Previous chapter Table of Contents Next chapter
THE year 1884 opened up with general activity everywhere both upon the part of the representatives of the church and the opposition.
A letter written from Tarona, Papeete, Tahiti, January 10, stated the condition of the work in the Islands as follows: "Our numbers are daily increasing, in Tahiti as well as in the Chain Islands."
On January 13 in a discourse delivered in Assembly Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah, Apostle George Teasdale, of the Utah church, said, as reported in Deseret News:
I bear my solemn testimony that plural marriage is as true as any principle that has been revealed from the heavens. I bear my testimony that it is a necessity and that the church of Christ in its fullness never existed without it.
This gentleman seems to have strong convictions on this point, for in April, 1889, when he was editor of the Millennial Star, the following appeared in the editorial columns:
Those who think "Mormonism" never would have encountered any great amount of opposition had it not been for the principle of plural marriage, utterly fail to comprehend the forces at work in this matter.
The agitation of "Mormon" matrimonial affairs simply serves as a cloak to cover other designs, as we shall hereafter see. The assault against the church is made on the line of the marriage question, because it seems to offer at present the greatest prospect for the success of hostile effort. The Saints in general are less firmly united on this principle than on many others belonging to the gospel, and it is hoped by our enemies that this circumstance will conduce largely, if not successfully, to bring about its renunciation by the people in a church capacity. Such an act would be tantamount to an apostasy, and the consequent destruction of the power and authority of the priesthood would be consummated.
January 18 Elder Henry Kemp wrote of a debate recently held at Hamburg, Iowa, between an Elder Johnson of the Christian, or Disciple Church, and Elder E. C. Briggs.
The Herald for January 26 contained an earnest appeal by Elders James Caffall and Peter Anderson in behalf of the publication of a periodical in the Danish language.
January 22 the Bishopric issued an official document setting forth its interpretation of the financial law of the church. This was published in the Herald for March 1, 1884.
Beginning February 12 and closing March 8 there was a discussion held at Kirtland, Ohio, between Elder Clark Braden of the Christian Church, and Elder E. L. Kelley. It will be remembered that these parties held a debate the year before at Wilber, Nebraska. It was contemplated to publish the former debate, but subsequently the parties agreed to repeat the debate at Kirtland. This last debate was published for the parties, by the Christian Publishing House, at St. Louis, and is sold both by the publishers and the Herald Office at Lamoni, Iowa.
A disastrous flood visited Wheeling, West Virginia, and other places about this time, rendering destitute many, including some of the Saints. Elder G. T. Griffiths, writing from Wheeling, West Virginia, February 12, describes the scene as follows:
On the 22d of January, I left home for Monroe County, Ohio, where I stayed until the 8th instant. When I left home everything was calm and peaceful, but alas, when I returned on the 9th instant the raging waters of the Ohio River had wrought a wonderful change. From hill to hill the river flowed swiftly on, bearing onward people, houses, and stock of every
kind. Wheeling was partially, and Benwood was almost wholly submerged; and thousands of people in a few small houses, box cars, and on the hillside. I found my wife and babe in a small house with one hundred and sixty-five others. They had been rescued by Bro. Thomas Humes, from a second-story window, where the water was nearly on the floor. It was heartrending, (my wife says,) to hear the cries of, Help! Help! Oh save me! Save my children! Strong men shouted until they were hoarse. On account of the rapid rise of the water, and the scarcity of skiffs and flats, many were rescued from the roofs. It is simply impossible to describe the anguish, distress, and destruction of those dreary hours.
Sr. Ebeling, a widow with eight children, had a comfortable cottage swept away with all her furniture and clothing in it. No means of sustenance, except the earnings of her three boys, the oldest about sixteen years of age. Bro. Linton, a poor man, with six in family, had the house he lived in carried off its foundation, and his furniture and clothing destroyed. Bro. Thomas Humes had his house partly demolished and furniture ruined. Sr. Gill, a widow, with six in family; furniture and clothing ruined. Bro. Morris, with a large family, A. M. Teagarden, J. A. Smith, and myself, shared the same fate. The water was eight feet deep in our church. Our organ, sofa, Sunday-school books, were all in the water. The building remained on its foundation, and it is not seriously damaged.
Sometime the last of February a branch was organized at Cheyenne, Wyoming, by Elder John Eames, consisting of twelve members.
There was also a branch organized in Bexar County, Texas, February 28, by Elder Heman C. Smith, known as the Oak Island Branch. There had been a branch at this place previously, but it had been disorganized on account of the transgression of some.
A small book appeared about this time written by Elder William B. Smith, brother of the Prophet, containing sketches of his biography and an account of early incidents connected with the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon.
Commencing March 5 there was a discussion held near Oenaville, Bell County, Texas, between Elder C. M. Wilmeth of the Christian Church and Elder Heman C. Smith.
