Last episode said Thomas B. Marsh correct to Robert B. Thompson
This ep is just history. I’ll be at the Protect LDS Children March next week. That means next week’s episode will be just a Mormon Leaks hour to talk about the recent Joseph Bishop sexual assault leak. There’s a lot to say when it comes to the tape but we’re going to let the dust settle for another week before talking about it on this show. All I can say is come to the damn march at the end of this month. This march is organized to combat the fatal flaws in the Church which allowed this man to rape multiple women in the MTC. Come. To. The. Protect LDS Children march on March 30th!
Come to the fucking march!
Ep 95 – LDS Inc.
On this episode, we examine when Jo’s Mormonism became a business venture as much as a religion. It didn’t take long into Mormon history before God felt the need to interfere with Church finances. From that time forward, revelation after revelation centered on money just as much as ecclesiastical matters. We discuss the nuances of the land contracts Joseph Smith signed with Isaac Galland and Horace Hotchkiss to create a sanctuary for the Mormon refugees to settle. How does the Church’s business-centric roots impact its operation and motives today? Let’s find out….
Lyndon Cook—Isaac Galland, Mormon Benefactor
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
Did Joseph Smith start Mormonism just for the money? It’s a question worth asking and one which isn’t really answerable. At the latest Sunstone Symposium, Mormon historian Christopher C. Smith made the argument that Jo never intended on starting a religion, that it was Oliver Cowdery’s idea to begin the religion. According to Chris, Jo had to be convinced to start Mormonism as his initial intention was to publish the Book of Mormon and live off the sales. Chris’s presentation was compelling, but I think he was ignoring much of the Smith family dynamic leading to the publishing of the Book of Mormon which may have caused Jo to entertain the idea that starting a religion would be a good idea.
The Smith family attended a number of religions prior to Mormonism’s inception. Methodism being the one we have unequivocal documentary evidence of, but they may have attended multiple religions for varying periods of time throughout Jo’s teenage and early adult life. What were more appealing than brick-and-mortar religions were public religious revivals with altar calls, frequently held in town squares or public assembly halls, sometimes just in large open fields. We wouldn’t expect to find any documentary evidence of the Smiths attending these open-air revivals, but if they followed the religious world the way many of their neighbors did, we can assume they attended at least a few of the larger revivals in the Palmyra and Manchester area. They may have even travelled to nearby Rochester, the largest shipping and trading city within a day’s journey from the Smiths.
With the completion of the Erie canal in 1826, a whole new mode of cheap and efficient transportation opened Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and all other large cities on the shores of the Great Lakes to New York, bringing in an influx of traders, businessman, and, most importantly for our purposes, preachers.
The burned-over district, in which Joseph matured, was home to hundreds of these religious revivals over the period from 1815-1835. The preachers leading these revivals were often career preachers, making their living from being the most charismatic preacher around, at least until the next charismatic preacher came along.
The Smith family grew up on scraps, clothed in rags. They were destitute. In fact, Joseph Sr. in the late 1810s actually spent 30 days in a debtor’s prison for failing to fulfill the obligations of a business contract. The only way the Smiths were able to afford their Manchester farmhouse was because Alvin Smith’s industrious fortitude making him able to pay the first two payments as cosigner for the land deed. For a family growing up in poverty to see revival preachers with tailored suits and their entourages of followers fawning over them, it must have had a dramatic impact on the Smiths and Joseph Jr. specifically. Sitting in the congregation and watching that collection plate circulate the crowd with enough money to keep the Smith family fed for months, what a dream it would be to have that coming to young Jo instead of the finely-clothed priestcraft on the stage.
Fast forward to publishing the Book of Mormon, Martin Harris, Not-So-Smarty-Marty, as we call him, mortgaged his farm to fund the 5,000 original copies. Jo heard that some people or organizations in Canada were buying copyrights of history books. In response to this unsubstantiated rumor, Jo sent, on two separate occasions, missionaries to Canada to find a buyer for the Book of Mormon copyright. I think this fact alone illustrates to us that Jo was motivated by whatever would bring him in some fast cash, ignoring any long-term ramifications.
Not-so-smarty-Marty must have been a bit reluctant to make good on the contract for the Book of Mormon because the first revelation in the Book of Commandments which refers to anything monetary was directed as Marty. This is the first time Jo’s God interfered in money included in BoC 16, modern D&C 19:
“11 For behold, the mystery of Godliness how great is it? for behold I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand, is endless punishment, for endless is my name: 12 Wherefore-
13 Wherefore, I command you by my name, and by my Almighty power, that you repent: repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore: 14 How sore you know not! 15How exquisite you know not! 16 Yea, how hard to bear you know not!
17 For behold, I God have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer, if they would repent,
but if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I:
25 And again: I command you, that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. 26Nor seek thy neighbor's life.
27 And again: I command you, that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word of God,
which is my word to Gentile, that soon it may go to the Jew, of which the Lamanites are a remnant; that they may believe the gospel, and look not for a Messiah to come which has already come.”
This was the first time God was forced to interfere with monetary affairs concerning the Mormon religion. What follows throughout the rest of the D&C are dozens of revelations commanding similar things to other wealthy Mormons.
If we look to BoC chapter 26, modern D&C section 25, we see the genesis of the first riff between Jo and Oliver Cowdery with this passage directed to the prophet’s wife:
“5 And thou shalt go with him at the time of his going, and be unto him for a scribe, that I may send Oliver Cowdery whithersoever I will.
6 And thou shalt be ordained under his hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit:
7 For he shall lay his hands upon thee, and thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost, and thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much.
8 And thou needest not fear, for thy husband shall support thee from the church:9 For unto them is his calling, that all things might be revealed unto them, whatsoever I will according to their faith.”
This revelation said that Jo would be supported by the Church and his wife, Emma, wouldn’t need to worry about money anymore because they had a church with followers to fill their pockets. These two revelations mark God’s first interference into monetary affairs with the Jo’s new religion. The revelation we just read about Jo and Emma being supported by the Church came along a mere 3 months after the Church was started in 1830.
Maybe this shouldn’t be an issue, because the Church simply couldn’t operate without some kind of income. With all the projects undertaken by the early Church, a steady flow of money was crucial to bring the projects to light. Most of these projects were merely land acquisition and building on said land, but one of the main purposes for needing income came about as Jo’s pallet for the upper class became increasingly jaded against a mediocre lifestyle.
