Ep 40 – Second Mass Exodus plus Marie from My BoM!
On this episode, we pick up the historical timeline to finish out 1837 and glimpse into 1838. Dissent and defection have never attained levels elevated beyond what we’re seeing in the timeline now. The Parrishites, Brewsterites, the Church of Christ under Coe/Smalling/Harris, and a small number of other breakoff factions hit the open religious market in response to public dissatisfaction with Jo and his church. Jo, Rigdon and friends make their way from Kirtland to Missouri and back, only to be permanently chased out of Kirtland and relocate to Missouri during the harsh winter months. This episode is a two-parter and includes an interview with Marie Kent, host of the My Book of Mormon Podcast, talking about our show and the D&C in general, all while giving us a glimpse into her life and study of Mormonism.
Video Version of Kickstarter Episode
Outro music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Voicemail Line (864)Nake-dMo (625-3366)
Manuscript History of Brigham Young
Joel’s D&C comparison
My Book of Mormon podcast
Welcome to episode 40 of the NMPC, the serial Mormon history podcast. Today is Thursday October 13, 2016, my name is Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me.
Let’s jump into a quick recap because we have a two parter episode today. We’ll start off with continuing our historical timeline, then follow up by bringing on a good friend and fellow podcaster to discuss the MyBoM PC and how it wraps into the Kickstarter campaign that’s active for one more week.
The last historical timeline episode covered a small portion of time, yet a heaping portion of dissent and murmuring happening in the church at the end of 1837. That episode began with Parley P. Pratt, P-Cubed, raising up a stirring against Jo for selling him some land at a 2600% inflation rate, which spurred a lot of anger in the church leadership.
After that, Jo headed to Painesville to board a steamer for Canada and was arrested multiple times. We talked about this happening in episode 38, but last episode we spent the majority of the time covering the court documents for the one trial that was held that day against Jo. The lawsuit was filed against Jo by a man named Grandison Newell, who had filed nearly a dozen other lawsuits against the prophet by this time. This lawsuit, however, was different than any other Jo had experienced prior to this.
Previous court hearings against Jo usually fell along the lines of him fucking over somebody on a business deal, or maybe calling a church leader into question for apostasy, or whatever the case may have been; but this lawsuit was different. Grandison Newell claimed that Jo tried to have him killed by commanding it done by two men, Davis and Denton. This situation sets itself apart as a defining moment in Mormon history and Jo’s leadership.
When somebody wants another person dead, like for example, a prophet wants a vicious anti-Mormon like Newell dead, there’s a couple of ways to do it. The prophet can do the deed himself, hire an assassin, or the scariest option, the prophet can command it to be done by divine revelation.
Hiring an assassin is one thing, and killing somebody is something related, yet quite different. But the most horrifying and sinister of those options to somebody being put out of the way is a prophet commanding it to be done, and it being done. Once Jo crossed the threshold of commanding somebody to kill in the name of god, there’s no walking that shithorse back into the shitbarn, and that’s what Grandison Newell accused Jo of doing, giving directions from god for his followers to go kill an anti-Mormon. That’s a new level of mob boss that Jo hit. I made the argument in the episode that whether or not Jo actually ordered the assassination doesn’t really matter when we examine the fact that rumors were circulating that he’d done so, and Jo stood on trial against Grandison Newell concerning said rumors.
After that we discuss an account given by Eliza Snow that claimed Warren Parrish teamed up with some other apostates to try and take over the congregation with pistols and bowie knives. This was after Jo and friends had left for Missouri, so it’s no wonder the mice were playing whilst the cat was tending to other rats in other places.
Let’s jump into the meat of this episode with a discussion about church affairs in late September 1837. On September 27th, Jo and friends left Kirtland for Far West to reign in the Whitmers and W.W. Phelps, Double-Dub. Those church leaders in Missouri were running the church out there contrary to the wishes of Jo and Rigdon at HQ, and they decided to answer the problems by attending to the issues in person. As stated in the last historical episode, as soon as Jo set foot outside of Kirtland, the church imploded on itself and once trusted leaders in the church were viciously opposed to the absentee rule of Joseph the prophet.
This is a small extract from a letter exchange between John and Clarissa Smith to George A. Smith, Jo’s cousin, dated Jan 1, 1838 taken from the LDS personal archives. It is reprinted in Marquardt’s “The Rise of Mormonism,” from where I’m extracting this passage.
