Ep 57 – Sign of the Times and Spiritual Tokens

On this episode, we cover July to November of 1839. We start with a discussion about how scarce documentation is for this blackout period of Mormon history and what that means for historiographies which cover this time period. After that, Jo tells us how we can tell if a spirit is from God or the devil, which hearkens back to his magic roots. After that we take an extract from Bloody Brigham Young’s manuscript history to follow the travel of the Twelve as they made their way closer to boarding a ship for England. After the history, we debut an exciting new segment to leak off the church and then we get into some of the church’s new face of homophobia and discuss just how new their stance on the LGBTQ community really is…. Spoiler alert, the church is still led by a bunch of red-scare bigoted octogenarians who are on the wrong side of history.


Autobiography of Benjamin F. Johnson

Lance Owens Joseph Smith and the Kabbalah

Rosicrucianism in America

Ephrata Cloister and the Whitmers


Manuscript history of Brigham Young

Savannah’s testimony

Mormon and Gay

Face 2 Face with Jeffrey R. Holland

Ryan McKnight and Mormon Leaks

Show links:

Website http://nakedmormonismpodcast.com
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Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
Voicemail Line (864)Nake-dMo (625-3366)

Intro 7/6/17

Before we get started, it’s our patreon pledge month leading up to the live show at Squatter’s pub in Salt Lake City on July 29th. We’ve had an influx of support from some of you amazing listeners who’ve taken the 90 seconds to sign up at patreon.com/nakedmormonism, and we really appreciate it. For as little as a dollar an episode, less than the price of a 110 degree soy latte at your favorite coffee outlet, you can contribute that pocket-change every month to keep the research going and keeping us in a state of constant R&D to make the show better every week. Asking for money is a bit of a social taboo, but the social benefits derived from funding research is a long-term investment and that’s what you do when supporting this show. But we aren’t just asking for some of your hard-earned cash in exchange for an intangible claim that you’re funding research, because patrons of the show get access to tons of exclusive content. You get bang for that buck per episode. When you sign up at patreon.com/nakedmormonism, you get access to extended edition episodes, patreon exclusive shows, extended conversations with guests, and you even get an invite to join in the NaMo home evening monthly google hangout on the first Monday of every month; each month has a featured guest who we all get to bombard with our questions. This week you’ll notice an extra episode in your podcast feed, which was June’s NaMo home evening we had with friend of the show Heretic Woman of the Atheists on Air podcast. All of the NaMo home evenings go up in the patreon feed, but this is a teaser to show everybody what you’re missing out on. And of course, patrons will also see this months NaMo home evening in their patreon feed which was with friend of the show Jonathan Tindell of the Secular Stories podcast. Next month we hope to have on Marissa McCool author and host of Inciting Incident and a thousand other projects, so if you want to join in the conversation or listen to what we talk about after it airs, now’s the time to pledge to support and gain access to our book of exaltation to be forever immortalized as a savior of the show.

That’s enough begging, let’s get to the show.

Last episode we discussed, at length, a development in Mormon doctrine; but how we got there was just as interesting as the doctrinal development or evolution itself. The quorum of the Twelve were set to depart for their mission to England throughout the remainder of the summer, but they needed instructions from Jo before they could be trusted out there to convert people to Jo’s Mormonism instead of their own proprietary version. Jo had been burned by trusted leaders going off and starting their own Mormonism before and didn’t want it happening with the quorum in Europe. In the discourse we read from the History of the Church, Jo talked about a number of important issues like baptism, repentance, the gift of the holy ghost, the comforter and the other comforter, making your calling and election sure, and of course, the gift of tongues. Astute listener and friend of the show who I owe a great deal of personal thanks to, Jay Mumford, sent an email in response to the Mormon version of the gift of tongues.

I related a few stories I’ve heard of Mormons getting the gift of tongues when they give a blessing in a different language which sounds just like somebody else or has any kind of miraculous nature to it. I gave my naturalistic musings on easy explanations for these perceived phenomena, but Jay said something interesting in response to that digression.

“Re missionaries having uncanny linguistic abilities, and the first requirement of the skeptical observer is to establish that the extraordinary event actually did even occur in the first place.
Now, that could be difficult due to self-motivated comments by the original reporter, the fallibility of human memory, and the concept of the reporter feeling justified in "lying for Jesus". But the first step should always be to posit that we don't really know if that supposed event even occurred. And if it did not occur, then there is no need to explain it.”

Really fair point and I totally agree, but I would just say when people feel like they know something happened, they aren’t always okay with somebody saying it didn’t happen because we don’t have evidence of it. The people might respond better to a naturalistic explanation that validates their own perceptions but adds a reasonable explanation. Regardless, I’m glad Jay sent this in because I hadn’t considered that perspective. He also said that the Pentecostal version of babbling in tongues is known as Glossolalia. I didn’t know there was an actual word for it beyond babbling, so thanks for the enlightenment, and thank you for your gift because as we speak, the book Moroni and the Swastika is on its way and I’m stoked to consume the information in it.

Back to the milk, before we discussed Jo’s discourse in the last episode, we talked all about how busy Jo was in moving around the area to visit friends, family members, and other ailing refugees, while seeing some of the tracts of land he had already purchased sight-unseen. The Mormons founded a town which Jo designated Zarahemla.

After all that, we debuted a new segment as part of our Patreon pledge drive as a teaser for the next goal on patreon, which we’re really close to reaching. It can be hard to talk to missionaries, friends, or family members who hold deeply convicted beliefs in the church, these segments will be devoted to small topics of conversation that anybody can easily broach with that TBM loved one.

We’ve had our fill of milk, let’s bring some meat to the table.

