Episode timeline:

Intro at beginning of 98A


Rest of 98A





Drift Away outro final


Ep 98 – Standard Operating Protectionism

On this episode, we talk General Conference of October, 1841. Some financial problems within the Church are dealt with when Bloody Brigham Young rips up an old bank note and gives it to the wind. Jo offers a profound sermon concerning Baptisms for the Dead and then proceeds to hold it hostage until Talos’ temple crown is complete. A schismatic murmurer is dealt with while we analyze Jo’s business model of Mormonism. After that, we air a portion of the most recent NaMo Home Evening hangout with the Mormon Leaks team and Sam Young of Protect LDS Children discussing the recent headlines in modern Mormonism.


History of the Church Vol 4:25

The Choice by Susan Easton Black

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Lately we’ve found ourselves too caught up in the headlines about Mormonism of early 2018 instead of the early 1840s. So much has been happening on the modern front that the historical timeline has taken a backseat for the past few episodes but let us rectify this oversight right now.

General Conference is a Church outlet and practice I’ve only recently come to appreciate. Infants on Thrones podcast has been lampooning General Conference for years and if you haven’t ever listened to their Conference episodes, you’re missing out on some hilarious and profound critique of this quirky Church practice.

As a kid, General Conference was always a time when we’d get to stay home in our pajamas and watch Church on tv while putting puzzles together or playing with Legos. Every 6 months, General Conference is 10 hours of monotonous men offering platitudes and anecdotes to support said platitudes. Rarely does anything truly profound or earth-shattering occur in Conference.

Since my undying fascination with Mormon history has been ever-growing for the past few years, Conference has become a bit of its own microcosm of fascination, especially when you keep up with headlines surrounding the Church. Let’s put the practice of General Conference into historical context.

Mormonism was organized by Joseph Smith on April 6, 1830, marking the first annual General Conference. It was deemed at that time that the Church would convene for Conference every 6 months to discuss Church affairs. This practice, almost without exception, has held true since the first day of Church on that fateful day in 1830.

Today we’re going to spend a bit of time on General Conference. Last episode we talked a fair amount about the most recent April 2018 Conference, but we’re jumping back into our historical timeline to the Oct 1841 Conference and its various proceedings. We’re lucky today to have video of every second of Conference broadcast on local news stations, the Church’s website and on YouTube in multiple languages, but Conferences in Jo’s day were kept in minute books with only the most prominent talks being recorded. So let’s pick up back in 1841 from there.

When last we left of Jo and friends, we went through the chaotic web of business speculation Jo was actively spinning since his untimely release from Liberty Jail. Jo owed a lot of people a lot of money and some of those people, like Isaac Galland, seemed to join the Church to merely secure their investment. Galland was given status as a land agent for the Church to acquire Mormon lands in the Eastern states in trade for Nauvoo land. After various letter correspondence, there wasn’t enough accountability built into the Church leadership and Galland was never held responsible for funds supposedly signed to him in good faith that he’d use them to pay Jo’s debts.

These land speculation deals Jo signed won’t go anywhere throughout the rest of his life in Navuoo. We can’t lose sight of this underlying tension which influenced many of Jo’s decisions. Jo was in debt for well over $100k to multiple people and would carry those debts to his grave. The stress of these debts would continue to influence his decisions and cause him to construct novel solutions to resolve the outstanding balances. Talos is an expensive war machine.

By October 1841, Jo was still pretty bent out of shape about being arrested and having to exercise his write of habeas corpus before he was dragged across the state line to Missouri. If Jo could stay on the Illinois side of the Illinois-Missouri state line, he was safe. If the constable who’d arrested him were able to get him across the Mississippi and south a few day’s ride, the Missouri government would have Jo dead to rights. Nauvoo was ghoul, but Missouri was lava. That last run-in with the Missouri militia posse was a close call. Jo decided at the end of September 1841 to send a message to the Adams County Sheriff.

