Christ. God, and not man, has appointed and placed me in this position, and no man or set of men have power to remove me, or appoint another in my stead; and those who undertake this, if they do not speedily repent, will burn their fingers and go to hell." He reproved the people sharply for their sins, darkness and unbelief. The power of God rested upon him, and bore testimony that his sayings were true.”
Quite an amazing sermon, isn’t it? Basically, Joe claims that he was made prophet of the church by the power of god, and anybody that tries to take that away from him will burn their fingers and go to hell. Powerful words from a humble and pious prophet of god, am I right? This is a recurring theme that we’ve seen before now, and will continue to see more frequently after this point. Anytime Joe felt threatened, he would come up with some sermon just like this to tell everybody that he was the one true prophet, and anybody that says otherwise is led by the devil to do so, but this one is unique. Of all the people to lead opposition to Joe, you wouldn’t necessarily expect D-Day David Whitmer to be one of them. Of course, the first dissent we know of in 1830 was led by Ollie, during which he convinced the entire Whitmer family that Joe was basically a fraud, and of course, Joe jumped on damage control as soon as he possibly could upon his return to Fayette, N.Y., so maybe it isn’t all that surprising that D-Day David was the guy fingered as a possible usurper of the throne during Joe’s absence. It also needs to be said that D-Day David hated polygamy and the Fanny Alger rumor was making the rounds. It’s pretty easy to see that D-Day David may have been one of the leadership preaching against Joe’s little scrape with Fanny and the leadership that agreed sided with him.
The thing is, Joe was basically unaware of this dissent that was happening in his absence, and this is where Bloody fucking Brigham sets himself apart, once again, from the rest of the quorum of the twelve as one of Joe’s loyal dogs.
This is taken from the Manuscript History of Brigham Young, once again from boap.org, and there will be a link to it in the show notes.
“At this time the spirit of speculation, disaffection and apostasy imbibed by many of the Twelve, and which ran through all the quorums of the Church, prevailed so extensively that it was difficult for any to see clearly the path to pursue. [Apostasy] On a certain occasion several of the Twelve, the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and others of the Authorities of the Church, held a council in the upper room of the [Kirtland] Temple. The question before them was to ascertain how the Prophet Joseph could be deposed, and David Whitmer appointed President of the Church. Father John Smith, Brother Heber C. Kimball and others were present, who were opposed to such measures. I rose up, and in a plain and forcible manner told them that Joseph was a Prophet, and I knew it, and that they might rail and slander him as much as they pleased, they could not destroy the appointment of the Prophet of God, they could only destroy their own authority, cut the thread that bound them to the Prophet and to God and sink themselves to hell. Many were highly enraged at my decided opposition to their measures, and Jacob Bump (an old pugilist) was so exasperated that he could not be still. Some of the brethren near him put their hands on him, and requested him to be quiet; but he writhed and twisted his arms and body saying, "How can I keep my hands off that man?" I told him if he thought it would give him any relief he might lay them on. This meeting was broken up without the apostates being able to unite on any decided measures of opposition. This was a crisis when earth and hell seemed leagued to overthrow the Prophet and Church of God. The knees of many of the strongest men in the Church faltered.
During this siege of darkness I stood close by Joseph, and, with all the wisdom and power God bestowed upon me, put forth my utmost energies to sustain the servant of God and unite the quorums of the Church.
Ascertaining that a plot was laid to waylay Joseph for the purpose of taking his life, on his return from Monroe, Michigan, to Kirtland, I procured a horse and buggy, and took Brother William Smith along to meet Joseph. We met him returning in the stagecoach. Joseph requested William to take his seat in the stage, and he rode with me in the buggy. We arrived in Kirtland in safety.”
Basically, the quorum of the twelve were discussing how to either remove Joe from his throne, or remove his life from him and the problem would take care of itself. According to Bloody Brigham, the quorum was literally trying to take Joe’s life. It’s amazing that this early along the church’s timeline, less than 7 years after it was organized, Joe’s closest counsellors were plotting his death. It would take 7 more years after this plotting that we’re talking about right now, for one of those plots to finally go through, but we’ll discuss that when it happens. The point I’m getting at here is how useful Bloody Brigham made himself to Joe.
If we are to believe Bloody Brigham’s history, take that for what it is, the quorum was trying to figure out how to remove Joe, one way or another, and Brigham stood up and declared Joe to be the one true prophet, which Jacob Bump wanted to go down to blows over. After this dissent, Bloody Brigham hopped on a carriage, taking Joe’s younger brother, William, with him, to meet Joe and company on their return trip from Salem. Once Brigham arrived, Joe asked if he could take William’s place in the carriage so Joe and Bloody Brigham could return to Kirtland as quickly as possible.
Once they returned, that’s when the line from Woodruff’s history comes in, “He appeared much depressed; but soon the Spirit of God rested upon him, and he addressed the assembly in great plainness for about three hours, and put his enemies to silence. When he arose he said, "I am still the President, Prophet, Seer, Revelator and Leader of the Church of Jesus Christ. God, and not man, has appointed and placed me in this position, and no man or set of men have power to remove me, or appoint another in my stead; and those who undertake this, if they do not speedily repent, will burn their fingers and go to hell."
Bloody Brigham Young definitely earned a few brownie points on Joe’s friends list there. Joe’s position in the church was threatened and Bloody Brigham took the opportunity to defend Joe and help him return to Kirtland faster than he would have been able to on the steamer as originally planned. If Brigham hadn’t set himself apart before now during Zion’s camp or any other time, this was the moment when he became one of Joe’s elect favorites that Joe knew he could trust.
Now, to add in my own speculation, I think this was another calculated move on Bloody Brigham’s part. This is probably just because I’ve posthumously applied a comic book villain type personality to Brigham and given him the name Bloody Brigham, so that’s definitely coloring my perspective of this action he did to solidify his position on Joe’s “trusted” list. Personally, I think that Brigham was just as disenchanted with Joe as the other dissenters in the quorum of the Twelve, but William Smith was there, and whatever anybody said against Joe during his trip to Salem would be directly reported by William back to Joe when he returned. Of course Brigham knew this, so he made a grand show of defending Joe as the one true prophet and leader of the church, then proceeded to take William Smith with him to go pick up Joe as quickly as possible to do damage control. If we apply a nefarious motivation to Brigham’s defense of Joe, because he was obviously playing the long game, I think the situation makes more sense. Also, let’s take into account the crux of the leadership’s argument against Joe at this time, most of them were pissed because Joe had an affair, and the word polygamy was beginning to circulate. If the leadership had its way, polygamy would become an abomination, Joe would be removed, and polygamy would stay an abomination. But, if Joe remained prophet of the church, polygamy may actually become a doctrine where the elect few of Joe’s closest friends would be able to take multiple wives. Maybe there is an ulterior motivation for Brigham defending Joe that isn’t readily apparent. If Joe remained prophet and revealed a divine dictate that polygamy was a commandment from god, Bloody Brigham could take 56 wives and fuck them when and wherever he wanted. I think Brigham was playing the long game here, and I’m using 20/20 historical hindsight to make that claim. Just look how the history played out, in the end, Bloody Brigham won.
To provide a bit of a parallel to the situation as well as a contrast in personality to Bloody Brigham, let’s briefly discuss John Cook Bennett. Bennett was one of the few people that was close enough to Joe to be considered a rightful heir to the throne, had he not be excommunicated before Joe’s death. Bennett had been introduced to Mormonism in 1832, and attended a couple of meetings in spring of 1835, but he never joined, and continued to follow Alexander Campbell, who vehemently preached against Joe and Rigdon’s Mormonite church. Once 1840 rolled around and the church was ramping up in Nauvoo when rumors of a mass polygamy ring began to circulate, Bennett had some kind of miraculous conversion to the church over a 3 letter exchange to Joe. Without going into too much detail, Bennett instantly shot up to the position of Joe’s right-hand man, being called as first councilor in the presidency of the church. Many people said that during his 39 weeks as a member of the church, he knew Joe more intimately than any other man on the earth. Bennet had a short stint as first councilor and was violently excommunicated from the church after a major falling out between him and Joe. Hyrum Smith even testified against Bennett as being an abortionist to cover up his infidelity and accused him of providing poison to a woman so she could kill her husband so Bennet could fuck her without fear of being caught by her husband.