Mormon history in this show up to this point has been chronologically driven. It’s what we do on this show, compile church history from multiple trusted sources and tell the story of Jo and the Saints as they’ve progressed. Most of the history recounted by trusted historians spawn from documents included in the history of the church supported by other journals, letters, and newspaper clippings. Chasing these documents down is a full-time task and requires a lot of pointed searching to find what we’re looking for. The point I’m trying to make here is that we’ve had to shift things a little bit for the year of 1839 to talking about doctrinal developments in addition to the historical timeline because the extant documents telling the day-to-day dealings of the Saints are much scarcer during this time. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Consider everything that was going on with Jo and friends from Liberty Jail in November of 1838 to where we currently reside in summer of 1839. We won’t rehash everything, but suffice it to say, everything was chaos and the structure which had existed in Kirtland, and even Missouri, was completely absent.

Where the leadership used to meet in designated meeting rooms on the Johnson farm, Morley farm, School of the prophets, Kirtland Temple, or at the meeting houses in Far West or Diahmon, those organizational concepts had utterly vanished once Jo was taken prisoner and the saints were driven from Missouri. This meant that the structured meetings with scribes taking minutes and notes on the proceedings simply didn’t happen. The Mormons were incessant record keepers but at a time when all church structure was completely broken, much of the record keeping was conducted long after the actual meetings happened, or meetings would happen without anybody there to possibly record things in the first place. Many of the types of documents historians enjoy from the Kirtland and Missouri years of the church were never even created during the first year and a half the church was headquartered in Nauvoo. Add in to this the fact that once the saints were driven from Nauvoo after Jo’s death, many documents from this time period were destroyed or didn’t make the trip across the plains to Utah to be included in the later publications of the history of the church. Historians can’t discuss history of a time period if documents from that period didn’t survive, or simply weren’t created in the first place. You read any historiography of Mormonism during 1839 and early 1840, and you’ll see a hole in the documents during this period.

We know the major events which occurred, but for most of the meetings we don’t know what was discussed and historians are left to piece the timeline together based only on letter exchanges with very little other documentation to back up a solid timeline. On this show we’ve been dealing with this blackout period of Mormon history by discussing the evolution of Mormon doctrine and spending inordinate amounts of time discussing the land-purchase agreements as the Mormons were settling, that’s because there really isn’t much else that’s reliably documented to discuss.

One of the sources I’ve always relied upon heavily is H. Michael Marquardt’s Rise of Mormonism, and he deals with this blackout by jumping from the November court of inquiry, almost immediately to the mission trip of the Quorum of the Twelve in September of the following year, punctuated only by a small chapter on the development of Church doctrine and theology as Jo was recounting it for the published History of the Church.

There’s just not much documentation upon which to rely for this blackout period. We can look at the history recounted through autobiographies of this time, but actual church meetings and the minutes which were usually recounted during the meetings are nowhere to be found. There really is only a couple of big events to hit on before we wrap up 1839 in the next couple of episodes. 1840 is a big year, but for the remainder of 1839, we can’t track Jo very well.

But, just because Jo and friends are a bit hard to track in their daily movements doesn’t mean there isn’t much to talk about for the rest of 1839. As the church moved to new locations, it required development and evolution to adapt. Tracking from the earliest days of Mormonism in New York, the version of Gold-Bible Mormonism the few families embraced in living room sized congregations differs wildly in many ways from the version of Mormonism practiced in Kirtland. As Jo moved to a new area he had to incorporate the beliefs of the locals into his own church so as not to remove people from their comfort zone.

A similar evolution occurred when the Saints moved from Kirtland to Missouri. Far West and Diahman are where we begin to see a number of evolutions about Mormon eschatology. The idea of Adam being the temporal incarnation of the archangel Michael and being the first priesthood holder who transferred the priesthood down to his progenitors makes its first appearance. It wasn’t until 1838 when in Missouri that Jo claimed that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri and Adam Ondi Ahman was the place where Adam and Eve were banished to after the fall.

To illustrate this evolution when the Saints began settling Missouri from Kirtland in 1838, let’s read a really quick excerpt from Benjamin F. Johnson’s autobiography. You’ll find a link to it in the show notes.

“On our arrival at Diahman, our camp was pitched upon the town plat which had just been surveyed by direction of the Prophet, and of course each one was anxious to obtain the most eligible, or first choice of lots. As I was young and unmarried my choice would come near the last under the rule of "oldest served first." So when it was my choice I found I must take the top lot on the promontory overlooking the Grand River valley, or go farther away and lower down than I wished to. So I chose the upper, which at first appeared rocky, but which made the other lots appear almost enviable. When, after a few days, the Prophet accompanied us to this spot, and pointed out those rocks as the ones of which Adam built an altar and offered sacrifice upon this spot, where he stood and blessed the multitude of his children, when they called him Michael, and where he will again sit as the Ancient of Days, then I was not envious of anyone's choice for a city lot in Adam-ondi-Ahman.”

This was the first time Jo had focused on anything north of Independence in a theological sense and it only came when he was wandering around the area himself and pointing out some cool rocks and telling Benjamin Johnson here that his lot isn’t all that bad because those rocks were actually altars used by Adam, who was actually Michael the archangel.

The thing about the move to Nauvoo is that Mormonism didn’t have to evolve to accommodate a new population. Nauvoo was fertile ground for a new city just as much as it was a clean slate for new theological developments.

Let’s do what other historians have done to fill this blackout of documentation and discuss the further evolution of Mormon doctrine which was ramping up to a very magical level. This is where Jo invokes more expertise from his past life of treasure-digging and staring at a rock in his hat while tripping balls as a development in Mormon theology.