“the spiritual condition at this time is gloomy also. I called the High Council together last week and laid before <them> the case of a company<y> of Decenters 28 persons where [were] upon after mature Discussion proceeded to cut them off from the chh [church]; the Leaders were Cyrus Smalling[,] Joseph Coe[,] Martin Harris[,] Luke Johnson[,] John Boynton and W[arren] Parrish. We have cut off between 40 & 50 from the Chh [Church] Since you Left”
Those were some big-time names in the leadership of the church and it tacked 40 to 50 more people on at the end that had been cut off from the church. That letter was sent on the first day of January 1838, so let’s cover our timeline from the end of September when Jo and friends left, to January 1838 to provide some context for this letter.
Once Jo, Rigdon and Ollie left for Far West, there were very few trusted people living in Kirtland that wouldn’t overthrow the church. The loyal followers of Jo were the minority in leadership positions.
It is worth pointing out that the average every-day follower of the church wasn’t aware of most of the insurrection that was happening in the higher echelons, they were just living their own lives and going to church on Sunday as they were instructed by the prophet. The typical member of the church may be experiencing hard times from the general economy that was beginning an arduous depression, but the majority of people that had lost money with the collapse of the KSS company were leaders in the church, many of which who understandably held a grudge against the prophet for fucking them on the rag-money he was responsible for creating and circulating. The majority of the typical members of the church were aware of things that were going on, but weren’t quite as directly affected by it as, say, P-Cubed, P. P. Pratt, who’d been robbed by Jo with three plots of land sold at a 2600% rate of inflation. The average member didn’t experience that, they’d only heard about it from other members of the church.
While the leadership of the church was amidst schism, many of the followers of Jo were still faithful to his rule, having no real reason to question his authority.
Many social or political movements in the past have been waged by a vocal minority against a less vocal, or even silent, majority. The temperance movement, a very small minority was able to pass a constitutional amendment banning alcohol. The abolitionist movement, very few people in the south wanted slavery to be outlawed, but once a few people in the North were vocal enough about it, those anti-slavery southerners were happy to jump on the bandwagon against the less-vocal majority. Even declaring Independence in the first place was a minority movement that was spearheaded by a vocal subsect of politicians that we now call the founding fathers. Regardless of the example offered, the principle holds; when somebody wants change, it requires a loud minority to bring about that change, even if the majority is silently enjoying things the way they are.
Unfortunately, most of what we read from trusted historical sources during 1837/8 is quite biased because these people were the most affected and the vocal minority of displeased leaders or members in the church. People don’t often write good reviews if they have a good experience, but they’re sure happy to write a bad review if they’re mad, and that’s what we see in the historical record. A lot of people were furious with the prophet and his leadership, a fury which makes its way through the 180 years to inform us of the general opinion at the time.
Let’s read a chunk from the history of the church. As we know, the History of the Church began being dictated by Jo at the beginning of 1838 and was published starting in 1842 in the Times and Seasons or Millennial Star. This is the sanitized version of what was going on in the church, after that we’ll read about this time from some other sources to point out the stark contrast.
This is directly from the History of the Church during the time Jo, Rigdon, Ollie, and friends were heading out to Far West. This is Vols. 2 starting with page 518.
“About this time Elder Parley P. Pratt, who was laboring in New York, publishing his Voice of Warning, consisting of 216 pages.
I started from Kirtland on the 27th of September, in company with Brother Sidney Rigdon, to fulfill the mission appointed us on the 18th of September by a conference of Elders, in establishing places of gathering for the Saints (second mass exodus); Brothers William Smith and Vinson Knight accompanying us.
Oct 1—Elder Lyman Sherman was elected High Councilor at Kirtland in place of Jared Carter, removed to Far West.
Oct 2—Samuel H. Smith was elected president of the High Council, and council voted that if a councilor absented himself from their meetings without a reasonable excuse, he should be reported to the Church as a delinquent. The High Council at Kirtland voted that the clerk grant licenses to the members of the council (who wished to travel), signed by the president and clerk.
We arrived at Terre Haute, Indiana, on the 12th, about midway from Kirtland to Far West.
My Brother Hyrum’s wife, Jerusha Barden Smith, died on the 13th of October while I was at Terre Haute, and her husband at Far West. She left five small children and numerous relatives to mourn her loss; her demise was severely felt by all. She said to one of her tender offspring when on her dying bed, “Tell your father when he comes that the Lord has taken your mother home and left you for him to take care of.” She died in full assurance of a part in the first resurrection.
