Christians Should Study Mormonism

Between the death of Christ’s apostles and the Council of Nicaea, Christianity changed dramatically. It is impossible to account for all that happened to cause the changes. Although some of the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Christian leaders before Nicaea) have been preserved, the records are wholly inadequate to understand everything that happened, and why it happened.

A new religion rarely appears in history. When one does, it presents a unique opportunity for us to study the process.

Religions begin with an inspired leader whose confident vision opens new light and truth into the world. If there is no new vision then the religion won’t survive. But an original, inspired leader is difficult to replicate. Within a short time, the founder’s work is overtaken by others. Their insecurities and fears leave them without the confidence once present at the foundation. Believers donate, and contributions aggregate. A new generation of believers begin to notice the wealth of their movement, and aspiring leaders who would never sacrifice their name, reputation, security and lives are drawn to management, seeking personal benefit from the institution. Bold claims become hollow echoes, and leaders’ insecurity results in defensive and protective steps. Instead of moving forward with inspired new light and truth, the established religion fears and fights against threatened losses.

William James explained the process:

A genuine first-hand experience like this is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration. Unless, indeed, by adopting new movements of the spirit it can make capital out of them and use them for its selfish corporate designs!” (The Varieties of Religious Experience, being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902, Lectures XIV and XV: The Value of Saintlessness.)

Mormonism was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith who claimed that ten years prior to founding a church he had been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the intervening years between the first visit and the time a church was organized, Joseph claimed to have been visited by an angelic messenger who delivered to him a new volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon. He claimed to have received revelations before founding the church, and then many more after its organization.

Whether you believe Joseph Smith’s claims or not, he and his followers give a unique opportunity to witness how founding a religion sets in motion a series of predictable events that happen every time a new religion begins. Perhaps the best way to decipher the transition of Christianity from the original Primitive Christianity to its replacement, Historic Christianity, is to study Mormonism. Similar to the way the Primitive Christian church passed away after the death of the apostles, Mormonism has passed away following the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The same process was at work in both.

Primitive Christianity and Mormonism set out to change the world, and after some initial success, both enjoyed worldly success. Their success diverted attention from saving souls to managing people and property. Paul observed, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10.) A new religion is not profitable for the first believers. They are persecuted. They sacrifice their lives and property to follow what they believe to be God’s burden laid on them. Because of their sacrifices, they have faith and know they please God. Without sacrifice, it is impossible to obtain the faith required for salvation. Founders make sacrifices, successors enjoy the fruit of those sacrifices.

In time, the founding gives way to popular approval. John Wesley observed the price that is paid for popular acceptance is the loss of the Spirit.

“It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian;…From this time they almost totally ceased;…The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens….This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.Churches all come to depend on money for survival.”

Churches, like the men who belong to them, are just as vulnerable to the “love of money” which leads to “all evil.” People can have the gifts of the Spirit, or they can acquire riches in this world, but cannot have both.

Catholicism grew wealthy from the offerings of its members. When it owned most of the European lands and ruled over all people within Roman Catholic boundaries, it was cold, corrupt, violent and cruel. The transition from persecuted minority to dangerous majority took three centuries. With that status the original was lost.

Mormonism has followed the same path and achieved the same end in less than half the time. If a Christian wants to know how Primitive Christianity was lost to apostasy, the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is where it can be found. Mormon beliefs are so unstable that they now “unequivocally condemn” 10 of the first 11 of their church presidents, including Brigham Young, John Taylor and David O. McKay.

In order to progress forward, we must go back. Since we have no way to recover enough information to understand Christianity’s trek from Jerusalem to Rome, Mormonism allows Christians a view into the transition from Nauvoo to Salt Lake. Both paths followed the same tragic topography.

All or Nothing, 4

Despite Almon Babbit’s April 4, 1844 concern about a “king” representing apostasy and rejection of God’s rule, the minutes of the April 11, 1844 meeting confirm that Erastus Snow,

concluded by offering a motion that this honorable assembly receive from this time henceforth and forever, Joseph Smith, as our Prophet, Priest & King and uphold him in that capacity in which God has anointed him. The motion was seconded and accepted unanimously. …Whereupon the council adjourned agreeable to E. Snows motion with shouts of Hossanna to God and the Lamb Amen and Amen. (JS Papers Administrative Records, pp. 95-96.)

At this point, work on the constitution for a government by the “kingdom of God” abruptly ended. A new revelation on April 25, 1844 made anything further irrelevant, by declaring:

Verily thus saith the Lord, yea are my constitution, and I am your God, and ye are my spokesmen. From henceforth do as I shall command you. Saith the Lord. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 137.)

Apparently, once Joseph Smith was made their king, there was nothing further God could clarify for that group about the “kingdom of God.”

Perhaps the April 11th coronation was a mistake, and the April 25th revelation recognized there was nothing further that could be done in developing the “kingdom of God” among people who chose Joseph, instead of the God of Heaven, as their “king.” There are two potential problems with making Joseph Smith “king” over the “kingdom of God.”

First, there is a phrase coined by Bruce Porter that expresses an impediment to king-making: This land has a ‘restrictive covenant’ prohibiting a king. The Book of Mormon explains God’s intention for this land: “And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.” (2 Ne. 10:11.) Making Joseph a “king” violated the restriction.