March 9 Mrs. Abigail Y. Alley wrote her cousin, Mr. Andrew Talbut, from Jaffa, Palestine. The following is an extract from her letter:
The Jews are gathering in as fast as the land will hold them, forming colonies. They are trying to buy more land just above where we live. It is high and sightly, and the price is also high. The owner wants a thousand Napoleons for it, which the Jews will not give; but they get it for less. There is a colony also near Ramley, at a place called the house of Dagon. They have been there one year and a half. They have farming utensils and a steammill to grind wheat, and are doing well; in fact the Jews are gathering fast, and the land is being built up as fast as it can be; even the Arabs say it is the last of the world. About one year ago there was a company of about fifty families came from the frozen regions. They said they heard that the Messiah was expected soon. They were six months coming, the way was so long. They lost all their goods, and had to be helped here. They went to Jerusalem, and are being helped by the mission that helps the Jews. They are small of size, as if they had always been half frozen. The Russian Jews are the best of all; they are more civilized. Many of them are being converted in Jerusalem to Christ. Outside of Jerusalem the Jews have built a large colony just outside the Jaffa gates. One year ago this spring I went to Jerusalem for the first time. I went to the Passover among the Jews and ate with them, and drank of the cup which our Lord said he would drink again in the kingdom anew. There is also a colony of Jews in Gaza, that are doing well. They have bought land there near the city, and have a steammill; so you can judge whether the wheat grows well or not. On the Oggee stream there are four mills full all the time. At Sarona, the German colony where our wheat fields used to be, they have windmills to grind the wheat. On the mountains of Judea they have also windmills, and the land is filled with improvements. Every new well furnishes sweeter water than the last one.
Mrs. Alley went to Palestine with the company under George J. Adams. (See volume 3, pages 449, 450.)
Annual conference for 1884 met at Stewartsville, Missouri, April 6; Joseph Smith and J. W. Briggs presiding; H. A. Stebbins, R. M. Elvin, and J. M. Terry, secretaries. The ministers present and reporting were: Josiah Ells, E. C. Briggs, T. W. Smith, A. H. Smith, J. H. Lake, J. R. Lambert, W. H. Kelley, J. S. Patterson, J. C. Foss, Heman C. Smith, J. F. McDowell, R. J. Anthony, D. H. Bays, M. T. Short, I. N. Roberts, J. F. Mintun, G. T. Griffiths, G. S. Hyde, W. T. Bozarth, J. F. Burton, R. M. Elvin, Joseph Luff, G. E. Deuel, Thomas Nutt, Rudolph Etzenhouser, Joshua Armstrong, George Hicklin, T. T. Hinderks, Henry Kemp, J. H. Merriam, John Landers, C. Saint Clair, H. C. Bronson, J. T. Kinneman, E. L. Kelley,
and G. A. Blakeslee. The following ministers not present reported by letter: W. W. Blair, James Caffall, Charles Derry, E. M. Wildermuth, B. V. Springer, E. C. Brand, J. T. Davies, Duncan Campbell, George Montague, Columbus Scott, Thomas Taylor, P. N. Brix, H. N. Hansen, John Gilbert, F. M. Sheehy, E. H. Gurley, A. J. Cato, Hiram Robinson, M. H. Bond, M. R. Scott, Samuel Brown, C. G. Lanphear, J. D. Bennett, John Eames, C. E. Brown, Francis Earl, M. M. Turpen, Tehopea, Metuaore, Torohia, Vaiarea, and J. P. Knox.
These reports show labor done in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Canadas, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Nebraska, Utah, Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Indian Territory, England, Scandinavia, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Maine, New Brunswick, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Wyoming, Colorado, California, and the Society Islands.
The Church Recorder's report showed a net gain of six hundred forty-four.
The financial report of the Board of Publication showed a net loss of twenty-eight hundred seventy-nine dollars and sixty cents on account of the defalcation of the bookkeeper and secretary. The Board was by resolution exonerated from all blame in the matter.
The Bishop's financial report was read and referred to a committee consisting of William Leeka, Temme Hinderks, and J. F. Burton, who subsequently reported the books kept in a clear and concise manner, and the report correct, but the details of financial reports are getting too voluminous for insertion.
The following preambles and resolutions were presented by the Quorum of Twelve:
To the President of the Conference, Elders and Brethren Assembled; Greeting: The following members of the quorum have been in council for several days prior to the assembling of the conference, and since, and have had under consideration various important and vital questions relating to their rights and privileges as a body, and the welfare of the work in general. Some conclusions have been reached, and others are still
under consideration, which will be presented in due time. Among the decisions reached are the following, which are presented for your consideration, and your indorsement [endorsement] respectfully asked:
1. Whereas, The law appointing the Quorum of the Twelve and their mission among all nations, and their relationship to the church, having general supervision of the whole; also constituting them a judiciary, thereby authorizing them to regulate all the affairs of the same, seems not to be understood, or at least is misapprehended; and for this and other causes the council have been repeatedly hindered in the judicial department of their work.
