Ep 34 – Kirtland Temple Hallucication
On this episode, we start off with a discussion about the history of Mormon temples. This launches us into a discussion about the resources necessary to build such a structure, as well as how they paid for by the church. After that we discuss 6 pages in the History of the Church that sound balls to the walls crazy, I wonder what was in that anointing oil. This leads us into a question about a bigger Mormon history issue, is there a naturalistic explanation for the miraculous angel and dead prophet sightings of the Kirtland Temple dedication ceremony? The episode concludes with a discussion about Ollie and Joe’s friendship, as well as the overarching problem with Mormon Temples.
Outro music Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
The Spirit of God – Mormon Tabernacle Choir
LDS Last Days Missouri Temple plat
LDS History article on Kirtland Temple dedication
Mormonthink article on Kirtland Temple dedication
Jeremy Runnells excommunication video
Monster on Sunday – atheist metal
Tristan’s project – Where Babies Come From
Welcome to episode 34 of the Naked Mormonism Podcast, the serial Mormon history podcast. Today is June 9th, 2016, my name is Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me.
We just have time for a quick recap of last historical timeline episode before jumping into the meat of today’s episode. We started out with talking about ancient archaeological digs that were unearthing all kinds of great artifacts from antiquity, only to be shipped all over the world and sold to private collectors, like Joe. Eventually, a guy named Michael Chandler sold 4 mummies and some Papyri to the church, and Joe would later manufacture parts of the Pearl of Great Price from this Papyri, after translating it and determining the Egyptian alphabet. After that, our good friend Oliver Cowdery presented the 1835 version of the Doctrine and Covenants to the presidency, which was voted on and adopted into the official church canon by the presidency, and eventually the entire church.
After talking about Ollie Cowdung’s magnus opus, we discussed the fact that Joseph Smith Sr., or as we know him Big Daddy Cheese, was called to be the church Patriarch, and given a living stipend plus fees for providing patriarchal blessings to the saints. We then moved on to talking about ANOTHER first vision account that was taken from Joe’s own journal, and of course, there were discrepancies between it and the current version featured in the 1842 History of the Church.
After that, we advanced the storyline to one of the biggest events in Mormon history up to this point, and that was the first provable sex-scandal between Joe and Fanny Alger. There has been fleeting evidence of Joe thinking with his dipstick up to this point, but this occurrence between 1834?-1836 was the first one we have solid evidence for, and know the affair to be a sticking point with a lot of the leadership in the church, Joe pissed a lot of people off by porkin Fanny. This affair will serve to create a lot of problems between Joe and his closest allies for the 8 remaining years of Joe’s life.
We finished out last historical episode talking about a man named Abraham Palmer, who joined the church in late 1835, or early 1836, which marks the commemoration of 180 years since my family line entered the Mormon historical timeline. I also read my own patriarchal blessing for anybody that supports the show through patreon.com/nakedmormonism.
That’ll do for a roundup, let’s jump straight into the meat of today’s episode. While it may seem like we cover a lot of ground, we’re going to focus most of today’s episode on basically a week and a half of time in the church’s history. The time frame we’re focusing on is from March 26, to April 6, 1836. The main event we’ll be talking about today is known as one of the most miraculous and amazing events in all of Mormon history. We have a lot of first-person accounts from this time period, and it was well known and publicized in Mormon periodicals and personal journals.
I have to set everybody up for what we’ll be discussing today, because we need context. I could describe that week and a half period, and you may think it amazing or acid-trippy, but with some proper context, I think it’ll be much more impressive to understand the gravity of today’s show. We’ll start out with talking about a revelation from late 1832 to introduce our topic and set the scene for this week and a half we’re leading up to.
This is taken from the website of JosephSmithPapers.org, which is the church’s own book series that publishes volumes of early Mormon documents that they have hidden in the catacombs of the LDS document archive. They have digitalized versions openly available on josephsmithpapers.org, where you can see photocopies of the original documents, as well as the expertly catalogued printed version of each page. This is a small excerpt from a revelation Joe gave that would later become D&C 88.
“Therefore verily, I say unto you my friends, call your solemn assembly, as I have commanded you, and as all have not faith, seek ye diligently, and teach one another, words of wisdom, yea seek ye out of the best books, words of wisdom, seek Learning even by study, and also, by faith organize yourselves, prepare evry needful [thing?] and establish, an house, even an house of prayer and house of fasting, an house of faith, an house of Learning, an house of glory, an house of order an house of God, that your incomings may be in the name of the Lord, and your outgoing may be in the name of the Lord, that all your salutations, may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands, unto the most high[.]”
This is the first real mention of Joe commanding a house of the lord to be built. It could be argued that it was interpreted as simply a church building, but they already had a couple of those by the time this revelation came along in December of 1832, so this revelation is, indeed, commanding the readers of the revelation to construct a temple.
Oddly enough, Joe had already mentioned that a house of the lord would be built in Zion, the New Jerusalem. Well, not Joe particularly, but Ollie did in a letter dated Oct. 17, 1830, right before he left with Peter Whitmer, P-Cubed, and Dick Zyban Peterson to go on the church’s first official mission to the land of the Lamanites. This was the same mission that reportedly brought Hingepin Sidney Rigdon into the church; for more details on it, listen to episode 24, Joe’s New Sidekick. Anyway, in this letter that Ollie wrote, he says this, starting from the beginning of the letter.
“I, Oliver [Cowdery], being commanded of the Lord God, to go forth unto the Lamanites, to proclaim glad tidings of great joy unto them, by presenting unto them the fulness of the Gospel, of the only begotten son of God; and also, to rear up a pillar as a witness where the Temple of God shall be built, in the glorious New-Jerusalem;”
Building a proper temple was on Joe’s mind from the beginning of the church. I don’t properly understand the specific appeal of building a temple. I mean, I get that Solomon’s temple was highly revered in the Old Testament, and the Tabernacle of Moses was focused on almost as much as the ark of the covenant was throughout the Pentateuch, but I just don’t personally understand the allure of a great and spacious building like that.
But, that’s not to say that a temple, or big house isn’t for everyone, and I think that was the vision that Joe had for his church. There were a couple of small buildings they used as gathering places, or churches, but no major temple to legitimize the church, and fulfill revelation from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Joe’s own head.
If we remember back to episode 25, Joe in Charge, we know that once the revelation/commandment was given to the missionary force to build a temple in Zion, Joe had to make his own trip out to Independence, Missouri, in order to give the revelation about where the temple would be constructed. Once he arrived in Missouri, he gave a revelation on exactly where the temple would be constructed, and laid a makeshift cornerstone on the plot. This was one of the earliest reasons why the Missourians hated the Mormons, because Joe just came strollin in like king badass, and said this is where the temple will be, and all you slave owning country bumpkin redneck Missourians can just fuckin deal with it. You can imagine how that might make the Missourians a little uneasy having this yankee sumbitch come in and declare their town to be Zion where the Mormon Jesus would return.
It was less than a year after this that Joe gave his revelation on the temple being built in Kirtland that we read earlier. It’s clear that Joe’s understanding of the word “Temple” was ever-changing and could mean pretty much any building the church needed for any stuffs at all.
In June 1833, Joe sent the leaders of the church in Missouri plans that called for 24 temples to be built in the center of Independence, Missouri. This is taken from LDSlastdays.com, and there it even includes a picture of the original plat that Joe drew out for Missouri, courtesy of LDS archives. There will be a link to this article in the show notes so you can see Joe’s grand plans for Independence in his own writing, which never really panned out.