The most that can be established in the Americas is a steward who holds a stewardship in trust for the Lord. Christ is the God of the land and it belongs to Him alone as the King. (Ether 2:12.) Apparently, the council only considered the Old Testament example of the apostasy of ancient Israel by appointing a king and rejecting Samuel, raised by Babbit on April 4th. No one thought to consult the Book of Mormon and consider its prohibition.

A proper stewardship holding Christ’s place belongs to someone appointed by God to hold dominion over the earth. The same as was first given to Adam by God. When planning the creation, God intended for the first man to be given dominion: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26.)

To the first man and woman God commanded: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28.)

The right of dominion over the creation belonged to God. God gave that right to Adam and Eve. It does not automatically transfer to all their descendants. It was transferred from Adam to his first appointed heir, Seth. [Cain would have been the first heir (Moses 5:15), but because he rebelled, he lost his position. To prevent that loss, Cain slew the next heir, Abel, but it did not accomplish the ambition. Cain was ultimately replaced by Seth.] Seth was given the right belonging to the first father, Adam, and through him down generations to Enos, and his son Cainan, and his son Mahalaleel, and his son Jared, and his son Enoch, and his son Methusaleh, and his son Lamech, and his son Noah, and his son Shem who was given the new name of Melchizedek. This right is called the “patriarchal priesthood” or right to hold dominion over the world as the steward, or father, or patriarch over all creation. (See D&C 107:40-55.)

Following Melchizedek, an apostasy of generations lost the right, and there was no successor for Melchizedek with dominion over the earth, nor a right to be the father of nations (meaning families). Though separated by generations of apostasy, Abraham sought to obtain the right and retrieve what was nearly lost from the world. As father Abraham explained:

I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers. It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me. (Abraham 1:2-3.)

Abraham obtained the kingdom of God, the patriarchal priesthood, and the right of dominion belonging to the first man, Adam. It remained through descent from Abraham for five generations. Then the restoration ended, and apostasy returned. The apostasy then lasted for generations until Moses. Between Moses and Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God was lost, and only a remnant kingdom of the Jews remained. That remnant was completely overthrown by John the Baptist, who was appointed to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews. Moses and John the Baptist, on the Mount of Transfiguration, transferred the kingdom of God to Christ. He died not only as the rightful “king of the Jews” but also as the rightful heir of Adam, holding dominion over all the earth. In His death, the rightful Heir was sacrificed.

There will be a “kingdom” established in the last days to fulfill the prophecy of Daniel. But the initial approach taken in Nauvoo was a false start, and appointing Joseph Smith as a “king” aborted the endeavor.

There was a second error, also, in making Joseph a “king.” Although Joseph may have had the authority to appoint, he never had the right to appoint himself. The appointment had been made by God earlier. Hyrum held the legal right before Joseph. Therefore, if a “king” or steward, or more correctly a patriarch, were to be chosen while Joseph was alive, it needed to have been his brother Hyrum. Three years prior to the meetings in 1844, the Lord did appoint Hyrum to the office of “priesthood and patriarch:”

that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right; That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people, That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph; That he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery; That my servant Hyrum may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him, that his name may be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever. (D&C 124:91-96.)

Hyrum was older than Joseph. After Hyrum’s death, this office passed momentarily back to Joseph because he was the eldest surviving heir. But with Joseph’s death, the two dispensation heads fell. What remained was confusion, usurping, ambitious men, and disorder. Now the Lord has abandoned that remnant to begin something anew.

The work begun through Joseph Smith remains incomplete. The structure, order, authority, organization, laws, and means belong entirely to the Lord. When He establishes the last day’s “kingdom,” it will be His. Even if put into the hands of stewards, they cannot usurp the Lord, who is the God of this land and of the whole earth. Even if God again gives to a man:

[T]he voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope! (D&C 128:21)

anyone who receives this delegation will need to realize they are only a servant-steward, holding in trust for the Lord all the rights which originated with Him and must be returned to Him when Adam, the ancient of days, returns for a meeting. That gathering will be in the New Jerusalem, or Zion, where Adam-ondi-Ahman–or in other words where Adam and Son Ahman (Christ) come to meet. The purpose will be for all stewards who have obtained this right to return to Christ the right to hold dominion over the earth. Christ will take authority over the entire world at the Second Coming in a lawful and orderly act that respects what He ordained in the beginning. His house is a house of order. He is the same, from the beginning to the end. His path does not vary, and His course is one eternal round.

The Martyrs

Hyrum fell first, and as the eldest brother led the way. Joseph died moments later. Today is the anniversary of their martyrdom.

Exactly as the angel foretold, the name of Joseph Smith is “had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (JS-H 1:33.) Just as the Lord affirmed to Joseph in Liberty Jail, “fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee; While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.” (D&C 122:1-2.)

The evil spoken of Joseph now comes from the LDS Church, which claims him as their founder. It comes from Brian Hales, who claims to be an accurate biographer. It comes from anti-Mormons, and Christian ministers, and fundamentalists who have created a caricature they claim to be Joseph. There is little difference between these people and William Law, Charles Ivins, Francis Higbee, Chauncey Higbee, Robert Foster and Charles Foster who published the Nauvoo Expositor.

It would be good if some (or all) of those who claim Joseph was a sexual predator and adulterer for impregnating another man’s wife, were to apologize and acknowledge there is no compelling proof Joseph ever had sexual relations with any other woman other than Emma Smith. Even the putative last suspected daughter, Josephine Lyons, is now ruled out as his descendant. I have not read any apology for the false accusation that he was the father from Hales, the church, or any of his accusers.