The revelations given for the purpose of organizing the church of the living God upon the earth, for the dispensation of the fullness of time, makes known the several departments of subdivisions into which the kingdom shall be organized for the work of the ministry and the administration of the law governing the entire body. And
Whereas, In addition to traveling and preaching in common with their fellow servants, it is enjoined that the traveling high council shall take the oversight of the entire work.
Also upon the traveling high council there is by law enjoined special duties, to carry out which implies extra prerogatives and responsibilities not imposed as pertaining to other quorums. And to these specialties, the character, right and extent of their presidency they insist, in the nature of the ease, must be recognized.
The duties assigned by the law are to build up the church and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations. In the discharge of these duties, thus prescribed, of necessity is recognized executive authority, both in its quorum and individual capacity. Wherefore the council reserves to themselves the right to determine their interference, or otherwise as the case may be, for in the nature of things that prerogative exists with them.
We present this declaration, believing it due to ourselves regarding our calling and the duties therein imposed, especially when acting in our individual capacity, because, as an assembled quorum, its prerogatives and the character of its decisions are by positive enactment made known.
2. Resolved, That by virtue of their office and calling, as declared by the organic law of the church, the members of the Quorum of the Twelve are the lawful presidents of the church abroad in all the world, to preside over, regulate and set in order the same, and that in all the branches of the church and districts, this presiding authority should be acknowledged and acquiesced in by the presidents of its branches and districts. And when one of them is present at a district conference or branch meeting, it should be left discretionary with him, as to whether it would best serve the cause by presiding.
3. Resolved, That the Quorum of the Twelve, as a judicial body have the right, collectively or individually, to render decisions involving the law and usages of the church, in their various fields of labor, and when
such decisions are made by individual members of the quorum, said decisions are binding on the church, and should be respected until brought before the quorum and its decision had.
4. Resolved, That it is the decision of this quorum that the Bishops of the church have not the right or authority to dispose of, deed, and convey to others the properties of the church at their option.
5. Resolved, That a committee from our number be appointed for the purpose of comparing the present and Palmyra edition of the Book of Mormon, with the manuscript in the hands of David Whitmer, and that Wm. H. Kelley, T. W. Smith, and A. H. Smith compose said committee.
6. Resolved, That it is the sense of this quorum that the commandments of a local character, given to the first organization of the church, are binding on the Reorganization, only so far as they are either reiterated or referred to as binding by commandment to this church.
After much discussion the report was adopted with the exception of resolution number 4, which was referred to the quorum for further consideration. After reconsideration the quorum reported as follows:
Whereas, By inquiry into the rules governing the rights and privileges of the Bishop, and the restrictions thrown around his powers, we find that sufficient to govern the Bishop's relation to the properties of the church, is found in the "Articles of Agreement" between the Twelve and Bishopric, published in the Herald of May 1, 1878. Therefore be it Resolved, That we as a quorum consider that there is no necessity for further action in the matter.
It was resolved that the committee provided for in section 5 should report through the Herald.
The following report of the Quorum of Twelve was also presented:
The following resolutions were passed by the Quorum of the Twelve, and the consideration of the conference is called to them.
1. Whereas, By joint action of the Quorum of the Twelve and the Bishopric, a resolution was passed, authorizing the publication of the moneys given to the elders in their various mission fields through the Herald, the same as the means given directly into the hands of the Bishop, and his agents; and which was indorsed [endorsed] by the conference; and Whereas, The editor of the Herald, or Board of Publication, refused to publish these statements when submitted to them; therefore, Resolved, That this assumption of power is without authority of law and usage and dangerous to the liberties of the people.
2. Resolved, That in the opinion of this council, no person's name should be stricken from the church records until specific charges have been preferred against them, and lawful action had in the case, and that the cause or causes of action and expulsion should be stated upon the church record.
3. Resolved, That from the meager information that has been presented before us, concerning the publishing of a periodical in the Danish language, we are unable to make any recommendations concerning it.
This was adopted with the proviso that the editor of Herald should attach his reasons for not publishing. This he did as follows:
The editor of Herald states that the fault of refusing to publish the reports referred to was his, and not the Board's. His reasons for refusing are: (1) It was not ordered to be done specifically in the resolution referred to. (2) He did not consider that the order to publish the Bishop's report included the reports of elders referred to in the resolution. (3) That the reports which he refused to publish were sent him detached from the Bishop's report, and were not incorporated in it; if they had been, he could not have refused, although he believed then, and believes now that a publication of the totals of the amount each received and reported to the Bishop is all that is necessary.