In July of 1839, Jo told of us some interesting properties concerning spirits. He was kind enough to give us a litmus test for whether a spirit is of God or not, a teaching which has perpetuated through today’s doctrine. We’ll talk about the possible origins of this in a minute, but first let’s set the battlefield by reading exactly what Jo claimed. He was warning the apostles prior to their departure for England that many of his trusted church members had left him for the road to apostasy and begins by warning them that they better not do that same shit while they’re in England or he’s gunna be really angry.

I’m reading this from the Dan Vogel edition of the History of the Church, vol. 3 beginning on page 351:

“I will give you one of the Keys to the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity:--That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. The principle is as correct as the one that Jesus put forth in saying, that he who seeketh a sign is an adulterous person; and that principle is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of Heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.

About this time, in reply to many inquiries, I gave an explanation of the Priesthood, and many principles connected therewith, of which the following is a brief synopsis:--

The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the first Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Gen. 1:26,28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the scriptures. Then to Noah, who is Gabriel; he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the Father of all living in his day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on Earth, and then in Heaven…”

Then we get into the Mormon version of creationism which is only slightly varied from general Christianity:

“The spirit of man is not a created being; it existed from eternity, and will exist to eternity.—Anything created cannot be eternal; and earth, water, &c., had their existence in an elementary state, from eternity. Our Savior speaks of children and says, their angels always stand before my Father. The Father called all spirits before him at the creation of man, and organized them. He (Adam) is the head, and was told to multiply…”

And now we get to why Mormons have such a hard time changing anything when it comes to the Priesthood, like giving it to black people or women people.

“The Priesthood is everlasting. The Savior, Moses, and Elias, gave the Keys to Peter, James and John, on the mount when they were transfigured before him. The Priesthood is everlasting—without beginning of days or end of years; without father, mother, &c. If there is no change of ordinances, there is no change of Priesthood.—Wherever the ordinances of the gospel are administered, there is the Priesthood…”

This is when it gets to the important part that has held true throughout the church even today. The reason I’m pointing this out and we’re spending a fair amount of time on it is because many of Jo’s teachings have been altered, modified, or altogether forgotten since his time as prophet. Jo was an ideas guy, but Brigham was a manager who operated well inside predetermined parameters. Once Jo put together the beliefs system, Bloody Brigham just needed to stick with what Jo taught and everything was good. When Bloody Brigham stepped outside those parameters, things got weird and dogmatic and the church was forced to change after his death. The Adam-God doctrine, blacks not having the priesthood, allowance for mixed marriages, blood atonement, and I’m sure we’ll get into a lot more once we jump into the Utah years of the Brighamite church, all of those doctrines he taught have since been changed. Point is, once Jo was working with the clean slate of Nauvoo, he could incorporate things from his previous life and call them a development of doctrine, and they stuck around as common Mormon teachings which believers know of or believe in today.

“We may look for angels to receive their ministration, but we are to try the spirits and prove them, for it is often the case that men make a mistake in regard to these things. God has so ordained that when he has communicated, no vision is to be taken but what you see by the seeing of the eye, or what you hear by the hearing of the ear. When you see a vision, pray for the interpretation; if you get not this, shut it up; there must be certainty in this matter. An open vision will manifest that which is more important. Lying spirits are going forth in the earth. There will be great manifestations of spirit, both false and true.

Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances. An angel of God never has wings. Some will say that they have seen a spirit; that he offered them his hand, but they did not touch it. This is a lie. First, it is contrary to the plan of God; a spirit cannot come but in glory; and angel has flesh and bones; (WOW!) we see not their glory. The devil may appear as an angel of light. Ask God to reveal it; if it be of the devil, he will flee from you; if of God, he will manifest himself, or make it manifest. We may come to Jesus and ask him; he will know all about it; if he comes to a little child, he will adapt himself to the language and capacity of a little child.”

This is the beginning of the Mormon litmus test to see if a spirit is of God or of the devil. It doesn’t go into more detail here, but apparently questions followed in this meeting which were recounted by Wilford Woodruff, the 2nd prophet of the Brighamite church, in his journal volume 1:341, and I’m reading this from page 503 of Marquardt’s Rise of Mormonism.

“In order to detect the devel when he transforms himself nigh unto an angel of light. When an angel of God appears unto man face to face in personage & reaches out his hand unto the man & he takes hold of the angels hand & feels a substance the same as one man would in Shaking hands with another he may then know that it is an angel of God, & he should place all Confidence in him. Such personages or angels are Saints with there [their] resurrected Bodies. But if a personage appears unto man & offers him his hand & the man takes told of it & feels nothing or does not sens[e] any substance he may know it is of the devel…for when a Saint whose body is not resurrected appears unto man in the flesh he will not offer him his hand for this is against the law given him & in keeping in mind these things we may detec[t] the devil that he decieved us not.”

Alright, let me describe this test Jo proposed for verifying the origins of a magic spirit, because that’s what this is, Jo’s magic world view finding its way into Mormon doctrine. Basically if you’re in a state of consciousness where a spirit appears in a vision, in order to find out if it’s from God, all you have to do is ask it to shake your hand, and the outcome will tell you the spirit’s origin. If the spirt shakes your hand, it’s a resurrected human with flesh and bones. If it refuses to shake your hand, it’s a spirit being from God without a resurrected body, and it will deliver its message without attempting to touch you, because that’s against the rules or something. But, if you try to shake its hand and it goes for it but you don’t feel anything when trying to shake hands, like your hand just Caspers through theirs, that’s a spirit of the devil and you should rebuke it.