October 15—The High Priests’ quorum at Kirtland decided to take Doctor Sampson Avard’s license until he returns and make satisfaction; and the High Council concurred.”
Here we witness a culling of the weak, listen to the verbiage used in the History of the Church.
“Oct 18—The High Council and presidents of the different quorums met in the Lord’s House, Samuel H. Smith presiding, and after a lengthy discussion concerning existing evils, agreed that it was time to commence the work of reform, and voted unanimously to meet again in the Lord’s House on Monday evening next, and invite the different quorums to meet at the same time, and commence pruning the vine of God in Kirtland, and thus continue the work evening after evening until it shall be wisdom to stay their hands.
Phinehas Richards, Clerk of the High Council.
Sunday 22—The Church in Kirtland disfellowshipped 22 brethren and sisters until they make satisfaction for uniting the world in a dance the Thursday previous.”
After that they chastise John Johnson Jun. for selling “spirituous liquors to those who were in the habit of getting intoxicated” and the next passage deals with people that were running the underground liquor market in Kirtland.
“Oct 29—Nine more of the brethren and sisters were reported to the Church as having been engaged in the recreations of the 19th instant and eleven of the thirty-one that had been reported made confession.
On the 30th of October, Brothers Norris, Brewster, and others, presented to the High Council a plan for the better organization of the church in temporal affairs, stating that Moroni had appeared to Collins Brewster. The council decided that it was a trick of the devil.
Most of those who were complained of for participating in the recreation on the 19th and had not confessed, acknowledged their fault to the High Council on the first of November and the remainder were required so to do or be cut off from the Church.”
This sounds like it’s approaching chaos to me. They can’t reign in the underground liquor that’s bought and sold in Kirtland, they can’t get people to confess of their wrongdoings, the leadership disfellowshipped 22 people in a week and another 31 in the following weeks for being opposed to the High Council and all of this was going on while the prophet, Ollie, Hyrum and Rigdon were travelling from Ohio to Missouri and back.
Let’s shift our focus from affairs in Kirtland and discuss what happened when Jo and friends arrived in Far West, Missouri. It continues on:
“I arrived at Far West some time in the latter part of October or first of November. A meeting of some of the Church was called in the sixth to counsel on certain affairs of the Church, which I attended with Brothers Rigdon and Hyrum Smith. There were present also Elders Thomas B. Marsh, William M’Lellin, Lyman Johnson, William Smith and Vinson Knight, from Ohio, the High Council of the Church of Far West, and some other Elders. Prayer by W.W. Phelps.”
This meeting was quite important. The Far West church was running off the rails and Jo and Rigdon needed to set things back in order. This meeting on November 7th was crucial in the preservation of the church and Jo as the head prophet. During this meeting, a vote was held to sustain Jo as the president of the church to preside over the same, with president Sidney Rigdon as his counsellor. The votes were unanimously passed, which should be taken with a grain of salt, but when Jo tried to get Frederick G. Williams, Freddy Willey, to be second counselor, a bunch of people stood up and objected to the vote. General Lyman Wight was the first to object to the nomination of Freddy Willey because he saw some information in a letter written by Freddy Willey that could be considered heretical, making Freddy unfit to lead. Thomas Marsh, James Emmet, Thomas Grover and some others all objected to Freddy Willey being second counselor, so Hingepin Rigdon stood up and said, “I nominate Hyrum Smith to be second counselor,” which carried out a unanimous vote in the affirmative.
A culling of the weak was going on back in Kirtland, so it’s only fitting to have a similar culling happen in Far West, and that’s what happened. At this time, the Whitmers and Phelps were opposed to the church, but must have had a good talking to, because they were placed back in leadership positions operating under Ollie Cowdung, who would be Jo’s eyes and ears once he went back to Kirtland. The entire Church structure in Far West was reorganized with the most trusted individuals being placed at the top with less trusted people serving under them.
The council minutes end with something quite fascinating that will serve to drive a massive wedge between Jo and Ollie.
“Adjourned until early candle light, and met accordingly, when remarks were made by many of the authorities present upon the previous disposition of the town plat, the purchase of land, etc.; and all difficulties were satisfactorily settled except a matter between Oliver Cowdery, Thomas B. Marsh, and myself, which was referred to us with the agreement that our settlement of the affair would be sufficient for the council.”