In the aftermath of John Bennett’s misconduct, Joseph pursued an effort to track down what had happened in Nauvoo. By May 21, 1842, the high council met and, “[A] charge [was] [preferred] against Chauncey L. Higbee by George Miller for unchaste and un-virtuous conduct with the widow [Sarah] Miller, and others.” (Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, p. 414, all as in original.) In the trial, “Three witness[es] testified that he had seduced [several women] and at different times [had] been guilty of unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with them and taught the doctrine that it was right to have free intercourse with women if it was kept secret &c and also taught that Joseph Smith authorised him to practice these things &c” (Id., pp. 414-415, as in original.)

On May 25 the charge was preferred “against Ms. Catherine Warren by George Miller for unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with John C. Bennett and others. The defendant confessed to the charge and gave the names of several other [men] who had been guilty having unlawful intercourse with her[,] stating they taught the doctrine that it was right to have free intercourse with women and that the heads of the Church also taught and practiced it[,] …learning that the heads of the church did not believe of [the] practice [of] such things[,] she was willing to confess her sins and did repent before God for what she had done and desired earnestly that the Council would forgive her.”(Id., p. 417, as in original.) She furnished the identities of the several men involved, resulting in more church court proceedings to stop the spread of Bennett’s mischief.

On September 3, 1842, “[A] charge was preferred against Gustavius Hills by Elisha Everett[,] one of the teachers of the Church[,] for illicit intercourse with a certain woman by the name of Mary Clift by which she was with child[,] and for teaching the said Mary Clift that that the heads of the Church practiced such conduct & that time would come when men would have more wives than one &c” (Id., p. 424, as in original.)

The next day, September 4, 1842, “Esther Smith gave evidence that [the] defendant [Gustavius Hills] told her that it was lawful for people to have illicit intercourse if they only held their peac[e] & that the time would it was agreeable to the practice of some of the leading men or heads of the Church.” (Id., p. 425, as in original.)

Yet more courts were held as the effort to round up those who were involved in this practice. John Bennett, in response to the treatment given him by the church, set out to tell another story in which he was the hero and Joseph was the villain. He wrote, lectured and campaigned against Mormonism, first to salvage his reputation, but ultimately as his profession.

Joseph left a record of public and private actions taken in opposing the plural wife system. These included: “I preached in the grove and pronounced a curse upon all adulterers and fornicators, and unvirtuous persons and those who have made use of my name to carry on their iniquitous designs.” (Joseph Smith (Sermon at the Grove; Apr 10, 1842)

Then there is the obviously altered Joseph Smith journal for Thursday 5th October 1843, which confirms there was an effort to alter documents to conform to later events and practices:

(ORIGINAL) Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. Gave inst[r]uction to try those who were preaching teaching or practicing the doctrin of plurality of wives. on this Law. Joseph forbids it. and the practice ther[e]of— No man shall have but one wife.

(REVISED) Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. Gave inst[r]uction to try those who were preaching teaching or practicing the doctrin of plurality of wives. on this law for according to the law i hold the keys of this power in the last days, for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power? and the keys are conferred – and I have continually said Joseph forbids it. and the practice ther[e]of No man shall have but one wife at a time unless the Lord directs otherwise

          Someone revised the content at a later date. Once revised at a later date, it was “on” again, and perhaps retroactively “on” since the original alterations were not possible to detect until the Joseph Smith Papers project made the original available for public view.

There was a published denunciation of polygamy in early February 1844 in the newspaper edited by Joseph:

“As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan. This is to notify him and the Church in general, that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next, to make answer to these charges.”  (Joseph Smith & Hyrum Smith, Times and Seasons Vol. 5 (February 1, 1844).)

The Relief Society later put out a more detailed document titled A Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo that offered an even stronger denial of plural marriage. It was penned by W. W. Phelps at the request of Joseph Smith. The document was presented to a general meeting of the church at which Joseph presided in March 1844, three months before he was killed:

“A vast assembly of Saints met at the Temple of the Lord at nine o’clock a. m., by a special appointment of President Joseph Smith, for the purpose of advancing the progress of the Temple, &c. The Patriarch, Hyrum Smith, was present; also of the Twelve Apostles Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, and George A. Smith; also the temple committee and about eight thousand Saints….[later in the meeting] an article was also read by W. W. Phelps, entitled, A Voice of innocence from Nauvoo, and all the assembly said ‘Amen’ twice.” (DHC 6:236, p 241.)

I tire of hearing Joseph’s name associated with evil. Particularly from those who claim to honor him as a prophet. On this day I would defend his honor and affirm he is exactly who and what he claimed. He was a virtuous man, in love with his wife Emma, and opposed to adultery, immorality and dishonesty.

False Claims Against Joseph Smith

In the April 1840 edition of the Times and Seasons (Vol. 1, No.6)  the History of the Missouri Persecutions continued. That installment explained how lies by insiders managed to inspire Missouri mob violence. The bad deeds of others (including Sampson Avard) were attributed to Joseph. People still debate whether Joseph knew and approved of Avard’s underground vigilantes called the “Danites.” Joseph, however, was unequivocal in denying his involvement or awareness.

This pattern of attributing bad deeds to Joseph and others behind their backs was an effective technique in Missouri. It destroyed the peace and stirred up mob violence. The same technique was later used again by insiders (including members of the first presidency) to inspire the mobbing and murders of Joseph and Hyrum.