“At the center of the mile-square city, he envisioned two large blocks containing 24 sacred "temples." These were to be assigned to the various priesthood quorums and were to serve a variety of functions. The Prophet anticipated that the city would have a population of from 15,000 to 20,000 so that these 24 buildings would be needed as "houses of worship, schools, etc." Because all inhabitants of the city should be living on a celestial level (D&C 105:5) all these structures could properly be regarded as "temples"-places of communication between heaven and earth-even though their functions were not restricted to ordinance work.”
As we can see, Joe’s comprehension of the word temple began to expand to include pretty much any building that the church needed for any purpose whatsoever. During this time that Joe was envisioning temples from Oct 1830 to mid-1834, He didn’t see one massive white-façade building that we see as temples today, he just planned on calling any building, used for church purposes, a temple. There is even a breakdown, in the same article, of the function of each building labeled in Joe’s plat for Zion, listing everything from House for the Deacons, to a Sacred Apostolic Repository. It really is fascinating stuff, and this article really tells a lot more that we can’t get into right now, so please be sure to check out the LDSlastdays.com article in the show notes for further reading. It should be noted that Joe made a prophecy that there would be a temple built in Independence, and laid two cornerstones for it when he was there in 1831. This prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. There has never been a temple built where Joe gave the prophecy and laid the cornerstones. Today the plot is owned by the Church of Christ, and they dug up the cornerstones in the early 1900’s and have yet to fulfill Joe’s ultimate prophecy. Maybe they’re hoping that Jesus will come back and drop a fuckin temple out of the sky or something, who knows… But to this day, it remains an empty lot with a little visitor’s center on it.
Moving away from Missouri and back to Ohio, Joe had revealed that Kirtland would be the site of a huge temple in 1832, and the plot was dedicated soon afterwards. It took Joe and company a bit of time to get started because Joe was busy with a lot of other projects coming down the pike. The printing press had just been established in Missouri and the Book of Commandments were being printed. Persecution in Missouri was beginning to become a real problem. People were constantly joining the church, or apostatizing and falling away while trying to pull as many of their friends out of the faith with them as they could. Joe was trying not to run the bishop’s storehouse into the ground, while at the same time not letting the United Order become financially insolvent. The School of the Elders was amidst collapse, and Doctor Philastus Hurlbut had just been excommunicated, and was beginning his anti-Mormon campaign to smear/expose Joe for the fraud he was. There were a lot of things going on in 1833 that held up the actual construction of the Kirtland temple, so on June 1, 1833, Joe gave this revelation taken from the 1835 D&C section 95.
“1 Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, whom I love, and whom I love I
also chasten, that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement
I prepare a way for their deliverance, in all things out of
temptation: and I have loved you:
Wherefore ye must needs be chastened, and stand rebuked before my face,
for ye have sinned against me a very grevious sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you, concerning the building of mine house,
for the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time, that I may bring to pass my strange act, that I may pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”
The lord had to chastise Joe and friends for not getting to work quickly enough on constructing the temple in Kirtland. This is a side note, but you would think the almighty god could express his frustration with the temple by means other than saying “whom I love[,] I also chasten, that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance, in all things out of temptation: and I have loved you”. I mean, when the conference center in SLC was under construction in 1999, there was a freak tornado that blew through the center of downtown SLC, causing $170 million in damage. This tornado was extremely rare, and coincidentally almost directly hit the conference center, causing a fair amount of damage, and picking up the construction cranes and throwing them around like toothpicks. A couple of the cranes almost toppled onto the SLC temple, but alas, that massive granite bastard didn’t even get a scratch.
My point is, if God were displeased with the progress of one of his buildings, he had means to inform the people with a sign of some sort. He could have brought in a massive flood that coincidentally dug a huge hole right on the temple plot. He could have caused a huge earthquake to shift the nearby ground to fell a bunch of trees that would be needed for the construction. God could have conveyed his message in many direct ways, instead he just spoke through Joe giving revelation n, like usual, even though some considered Joe to have lost his credibility by this point. I’m just trying to say, if I were god, and told all these people to start building my house, I would at least be benevolent enough to help them out. . . Or if I weren’t going to help them, I would send a sign to everybody tasked with building the temple that they were fuckin up by not getting started soon enough. Maybe a town fire everywhere except for the plot where the temple would be. . . Maybe dysentery to anybody that doesn’t grab a shovel or hammer to help. . . I mean, anything to show them my real intentions, but no, God just kept working through Joe, his class A premium fuck-up of a prophet in so many respects… Hardly sounds like divine providence to me.
Point is, if I were god, I would have done this a lot smarter. I would have at least made it possible for the church to build it. I would have given them the money and supplies necessary to finish it by my timeline. But, Joe’s God is apparently a bit inept when it comes to building temples, because from the end of June 1833, to March 1836, the Kirtland temple was slowly and arduously constructed at great cost and sacrifice to Joe and the Mormons. This is an excerpt from the History of the Church vols. 2 pp. 234
“Thursday June 25  – There was a meeting in Kirtland to subscribe for the building of the Temple; and $6,232.50 was added to the list. Joseph Smith subscribed $500; Oliver Cowdery, $750; W. W. Phelps, $500; of the above, all of which they paid within one hour, and the people were astonished.”
The best number I could find online was a cool $40,000 required to construct the entire temple, and we just read one part of how the money was raised. Adjusted for inflation, that’s almost $1.1 million that the church members had to come up with to construct the Kirtland temple. Some of those funds were raised by tithing, and calling for specific dollar amounts from various people, just like we read in the History of the Church a second ago, but the vast majority of the money needed to construct this temple was provided on credit. They built nearly the entire temple with nothing but loans, which would bite em right in the ass very soon. It’s really no wonder that the construction took the better part of 3 years to complete from when they actually started doing it, until it was dedicated, they were too resource starved to build it. Doesn’t that further validate the point that this wasn’t divine providence? It seems like if God commanded a temple to be built, he would give the church the means to do it, instead of requiring them to undertake this monumental task for 3 years straight and bankrupting the church along the way.
Add into the equation the fact that Joe was a shopaholic for stuff he was interested in, and the church was kind of his own little piggy bank. The church really started to suffer from lack of funds and poor management. During the final phases of construction, Joe even decided to buy some god awful mummies and Papyri for $62,000 of today’s money, which could have been used on the temple, but was instead probably used to buy Michael Chandler a new house.
Do we start to see why so many of Joe’s revelations concerned money or tithing? Joe couldn’t stop spending money on stuff he wanted, while there were plenty of other necessities that the church and its members needed to continue to exist. The church was hemorrhaging money from nearly every pore, and nobody could stop the bleeding. This financial insolvency will culminate to become the biggest shitstorm the church had ever seen up to 1838, and it’s very important we understand that building the Kirtland temple, was one primary factor of the money bleeding that nearly collapsed the church 2 years after the temple was dedicated. This doesn’t seem like a very divine plan in my book.
The temple was basically finished by January of 1836, with just some small details to be worked out by the time dedication rolled around on March 27th. Joe must have been a bit euphoric about the progress that was being made, because he came up with a revelation that enlightens us to some things that must have been on his mind at the time.