I’m not going to tease you with what that affair may have been, because it was very simple, it was the Fanny Alger affair. In April of 1838, Ollie wrote a letter to his brother talking about the dirty, nasty, filthy affair, which is exactly the issue that Ollie and Marsh raised that Jo was able to sweep under the rug and settle it to a point that was sufficient for the council, which meant they weren’t throwing punches anymore. This is the wedge to which I’m referring. The Fanny Alger situation simply wouldn’t die. It had been following Jo around for nearly two years by this point, and Ollie still wasn’t satisfied with Jo’s bullshit justification that allowed him to be a pious prophet while still fucking that hot 19-year-old that lived in his house that one time.
If we could point to one thing that drove Ollie away, Fanny Alger was it. Obviously Jo and Ollie had their differences, especially when it came to Rigdon’s place in their three-way friendship and I would say that Ollie had dealt with Jo’s shit for nearly a decade by this point, but at some point, Ollie couldn’t take the shit anymore and did something about it. But we’ll have to talk more on that in the coming historical timeline episodes.
Let’s continue on. The High Council was organized in Far West, something that needed to be done in person by Jo and Rigdon to instate a level of presence within their leadership. Soon after this council was held, Jo and Rigdon headed right back to Kirtland. It was an 800-mile journey for a couple hours’ worth of organization meetings.
In the middle of November, they left Far West to make their way back to Kirtland, all the while, the Kirtland church was amidst a melt-down. Chaos and pandemonium were gripping the saints in this headquarters of the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints. Last episode when we talked about Warren Parrish’s armed uprising, that was happening while Jo and Rigdon were on their way back to Kirtland. On December 10th, 1837, they arrived in Kirtland, so let’s discuss what happened during their nearly month long journey back to Ohio.
This is from the council minutes at Kirtland on Nov 20th, more than half a month before Jo and Rigdon would arrive back at HQ.
“Reuben Hedlock preferred the following charge against Zenos H. Brewster, Jane Brewster, Collins Brewster, D. H. Dustin and wife, Moses R. Norris and wife, Eliza Norris, Samuel Barnet, Jemima Butler, Osman M. Duel, __ Butler, and Roxanna Repsher, for giving heed to revelations said to be translated from the Book of Moroni by Collins Brewster, and for entering into a written covenant different from the articles and covenants of the Church of Latter-day Saints, and following a vain and delusive spirit.”
The council heard arguments from the people listed and they claimed that the current Church had departed from its holy roots and that they were following new revelations that were more in line with what the original church was. By the end of the council, every single person listed was disfellowshipped and treated as apostates to the one true Church of the Latter-day Saints.
That Collins Brewster that was listed as the 3rd Brewster on the list of people we just read, was actually James Collins Brewster, the founder of the Brewsterite sect of the Church of Christ. He claimed he was the one true prophet and that Jo had departed from being prophet, and once Jo died in 1844, James C. Brewster began to amass a following and lead a group of Brewsterites to live in the New Mexico desert, which promptly collapsed in 1851. This was a different sect than the Parrishites that followed Warren Parrish after he broke off the church at this same exact time.
So we have the Parrishites, the Brewsterites, and then we have NSSMHarris teaming up with a couple guys named Cyrus Smalling and Joseph Coe to take back the church and found their Church of Christ. This is continuing on in the History of the Church vols 2.
“I returned to Kirtland on or about the 10th of December. During my absence in Missouri Warren Parrish, John F. Boynton, Luke S. Johnson, Joseph Coe, and some others united together for the overthrow of the Church. Soon after my return this dissenting band openly and publicly renounced the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints and claimed themselves to be the old standard, calling themselves the Church of Christ, excluding the word “Saints,” and set me at naught, and the whole Church, denouncing us as heretics, not considering that the Saints shall possess the kingdom according to the Prophet Daniel.”
This is from the Geauga County records and I’m reading it from the Rise of Mormonism page 442.
“ State of Ohio} Be it known that before me Warren A. Cowdery a Justice of the Peace in and for Kirtland Township in said County personally appeared Joseph Coe, Martin Harris & Cyrus Smalling and took the following oath to wit; You and each of you do swear in the presence of Almighty God, that you will support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Ohio, and will faithfully discharge your duties as Trustees of the Church of Christ in Kirtland township in said County to the best of your abilities.”