Even before this actual revelation came about, Jo was focused on getting money from wealthy locals. When Jo first met NSSM Harris, Jo approached Marty and told him that God had given Jo a revelation that the first honest man he met would give him $50. Granted, that $50 in 1826 is over $1,100 in today’s dollars, so that’s a hefty sum, but that $50 was a lot to the 20-year-old prophet at the time. Fast forward a mere decade from 1826 and Jo is dealing with contracts and businesses worth thousands of dollars. Expand that to encompass another 5 years and we arrive in 1841 where our current timeline resides and Jo is throwing around tens of thousands of dollars. But, that money was rarely liquid specie. Most of the money Jo dealt with was in the form of mercantile commodities or land deeds. New York Jo was working with 10s of dollars, Nauvoo Jo a mere 10 years later was working with 10s of thousands of dollars.
Let’s spend a bit of time talking about Jo’s financial portfolio in 1841.
From everything which transpired in Kirtland, Jo found himself $40-60,000 in debt. He fled the state, but those debts were still attached. The city was able to seize the 3-story printing office building next to the Kirtland Temple to absolve some of the debts, but the building was burned to the ground by an unknown arsonist as soon as it was auctioned off to one of Jo’s many creditors.
Church finances in Missouri were in no-better shape than that of Kirtland. The Mormons had been squatting with the hopes of purchasing Missouri land for extremely cheap. When the land they were squatting on came up for auction, much of it was purchased by gentile Missourians who wanted the Mormons off their newly acquired land. This was one of many factors which caused the Missourians to remove the Mormons and send them out of the state.
During Jo’s internment in Liberty Jail, he shared a bit of letter correspondence with one Isaac Galland, who had deeds to thousands of acres in Iowa and Illinois right on the Mississippi. He had the deeds to the land, but that unfortunately didn’t mean a whole lot as the land ownership in Iowa had been so much speculated on that simply having a deed in-hand didn’t grant total ownership.
Galland owned some 20,000 acres in what was known as the half-breed tract in Iowa. This land had been acquired after the Government executed the teeth of the Indian Removal Act and relocated the thousands of Native Americans living in the Iowa territory. This half-breed tract was the source of land speculation as businessmen vacillated between investing in the area in hopes of it becoming a new metropolis with high land values and dumping their holdings when they saw how undesirable the land was and extrapolated accurate conclusions of the area’s lack of appeal.
Land deeds were traded back and forth constantly and courts were forced to get involved to make small settlements based on the incredibly confusing nature of these trades. Often times, one man, let’s say Steve, would purchase a land deed for a few hundred acres from another man, Bill, who had previously purchased a few thousand acres and broken up the land into smaller lots for split-sales. Then Steve would subdivide out his few hundred acres and sell them off at slightly raised value to a third party, John, who may have been purchasing multiple blocks of hundreds of acres in order to consolidate the land into a single block to sell for an exorbitant rate. Each of these steps would increase the dollar/acre value of the land, but nobody was settling the area en masse to justify the inflation. Then somebody, Dave, would approach to the original owner of the thousands of acres, Bill, before Steve and John purchased their land after they subdivided and consolidated the land and Dave would accuse Bill of having a fraudulent land deed and contend the land belonged to Dave in the first place, and resolve the issue in court. The court would rule the Bill’s deed to be fraudulent, committing the land to Dave who brought the accusation of fraud because he had an earlier deed in his hands which showed all the acreage was actually his. But at the end of it all, it turns out that Dave DID actually sell his land to Bill in the first place, but Bill lost the paperwork so he can’t prove that Dave sold the land to him. Now all the land deeds with Bill, Steve, and John’s names are nullified by a court and Dave retains all their land with his original deed. Then, it turns out that the original deed Dave presented to the court to get all the land back was actually fraudulent because Mark, who sold the original land to Dave before Bill, John, and Steve got involved, simply fabricated his land deeds to lay claim to thousands of acres he got on trade from a Black Hawk war veteran, who initially was given his thousands of acres by the government, because Mark gave the veteran a nice place to live in Springfield, Illinois. But, of course, Dave, Bill, John, and Steve all feel like they got screwed over by each other when it was Mark’s fault in the first place for laying claim with fraudulent land deeds all because he made a handshake deal with that war veteran.
This hypothetical made up the majority of land disputes in the half-breed tract and caused a lot of hard feelings and unfair court rulings when they attempted to nullify the chaos and reduce the speculation. All one must do is replace the names of these men with actual companies, like the New York Land Company, who were practicing this speculation on a large scale and it’s perfectly applicable.
One man caught up in all the speculation was one Isaac Galland, with whom the Prophet had shared correspondence from Liberty Jail. Jo had agreed to buy Galland’s 20 thousand acres of half-breed tract in Iowa. I’ll let Lyndon W. Cook from BYU studies take it away from here giving a brief synopsis of Galland’s professional career in land speculation. You’ll find a link to the entire article, Isaac Galland—Mormon Benefactor, in the show notes.