The contrast I’m bringing up here is the fast and loose game that Bennet played with his position in the church, and the violent end to which it came, as opposed to Bloody Brigham being much more cool and calculated with his game. Bennett was kind of like Joe’s tequila. As soon as Joe took a shot, Bennet jumped to the forefront of the leadership, affected all kinds of changes and reformations. Then, Joe took a few more shots because he was feeling good, and everything was going well. John Bennet was really good at aborting the fetuses Joe was putting inside the teenagers around Nauvoo, so that was really great, so Joe just kept taking more and more shots of Bennet. Eventually, it all caught up with Joe, and a catastrophic falling out exploded into a blackout of anger and drunken stupidity. A lot of people got hurt, friendships were lost, and Joe woke up the next morning feeling like shit wondering what the actual fuck happened last night.
Brigham was a little more like cigarettes for Joe. He was always there for Joe to fall back on. He joined the church early and slowly made his climb to more and more prominence, eventually being called to the quorum of the twelve. Any time that Joe needed a little pick-me-up, or a little bit of help, Brigham was always there to rely on. Bloody Brigham took slow, calculated measures to ensure his position right next to Joe in the church, slowly infecting Joe’s good graces, edging ever closing to killing Joe with his Bloody Brigham cancer. As the years ticked by, Joe relied more and more on Brigham until finally, in 1844, the cancer took over and Joe ended up dead, but that was just the beginning of the Bloody infection. I can’t wait to get to the Utah years.
All of that said, that was merely my speculation on why Bloody Brigham did what he did in going to pick up Joe in the horse and buggy. He became a crutch for Joe at this vital moment in the history, when the church was about to fall into the hands of D-Day David Whitmer, thus solidifying his place above D-Day and most others in Joe’s friends list.
Joe handled the dissent well, all things considered, and was able to put a cap on it for a short time. One thing that may have helped D-Day David Whitmer in his shadow campaign to overthrow Joe was the death of his brothers. Since Joe was translating the plates, we’ve had the three brothers, D-Day David Whitmer, John Goebbels Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer Jr., with a fourth brother Christian Whitmer in the background and for this reason, I’ve neglected giving Peter Whitmer Jr. and Christian Whitmer their own NaMo nicknames.
If there were anybody that was more eligible to be the leader of the church, D-Day David was it. His brother, John Goebbels Whitmer was basically running the church in Far West, Missouri, while Peter Whitmer Jr. was basically running the church in Liberty, Missouri, the other main haven for members that were chased out of Independence, Missouri; and of course, while Joe was digging for treasure in Salem, D-Day David was basically running the church in Kirtland. That’s a dream team of brothers all running the church while Joe, Ollie, Rigdon, and Hyrum were occupied treasure digging in Massachusetts.
Well, on September 22, 1836, Peter Whitmer Jr. died, presumably of tuberculosis, and his brother Christian Whitmer died soon after probably from the same ailment. This probably served to win some sympathy points for D-Day David with the followers of the church. Nothing helps a person to empathize or pity another as much as a death in the family, especially when it’s two deaths of other prominent leaders in the church, and members of the 8 witnesses of the gold plates. So, with September of 1836, we bid Peter Whitmer Jr. and Christian Whitmer good-bye and a swift escape from our historical timeline. Any pages on church websites about these guys are fairly bare, and their Wikipedia pages are both less than 5 sentences long. It’s sad that they didn’t contribute more to the timeline, especially because their two older brothers, D-Day David and John Goebbels, were such prominent members of the church with D-Day David being one of the three witnesses, and John Goebbels Whitmer being the church’s first official historian and one of the 8 witnesses. Well, it’s been a fun run Christian and Peter Whitmer, but your time with us has drawn to a close, and you will both be missed for your very few contributions to our historical timeline. But let’s not dwindle on deaths that happened nearly 180 years ago, let’s see what happens after their death, because now we’re getting into some real dissent all leading up to Defection Day after which D-Day David Whitmer is nicknamed.
We’re approaching the end of 1836 now, about to move into the tumultuous peril that is 1837, but there are a few more things to cover before closing up 1836.
One thing we need to cover is a little theological dispute between Hingepin Rigdon and Ollie Cowdung. As we know, the Messenger and Advocate was the church’s monthly newspaper where everything from mission callings, to doctrinal decrees, to obituaries were published. In the November 1836 article of the Messenger and Advocate, Hingepin Rigdon took a few articles to discuss some finer points of doctrine and epistemology of Mormon God. The first extract we’re going to read is from the front-page article of the November 1836 article titled, “Latter Day Glory”. This is taken from a photocopy of the original newspaper hosted by the online byu library, there will be a link in the show notes for the paper if you want to read Hingepin Rigdon’s entire sermon on how we know about what we know about God. It really is a lot of typical preacher dribble, so trust me, I’m sparing you a lot of boring details. Before this excerpt he was talking about other prominent religions in the area.
“Now these all believe in the second coming of the Savior, and that a great glory will follow; but they differ about the events which will precede that advent, and about what the glory will be when it comes. And on these points they frequently grow wrathy, denounce each other as heretics, fanatics, enthusiasts, &c., &c., and deal out their anathemas against one another with a liberal hand.
It is in relation to these things that the Church of the Latter Day Saints has been so shamefully abused and belied, by all these parties both Jews and gentiles, reformers and non-reformers, (not even excepting the pious A.[lexander] Campbell and old Clapp, his Sanco Panza, and the will-making A.[damson] Bently, one of his flunkies:) not that they do not believe in the second coming of the Savior, and in the glory that shall follow; but because they differ from all the other parties about the means by which the Savior will prepare the way of his second coming, and what the glory will be which will follow.”
The reason we just read that excerpt is to properly understand the religious fervor that was going on surrounding Mormonism. Alexander Campbell historically was one of the most outspoken detractors of Mormon theology, and we know that Rigdon used to preach Campbellism before he broke off to form his own religion. We also know that Adamson Bently and Rigdon used to be friends and roommates while they both studied under Alexander Campbell, yet Rigdon took this opportunity to disparage Bently’s perspective of theology. This just goes to show how toxic it really was between the various sects of Christianity that were cropping up all over the burned-over district, and the surrounding areas, but Rigdon didn’t stop there, and this is what we really need to talk about.
Rigdon was a polarizing guy. He had his own thoughts on theology that he seemed to insert into Mormonism, whether his opinions were welcome or not. But, Rigdon was Joe’s second in command at this time, having usurped that position from Ollie back in 1832, so his opinions and personal theology played a big part in shaping Mormonism as we know it today. Let’s read another excerpt from the same November 1836 issue of the Messenger and Advocate, this time the article is titled, “Perfection – No. II”.
“For a person to be an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ Jesus, would be to endow him with the powers of the great God; for how can any person be an heir of God, and yet never partake of either his power or glory; where would his heirship be?—a mere fiction, as bad as a Methodist God, without either body or parts. If a person is ever an heir of God, he will partake of his glory; and this he cannot do, unless he first partakes of his power.”
Many people wonder when Mormonism became the religion of the members becoming gods, here we see the very beginnings of such controversial beliefs. It continues on:
“Or if a person is ever a joint heir with Christ Jesus, he will be so by reason of his partaking of the same power and glory: And the Savior said of himself that, “all power is given unto me, in heaven and on earth.” – Now may I not ask, with propriety, can a person be a joint heir with him who has all power in heaven and on earth, and yet have no power in heaven nor on earth.[?] This would be too paradoxical for any rational being to pretend to believe. For any rational being must know, that for a person to be a joint heir with another, requires nothing less than to equally partake of the power, by which that other person partook of, and enjoyed his heirship; for if he did not[,] he never could be heir with him.”