That was an oath taken on Jan 18th 1838, but the organization of the Harris/Coe/Smalling Church of Christ was in the works since mid-November of 37. This really is a remarkable time in our historical timeline…. NSSM was literally the third person to enter our timeline. Go back and look at the episode list, Episode 1 is Jo, Episode 2 is an introduction to Emma Hale who would become Emma Smith in 1827, and then Episode 3 is our introduction to Martin Harris, NSSM. He was with us before Ollie Cowdung, Oliver Cowdery who entered on Episode 5. NSSM has been a pinnacle of hilarity and characterization of the absurdity of an early 19th century mindset for us to laugh along with.
NSSM was quoted with walking through the woods and talking with Jesus in the form of a deer for some number of miles. NSSM was the guy who took Jo’s revelation on snake handling seriously during Zion’s camp and was bit on the foot by a snake. NSSM was swindled by Jo because he dropped his toothpick and couldn’t find it, but Jo did with the magic rock in hat trick. NSSM is the perfect example of a typical credulous mindset that was repeatedly Jo’s target since the day he met Jo. And now, after a decade of working with Jo, and two years in our timeline, NSSM was a heretic, and upon Jo’s return to Kirtland in December, Marty was responsible for leading away the largest chunk of the congregation that any of these breakoff sects resulted in. More people followed Joseph Coe and Martin Harris than they followed Warren Parrish or the Brewsters. This was a monumental time during church history, and NSSM didn’t just leave peaceably.
He stood up during one of the congregations and stated something that is truly the most damning indictment against the BoM by one of the three witnesses, and bankroller of said book. This is taken from a letter that a man named Stephen Burnett wrote to Leadfoot Lyman E. Johnson. Burnett was an early convert in Kirtland and had been a faithful Jo follower for over half a decade by the time he wrote this letter describing a remarkable scene. This is taken from the LDS archives in an 1839 letterbook where the letter was copied and reprinted.
“I have reflected long and deliberately upon the history of this church & weighed the evidence for & against it—loth to give it up—but when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundations was sapped & the entire superstructure fell a heap of ruins, I therefore three weeks since in the Stone Chapel gave a full history of the Church since I became acquainted with it, the false preaching & prophecying of Joseph together with the reasons why I took the course which I was resolved to do, and renounced the Book of Mormon with the whole scene of lying and deception practiced by J. S. & S. R. in this church, believeing as I verily do, that it is all a wicked deception palmed upon us unawares… M. Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city throught a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of [h]im but should have let it passed as it was”
And I’m afraid that’s it. NSSM publicly denounced the testimony of the witnesses included in EVERY SINGLE BoM since the beginning of its publication in 1830. He said he only saw the plates the way a person sees a city through a mountain, and that his natural eyes never beheld the plates, that he only hefted them while covered and saw them in vision or imagination. This is the guy that funded the fucking BoM! If not for NSSM being somehow convinced that the BoM is true, we wouldn’t have the damn thing, and Joseph Smith would be a nobody in American history. And just like that, after all Marty’s shenanigans and reckless credulity which enabled Jo to fuck him over so many times; he exits our historical timeline. Marty has a very fulfilling life after this, he leaves behind the Church of Christ in Kirtland to live in a Shaker community for a while, then joins some other churches and eventually moves out to Utah in the late 1860’s, but this was the final straw for Marty following Jo. Jo and Marty wouldn’t share correspondence or even be in the same city together from this point forward. In June of 1841, NSSM was quoted in the Painesville Telegraph with saying “I believe that the work in its commencement was a genuine work of the Lord, but that Smith, having become worldly and proud, has been forsaken of the Lord, and has become a knave and impostor. He expects that the work will be yet revived, through other instrumentalities.”
Harris’ name may come up in the future of our historical narrative before Jo dies in 1844, but this really is it. NSSM finally had enough and we must bid him adieu and godspeed for his trials and tribulations that face him in the future. Thanks for being such a barrel of laughs Martin Harris…
Let’s finish out the short historical timeline for this week’s episode so we can get to a conversation I had with one of the greatest new podcasters out there.
Back in October, after Jo had gone through the whole Grandison Newell PR debacle, another court was held against Jo and Rigdon in absentia, from which a guilty verdict came down and they were fined $1000 each for illegal banking practices. We may sit back and say, well, everybody wanted a piece of Jo and Rigdon by this point, what was so special about this court ruling? Well, Grandison Newell had filed this lawsuit, separate from the one claiming Jo tried to have him killed, and people were owed this $2k in damages. We’ll talk about the fallout of this court ruling and the rash decisions made by Jo and others to answer next episode, but for now, let’s find out what happened for the rest of December 1837 to close out this year and officially open up 1838.