“After unsuccessfully running for the Iowa state legislature in 1834 251 isaac galland began his notorious career of land speculation in Iowa much of Galland’s land dealings involved the halfbreed tract a 119000 acre parcel of land lying between the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers in the southeast cornerm of iowa which had been set aside as a reservation for halfbreed half breed sac and fox indians an despite the questionable legality of land transactions in the halfbreed half breed tract the area was soon flooded with settlers and land speculators in 1836 the New York Land company, later to merge with the st louis land company made extensive land purchases in the reservation isaac galland was one of five trustees for the new york land company he also purchased large tracts of land in his own name both in the halfbreed half breed reservation er and in commerce hancock county illinois dr galland who at one time was appointed special land commissioner for hancock county also platted the original town of keokuk in 1837…
Isaac Galland’s association with the mormons cormons began in october or november of 1838 when he met israel barlow who with other mormons cormons had fled northeastward towards quincy illinois from far west missouri but by missing their way had arrived at the des moines river in iowa they observed the abandoned barracks of old fort des moines near what is now montrose and were informed that isaac galland held extensive claims to this area known as the halfbreed half breed tract israel barlow and his associates talked with dr galland who after hearing of the mormons cormons Mormons difficulties in missouri began negotiations with these destitute mor mons to sell them his lands and buildings in commerce as well as in the halfbreed half breed tract not authorized to make purchases for the church elder barlow directed his course downstream to quincy after an exploring party had been sent to examine Gallands lands church leaders convened in quincy to discuss the propriety of settling in commerce and in lee county iowa william marks presided at this meeting where isaac Galland’s liberal offer was presented dr galland had agreed to sell about twenty thousand acres lying between the mississippi and des moines rivers at two dollars per acre to be paid in twenty annual installments without interest…”
Isaac Galland was paramount to the Mormon settlement and he converted to Mormonism, likely out of self-interest to ensure his business transaction went through. Galland lobbied on behalf of the refugee Mormons by petitioning his friends, Attorney General Isaac Van Allen and Governor Robert Lucas of Iowa Territory, that they would allow the transaction to be completed and allow the Mormons to begin settlement in the Iowa territory. In Galland’s letter to Governor Lucas dated 25 Feb 1839, he said the following:
“I will come to the issue at once and ask on behalf of these much injured people your permission that they may purchase lands and settle thereon in the territory of iowa and there to worship almighty god according to the dictates of their own consciences secure from the robbers grasp the ruffians gun and the midnight assassins knife.”
Permission was granted by the Governor, sharply contrasting the favors the Mormons had received from Missouri Governor, Lilburn Boggs, when he signed the Mormon Extermination Order. Jo signed the Galland contracts and the Mormons were now on the hook for $50,000 in exchange for 20,000 acres in Iowa. Just as in our little hypothetical, Galland’s ownership of these contracted lands was highly disputed, yet he sold it anyway. A brief footnote in Lyndon Cook’s paper offers the history of how the half-breed tract became a major source of confusion for land speculators and the court systems trying to rectify their mistake from when the land was initially appropriated.
“Congress in august 1824 had reserved this tract of land by treaty for the use of the mixed bloods of the sac and fox indian tribes. The united states maintained a revisionary interest in the land and under the terms of the treaty the half breeds could not legally sell or convey the land. In the fall of 1833 a group of half breeds met in keokuk and prepared a petition to congress requesting the passage of an act giving them right to sell the land. Pursuant to this petition congress passed an act dated 30 june 1834 which relinquished the federal governments revisionary interest in the half breed tract and gave the half breeds the lands in fee simple. Congress failed to specify who the individual owners were, however originally 40 claims were made for ownership. Later the number reached 100 and finally 160. To rectify this mistake, the wisconsin legislature in 1838 required all claimants to file claims with the district court of lee county within one year showing how title was obtained. Three commissioners were to take testimony regarding said titles. In the meantime, the territory of iowa was created and the first session of the territorial legislature repealed the wisconsin act. This action complicated the problem and suits were subsequently filed in the territorial courts resulting in the sale of the entire tract of 119,000 acres to hugh T reid for $5,773.32. Reid, who received a deed executed by the sheriff of lee county, subsequently sold several small tracts but his title was obviously in question and became involved in litigation. This matter came before the second session of the territorial legislature, but nothing concrete occurred until 1841 in spaulding v antaya US district court of iowa territory which requested partition of the entire tract. A decree for partition was issued and commissioners were appointed to divide the 119,000 acres into 101 tracts of equal value. This was done and confirmed by the courts in october 1841. This judgment of partition was sustained in a number of appeals to the iowa supreme court but the sheriffs sale to hugh T reid still formed a cloud on that title. In webster v reid in district court of iowa in january 1846 it was decided that hugh T reid was the owner in fee simple of the land in question. An appeal was taken to the united states supreme court and in 1850 the high court reversed webster v reid. This action set aside the sheriffs sale to reid and sustained the judgment of partition i.e. 101 shares. Lawyers for the various land companies quit-claimed their interests in these lands for a reasonable consideration; the matter was finally settled.”
Ownership of this Iowa land was steadily in dispute until 6 years after Joseph’s Carthage shootout assassination. Galland didn’t seem too dissuaded from buying and selling the land to the Mormons, even with this cloud of chaos underlying every deed transaction concerning these 119,000 acres in Iowa.
Galland’s motivations seem clarified by an extant letter he wrote a mere half-month after his conversion to Mormonism, also included in this article by Cook:
“I feel greatly relieved in having got out of hearing of the Half Breed Lands… I have disposed of my half breed lands, for 50 thousand dollars, that is to say $2500 annually for 20 years… The people [Mormons] have also bought out Hugh White and some others, and will probably continue to buy out the settlers of that neighborhood, until they again acquire a sufficient quantity of “honey comb” to induce the surrounding thieves to rob them again; at which time they will no doubt have to renounce their religion; or submit to a repetition of similar acts of violence, and outrage [as they suffered in Missouri].”
Galland was relieved of his burden of the half-breed tract ownership and was set to collect a handsome sum from the Mormons every year for 20 years from his land speculation. Regardless of how large an institution you’re running, $2,500 (adjusted for inflation ~$57,700) every year in the 1840s was a lot of money for one guy to collect and one organization to divvy out. But Galland wasn’t the only one with contracts signed by Jo compelling the Mormons to pay out massive sums of money. Always keep this small detail in mind, Jo was signing all of these under his own name, it wasn’t until late 1840 when he was named Trustee-in-Trust of Church finances, but every contract at that time allowing the Mormons to settle on any land in Illinois and Iowa, those were all in Jo’s personal name. Historians have attempted painstakingly to reconstruct the tangled web of finances Jo was involved in during his Nauvoo stay, but it simply cannot be done. One issue making much of this reconstruction effort significantly more difficult is just how many deals Jo made without properly filing paperwork with local government authorities. Most of the contracts were drawn up and signed, and simply squirreled away in one of many filing boxes, and the mess Jo left behind was one of Emma and Louis Bidamon’s greatest sources of frustration and contention.
Add in to this mess the fact that Jo’s debts from Ohio and Missouri didn’t go anywhere. Jo was still on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars from the previous decade of being the Prophet in Chief.