I went down a long goddamn rabbit hole trying to chase the magic origin of this spiritual litmus test thing Jo proposed. The basic conclusion I can give after diving down and digging my way back out, it has some really old origins, like ancient origins, which made its way through a bunch of iterations which all played into Jo’s magic worldview. The teaching didn’t stop with Mormonism either. In D. Michael Quinn’s early Mormonism and the Magic World View he recounts a similar teaching in a book from 1856 called Transcendental Magic. This is what he quotes from it on page 226 of his book:

“This reflected a view summarized in the 1856 Transcendental Magic: ‘What is commonly called Necromancy has nothing in common with resurrection… The proof of this is that spirits, at least the spectres pretended to be such, may indeed touch us occasionally, but we cannot touch them, and this is one of the most affrighting characteristics of these apparitions, which are at times so real in appearance that we cannot unmoved feel the hand pass through that which seems a body and yet make contact with nothing.’ The latter phrase about not being able to feel the hand of ‘the spectres pretended to be such’ showed that humans cannot feel those spirits who seek to deceive. This was the message of Smith’s 1843 revelation.”

Yes, Necromancy, that’s the technically magical term for what Mormons do today when they perform ordinances for dead people in the temple. It doesn’t sound quite so sacred when you paint it with a word that’s usually associated with grave robbers and sorcerers, but that’s the world Mormonism was born out of, so here we are.

Jo believed in a version of the Universe that nothing can be created from nothing and that everything is eternal. We’ve read a few inklings into this universal view, but some of the discourses he gave in Nauvoo prior to his death really play this out quite well. His litmus test for spirits really is a logical conclusion that’s internally consistent, but you have to grant a few things to get in the right frame of mind, things which are utterly and laughably not demonstrable but things in which Jo sincerely believed. Let me show you the edge of this rabbit hole and try to describe it as best I can, and I’ll leave a few links in the show notes to some reading which will make all of this seem logically consistent.

In a Universe created by God, there’s our first non-falsifiable premise and it doesn’t get much better from here, but just hang in there with me. In a Universe created by God which is eternal in nature, no matter can be created or destroyed, because just grant the secondary premise and it becomes much easier. Inside this deistic, eternal universe, human spirits are part of the creation, but are non-corporeal, without a body. In order to receive a body of flesh and bone, you have to come down to earth for your intangible spirit to get a physical body, after which you physically die and are resurrected, where your spirit and body are recombined and you have a perfect physical body.

Because our Universe is ruled by the progression of time, it poses three possible states for every spirit. First, a spirit can be in spiritual form in the premortal existence, prior to coming to earth to receive its body, being a spirit of the Lord. This explains how a spiritual manifestation can be from God, but refuse to shake your hand when asked, because it’s against the will of the Lord. That spirit will deliver its message and that’s the end.

Second, a spirit can be a resurrected being who’s come to earth and received a body. When it appears to deliver the Lord’s message, you’ll ask to shake its hand, and because the spirit has received its earthly body, it’ll shake your hand like a human being, illustrating it’s a spiritual manifestation sent by God. That spirit in corporeal form will deliver its message and that’s the end of that interaction.

The third possibility is a spirit of the devil. Because spirits of the devil can never come to earth to receive a corporeal body they’ll never be able to shake your hand. So you’ll ask for the sign and token and the spirit will kindly oblige by trying to shake your hand which will just pass right through the spirit. That’s when you know a spirit is of the devil and needing to be rebuked. I suppose a spirit of the devil could just refuse to shake your hand and then you’ll think it’s just a non-resurrected spirit of the Lord, but that breaks the rules and this whole damn circular logic trap falls apart, so don’t ask questions.

As I said, it’s logically consistent if, and only if, you grant the false premises and understand Jo’s magic world view. But that was just describing the rabbit hole without you seeing the edge of it, now let’s walk to the edge and peer down to understand a little more about the schools of thought which contributed to Jo’s understanding of the universe.

Throughout various iterations of early Mormonism, Jo was trying to capture the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom. His occult practices which were included in Mormonism descended from early systems of belief which he cherry-picked from in order to make Mormonism unique. The rituals which descended from ancient Egypt found later iterations in the Eleusinian mysteries which informed Hermeticism which evolved into Kabbalah included in the Zorah texts. With the enlightenment, what we call occult magic today found its way into a socially acceptable pursuit of knowledge in spiritual Alchemy. This further evolved alongside Rosicrucianism, which language finds its way into some of Jo’s teachings, and eventually Jo joined the Masons which were a post-enlightenment iteration of occultism and magic, from which Jo likely appropriated the ascendency rituals for use in his temple rituals during the Nauvoo years. For the sake of brevity, I skipped over massive swaths of history just hitting on the highlights of the most well-known iterations of these groups who were in constant pursuit of divine gnosis and pure intellect. You can find a paper written by Lance Owens in the show notes titled Joseph Smith and the Kabbalah which actually deconstructs this whole belief system Jo’s magic world view descended from and his mentors throughout his lifetime who contributed some knowledge to his world view. It may have begun with Joseph Sr., Big Daddy Cheese, and people like Luman Walters and Samuel Lawrence, and the Whitmers, but during early Mormonism, people like Peter Kerr, Joshua Seixas, and later, Alexander Neibaur, all followed some version of belief system which Jo incorporated into Mormonism as the great synthesizer he was.

As I said, this is just the very edge of the rabbit hole I’ve walked you to and described, dive down if you’re up to the challenge.

It should be noted that the majority of these schools of thoughts included some form of a sacrament ritual which Jo tried to emulate from the earliest days of Mormonism. Before the doctrine of anything that’s practiced in the church today, with the exception of baptism, sacrament is the earliest longest-running aspect of Mormonism. You should always be a bit suspect when a spiritual leader feeds you some of his or her special wine collection before having a religious experience.