Jo had arrived back in Kirtland from Missouri on December 10th, only to find that the church which was teetering on a knife edge when he left in September, was now lying in a pile of chaos and ruin with no rhyme or reason to it. People wanted Jo either usurped or dead, anything but what he was doing before. Kirtland was no longer safe for the prophet, so, Jo, Rigdon, and a few other trusted individuals left Kirtland, permanently this time.
Jo and Rigdon fled quickly with their families to make their way back to Far West, where Jo and Rigdon had just reestablished the church hierarchy to be filled with trusted individuals with Ollie as Jo’s eyes and ears while he’s gone. This is a passage taken from the Manuscript History of Brigham Young, hosted on Boap.org, check the show notes for a link.
“On the morning of December 22nd, I left Kirtland in consequence of the fury of the mob and the spirit that prevailed in the apostates, who had threatened to destroy me because I would proclaim publicly and privately, that I knew, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of the Most High God, and had not transgressed and fallen as apostates declared.
On reaching Dublin, Indiana, I found my brother Lorenzo and Isaac Decker, and a number of other families who had stopped for the winter. Meanwhile the Prophet Joseph, Brothers Sidney Rigdon and George W. Robinson came along. They had fled from Kirtland because of the mobocratic spirit prevailing in the bosoms of the apostates.
Here the Prophet made inquiry concerning a job at cutting cordwood and sawing logs, after which he came to me and said, "Brother Brigham, I am destitute of means to pursue my journey and as you are one of the Twelve Apostles who hold the keys of the kingdom in all the world, I believe I shall throw myself upon you, and look to you for counsel in this case." At first I could hardly believe Joseph was in earnest, but on his assuring me he was, I said, "If you will take my counsel, it will be that you rest yourself and be assured, Brother Joseph, you shall have plenty of money to pursue your journey."
There was a brother named Tomlinson living in the place, who had previously asked my counsel about selling his tavern-stand. I told him if he would do right and obey counsel, he should have opportunity to sell soon, and the first offer he would get would be the best. A few days afterwards Brother Tomlinson informed me he had an offer for his place. I asked him what offer he had; he replied he was offered $500 in money, a team, and $250 in store goods. I told him that was the hand of the Lord to deliver President Joseph Smith from his present necessity.
My promise to Joseph was soon verified. Brother Tomlinson sold his property and gave the Prophet three hundred dollars, which enabled him comfortably to proceed on his journey.”
One nice little fuck you from Jo there, right? I mean, the “fuck you” was carried out by Bloody fucking Brigham, but, as always, Jo was the one in desperate need of money so it was a fuck you by transitive property.
To sum up the passage as a whole, Bloody Brigham’s life was at stake. He was one of the most ardent supporters of Jo, and once Jo and Rigdon left Kirtland, it was no longer safe for Brigham to be there. This fearless movie villain mold that I’ve pictured Bloody Brigham fitting perfectly into up to this point, was shaken to his very core for fear of his life and had to run away, that’s how polarizing Jo was and how cancerous support of him could be by this point. People hated Jo so much by this point that they were threatening the lives of not only him, but also of his closest supporters. People have to be really mad at somebody if they’re driven to a point that they might kill somebody just for supporting the person they’re mad at. This was a whole new level.
The move from Kirtland to Far West was an ugly and arduous one, we’ll read more from the Manuscript History of BY next historical episode to narrate the journey, but needless to say, they weren’t moving the 800+ miles through Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri in the winter with moving vans, we’re talking covered wagons, and the shit these people dealt with was some hardcore frontier shit around which none of us could even begin to scarcely wrap our minds.
On January 12th, barely a month after arriving back in Kirtland, Jo gave a revelation and left for Missouri at 10:00 p.m. to avoid detection. This is the revelation taken from the History of the Church vols. 3
“Thus Saith the Lord Let the presidency of my church take their families as soon as it is practicable and a door is open for them to moove unto the west as fast as the way is made pla[in] before their faces and let their hearts be comforted for I will be with them.”
