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To celebrate the study of the Doctrine & Covenants and Church History this year, Meridian is serializing The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother.
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To see all the installments, published in order, click here.
Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother—
By Lucy Mack Smith
The completion of the Kirtland Temple. Joseph takes a journey to the East. A vision is given to Joseph as he passes through Palmyra which he finds difficult to look upon. Joseph returns to Kirtland, meets with the Saints, and prophesies about the apostasy of one-third of those present. His words are fulfilled and many turn violently against the Prophet. A woman of Kirtland begins receiving revelations through a black stone. Many are deceived, including David Whitmer and Frederick G. Williams. Lucy describes Sidney Rigdon.
End of March 1836 to late fall 1837
The house of the Lord progressed steadily forward notwithstanding all the threats of the mob. When it was completed, there was much rejoicing in the Church, and great blessings were poured out upon the elders; but as I was not present at the endowment, I shall say but little about it.[i]
Soon after the house was finished, Joseph and Martin Harris took a short tour into the eastern country.[ii] As they were returning and were in Palmyra, Joseph had a vision which lasted until he besought the Lord to take it from him, for it showed him things which were very painful for him to contemplate. But it returned immediately and remained before his eyes until the middle of the forenoon.
The Church manifested great joy at his return. The news of his arrival was soon circulated among the brethren, and there was nothing to be heard but, “Brother Joseph has come back,” and “We shall hear Brother Joseph preach tomorrow.”
When we met the brethren the next day, he appeared unusually solemn, which caused them to wonder much, but he preached as he was accustomed to do. He told the congregation that had assembled that he was rejoiced to see them, and they no doubt were glad to meet him again. “We are now,” said he, “nearly as happy as we can be on earth, for we have accomplished more than we had any reason to anticipate when we began. Our lovely and beautiful house is finished, and the Lord has acknowledged it by pouring out his Spirit upon us here and revealing to us much concerning his purposes in regard to the work which he is about to perform. Furthermore, we have plenty of everything necessary to our comfort and convenience, and judging from appearances, one would not suppose that anything could occur that would break up our friendship for each other or distress us in the least. But, brethren, beware, for I tell you in the name of the Lord that there is an evil in this very congregation, which, if it is not repented of, will result in making one-third of you who are here this day so much my enemies that you will have a desire to take my life; and you even would do so, if God permitted the deed. But, brethren, I call upon you now to repent, while there is room for repentance, and cease all your hardness and turn from these principles of dishonesty and death which you are harboring in your bosoms, before it is eternally too late, for there is yet room for repentance.”
He continued to labor in this way with them, appealing to them in the most feeling and solemn manner, until the exertion of his mind and the fatigue of speaking quite exhausted him, and he sat down, leaving almost everyone in the house in tears.
The following week was much given to surmises and speculations as to who would be the traitors and why they should be, etc., etc.
In a short time, a difficulty broke out about the bank which the brethren had established in Kirtland.[iii] It seemed that a quantity of money had been taken away by fraud. When Joseph discovered this, he demanded a search warrant of Esquire Frederick G. Williams. This was flatly refused by said Williams, to which Joseph said, “If you will give me a warrant, I can get the money, but if you do not, I will break you of your office.”
“Well, break it is, then,” said Williams, “and we will strike hands upon it.”
“Very well,” said Joseph, “from henceforth I drop you from my quorum in the name of the Lord,” and Williams in wrath replied, “Amen.”[iv]
Joseph entered a complaint against him for neglect of duty as an officer of justice, on which account his ministry was taken from him and given to Oliver Cowdery.