In the Times and Seasons article, after recounting the violence, murder, burning of homes and crops, theft of property and imprisonment, the question was posed of “why” the Missourians behaved this way:

Was it for commiting adultery? We are aware that false and slanderous reports have gone abroad, which have reached our ears, respecting this thing, which have been started by renagades, and spread by the dissenters, who are extremely active in spreading foul and libilous reports concerning us; thinking thereby to gain the fellowship of the world, knowing that we are not of the world; and that the world hates us. By so doing they only show themselves to be vile traitors and sycophants.

…We have learned also since we have been in prison that many false and pernicious things, which were calculated to lead the saints astray and do great injury, have been taught by Dr. Avard, who has represented them as coming from the presidency; and we have reason to fear, that many other designing and corrupt characters, like unto himself, have taught many things, which the presidency never knew of, until after they were made prisoners which, if they had known, they would have spurned them and their authors as they would a serpent.

Thus we find, that there has been frauds, secret abominations, and evil works of darkness going on leading the minds of the weak and unwary into confusion and distraction, and all of which has been endeavored to be palmed upon the presidency, who were ignorant of these things which were practised upon the church in our name.

…We could enumerate the names of many who have acted in a mean and dastardly manner, some of whom we once considered our friends men whom we once thought would never condescend to such unhallowed proceedings, but their love of the world and the praise of men has overcome every feeling of virtue, and they have yielded obedience once more to their old master, consequently their last end will be worse than the first.

The circumstances seem to fulfill the Lord’s description of the gentiles to whom the gospel would be given in the last days:

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them. (3 Ne. 16:10.)

Joseph’s words describing the saints of his day, (“frauds, secret abominations, and evil works of darkness going on“) are similar to the Father’s quoted by the Lord, (“filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations“).

Things did not improve in Nauvoo. Conspiracies there would attribute worse behavior to Joseph; more allegations of secret teachings, more foul and widespread adulterous relationships, and darkness resulting in Joseph and Hyrum’s murders.

The tragedy is that the LDS Church attributed to Joseph and Hyrum what their false accusers claimed. Those who told lies about Joseph did it to cover their own sins. LDS leaders adopted many of the lies and practiced many of the abominations. They inherited lies. They believed them and were led to publicly practice foolish lusts and claim it as integral to their religion. Now if the truth is told it is not believed.

Hyrum Smith, Part 3

In November 1842, Hyrum Smith wrote the following letter to the church. I reprint it in whole, without comment. Joseph was irritated because the church did not seem to realize Hyrum was entitled to lead the church. William Clayton’s Journal records on July 16, 1843 that Joseph said the following: “Hyrum held the office of prophet to the church by birthright… the Saints must regard Hyrum for he has authority.”

The letter (reproduced below) probably should have been included in the D&C. It tells a great deal about the kind of leader Hyrum Smith would have made had he survived Joseph’s death:

To our well beloved brother Parley P. Pratt, and to the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England, and scattered abroad throughout all Europe, and to the Saints—Greeting:

Whereas, in times past persons have been permitted to gather with the Saints at Nauvoo, in North America—such as husbands leaving their wives and children behind; also, such as wives leaving their husbands, and such as husbands leaving their wives who have no children, and some because their companions are unbelievers. All this kind of proceedings we consider to be erroneous and for want of proper information. And the same should be taught to all the Saints, and not suffer families to be broken up on any account whatever if it be possible to avoid it. Suffer no man to leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. These things are an evil and must be forbidden by the authorities of the church or they will come under condemnation; for the gathering is not in hast nor by flight, but to prepare all things before you, and you know not but the unbeliever may be converted and the Lord heal him; but let the believers exercise faith in God, and the unbelieving husband shall be sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband, and families are preserved and saved from a great evil which we have seen verified before our eyes. Behold this is a wicked generation, full of lyings, and deceit, and craftiness; and the children of the wicked are wiser than the children of light; that is, they are more crafty; and it seems that it has been the case in all ages of the world.
And the man who leaves his wife and travels to a foreign nation, has his mind overpowered with darkness, and Satan deceived him and flatters him with the graces of the harlot, and before he is aware he is disgraced forever; and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband. The evils resulting from such proceedings are of such a nature as to oblige us to cut them off from the church.
And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i.e., the believer) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if the law divorce them, then they are at liberty; otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation.
These things we have written in plainness and we desire that they should be publicly known, and request this to be published in the STAR.
May the Lord bestow his blessings upon all the Saints richly, and hasten the gathering, and bring about the fullness of the everlasting covenant are the prayers of your brethren.
Written by Hyrum Smith, patriarch.

Hyrum Smith, Part 2

In order to have a meaningful discussion about Hyrum, it is necessary to provide background information that may seem strange to most modern Latter-day Saints. We have a much different story today than the story told in the beginning. To communicate across the barrier of mistaken and incomplete understanding, there are some ideas that seem strange that are required as background to begin to explain why Hyrum was so significant.