Vogel HoC 4:415

“The Deputy Sheriff of Adams County:

The following is a statement of my expenses, costs, and liabilities, consequent upon my arrest and trial while in your custody; to-wit:

To amount of fees to Esquires Ralston, Warren, & Co….. $250.00

“ Esquires Little, Williams, Walker, and Browning….100.00

“ 7 days for self, horse, and carriage at $5……………..35.00

“ Money expended during that time, consequent upon the arrest…..60.00

“ 12 witnesses, to wit: (Lists witnesses Jo brought along) 4 days each; their time, carriages, horses and expenses at $5 each day………………………………………….240.00

TOTAL $685.00

Dear sire:--You will please take such measures as to put me in possession of the above amount, which is justly due me as above stated; to say nothing of false imprisonment and other expenses. Would have been presented earlier, but for the sickness and death of Robert B. Thompson, my clerk.

Receive my respects, &c.,


This October 1841 General Conference was interesting in a few ways. Money was definitely a central focus of the Conference. General Lyman Wight at one point stood up and aired out his grievances for having lost so much money in Kirtland. But the powerful businessman, Bloody Brigham Young, was rising to prominence as a defender of Jo at all costs. Here’s how the exchange went down according to the HoC.


“Elder Lyman Wight spoke at some length on the subject introduced in the former part of the day, and on the old debts and obligations that are frequently brought up from Kirtland and Missouri; one of which, in the form of a $50 (KSS Company) note, he held in his hand, and proclaimed as his text.

On motion, voted unanimously, that the Trustee-in-Trust be instructed not to appropriate Church property to liquidate old claims that may be brought forward from Kirtland or Missouri.

President Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith presented to the notice of the Conference some embarrassment growing out of his signing as security, a certain obligation in Kirtland in favor of Mr. Eaton.

President B. Young made some appropriate and weighty remarks on the importance of more liberal consecrations and more energetic efforts to forward the work of building the Temple and Nauvoo House; and after purchasing Elder Wight’s text, by paying him fifty cents, tore it in pieces and gave it to the winds, saying, ‘go ye and do likewise, with all old claims against the Church.’”

What a statement on multiple fronts. What a power-play by Bloody Brigham. Think of how this statement was interpreted by all present. The central issue presented by Lyman Wight was that Jo owed a ton of money to a lot of people, including those elites in the highest ranks. Remember back to 1838, Lyman Wight claimed Jo had speculated on land he’d purchased from Jo. According to Wight, Jo bought up 5 lots for $200 and turned around to immediately sell them to Wight for $2,000. Wight had legitimate reason to be angry, especially because all that money had utterly evaporated due to the panic of 1837 and the collapse of the KSS company. Think about how this single action was interpreted by the respective members of the audience to the spectacle.

Jo knew that Brigham could insulate him from financial embarrassment or disaster. Everybody in the congregation knew that all old agreements made with the Church meant absolutely nothing. The leadership knew that Brigham just jumped up a few ranks on Jo’s friends list. Brigham knew that dealing with Jo’s terrible business practices was going to suck moving forward. Everybody saw that if they had a problem with Jo, they’d have to go through Brigham to solve it, and he wasn’t very sympathetic to their collective pleas as he’d lost a lot of money on Jo as well. All of these implicit signals were sent in this one single action by Bloody Brigham. It was a power-play. It was even voted that the Trustee-in-Trust, read Joseph Smith, couldn’t use Church funds to pay old debts from Kirtland and Missouri, but Bloody Brigham just bought the note at 1% face value and ripped it up telling everybody to do likewise, so Jo and the Church were not only not allowed to pay back old debts with Church funds, but also with this action, the signal was sent that Jo and the Church moving forward would simply ignore any financial obligations from the past.

Brigham Young was making himself increasingly more useful to Joseph Smith. Jo had just given a revelation to Bloody Bring’em Young back in July of 1841, less than a week after the Quorum of Apostles had returned from England saying as follows from the modern D&C 126

“Dear and well-beloved brother, Brigham Young, verily thus saith the Lord unto you: My servant Brigham, it is no more required at your hand to leave your family as in times past, for you offering is acceptable to me.

I have seen your labor and toil in journeyings for my name.

I therefore command you to send my word abroad, and take especial care of your family from this time, henceforth and forever. Amen.”

