Archive for February, 2022

A 19th Century etching of Alexander Campbell preaching at the 1801 Cane Ridge Revival, the birthplace of the American Restorationist Movement.

From “Andrew” A Mormon Source

What follows is an excerpt from a review of David Bercot’s book, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” that was published on the Mormon-friendly website “Mormon Matters” in 2009. The full, original article can be found by clicking here. — Fred W. Anson

“Another movement to restore primitive Christianity sprung up in America in the early 1800s out of the Presbyterian church. . . . Barton W. Stone, a Presbyterian minister, began a movement in Kentucky to restore apostolic Christianity. Stone’s chief objective was to restore the holy living and separation from the world that had marked early Christianity.

In the 1820s, Stone’s movement merged with a separate movement begun by Thomas and Alexander Campbell, who were also seeking to restore primitive Christianity. One of Alexander Campbell’s primary objectives was to achieve unity among all Christians, forsaking all man-made creeds and traditions and returning to the forms, structures, and doctrines of the apostolic church.”
(David Bercot, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up”, p. 151)

Both Stone and the Campbells published journals urging a Restoration of the Early Church in the early 1800’s (The Christian Baptist, Millennial Harbinger, and The Christian Messenger).

Those familiar with Mormon history will recognize the names of Thomas and Alexander Campbell as the founders of the “Campbellite” Restoration movement that Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt, Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, and at one point a majority of all Mormons belonged to before converting to Mormonism. When Sidney Ridgon read the Book of Mormon in 1830 while he was a Campbellite preacher, he converted to Mormonism as did many other Campbellites. This enormous influx of former Campbellites into Mormonism doubled the Church’s membership in three weeks and resulted in Joseph Smith relocating the Saints’ gathering place by joining the former Campbellite converts in Kirtland, Ohio.

Why was Mormonism so appealing to Campbellites? Starting in 1823, Campbell’s publication The Christian Baptist advocated an abandonment of all creeds and sects that divided Christendom and a restoration of a unified Church in which the “original gospel and order of things” are present. (Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Baptist”)

Alexander Campbell explained the Campbellites’ “distinguishing views and practices” as follows:
“They regard all the sects and parties of the Christian world as having, in greater or less degrees, departed from the simplicity of faith and manners of the first Christians, and as forming what the apostle Paul calls “the apostasy.” . . .

They look for unity of spirit and the bonds of peace in the practical acknowledgment of one faith, one Lord, one immersion, one hope, one body, one Spirit, one God and Father of all; not in unity of opinions, nor in unity of forms, ceremonies, or modes of worship. . . .

Thus while they proclaim faith and repentance, or faith and a change of heart, as preparatory to immersion, remission, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they say to all penitents, or all those who believe and repent of their sins, as Peter said to the first audience addressed after the Holy Spirit was bestowed after the glorification of Jesus, “Be immersed every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The immersed believers are congregated into societies according to their propinquity to each other, and taught to meet the first day of every week in honor and commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus, and to break the loaf which commemorates the death of the Son of God, to read and hear the living oracles, to teach and admonish one another, to unite in all prayer and praise, to contribute to the necessities of saints, and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.

Every congregation chooses its own overseers and deacons, who preside over and administer the affairs of the congregations; and every church, either from itself or in co-operation with others, sends out, as opportunity offers, one or more evangelists, or proclaimers of the word, to preach the word and to immerse those who believe, to gather congregations, and to extend the knowledge of salvation where it is necessary, as far as their means extend.”
(Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Baptist”)

Although the Campbellites and Mormons held many other beliefs in common, the above provides a sampling of the types of similarities that have presented religion historians with a fascinating chicken-or-the-egg question: did Joseph Smith’s teachings resemble the Early Church’s “original gospel and order of things” because Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God whose authentic revelations enabled him to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ, or because contemporary Restorationists like Alexander Campbell first identified correct Early Christian beliefs and practices that were later adopted by Joseph Smith? In other words, did God use the broader Restoration movement of the American frontier as an “Elias” that prepared Rigdon and eventually thousands of souls to embrace the true Church of Jesus Christ restored later by Joseph Smith, or was Joseph Smith’s success in duplicating many Early Christian beliefs and practices the result of his simply mimicking the beliefs and practices of contemporary Restorationist preachers who got it right first.

Because Campbellite converts to Mormonism such as Parley Pratt reported that they were converted Mormonism because they were inspired by the truthfulness of the doctrine contained in the Book of Mormon (Parley Pratt, “Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt”, Chapter 1), it seems the answer to that question depends on whether the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation of an authentic record compiled by Early Christians living on the American continent, or is a fabrication cobbled together by Smith and possibly others inspired by the Restorationist ethos that pervaded the American frontier when it was published. (We know where Alexander Campbell stood on that question: in 1831 he denounced the Book of Mormon as a fraud because it all-too-coincidentally addressed “every error and every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years.” (Alexander Campbell, “The Mormonites,” Millenial Harbinger 2, (January 1831): 93.)

(source: Andrew, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” (Book Review), Mormon Matters website)

Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) from a period life portrait painting.

compiled by Fred W. Anson
A common refrain from the LdS Church and other Latter Day Saint sources is that founding Prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. wasn’t motivated by money in the founding and perpetuation of Mormonism in general and in his role as the Great Prophet of the Restoration in particular. If this is the case then why does the historical record clearly indicate that he benefited financially from both? Please consider the following two summations of the body of evidence.