Basically, what Rigdon is saying is, according to the line Jesus spoke, “all power is given unto me, in heaven and on earth” we would be heirs to the same kingdom as Jesus, and therefore be subject to the same gifts and powers that Jesus inherited. This was class A premium blasphemy to most Christians that believed Jesus to be God, because it was placing humans on the same level as Jesus, elevating us disgusting sinners to a level of being Gods. Most Christians today call Mormonism blasphemy for this very reason. This is one point of theology where Mormonism jumps into a league of its own, and Rigdon was behind it from the very beginning in 1836, this is where Mormonism started to form some of its weird beliefs of followers becoming gods.
Now I have to point out, when Rigdon released this article and elevated the saints to the same level as Jesus, people lost their fuckin minds. Alexander Campbell had been preaching against Mormonism since 1831, and his ilk were on the same warpath to try and discredit Rigdon and the Mormonites.
This is an of excerpt from a newspaper article that was published in The Ohio Observer August 11, 1836, titled “Mormonsim” by Truman Coe. It’s quite a fascinating piece of anti-Mormon smear literature, but I can’t find any factual inaccuracies in the entire thing. I implore you to read the entire thing for yourself and come to your own conclusion, there will be a link to the entire article in the show notes.
“The Mormons to a man all abhor priests, and priestcraft, and societies, and the whole system of religious institutions among established churches; and yet they themselves are the most obsequious and abject slaves to the spiritual rule of their leaders. All their affairs, small and great, are directed by special revelation. By a miserable attempt to ape the language and style of scripture, they clothe their commands with the authority of heaven; and the people have nothing to do but to hear and obey. If the prophet demands their money for the Lord's treasury, he can have it by uttering a Thus saith the Lord. By these sacrifices, they give what among selfish men would be called a pretty good proof of sincerity at least. Thus it happens, that those who complain loudest of priestcraft, are the most woefully priestridden of all men.
In regard to their religious sentiments, the fundamental principle of Mormonism is, that God continues to hold intercourse with the saints on earth by visions and revelations, as freely and familiarly as he has done in any age of the world. That the true church have the same power to cast out devils, to speak with new tongues, to take up serpents, to drink poison unhurt, and to recover the sick by laying on of hands. They make great use of the declaration of our Savior in Mark xvi. 17, 18, and strenuously contend that the promise applies to all that believe in every age.
They contend that the God worshipped by the Presbyterians and all other sectarians is no better than a wooden god. They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself. They believe in the final restoration of all men except apostate Mormons. They blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, and can never have forgiveness, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Their avowed object is to restore christianity to its primeval purity. In the true style of fanaticism they regard themselves as the exclusive favorites of heaven; and the whole religious world as natural brute beasts that know nothing. After the example of our Savior they have recently ordained and commissioned twelve apostles and seventy elders, to go throughout this heathen country and to give a final call to repent and be baptized and believe in Mormonism before the wicked are cut off. The people of this region are viewed by them as standing in the place of Chorasm and Bethsaida, and Capernaum, unwilling to believe, in spite of all the mighty works they have tried to perform. They are habitually pretending to speak in tongues, and to the working of miracles, but nobody can have any evidence of these wonders but those who have Mormon eyes and Mormon ears.
When they first came to Kirtland, Mr. Rigdon joined them, and a few families followed in his train; but otherwise of the former inhabitants, scarce a single conversion has happened since. The fact is that the people are well assured that all their pretentions to miraculous gifts of every kind, are a sheer imposition. But whenever any miracle fails, they have a convenient salve at hand to account for the failure; that is the want of faith: a most impudent and officious intruder, always ready at hand to nullify all their pious efforts, and to render them weak and feeble as other men. Instances frequently occur which may serve as examples of their power of healing. A young man lying on a bed of sickness, sent after Smith and his elders to come and heal him. After praying over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, he commanded the disease to depart; pronounced him healed, and ordered him to rise and walk. Stimulated by the circumstances and by high expectation, the youth rose up and attempted to walk; but presently becoming faint, by the help of bystanders he betook himself to the bed again, and grew worse. They of course imputed his sudden relapse to the failure of his faith. He then sent for the regular physician, and by faithful means he recovered. Another late instance was a young woman lying at the point of death with the measles. The elders were called to lay hands on her in like manner; and very soon afterwards she was a corpse. The prophet has undergone repeated trials before the church, and has made frequent confessions; and among the faithful, this is accounted as additional proof of his humility and divine inspiration. They only class his failings with those recorded of the ancient prophets. But the faith of many among them has failed, and they have had honesty enough to confess it. They have opened their eyes--the delusion has vanished, and they have been astonished at their besotted infatuation. Frequent depredations have happened among them, and it has sometimes required the art and assiduity of all their prophets and priests and elders to keep the whole babel from tumbling down together.”
The next thing we’ll read is from the Painesville Telegraph May 20, 1836. Remember Eber Howe, the author of Mormonism Unvailed was still the editor in chief of the Painesville Telegraph when this was published, and he was still mired in his crusade against the Mormon church. Unfortunately, we don’t know who wrote this, but it was published in the Telegraph, titled “Mormonism,” which will be linked in the show notes.
"I have been to Kirtland and witnessed the operations of that most deluded set of visionaries, that our land, or any other enlightened land has ever witnessed. You would naturally suppose that the Mormons were the most ignorant, degraded and stupid set of beings on the face of the earth. This is true of some of them; but there are not wanting men of sagacity and information, and some men of strong powers of mind. From what I saw, I should suppose that they were generally real believers in the doctrines of their prophet. They are quite polite and affable with strangers, and ready to unfold the whole system, so far as they know it, until you press them with an argument, and then their wrath rises, or they assume an air of awful superiority, and dogmatically pronounce you blind and ignorant, and in the way to destruction; whereas, "they know the certainty of all these things [whereof] they affirm." They are now studying Hebrew with great zeal, under the instruction of Mr. Seixas. They profess to believe the common bible firmly, but they "have received additional revelations," which contain "the fulness of the Gospel." They all have revelations in proportion to their faith. I was introduced to the Immortal Prophet, Jo Smith, and his renowned [coadjutor] Sidney Rigdon, and a host of the inferior satellites; and could scarcely suppress a laugh during the formality of making acquaintance and shaking hands with the exalted dignitaries, high priests &c., of Mormonism. I have no doubt that Jo Smith's character is an equal compound of impostor and fanatic, and that Rigdon has but a small spice of the lat[t]er, with an extraordinary portion of the former; while the mass of the disciples are men of perverted intellect and disordered piety, with no sound principles of religion, with minds unbalanced and unfurnished, but active and devout; inclined to the mystical and dreary, and ready to believe any extraordinary announcement as a revelation from God. None of them appear to be within reach of argument on the subject of religion. They profess to have the gift of tongues; and one individual, after becoming very much excited in conversation, offered to give me a specimen, and began to close his throat for the purpose. But I shuddered at the proposal to exhibit such blasphemy and mockery of a miraculous gift, and he desisted.
"The Mormons have increased with astonishing rapidity. They say, and they are probably not far from the truth, that their numbers in the United States amount to 45,000.
"Their temple, at Kirtland, is a huge, misshapen edifice, that comes nearer to the Gothic than any other style of architecture. The pattern, like every thing else connected with Mormonism, "was given by direct revelation from Heaven, and given to three individuals separately, so that there could be no doubt on the subject." They assure you, with the utmost confidence, that they shall soon be able to raise the dead, to heal the sick, the deaf, the dumb, and the blind, &c. Indeed, more than one assured me, that they had, themselves, by the laying on of their hands, restored the sick to health. The difficulty with their miracles, and the distinction between all false and true miracles, is, that the former are done in private, with few, if any witnesses, while the latter are wrought in open day, before the whole world, friends and foes. The delusion, however, is one, which, I am inclined to think, is likely to spread rapidly, for a season, especially where there is ignorance, combined with a love of the marvellous, and a mystical, distempered, and extravagant tone of piety.”
There was simply no shortage of newspaper articles being published all over that were chastising Mormonism, or calling out its bullshit at any given time. Most articles considered Joe and Rigdon to be the main dudes running the show, and as we read in the previous article, Joe was a bit more fanatical, while Rigdon was more of a pious imposter.