Brigham was more useful to Jo in Nauvoo than as a salesman abroad. Brigham was probably delighted to get this revelation from God which essentially commanded him to remain at Jo’s right hand in perpetuity.

But really, think of how much Brigham’s work had benefitted the Church thus far. The mission to Europe had been a resounding success. Under Bloody Brigham’s direction, the Apostles had established a propaganda arm, numerous wards, converted thousands, and established an immigration fund where Europeans desiring to come to Nauvoo could get passage across the Atlantic and all the way up the Mississippi from New Orleans for a mere 4 pounds per person. Brigham could look at any spreadsheet or ledger and trim the fat and make all the red lines black with the flick of a wrist. Jo needed Brigham’s genius to make Nauvoo a success and coordinate all the financial schemes brewing in their infancy.

Another interesting piece to this October 1841 General Conference was a lecture Joseph Smith delivered from the pulpit. This doctrine exhibits a milestone along Jo’s evolving theological doctrines. Jo’s treatise at the General Conference about Baptisms for the Dead exhibits Jo’s personal theology and how it was slowly evolving to become teachings that humans can ascend to become gods. This requires a nuanced understanding of Jesus Christ which diverges from the standard modern understanding of his sacrifice.

Today’s Mormons believe that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice was in the garden of gethsemane when he bled from every pore. That’s when Jesus took on the sins of man and his crucifixion sealed the blood oath he made with Heavenly Father. Part of the Jesus equation was his purity which was solemnized during his baptism. Jesus couldn’t become a worthy sacrifice for the sins of humanity until he was purified through baptism. Once he was purified, he went about his miracles and proselyting until the atonement in the garden and the final sacrifice of his life on the cross.

In order to emulate Jesus’ sacrifice and his saving ordinances, early Mormons needed to be purified as well and offer proxy baptisms for those who died before they could hear the saving gospel of Mormonism. Baptisms for the dead was born into Mormon culture in late 1841, allowing Mormons to become the saviors of their dead loved ones. Getting baptized for a dead loved theologically saved them from damnation, making Mormons actual saviors for their loved ones when they emulated Jesus’ baptism ordinance.

With that background setting the stage, Jo’s treatise on Baptisms for the dead in Oct 1841 has some interesting ramifications and provided leverage he would need to complete the Nauvoo Temple.


“President Joseph Smith, by request of some of the Twelve Apostles, gave instructions on the doctrine of Baptism for the Dead, which were listened to with intense interest by the large assembly. He presented baptism for the dead as the only way that men can appear as saviors on Mount Zion.”

There it is, the way to become saviors for ourselves is to actually save dead people through baptism by Jesus’ example. Here’s a few relevant extracts from Jo’s theological treatise.

“The only way to obtain truth and wisdom, is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching. It is no more incredible that God should save the dead, than that he should raise the dead…

There is a way to release the spirit of the dead; that is by the power and authority of the Priesthood—by binding and loosing on earth. This doctrine appears glorious, inasmuch as it exhibits the greatness of divine compassion and benevolence in the extent of the plan of human salvation….

For illustration, suppose the case of two men, brothers, equally intelligent, learned, virtuous and lovely, walking in uprightness and in all good conscience, so far as they have ben able to discern duty from the muddy stream of tradition, or from the blotted page of the book of nature.

One dies and is buried, having never heard the gospel of reconciliation; to the other the message of salvation is sent, he hears and embraces it, and is made the heir of eternal life. Shall the one become a partaker of glory, and the other be consigned to hopeless perdition? Is there no chance for his escape? Sectarianism answers, none! None!! None!!! Such an idea is worse than Atheism. The truth shall break down and dash in pieces all such bigoted Pharisaism; the sects shall be sifted, the honest in heart brought out, and their priests left in the midst of their corruption.