First, from renowned Mormon Historian, D. Michael Quinn’s last book:

“The municipal assessment rolls for taxation from 1841 to 1843 show an unprecedented divergence between the church president’s assessed wealth and everyone else’s (table 1.4). This was not simply due to Joseph Smith’s role as trustee-in-trust after 1841, because LDS assessors itemized his personal real estate as distinct from each parcel of land he owned as the church’s trustee. . . . in 1842 and 1843, Smith’s personal ownership of land remained at least twenty-one times higher than for Nauvoo’s average resident. His personal property (non-land wealth) remained at least 2.7 times greater than for Nauvoo’s non-hierarchy. During those years, he also owned at least twice as much personal property than the average general authority, and his personal ownership of land remained at least 4.9 times their average.”
(D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power”, Kindle Locations 507-516. Signature Books. Kindle Edition)

D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power” Table 1.4 (part one)

D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power” Table 1.4 (part two)

Second, from the RfM (Recovery from Mormonism) website archives:

1. Joseph Smith cleared over $73,000 in debt by filing for bankruptcy in 1842 (his brothers Hyrum and Samuel, along with other LDS dignitaries took advantage of a brief window where Congress enacted a lenient bankruptcy law only to rescind it months later when $440 million in liabilities in the country were wiped clean for $44 million in assets). Joseph’s $73k debt represented nearly $2 million in 2010 dollars. [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]

2. By Joseph’s own account, he owed approximately $70,000 again by the time he was killed just 2 years later in 1844 (over $1.84 million in 2010 dollars). [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]

3. LAND SPECULATION. Nauvoo land purchased for $2 per acre, lots sold for average price of $500 per acre (minimum $200 per acre | maximum $800 per acre) multiply by factor of 25 to 28 for value in 2010 dollars—this is how frontier land speculation works when masses of people are gathered by revelation.

SPIRITUAL BLACKMAIL TO PROMOTE SALES.
February 13, 1843: I spent the evening at Elder Orson Hyde’s. In the course of conversation I remarked that those brethren who came here having money, and purchased without the Church and without counsel, must be cut off. This, with other observations, aroused the feelings of Brother Dixon, from Salem, Massachusetts, who was present, and he appeared in great wrath. [“History of the Church”, vol 5., ch.14, p.272; https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/volume-5-chapter-14]

The Front Page of the Nauvoo Neighbor.

SPIRITUAL COERCION TO PROMOTE SALES.
[NOTE: “ The Nauvoo Neighbor was a weekly newspaper edited and published by Latter Day Saint Apostle John Taylor in Nauvoo, Illinois from 1843 to 1845. While it was not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Neighbor was consistently pro-Mormon and its primary target audience was the Latter Day Saint residents of Nauvoo. When The Wasp ceased publication in April 1843, the Neighbor replaced it as Nauvoo’s premier secular newspaper.” (Wikipedia, “Nauvoo Neighbor”; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_Neighbor )]

———-BEGIN NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ———-

20 December 1843, Nauvoo Neighbor 37: To Emigrants and Latter-Day Saints Generally: I feel it my duty to say … that there is in the hands of the trustee in trust, a large quantity of lands, both in the city and adjoining townships in this county, which is for sale, some of which belongs to the Church and is designed for the benefit of the poor, and also to liquidate debts owing to the Church, for which the trustee in trust is responsible. Some, also, is land which has been consecrated for the building of the Temple and the Nauvoo House.If the brethern who move in here and want an inheritance, will buy their lands of the trustee in trust, they will thereby benefit the poor, the Temple, and the Nauvoo House, and even then only will be doing that which is their duty, and which I know, by considerable experience, will be vastly for their benefit and satisfaction in days to come. Let all the brethern, therefore, whey they move into Nauvoo, consult President Joseph Smith, the trustee in trust, and purchase their lands of him; and I am bold to say that God will bless them. …We hold ourselves ready at any time to wait upon the brethern and show them the lands … and can be found any day, either at President Joseph Smith’s bar-room, or the Temple Recorder’s office at the Temple.

———- END NAUVOO NEIGHBOR EXCERPT ———-

4. ABUSE OF POWER.
Nauvoo city council awarded Joseph Smith sole right to sell liquor in city limits. He established bar in Mansion House/Hotel for that purpose, but Emma forced him to remove it by threatening to take the kids and move back to the Homestead house.

5. ASSETS OWNED BY JOSEPH/EMMA:
• Joseph Smith Mansion House (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith_Mansion_House)
• Nauvoo House built by order of revelation at the Church’s expense (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_House)
• Homestead house in Nauvoo (http://cofchrist.org/js/homestead/default.asp)
• Brigham Young claimed that Emma owned $50,000 in *city property* when they finished settling the assets with Emma ($1.4 million in 2010 dollars). This apparently referred to the Hugh White purchase which Joseph had deeded to her before his death (http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V17N03_89.pdf).
• Quincy property (aka Cleveland farm)
• One or more additional farms (Brigham Young twice used the plural when referring to farms given to Emma, saying that “besides these farms she owned city property worth fifty thousand dollars”).
• Owned at least two steamships: the Maid of Iowa and the Nauvoo (Joseph Smith owed a debt on the latter at the time of his death that was settled for over $5,000 (over $140,000 in 2010 dollars). [see Dallin H. Oaks & Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo”, pp.767-782; https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=lawreview]
• Steamship docks (ownership was under dispute—still looking for more info on this one).• Egyptian papyrus and mummies purchased by friends of Joseph Smith for $2,400 in 1835 ($60,000 in 2010 dollars).
• Mother Smith would charge admission (25 cents or around $7 in 2010 dollars) to see the Egyptian mummies and papyrus. Lying, Joseph reportedly told visitors that his mother had purchased them herself for $6,000 ($150,000 in 2010 dollars).
• They remained in the Smith family until Emma sold them shortly after Lucy Mack Smith’s death in 1855.
(source = http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1190844,1220856 )

Banner Art: A fictional Million-Dollar Bill featuring Joseph Smith’s profile that was produced by Mormonism Research Mormonism (MRM) a few years ago.