Then he fuckin ran, lickedy-split, as fast as the prophet has ever left any city before, Jo and Emma gathered their things and left, meeting Bloody Brigham in Dublin, Indiana, and the scene we just read a second ago played out.
I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of missionaries this week. I was down at the local university campus to do a couple of studies and use their library, and whilst sitting in the main square reading the Rise of Mormonism, two missionaries walked by. I fumble fucked my book back into my bag and chased after them only after I had pinched myself, just to be sure. We discussed many things during our 45 minute conversation, but one thing we did talk about was anti-Mormons in the history.
I told them the story about Brother Snider taking 200 Books of Mormon in the England mission and burning them, to which they agreed was a very anti-Mormon action to take, but when we discussed that last episode, or whenever that was, I was more interested in knowing some details about this Brother Snider. When did he go on his mission? Who did he talk to? Who was his companion? Why did he leave? Did somebody make him angry, or did he realize the truth? Why did he feel the need to burn 200 Books of Mormon when he left? Countless questions circulated through my mind about this guy and I want to know more. But, alas, he was labeled as an anti-Mormon and his story will likely never be told. That’s probably one of the more frustrating things with the historical record surrounding the Mormon religion is the one-sided nature of things. We can read anti-Mormon literature written by people like Grandison Newell or Eber Howe, and we can read the sanitized version of Mormon history from many sources, especially the History of the Church, but we don’t get much closer to understanding the people behind the history. People are always people, and they don’t generally do things unless they have a good reason. Snider probably felt like he had a good reason to burn those 200 books, or else he probably wouldn’t have done it. That leads us to a question.
When we research the history of the church during this tumultuous period of strife and unrest, we often tend to lose the human element to things and just look at everything with a pro-Joseph or an anti-Jo lens. All of those people that left the church and started their own churches had good reasons to do so. NSSM had a good reason to stand up in the middle of church and declare that he never actually saw the gold plates right before he joined up with Smalling and Coe to start their own church. Ollie had his good reasons for leaving the church in spring of 1838, and we get a small insight into why during his letter exchanges. But the question is, what is missing? There’s truly no way we can know the shit these people were dealing with and the motivation behind their reasoning, but they probably had good reasons to do whatever they did.
That’s probably one of the main takeaways from my conversation with the missionaries, what is missing from the record that could never be replaced with journal entries or court documents? To put it simply, I think it’s the human element. When researching these individuals, it’s easy to put a nickname or a person’s printed name into a situation and speculate as to why things went the way they did, but it’s even easier to lose sight of the fact that these were real people dealing with real world frustrations and feelings about the prophet and their eternal salvation.
I said a couple of episodes back that this 1837/8 defection crisis effected EVERYONE! Regardless of their position in the church or its leadership, every single person was affected somehow by this fracturing of leadership. The everyday non-leadership member of the church was suddenly faced with a decision that had eternal implications.
Picture yourself there. You’ve been following Joseph Smith for 5 years since you read the BoM and had a burning in your bosom that told you it was the Lord’s truth. Rumors arise that the prophet has been fucking a teenager, fucking investors in the KSS company, and fucking anybody that stands in his way like Grandison Newell. A bunch of trusted leaders of the church, people that are your friends, are suddenly considered heretics and begin to break off and make their own churches, each with varying degrees of faith in the BoM and Jo’s revelations. Then Jo comes up with a revelation that you have to leave everything you have behind, for the second time since you joined the church, and move to Missouri, where Mormons are dragged out into the streets and beat to death or shot after being chased out of their homes. What the fuck do you do? An even bigger question than that, which must have played into people’s decision making, what does God want me to do? Which of these people are true prophets, and which group will lead me to heaven in the afterlife? It’s not just about homes, businesses, friends or family, this is a question that has eternal ramifications on your everlasting soul, so I ask again, what the fuck do you do in this situation?
There really isn’t an easy answer to that question and we’re looking back on this from 180 years in the future; we aren’t the people that actually dealt with this and had to make these hard decisions. I admire the people that went through this, and made the decisions they made. They had no idea that the whole thing was a load of bullshit and they would be much better off joining a local Methodist sect or something, that’s a luxury we have with the power of hindsight, this was eternal life or death to these people. We can never lose sight of that aspect of our historical analysis; the human element. These were fellow human beings going through this, not just names in a book or nicknames on a podcast.
Speaking of podcasts, I’m excited to introduce the guest of this episode, a fellow podcaster that’s been taking the community by storm.
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