The reason I’m bringing all of these articles up is illustrate an overall point. If we want to know where so much of Mormon beliefs come from, one need look no further than Hingepin Sidney Rigdon. The article from the Messenger and Advocate where Rigdon fleshed out the finer points of Mormon doctrine was fantastically illustrative of my point here. Mormons believe that God is the flesh and bone father of Jesus Christ, something that was radically opposed to the Book of Mormon, and the second Lecture on Faith contained in the 1835 D&C. Until 1836, the teaching of the church was strictly Trinitarian where they claim that Jesus was 100% man and 100% God, and the three in one, water steam and ice bullshit. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but that’s because it just doesn’t make any sense at all. Once 1836 rolled around, Rigdon was starting to insert his own theology into official Mormon doctrine. In fact, that November Messenger and Advocate article is the first official printed claim we have of God being flesh and bone from one of the church leaders. It was probably a teaching before November of 1836, being preached by Rigdon from the pulpit, but this is the first time we actually find it in print. From Rigdon’s teaching, we see the evolution of Mormon claims that God was once a person, and by 1841 we have Joe preaching this from the pulpit.
“This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodeled and made into the one on which we live. The elements are eternal. . . .
That which is without body or parts is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones. . . . God the father took life unto himself precisely as Jesus did. The first step in the salvation of men is the laws of eternal and self-existent principles. Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and the plan of salvation made and we sanctioned it. We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. . . . All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. (Joseph Smith 1980, 60)”
Then you have the evolution of Mormon folklore spawning from this claiming that if you want to test whether a spirit is of the devil or of the father, all you need to do is shake hands with it. A spirit of the devil doesn’t have a body, therefore is unable to shake your hand, whereas a spirit of God has a body and will shake your hand… I know, the bullshit thickens, right?
When Rigdon declared that God has a body of flesh and bone in November of 1836, it was met with opposition. It was an official church declaration that made front page news in the Mormon periodical Messenger and Advocate, which Ollie was chief editor of, and it was circulated to every subscriber of the newspaper. Well, the problem is, this nuanced stance on humans being elevated to the same level of Jesus didn’t sit well with some members of the church, namely Ollie Cowdung, who took the front page of the Messenger and Advocate of the following month to air out his own theology, which seemed to come into a bit of conflict with Rigdon’s claims of God having finite flesh and blood like all of us.
“The next, and great point is that which believes in a God who is eternal: to constitute such a being must be one that never changes. (this is where a finite body of flesh and bone is inconsistent with Ollie’s interpretation of an infinite god) To attach to his attributes changeableness at once argues finitude; and how any rational man can spread out his hands towards heaven, and worship, (in his mind,) such a being, is past our comprehension—such is not the God we adore—it is not the being we serve. The One we worship comprehends all things, from the extent of eternity to the rippling crimson that flows and throbs through our hearts. No power so high that he does not surpass it; no depth so low that he does not comprehend it, and no extent so great that it is not circumscribed by his omniscient wisdom; and yet, great as he is, he so abounds in goodness that, as a shepherd watches over his flock, carrying the feeble in his arms, so does our God condescend to notice our wants and answer the petitions of the orphan and outcast!”
While it may not be completely apparent and contradictory, a finite god of flesh and bone as opposed to a Spirit God that is eternal and infinite, are opposed to each other and I think we do begin to see something very interesting happening here.
Throughout our time studying Joe, one thing we’ve come to learn is the fact that he was very pragmatic. He may have carried a certain set of delusions about himself and his own church, but when it came down to decision time, he was practical in many respects. The Joe that I’ve constructed in my brain wasn’t necessarily argumentative, but rather was capable of adjusting his opinion based on the best argument presented. When it came to people fundamentally disagreeing with him about something, like say his brother William in the last episode, Joe didn’t mind defending his opinions, even if that meant going down to knuckles, but for the most part, I see Joe as being able to be swayed by the best argument, often siding with the best orator. In the case of Ollie’s construct of a timeless and immutable God, as opposed to Rigdon’s finite God of flesh and bone, one of them had to have a better argument that Joe sided with.
We understand Mormon doctrine today to follow the tired old trope of “As we are, God once was, as God is we may someday become,” meaning that God was once a human being living on Kolob, or on the planet nearest the star Kolob, or whatever the teaching is, it confuses Mormon apologists even today. The overall point is, God was once a human that went through puberty and has testicles and a belly-button just like us. Elohim’s parents chastised him for masturbating, and his bishop had bi-annual interviews to make sure that he wasn’t necking with any of the wardie girls, or universe forbid, gay! This perspective of God wouldn’t come along until a little bit further in our timeline, but Rigdon making the argument that God is a human being of flesh and bone was the first step towards this doctrine being embraced by the early LDS church.
Ollie’s perspective of God, however, was much more mainstream, and if there was anything Joe didn’t like, it was mainstream shit. So, the arguments that claimed God as being the infinite unchangeable God in spirit form, as preached in the Lectures on Faith since 1832, were old news to Joe, and too conformist with the beliefs of other Christian sects that were declared enemies of Mormonism, such as Campbellism. So, Joe slowly began to side with Rigdon, once more pushing Ollie to the role of benchwarmer, and solidifying Rigdon’s seat as Joe’s second in command.
It’s important to keep tabs on Joe and Ollie’s relationship as we move through the rest of 1836 and on into early 1837. But, I’m afraid we won’t be opening up the pandora’s box that is 1837 on this episode, because we have one more thing to discuss that happened in 1836 that will take us to the end of the historical portion of today’s episode. This is a big topic, and we’ll have to touch into January of 1837 to get the entire story, but the first mention of it comes up on November 2, 1836, and this is taken out of the History of the Church vols. 2 pp. 467
“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.” President Oliver Cowdery was delegated to Philadelphia to procure plates for the institution; and Elder Orson Hyde to repair to Columbus with a petition to the legislature of Ohio, for an act of incorporation, which was presented at an early period of their session, but because we were “Mormons” the legislature raised some frivolous excuse on which they refused to grant us those banking privileges they so freely granted to others. Thus Elder Hyde was compelled to return without accomplishing the object of his mission, while Elder Cowdery succeeded at a great expense in procuring the plates, and bringing them to Kirtland.”
That’s right, now is the time in the Mormon historical timeline when the Kirtland Safety Society was established. There was something else established concurrent to the Kirtland Safety Society at the end of 1836 that isn’t known about in pretty much any Mormon historical circles, but that’ll be the final thing we talk about, let’s discuss the Safety Society for now.
First off, we have to ask why they sought to establish a bank in the first place, well, the simple answer is debt. And if you’re wondering why they were denied a charter to be a legitimate bank, the simple answer is debt. The History of the Church records the reason the Ohio legislature denied their application as being religious persecution. It says specifically, “but because we were “Mormons” the legislature raised some frivolous excuse on which they refused to grant us those banking privileges”. I would be willing to bet that they didn’t grant the privileges because they were Mormons, but not because of disagreements with religious beliefs, but because they were the fucking Mormons! The members of this church were squatting on land in Ohio, Missouri, New York, and just about anywhere else they had large numbers of membership because the church was perpetually defaulting on their massive amounts of debt. The temple itself put the church back anywhere from $30-40,000 and they had plenty of debt before the temple that was finally coming back to bite them in the ass. If the Ohio legislature granted them status as a legitimate bank, the people that signed the charter could be held liable for the money the church printed once it defaulted on all of those bank notes as well, this is simple economics, you can’t be a bank if you don’t have any money, and if you have negative money, you can’t be a bank even more.
They obviously chalked this up to religious persecution, but I don’t think it was very sincere. I would be willing to bet that every single member of the church leadership that tried to start this Safety Society knew exactly what would happen when they petitioned the government for a bank charter, they would be denied for lack of assets, simple as that. However, anybody that was a member of the church that didn’t understand simple economics, or didn’t know that the church was in over a million dollars of debt in today’s money, would think the state of Ohio just hated the Mormons, which only added to the already mounting religious persecution narrative that had been building for years.