January 15, 1841, an issue of the Times & Seasons went out in celebration of the great fortunes the Saints were enjoying. Jo made it a point to praise the behavior of Galland when he said this, from the Vogel HoC 4:267:
“Dr. Isaac Galland also, who is one of our benefactors, having under his control a large quantity of land in the immediate vicinity of our city, and a considerable portion of the city plot, opened both his heart and his hands, and ‘when we were strangers, took us in,’ and bade us welcome to share with him in his abundance, leaving his dwelling house, the most splendid edifice in the vicinity, for our accommodation, and partook himself to a small uncomfortable dwelling. He sold us his large estates on very reasonable terms, and on long credit, so that we might have an opportunity of paying for them without being distressed, and has since taken our lands in Missouri in payment for the whole amount, and has given us a clear and indisputable title for the same. And in addition to the first purchase, we have exchanged lands with him in Missouri to the amount of eighty thousand dollars. He is the honored instrument the Lord used to prepare a home for us when we were driven from our inheritances, having given him control of vast bodies of land, and prepared his heart to make the use of it the Lord intended he should.”
Jo was clearly using his power of discernment to decide whether or not these land purchase agreements were legitimate or not.
Put a pin in Galland for a minute, we’ll pick up with him once we sufficiently discuss the Hotchkiss land agreement. Another land speculator who approached the Mormon refugees was Horace Hotchkiss. We’ve briefly discussed both Galland and Hotchkiss in episode 72, Nauvoo: Divine Inspeculation, if you’d like to get an introduction to this subject. Hugh and William White, Isaac Galland, Horace Hotchkiss and a small number of other land speculators were drawn to the investment opportunity presenting itself with the Mormons moving to Iowa and Illinois en masse.
Hotchkiss owned a few hundred acres of Commerce when he approached the Mormons with his deal. From Robert Flander’s Nauvoo Kingdom on the Mississippi, beginning with page 41:
“The “Hotchkiss Purchase” was for Smith and the Church the greatest business venture since the Kirtland Bank. Hotchkiss apparently knew a city when he saw one coming upon his property; accordingly the price was high, considering the approaching deflation and monetary stringency. The purchase was in the form of a land contract, the Church to have possession of the property but not the deeds until the debt was paid. Apparently no money was paid down, and the terms were entailed in a series of notes. Two notes of $25,000, one maturing in ten and one in twenty years, seem to have been the principle. There were forty additional notes of $1,500 each, two of which were due every twelve months for twenty years. These were apparently the interest: eight per cent a year simple interest on $50,000. There were two additional notes of $1,250, one due in five years and the other in ten. So the Church was to pay the Hotchkiss partners $3,000 each year for twenty years, plus $1,250 the fifth year, $26,250 the tenth year, and $25,000 the twentieth year… The total amount was $114,500. Smith subsequently claimed that Hotchkiss had agreed verbally that no interest was to be charged, but the contracts do not suggest any such agreement.”
The most complicated issue with all these land agreements was the fact that the Church and Jo had absolutely no capital to throw at these ventures. Jo simply signed the contracts with no down-payments with the understanding that the terms were sufficient enough to forego interest payments. This Horace Hotchkiss guy seems to be a standup businessman by the few available indicators, we can’t say the same of Isaac Galland. Hotchkiss spent years in Nauvoo trying to make Jo stick to the contracts they’d signed in late 1839. Hotchkiss was measured and realistic in his approach with dealing with the Mormons, knowing full-well their financial situation and the hardships they were suffering since being exiled from Missouri.
Let’s take the pin back out of Galland and catch up with him. As Galland was reasonably well connected in politics and land speculation, he was appointed to the office of land agent for the Church after his baptism and subsequently spent much of late 1839 to early 1841 travelling to sort out the complex web of assets and liabilities Jo had woven in the past decade of his dealings as prophet of the new religion.
Much of the reasoning behind his travelling was due to self-interest. While no extant documents prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jo successfully traded land the Mormons already possessed in order to reconcile the contracts with Galland, a few notes show payment to Galland in the form of land contracts in Missouri and Ohio, but these few documents only reconcile a few thousand dollars of the outstanding original $50,000 figure.
One of Jo’s earliest revelations is included in D&C 38 today, was delivered in January 1831, less than a year after the Church was started. It says in part:
“28 Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment, that ye should go to the Ohio: and there I will give unto you my law, and there you shall be endowed with power from on high,
and from thence, whomsoever I will shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do, for I have a great work laid up in store:…
30 And now I give unto the church in these parts, a commandment, that certain men among them shall be appointed, and they shall be appointed by the voice of the church;
and they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief, that they shall not suffer; and send them forth to the place which I have commanded them;
and this shall be their work, to govern the affairs of the property of this church.
And they that have farms, that can not be sold, let them be left or rented as seemeth them good.”
This revelation seems to exhibit Jo’s simple lack of understanding basic economics. This was a divine command for everybody in New York to sell the property and goods and immediately move to Ohio. If they can’t sell their property, they should rent it out. Sure, this revelation may work on an individual basis, but there were somewhere around 100 Mormons at this time and just throwing this revelation out there carte blanch shows an inability to empathize with just how challenging it is to pick up roots.
Before we get into the meat of our 1841 historical timeline today, we need to take a quick break.
This revelation for everybody to pick up everything and move, among a small handful of others, meant that Mormons had land and property holdings scattered all across the eastern states in 1841. In order to pay for the Nauvoo contracts, Jo decided it was high time to tap into all those resources, especially in Missouri and Ohio. Luckily for Jo and his fellow land speculators, the Mormons had just compiled at the end of 1839 itemized lists of their property they left behind when they were violently removed from the state of Missouri. This folder of affidavits was compiled to petition the U.S. government for remuneration, but by the Summer of 1841, it was widely understood that the Government had no interest in paying the Mormons for their sufferings, especially not to the tune of $1mn as they were petitioning for. That already-compiled data was used to set prices on the land they’d left behind in Missouri in order to pay Hotchkiss, Galland, and White for all the property they’d signed over to Jo.
There’s a certain logic to what Jo was trying to do with these incredibly complex land agreements. The Mormons who followed Jo weren’t using their land in Ohio and Missouri anymore and there were hundreds or thousands of acres in those states attached to Mormons who were actively settling in Nauvoo, Illinois, they didn’t need the land anymore. So, if Jo could sign these various contracts for Illinois and Iowa land and sell off or trade Mormon land in Missouri and Ohio in exchange, he’s unloading unwanted liabilities while gaining capital where he wants it. Even if he could sell the unused land and pay off the contracts, it would alleviate some of the principle and reduce the overbearing stress Jo was experiencing being so far in debt. Isaac Galland was on board with the trading business, Hotchkiss seemed to want cash instead.