Before reading this excerpt, let’s look at some context. Right before this, Joe had called Big Daddy Cheese to be the patriarch of the church, and to offer patriarchal blessings for a fee. Being ordained into this office required a blessing ritual, during which all the men of the presidency gathered around BDC and anointed his head with oil, and blessed him. After all the presidency did this, BDC stood up, and returned blessings to all of them, including Joe, which sets up the scene for what we’re about to read from the History of the Church vols. 2 pp 380-381
“And in my turn, my father anointed my head, and sealed upon me the blessings of Moses, to lead Israel in the latter days, even as Moses led him in days of old; also the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All of the presidency laid their hands upon me, and pronounced upon my head many prophecies and blessings, many of which I shall not notice at this time. But as Paul said, so say I, let us come to visions and revelations.”
We’re nowhere near done for this passage, because it is absolutely packed with bat-shit insanity. But I do need to point out that what we’re about to read was extracted from the History of the Church, and canonized in the 1980’s as a revelation in the current day BoCvnts 137.
“1 The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell.
2 I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire;
3 Also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.
4 I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.
5 I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept;
6 And marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.
7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;
8 Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;
9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
10 And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.”
So we can kind of see what was on Joe’s mind here. His brother Alvin’s death was something that weighed on Joe for years. Alvin was a powerful influence on the young Joe, and his deathbed words to Joe were basically “Never stop until you get the record”. That’s a tale for a different day, but it’s still fun to put ourselves into Joe’s shoes, and try to understand what was causing him to have these revelations. What was on his mind that caused him to see or say or write these things and claim they were from God? By the way, we’re still not done with that passage, it goes off the deep end pretty soon, but keep that question in mind. What was on Joe’s mind that caused him to have these revelations.
“I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth, who hold the keys of this last ministry, in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him. The Savior looked upon them and wept.
I also beheld Elder M’Lellin in the south, standing upon a hill, surrounded by a vast multitude, preaching to them, and a lame man standing before him supported by his crutches; he threw them down at his word and leaped as a hart, by the mighty power of God. Also, I saw Elder Brigham Young standing in a strange land, in the far south and west, in a desert place, upon a rock in the midst of about a dozen men of color, who appeared hostile. He was preaching to them in their own tongue, and the angel of God standing above his head, with a drawn sword in his hand, protecting him, but he did not see it. And I finally saw the Twelve in the celestial kingdom of God. I also beheld the redemption of Zion, and many things which the tongue of man cannot describe in full.”
Alright, before reading that, I asked the question, what was on Joe’s mind to come up with these revelations. There is simply no way of knowing, right? There’s no possible way that we could understand what would bring Joe to see things like this, which is a problem with historical analysis. We can never really know the motivations behind why a person does what they do, or in Joe’s case, sees what he saw, but I have a theory, and it has to do with what was on Joe’s head, not on his mind.
Run with me for a minute here. I’m going to read some rapid fire excerpts out of the next few pages of the History of the Church, and tell me if you notice a running theme. These visions happened in a room with all of the presidency present. It was just a bunch of guys going up into a room, and blessing and anointing each other with oil, and having prophecies revelations.
“Many of the brethren who received the ordinance with me saw glorious visions also. Angels ministered unto them as well as to myself.”
“My scribe also received his anointing with us, and saw, in a vision, the armies of heaven protecting the Saints in their return to Zion, and many things which I saw.”
“The Bishop of Kirtland with his Counselors, and the Bishop of Zion with his Counselors, were present with us, and received their anointing’s under the hands of Father Smith, and this was confirmed by the Presidency, and the glories of heaven were unfolded to them also.”
“Hyrum Smith anointed the head of the President of the Councilors in Kirtland, and President David Whitmer the head of the President of the Councilors of Zion. The President of each quorum then anointed the heads of his colleagues, each in his turn, beginning at the oldest. The visions of heaven were opened to them also. Some of them saw the face of the Savior, and others were ministered unto by holy angels, and the spirit of prophecy and revelation was poured out in mighty power.”
This might be the most blatant of all the passages with the point I’m trying to make here, but we’re going to read a few more after it.
“Prayer was offered up by the head of each quorum; and closed by singing, and invoking the benediction of heaven, with uplifted hands. Retired between one and two o’clock in the morning.
Next Day – Attended at the school room at the usual hour, but instead of pursuing our studies, we spent the time in rehearsing to each other the glorious scenes that occurred on the preceding evening, while attending to the ordinance of holy anointing.
In the evening we met at the same place, with the Council of the Twelve, and the Presidency of the Seventy, who were to receive this ordinance [of anointing and blessing]. . . After calling to order and organizing, the Presidency proceeded to consecrate the oil.
We then laid our hands upon Elder Thomas B. Marsh, who is President of the Twelve, and ordained him to the authority of anointing his brethren. I then poured the consecrated oil upon his head, in the name of Jesus Christ, and sealed such blessings upon him as the Lord put into my heart. . . He then anointed and blessed his brethren from the oldest to youngest. . . The heavens were opened, and angels ministered unto us.”
“The Twelve then proceeded to anoint and bless the Presidency of the Seventy, and seal upon their heads power and authority to anoint their brethren.
The Heavens were opened unto Elder Sylvester Smith, and he, leaping up, exclaimed: “The horsemen of Israel and the chariots thereof.”
“The gift of tongues fell upon us in mighty power, angels mingled their voices with ours, while their presence was in our midst, and unceasing praises swelled our bosoms for the space of half-an-hour.”
“We accordingly closed our interview and returned home at about two o’clock in the morning, and the Spirit and visions of God attended me through the night.”
I sure hope that I made my theory clear reading all of those excerpts, and just for some information, those readings were all taken from 6 pages of the history of the church vols. 2 380-385. Six pages, and we had 14 references to anointing with oil, anointing ordinance, or consecrating the oil, 26 references to visions, seeing things, beholding, seeing or having the heavens opened by multiple people in a small group of 15 to 30 men, 6 references to angels, and a small handful of other very similar sounding themes. Remember, every one of those that I just read were taken from just 6 pages of the Church’s official history, I didn’t have to pull all of those from across multiple books or anything, they were all in just one place, talking about a 2-day period. Passages like these aren’t just localized to this one part of the History of the Church either, they are peppered everywhere throughout the pages of all 6 volumes of Joe being prophet. Sometimes they show up more frequently as more revelations come along, sometimes they are less frequent and the revelations slow down.
Let me also point out that these revelation sessions went until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning for two nights in a row. Do those sound like prayer parties, or just straight up parties? Tell you what, the next time your kid comes home at 2 in the morning and tells you he or she was studying the bible and praying with friends until that late, you may want to treat that claim with a little skepticism. It seems a little fuckin suspicious, don’cha think?! Maybe look at their pupils to see if they’re dilated, and don’t forget to check their pockets for consecrated anointing oil. Do you see the point I’m making here?
You may want to say that’s absurd! Joseph Smith didn’t use psychedelics! Well let’s look at the evidence. Native Americans had been using Peyote for 5500 years before Joe’s time for hallucinogenic trips. The oracles of Pythia were coming up with their revelations while standing near springs emitting ethylene and methane while chewing on Oleander leaves. At least 8 of the young women during the Salem witch trials that were killed, were likely infected with Ergotism caused by eating infected grain, which made them convulse, spasm and hallucinate, spouting random delusions that were interpreted as witchcraft. And, have you ever wondered why witches ride broomsticks? Well, because it was first observed in 1324 that these witches would rub nightshade oil on wooden sticks and fuck themselves with it, causing hallucinations. Humans have been using hallucinogens and other drugs for longer than they’ve been writing.
Now, considering all of that information, and reviewing everything we just read took from 6 PAGES of the church’s own history, is it really all that absurd to think this is what was going on with Joe and his visions? Was it really what was on his mind, or did these visions have something to do with what was on his head? Almost every time Joe was anointed with this consecrated oil on his head, the heavens opened up, and he had visions and heard god speaking. Almost every time somebody else was anointed in the same way, and had this same oil put on their head just like Joe, they saw visions, and angels, and had heaven open up to them.