The entire reason we went on this digression is to illustrate how fluid Mormonism was in its earliest days. Jo grabbed little snippets from everything around him and manufactured his own beliefs around the gems. Some of those aspects of early Mormonism still remain in the Brighamite church today. This may not seem like much of a revelation to most, but the more I study Mormon history I see how much it has departed from its Smithian roots, so seeing teachings that Jo taught still enshrined in today’s Brighamite church is somewhat surprising. But, this is a theme which will repeat the further we get into Nauvoo. Brighamite Mormonism came from the Mormonism existing in Nauvoo, which is different in a number of ways from Kirtland Mormonism, so those two different versions will slowly evolve to coincide as we continue to progress through the Nauvoo years.

Once Jo had sufficiently prepared the Quorum of the Twelve for their departure for the England trip, throughout July to September, they departed in waves. Here, we pick up on the Manuscript History of Brigham Young to tell us how things went for the group. Things weren’t easy as most of them were sickly to some degree, but they had a mission and here is what Bloody Brigham tells us of their travels once they departed. You’ll find a link to his manuscript history in the show notes.

“September 14, 1839-- I started from Montrose on my mission to England. My health was so poor I was unable to go thirty rods to the river without assistance.

After I had crossed the river I got Israel Barlow to carry me on his horse, behind him, to Heber C. Kimball's, where I remained sick till the 18th. I left my wife sick, with a babe only ten days old, and all my children sick and unable to wait upon each other.

--17-- My wife crossed the river and got a boy with a wagon to bring her up about a mile to Brother Kimball's to see me.

I remained until the 18th at Brother Kimball's, when we started, leaving his family also sick.

Brother Charles Hubbard sent his boy across the prairie fourteen miles to a shanty on the railroad, where Brother O. M. Duel lived. Sister Duel helped the boy to get our trunks out of the wagon. We went into the house feeling very much fatigued. She made us a cup of tea which very much revived us. We tarried there one night.

In the morning Brother Duel took us in his wagon, and carried us as far as Lima, about twelve miles. When Brother Duel left us, he gave each of us a dollar to help us on our journey. A brother then took us into a wagon and carried us to Father Mikesell's, near Quincy. We tarried in Quincy a few days, and began to recover, and preached a few times. We procured a meetinghouse close to the Congregationalists, and we began at different hours from them; but taking a notion to disturb us, they rang their bell furiously after we had commenced our meeting. Elder Page was preaching and he preached so loud as to drown the bell, and thus brought out hundreds who otherwise would not have come to meeting. We received some little assistance from the brethren.

Lyman Wight took us into a one-horse wagon, and carried us to Brother C. C. Rich's, at Burton, where we stayed overnight.

Next morning Brother Rich carried us to Brother Wilbur's. We tarried overnight, and Brother Wilbur took us in a buggy and carried us to Father James Allred's, in Pittsfield, where we remained all night; and Father Allred carried us to the neighborhood where Brother Harlow Redfield lived, where we preached at a small branch of the Church. Next day the brethren carried us on to Scott County to Brother Decker's, near Winchester.

October 1.-- Went to Lorenzo D. Young's, where we tarried and recruited.

--4-- Brother Lorenzo carried us to Jacksonville. We stayed overnight. A sister in the Church hired a man and buggy to carry us to Springfield, where we were kindly received by the brethren. Here I was sick and confined to my bed for a few days. Brother Libeus T. Coon, who was then practicing medicine, waited upon and nursed me.

On the 11th, resumed my journey in company with Brothers H. [Heber] C. Kimball, Geo. [George] A. Smith, Theodore Turley and Brother Kimball's father-in-law, Mr. Murray. The brethren had exchanged horses at Springfield, and with a little assistance from the brethren there, we obtained a two-horse wagon. The sisters fitted me up a bed in the wagon to ride on, as I was unable to sit up.

We travelled eight miles, and put up with Father Draper for the night. When we went into the house, Brother George A. Smith dropped on to the hearth a bottle containing some tonic bitters, which the brethren had prepared for us because of our sickness. At this Father Draper was very much astonished, and said "You are a pretty set of Apostles, to be carrying a bottle of whiskey with you." We explained to him what it was; this appeased his righteous soul, so that he consented to have us stay over the night.

Next morning we pursued our journey and arrived at Terre Haute on the 17th. Brother Kimball and myself put up at Dr. Modisett's, who belonged to the Church. The other brethren put up at Milton Stowe's, who lived in one of the doctor's houses.

In the evening the doctor called in to see them, Brother Stowe being very poor, and the brethren quite ill in health. The doctor expressed great sympathy for them when he returned to his house--relating over the poverty of Brother Stowe and the brethren's ill health, he shed many tears, but he did not have quite sympathy enough to buy them a chicken or give them a shilling, though he was worth some four or five hundred thousand dollars.

In the course of the evening Brother Kimball became very ill. The doctor said he could give him something that would help him, but the old man was so drunk he did not know what he did do, and he gave Brother Kimball a tablespoonful of morphine. His wife saw him pour it out, but dare not say a word, but believed it would kill Brother Kimball. A few minutes after he took it, he straightened up in his chair, and said he felt very strange, and thought he would lie down; and on his making a motion to go to bed, he fell his length upon the floor. I sprang to him, rolled him over on his back, and put a pillow under his head, and began to inquire what the doctor had given him. I learned he had given him morphine. Brother Kimball soon came to, and spoke faintly and said, "Don't be scared, for I shan't die." We got him on the bed, and I nursed him through the night. I changed his underclothing five times, and washed him previous to changing his clothes. I found him covered with sweat, at first like thin honey. This gradually wore out towards morning, and he sweat naturally. He was scarcely able to speak, so as to be understood, through the night.