The Quorums of High Priests, Seventies, First, Second, Third, and Fourth Quorums of Elders and First Quorum of Priests reported. The Seventy had dropped Nathan Lindsey for continued inactivity. E. N. Ware, B. B. Brackenbury, and T. J. Franklin, were dropped from First Quorum of Elders. William Chambers resigned as president of Second Quorum of Elders, and I. N. White was chosen to succeed him. Elder White chose as his counselors J. S. Roth and B. F. Durfee. These were approved by the quorum and the conference and were ordained on the 14th. W. B. Smith and Stephen Maloney were received into Second Quorum. The Third Quorum of Elders passed the following resolution which was subsequently adopted by the conference: "That the nature of the calling of the First Quorums of the church is of such a character as to prohibit them, or any one of them, engaging in secular pursuits, which in their nature demand the time and talent of the same."
The First Quorum of Priests was reorganized with D. R. Baldwin, president, H. R. Harder and C. P. Faul his counselors. These ordinations were deferred. John Wood, Frederick Uphoff, Jacob Smith, H. R. Harder, L. C. Donaldson, Herman Wilkie, and John Hardacker were received into the quorum.
The Fifth Quorum of Elders was organized at this conference. Rudolph Etzenhouser was chosen president; William M. Rumel and T. N. Hudson were upon his nomination chosen his counselors. The conference approved of these selections and they were ordained on the 14th. J. A. Robinson was elected secretary.
Nancy Andrews was received on her original baptism.
The following preamble and resolution were adopted regarding church history:
Whereas, The question has been raised with regard to the publication of the work entitled "The Life of Joseph the Prophet" forestalling the history of the church, as before contemplated by it through its appointed "Historian." And Whereas, It can not be considered that the book entitled "Life of Joseph the Prophet" was intended to forestall, or take the place of the History of the Reorganized Church, which Elder Jason W. Briggs, Church Historian, was appointed and expected to prepare for publication.
Therefore, be it Resolved, That he be hereby requested to proceed to prepare said history, which when completed shall be presented to the next ensuing conference thereafter for examination and approval upon its merits, by a proper committee then to be appointed; and that without regard on his part, or further action by us in reference to what may be contained in the work entitled Life of Joseph the Prophet.
The following missions were appointed: J. W. Briggs, to labor as he thinks proper in connection with his duties as Church Historian. Josiah Ells, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, with privilege of traveling farther east. E. C. Briggs, Chicago Mission, Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, and Minnesota. W. H. Kelley, Michigan, Northern Indiana, Northern Ohio, Western New York, and Western Pennsylvania. A. H. Smith, California Mission. J. H. Lake, Canada Mission. J. R. Lambert, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. James Caffall, Nebraska and Western Iowa. Z. H. Gurley, released from Eastern Mission. T. W. Smith, Australasian Mission. R. J. Anthony, Rocky Mountain Mission. Heman C. Smith, Southwestern Mission. George Montague, Southeastern Mission. John Gilbert, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. F. M. Sheehy, Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Thomas Taylor, English Mission. T. E. Jenkins, Welsh Mission. P. N. Brix, Danish Mission
The above appointments were in charge of the fields named.
The following were appointed to labor in the fields named: Glaud Rodger, California. J. S. Patterson, Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. E. C. Brand, Utah until fall, then Nebraska and Western Iowa. Columbus Scott, Michigan, Northern Indiana, Northern Ohio, Western New York, and Western Pennsylvania. G. T. Griffiths, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. I. N. Roberts, Kansas. G. S. Hyde, Nebraska. D. H. Bays and W. T. Bozarth, Southwestern Mission. J. C. Foss, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. J. F. Mintun, Minnesota. J. F. McDowell, Illinois and Iowa. F. P. Scarcliff and E. W. Cato, Southeastern Mission. M. T. Short, Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. J. T. Davies and E. A. Davies, Missouri, Kansas, and Indian Territory. H. P. Brown, J. B. Price, Thomas Daly, Albert Haws, J. F. Burton, and David Chambers, California. H. C. Bronson, Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. Duncan Campbell, Michigan. M. H. Bond, Eastern States. W. J. Smith, J. J. Cornish, Michigan and Canada. J. A. McIntosh and Samuel Brown, Canada. E. Delong, Levi Phelps, and J. A. Carpenter, Michigan. G. E. Deuel, Northern Michigan and Western Canada. Joseph Luff, Michigan, Northern Indiana, Northern Ohio, Western New York, Western Pennsylvania, and Canada. Harbert Scott, Southern Indiana and and Southwestern Ohio. M. R. Scott, Southern Indiana. L. R. Devore and D. L. Shinn, Southern Ohio and West Virginia. Henry Kemp, Western Iowa. Peter Anderson, Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska. R. M. Elvin, Nebraska. B. V. Springer, Southern Iowa and Northern Missouri. Thomas Nutt, Northern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. Alfred White, Missouri and Kansas. A. H. Parsons, Kansas. Charles Derry, Western Iowa. M. H. Forscutt, Michigan, Northern Indiana, Northern Ohio, Western New York, and Western Pennsylvania. J. T. Kinneman, Missouri and Kansas. Rudolph Etzenhouser, Central and Eastern Iowa. George Hicklin, Northeastern Missouri.