Many objections are urged against the Latter Day Saints for not admitting the validity of sectarian baptism, and for withholding fellowship from sectarian churches. It was like putting new wine into old bottles, and putting old wine into new bottles. What! New revelations in the old churches! New revelations knock out the bottom of their bottomless pit. New wine into old bottles! The bottles burst, and the wine runs out. What. Sadducees in the new church? Old wine in new leathern bottles will leak through the pores and escape; so the Sadducee saints mock at authority, kick out of the traces, and run to the mountains of perdition, leaving the long echo of their braying behind them…

This doctrine presents in a clear light the wisdom and mercy of God in preparing an ordinance for the salvation of the dead, being baptized by proxy, their names recorded in heaven, and they judged according to the deeds done in the body. This doctrine was the burden of the scriptures. Those Saints who neglect it, in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril of their own salvation. The dispensation of the fullness of times will bring to light the things that have been revealed in all former dispensations; also other things that have not been before revealed. He shall send Elijah the prophet, &c., and restore all things in Christ.

President Joseph Smith then announced, “There shall be no more baptisms for the dead, until the ordinance can be attended to in the font of the Lord’s House; and the Church shall not hold another general conference, until they can meet in said house. For thus saith the Lord!

A lot happened in that sermon. As with conference today, so many words can be said with so little information conveyed, yet the information which does seep through all the superfluous nonsense is actually really important.

Jo instilled the necessity of practicing baptisms for the dead. He stated that ordinances performed here in the flesh are necessary to reach salvation. This was before he was using the term exaltation to describe the utmost kingdom of God and men becoming gods, that wouldn’t happen for another couple years. But this does depart rather harshly from how many Christian denominations view salvation. People argue about whether or not baptism is necessary to get into heaven, yet Jesus said to the thief on the cross that today you’ll be with me in paradise, and that guy surely wasn’t baptized. This is an old argument Christians have been bickering about for centuries. According to Jo, just believing in Jesus isn’t enough to get into heaven, baptism is necessary, but a lot of people died before Mormonism was a thing, and it wouldn’t be fair for God to create a system without some loopholes.

Jo also didn’t subscribe to any other sectarian baptism. People HAD to be baptized into Mormonism to be saved from damnation in his eyes. So, in order for us to be saviors of those who’ve died before us, we need to get MORMON baptized for them and perform those earthly ordinances so they too can be saved.

Then, his parting words are crucial to understand why baptisms for the dead was used as leverage. He said we MUST perform baptisms for the dead to get our own salvation and to provide proxy salvation, but those baptisms, which had been done in the Mississippi prior to this point, could only be performed in the House of the Lord, the Temple. No more Necromancy for the Mormons until they finish building the temple. No more salvation for the Mormons and no more General Conferences until a great and spacious building is constructed.

These early Josephite teachings are fully enshrined in modern-day Brighamite Mormonism, as Brigham essentially held ordinances hostage until the St. George temple was completed as the first temple in Utah.

As stated before, many of Jo’s decisions were somehow affected by his constant need for money. He was in dire straits, so he decided to hold doctrine and ordinances hostage until the Saints coughed up the dough to build a temple.

“President B. Young addressed the Elders at some length, on the importance of teaching abroad the first principles of the gospel, leaving the mysteries of the kingdom to be taught among the Saints, also on the propriety of many of the elders remaining at home, and working on the Lord’s House; and that their labors will be as acceptable to the Lord as their going abroad, and more profitable for the Church… and that those who go, and those who remain make consecrations more abundantly than heretofore.”

Jo set everybody up with the theological proclamations, Bloody Brigham was there at the end to drive them home. Brigham’s speech here represented a major issue Mormons dealt with as a valid criticism. The early Mormons wouldn’t cast their pearls before swine. They only revealed enough milk to get a person to convert, then the Mormons would hit em’ with a slab of meat and a bucket of crazy. People knew back then as they should know now that Mormons only teach investigators just enough to pique their curiosity, then once they get baptized and start paying in their membership dues, that’s when ALL the mysteries of the kingdom are taught to the Saints.

Brigham also made a managerial decision in that those Mormons who were unable to go abroad and bring in more converts, they could stay in Nauvoo and labor on the Temple as a fair exchange. What a powerful system. And all it takes is getting people to buy into it and feel like they sincerely believe in it.