Hyrum was given the calling of “Priesthood and Patriarch” in a revelation in January, 1841. (D&C 124: 91.) That seems a curious statement to us, since everyone is presumed to have held the “priesthood” as soon as they were “elders” in the church. In the beginning, however, it was not understood the same way it is now. The offices of “elder,” like other offices, (priests, deacons, teachers) were offices in the church. (D&C 20: 38.) They were not coincidental to having priesthood. They were “offices… in the church of Christ.” (This was the original name of the church.) These offices were elected, approved by common consent, and then filled by those elected. After Section 107, the two things (church office and priesthood) were conflated to mean the same thing. The office belongs to the church, and whether there is priesthood present or not, the right to preach, teach, expound, exhort, baptize, lay on hands for the Holy Ghost, bless and pass the sacrament, are all things which the Lord commissioned the church to perform. This is also why, at the time Joseph and Oliver received only the Aaronic Priesthood, (JS-H 1: 69) they began to call one another the First and Second “elder of the church.” (JS-H 1: 72.) This is also why Joseph and Oliver received the Holy Ghost when baptized (JS-H 1: 73) even though the angel said the priesthood given did not have “the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (JS-H 1: 70.) They had the right to baptize, they were called the “First and Second elders of the church,” but they did not have the “power of laying on hands” for the Holy Ghost. This is not inconsistent, but it is different from what we now overlay onto the idea of priesthood. Today we are more confused than ever even when we think ourselves in possession of the truth.

In any event, when the January 1841 revelation came, Hyrum had already proven valiant. The time arrived when the Lord wanted Hyrum to be ordained to “Priesthood” and “Patriarch” so that he might “hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people.” (D&C 124: 93.) This same revelation appointed another “prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto [the Lord’s] church.” (D&C 124: 94.) This was the word of the Lord establishing this status and entitling Hyrum to claim this position.

He was then to “act in concert also with my servant Joseph” as co-president of the church. (D&C 124: 95.) Joseph had restored to him “all things” and could ask and the Lord would “make all things known unto” him (D&C 132: 45). Hyrum was likewise able to “ask and receive” answers from the Lord. (D&C 124: 95.)

Because of this ordination by the word of the Lord, Hyrum was given the power to seal: “Whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (D&C 124: 93.) These rights made him co-equal with Joseph, though Hyrum always acted only in concert with Joseph. He was meek, like Moses (Numbers 12: 3) and like Nephi, son of Helaman (Helaman 10: 5). They could be trusted by the Lord because they would do what the Lord wanted, not what they wanted. (See also Alma 14: 10-11.)

This is the  kind of man Hyrum was. He was trusted by the Lord, and chose to die with his brother. Had he lived,  He would have been Joseph’s successor. Brigham Young said this during the debates over who should succeed Joseph as the president: “Did Joseph Smith ordain any man to take his place? He did. Who was it? It was Hyrum…” (Times & Seasons, October 15, 1844, Vol. 5, p. 683.)

This is an interesting fact because Hyrum was not a member of the Quorum of the Twelve at the time he was killed. However, even Brigham Young, who won the initial debate having argued that the twelve should lead, and then ultimately won an election in December 1847 to become the president of the church, acknowledged it was Hyrum’s right to succeed Joseph. With Hyrum gone, and without any clear direction to follow, the church elected first the twelve, and then Brigham Young.

Brigham Young was never ordained to be church president. He was elected. The initial offices of Elder, Priest, Teacher, Deacon were elected positions. Brigham Young viewed the office of church president as similarly elected.

He explained how he thought this should operate. Anyone could lead the church. All that was required was an election, then the prayers of the members. Here is the system: “Take any man in this kingdom, and if the people say that they will make him a President, or a Bishop, or elect him to fill any other office, and the faith of the people is concentrated to receive light through that officer or pipe laid by the power of the Priesthood from the throne of God, you might as well try to move the heavens as to receive anything wrong through that conductor. No matter whom you elect for an officer, if your faith is concentrated in him through whom to receive the things which he is appointed to administer in, light will come to you. Let a presiding officer or a Bishop turn away from righteousness, and the Lord Almighty would give him the lock-jaw, if he could not stop his mouth in any other way, or send a fit of numb palsy on him, so that he could not act, as sure as the people over whom he presided were right, that they might not be led astray.” (Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 3, p. 1379, November 29, 1857; the talk can also found at JD Vol. 6 beginning on p. 93.) In this system, the power of being elected coupled with the members’ prayers were enough to always insure the answers you got through that leader were exactly perfect.

This was in the early days when church leaders were elected to office. Church authorities may offer names, but the congregation, stake, or church members elected them to office.

With Hyrum’s death, we lost something of great value. If he had outlived Joseph, he would have been the unchallenged church president. His succession would have set the pattern for later church presidents. They each would have chosen their own successors before they died. (See D&C 43: 2-5.)

By the time Brigham Young established the twelve as the seat of power, the pattern was set. Instead of the replacement being chosen by the sitting president through revelation, the senior apostle was presumed to be the next in line. Today’s legal structure using the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the succession is automatic. The corporation’s sole member is the longest tenured apostle. This is in place because Hyrum did not outlive Joseph. So we are all affected by the loss of Joseph’s brother.

Hyrum Smith

Hyrum Smith would eventually replace Joseph Smith as the prophet of the church. However, in 1829 he was given a revelation through his younger brother, Joseph. This was given before the Book of Mormon was published, before a church was organized, and while the work of the new Dispensation was in its very first stages. The content, however, is important. Not just for Hyrum, but for all of us.