In 1822, Thomas De Quincey, a famous poet/bard, had a drug of choice for his brainstorming sessions called laudanum. While not psychedelic, laudanum is basically opium combined with alcohol and creates a relaxing, open-minded sensation in the user. That’s 1822!, merely 8 years before the Book of Mormon in England that somebody openly wrote his poems while high on drugs. If you’re looking for a naturalistic explanation for where Joe’s visions came from, I would assert that this makes more sense than any other possible explanation.
I know this may sound absurd, that Joe was high all the time, but if you look at the language he uses and compare it to the language of psychedelic users back, then and even today, there are a stunning amount of similarities. The most telling is the heavens opening up, that’s always preceded by the person being anointed with consecrated oil on their head. Talk to anybody that’s ever done shrooms or dropped acid, a lot of times they will talk about seeing the universe or the stars open up while they gain a whole new perspective on life. I was just recently talking to a guy that’ll remain anonymous, but for the purpose of the story I’ll call him the letter J. I got into the psychedelics conversation with J recently, and I admitted that I’ve never imbibed any psychedelics before, just the two mains, alcohol and weed. I’m working off memory here, so pardon me if I remember this wrong, but he told me about one of the times when he popped a couple caps of magic mushrooms and he felt like God. . . I asked him what that meant, like you saw the universe and cosmos created at your fingertips or something, and he said No. . . he didn’t know how to describe it, but he just actively imagined that he was God, and he had this amazing feeling of omnipotence overcome him, like he was in control of everything. It’s hard to describe a trip from what I can tell, because he also told me about the moments right before this omnipotence, when he was petting his dog for like 3 hours straight because it was SOOOO FLUFFFY!!! Needless to say, it sounded amazing, and J did a much better job of describing his trip than I ever could, but I’m pointing to the common themes here. The language J used to describe his mushroom trip were oddly similar to the amorphous language Joe used to describe his revelations that went until 2 in the morning.
One thing we need to keep in mind is that the public perception of drugs that we have today is wildly different than how drugs were perceived back in the early 19th century. Drugs didn’t carry the taboos and stigma that we see drugs having today, they were just god’s gift to bring you enlightenment. A person would go walking through the forest and pick up some psilocybin, or cut the tops off cactus and refine them into a powder or oil, and imbibe to speak with God, or see angels, or connect with the holy spirit. Simple as that. It wasn’t a schedule one drug that the person would go to jail for having, it was just one of god’s many gifts that help us get closer to him or understand his mind. It may sound degrading to Joe and friends to think that they were just tripping balls whenever they came up with revelations, but that’s only because of the negative stigma that drugs carry today. When we consider all aspects and possibilities of Joe using hallucinogens to come up with revelations, it all seems to make sense, right?
There was a news article that I saw recently following an experiment using LSD and brain scanners. Basically what these researches did is scan some participant’s brains with an fMRI scanner to see what their baseline brain function looked like, and then they gave them some acid, and looked at their brains through the fMRI again to see what their brain activity looked like while under the influence of acid. The change in activity was astonishing, and the article included some pictures from the scanner to illustrate the point. Entire regions that were barely active, or almost completely dormant in the first scan were suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree with blood flow and activity while the participant was on acid. The researchers described it like the participant’s brains were functioning much the way a very small child’s brain functions, which is much more open and active than most adult brains. It really was a fascinating study, and it’s spurring other research grants into psychedelics and drugs that are considered worthy of felony and jail time nowadays. This hyper-negative perception of drugs like this has only been ingrained into the population since the beginning of the war on drugs, which is a topic that I can’t allow myself to talk about, because that will just be the rest of the show. My point is, drugs and hallucinogens weren’t taboo in Joe’s time. It was perfectly natural to use drugs like this, and many of the passages we just read sound oddly similar to psychedelic trips.
Also, it’s not like Joe didn’t have access to drugs like this. He wasn’t snorting Columbian cocaine that he used church funds to buy a kilo of off his guy, this oil was likely from a plant found locally in the forests of New York and Ohio. I’m up in Seattle and it’s fungus country up here. Anybody can go walking through the forest and find a couple caps of magic mushrooms, they’re everywhere. Joe, likely, had ready access to a psychedelic oil, whether by his own findings, or from a local salesperson that was making the oil to sell.
I suppose this leads to an overall question about probability. Is it more likely that Joe and friends were using psychedelic oil and rubbing it on each other’s head to see these amazing things we read a minute ago, or is it more likely that every single one of these guys were inspired by God and locked into a trance of revelation and prophecy until 2 in the morning? What is more likely? Only one of those is a completely naturalistic explanation, and I’ve made my case and provided my evidence to show you what I think, but you, the listener, should decide what sounds most likely to you. I just ask that you pay attention for when the phrase anointing oil comes up in the future, it may help add a little more context to what we’ll read immediately following those magical words.
Alright, let’s shift gears here and talk about the main point of today’s episode, that week and a half time from March 26th to April 6th. It’s been a lot of buildup to this, and we’ve covered what was going on with the Kirtland temple all the way up to this point. It’s been a hard and arduous task building it, and there are even reports of Joe himself working on the temple with his own hands, which is amazing in and of itself. The Mormons were working day and night to get this thing finished, and Joe was bleeding the members dry of any funds they could possibly devote to the construction of this great and spacious building. Finally, by the evening of March 26th, the last of the dust from constructing the temple was being swept away, and it was officially completed and ready to be dedicated.
On March 27th, amazing things happened, and stories from this day are revered as some of the most miraculous events in all Mormon history. The dedication service for the Kirtland temple was held in the main chapel area of the temple. It was 8 hours long, and there are stories floating around of angels and spirits flying through the building during the service, and all kinds of miraculous events, and I’m really not sure how to interpret them. To any never-mos, this is a huge story that Mormons will frequently point to when it comes to talking about angelic visitations and miracles. This is one point in Mormon history that most believers will know about if you ever strike up a conversation about angelic visitation and miracles. The dedication of the Kirtland temple is an occasion that Mormons hang their hats on, and we’re going to read as many accounts as I can possibly find that talk about it. If you talk to believing Mormons about angels and miracles, they’ll talk about God and Jesus in the sacred grove, the angel Moroni with the plates, the priesthood restoration with Peter James and John, and the Kirtland temple dedication. That’s how big this thing is in Mormon history.
My sources for this are primarily history.lds.org and mormonthink.com. They both cover it quite well, and they can be viewed as the pro- and anti- Mormon analysis of that fateful day. I just call it propaganda and criticism instead of pro and anti. There will be links to both of these articles in the show notes.
On the morning of March 27th, 1836, anywhere from 250 to one thousand people gathered in the Kirtland temple. I say those numbers because there are different numbers all over multiple sources, and I want to cover all my bases. Luckily for us, there were quite a few people in that crowd that kept journals, and were interviewed in later years concerning this time in Mormon history. There’s no shortage of first-hand accounts of this occurrence, however we do have to examine what some of them say. There are obvious contradictions between some of the accounts, and we need to try and flesh out those contradictions here.
Joe had encouraged everybody to fast the night before to hopefully invoke the spirit even more, and by the time mid-morning rolls around, most of the people’s minds were in the right place. Then, once it turned to afternoon, nobody can say exactly what happened, but something changed, and angelic visitations began to happen. I’ll read a bunch of quotes that support angelic visitations first, then read some other quotes that I feel enlighten us to the reality a little more.