In all honesty, starting the Safety Society was one of the smartest things Joe and Rigdon could have done in the long run. It fucked them over really hard in 1838, but for over a year they were flying high and had shitloads of money to blow on anything they wanted. The money was only as valuable as the paper it was printed on, but they had cash in hand, and to anybody that doesn’t understand the first thing about economics, which describes the majority of the members of the church back then, cash was all that mattered. To move us forward into the discussion about the Kirtland Safety Society, I’m going to read an excerpt from the autobiography of Ebenezer Robinson, which I used quite a bit in episode 35. The link for the entire autobiography as hosted on BYU servers will be linked in the show notes for this episode as well as episode 35, and I strongly recommend giving it a read; it’s chalked full of really good and reliable first-hand information.
“As stated above, Orson Hyde failed in securing a Bank Charter, but Oliver Cowdery returned with Kirtland bank bills printed to amount, it was said, of two hundred thousand dollars, which would be worthless unless some way could be devised by which they could be used. To meet this emergency, the following action was had, which we quote from Joseph Smith's history, as found on page 843, Millennial Star.”
To put that into perspective, the church had anywhere from $40-50,000 dollars in total debt or roughly $1.2 million in today’s money. Ollie printed $200,000 dollars in Kirtland Safety Society Bank money which is equivalent to about $5.13 million in today’s cash. Basically, Joe and Rigdon said when we play by the rules and use everybody else’s economy we go into debt, so fuck all of you, we’re going to make our own economy and now were filthy fucking rich! We’re goddamn millionaires when we make our own rules!!! The problem was, the notes had been printed for “Kirtland Safety Society Bank,” which failed for the bank charter application, and most everybody knew that. So, Joe and Rigdon came up with a genius plan to get out of this bucket of syrup. Instead of handing out meaningless paper for a bank that was denied legitimacy by the Ohio legislature, they just founded a company by the name of the “Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Bank-ing Company.” To solve the little problem of the notes already being printed with Kirtland Safety Society Bank, Joe told Ollie to simply engrave “Anti” in front of Bank and “ing” after bank and put “Company” below it so the notes read Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Bank-ing Company, instead of just Kirtland Safety Society Bank. Fucking brilliant if you ask me.
To describe what the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company was, I’m going to read the preamble and articles of agreement set out to describe what the company was. There are 16 articles in total, and I’ll describe what each article is as we read it. My apologies if this part gets a little dry, because we’re basically reading a legal document about the establishment of a company, and it any other case this would be like reading the iTunes terms and conditions, suicide-worthy; but the language used, and the trickery that Joe and Rigdon employed in this word-soup needs to be called out and discussed if we’re to really understand what the hell we’re talking about. To help me parse out exactly what we’re looking at, I’m bringing on a friend with some proper expertise in starting a financial company and everything we’re discussing. Phil Ferguson is the owner/director/ceo of Polaris Financial Planning and host of Skeptic Money Podcast part of the Secular Media Network, and all around badass when it comes to investing and financial planning; welcome to the show Phil.
This is taken from the History of the Church vols. 2 page 470-472
“The house was called to order, and the object of the meeting
explained by the chairman; which was— 1st, to annul the old constitution
xxx which was adopted by the society, on the second day of November,
1836; which was, on motion by the unanimous voice of the meeting,
annulled. 2nd, to adopt articles of agreement, by which the "Kirtland
Safety Society" is to be governed.
After much discussion and investigation, the following preamble and
articles of agreement were adopted by the unanimous voice of the meeting'
We, the undersigned subscribers, for the promotion of our temporal
interests, and for the better management of our different occupations,
which consist in agriculture, mechanical arts, and merchandising, do
hereby form ourselves into a firm or company for the before-mentioned
objects, by the name of the "Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking
Company," for the proper management of said firm, we individually and
jointly enter into and adopt the following articles of agreement 1
Article 1st. The capital stock of said society or firm shall not be
less than four millions of dollars; to be divided into shares of fifty
dollars each; and may be increased to any amount, at the discretion of the
(A bit ambitious to limit the capital stock at 4 million dollars, right? That’s a mere $108 mn of today’s dollars, so Joe just wanted to make sure to cover all potential future growth. To be honest, that’s pocket change to the church today, so I think Joe would be proud of today’s church. Also, they were smart enough to divide the company into shares making it a publicly trading company, ripe for speculation, Joe’s favorite pastime.)
Art. 2nd. The management of said company shall be under the
superintendence of thirty-two managers, to be chosen annually, by, and
from among, the members of the same; each member being entitled to one
vote for each share, which he, she, or they, may hold in said company; and
said votes may be given by proxy or in propria persona.
(Basically setting it up as a democratic vote-based company and establishing a panel of 32 managers that were probably majority shareholders as well.)
Art. 3rd. It shall be the duty of said managers, when chosen, to
elect from their number, a treasurer and secretary. It shall be the
further duty of said managers to meet in the upper room of the office of
said company, on the first Mondays of November and May, of each year, at 9
o'clock a. m., to inspect the books of said company, and transact such
other business as may be deemed necessary,
(No explanation needed, they just have bi-annual meetings.)
Art. 4th. It shall be the duty of said managers to choose from among
their number, seven men, who shall meet in the upper room of said office
on Tuesday of each week, at 3 o'clock p. m., to inquire into and assist in
all matters pertaining to said company.
(Setting up weekly meetings for the board of 7 directors.)
Art. 5th. Each manager shall receive from the company one dollar per
day for his services when called together at the annual and semiannual
meetings. The treasurer and secretary and the seven the committee of the
managers, shall receive a compensation for their services as shall be
agreed by the managers at their semi-annual meetings.
(That’s where we have the first sign of real greed show up. Every one of the 32 managers were to receive a daily stipend of $1 during the bi-annual meetings, perfectly expected, where this becomes an issue is when the 7 directors get compensated without limit for their services at a rate agreed upon by the entire board of 32 managers. You may think this sounds like a pretty standard business practice, and it is, but when those 7 primary directors are also the ecclesiastical authority that can kick you out of the church for not voting to give them a rate increase, that can become a very big problem. I would have a hard time voting against a raise that Joe, Rigdon, and the highest members of the board wanted if I knew that I might be excommunicated from the church and lose my seat on the panel of 32 managers just for voting nay on the cost of living increase.)
Art. 6th. The first election of managers, as set forth in the second
article, shall take place at the meeting of the members to adopt this
agreement, who shall hold their offices until the first Monday of
November, 1837, unless removed by death or misdemeanor, and until others
are duly elected. Every annual election of managers shall take place on
the first Monday of November in each year. It shall be the duty of the
treasurer and secretary of said company to receive the votes of the
members by ballot, and declare the election.
(I wonder if anybody could ever unseat Joe and Rigdon as primary shareholders and CEO/CFO of the company, making it a legitimate board of directors, or if their positions were a little more solid than that. Like I said when examining the last article, if somebody voted against what Joe and Rigdon wanted, they could easily be voted off the board in the next election cycle, or just excommunicated and removed by misdemeanor issued by the church court system.)
Art. 7th. The books of the company shall be always open for the
inspection of the members.
(Kind of like non-profit organizations have open books today? Just try to look at the church’s books right now and see how far you get before 6 men with briefcases and a court summons show up at your door…)
Art. 8th. It shall be the duty of the managers of the company to
declare a divided once in six months; which dividend shall be apportioned
among the members, according to the installments by them paid in.
(Here it gets even more nefarious, because a company should live or die by the board of directors and investors. If a company does well, the people at the top should do well; if the company fails, the people at the top should lose their asses, that’s not really how most large companies work today, but it’s how it should work. The problem with this company is it didn’t have any assets, they had nothing but liabilities. They had nothing but debt, and $200,000 of money that was worth nothing more than the paper it was printed on. They didn’t have assets to divide. They weren’t collecting dividends on anything, they were just accruing interest on their 10’s of thousands of dollars in debts. I admire them for their optimism in hoping there would be a dividend to pay out every six months, but that optimism was directly contradictory to REALITY!!)