The next day Brothers George A. Smith, Theodore Turley, Reuben Hedlock and Mr. Murray, started with the wagon and three horses for Kirtland, Ohio--the horses had pretty well given out. We gave them what money we had, except five dollars, and told them to take good care of the team and make all possible speed; if they did not, we would be in Kirtland before them.

We tarried in Terre Haute until the 22nd, when Brother A. [Almon] W. Babbit and Dr. Knight came to Terre Haute to see us. Next day Dr. James Modisett sent his son and carriage, and took us twenty miles. We went from thence to Pleasant Garden with Brother Babbitt, and put up with Brother Jonathan Crosby, cabinetmaker. Found a few brethren who were well and in good spirits.

We remained there a few days preaching to the few brethren and others who wished to hear. We learned that Brother Babbitt had been preaching through the country with good success, and had baptized five.

We tarried till Saturday, the 26th, when Brother Babbitt took us in his buggy and carried us twelve miles, to the house of a Brother Scott, where we tarried overnight. The family was very glad to see us.

Next morning Brother Scott sent his little son John, and carried us fifteen miles to Belleville. Travelled several miles in the rain. We put up at an inn for the remainder of the day and night. I was quite ill, and Brother Kimball sat up with the landlord and his lady, quite late, preaching to them.

Next morning the landlord rose up early and talked to the citizens about the travellers who had put up with him the night before, and what he had heard them say concerning the gospel. The neighbors flocked in, had many inquiries to make, and were very anxious we should tarry and preach in the place. The stage came along about 10 o'clock, and we went on our way for Kirtland.

While in Pleasant Garden we obtained some money, so that with the five dollars we previously had, amounted to $13,50. When we got into the stage, we did not expect to be able to ride but a short distance. We rode as far as Indianapolis, paid our passages, and found we had sufficient means to take our passages for Richmond, Ia. [Iowa] {Ohio}.

When we arrived at this place we found we had means to take us to Dayton, to which place we proceeded and tarried over night, waiting for another line of stages. We expected to stop here and preach until we got means to pursue our journey. I went to my trunk to get money to pay my bill, and found that we had sufficient to pay our passages to Columbus, to which place we took passage in the stage and tarried overnight.

When I paid my bill I found I had sufficient to pay our passages to Wooster. We tarried till the after part of the day, and then took passage for Wooster. When we arrived there I went to my trunk again to get money to pay our bill, and found sufficient to pay our passages to Cleveland.

When we got to a little town called Strongsville, towards evening, within about 20 miles of Cleveland, I had a strong impression to stop at a tavern when I first came into the town, but the stage did not stop there so we went on. We arrived at Cleveland about 11 o'clock, and took lodgings and remained till next morning.

November 3 (Sunday)-- Brother Kimball and I attended the Episcopalian church in the forenoon. While we were walking down the street to the hotel, we met Mr. Murray, and learned that the brethren who left us in Terre Haute had just arrived in Cleveland. Mr. Murray was as much astonished to see Brother Kimball alive as though he had seen one risen from the dead. We walked down the street with him a short distance and met the brethren, from whom I learned they had stopped at the tavern in Strongsville, where I wished to stop the night before. They had met with Brother John Taylor at Dayton, where he was left a few weeks before at a tavern, very sick, by Father Coltrin, who proceeded to Kirtland. Brothers Taylor and Hedlock got into the stage with us early in the afternoon, and rode as far as Willoughby. We proceeded to Kirtland, and arrived that evening, where we found a good many friends and brethren who were glad to see us. I had a York shilling left; and on looking over our expenses I found we had paid out over $87,00 out of the $13,50 we had at Pleasant Garden, which is all the money we had to pay our passages, to my certain knowledge, to start on. We had travelled over 400 miles by stage, for which we paid from 8 to 10 cents a mile, and had eaten three meals a day, for each of which we were charged fifty cents, also fifty cents for our lodgings.

In company with my brother, John Young, I visited Brother and Sister Kent, my brother-in-law and sister, and found them well and in good faith. There was some division of sentiment among the brethren in Kirtland, many of whom lacked the energy to move to Missouri last season, and some lacked the disposition. Some of the brethren thought that our sickness was owing to some great wickedness we had been guilty of.

--10 (Sunday)-- Brother Taylor preached in the forenoon, in the temple, and Brother Kimball in the afternoon. We spent our time in Kirtland in visiting the brethren and recruiting our health.”

Even while the majority of them were deathly ill, the quorum slowly made their way across the country in small groups of 3 to 5 in each. And finally, after nearly 3 months of travel, they made it to a solid stopping point with lots of friends before they hopped on a boat to Buffalo. During this same time, Jo was making his way across the country, destined for Washington D.C. to make an appeal to Martin Van Buren for some redress for what the Mormons suffered in Missouri. We’ll pick up on Jo and friends on their trip to Washington D.C. next episode.

You know, I’m still struggling with this concept of Mormon history since I found out about it. Why the hell would this chaotic time in church history be a good time to send the quorum of the Twelve out on a mission, especially when the majority of them were too sick to even make the trip. That 5 dollars Bloody Brigham took with him when they left Commerce was to get them along their way, and whatever money they could gather from Saints along the way would be to pay the rest of their way to Europe. I mean, we can hop on a plane today for a few hundred dollars and we can cross an ocean in a few hours, but this was a legit mission they departed to undertake from July to September of 1839, they wouldn’t even get to England until April of the next year! That’s more than half a year of their mission devoted to just getting to England in the first place. When they left Commerce, it was a desolate swampland, utterly devoid of any improvement aside from the 5 houses the Mormons purchased along with the land and the couple of shacks that some of the leadership had thrown together to take care of the thousands of sick people. They finally get back from this mission in July of 1841, at which time Nauvoo was home to thousands of settled Mormons with dozens of public buildings, hundreds of homes, and even hundreds of non-Mormon settlers who’d flocked to the sprawling metropolis once they saw how well the Mormons were doing on the banks of the Mississippi.