As a certified land agent for the Church, Galland set out possibly in late 1839, maybe in early 1840, to collect land deeds from Mormons in the eastern states who owned land in Missouri and Ohio, in order to capitalize on some of the contracts he’d signed with Jo. A fatal flaw in this plan was realized when Galland spent inordinate amounts of time in Kirtland, Ohio without much letter correspondence between him and the prophet. Jo must have realized at some point that not only was he on the hook to pay Galland $50,000 for the various contracts, but that Galland held much of the financial future of the Church in his hands while he was out petitioning people to sign over their land to Jo in order to pay back Galland. Jo was also trying to make good on the contracts with Horace Hotchkiss, who waxed impatient with the Prophet’s lack of liquid capital.
As Flanders noted in his book, for whatever reason, Jo was under the impression that the deal with Hotchkiss didn’t include any interest. According to Jo, he and Hotchkiss had a verbal agreement that it was principle alone included in the contracts, yet the contracts themselves seem to bare out the fact that 8 percent interest was steadily accruing on Jo’s tab with Hotchkiss and that $114,000 amount just kept growing. Jo relied on Isaac Galland to acquire the deeds to pay the Hotchkiss bills, but what he was able to collect couldn’t even cover the interest.
By the summer of 1841, Hotchkiss had only been paid back pennies on the dollar so far with the accruing interest soaking up more than Jo could pay off. Jo needed Galland to deliver on acquiring some of the Mormon lands to be able to trade towards the outstanding balances. Galland spent an inordinate amount of time in Kirtland, Ohio. Now if we recall back, Kirtland was the HQ of the church from 1831-’37, and hundreds of Mormons still lived there who were considered to be in apostasy by Jo’s Nauvoo Church. Part of Galland’s mission was also to procure loans from Mormons abroad, partially to pay back the contracts, but more so to fund the publication of the 1840 Nauvoo BoM, and other printed materials, the Nauvoo House project, the Temple, and other public projects Nauvoo needed in order to become a sustainable community.
From 128 of Flanders’ Nauvoo, Kingdom on the Mississippi:
“Perhaps of all the perplexities of temporal affairs, none made Joseph Smith more anxious to return to the responsibilities of the spirit than the Hotchkiss indebtedness. The correspondence between the Church and the Connecticut land dealer from whom the Church had purchased the large tract on “the flat” on land contract in 1839 chronicles the fiscal problems of Nauvoo and the tortured attempts made to solve them. Hotchkiss was delicate but persistent about his interest in the Saints’ pecuniary affairs and their ability to retire the $3,000 in notes due to mature each twelvemonth.”
At the time when Hotchkiss’ first payment became due, Jo had just returned from D.C. in his petition to get redress for the saints’ suffering during their exodus from Missouri. Flanders continues:
“The Saints entertained great expectations that there would be some substantial settlement made; indeed, that was the implicit object of the petitions. Hotchkiss had been assured that the success of this project would underwrite the Nauvoo land purchase.”
That was the plan all along in Jo’s mind. Sign all these land contracts, get a huge payout from the Government, pay them all back, then build Nauvoo without going into debt. Go back to episodes 58, Fop or a Fool for POTUS, and 61, Congressional Deafening, to get the backstory on how this petition to the government went. Suffice it to say, after weeks of lobbying, the Mormons received no redress for their plight and Jo’s entire plan fell apart. However, he’d already signed all the contracts and first payments were coming due in the very near future.
Horace Hotchkiss was well aware that the government had denied helping the Mormons financially and he seemed aware that he was supposed to be repaid from that money that suddenly wouldn’t be coming. As soon as the government officially denied paying the Mormons, Hotchkiss was, from that time forward, stuck with the Mormons. As the first payment came due to Hotchkiss, Jo decided to appeal to Hotchkiss’ emotion, claiming the Mormons’ industriousness was plenty capital to repay the debt.
“The greatest reliance you have for regaining your wealth is in the honorable conduct of your people—their pure morals—their correct habits—their indefatigable industry—their untiring perseverance—and their well directed enterprise. These constitute a capital which can never be shaken by man.”
According to Flanders, Hotchkiss’ concerns were assuaged by this claim that the Mormons were a good hearted and industrious people which caused Hotchkiss to propose another land transaction between himself and the prophet, to which the prophet responded from the HoC 4:100
“It would afford me great pleasure indeed, could I hold out any prospect of the two notes [for $1,500 each] due next month being met at maturity, or even this fall. Having had considerable difficulty (necessarily consequent on a new settlement) to contend with, as well as poverty and considerable sickness, our first payment will be probably somewhat delayed, until we again get a good start in the world . . . the prospect is indeed favorable. However, every exertion on our part shall be made to meet the demands against us, so that if we cannot accomplish all we wish to, it is our misfortune, and not our fault.”
That was a letter sent in July of 1840, and tensions between the Prophet and his various business partners in land speculation rose. Hotchkiss became more insistent which coincided with Galland becoming increasingly harder to get ahold of. To review the complex web of land deals being traded, Flanders summarizes with the following:
“The technique was to send agents among the Saints in the East to convince them to move to Nauvoo, and to give them bills of exchange for the titles to their property. These bills could be cashed in Nauvoo for lots or farm lands of comparable value. The agents would give the titles to eastern lands thus acquired to Hotchkiss in an amount sufficient to pay the notes due him, and if possible sell the rest. Hotchkiss agreed to this arrangement.”
This was the initial agreement. However, once Hotchkiss understood the cumbersome and delayed nature by which this would return his investment, he changed his mind. From Lyndon Cook’s article on Isaac Galland:
“Since Horace Hotchkiss had verbally agreed to accept land in the Atlantic States in lieu of cash payments, Joseph Smith was optimistic that his land agents could completely cancel the Hotchkiss debt (both principal and interest). Upon speaking with Mr. Hotchkiss, prior to Hyrum’s departure, the two agents found that he had changed his mind and that he would only accept land titles for the intersest which was accruing. Upon receiving this information, Dr. [Isaac] Galland agreed to effect the transfer of sufficient eastern lands to Hotchkiss to meet the accruing interest ($6,000 by the summer of 1841).”