The following resolution on missions was adopted: "That the arranging for one or two competent elders for the Australasian
Mission be left with the First Presidency, Bishop, President of Twelve, and the missionary in charge and that a like order obtain in regard to the Rocky Mountain Mission."
The following resolution regarding Sunday-schools was adopted:
That the Board of Publication be requested to take such measures as they shall deem proper to furnish for Sabbath-schools suitable lesson papers, and if practicable, reduce the size of the Hope, make it a weekly and publish through it the lessons, and that W. C. Cadwell, Sr. Alice Cobb, and D. P. Lambert, be a committee to prepare and furnish said lessons for publication.
The following regarding a Danish periodical was adopted:
Resolved, That Brn. James Caffall, Peter Anderson, and Hans N. Hansen, be a committee to look after the interests of publishing a Danish periodical, as contemplated in a resolution adopted by the semiannual conference held at Lamoni, Iowa, in the fall of 1882, whose duty it shall be to receive names and moneys of those to become subscribers to said periodical when published, with all free-will offerings given in the interests of said publication, reporting their action at the soonest practical opportunity to the Board of Publication.
Resolved, That the Board of Publication shall proceed to publish said periodical as soon as the prospect shall justify them in so doing.
Resolved, That Bro. Peter Anderson, in connection with the editor of the Herald, take charge of the editorial department of said publication.
The attitude of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon was largely discussed, and David Whitmer being the only survivor was interviewed by many both in the church and out. To all he maintained the truth of his former testimony. On April 25 Elder Whitmer was visited by Elders E. C. Briggs and Rudolph Etzenhouser. The following account from the pen of Elder Briggs is interesting both for testimony and historic incidents:
The following are some of the facts as stated to us:
Oliver Cowdery's name being mentioned we asked as to his last statement. In response we were told, that it was reaffirmed, accompanied with a solemn charge to keep the manuscript as he had.
"Would you like to see them?"
I replied that we would. He stepped into an adjoining room and in a few moments brought them to us. They were large sheets of foolscap paper, were rather brown, or yellow colored, not so clear and white as the paper of nowadays; written closely in a fine hand, with capital letters in all proper places, and well preserved. He then remarked:
"I was present when Joseph gave these manuscripts to Oliver, O, it was
such a solemn charge. He (Joseph) said, 'I feel it in my bones that there will be a division in the church, like it was with the Nephites and Lamanites, and if these manuscripts are not preserved, I fear that the church may be injured, and when you deliver them up to others, be sure they are left in good hands.' I now see why they should be preserved. A delegation once waited on me from Utah, Orson Pratt headed it, to secure them. And he said:
"'Set your own price on them. There is millions in the treasury and we are authorized to draw any amount for them, so you may not be particular, ask any price.'
"I replied, 'They are not for sale.' He said:
"I answered, 'I know, and that is enough. There is not enough gold in the world to purchase them.' Pratt urged the matter saying:
"'You are not very well off, and it will do your children good.'
"I then told him, 'You have not got money enough in Utah to purchase them.'"
O, brethren, the above sentences were spoken by the good old man in such accents and tone, it fairly gave life to his sterling worth, as the man more precious than fine gold, even a man worth more than the golden wedge of Ophir. (Isaiah 13: 12.) His integrity is above suspicion. God bless his memory and his heart, ever more. Amen.
This brings to my mind a statement of the Elect Lady, Emma, in the winter of 1856. She said to me, "When you see David Whitmer you will see an honest man." And in the same conversation, she remarked of her husband Joseph's limited education while he was translating the Book of Mormon, and she was scribe at the time. "He could not pronounce the word Sariah. And one time while translating where it speaks of the walls of Jerusalem, he stopped and said, 'Emma, did Jerusalem have walls surrounding it?" When I informed him it had, he replied, 'O, I thought I was deceived."'
Bro. Whitmer added that since Oliver's death it was alleged that they both had denied their testimony. He said that preachers and others got this up and heralded it about.
NARRATIVE OF SEEING THE ANGEL.