It’s still a baffling concept to me though. Most of their earliest travels to get to Buffalo were spent confined to beds, punctuated by blowing all their travel funds on brief carriage rides from one town to the next because they were too weak to walk any of the distance. This was a terrible time to send away the middle managers of the church, and it created a power vacuum that would be filled by the next yes man who came along. John C. Bennett would be the mayor of Nauvoo upon the Quorum’s return. A lot of things were different in Nauvoo from summer 1839 to summer 1841. Those points merely bolster the claim that there was no worse time in Mormon history for Jo to send the quorum away on a mission trip, or for himself to abandon the Saints in Illinois and Iowa to go meet with the POTUS.

It’s always a challenge to posit motives on somebody’s decision, especially when it’s a decision made more than a century and a half ago and Mormons can point to all the good that came out of this mission trip and post-hoc rationalize it as a decision delivered from on high. But, I’m not an historian and I’m happy to infer my own conclusions about Joseph Smith’s motivations based on the model of Jo I’ve constructed in my head.

Commerce was a huge pain in Jo’s ass. Everywhere he turned people were asking for direction, guidance, or healing from the prophet, when he himself was ill for considerable swaths of time throughout 1839, the ague hit everybody. I think Jo was following the basest of human nature and running away from his problems. He had plenty of good reasons to go talk with the president, but I think the reptilian motivations can be boiled down to what Jo often did in times of incredible pressure, running away instead of truly facing his problems. It happened when his second and third kids died, it happened at the end of Zion’s camp, and a handful of other times, Jo ran away when the pressure was too much.

Granted, he collected the affidavits from a number of people who were imprisoned by the state of Missouri in order to petition the President for redress. He and Hyrum both complained that they should be compensated $100,000 for what happened to them, money which Jo really needed to pay for all the land he was buying up at record speeds, so that constituted a great excuse to get out of Commerce and away from the constant nagging of the Saints. I’m not in any way saying what he did was wrong, he was just following his instincts and I can’t blame him for that. I guess I’m just making the case that Jo wasn’t exactly the hero that Mormons paint him as today. He was just a dude, doin his dude thing. Mormons often think that Jo never wanted to found a religion but did because it was his calling and that some of the things he got into simply got out of hand. While I agree with the latter, I strongly believe that Jo always wanted to have a following of people who would look to him for wisdom and guidance, but he didn’t want to deal with all the bullshit the job entails.

This is really a microcosm for the grand disparity that exists between Joseph Smith the prophet and who the real Jo smith was. Unfortunately for the church, they can’t run from Jo the way he ran from anything that caused him problems.

Mormon Leaks Minute

We are officially debuting a new segment that I think you guys will really enjoy. For this segment we’re going to have a recurring correspondent to help us sift through the skeletons lurking in the closets of that great and spacious building in temple square.

We’ve gone kind of long today, but there’s been some headlines coming out of the Mormon newsroom that I just can’t put off any longer. A few weeks ago a video went viral of a twelve-year-old girl named Savannah bearing her testimony. There will be a link in the show notes to the video, but we’ll play an brief excerpt as a jump off point for what’s going on in Mormon headlines lately.

Because this is a video and it doesn’t necessarily translate to audio perfectly, let me set up the scene. Testimony meeting is the open mic meeting LDS churches have on the first Sunday of every month. This girl, Savannah, gets up with a prepared testimony, probably because she was understandably nervous, wearing a white button-up shirt and red tie, not necessarily approved church attire for a temple-bound Mai Maid in the church, and she shares with the congregation the fact that she’s gay and she knows God made her that way on purpose. I’ll let Savannah take it from here.

Insert Savannah

And that’s the end of the video. Did it sound like she was cut mid-sentence? That’s because she was. The bishop literally cut her mic to end her public coming out speech which was centered around her saying that she knows god made her the way she is and loves her. She wasn’t up there describing lesbian sex or calling all the children in the congregation to turn gay, she was just saying that she’s gay and it’s okay.

The reception of this video has been interesting to say the least. To give a little bit of background, the video was actually taken and made its way to YouTube a few months ago, where it made a brief appearance and Savannah was interviewed by a couple of local news outlets, but it didn’t actually go viral until a few weeks ago, when friend of the show Mike Norton, who goes by the screenname NewNameNoah, posted the video to his channel which he tweeted had received a few thousand views within the first 4 hours of being posted and it sits just under half a million views at the time of recording this. That’s when the exmormon subreddit picked it up and went absolutely apeshit. The following testimony meeting, a number of people made it a point to wear garb to church in support of Savannah including rainbow wristbands and red ties just like what she was wearing.

I’ll be honest, I expected the feedback of this video to fall strictly down on either side of the believing spectrum with very few believers supporting Savannah to bridge the gap. The comments section on the video has around 2,000 comments and skimming the top hundred or so, people are by in large in support of Savannah and everything she symbolizes. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of comments of Mormons who’re utterly perturbed that she would have the balls to grandstand during a testimony meeting, but the homophobia is a Mormon version of it, not the overt homophobia as stereotyped of the bigoted firebrand Christianities rife with people holding up signs saying God hates fags and whatnot.

A few of the comments say she shouldn’t have done what she did because testimony meeting isn’t the place to normalize sin, it’s where you go to bear your testimony of God. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point, but isn’t that exactly what she was doing? She said that she knows God made her gay and loves her, that’s her testimony. The most exciting thing about reading through the comments is seeing just how many people are in support of Savannah and what she did or are outright telling the church to go fuck itself.