It was at this time that the relationship between Jo and Galland soured. Jo was under the impression that Galland would transfer property to Hotchkiss to make good on the accruing interest, but Galland had other plans in mind. You can sense the rising tension in letter exchanges shared between Hotchkiss and Jo throughout 1841 and into early 1842.
After Jo had received a letter from Hotchkiss with some rather strong persuasions to work harder to acquire money to pay the interest on the loans, Jo fired back a letter in July 1841 which reads in part from the Vogel HoC 4:402
“Dear Sir:-- I presume you are well aware of the difficulties that occurred before, and at the execution of the writings in regard to the landed transaction between us, touching the annual payment of interest: if you have forgotten, I will here remind you, you verbally agreed on our refusal and hesitancy to execute the notes for the payment for the land, that you would not exact the payment of the interest that would accrue on them under five years, and that you would not coerce the payment even then; to all this you pledged your honor; and upon an after arrangement you verbally agreed to take land in some one of the Atlantic States, that would yield six per cent interest (to you) both for the principal and interest, and in view of that matter I delegated my brother Hyrum and Doctor Isaac Galland to go East and negotiate for lands with our friends, and pay you off for the whole purchase that we made of you; but upon and interview with you, they learned that you were unwilling to enter into an arrangement according to the powers that I had delegated to them; that you would not receive any of the principal at all, but the interest alone, which we never considered ourselves in honor or in justice bound to pay under the expiration of five years. I presume you are no stranger to the part of the city plat we bought of you being a deathly sickly hole, and that we have not been able in consequence, to realize any valuable consideration from it, although we have been keeping up appearances, and holding out inducements to encourage immigration, that we scarcely think justifiable in consequence of the mortality that almost invariably awaits those who come from far distant parts (and that with a view to enable us to meet our engagements), and now to be goaded by you, for a breach of good faith, and neglect, and dishonorable conduct, seems to me to be almost beyond endurance…”
The rest of the letter details the plight of the refugee saints and what they suffered at the hands of the Missouri government and concludes with a post script which reads as such:
“Since writing the above, I have had a conference with my Bro. Hyrum, who informs me that when he left Pennsylvania that he left with Doc. [Isaac] Galland nearly enough of real estate (in the hands of the Doctor) to liquidate the amount due you. My Bro. having been compelled to return, in consequence of ill health expecting that the doctor would have the matter arranged long before this. Therefore so soon as we learn the particulars from Dr. Galland, we will take such measures as will most likely meet your approval.”
After a few months in the eastern states acquiring land deeds and donations for various Nauvoo projects, Isaac Galland finally returned west to Keokuk, Iowa. He’d been essentially silent with any correspondence with the Prophet and Jo had only learned of what had transpired through his brother, Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith. Telling of his absence, Flanders details how Galland’s silence caused much of the rift between Horace Hotchkiss and Jo from 132 of Kingdom on the Mississippi:
“Smith hoped by pleas, threats, exaggerations, and repeated assurances to avoid being pressed too closely or brought to a reckoning by ‘coercive measures’ that would be embarrassing if not disastrous. But he was upset just then by another matter to which he did not allude in the letter to Hotchkiss—the disappearance of Galland with money and land titles in his possession…
[Galland] had the confidence of Smith and was a natural choice to be one of the agents to trade for eastern lands and handle the Hotchkiss payments. But it was partly if not primarily his malfeasance that caused the sharp exchange of letters between Hotchkiss and the Prophet. Smith Tuttle, one of the Hotchkiss partners, wrote the Mormon leader in September a soothing letter which detailed Galland’s failure to follow through on his promises. In light of Tuttle’s explanation, replied Smith, ‘my feelings are changed, and I think that you all had cause for complaining.’ Brother Hyrum had been forced by ill health to return to Nauvoo, leaving the whole of the business in Galland’s hands. ‘Why he has not done according to my instructions,’ wrote Smith, ‘God only knows…’ The prophet, though worried, was not yet ready to admit that the esteemed Doctor might have absconded with the funds.
Once Jo had learned of Galland’s return to the West, he immediately wrote the Doctor asking for his company in a conference. They shared strongly-worded correspondence and the phrasing Jo used seems to exhibit that he thought Galland might have something to hide.
Jo’s first letter to Galland is not extant, but Galland’s reply follows which I’m reading from Cook’s article, Isaac Galland—Mormon benefactor:
“’… I enjoy a moderate degree of health, and shall certainly give myself the pleasure in a few days of visiting my brethren and friends at Nauvoo. I am now awaiting the arrival of a Gentleman from St. Louis whom I have promised to meet at this place on very important business… As soon as I have met him and made arrangements, I shall proceed to an immediate interview with you.’
After one month had passed and Dr. Galland had not arrived in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith was led to write:
‘I am verry much in want of assistance at this particular time, and if you can make it convenient to call on me within two or three days I shall be much pleased, if not I wish you would send by the bearer all the funds you possibly can as my wants are verry great.’
Dr. Galland penned the following reply to the bottom half of the Prophet’s note:
‘… I am at a loss to determine whether you intended it as an absolute dun or as an appeal to my liberality to advance fund for your relief, but let it be either case, I assure you sire, it is not in my power to advance at this time 5 dollars until I obtain it from my creditors or in some other way. As to coming to Nauvoo, I have long desired to come there, and shall certainly do so as soon as I can so arrange the matters which I am now engaged in.’”
The letter exchange lasted for the last few months of 1841 and it wasn’t until January of 1842 that Galland finally returned to Nauvoo. Jo was anxious to get ahold of the deeds and funds Galland had collected as an agent of the Church. It couldn’t be ignored that Galland held significant leverage over Jo and the Church. He’d sold them tens of thousands of acres in Iowa and Nauvoo, Jo was on the hook to repay Galland $50,000 over a twenty-year period.