Joseph then went to Cleveland in order to transact some business pertaining to the bank; and as he was absent the ensuing Sunday, my husband preached to the people. In speaking of the bank affair, he reflected somewhat sharply upon Brother Warren Parrish.[v] Although the reflection was just, this incensed Mr. Parrish, and he made an attempt to go onto the stand. Mr. Smith told him that he would not be interrupted, and seeing that Parrish intended to force his way, my husband called upon Oliver Cowdery, who was justice of the peace, to have him brought to order. But Oliver paid no attention,[vi] and Parrish made a move to pull Mr. Smith out of the stand. At this, William, who was the oldest one of my sons who was present, sprang from his seat, caught Parrish in his arm, and carried him halfway across the house. He would have put him out of the room entirely had not John Boynton[vii] stepped forward and, drawing the sword from his cane, presented it to William’s breast and said, “If you advance one step further, I will run you through.” Before William had time to turn, several gathered around him, threatening to handle him severely if he laid hands upon Parrish again. At this juncture I left the house, sick and grieved of heart, and more distressed as I found that, although a great number did not take active part against the Church, yet many were undecided.[viii] This plainly showed me that the seeds of the apostasy were already sown in the breasts of a greater number than I imagined before, just as Joseph had prophesied.[ix]
The same week, a young woman who lived with David Whitmer and pretended to be able to discover hidden things and to prophesy by looking through a certain black stone which she had found, revealed to Brother Whitmer and others some facts which gave them a new idea of things altogether.[x] David Whitmer requested her to look through this stone and tell him what Joseph meant by saying one-third of the Church would turn against him. Her answer was that he would fall from his office because of transgression, and either David Whitmer or Martin Harris would be appointed in his place, and the one who did not succeed Joseph in his office would be a counselor to the one who did.
Those persons who were disaffected towards Joseph began collecting together around this girl. Soon, as this news came to his ears, Dr. Williams, the ex-justice of the peace, also became one of the dissenters, and he wrote down the revelations that were given to this girl. Jared Carter, who had always been before a good and faithful brother, lived in the same house with David Whitmer and soon invited the same spirit.
Not long after Brother Carter became one of their party, I was made acquainted with the fact, and having a great regard for him,[xi] I improved the first opportunity of talking with him to dissuade him from continuing to associate with persons who would be the means of his destruction. As I had been informed that he had declared in one of their meetings that he possessed power to raise “Joe Smith” to the highest heaven or cast him down to the lowest hell, I questioned him about the matter in the presence of my husband. Mr. Smith, not knowing what I was talking of, began to reason with Brother Carter upon the impurity of his course and warned him to speedily repent and to confess his sins to the Church, or the judgments of God would overtake him. He remained with us until midnight, acknowledged his fault, and said he would confess to the Brethren.
The next morning he was taken with a violent pain in his eyes, and continued in great distress for two days. On the evening of the second day, he rose from his bed, and kneeling down, he besought the Lord to heal him, covenanting that if he were healed, he would make a full confession to the Church the next Sabbath.
The next Sunday when the Brethren were about to open the meeting, he arose and, saying that he had done wrong, asked the forgiveness of the Church, begging to be received again into their confidence. He did not, however, state what he had done that was wrong, but his confession was received and he was forgiven.
The rest of his party were still in opposition, and they continued to meet secretly at Mr. Whitmer’s. When the young woman, who was their instructress, was through giving revelations in an evening, she would jump and hop over the floor and dance with all her might, boasting of her great power until she was perfectly exhausted. Her proselytes would also, in the most vehement manner, proclaim how pure and holy they were, and how mighty, great, and powerful they were going to be.
When we held our next prayer meeting, they took no part with us, but after meeting was dismissed, they arose and made a standing appointment for meetings to be held every Thursday by the “pure church,” which title they claimed. They circulated a paper to ascertain how many would follow them, and it was ascertained that a great proportion of those whom we considered good members were decidedly in favor of the new party. In this spirit they went to Missouri and contaminated the minds of some of the brethren there against Joseph, in order to destroy his influence with them. This schism in the Church, and the rage of the mob, whom we had contended with from the first, made it necessary to keep a more strict guard than ever at the houses of those who were their chief objects of vengeance.[xii]
The brethren would take their stations as a watch and stand night after night through all weather on guard to protect the lives of the Presidency, one of whom was Sidney Rigdon.[xiii] He was always as fainthearted as any woman, and far more so than his own wife-for had his faith, patience, and courage been as genuine as Sister Rigdon’s, he would not have been where he is now. The Twelve, many of whom were then cheerful to take the brunt of danger and hardship that he recoiled from, are now shining as much brighter in comparison to him as the light of the sun is brighter than the stroke of a tar bill.