Art. 9th. All persons subscribing stock in said firm shall pay their
first installment at the time of subscribing, and other installments from
time to time, as shall be required by the managers.
(Here we see a more sinister side of the articles where it becomes a multi-level marketing scheme. Basically, the people subscribing to the services of the company would need to pay an initial installment fee and, if the managers required it, would be required to pay other installments as the company saw fit, which could be every day if they chose to require it so.)
Art. 10th. The managers shall give thirty days notice in some public
paper, printed in this county, previous to an installment being paid in.
All subscribers residing out of the state, shall be required to pay in
half the amount of their subscriptions at the time of subscribing; and the
remainder, or such part thereof as shall be required at any time by the
managers, after thirty days notice.
(This just seemed like a measure to protect the managers. If they required an installment to be paid, they were required to give 30 days’ notice. But, that can be taken as a bit of a sinister point as well, because if somebody didn’t pay up, they could hustle that member of the company for the money by showing them a newspaper clipping from 30 or more days prior calling for an installment. Basically, it’s a legal offer that they can’t refuse.)
Art. 11th. The treasurer shall be empowered to call special meetings
of the managers whenever he shall deem it necessary, separate and aside
from the annual and semi-annual meetings.
(No explanation necessary)
Art. 12th. Two-thirds of the managers shall form a quorum to act at
the semi-annual meetings, and any number of the seven, the committee of
the managers, with the treasurer and secretary, or either of them, may
form a quorum to transact business at the weekly meetings, and in case
none of the seven is present at the weekly meetings, the treasurer and
secretary must transact the business.
(This pretty much just solidified the hierarchy of the pyramid scheme we’re working with. I think Joe may have had a problem with the pyramid here though. The base of the pyramid wasn’t wide enough to support how big the cap was. There were the 7 at the very top, and the remaining 25 managers just below them. That makes for a pretty large pyramid scheme that requires a very large base to be sustainable. The problem with the Mormon church at this point was the numbers just weren’t there. There weren’t enough members that had enough money to make a solid foundation to support this many people at the top of the pyramid. If Joe and Rigdon would have been a little smarter about this, they would have placed themselves in a category above everybody else that all the money flowed up to, making the dividends paid to the lower 30 people much smaller, stabilizing the entire structure. They had grand plans without the grandness to back it all up.)
Art. 13th. The managers shall have power to enact such by-laws as
they may deem necessary from time to time, provided they do not infringe
upon these articles of agreement.
(This is possibly the most sinister and fucked up of all the articles. Basically, if anything doesn’t work out, the highest levels can change the rules without notice at any time they want to suit their own best interests. I mean, it’s how most businesses are run today, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a rule built into the structure to fuck over the lower tiers of the pyramid, and everybody else involved with the company.)
Art. 14th. All notes given by said society shall be signed by the
treasurer and secretary thereof, and we, the individual members of said
firm, hereby hold ourselves bound for the redemption of all such notes.
(This is an interesting clause in the articles of agreement. It was probably agreed upon by all the managers, but basically it holds the company responsible for reimbursing any note issued. Every single dollar that was issued in the form of a note by the Safety Society was legally binding, and the society was bound to pay it back. I suppose that it doesn’t really describe how it was going to pay back notes that were worth less than monopoly money even though the society had issued them as legal tender, so this article has a small loophole, but it is still an interesting article to include here, and one which is powerfully binding in legal terms. This article comes up again in a second, so remember article 14 as being the one where the society is required to pay back every dollar issued as a legal note.)
Art. 1 5th. The notes given for the benefit of said society shall be
given to the treasurer in the following form; "Ninety days after date, we
jointly, and severally, promise to pay A. B. or order, dollars
and cents, value received." A record of which shall be made in the
books at the time, of the amount, and by whom given, and when due, and
deposited with the files and papers of said society.
(This was just a record keeping article to require dual records for every note issued, seems pretty standard.)
Art. 16th. Any article in this agreement may be altered at any time,
annulled, added unto, or expunged by the vote of two-thirds of the members
of said society, except the 14th article, that shall remain unaltered
during the existence of said company.
(This is pretty standard business practice as well, but still kinda fucked up and designed to fuck over the little guy if shit goes tits up. Basically, if the managers don’t like the rules, they can change them at any time. Full stop. If something goes wrong, fuck the rules, we make our own. I get it though, they were founding this company, and you never know what the future holds, so this is a perfect time to put this clause into the establishing document, but it still needs to be pointed out that this could be used to flip over the game board if the pieces aren’t where Joe and Rigdon liked. I do have to point out that they did include a line that protects the consumer. They said that article 14 can’t be changed, expunged, added to or annulled, meaning that no matter what, every dollar promised in bank notes was to be reimbursed to the holder of said note. Admirable and necessary for that article to remain unchanged.)
For the true and faithful
fulfillment of the above covenant and agreement, we individually bind
ourselves to each other, under the penal sum of one hundred thousand
dollars. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals, the
day and date first above written.
(Ambitious, aren’t we? A penal sum of $100k? No doubt, Joe and Rigdon were reaching for the stars with this business proposal. But that’s it, that’s the articles of agreement for the foundation of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company. We’ve explored the ins and outs of the articles, and hopefully addressed the legal jargon that was used to establish the finer points of the company. Let’s hear how it was announced to the church, and finish out our coverage of this mighty introduction into our timeline.)
In connection with the above articles of agreement of the "Kirtland
Safety Society," I published the following remarks to all who were
preparing themselves, and appointing their wise men, for the purpose of
building up Zion and her stakes in the January number of the Messenger and
It is wisdom and according to the mind of the Holy Spirit, that you
should call at Kirtland, and receive counsel and instruction upon those
principles that are necessary to further the great work of the Lord, and
to establish the children of the kingdom, according to the oracles of God;
as they are had among us' and further, we invite the brethren from abroad,
to call on us, and take stock in our Safety Society; and we would remind
them also of the sayings of Isaiah, contained in the 60th chapter and more
particularly the 9th and 17th verses, which are as follows: "Surely the
isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy
sons from far, their silver and their gold [not their bank notes] with
them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel,
because He hath glorified thee. * * * For brass I will bring gold, and for
iron I will bring silver, and for wood, brass, and for stone, iron: I will
also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness." Also 62nd
chapter, 1st verse: "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for
Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth
as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. JOSEPH
Thanks for coming on Phil
That was it, the entire preamble and articles of agreement establishing Joe’s biggest racket to this point. The last thing we read I think sums everything up in such a perfect way. This was a company that Joe and Rigdon were starting in order to solve their financial problems, and in the announcement of the company’s establishment, we have verses from Isaiah and invocation of God’s will. In this one single announcement published in the Messenger and Advocate, everything comes together expressing the crux of church and financial binding that was this company. The church wasn’t financially solvent by any stretch of imagination, so Joe and Rigdon formed this company to try and solve those financial problems, and they used scriptural justification for founding it and calling members to invest in it. This one announcement perfectly encapsulates the intermingling of church and business and seems as almost a harbinger for what the church would be from this point on.
To get back into the overall topic at hand, I want to read another extract from the autobiography of Ebenezer Robinson. He was a prominent member of the church during all of this, and remained very faithful in his dealings. I see him as a simple, yet honest man that got caught up in this crazy cult unwittingly. I think he really tells it like it is from a first-person perspective that is lost when we try and examine this whole situation through our own eyes.
“Joseph Smith, Jr., was elected treasurer, and Sidney Rigdon was elected secretary.
In accordance with the foregoing arrangements, quite a large number of the bills were brought into the printing office, and the word anti, in very fine type, was printed before the word bank, and the syllable, ing, also in fine type, was printed after the word bank, thus making it read, "Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Co.," in which form the bills were signed by Joseph Smith, Jr., treasurer, and Sidney Rigdon, secretary, and put into circulation as bank bills.