Picking up in Flanders’ Kingdom on the Mississippi pg. 132:
“In a letter to Hotchkiss on December 10  Smith referred to ‘the inefficiency, neglect, or sickness of Dr. Galland’ as a cause of their difficulty. When Galland finally returned to the vicinity of Nauvoo, apparently in December or January , bringing him to account proved difficult. On January 17 and 18, Smith and Galland exchanged letters, neither of which is extant. Galland’s language apparently served to warn Smith that if Galland were pressed for a close accounting of his agency he might in return call for debts due him from the Church. He was certainly in a position to cause an uproar and a scandal over the complex credit arrangements within the Church; perhaps he threatened foreclosure on Iowa lands as well.”
The conciliatory wording of Jo’s letter in response to the correspondence which is no longer extant shows that Jo fully grasped the situation. Galland owned a ton of land the Mormons had merely settled on with the promise to eventually pay. Jo had no liquid cash to make good on the defaulted payments he’d missed with Galland and Hotchkiss. Galland still held the deeds to all the lands the Mormons had settled on, yet Jo relied on Galland to collect land deeds and donations from Mormons in the east to pay back Hotchkiss, who was much more scrupulous with his business practices than Galland. This was terrifyingly complex and each piece of the equation relied on every other piece for the whole thing to work. Unfortunately, as so often happened for Jo, when he orchestrated this web of land speculation, everything quickly fell apart and Jo alone was left to blame for the fallout of all this chaos.
In January of 1842, in response to Galland not making a full account of the funds he’d collected, Jo revoked his status as agent of the Church. Isaac Galland was seldom heard from again in the annals of Mormon history.
Let’s just review everything we’ve seen of Galland’s trajectory in his Church career in the brief 2 years he associated with the Mormons. Galland saw an opportunity to get comfortably wealthy from the Mormon refugees moving to an area where he held significant acreage in 1839. He was able to convince Jo he was a stand-up guy and acting in good faith, so the prophet signed various contracts with him for roughly 20,000 acres at $2.5/acre totaling roughly $50,000. Realizing that Mormons are more likely to do business with fellow Mormons, Galland was baptized into the Church in late 1839 and given Elder status almost immediately as he was appointed land agent on behalf of the Church. He spent the following 2 years handling land transactions whilst proselyting. It’s worth mentioning at this point that Galland actually authored and published a few tracts about Mormonism from Ohio and Pennsylvania. His missions weren’t just land acquisition, he also spread the good word and shared the plight of the Mormon refugees whilst travelling about. Finally, by the end of 1841 and beginning of 1842, Galland was on the Prophet’s bad side, possibly having stole hundreds or thousands from the Church. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to say he stole that money from the Church without qualifying it. His monetary obligations and relationship with the Church was far more complicated than just saying he stole from the Church to sufficiently explain what happened. Galland had used Church funds he’d personally collected to fund the various tracts and articles he’d published. He likely used Church money he’d collected to fund the living expenses of his mission, and he probably lived rather comfortably.
Let’s also examine what the main purpose of his mission was. He was sent to the Mormons living in eastern states to tell them of how great Nauvoo was and petition them to move to Nauvoo and sign their land deeds over to him. Those Mormons didn’t know who Isaac Galland was. Granted, Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff and a few other trusted elites accompanied him at various times during these missions, but Galland was a new Mormon on the block, what reason did they have to trust him? Also try to take their mentality into consideration. These were Mormons who hadn’t followed Jo from Kirtland to Missouri or to Illinois in the first place. They were apathetic when it came to divine dictates to pick up everything and start a new life in a brand new location, yet suddenly this Galland guy comes along and tells them that Jo and the Mormons are building a new settlement in Illinois this time. What reason did they have to believe that the Mormons wouldn’t be chased out of Illinois and Iowa just as they had from Missouri? It was those apathetic Mormons’ friends and family who’d settled in Missouri only to be removed from the State a mere year after putting down roots. They saw what had happened, what was to stop it all from happening again?
Many of the settlers were also aware that the Mississippi was a disease-ridden swampland. There weren’t any major agricultural operations, no factories, no infrastructure awaiting them should they decide to move to the new settlements, and they were living comfortable lives where they already were. What was the appeal to pack up and start a new life except for pleasing the Prophet and his wacky speculations? These factors and the general apathy of the Mormons with whom Galland was meeting doomed his mission from the very beginning.
Galland collected as many land deeds and donations he could but I can only imagine he was met with extremely limited success. With an accruing debt of nearly $200,000 dollars in Jo’s name, even if every one of the ten thousand Mormons at this time gave 10 bucks, they’d only be half way to paying it off. It’s realistic to assume that maybe 3-5% of Mormons gave anything to Galland in all his time. Maybe some gave as much as a few hundred dollars or signed over a few dozen acres of land, that couldn’t make even the slightest of a dent in the debts Jo had acquired in the past 2 years of Mormonism alone. That says nothing of his past debts from Ohio and Missouri still plaguing him every time he turned around.
As was the case with all of Mormon history, Jo was in dire straits. His straits seemed to widen and encompass more people and larger debts as he progressed, but they were always utterly and completely dire. Chaos was the only ruling constant throughout all Mormon history. Unfortunately for Jo and, by extension, all the Mormons, Jo didn’t live by his own principle when he wrote to Galland in attempting to acquire the funds after Galland’s mission, “Short reckonings make long friends”.
With all this information in front of us, when did Jo’s religious endeavor become a financial enterprise? What caused Jo to spend so much time and effort on money? Just how much time and effort did he spend on money and failed business ventures instead of on his religion? When did the balance shift where he spent more time being a businessman instead of prophet? At what point did profit become his primary focus instead of BEING prophet? Did Joseph Smith start Mormonism just for the money?
Jo’s childhood and teenage years were spent in destitution. He spent much of his time attending churches and open-air revivals watching the preachers collect plates of money from the congregations. So, did Jo start Mormonism just for the money? Maybe. A lot of factors went into founding the Mormon religion and nobody could say that the prospect of making a lot of money wasn’t one of the primary factors.
At the end of the day, does it really matter if Jo had money on his mind when he started the Church? Speculation surrounding this subject says nothing of the modern-day LDS Church. Sure, it’s fun to point to various revelations and show just how early into the foundation of the Church God decided to intervene with monetary affairs, but that exercise doesn’t make the Church today any more or less a business. That’s what it is, The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s a multi-billion-dollar world-wide corporation. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century where the Church began diversifying investments into nation-wide agriculture and media businesses, but long before then Brigham had been running it like a business and Jo spent so much of his time on business instead of ecclesiastical matters that it would be hard to call him Prophet instead of CEO most days.
