Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Fairly Short History of Mormonism — Part 2, Kirtland, Ohio & Early Missouri Period

A mission was sent to Kirtland, OH, where Sidney Rigdon had a commune which had broken away from Alexander Campbell's Disciples of Christ.  Rigdon was converted to Mormonism and had his whole commune baptized.  Rigdon then went to New York to visit Joseph, and Smith gave him a revelation.  Rigdon decided that he needed Joseph in Ohio and Smith received a revelation to move his church there in January 1831.  Rigdon and Smith became close friends.

Smith organized Rigdon's commune and took over what became an economic/communistic order.  Many more converts were made and a mission was even sent to the Indians in the west.   Joseph then announced the restoration of the Melchizedik priesthood and ordained several key men.

There were many troubles with the Ohioans so Smith began seeking a place for Zion.  A revelation directed him, Rigdon and 30 men to go to Independence, Missouri; the revelation said that the temple would be built there.  Joseph and Sidney returned to Kirtland, while Cowdery stayed and established the colony of Zion.

During the winter of 1831 Joseph revised the Bible while living at the home of John Johnson and family in Hiram, 40 miles southeast of Kirtland.  However, the Hiram populace began speaking against Smith.  Ezra Booth, who left the church, published letters in the newspaper speaking against the church.  Meanwhile, word arrived in Kirtland of rebellion in Missouri.

In March 1832 a drunken mob pulled Joseph from his bed.  Eli Johnson wanted to castrate Joseph because he thought Joseph was too intimate with his sister (he had been - she was later one of his wives).  Smith and Rigdon were stripped, severely beaten, tarred and feathered.  A week later Emma moved to Kirtland and Joseph and Sidney went to Independence, where Joseph reorganized Zion. 

The church growth irritated old-time Missourians, but by the time Smith went back to Ohio in May 1832 there were 300 members in Independence, and missionary journeys bore fruit as converts filled Kirtland.  It was in  November 1832 when Joseph first met the new convert Brigham Young, who spoke in tongues.

Building the temple in Kirtland began in 1833.  

The Missourians became upset that Mormons were preaching to Indians and restoring them to the land that Missourians had taken away, while at the same time the Mormons prospered in their farming.  Mormons also preached that any non-Mormon (“Gentiles“) would be cut off from the land and that their property would go to the Mormons.  Adding to this insult, Mormons preached against slavery and advertised for free Blacks to emigrate.

The Missourians offered to buy out the Mormons or force them out.  When asked for time, mobs began attacking Mormons and destroying their property, injuring the men; leaders were tarred and feathered.  Three days later they returned and threatened total destruction.  Nine of the leaders agreed to lead the first half of the colony out of Jackson County at the beginning of the next year (1834), while promising to take the remainder out that spring.

Meanwhile, Smith sent a delegation to the Missouri governor demanding justice.  Otherwise, Smith took no action except to tell the colony to "turn the other cheek."  The colony asked the governor for troops for protection and sued for property damages.  The governor told them to take their grievances locally.

Over the next few months there were several clashes between the Mormons and the Missourians, usually instigated by the latter.  Some on both sides were killed and many wounded in these actions.  The Missourians treated the women and children poorly, driving them out like cattle.  At one point 1200 Mormons were driven out of their homes and into a storm.

During this time, Mormon lawyers got Gov. Dunklin to give the Mormons permission to organize into a militia and apply for public arms.  Many of the Mormons moved into the surrounding counties, but most remained camped in the river bottoms.  By mid-December 1833 most of the Mormons were settled in Clay county, given temporary shelter by sympathetic citizens.  Smith ordered them to stay near Jackson county and not to sell out.

Mormons wanted action on the Missouri problem and Parley Pratt and Lyman Wight returned to Kirtland from Zion with demands for help.  They wanted to raise an army for the rescue and began recruiting, but by the end of April they only had 200 volunteers.  Word now arrived that there was mob rule and Mormons in Independence were beaten.

On May 4, 1834 the church was renamed as "Church of Latter Day Saints."  The next day the army (“Zion's Camp”) set out for Missouri in good order.  Although Dunklin had been working cautiously to restore the Mormons, when word of the Army arrived mobs stole Mormon arms that were at Independence (for their Mormon militia), and between the 24th and 30th of April the mob burned 150 homes.  Dunklin gave up his efforts.

Fearing an invasion, the militia from four counties were called up to meet Zion's Camp.  Mormons in Clay County constructed makeshift weapons and prepared for war.  As Zion's Camp arrived at the river bordering Clay County, cholera hit the camp.

Of Zion's Camp, 68 men were victims of cholera, of which 14 died.  Smith led his army cautiously into Clay County and told them he would return to Kirtland to raise money to buy out the enemy in Jackson County.  He advised them to hold no public meetings.  On July 4, 1834 he led the army back to Kirtland.

Smith told Kirtland that Zion would be in bondage until the temple was completed.  In the spring of 1835 Joseph added a quorum of 70 to his original 12 apostles.  The 70 were all from his Army.  His title now became "President of the High Priesthood."

A problem that developed in Kirtland was that there were many converts who had spouses left behind, women and men.  These converts were unable to get divorces, but had relations with Mormon people anyway.  This led to many adultery charges being brought by Gentiles. 

A significant event in LDS history took place in the summer of 1835.   Michael Chandler was touring with Egyptian mummies and several papyri.  He had heard of Joseph’s reputation with Egyptian and came to ask him to decipher the papyri.  Smith declared one to be the writings of Abraham and one to be from Joseph of Egypt.  He translated only "The Book Of Abraham," and dictated the translation directly from heaven.

By the summer of 1835 Kirtland became associated with the word "polygamy."  In August, during Smith’s absence, the church issued a statement against polygamy, but it became a constant murmur against the church.  On top of this, Smith got involved in land speculation with church credit.  Financial problems began by March of 1836.

Meanwhile, Mormons in Clay County over-stayed their welcome and Clay County residents began antagonistic actions.  On June 29, 1836 they had a general meeting, asking the Mormons to leave.

Back at Kirtland Smith was deep in credit debt, so he organized a bank.  He printed money to pay his debts, and they floated with no backing, although he claimed they had good coin behind them.  Many notes came back and Smith was taken to court and fined in March 1837; the bank failed by June.  Because of the debt on his church and self, Smith was jailed 7 times between June 1837 and April 1839, and his followers paid over $38,000 to bail him out.  His total debt amounted to about $150,000, most of which he used to purchase land; the owners got basically nothing for the land because Smith's money was worthless.

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

Part 3 of this series can be found here.

Part 4 of this series can be found here.

Part 5 of this series can be found here.

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