"In June, 1829, I saw the angel by the power of God, Joseph, Oliver, and I were alone, and a light from heaven shone around us, and solemnity pervaded our minds. The angel appeared in the light, as near as that young man. [Within five or six feet.] Between us and the angel there appeared a table, and there lay upon it the sword of Laban, the Ball of Directors, the Record, and Interpreters. The angel took the Record, and turned the leaves, and showed it to us by the power of God. They were taken away by the angel to a cave, which we saw by the power of God while we were yet in the Spirit. My testimony in the Book of Mormon is true; I can't deviate from it. I was troubled with so many by letter and otherwise, all over the United States, and some from Europe, that I
made my proclamation of March 19, 1881. In this way thousands read it, who would never have done so otherwise. I have the original manuscripts. They have the printer's marks. The printers here have examined them, and say they are genuine. When being printed, Oliver Cowdery would take about a dozen pages of them at a time, and remain and proof read and see that the work was done properly, and continued his vigil to the end."
Brother in Christ, after a visit with Bro. David Whitmer, one of the chosen witnesses of the Book of Mormon, I want to say that I felt to admire the man; his humble, meek manner is wonderful to behold, in comparison with the self-called ministry of the present age. He is a devout Christian, and speaks of Bro. Joseph, and the rise of the latter-day work with endearing words of love. As he said:
"The boys, Joseph and Oliver, worked hard, early and late, while translating the plates. It was slow work, and they could write only a few pages a day."
Of Joseph he continued:
"He could not do a thing except he was humble, and just right before the Lord."
I said, "Why not?"
He replied: "The Urim and Thummim would look dark; he could not see a thing in them."
"How did it appear in them?" we asked.
His answer was:
"The letters appeared on them in light, and would not go off until they were written correctly by Oliver. When Joseph could not pronounce the words he spelled them out letter by letter. Ah! Joseph was a good man, but he had a hard task to manage with the people in the early days of the church. They were sectarian (Brigham Young was only a sectarian) and came in with all of their own views, and were hard to manage. In fact, they sought office in the church, and when they were ordained it was only putting new wine into old bottles In many cases."
I asked him why he did not go with the church.
"I had good reasons, but do not wish to speak of them now. I was directed to remain here in Richmond."-The Saints' Herald, vol. 31, pp. 396, 397.
June 19 he was visited by Elders William H. Kelley and Heman C. Smith. The following is from the pen of Elder Smith:
We were met by an old lady, whom we supposed to be Mrs. Whitmer, and shown into the sitting-room. Presently Father Whitmer entered the room, and I had a privilege I had long desired, of seeing and conversing with one who had seen the plates from which the Book of Mormon was
translated, as they were exhibited by an angel from heaven. He talked quite freely in regard to his experience in the church, and we were favorably impressed with his manner, and his evident love of truth. His frank, open countenance not only shows him to be one of nature's noblemen, but impresses one that he is not of the type of men who could be coaxed, or bribed into a system of intrigue or deception.
He informed us that at one time he was told by five hundred armed men that if he did not renounce his testimony he should die; but in the face of death he affirmed the truth of his former testimony. He was with Oliver Cowdery in his last illness, and was by him admonished to never falter in his testimony of the Book of Mormon; for it was true. We saw and examined the original manuscript, and noticed particularly the capitals and punctuation marks, which so far as we examined are correctly inserted.
Leaving Father Whitmer, we called on General Doniphan, who received us kindly, and expressed himself as being glad to meet us. He said the Mormons lived neighbors to him while they were in Clay County, and they were a moral people. Not an indictment was found against one of them in Clay County. The General is a large, fine looking man; and though his physical powers are weakened by age, his mental powers, which by nature would rank among the great men of the age, are unimpaired. After meeting and talking with him, I am not surprised that he played such a noble part in the Missouri troubles. Just the kind of a man to whom we would look for noble deeds. The General informed us that he had examined the original manuscript, and being acquainted with Oliver Cowdery's handwriting, was positive it was principally written by him.
We had another interview in the afternoon with Father Whitmer and his son, and found them quite willing to do right and fair. Bro. Kelley had no trouble in arranging his business with them. We examined the manuscript and were satisfied that it is the identical one which passed through the printer's hands; for it contains the printer's marks.
In connection with this reference to General Doniphan we insert the following from the pen of President Joseph Smith:
We met General A. W. Doniphan, at his hotel in Richmond, whither we went to see, and shake the hand of the man, who had the courage and manhood under strange and trying circumstances, where death from unauthorized violence threatened Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Alexander McRae and others of the elders, to face the consequences of stemming the torrent of bigoted prejudice and murderous clamor, and say: "I will have nothing to do with such business; my men are soldiers, not murderers. I shall march from camp with my men to-morrow morning at daylight." It is undoubtedly owing to the outspoken stand taken by General Doniphan on that occasion, that those men were not shot upon the public square the next morning, as had been decided on by Generals Clark and Lucas, and others of the council of war.