Just because a business happens to run a non-profit arm, that doesn’t mean it should get away with what it does. Of course, I’m applying my rationale to what is going on publicly with the Church right now in coming to these conclusions, but let’s play with some hypotheticals. If a school was teaching your children that the Native Americans are descended from Israelites and that African Americans aren’t allowed in heaven because they aren’t white and delightsome, you’d pull them out immediately and seek disaccredition from the county superintendent. If a local bookstore required you to meet with the manager to make sure you haven’t recently masturbated before they allowed you to shop there, you’d be in your right mind to never shop there again and call the manager a sexual pervert on your way out of his office. If a local golf club required you to dress up in weird clothes and swear blood oaths of vengeance on the rival disc golf club next door whilst forcing you to do special handshakes and passwords to get in, you’d withdraw your dues and never look back. If a magazine subscription service required you to cancel ALL your other memberships and said you could never read unapproved rival magazines or else your membership would be canceled, you’d hopefully say okay, cancel my membership and never read a word of that magazine for the rest of your days, regardless of how useful the information is. And, finally, if I may borrow Dan Savage’s turn of phrase: If kids got raped at Denny’s as often as they get raped at Church it would be illegal to take your kids to Denny’s. If any major company of any kind had hundreds of allegations of mental, physical, and sex abuse and subsequent covering up of that abuse, people would lose their fucking minds and rightfully call for the prosecution and imprisonment of the people responsible. The company would immediately be dissolved and the people would rightfully desire a lynching in the streets.
No organization gets to do any of this shit without it being morally reprehensible, ethically questionable, or straight up illegal. But, because this one company with 16 mn customers happens to run a non-profit arm under the guise of religion, the Mormon church does every single one of these deplorable things, and they feel fucking attacked when people voice opposition? The Church is a business. What’s happening with Protect LDS Children and the Joseph Bishop sex abuse revelation is a PR nightmare for this business and to see them sic the attack dogs on anybody speaking up about this shit and all the victim blaming is fucking sickening.
This corporation can do whatever it wants and it has the balls to DEMAND 10% of your income?
Look, I’ve come a long way in the past 3.5 years of doing this podcast. When I started this endeavor in November of 2014 I was mad. I had to work through so many complicated emotions and the fury caused me to see everything in red but it fueled the fire in my bosom to persevere. I’ve evolved to appreciate Mormon history at a much more intellectual level and it’s easy to chart the progress of my tone and focus as I’ve evolved along with the show. But when issues like the Joseph Bishop interview and Protect LDS Children come up, it rekindles all those old emotions lying dormant in the pit of my stomach and I want to see this goddamn empire burned to the ground with truth just like every other ex-Mormon who’s just as infuriated as yours truly.
We’ve collectively let the Church get away with murder for far too long. We can’t blame the Church for using the license we’ve given it to abuse its members and its own power. The Church isn’t at fault for letting things get this far, WE ARE!
The Church has illustrated time and again that they won’t move until outside pressure becomes too much to bear. My greatest fear is that the Church is going to Teflon this issue just like every other major issue in its past. It’s never been held accountable for degrading our humanity. The Church is a fucking parasite, defiling our best natures, holding back progress, claiming responsibility for the best of human advancement while at the same time washing its hands of responsibility of its own deplorable actions. When people stand up and say, Hey, you can’t do that! The Church just reassures us that they’ve handled the matter internally and they have a no tolerance policy in place, so there’s nothing to see here. FUCK THAT! When we allow a company to police itself, abuse of power and ignoring laws happens EVERY time.
Something bears repeating here, even though I’ve said it multiple times in this show. I don’t take issue with Mormons. Mormons are my friends, family, loved ones, and some of the nicest strangers I’ve ever met. These problems are the product of Mormonism as a corporation, not caused by any individual Mormon. But Mormonism is made up of Mormons. The sum is no greater than the accrual of the constituent parts, and there’s plenty of blame to go around.
The fact of the matter is, Mormons are deeply indoctrinated to blindly follow authority. Once the leadership has spoken, the decision has been made. The massive edifice Mormonism has built into its indoctrination structure instills a feeling of complete impotence in the mind of every one of the millions of followers. But Mormons hold the power here, Mormonism is nothing without Mormons. Every so often the Church needs to be reminded of this inconvenient little fact. When an organization departs from the will of its people, it’s up to those people to say fuck you, see you later, times up, we’re done. Either do what we want or say good bye to those precious membership dues and watch those emptying gothic monoliths become liabilities instead of investments.
There are no more sacred cows. There are no more kid-gloves. This shit has gone too far. People blindly yielding their autonomy to faceless authority in our enlightened age is unacceptable and represents our greatest failing as a social species. We’re sitting back and watching our fellow human be mentally, emotionally, and sexually abused every day. How much is too much. How many children killing themselves out of shame for having sexual desires are we willing to tolerate? How many people being afraid of sex and intimacy is too many? How much blood will we allow this parasite to suck from us before we pluck it off and incinerate the little bastard? How long of granting one entity unfettered access and unchecked power in politics is too long? …. This shit has gone way too far….
It doesn’t matter where you are on the Mormon belief spectrum. Believers and non-believers should be equally outraged at this egregious abuse of power. We wouldn’t let any company get away with what the Church does, but because it runs a religion, Mormon Inc. gets a pass with absolutely no transparency or oversight.
Opposing Mormonism isn’t an anti-Mormon conspiracy, it’s an issue affecting our collective humanity. It’s hard to talk about this. Sex abuse and a religion covering it up is a complex topic and it becomes infinitely more complex when it’s the religion you believe in, but these conversations NEED to happen.
We live in during a rare time in human history where the pen is truly mightier than the sword and the almighty dollar supersedes the strength of any pen. It’s time to make the Church hurt for abusing its power in the only way it responds to. Anyone paying their tithing is funding the active cover up of sexual abuse and political lobbying, and supporting this multi-billion dollar organization deserves derision, shame, and accosting at every level. Every Mormon swearing fealty to the Church in a baker’s cap and green apron is just as responsible as every one of us on the outside for not saying anything in opposition to the Church. This shit has gone too far. Enough is enough.
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