[i] Eliza R. Snow recorded: “The ceremonies of that dedication may be rehearsed, but no mortal language can describe the heavenly manifestations of that memorable day. Angels appeared to some, while a sense of divine presence was realized by all present, and each heart was filled with ‘joy inexpressible and full of glory.'” (In Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom [New York, 1877], p. 95.) George A. Smith described the spiritual outpourings that took place that evening: “There were great manifestations of power, such as speaking in tongues, seeing visions, administration of angels. . . . David Whitmer bore testimony that he saw three angels passing up the south aisle, and there came a shock on the house like the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and almost every man in the house arose, and hundreds of them were speaking in tongues, prophesying or declaring visions, almost with one voice.” (In JD 11:10.) Joseph the Prophet wrote: “All the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place.” (History of the Church 2:428.)
[ii] It appears that this trip was to Salem, Massachusetts. By the time the Kirtland Temple was completed the Church still owed an estimated sixteen thousand dollars on construction costs. Rendering aid to the Saints in Missouri and paying for Zion’s Camp had also taxed the members’ resources to an extreme. According to Ebenezer Robinson’s recollection, Jonathan Burgess, a Church member from Massachusetts, informed the brethren that “a large amount of money had been secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem, Massachusetts, which had belonged to a widow, and he thought he was the only person now living who had a knowledge of it, or to the location of the house. . . . Steps were taken to try and secure the treasure.” (Quoted in Donald Q. Cannon, “Joseph Smith in Salem,” in Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Volume 1: The Doctrine and Covenants [Sandy, Utah: Randall Book, 1984], p. 432.) Joseph, Hyrum, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon (it does not appear from Joseph’s history that Martin Harris was with them) left on July 25, 1836, in hopes of finding the treasure and alleviating this terrible burden of debt . The treasure was never discovered, but the Lord explained that there were other treasures in the city of Salem to be found (see D&C 111). The brethren returned from their trip in September 1836.
[iii] The “Kirtland Safety Society Bank” was the full title of the banking institution of the Saints. The articles of agreement for the bank were drawn up on November 2, 1836.
[iv] Frederick Granger Williams was dropped from the First Presidency (where he had served as Second Counselor) on November 7, 1837.
[v] Warren Parrish (1803-1887), the brother-in-law of Apostle David Patten, was baptized in May 1833 by Brigham Young. He served a mission with Wilford Woodruff (1835-1836) in Kentucky and Tennessee, was a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, did clerical work for Joseph Smith, and was the treasurer of the Kirtland Safety Society. He renounced his membership in the Church in the fall of 1837 and turned violently against the Prophet. By 1870, he was insane, and died seventeen years later in Emporia, Kansas. (See Papers, p. 504.)
[vi] It can been seen here how far Oliver Cowdery had drifted from the mainstream of the Church by his lack of response to Father Smith, whom he had referred to as “Father,” and Lucy Mack Smith as “Mother,” many times. Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated just a few months later on April 12, 1838. Nine charges were leveled against Oliver Cowdery, including “persecuting the brethren by urging on vexatious law suits against them, and thus distressing the innocent.” Also, “for seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith, Jun., by falsely insinuating that he was guilty of adultery . . . for treating the Church with contempt by not attending meetings . . . for leaving his calling to which God had appointed him by revelation, for the sake of filthy lucre, and turning to the practice of law.” (History of the Church 3:16.) It seems that after the glorious manifestations at the dedication of the temple, Satan was actively pursuing the Saints in Kirtland, and even Oliver Cowdery had been deceived. Oliver, who would not return to the Church for ten years, was finally rebaptized and passed away fifteen months later at age forty-three (1850).