Just like others, Hyrum was reminded of what it took to be called to the work: “whosoever will thrust in his sicle and reap, the same is called of God.” (D&C 11: 4, see 3 also.) It wasn’t an extensive application and approval process, but it was based on the willingness to do what God wanted that created “the call of God” to the laborer. Without ordination, or setting apart, the relationship was between the individual and God. It is an interesting series of revelations at the beginning of the work which uniformly leave God’s calling to the individual, based on their desire. (See, e.g., D&C 4: 3; D&C 12: 4; among others.)

The first stage, however, was limited to crying repentance. Hyrum was to “say nothing but reptentance unto this generation.” (D&C 11: 9.) The potential for Hyrum doing more later was certain, provided he would follow the Lord’s counsel. (D&C 11: 10.)

Hyrum was instructed on how to know he was proceeding in the right way: “put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good–yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.” (D&C 11: 12.)

Then, despite his desire and the call, Hyrum was told to temporarily stand down. The Lord instructs him: “Behold, I command you that you need not suppose that you are called to preach until you are called. Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel, that you may know of a surety my doctrine.” (D&C 11: 15-16.)

The Lord told Hyrum essentially to ‘stand down’ and not do anything, even if he were “called” to the work. There was more needed before he could be of use to the Lord. He needed to accomplish one work: “Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength.” (D&C 11: 20.)

Then, one of the great voices of the Restoration was told: “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and they shall your tongue be loosed.” (D&C 11: 21.) Hyrum needed to study. He needed to fill himself with information before he began his work. “Hold your peace; study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men, or that which is now translating, yea, until you have obtained all which I shall grant unto the children of men in this generation, and then shall all things be added thereto.” (D&C 11: 22.) Hyrum had homework to do. He needed to “study” things.

Hyrum would become the church prophet and Patriarch. He would be co-president and co-testator with his younger brother, Joseph. Joseph had several other brothers, but it was Hyrum who followed the forumla given him by the Lord. It was Hyrum who qualified himself to the work by his diligence and heed.

Hyrum was the designated successor to Joseph as the head of the church. But Hyrum fell first, and he and his younger brother died martyrs.

Did Joseph Receive A Revelation?

Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants is not universally accepted as a revelation received by Joseph Smith. When the discussion cannot proceed beyond whether this originated from Joseph Smith, by revelation, the discussion goes nowhere. Therefore, the first step must be to resolve whether the revelation came through Joseph Smith, or was a later fabrication of Brigham Young and his inner circle of polygamists.

The following information persuades me Section 132 came through Joseph Smith and was reduced to writing on July 12, 1843:

The Nauvoo Diaries of William Clayton were written chronologically and have the following entries (exactly as in original):

July 11, 1843: At noon rode out to farm with Margt. P.M. J & family rode out in the carriage.
July 12, 1843: This A.M. I wrote a Revelation consisting of 10 pages on the order of the priesthood, showing the designs in Moses, Abraham, David and Solomon having many wives & concubines. After it was wrote Prests. Joseph and Hyrum presented it and read it to E. who said she did not believe a word of it and appeared very rebellious. J told me to Deed all the unincumbered lots to E & the children. He appears much troubled about E.
July 13: 1843: This A.M. J sent for me & when I arrived he called me up into his private room with E. and there stated an agreement they had mutually entered into. they both stated their feelings on many subjects & wept considerable. O may the Lord soften her heart that she may be willing to keep and abide his Holy Law.
July 15, 1843: Made Deed for 1/2 S. B. Iowa from J. to Emma. Also a Deed to E. for over 60 city lots.
July 16, 1843: A.M. at home writing bro. Kimballs lecture. P.M. went to the Grove and heard Pres. J. preach on the law of the priesthood. He stated that Hyrum held the office of prophet to the church by birthright & he was going to have a reformation and the saints must regard Hyrum for he has authority. He showed that a man must enter into an everlasting covenant with his wife in this world or he will have no claim on her in the next. He said that he could not reveal the fulness of these things untill the Temple is completed &c.
July 17, 1843: A.M. at the Temple & at Prest. J’s. conversed with J. & Hyrum on the priesthood.

In addition to the foregoing, I checked surrounding public events, and the diary is consistent with other records of those days. For example, the event on July 16th is recorded as having taken place “At Stand in Grove, West of Temple” and appears in a letter of Willard Richards to Brigham Young, the Joseph Smith diary kept by Willard Richards, the Levi Richards Diary and the Willard Richards Diary. The afternoon of the 16th also records a public meeting on the “Temple Stand” in the Franklin Richards, William Clayton, and Levi Richards diaries and in the Letter of Willard Richards to Brigham Young, as well as in the Joseph Smith diary kept by Willard Richards.

Disputes after Joseph’s death also confirm a disagreement between Emma and the church over ownership in the Steamboat the Maid of Iowa.

These entries seem credible, and therefore I believe they show Section 132 was recorded on July 12, 1843 and originated from Joseph Smith. In addition, the August 12, 1843 meeting of the Nauvoo High Council records there was “teaching by Hyrum Smith” which four witnesses later confirmed included reading Section 132. These witnesses were Austin Cowles (who rejected the doctrine and left the church), David Fulmer, Thomas Grover, James Allred and Aaron Johnson. Hosea Stout was absent when Hyrum read the document, but was later told about the revelation. When Section 132 became public, Hosea Stout confirmed it “corresponded to what” he was told about the reading in August 1843.

It is possible to believe it a fabrication of Brigham Young. It was not made public until the 1850’s, and the public disclosure was on Brigham Young’s watch. But the document came into existence while Joseph was church president, and came through him. As much as a person may wish the document did not originate with Joseph Smith, the evidence appears to be more than adequate to show it did. It came from Joseph and was reduced to written form in July 1843. 