Look, the Mormons didn’t HAVE to give all their property to the Bishop’s storehouse. They didn’t HAVE to travel thousands of miles on foot to be Church salesmen. They didn’t HAVE to build the temple as slave laborers, nor did they HAVE to pay mandatory tithing. At any given time, they could have walked away. They could have stop attending the Church, moved to another county, and had Mormonism be one small chapter of their lives so they could move on to another sect which didn’t require undying fealty and unwavering subservience.

Think about this business model in the abstract though. Joseph Smith’s Mormonism was a club that you’d pay to join, pay to continue being a member of, never produced any tangible products, had a volunteer sales force, and all the money collected went straight to Jo’s pockets for him to do whatever he wanted with. From funding wacky business ventures, to producing propaganda to gain more followers, to public works projects in Nauvoo which were often started and never completed, to the most minute of living expenses, Jo lived a fast and hard life off the early Mormons and wasn’t held accountable for his actions.

His business model alone was amazing! He wasn’t very smart in his execution of the business, which is why he needed people like Brigham Young by his side to clean up his constant messes, but the business model alone is impressive. And why did people stay? Because if they left, they would suffer eternal torment in hell. Only Mormonism could save them from this mortal coil into which God had inserted their souls. The God of Mormonism created people broken and made it so obedience to his emissary on earth was the only way to fix that broken nature. You can threaten somebody’s life and suffer legal repercussions, but if you threaten their eternal soul, whatever it is which exists for eternity after mortal death, and you’re just a minister. Jo could use and abuse the Mormons with absolutely no oversight or quality control measures, and the people just loved him more.

The best part about this business model is that people police each other within the ranks. And people who abandoned early Mormonism often left behind their jobs, friends and family in doing so. This Oct 1841 General Conference had another addendum at the very end.

“President B. Young presented an appeal from the decision of the elders’ quorum on a charge made against Elder John A. Hicks by Dimick B. Huntington for a breach of the ordinances of the city, for falsehood and schismatical conversation. After hearing the testimony in the case it was voted that Elder John A. Hicks be cut off from the Church.”

The final entry for the General Conference session concludes with this:

“Although the conference commenced under discouraging circumstances owing to the inclemency of the weather, yet a vast number of the brethren and visitors from abroad were present, and on Saturday and Sunday, the weather having become favorable the congregation was immense. The greatest unanimity prevailed; business was conducted with the most perfect harmony and good feelings, and the assembly dispersed with new confidence in the great work of the last days.”

This is nothing but propaganda, shrouded in 180 years of mystery. What was John A. Hicks actually saying which was deemed as falsehoods and schismatical conversation? What were his criticisms of Jo’s religion? Did he try to start his own Mormonism because he was done with Jo’s totalitarian dictatorship on the Mississippi? Historians may never know because this is how murmurings and schisms within Mormonism have always been dealt with.

Jo’s Mormonism isn’t as squeaky clean and pleasant as it’s often viewed today. Here’s a quick breakdown with some impressive numbers delivered in a BYU Devotional by Susan Easton Black in Nov 2004.

“Of the 130 contemporaries of Joseph Smith mentioned by name in the Doctrine and Covenants, only 72 died as faithful members of the Church–that means only 55 percent remained true to their covenants (See end of text*). Of that percentage, not all remained faithful throughout their lives–some fell away into forbidden paths but found their way back to faithfulness before their deaths. That leaves 45 percent who died outside of Church fellowship. Of those, 7 percent sought to destroy the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and to take his life (The eight apostates were John C. Bennett, Ezra Booth, John Corrill, John A. Hicks, William Law, William McLellin, Robert D. Foster, and Symonds Ryder).”

Copies of the Nauvoo Expositor, to which Black was referring when invoking the names of these various apostates, still exist today. The Nauvoo Expositor aired out many grievances these so called ‘apostates’ felt against the way Jo was running the religion. These people had been murmuring against the prophet for years prior to publishing the expositor, and we’ll never know what was said in conversations which finally led to the Expositor’s publishing. Schisms and infighting in the early Church were quickly dealt with and then everything was recorded in the HoC as if nothing was ever wrong.

It’s nice to see the Brighamite Church today following the examples set out by Joseph Smith.

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