We wish our readers to bear in mind that these things have nothing to do with the gospel, but they seem to show us the weakness of poor human nature, and how easily men can be led astray when they cease to listen to the counsel of God, but are left to follow the dictates of their own will and carnal desires. The fruit of such conduct is exceedingly bitter, and the results most disastrous, as we will see further on.”
This perfectly sums up everything that is the Kirtland Banking Company. Even though Joe used gospel principles and invocation of God’s will to justify the establishment of the bank and call members to join the company and give Joe and Rigdon their money, it has nothing to do with the gospel, it just shows us the weakness of poor human nature. I disagree with Robinson for the sheer fact that I think all of it was the failing of human greed, and Joe and Rigdon were perfect examples of those failings with everything from the establishment of this banking company, all the way back to the foundation of the religion in 1830. Everything they did was out of greed for fame and fortune.
There’s something even more insidious to add in to the mix, and I teased it before our discussion with Phil. This is the thing that was established at about the same time as the Kirtland banking company and the only way to describe it is the precursor to the Danites. There’s almost no documentation out there about this, and the only reference I can find to it is from the book of John Goebbels Whitmer. Remember, he was church historian when he recorded this and it’s recorded in his own handwriting in his own book, so there really isn’t any way of disputing that it happened. There will be a link to the book of John Whitmer in the show notes and if you want to read the passage I’m reading, find on the page by searching for the Brother of Gideon, and it’ll point you to the right spot.
“After Smith's return to Kirtland, Ohio, and after his ordering the first elders of the Church to go to Ohio, there to receive their endowments from on high, he hastened the finishing of the house at Kirtland which was commenced before he had gone to Zion to redeem her. He from this time began to be lifted up in the pride of his eyes, and began to seek riches and the glory of the world; also sought to establish the ancient order of things, as he and his counsellors, Rigdon and Hyrum Smith, pleased to call it. Therefore, they began to form themselves into a secret society which they termed the brother of Gideon, in the which society they took oaths that they would support a brother right or wrong, even to the shedding of blood. Thus those who belonged to this society were bound to keep it a profound secret, never to reveal, but ever to conceal these abominations from all and every person except those who were of the same craft. But these things could not be kept a secret, in consequence of betrayers who fell from their faith and revealed their secrets.”
I had never heard about this “Brother of Gideon Society” until I stumbled on it in my research for this episode. Nobody talks about this, and it’s nearly erased from every other Mormon history book. The Brother of Gideon society was basically the archetype and foundation for the Daughters of Zion society, which would later be called the Danites, who were essentially the roaming gang of Mormons that constituted an enforcer squad. Orrin Pistol Packin Porter Rockwell would be the leader of the Danites when it was formed a year and a half after the Brothers of Gideon which was formed in late 1836, but the principle holds for the need of an enforcer squad, and this is when Joe and Rigdon finally got around to building that infrastructure. When somebody wasn’t paying up, or they left the church under unpleasant circumstances, they could expect a visit from the Danites who were bound together with a blood oath, who would defend the prophet and the church until death, who, more importantly, would never question an order that was passed down from the highest ranks of leadership. Joe’s Mormon church finally became a crime syndicate with a street gang of thugs.
I have to be honest, when I started the research for this episode, I didn’t think we would see a transition like this. Something happened this episode, and I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but I think a fundamental shift took place. I seem to say this on most episodes, but I love Joseph Smith. He’s an intensely fascinating historical individual and the best part of my job is finding out what crazy shit he’s gunna get into on the next episode of the show, but I feel like something fundamentally shifted in this episode.
Of course, this probably only really happened in my mind concerning my own individual perspective of Joe, but I feel like he became a little more serious and malevolent at the end of 1836. I’ve always seen him as a no fucks given party boy that gets into his own brand of mischief in some way every other week, but this time, the Joe in my mind has shifted. What’s that old saying, desperate times call for desperate measures, can we apply that to Joe in 1836? Maybe something along the lines of desperate circumstances incite drastic changes. Joe isn’t the goofy party-boy getting caught with one hand in Fanny Alger’s pants anymore, he just turned into a mob boss. He isn’t travelling half way across the civilized country to hunt for treasure anymore, he’s forming secret alliances with blood oaths. He isn’t getting into scrapes with people that offend him anymore, he’s ordering Pistol Packing Porter to pay them a visit and do his bidding. Joe isn’t buying stupid Papyri and telling everybody he knows what’s on it, he’s printing counterfeit money and constructing a false economy based on it. Joe isn’t staring into a seer stone and coming up with revelations, he’s staring at legal documents to figure out the best way to legally fuck over his followers, as we can see with the help of Phil Ferguson today.
I’ve wondered for some time when this change would happen. I mean, if we look at the Church of Christ of 1831, and compare it to the LDS church today, one’s a lamb, the latter a lion. I’ve wondered if there was a single point in Mormon history that we could reference where this shift happened, when the church stopped being a church within a community and started becoming a cutthroat tax exempt business, and I think we just witnessed that transition.
Honestly, I’m a bit surprised… I thought this transition would happen after the Carthage shootout when Bloody Fucking Brigham took over, because we can see just how ruthlessly he ran the church in Utah, and there’s no denying that today’s LDS church evolved from the foundation of Brigham’s rule. The point is, I didn’t think we would see this transition during the Joe years. I still picture him being the idiot party-boy, running around Nauvoo on a white horse with a general’s uniform on, holding a sword calling himself king of Zion and fucking every woman that can successfully convert oxygen into carbon dioxide, that’s just a silly caricature of Joe, right? But, maybe, that’s a failing in my own perspective, maybe I’ve been looking at the Nauvoo Joe the wrong way. Maybe the Nauvoo Joe was more similar to the Utah Bloody Brigham than he was to the Palmyra Joe. We’re seeing the evolution of Joe’s personality due to the circumstances. The Joe that emerged from 1836 is a darker and much more threatening Joe than we’ve ever seen before, ready to fuck anybody before they even get a chance to fuck him.
I suppose I’m most fascinated by the fact that we can see the earliest signs of the current Mormon church start to be played out this early on in Joe’s timeline. As 1837 and 38 roll around, Joe seems to become less concerned with the doctrine and teachings of the church, and much more interested in how successful the church is, and what his owned stocks are trading for. Gone are the days of the silly and mischievous Joe, and fast approaching are the days of Don Joseph and Consigliere Rigdon.
What can we learn from this development and evolution of early Mormon church structure? Well, I would say that it looks much more similar to the church we see today. Of course, today’s church is somewhat focused on their religious teachings, but that only occupies a very small percentage of the day to day lives of the leadership. Of course, this is my own speculation, and that’s not worth much, so take it with a grain of salt, or a big rip from a bong, but the vast majority of the time the quorum of the twelve apostles spend relates to the business portion of the church.
I mean, today they have speechwriters to take care of the bi-annual general conference talks they give. They have writers that publish the messages in the Ensign and other church periodicals. They have committees of people that take care of all the content on the website. They have computer programs that designate where missionaries will be called, based on previous growth and other algorithms that take dozens of other parameters into account. They have statisticians that plot where the next groundbreaking for the newest temple will be. The only thing these men focus on from day-to-day is the business aspect of the church, is it any wonder why they haven’t significantly progressed in their doctrine since Joe died and Rigdon splintered off? The only significant change in over 170 years has been giving blacks the priesthood, and that only came at a time when the church’s tax-exempt status was threatened, it’s been nothing but a business for over a century and a half, and we can see the beginning of this conversion from doctrine centrism to business centrism happening over the last few years in the church timeline.
Let me just take a second to draw a parallel to this podcast, because I can’t help but see some similarities, and I want to call them out and address them directly. Money is a real thing, and something that everybody has to deal with. Joe’s church was in financial ruins, so he made a solution by founding a company whose export was counterfeit money to solve the problem. It backfired, and resulted in the largest exodus of members and leaders of the church in all of church history because so many people got burned and lost everything. Joe was an underhanded miscreant, and Rigdon was his degenerate imposter right hand corruption inciter second in command. They did all of their business dealings under the guise of being a church; Phil and I talked about this, but they were manufacturing an invisible product that put a monopoly on people’s afterlife, and told those people that God commanded them to buy the product.