Joseph Smith, Jr.
"Brother George A. Smith arose and began to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place."
Reference: Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951), 2:428.
"Sunday, the 27th attended on the dedication of the Lord's house. For the particulars of this great event see my account written by myself, and printed in the March No. of The Messenger and Advocate, signed C. In the evening I met with the officers of the church in the Lord's house. The Spirit was poured out--I saw the glory of God, like a great cloud, come down and rest upon the house, and fill the same like a mighty rushing wind. I also saw cloven tongues, like as of fire rest upon many, (for there were 316 present,) while they spake with other tongues and prophesied."
Reference: Leonard J. Arrington, "Oliver Cowdery's Kirtland Ohio 'Sketch Book,'" BYU Studies, Volume 12, (Summer 1972), 426.
Heber C. Kimball
"During the ceremonies of the dedication, an angel appeared and sat near President Joseph Smith, Sen., and Frederick G. Williams, so that they had a fair view of his person. He was a very tall personage, black eyes, white hair, and stoop shouldered; his garment was whole, extending to near his ankles; on his feet he had sandals. He was sent as a messenger to accept of the dedication...While these things were being attended to[,] the beloved disciple John was seen in our midst by the Prophet Joseph, Oliver Cowdery and others."
Reference: Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886), 9: 376.
George A. Smith
"There were great manifestations of power, such as speaking in tongues, seeing visions, administration of angels. Many individuals bore testimony that they saw angels, and David Whitmer bore testimony that he saw three angels passing up the south aisle, and there came a shock on the house like the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and almost every man in the house arose, and hundreds of them were speaking in tongues, prophecying or declaring visions, almost with one voice."
Reference: Ibid, 11:10.
Eliza R. Snow
"One striking feature of the ceremonies, was the grand shout of hosanna, which was given by the whole assembly, in standing position, with uplifted hands. The form of the shout is as follows: 'Hosanna-hosanna-hosanna-to God and the Lamb-amen-amen, and amen.' The foregoing was deliberately and emphatically pronounced, and three times repeated, and with such power as seemed almost sufficient to raise the roof from the building.
Reference: Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom (New York: Tullidge & Crandall, 1877), 95.
"There the Spirit of the Lord, as on the day of Pentecost, was profusely poured out. Hundreds of Elders spoke in tongues. We had a most glorious and never-to-be-forgotten time. Angels were seen by numbers present. It was also at this time that Elijah the Prophet appeared, and conferred upon Joseph the keys of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, previous to the re-institution of the ordinance of baptism for the dead."
Reference: Benjamin Brown, "Testimony for the Truth," Gems for the Young Folks (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1881), 65.
"When about midway during the prayer, there was a glorious sensation passed through the house [Kirtland Temple]; and we, having our heads bowed in prayer, felt a sensation very elevating to the soul. At the close of the prayer, F. [Frederick] G. Williams being in the upper east stand- -Joseph being in the speaking stand next below--rose and testified that midway during the prayer an holy angel came and seated himself in the stand. When the afternoon meeting assembled, Joseph, feeling very much elated, arose the first thing and said the personage who had appeared in the morning was the Angel Peter come to accept the dedication."
Reference: Truman Angell, Autobiography, Our Pioneer Heritage, Writings of Early Latter-day Saints, 198.
These were all important first-hand accounts of this wonderful miraculous visitation of angels. Quite beautiful aren’t they? These are the occurrences that Mormons love to talk about when the dedication of the Kirtland temple happened. Now I have to say, when I was younger I heard stories of babies that stood on their seats and swung handkerchiefs around in a circle over their heads at this ceremony. It could have been this dedication or something else, because I’m remembering it from way back, but that story floats around occasionally and it sounds amazing, right? Babies jumping out of their mother’s arms, and shouting hosanna while waving a white handkerchief around, sound like possession by angels or something. Well, I couldn’t find a single source for that anywhere. I don’t know if that’s because that story is referring to a different time in Mormon history, or if it’s just a legend that evolved out of this Kirtland temple dedication, who knows. Regardless, I couldn’t find ANYTHING on it, and I’m hoping that some listeners have heard the same story and can help me out here.
What can we gather from all of these accounts? Obviously, something happened, and it was wonderful through the eyes of many people in attendance. Many people saw angels flying around or walking through the congregation, Joe saw some old prophets come and hang out in the crowd, Heber C. Kimball saw the apostle John come sit down next to Joe on the stand, people were speaking in tongues and throwing themselves around. Everybody was shouting hosanna to god and the Lamb so loud that they raised the fuckin roof. This must have been a sight to behold.
I have to ask, was this so epic because the Spirit of God was coursing through the halls of the temple, or was it because another spirit was coursing through everybody’s veins. Here are some accounts from other people that weren’t so enchanted with the dedication ceremony. Some of them had left the church by the time they gave these quotes, some of them were still believing members talking candidly about their experience.
"In the evening, they met for the endowment. The fast was then broken by eating light wheat bread, and drinking as much wine as they saw proper. Smith knew well how to infuse the spirit which they expected to receive; so he encouraged the brethren to drink freely, telling them that the wine was consecrated, and would not make them drunk.....they began to prophecy, pronounce blessings upon their friends, and curses on their enemies. If I should be so unhappy as to go to the regions of the damned, I would never expect to hear language more awful, or more becoming the infernal pit, than was uttered that night."
Mrs. Alfred Morley
"I have heard many Mormons who attended the dedication, or endowment of the Temple say that very many became drunk....The Mormon leaders would stand up to prophesy and were so drunk they said they could not get it out and would call for another drink. Over a barrel of liquor was used at the service."
"My brother, Hazen Aldrich, who as president of the Seventies, told me when the Temple was dedicated a barrel of wine was used and they had a drunken pow-wow."
Stephen H. Hart
"Mr McWhithey, who was a Mormon...said he attended a service which lasted from 10 AM until 4 PM, and there was another service in the evening. The Lord's Supper was celebrated and they passed the wine in pails several times to the audience, and each person drank as much as he chose from a cup. He said it was mixed liquor and he believed the Mormon leaders intended to get the audience under the influence of the mixed liquor, so they would believe it was the Lord's doings....When the liquor was repassed, Mr McWhithey told them he had endowment enough, and said he wanted to get out of the Temple, which was densely crowded."
David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses; "The great heavenly 'visitation,' which was alleged to have taken place in the temple at Kirtland, was a grand fizzle. The elders were assembled on the appointed day, which was promised would be a veritable day of Pentecost, but there was no visitation. No Peter, James and John; no Moses and Elias, put in an appearance. 'I was in my seat on that occasion,' says Mr. Whitmer, 'and I know that the story sensationally circulated, and which is now on the records of the Utah Mormons as an actual happening, was nothing but a trumped up yarn..."
Reference: The Des Moines Daily News, Oct. 16, 1886. Link
William E. McLellin
"In 1836 when they undertook to get an endowment in the Kirtland Temple. All washed and with oil anointed themselves, and appeared in the Temple at sunrise...and about five hundred ministers took their places, and solem[n]ly prayed. We remained there fasting until sunrise next morning. We however partook of some bread and wine in the evening. And some partook so freely, on their empty stomachs, that they became drunk! I took care of S[amuel] H. Smith in one of the stands so deeply intoxicated that he could not nor did sense anything. I kept him hid from the crowd in the stand, but he vomited the spit-box five times full, and his dear brother [Don] Carlos would empty it out of the window.”
