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THE COMMUNITY AT PREPARATION
Among those who went to Wisconsin soon after the death of Joseph Smith at Nauvoo, was one Charles B. Thompson, a missionary in the days of Joseph Smith. He appears to have been quite successful and wrote an able defense of the Book of Mormon, a few copies of which are still extant.
After going to Voree with Strang, he published a poem strongly favoring Strang's claims and otherwise appeared to be satisfied with his leadership until some time late in 1847. He claimed to receive a revelation on New Year's Day, 1848, in which he was informed that the church was rejected in 1844, as an organization, but that the priesthood, having been conferred prior to 1844, continued with those holding it until Zion could be established. This position was clearly stated in a proclamation issued from Saint Louis on January 1, 1848: "The Lord will have no more church organization until after the redemption of Zion."
He proceeded at once to organize what he called "Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion," in which were most complicated and numerous divisions, subdivisions, and orders of priesthood. He followed up with several proclamations from Saint Louis. The first was addressed to the nations of the world, and in it he claimed to be Ephraim "born again among the Gentiles," promulgating the idea of transmigration of souls. The second was addressed to the scattered members of the priesthood, and here he proclaimed himself as "Baneemy, Patriarch of Zion." The third was addressed to kings, princes, governors, presidents, rulers, etc., and represented Thompson as "Apostle of the Free and Accepted Order of Baneemy and Fraternity of the Sons of Zion." The fourth was directed to "the children of Zion and the remnant of the priesthood," and was signed by the "Chief Teacher of the Preparatory Department of Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion." He later published a book of purported revelations and also the various rules, regulations, and covenants established in his community.
In 1854, Thompson, who was known among his followers, variously as "Father Ephraim" and Baneemy, and perhaps by other titles, went into western Iowa with fifty or sixty families and preempted several thousand acres of the best land to be found in that community. Under this arrangement, all property was turned over to the head of the order, presumably as trustee, and the members even covenanted to turn over all private property, including wearing apparel and right to their own services.
Until the summer of 1855 all seemed to go well, and then some ten families withdrew under the leadership of Hugh Lytle, an elder in the order, publishing a card in the Preparation News and Ephraim's Messenger, as follows:
We, the undersigned members of "Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion," have left the fraternity of Preparation; not that our faith in the work has at all abated, or that we intend to apostatize from the original principles of the work, but on account of believing that the system of separate and single family order is best adapted to our present sentiments and inclinations, but in all other respects, we deem ourselves as much in the faith as heretofore.
These families were those of Hugh Lytle, J. R. McIntyre, F. D. Winegar, John Outhouse, John Thomas, Andrew Hall, Jacob Paden, A. Clements, J. M. Outhouse and Henry Brooke.
These members sued in the court for the recovery of their property and lost the suit, but later a compromise was effected by which they secured some compensation.
Things progressed smoothly for a time, but soon dissatisfaction again arose, and as ominous rumors increased, Thompson took advantage of the absence of the greater part of the male population of Preparation, who were on missions in various parts of the United States, and deeded all the property of the order except forty acres which he retained in his own name, to his wife, Catherine Thompson, and the "Assistant Steward of the Lord," one Guy P. Barnum. Having been notified by those at home of Thompson's transfer of title, the missionaries hastened home. A settlement was attempted by the angered communists, and feeling ran high. Thompson, who in addition to his other titles, was "Chief Steward of the Lord," finally fled. An action in chancery was immediately begun to set aside the transfer of real estate to Mrs. Thompson and Barnum, which lingered in litigation for eight years, when the transfers were set aside by the Supreme Court of Iowa (December, 1866), which held that Thompson held only as trustee. The property was ordered sold by the courts and divided among the original contributors in ratio of the amount each put into the order.
Thompson found his way to Saint Louis in 1860, and there published a magazine Nachashlogian, designed to be in defense of Negro slavery. However, only the first number was ever printed.
Almost the entire community at Preparation accepted the Reorganization, some of them becoming quite prominent therein.
Neither leaders nor members were ever accused of immorality and Thompson took and always maintained a decided stand against polygamy.
Their unhappy experience with Thompson's stewardship of their property did not affect their faith in the ultimate triumph of the Zionic ideal. But they recognized the experiment as valuable in showing the weakness of this kind of community.
The majority of the descendants of the colony at Preparation may be found today in the Reorganized Church, still cherishing the Zionic ideals of their fathers.
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