Interestingly enough, what Savannah did may not have been deemed appropriate for testimony meeting, I won’t weigh in on that, but her perspective and continued belief in the church is perfectly in line with the fragile position the church takes on LGBTQ issues.

About a year ago the church launched a new initiative called MormonAndGay.lds.org, which attempts to deal with the church’s historically bigoted stance on the issue. This was revolutionary for some folks, but was merely a softening of the hard homophobia they’d espoused prior to the mid-2010s. The site has a few videos of people who are gay and Mormon and are okay with it. But, the church does take a hard stance that people can live in a happy, god-approved marriage with somebody of the opposite sex, and just live with what they call same-sex attraction. Hey guys, guess what, if somebody has feelings of same-sex attraction, they’re probably gay or fall somewhere on the sexuality spectrum other than sys-hetero. So the church is cool with your same-sex attraction, as long as you never act on it. Granted, the launch of this initiative wasn’t publicized in the church and I haven’t seen any major updates to the site since the launch with the exception of adding a few new videos, but here’s a quote from it which summarizes the church’s current stance on LGBTQ issues. It’s all about loving people regardless of how God made them.

“In an October 2009 general conference address, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf described God’s love:
‘God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.
“He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us” (“The Love of God,” Oct. 2009 general conference).
God loves all of us. He loves those of different faiths and those without any faith. He loves those who suffer. He loves the rich and poor alike. He loves people of every race and culture, the married or single, and those who experience same-sex attraction or identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. And God expects us to follow His example.’”

Like I said, it’s a softening of the hardcore Packeresque homophobia of punching people who are gay, but it’s not exactly acceptance. It may be considered tolerance, but it’s far from acceptance. To drive the point home even further, this is a clip from the last question of a Face to Face meetup with Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, and this video was made and posted after the launch of MormonAndGay. He says at the beginning of the video that he is there as a representative of the church, and he is an apostle, so this is the church’s official stance on marriage and what they call same-sex attraction. BTW, there will be links to everything we’re discussing in the show notes.

To set the scene for what you’re about to hear, this was the first of 2 videos the church has produced called Face to Face, where Young Single Adults come together in a huge audience to do a Q&A with the apostles and other general authorities. The first voice you’ll hear is the 20 something questioner who’s been asking the majority of the questions, then he sends it over to Pluto McFlappy Joules Jeffrey R Dodo bird for the answer. Holland answers by sidestepping the issue and shifting the discourse to talking about chastity instead of same-sex attraction and homosexuality. Whenever he says chastity in his bumble-fuck of a hastily prepared answer, understand that he actually means that gay people can be attracted to each other, but they can’t act on it, implying they should stay in hateful unfulfilling marriages with people of the opposite sex because that’s what god commands; those are god’s commandments. Another point to make before playing the video, he obviously doesn’t understand the science of biology, psychology, and anthropology in general, but he’s happy to tell us what God thinks about these things.

Jeffrey Holland 1:13:20-1:16:10

Sorry for playing such a long clip, but that’s the problem with people that don’t ever conclude a sentence when challenged by a concept with which they’re uncomfortable. The thing is, nothing of what he said is acceptance of the LGBT community. The church has softened on their public face, but actions speak louder than words. And no actions spoke louder than the controversy with the provo freedom festival this last weekend. Every year in Utah a number of organizations host parades through the major population areas. The committee which runs the Provo parade is known as America’s freedom festival and this is the mission statement on the front page of freedomfestival.org

“America's Freedom Festival at Provo is a private, non-profit, non-political foundation whose mission is to celebrate, teach, honor, and strengthen the traditional American values of God, family, freedom, and country.”

At least they used an oxford comma, so I can’t fault their editors, but they surely did put God before family, freedom, and country. Any time a mission statement includes God next to all those I’m instantly skeptical. But the reason I’m bringing this up is because Provo is home to BYU, and is known to be a conservative college town filled with young adult returned missionaries. The next generation of bigoted church leaders are fostered in Provo, Utah.

The reason I bring this up is because 2 days before the freedom parade last weekend they cancelled participation of ONE group in the festival. The group is known as encircle and this is the mission statement on encircletogether.org

“Encircle functions as a hub for resources that support the overall well being of LGBTQ individuals. Encircle not only provides a physical space for community gathering, skills training, individual counseling, conflict resolution, and other resources, but will also serve as a literal example of what a typical Utah home that is inclusive of its LGBTQ members, might look and feel like.”

The freedom festival claimed they removed encircle because they’re a political group and Freedom festival tries to be non-partisan. Fuck that, Freedom festival made this a political issue when it wasn’t before. Let’s call a spade a spade here. The church found out about Encircle being a resource for LGBTQ people, especially for youth, and they considered part of the nefarious Gay-agenda to convert those little Provo kids to being gay and they made a phone call to the organizers of the Freedom Festival and told them to cut the rope to Encircle, citing political reasons. Freedom Festival says Encircle is a political movement, but just because an issue is wrongly politicized doesn’t mean that a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization like Encircle who advocates for equal rights is a political group. That just like saying that because Freedom Festival includes God in their mission statement that they’re a political group.

Can the church and the people associated not see the parallels to the late 1970s? Can they not see they’re on the wrong side of history on this social issue? Which brings me back to Savannah. What they did to her is representative of what they’ve been doing with LGBTQ issues on the broad spectrum. They put up these public statements saying they’re totally cool with people who don’t fall into the sys-hetero category, but as soon as it comes to actual practice, they’d much rather silence the problem and those talking about it than actually deal with the fundamental issue. If a 12-year-old threatens your beliefs system with a 3-minute talk, maybe your beliefs system is the problem.

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