McLellin to Joseph Smith III, July 1872; cited in Stan Larson and Samuel J. Passey (editors), The William E. McLellin Papers 1854-1880 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2007), p. 493-494.
"The endowment was sought for in Kirtland, O. on April 6th 1836, but was not received, and was an entire failure....[the members] assembled at sunrise, and remained fasting until the next morning sunrise. Then about five hundred ministers began to wend their way home from than[that] noble building, many of them disappointed and dispirited. The scene through which they had passed was one long to be remembered. No display of power from God was given. Al the power given was the power of man....They had a little bread, sent in by the sisters in the evening, The Twelve as servants carried round to them on servers a little bread and wine, and some of them partook of the wine so freely so as to become badly intoxicated!”
McLellin to John L. Traughber, 14 December 1878, cited in Stan Larson and Samuel J. Passey (editors), The William E. McLellin Papers 1854-1880 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2007), p. 396.
"The morning arrived and some five hundred ministers assembled in the Temple at sunrise....We remained until sunrise next morning fasting, excepting a little bread and wine furnished us in the evening. Some partook of the wine so freely on an empty stomach, that they actually became drunken! And a scene ensued that would be hard to describe. One thing I state candidly, I saw no one man in that assembly that was endowed with super-human power–no not one. This wonderful enduement [sic] then was only a farce—a very great failure”
McLellin, "Reasons Why I am Not A Mormon, ca. 1880; cited in Stan Larson and Samuel J. Passey (editors), The William E. McLellin Papers 1854-1880 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2007), p. 421-422.
I don’t know. . . What do you think? Was this some divine manifestation of god, seen through the eyes of people that were fasting, and therefore, spiritually close to god? Or, does it make more sense that these people were starving and prone to hallucinations, and then given alcohol, possibly mixed, or consecrated with something else, which caused their minds to go over the edge of sanity to see and hear all kinds of crazy shit?
What would we expect if there were indeed angels and dead prophets roaming around the congregation? I assert that we would have uniformity among hundreds of first-hand accounts. If Elijah was walking around with a bunch of angels, everybody in the congregation would see it and talk about it, there would be no room for doubt in the historical record.
Instead, what we see is an amalgamation of a bunch of different testimonies of people that saw different things. Some people saw angels, others didn’t. Some people saw dead prophets, others didn’t. Some saw an angel come sit down next to Joe on the stand, others didn’t. It is, however, historically sound that they drank alcohol, and probably fasted for the day before the ceremony, and food deprivation combined with alcohol makes any mind VERY unstable. These people were prone to visions and spiritual manifestations anyway, and you add in hunger and copious amounts of wine to the equation, wine that may have been infused with some of Joe’s magic anointing oil, and that is a recipe for any sane mind to see some really fucked up things. Then, these fucked up things are told and re-told and printed in local newspapers, and become more epic with each retelling, and eventually you see the evolution of a legend that was based on hallucinations. Imagine how many things in human history, that we consider historical fact, came from a situation just like this. . .
So, what is historically reliable here; angelic visitations that only a few people saw, or hallucinations brought on by an empty stomachs combined with and alcohol/hallucinogen cocktail? Any time a Mormon will talk to you openly about their history, I would say that there are few topics better to discuss than the Kirtland temple dedication on March 27th, 1836. They will often use this as one of the miraculous events in church history, but, upon digging a little deeper, it’s more revealing of Joe and his character than most other stories in Mormon history. Oh yeah, don’t forget, this was three years after the WoW came along, so Joe and everybody else in that congregation was in direct violation of that for like, the last half of the dedication, that’s just one more small detail worth pointing out.
That was the Kirtland temple ceremony, and the main point this episode has lead up to. There’s only one more thing I wanted to cover, and it happened in the aftermath of this dedication ceremony. Like I said at the beginning, the focus of this entire episode is the week and half from March 26th, to April 6th. We had to cover a lot of ground to lead up to this week and a half, but the dedication ceremony was the relief of the historical blue balls up to that point. To take care of some post-coital historical fun, let’s take a minute to talk about Joe and Ollie, which will take us to the end of the historical portion of today’s episode. Let’s focus on Joe and Ollie’s relationship for a minute here.
We know that they were kind of the OG’s of Mormonism, the dynamic duo cousins and best friends that brought the BoM together to get this dirty fucker of a religion pushed away from the docks and afloat in the sea of madness that was the Burned-over District New York. They’ve had a bit of a rocky relationship since the church began. Go back to any episode after 17 and you’ll find a mixed bag of anger, backstabbing, reconciliation, and small moments of deep friendship in a continuous vicious cycle. Ollie was a much more reserved personality, while Joe was a bit more eccentric. Ollie was educated, and well spoken, while Joe was a country bumpkin party-boy in many respects. But these differences in personality didn’t drive them apart until the church became the third entity in their relationship. Rather, Ollie and Joe’s differences complimented each other, and served as the glue that fused them together as best friends.
Have you ever had a friend that shares a vision of something with you? Maybe a new type of invention, or a way to do something, or some research, who knows, but the two of you seem to work great together during the initial stages of whatever this vision is. But, as soon as you start up a business with that person, something goes awry and the business goes under, and the friendship breaks up, and you don’t talk to that person ever again because both of you feel like you got fucked by the other person. I mean, not all businesses end up like that, but I’m sure the vast majority of you can think of a situation like that happening in your lifetime, whether it was school, business, relationship, or otherwise.
Well, we’re in the process of seeing this same thing happen between Joe and Ollie. I have a feeling that they wrote the BoM and started the church with a common goal in mind, what that goal was, I don’t think we’ll ever know, but somewhere down the line, shit got derailed and Ollie’s vision departed from Joe’s vision. Unfortunately for them both, they didn’t have the luxury of dissolving the business, cutting their losses and moving on, because that business was the one true church. So Ollie and Joe were locked in this bitter struggle since the beginning, and didn’t have an easy out.
Let’s just recap some of the high and low points in their relationship so far. They were best buddies when it came to treasure hunting, seeing angels, or translating the BoM, but once the religion part came along, that was the business that became the third entity in their relationship, and fucked it all up for them. In episode 19 we talked about the evolving priesthood claims that Joe kept making to supersede Ollie as the one true leader. Joe asked Ollie to take care of some problems in the church, Ollie did with some, and that boosted their friendship, but he refused with others like with setting up the Colesville church, which hurt Joe and made him feel betrayed. Multiple times when Joe was out of town, Ollie would attempt to take the power back, and incite insurrection within the ranks, and Joe would have to do damage control as soon as he arrived back into town.
In episode 22 we talked about how violently opposed to priestcraft Ollie was, and how much Joe relied on it to survive. This was one point where irreparable damage was done to their friendship, because Joe had codified a support system for the prophet as a divine revelation from God, an action that Ollie despised; there’s simply no walking that shithorse back into the shitbarn.
After that, in episode 23, Ollie tried to turn the Whitmers away from Joe’s leadership, and Hiram Page came up with a revelation describing where Zion is, which was a double knife in Joe’s back, all orchestrated at the hands of Ollie.
After that, in episode 24, we had possibly the biggest damager to Joe and Ollie’s relationship. . . Hingepin Sidney Rigdon. Ollie was falling out of favor in Joe’s eyes, and the vacuum of leadership left in the betrayed wake of Ollie’s deeds needed to be filled, and along came Rigdon. He immediately stepped into Ollie’s place, handling everything from ecclesiastical matters, all the way down to sharing anointing oil and having revelations with Joe to translate the bible or run the church, just like Ollie and Joe used to do. Rigdon was Joe’s new friend, but just didn’t hold a candle to his old friend, Ollie.