The General is well advanced in years, but is still tall and erect, speaks clearly and distinctly. His mind seems to be still vigorous; and we were told by one who studied law and is practicing with him, that there is no apparent diminution of his powers in his profession, except the failure, common to age, to recall events recently transpiring. He is modest and avoids saying anything of the part taken by him in the scene referred to above. And when we told him that we came, with Bro. Alexander, as sons of one of the men whose lives was spared by reason of his action that day, as we believed, to thank him in person, he deprecated our thanks, saying: "I deserve no thanks for doing what was my duty. I had a long time to live and could not afford to burden my conscience and life with the blood of my fellow men."
We referred to the prejudice existing against our father and his comrades, and the terrible excitement of the time, and the risk he ran in incurring the displeasure of the popular will, as expressed in the order to kill those men the next morning. To this he replied that what he did at the time he did without thinking of the consequences, as men frequently act in cases of extreme emergency. Our interview was pleasant. He has been a man of action and careful observation. Has not sought political honors, but has served the people when their desire for his services has been properly expressed.
He visited Salt Lake City some years ago, met Alexander McRae, whom he remembered; and was well treated by the authorities there. He is a Democrat, and talked freely of the present political aspect of the country, but without any partisan feeling. One remark was very striking. "It is a difficult thing to grow old and prevent becoming querulous, covetous, and weak, or suspicious and misanthropic. I recognize this difficulty and strive to avoid either extreme." He is quite a friend to Elder Whitmer, knew Oliver Cowdery well, as well as many others of the Saints in Ray, Caldwell, Jackson, and Daviess Counties; remembers Lyman Wight, whom he regarded as an especially brave and fearless man. He affirms that there was nothing like polygamy taught, or known among the Mormons during their stay in Missouri. He further states that so far as his knowledge went they were good citizens.
Oliver Cowdery died at Richmond, about 1850, and his body lies in the "old graveyard," just north of the town; as we are informed by both David Whitmer and family and by General Doniphan.
The following letter from General Doniphan will be valuable on points on which it treats:
RICHMOND, Missouri, July 13, 1884.
ELDER HEMAN C. SMITH,
Oenaville, Bell County, Texas.
Dear Sir: Your letter containing several inquiries has been at hand some days but the excessive heat has prevented me from replying. My acquaintance with Oliver Cowdery (dead) commenced in the winter of
1831-2. As we were both lawyers, and members of the profession were not numerous in Western Missouri at that early day-we became rather intimately acquainted until June, 1838, when he left this State and returned to Ohio. Some eight years ago I was requested by some persons to accompany them to the residence of David Whitmer, Sr., in this village, when we arrived quite a volume of manuscript was lying on the center-table, and I was requested to state whether I recognized the handwriting. I had not been told the purpose of our visit before. I began to turn over the pages. It was an old looking document, but in a good state of preservation as if it had been well cared for. After sketching it over in various parts, I felt sure it was the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery, although I had not seen it for many years; and said that I believed it was his. In the further examination I found a few pages here and there in two other hands, and so pointed them out. Those present then asked Mr. Whitmer as to the various handwritings. He said that I was correct that the manuscript was almost entirely written by Cowdery. The other parts were written by Emma, wife of Joseph Smith, and Christian Whitmer, merely to relieve Cowdery when tired. I still believe the hand writing to be Cowdery's. As to your other questions I have no data to found a belief on as to whether this was the original manuscript from which the Palmyra edition of the Book of Mormon was printed or not. Joseph Smith and his brother and some others have been here about a week comparing them and doubtless will arrive at some certain conclusion in a few days. In my old age (seventy-six) it has not been my habit to answer such questions, but my respect for your grandfather induces me to relax in this instance.
A. W. DONIPHAN.
In the early part of May there was a discussion in Pittsburg [Pittsburgh], Pennsylvania, between the Reverend Mr. Coovert, of the "Church of God," and Elder William H. Kelley. During this discussion and at other times it had been asserted that Nancy Rigdon, daughter of Sidney Rigdon, had testified to some very damaging things against the character of Joseph Smith. This prompted Elders William H. and E. L. Kelley to interview the lady. May 14, 1884, Elder E. L. Kelley wrote of this interview as follows:
Since arriving in the city, I have had the pleasure of an interview with Mrs. Nancy (Rigdon) Ellis. She talked freely, and the visit was pleasant, at least to W. H. and myself. . . . She says she was eight years of age at the time that the preachers of the Latter Day Saints first came to her father's in Mentor, Ohio; and has a full remembrance of it because of the contest which soon arose between her father and Pratt and Cowdery, over the Book of Mormon. She says:
"I saw them hand him the book, and I am as positive as can be that he never saw it before. He read it and examined it for about an hour and then threw it down, and said he did not believe a word in it."
She further stated that her father in the last years of his life called his family together and told them, that as sure as there was a God in heaven, he never had anything to do in getting up the Book of Mormon. And never saw any such thing as a manuscript written by Solomon Spalding. On being questioned with reference to her knowledge of "sealing" and "polygamy," she said that she lived with her father in Kirtland till the year 1838, when they went to the state of Missouri. That she never heard tell of such a thing as sealing, or polygamy, in Kirtland. We called her attention to the fact that one William Smith, a Campbellite exhorter stated to us in Kirtland that he heard, he thought, that she was sealed to Joseph Smith in Kirtland. She says:
"It is absolutely false; I never heard of such a thing while in Kirtland as sealing."