[vii] John Farnham Boynton (1811-1890) had a short stay in the Church, yet was one of the original Twelve Apostles, serving from 1835-1837. He became involved with the speculation and financial problems of 1837, turned against the Prophet, and never rejoined with the Saints. (See Papers, p. 476.) The conditions in Kirtland at this time were a great contrast to those of a few months earlier when so many spiritual experiences were enjoyed by the Saints. Eliza R. Snow recorded: “A spirit of speculation had crept into the hearts of some of the Twelve, and nearly, if not every quorum was more or less infected. Most of the Saints were poor, and now prosperity was dawning upon them-the Temple was completed, and in it they had been recipients of marvelous blessings, and many who had been humble and faithful to the performance of every duty-ready to go and come at every call of the Priesthood, were getting haughty in their spirits, and lifted up in the pride of their hearts. As the Saints drank in the love and spirit of the world, the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from their hearts, and they were filled with pride and hatred toward those who maintained their integrity. They linked themselves together in an opposing party-pretended that they constituted the Church, and claimed that the Temple belonged to them, and even attempted to hold it.” (History of the Church 2:487-88.)
[viii] Apostle Parley P. Pratt was also tempted by the rampant apostasy in Kirtland: “About this time, after I had returned from Canada, there were jarrings and discords in the Church at Kirtland, and many fell away and became enemies and apostates. There were also envyings, lyings, strifes and divisions, which caused much trouble and sorrow. By such spirits I was also accused, misrepresented and abused. And at one time, I also was overcome by the same spirit in a great measure, and it seemed as if the very powers of darkness which war against the Saints were let loose upon me. But the Lord knew my faith, my zeal, my integrity of purpose, and he gave me the victory.
“I went to brother Joseph Smith in tears, and, with a broken heart and contrite spirit, confessed wherein I had erred in spirit, murmured, or done or said amiss. He frankly forgave me, prayed for me and blessed me. Thus, by experience, I learned more fully to discern and to contrast the two spirits, and to resist the one and cleave to the other. And, being tempted in all points, even as others, I learned how to bear with, and excuse, and succor those who are tempted.” (Pratt, Autobiography, p. 144.)
[ix] During the raging apostasy in Kirtland, Joseph recorded the following: “In this state of things . . . God revealed to me that something new must be done for the salvation of His Church.” Heber C. Kimball recorded: “On Sunday, the 4th day of June, 1837, the Prophet Joseph came to me . . . and whispering to me, said, ‘Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me: Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my Gospel, and open the door of salvation to that nation.'” (History of the Church 2:489, 490.) Thus, at the very time when the Church was racked with apostasy, Joseph was shown clearly by the Lord what course should be taken-to take the gospel to England.
[x] The Lord had prepared his people for something like this. In one revelation he said: “But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses” (D&C 28:2).
[xi] It is to be remembered that Jared Carter had administered a blessing to Lucy’s daughter Sophronia and she had been healed.
[xii] Hepzibah Richards wrote to her brother Willard Richards concerning this time: “A large number have dissented from the body of the Church and are very violent in their opposition to the Presidency and all who uphold them. They have organized a church and appointed a meeting in the house [Kirtland Temple] next Sabbath. Say they will have it, if it is by the shedding of blood.” (Hepzibah Richards to Willard Richards, January 18, 1838, in Kenneth W. Godfrey, Audrey M. Godfrey, and Jill Mulvay Derr, Women’s Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900 [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], p. 71.)
[xiii] At the time of Mother Smith’s dictation, Sidney Rigdon had recently been excommunicated from the Church. He would never return to the Church. He passed away nearly thirty-two years after his excommunication.