In episode 25, Joe’s twins were born, and died within hours after their birth. Joe was inconsolable, and made an immediate trip to Missouri in the wake of it. Rigdon described what happened when Ollie and Joe met. Ollie obviously knew exactly what had happened, and Joe needed his old friend to help heal this freshly cut wound in his heart. Rigdon and Joe didn’t know each other on that level, so Ollie was the only person Joe could turn to in this time of sadness and personal anguish. Rigdon reported that when Ollie and Joe met, they embraced and tears flowed freely from old friends. Even through all the shit they put each other through, and all the backstabbing on both of their parts, Joe and Ollie were still best friends, and nobody could fill that void in a time of emotional need.
After this, Ollie slowly becomes less and less relevant in the storyline. It’s like Joe used him as a crutch when he needed it, but cast Ollie aside like some kind of tool, once He was back on his feet. Ollie was given the task of compiling the 1835 D&C, and had a few jobs before and after, but their relationship had changed. If we look at Joe and Ollie in 1829, translating for hours on end, going into the woods anointing each other to see angels, and baptize each other, and then compare that relationship to what we’re approaching in 1836. There’s no way to quantify or describe what has happened here. We can’t understand how the relationship dynamic had been affected by Ollie and Joe’s muddled history up to this point.
The affair with Fanny would happen very soon after the thing we’re going to talk about next, which forever crippled Joe and Ollie’s relationship, and sent it spiraling down to destruction two years later.
On April 3, 1836, Joe and Ollie have one last hurrah of seeing things, just like old times. After this, their relationship takes a couple of hard turns, but we’ll talk about those in coming episodes. This was recounted in Joe’s History of the Church, and was later canonized into Section 110 of the Book of Covenants and it happened in the recently finished Kirtland Temple, a week after the epic dedication ceremony we just talked about.
“Visions manifested to Joseph Smith the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery in the temple at Kirtland, Ohio, April 3, 1836. The occasion was that of a Sabbath day meeting. Joseph Smith’s history states: “In the afternoon, I assisted the other Presidents in distributing the Lord’s Supper to the Church, receiving it from the Twelve, whose privilege it was to officiate at the sacred desk this day. After having performed this service to my brethren, I retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped, and bowed myself, with Oliver Cowdery, in solemn and silent prayer. After rising from prayer, the following vision was opened to both of us.”
1 The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
2 We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.
3 His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.
5 Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.
6 Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name.
7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.
8 Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.
9 Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.
10 And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen.
11 After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.
12 After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.
13 After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:
14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.”
I don’t want to speak too absolutely here, but this kind of seems like it was Joe and Ollie’s last hurrah as friends. Let me give you an example from my own life to draw a little equivocation and try to empathize with the situation a little bit. I had a really good friend through all of Jr. high and high school. He was truly one of my closest friends, but as he was preparing for his mission, I could tell that we were beginning to grow apart. He left on his mission and I stayed in Utah. Once he came back, it was like everything was completely different. We tried hanging out a few times and it just became awkward, and I can’t explain what it was that made this awkwardness happen. Fast-forward a couple of years, and I asked if he wanted to go get dinner at a local place while I was visiting Utah. We went, but it just seemed like it was a last hurrah. We had grown so far apart that everything was just wrong, and weird feeling. We didn’t laugh at the same things anymore, we didn’t have the same interests anymore, it was almost like we were on a blind date as complete strangers. I haven’t seen that friend for a while now, and I hope that eventually we can reconnect just like old times, but that’s probably naïve. I understand how these things go, people just grow apart, it’s a fact of life.
I hate to sound like I’m projecting my own experience onto Joe and Ollie here, because there is simply no way of knowing what it was like between them, but it’s how I’ve come to understand their relationship dynamic, and quite frankly, it’s a bummer. Joe and Ollie started out as the dynamic duo, and this is what has become of their relationship. I’m excited, but also a little reluctant to see what happens with Ollie in the future, because, from what I can tell, he only joined back up with the church after Joe died. . . Boom…. what does that say about their friendship? Very soon after this last hurrah that Joe and Ollie had where they saw Elijah and Elias, Moses, and God and Jesus and all that good stuff, the story about Fanny Alger would go public. There’s no way of telling how long Joe was tappin dat Fanny, probably for a year, maybe more before spring of 1836, but we do know that Ollie was extremely offended by it. He would never forgive Joe for this little haphazard sexual indiscretion, and it would become like a malignant tumor on their already barely alive friendship.
Just like when that friend, that I talked about earlier, saw my pack of cigarettes in my car door after he got off his mission, this affair was something sinful that Ollie was violently opposed to and couldn’t ignore, and the implications of this sin seemed to shift the paradigm of the already deteriorating relationship they had together. Ollie must have known that there was no going back to the way things were. Joe had switched up the game. Joe had changed everything forever, and once Ollie was out of the picture, there was nobody but Emma to hold Joe back, and she was much more prone to simply ignore his shenanigans than actually do anything about it.
So, how do we wrap this all up? We’ve discussed more today than I thought we would, and it’s kind of been all over the place as far as topics go. We started with talking about what temples are, and Joe’s vision of the temples in Kirtland and Independence. Then we took a hard turn into a discussion about hallucinogens and Joe’s use of them to influence people’s minds. Then we discussed the absolutely daffy dedication ceremony and covered both the pro and anti sides of it. Then, we finished with talking about the depressing evolution of Joe and Ollie’s relationship throughout the 7 years they’ve been in cahoots, and their final moment in the light of the temple together, that marked a huge change in their relationship…
What can be drawn from all of this? I guess I’ll begin the final rant by saying I love being a fan of history, and not an actual historian. I’m not bound by so many constraints that real historians have to deal with to stay relevant in their field. No real historian can get away with talking about Joe and Ollie’s relationship like this, and still maintain their credibility. Real historians may talk about how there may have been an influence of hallucinogens on the parishioners attending the temple dedication ceremony, but if an actual historian asserts that Joe willfully and maliciously drugged the members of the congregation to induce spiritual visions, and bolster his place as spiritual leader of the church, they instantly lose credibility.
That’s the thing with history, it’s so fluid and challenging to nail down, and as soon as an historian makes a hard claim like that, they lose their credibility. Luckily for me, and for this show, I’m establishing my credibility on wacky claims like this, and encouraging people to search this stuff out for themselves. I love Mormon history, and one of the main things I love about it is how open to interpretation it can be.
A believer in the church can look at the church’s history website and read a bunch of the quotes about the dedication ceremony that we read, and walk away with a deeply spiritual feeling, knowing that the church is true, and that God was watching over the congregation that day to send down angels and prophets of old.
On the flipside, a non-believer in the church can sit down and look at the same quotes that we discussed today and say, wow, what the hell was in that cool-aid? Obviously Joe was just a cult leader willing to do nearly anything to stay on top of his own little insular world, at the cost of any means necessary.
Personally, I love Joseph Smith. I admire the guy. I revere the guy and what he was able to do. I don’t condone it, and I see a lot of it as really fucked up, but I still admire his ability to do these things, at the same time I’m trying to understand how he did them. I don’t revere the man as a prophet the way members of the church do, I revere him as a genius with an endless drive to do what he wanted, and copious amounts of sheer dumb luck on his side. I really do love Joseph Smith, the historical man that we’re getting to know more and more through every historical episode, not the prophet with a breastplate and translators on his face with the golden plates on the table in front of him. I love the real Joseph Smith, and loathe the cardboard cutout that believers see when they read about him, or hear miraculous stories about him. I’m on an endless mission to depose that pathetic 2 dimensional Joseph Smith with the real Joe that I am coming to know and admire so much.