We asked, "Were you ever at any time or place sealed to Joseph Smith?"
"I was never at any time."
She then said her father went from Missouri to Nauvoo, arriving in Nauvoo in the year 1840. They lived there till the 18th of June, 1844, when her father started with his family to this city, and they arrived here the same day Joseph Smith was killed in Illinois, June 27, 1844. We then asked her:
"When did you first hear of polygamy in Nauvoo?"
She said she never heard of it while they lived in Nauvoo.
"Did you know any person while you lived in Nauvoo who was married to more than one wife, or had more than one wife at the same time?"
"I did not."
"When did you first hear of the so-called revelation on polygamy?"
"I never heard of it until after we came to Pittsburg [Pittsburgh], and some time after; I could not say just how long."
"Did you not hear talk that there was such a thing while you lived in Nauvoo?"
"I never did."
"When did you first hear about sealing?"
"I heard about this first about the year 1842. I believe it was in this year."
"How old were you at this time?"
"I was born in the year 1822."
"What was this sealing, and what was the object of it?"
"I can not say that I ever understood it fully. Can not give the object."
"Was it a state of marriage and did it contemplate living together as husband and wife?"
"I never so understood it."
She then stated that she thought Joseph Smith was quite a different man in spirit and manner the last year or two that she knew him from what he was in the other time she had known him, from 1831 to 1842. In her language she said:
"He seemed entirely different; but I never knew or even heard that he had more than one wife."-The Saints' Herald, vol. 31, p. 339.
A reporter of the Pittsburg [Pittsburgh] Leader also interviewed this lady, and as a result the following appeared in the Leader for May 18, 1884:
It will be remembered by our readers that just previous to the commencement of the debate with Reverend Kelley on the Mormon question, Reverend W. R. Coovert stated to a Leader reporter that Sidney Rigdon, a former resident of Pittsburg [Pittsburgh], had stolen the manuscript of the Mormon bible, which had been written by a Doctor Spalding, of Ohio, as a romance, and which the latter had left with a publisher named Patterson, father of the editor of the Presbyterian Banner; that after stealing it he submitted it to Joseph Smith, of Palmyra, New York, who, in connection with Rigdon, published it and palmed it off as a revelation from God.
Learning that a daughter of Rigdon was living in Pittsburg [Pittsburgh] a reporter called on her yesterday, and at first she declined to say anything at all on the subject, but finally, on the scribe promising not to use her name-she is married-she said: "I have never had the honor of seeing this so-called Reverend Coovert, who of late had been so free in his use of dead men's names, but I understand he parts his hair in the middle of his head, a fact which, from what I have heard and read of him, is no surprise to me. Now, while I most emphatically decline to be drawn into any controversy over that story of Coovert, which, if there was any foundation for it, I can not, for the life of me, see why it was allowed to remain quiet for years after all the actors are laid in their graves. Yet I will say this, that my father, who had the respect of all who knew him, and at a time when he had but little hope of living from one day to another, said to the clergymen around him, of which there was a number belonging to various denominations. These were his words: ' As I expect to die and meet my Maker, I know nothing about where the manuscript of the Mormon bible came from.'"
The lady said further that she believed as firmly as she believed anything, that Joseph Smith (who was, she believed, at one time a good man) had a revelation, and that the Mormon bible was founded on that revelation. But she was satisfied the Reverend Coovert had never seen a copy of it and consequently did not know what he was talking and writing about.
On May 9, 1884, the building known as the Cock Pitt, Preston, England, in which the first missionaries held meeting in 1837, fell down.
In Herald for May 10, Jason W. Briggs published the following notice regarding matters of history:
A request to the readers of the Herald, but especially the elders.
In pursuance of appointment by General Conference, I am engaged upon the compilation of the history of the Reorganized Church, etc., etc.; and in order to secure all material facts, and incidents deemed worthy of record, transpiring in all the fields of missionary labor, whether at home or abroad, you and each of you are earnestly requested to contribute such facts and incidents, with dates and circumstances, in such form as you think proper, and convenient, and at as early a day as practicable. Original documents, or authentic copies, letters in manuscript or in print desired; and all such will, if desired, be preserved and returned. It is especially requested of those who were identified with the church during any part of the period from 1852 to 1860, to respond to this drain upon their private archives and memories. In short the sense of this request is this; if you possess anything which you think ought to appear in the history, please send it along; but please do not forget to write plainly, and oblige your fellow servant,
J. W. BRIGGS.
Previous chapter Table of Contents Next chapter