Power in the Priesthood

Here is a quote from the Journal of Discourses recently brought to my attention:

“This failure to realize all the blessings and powers of the Priesthood does not apply to the elders and lesser Priesthood only; but it applies to the higher quorums, and comes home to ourselves, who are Apostles of Jesus Christ. We are presented before the Church, and sustained as prophets, seers and revelators, and we have received oftentimes the gift of prophecy and revelation, and have received many great and glorious gifts. But have we received the fullness of the blessings to which we are entitled? No, we have not. Who, among the Apostles have become seers, and enjoy all the gifts and powers pertaining to that calling? And those who are called to perform special missions in opening up dispensations of the Gospel to the children of men, as Joseph and others were called of the Lord, He endows more fully with these gifts; but this does not hinder others from enjoying similar gifts according to His promises, and according to our faithfulness. And I have thought the reason why we have not enjoyed these gifts more fully is, because we have not sought for them as diligently as we ought. I speak for one, I have not sought as diligently as I might have done. More than forty years have passed away since these promises were made. I have been blessed with some revelations and prophecies, and with dreams of things that have come to pass; but as to seeing things as a seer, and beholding heavenly things in open vision, I have not attained to these things. And who is to blame for this? Not the Lord; not brother Joseph—they are not to blame. And so it is with the promises made to you in your confirmations and endowments, and by the patriarchs, in your patriarchal blessings; we do not live up to our privileges as saints of God and elders of Israel; for though we receive many blessings that are promised to us, we do not receive them in their fullness, because we do not seek for them as diligently and faithfully as we should.” (Orson Pratt, JD 25:145-146)

This candid statement of Elder Orson Pratt is a beautiful and faith promoting statement from an earnest and faithful Apostle. He was called by the Lord, through revelation to Joseph Smith, and held the office given him. His lament of failing to attain, because of a lack of diligence, should summon to each of us a renewed resolve to be faithful and true to the Lord. When so many have fallen short, the Lord deserves to have someone succeed. Why is that not you? Why do you not summon the faith and diligence to become His friend? This is an open invitation to everyone. (D&C 93: 1.) Therefore it is an invitation to you.

I think the best way to view all priesthood assignments in the church as entirely probationary. That is, ordination is an invitation to come and receive. It is up to each individual whether they will come and will receive. Ordination is invitation. Acceptance is through living the principles and ordinances of the Gospel.

The Lord often spoke to “the elders of my church” as one category, in contrast to “priesthood” which is another category. We conflate the two. An elder is invited to become an actual priesthood holder, but that is dependent upon heaven, alone. It may be conferred on us, but heaven must ratify. (See D&C 121: 36-37.) Therefore, there are a lot of elders in the church who have no priesthood. Yet they have an authoritative invitation to connect with heaven and rise up and receive it.

We conflate so many things because we tend to be lazy. We want to be able to acquire priestly authority as easily as we acquire a merit badge. It just does not, cannot work that way. Heaven controls that end of our faith. We conform to the conditions or we do not receive. The test is measured in our hearts, not just in our outward conduct. I suspect Elder Orson Pratt was never closer to attaining what he sought than when he humbly confessed his failure and sincere desire. His heart seems broken, his confession sincere, his desire authentic.

When someone has the fullness of the priesthood, they have the ability to ask and get an answer. When Joseph received it by the voice of God in the early 1830’s, the Lord confirmed “I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time.” (D&C 132: 45.) When the voice of God declared that it was also to be upon Hyrum Smith, it was declared by revelation that he would have the keys “whereby he may ask and receive.” (D&C 124: 95.) When Nephi, son of Helaman received it, the Lord declared: “all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for tho shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.” (Hel. 10: 5.) Joseph Smith explained this relationship when referring to Noah conversing with the Lord preliminary to destroying the wicked. Noah was told by the Lord how he (Noah) could save himself and his family. Joseph explained, “thus we behold the Keys of this priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah that he talked with him in a familar and friendly manner, that he continued to him the Keys, the Covenants, the power and the glory with which he blessed Adam at the beginning and the offering of Sacrifice which also shall be continued at the last time, for all the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the priesthood under the direction and commandments of the Almighty.” (Words of Joseph Smith, 5 October 1840, Monday morning, Robert B. Thompson’s account; spellings corrected.) One of the reasons we know Joseph Smith had the fullness was his ability to always get an answer to his inquiries. During his life, the Lord called the church a “true and living” church because it was in constant communication with the Lord. (D&C 1: 30.) While Joseph was at the head, the church could always ask and get an answer from the Lord through him. There was never any reason for the church or its leaders to speak in the absence of revelation. The Lord hearkened to Joseph. Joseph held “the keys of the mysteries and the revelations” D&C 28: 7. He had the “keys of the mysteries of the kingdom” D&C 64: 5. He held the “keys of the kingdom” D&C 81: 2. Joseph had “this greater priesthood [which] admistereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God” D&C 84: 19. For Joseph, the fullness was getting answers, solving mysteries and always using revelation to do so.

When the Lord designated Hyrum to receive this same authority, then the Lord was bound to also heed Hyrum’s inquiries and answer him. Joseph could be removed, but the church still had someone at the head who would be able to ask and get an answer, just as with Joseph.