I suppose it’s a matter of interpretation of the facts, right? A believer can look at these stories and see a beautiful prophet with rough edges that get knocked smooth through his own transgressions. A non-believer can look at these same stories and ask what Joe was thinking, and why he did what he did, when he did it. As a fan of history, I can posit all kinds of motivations and possible reasoning behind what Joe did, and base the entire premise of this podcast on those otherworldly claims. I can tell every one of you about my unique and possibly crazy interpretation of the facts, and I don’t risk anything in doing so, except for possibly some actual historian that might listen in occasionally and get angry at my lack of true historianship. But even then, I invite the discussion. I want to open up that line of conversation with somebody that thinks I’m being intellectually dishonest or deceitful in my reporting of the facts in some way, because I try to back everything up with at least some point of reason… even if that reason is just taking the words “anointing oil” and building an entire case of hallucinogen abuse on it.
Doesn’t it all come down to judging the factual accuracy of a claim based on the evidence for it, coupled with the reasoning surrounding the claim, and the merits of the person making said claim? Let me pose an example to you here going back to the Kirtland temple ceremony. The church claims this occasion as one of the most miraculous and spiritual occurrences in all Mormon history. Let’s judge that claim and examine the merits of the claim, based on who’s making it.
The church reports the ceremony as a visionary experience had by all, but they ignore the testimonies of others like David Whitmer and William McLellin that claim it was just a drunken party. The church reasons that the Lord was so pleased with the dedication that he sent angels to manifest themselves in the congregation and on the stand, to signify to everybody how pleased the lord was, but they ignore how unreliable these contradictory claims were from the multiple people that saw different things in the congregation. Now, let’s think about the reason the church would ignore some portions of the history here, and judge the merit of their claim based on that reasoning.
If members of the church understood this spiritual occurrence the way we understand it now, it may cause them to question their faith. If members knew ALL of the facts surrounding this, the church might see it damage their numbers of membership. Many members hang their hat on this ceremony as a beautiful historical occurrence that proves this church is ordained and approved of by God. If they understood this ceremony to be nothing more than a drunken shroom party, they could no longer use this as something that bolsters their faith, rather it would be a faith damager. The church has motivated reasoning to report this historical event in a specific way, blatantly ignoring contradictory facts. Motivated reasoning is the key there. If the members couldn’t use this ceremony as a faith promoting story, the church’s numbers may suffer, and those members would no longer be giving the church 10% of their income… that’s the definition of motivated reasoning with every bit of negative connotation to the phrase.
Let’s contrast the church’s reporting of the dedication ceremony to the version every one of you just heard. I’m going to try and be critical of my own analysis of the dedication ceremony, so forgive me if this sounds disingenuous or something.
Not only did we read what the members of the church say about the dedication ceremony, but we also read what people outside of the church remembered about the occurrence. We tried our best to incorporate as many facts as possible conveyed through newspaper clippings, and first-person accounts, without ignoring any. I literally included EVERY SINGLE quote I could find concerning the ceremony, and only omitted quotes for boredom or repetitive nature. Given the quotes in the context of Joe’s possible use of hallucinogens, we were able to reason that Joe may have mixed the wine with something a little more powerful that caused those who drank enough to see spirits and angels, and all kinds of things, without any of the visions concurring with each other. Everybody in the congregation saw something different, or spoke in tongues, or in the case of Samuel Smith, spent the majority of the time throwing his guts up from the alcohol.
Now, let’s judge the merit of these claims based on possible motivated reasoning. Do I have motivation to make the facts fit with my narrative? Undoubtedly, yes. Like any researcher, I have my own biases that I wrestle with constantly. But I try to mitigate those by looking at both sides. We read more quotes that bolster the spiritual explanation of the dedication ceremony than we did ones that bolster the hallucinogenic explanation, and we did that for the sake of intellectual honesty. But do I have a sinister motivated reasoning to report things the way I did?
I would argue no, because of intellectual honesty. We read both sides of the arguments, and I came to my own conclusions about the evidence provided. But more importantly, I left links in the show notes and told you all to look into it for yourself. If there’s something that I fucked up on, I want to know. If my reasoning is flawed, then let’s start a discussion about it. I’m not like the church, I won’t excommunicate your subscription to the podcast if I disagree with you about something, rather, we’ll open up a line of discussion and each learn something from the other. I think that’s where the biggest division comes into place with the church’s version of Mormon history, compared to my version of Mormon history. I want to see both sides of the argument, and if I fuck something up along the way, I hope somebody will call me out on it so I can learn something new, make the correction, and move on with making the podcast better and more intellectually honest every episode.
If the church were to take this approach with its members, I would applaud them. I would commend their efforts to become more intellectually honest, and answer the challenging questions that are raised by their members. Instead, we see them pushing these people into disfellowship or excommunication. Jeremy Runnels, the guy who wrote the amazing CES letter, was recently excommunicated, and if you haven’t seen the video yet, look it up on youtube, or in the show notes for this episode. Jeremy videos the entire thing on a watch camera, and it is absolutely heart-breaking. Multiple times he asks the leaders very hard questions, about the church, that are raised in the CES letter, and the people holding the disciplinary council are stone fucking silent in answer of each question. At one point, Jeremy asks them if any of the people on the panel have read the CES letter, and not a single person raises their hand. Not a single one of Jeremy’s questions were answered. They gave him about 20 minutes to plead his case, and he spent that entire time asking questions to a panel of emotionless stone people. By the end of it, Jeremy says I’m done with this kangaroo court, and I’m excommunicating the church from my life, and hands them his resignation letter, and good on him. Good job Jeremy, I don’t think it could have gone any better than it did, and Jeremy was rock fucking solid the whole time.
Now I simply ask, is that intellectually honest? Jeremy brought up many hard questions that the church has no answer for, and they attempted to excommunicate him. Even during the tribunal, he asked the same questions, stating many times, if there is anything wrong in the letter, please tell me so I can change it… and the priesthood leaders that are supposed to be enlightened with all the answers to lead their community, sat there in dead silence in reply to Jeremy’s questions.
At least Jeremy is honest. At least I’m honest with this show, and I want to open up that line of discussion. If there were any church representative that were willing to come on to this show to discuss problems in the Mormon church and its history, I would gladly have them on, and be one respectful motherfucker about it. But they won’t… Because they’re scared.
There’s no knowledge out there that scares me. I’m not scared to learn anything. But there is no other way to describe the church’s suppression of knowledge than pure unmitigated fear. I would pity the church and its leadership if they were deserving of pity, but I’m too fucking disgusted to have pity. Their suppression and bastardization of history and knowledge is an inexcusable retreat from the white hot light of truth, and they simply can’t keep it up forever. I just hope I’m there to watch that white hot light burn their nearly 177 stone granite façades to the fuckin ground. Yeah, they have 150 temples in operation, 16 under construction, and 11 more announced right now. As soon as this episode posts those numbers will probably be obsolete. 177 temples soon to be in operation, while 565,000 people will go to sleep tonight without a home, and 20,000 children worldwide die of starvation every single day. The majority of the real estate inside those temples remains unused for the majority of the time. Want to be the most charitable church in the world, as you claim to be? Do something about those fucked up statistics and put your money where the Book of Mormon tells you to put it.
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