The church today does the same goddamn thing. They manufacture an invisible product with no actual manufacturing costs, then scare you into buying the product, and then lock you in by saying you’ll lose everything if you don’t buy our product, because God will no longer love you. They don’t use that terminology, but a sentence to hell or outer darkness is the equivalent of God not loving you. This is obscene, unethical, corrupt, depraved, and downright fuckin wrong. They’re a business and only looking out for the best interests of that business. Whether it was Joe’s church, or the SLC LDS church they are a shadowed façade, masking their own self-interests by claiming divine mandate. I can’t help but be disgusted by the hypocrisy and I hope I’m not the only one that feels this way.
Now, to draw some parallels and differences between the church and what I’m doing with this podcast, because let’s just face it, I’m selling a product that is nothing more than invisible information on the face of it. When the show started, it was nothing but a hobby that I did for fun to get the information out there; but since the beginning, it’s shifted into a business that essentially produces an invisible product. I mean, you see the podcast come up every week in your feed, so I suppose it’s not invisible in that sense, and it also requires an insane amount of time and a small amount of overhead to produce, so it’s not invisible in that sense, but this podcast isn’t a blender that sits on your counter, right? The best thing gleaned from this show is the information provided, and hopefully some level of community to belong to, but you can’t hold a podcast in your hand, nor can you cook your food with a podcast, it’s essentially an invisible product.
The NaMo’s are truly the best listeners of any podcast out there, and trust me this isn’t just flattery, I run 2 and a half podcasts so I’m basing that claim on plenty of my own empirical evidence, the listeners of this show are amazing, and the sense of community that I get from all of you is something I’m indescribably thankful for, and hopefully that same sense of community is reflected through your headphones every week when the show pops up in your podcast app. In a sense, I suppose, this show is an invisible product because you can’t blend food with a podcast episode. You can’t take your kids to school in a podcast episode, nor can you eat or drink it, but in the abstract, hopefully you, the listener, take away the information presented and use it in some way that’s tangible to you, making this product still invisible, but in a different sense very real.
That, however, is where the similarities between the church and this podcast end. I don’t claim this to be the one true podcast, and if you listen to any other podcast then you are no longer welcome to listen to this, which is exactly what the church’s exclusivity claim on truth is. I mean, I suppose I did say a few episodes back that this is the one true Mormon history podcast, but I only said that to lampoon the church’s claim to holding singular truth. However, I’m happy to invite people like Phil on to the show to bring some expertise, and I even said go check out his show and there will be links to find him in the show notes, because he produces a great podcast. There are 100’s of thousands of podcasts out there, the vast majority of them being better than this one, and I encourage everybody to get out there and listen to new shows all the time. I even encourage everybody possible to make their own podcast because there’s no such thing as too many voices out there. Point is, you won’t go to hell or feel god’s wrath for not listening to this show, you just won’t know the information that’s contained in each and every 4-hour long episode… you know, 4 hours on average anyway… Also, I don’t masquerade as a church with a divinity claim and ask for donations, I very plainly say at the end of every episode if you want to support the production of this show, go to patreon.com/nakedmormonism to sign up to make a per episode donation, and then every 2 weeks I thank everybody that signs up to essentially buy the show through patreon instead of just listen to it for free.
The point is, it’s hard to sell a product that’s available for free. Let me just toss in some hard numbers here to offer some perspective. Before I started doing this full-time, I was driving a truck making about $20/hr, and that allowed all kinds of luxuries being a single dude with no kids. But the reality was that I was working 55 hours a week while putting an obscene number of hours into this podcast to build it to a sustainable level. Now, I’m able to devote those 55 hours per week to this show, which has allowed it to go to a weekly basis, and made it so I can start and maintain the Glass Box Podcast, while writing a book and working on multiple other projects. But, I do have to say, there has recently been a small outflux of support on patreon that hasn’t matched the incoming new patrons. Really, if you calculate everything out, I’m working for about $3.49/hour, which is about one fifth of minimum wage in Seattle, where I’m living. That wage was somewhat sustainable in the 1970’s or when I was living in Greeley, CO, a super cheap town that’s run by drug lords; but in Seattle, it’s a different story, and the reality of it is, if not for my amazing girlfriend, I simply wouldn’t be able to continue doing this. On the bright side, if it continues at this level, I won’t have to pay taxes for 2016, so that’s a small silver lining, I suppose.
That being said, I must make an honest petition for more supporters on patreon. Even NPR does pledge drives a couple of times a year to continue running in the black, and it’s a necessary evil given the nature of spoken audio entertainment. I really don’t want to go to a corporate sponsor for various reasons, and would like to continue to keep the show commercial free, with the exception of taking a few minutes every 2 weeks to thank new supporters on patreon. Right now, about 2% of the audience supports the show, which is a little above average for the typical podcast, once again, because the listeners of this show are the best audience a podcaster could have, but if we could bump that number to 3 or 4%, things would be much more comfortable, and I could roll the extra money into further investment and expansion of the show. In the past I’ve only charged for 2 episodes per month, but this needs to change as well, so if you are a current supporter and you need to change your pledge level to reflect this adjustment, I completely understand, because the show will charge for every episode released as opposed to just 2 monthly as in the past.
I’m also willing to create an extra incentive. The one primary criticism I receive about the show is the explicit nature of it. I’ve made my case countless times by this point that I like to rant, and when certain expressive words are off fucking limits, I don’t feel quite as natural and comfortable. Also, I like my guests to be able to speak their mind without censorship, like Phil did this episode. That being said, once the show reaches the $500/episode level, every week I’ll release an historical episode from the backlog with bleeps instead of fucks and shits. This is really the best of both worlds, I can still rant and get angry, but those with sensitive ears can listen in and not be so offended. You can also recommend the clean episodes to TBM’s, and they’ll only be able to be offended at the content instead of all the fucks and shits. We’re barely more than $100 per episode away from this clean-up goal, and I hope this provides some incentive for people to sign up to buy the show for a dollar or two an episode on patreon.com/nakedmormonism. It may only be a starbucks a month for you, but it’s a livelihood for me.
All of that to say, I hope nobody is offended that I’m asking openly for money and support, because this is a podcast, the grassroots media of the millennial era, and podcasts are supposed to be open and free. To anybody that might be offended, I’ll just say that the show is still free for everybody, and currently over 97% of the listeners don’t pay anything for it, so that’s still considered grassroots in my mind, and I’m not locking entire episodes behind paywalls like some other more mainstream podcasts, I’m just releasing patreon only episodes that have small additions to the regular episodes like Phil’s and my discussion about Trump and politics, the rest of the show is still completely free and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
To draw the distinction between what the church does and what I do. We both offer information and a sense of community. They put their information behind a pay wall, mine is free and you can pay if you feel generous enough to do so. They have a bigger community than the ex-mormon community, but that won’t be true forever. They claim to have divine truth and that if you go to any other church, you’ll be lost to a lower level of eternity, I encourage you to listen to as many podcasts as you possibly can, and hopefully you continue to listen to this one. They consider somebody starting their own religion to be blasphemy, I consider somebody starting their own podcast to be one more voice that we need in the fight against religion. They say only listen to information that they put out, I tell you where I find my information and encourage you to read more by providing links in the show notes. You can only be a part of their exclusive club if you give them 10% of your income, I politely ask and thank you for less than .00137% of your income without requiring. They put up a granite white façade as a non-profit religious organization to mask their billions of dollars in tax-free world-wide income, I come right out and say that this podcast is a business in need of financial support without the bullshit façade. They have billions of dollars, millions of members, and a missionary force of nearly 90,000, we could never touch those numbers. They have hundreds of videos of people baring their testimony online, we have 85 5-star reviews on iTunes. Hopefully all of that illustrates the differences between the money centrism of the church that claims to be the one lifeline to reaching God in the afterlife, and information centrism of this podcast that comes right out and says it’s in need sustainable income to survive.
Given those differences though, what was Joe’s favorite line again? From the very first section of the Book of Covenants “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones.” Let’s see just how long that takes…
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