It is a great thing when the church is “true and living” and has, at its head, someone like Joseph or Hyrum who could ask and get an answer. That is why it is so puzzling and offensive for the church’s press spokesman to recently claim the church’s leaders for generations spoke “in the absense of revelation” about a matter of critical importance for salvation of an entire race of people. When they said: “The origins of the priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.” The church has repeatedly claimed to have the fullness of the priesthood, therefore it is a terrible indictment of Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, David O. McKay, among many others, that they spoke “in the absence of direct revelation.” This surprising claim by the press spokesman contradicts the established order, recognized authority, and most importantly the church’s claims. I have taken some criticism for suggesting an alternative view of our history in my last book, but I’ve never made such an attack as this. This is a serious accusation, and one which the spokesman ought to provide us with an explanation. Did the leadership proceed on a matter of such importance “in the absence of revelation?” That seems heartless and unkind. Perhaps it was, but I would hope we would have some follow up explanation, because the assertion is troubling.

3 Nephi 12: 10

“And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


It is not just persecution, but persecution “for [His] name’s sake” that makes you blessed. When you are doing what you should for His name’s sake, you are likely to provoke persecution. He will later explain this is almost inevitable. It won’t be because you are provoking it by your obnoxious behavior. It is because people will question your sincerity and commitment. The world expects hypocrites. They regard everyone with suspicion. And, let’s face it, most charlatans adopt religion as one of their cloaks. We’ll get to that a little further into this sermon from the Lord.


The kind of persecution which produces the “kingdom of heaven” is, of course, martyrdom. Originally the word “martyr” meant witness, but so many of the early Christian witnesses were killed that it came to have the modern meaning, that is one who dies for their faith.


Martyrs were seen in John’s vision below the altar of God. (Rev. 6: 9.) This of course means they were holy because of their sacrifice. The heavenly altar being a symbol of them having shed their blood as witnesses. Joseph Smith and Hyrum joined those who qualified for such a witness. (D&C 135: 7.)


Zenos, author of the Olive Tree allegory (Jacob 5: 1), prophet of the three days of darkness upon the isles of the sea (1 Ne. 19: 10), witness of the Lord’s burial in a sepulcher (1 Ne. 19: 10) seven centuries before His birth, was slain for his testimony (Helaman 8: 19).


Stephen was killed for his testimony but clearly inherited the kingdom of heaven. (Acts 7: 55-59.)


There are many others, including Able, Isaiah, Peter, Paul and Abinadi.


Blessed are those who are willing to endure persecution for His name’s sake.  For they are those who are willing develop faith which cannot be obtained in any other way. It is through the sacrifice of all things that faith necessary for salvation is developed. Read again the post on Lecture 6 of the Lectures on Faith on April 21, 2010.


Beginning with faith to follow Him, then enduring persecution as a result, to offering the sacrifice necessary to develop faith, then inheriting the kingdom of heaven, the Gospel of Christ is one great whole.


Sometimes we bring persecution upon ourselves because we are unwise. The Lord will address that. We are to take offenses, but not give them. When we unwisely give offenses and cause persecution, that is not for His name’s sake.  There is a balance between wisdom and righteousness.


As an aside on the subject of persecution I wanted to add this:


I’ve thought about Elder Packer’s talk and the homosexual community’s reaction to it. Elder Packer was right, and he was addressing a community of believers who look to him for teachings like the ones given in that talk.  Nobody ought to take offense at that. If you can prevent Elder Packer’s teaching in that setting, then you can invade and stop talk in any setting on any subject.


However, nothing in that talk would encourage or justify invading the privacy and causing the shame visited upon the Rutgers University student who committed suicide. The invasion of his privacy was cruel, the act of publicizing it was a calculated act of terrible insult. His grief, despair and subsequent suicide are the fault of those who invaded his privacy and exposed his weakness. It was wrong. Elder Packer’s talk was to benefit a community of believers, not to persecute an audience of unbelievers.


I have friends I ride Harley’s with who have absolutely no interest in Mormonism. One of my dear friends hates my church, thinks it barbaric and unenlightened. But that does not stop our mutual friendship nor define the areas about which we find common ground. Another person’s differing views are only offensive when they demand I accede to them. If they will suspend judgment against me because of my faith, I am willing to suspend judgment against them because of theirs. This ought to define the boundaries of conduct, not militant demands for conceding the argument on questions of faith and belief. I can believe that my friend’s lifestyle is corrupt and even immoral. But so long as he does not expect me to join him, I am pleased to be a friend, share what we have in common, and leave our differences for polite disagreement.


There are some sins I simply do not understand. But if my friendship may help someone to understand my faith, then I would sooner be friends with someone of another faith than one of my own. I do not expect many people to accept what I believe. In fact, I think there are very few fellow Latter-day Saints who believe or understand the Gospel as I do. If I were to limit my friends to those with whom I have everything in common, then my wife and children alone would be my friends.


Elder Packer should have the right to speak and preach the truth as he understands it. Those who would censor him are wrong.


If he is mistaken, then point out his error in a kindly way and seek to reclaim him. But condemning, protesting and attacking only shows intolerance and coercion which all of us have a responsibility to resist and condemn. It is wrong when the homosexual community does it, and it is wrong when the church does it. Win the argument with persuasion and strong reasoning.  Yelling, condemning and protesting only attempts to silence thought, not to provoke it into correct understanding.


Now I’m off topic…