This is a re-release of our interview from 2017 with BYU professtor Dr. Richard E Bennett, my name twin. We’re going to talk about temples, especially how LDS Temple worship evolution over the past 2 centuries in the LDS Church. How much did the Kirtland Temple cost? How is Masonry involved? What changes have been made to temple work? What is the law of adoption? Why don’t we dance and speak in tongues in the temple anymore? How did work for the dead evolve? Dr. Bennett will answer these and many other questions. You won’t want to miss this conversation. Check it out!
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2 Richard Bennett’s Talking
GT 01:09 Welcome to Gospel Tangents podcast. My name is Rick Bennett. I’m here with my name twin, Richard E. Bennett.
Dick 01:16 You’re counterpart.
GT 01:17 Yeah, I’m Richard C Bennett. My dad is also Richard C Bennett. So, there’s at least three Richard Bennett’s that I know. So, this will be a little confusing. I go by Rick, what would you like me to call you?
Dick 01:28 I go by Dick.
GT 01:29 Okay.
Dick 01:29 Or Richard, more formally. Mine’s Richard E Bennett.
GT 01:34 Yeah, so I’m Richard C. So, I usually go by Rick.
Dick 01:38 Where do you your Bennett’s come from?
GT 01:40 So, my Bennett’s come out of Philadelphia.
Dick 01:44 But before the United States?
GT 01:46 I don’t know. I’m stuck in Philadelphia. I can get out of there. 1765. We need to talk after and see if we can figure out how to get me out of Philadelphia.
Dick 01:54 No relation there.
GT 01:55 I found a bankruptcy notice that Abel Bennett filed bankruptcy. That’s all I know.
Dick 02:02 In Philadelphia?
GT 02:03 In Philadelphia. So, he was born in 1765 I think. Actually, I did find out that he [served in Revolutionary War.] I found a pension record for the Revolutionary War. So, I go back to the revolution.
Dick 02:19 Mine come from Devonshire, England.
GT 02:21 Okay.
Dick 02:22 They came over about 1840.
GT 02:25 Do you have anybody in Philadelphia?
Dick 02:28 No, they are all Canadian.
GT 02:29 All Canadian, so yours are all Canadian. All right. Well, anyway, so I’d like to introduce you. I checked out your Wikipedia page. So, you’ll have to correct me if any of this information is wrong. But I understand you got a Ph. D. at Wayne State University. I think was in history.
Dick 02:47 American Intellectual History, they called it.
GT 02:49 Okay.
Dick 02:50 Also in Public History, archival management.
GT 02:54 Okay. And then, where did you get your undergraduate?
Dick 02:58 I got my master’s degree here…
GT 03:00 at BYU.
Dick 03:02 …in American history. Marvin Hill was my chair, Professor Marvin Hill. His work on Joseph Smith is quite significant. That’s where I really got interested in the Prophet Joseph with Marvin Hill. Then I got my bachelor’s here in English literature. I got my B.A. here at BYU and my M.A. here at BYU and my Ph.D. in Detroit, Michigan at Wayne State University.
GT 03:28 Okay. So how did the guy from Canada come spend all this time at BYU?
Dick 03:33 Well, like I said, I got my Bachelor’s here at the Y. My parents joined the Church up in Canada in 1952 when I was 6. I grew up hoping to go to BYU someday. I was the only Latter-day saint in our whole high school there in Sudbury. I came to BYU, so that I could be close to the Church. Then I served a mission to Texas 1967 to 69. I remember leaving Canada. It was 30 below zero, and arriving in Dallas, Texas. It was 90 degrees above and that was in February 1967.
GT 04:09 Wow.
Dick 04:10 So, I knew I was going in the right place or the wrong place one or the other.
GT 04:16 Now, you were president of Mormon History Association. Was that the one that was in San Antonio?
Dick 04:21 2014.
GT 04:21 Yes.
Dick 04:22 Yeah.
GT 04:22 I remember that one well. Did you serve in San Antonio?
Dick 04:26 I served in San Antonio. My first place was San Antonio. It felt like coming home. Because MHA Conference in 2014 was just exactly where I served.
GT 04:38 Oh, wow. That was a fun one. I’d never been to San Antonio before.
Dick 04:40 47 years before.
GT 04:42 Wow. Yeah. I really enjoyed that. And I’ve really enjoyed a lot of your talks about the temple and that’s why I’m here today. I understand you’re working on a new book about the evolution of temple. Would you like to talk a little bit about that?
Dick 04:57 Yes, it’s a culmination of a lot of research I’ve been doing on various chapters on the rise of Mormon temple consciousness in the 19 th century. And the title of the book is tentatively titled, “ The Wisest Course,” taken from Wilford Woodruff’s comments about the Manifesto, which are found in the Doctrine & Covenants, where he says, “which is the wisest course to follow?”
Dick 05:24 So it’s going to be on that topic. I haven’t finished it yet. But we’re making some progress. A topic like this is very challenging. But I’ve published several articles already. It’s going to be a summation of several of those articles plus some new research I’m doing, particularly in the Nauvoo period.
Selling LDS Temples???
GT 05:46 Okay. Well, good. I’d like to take us from Kirtland to Nauvoo to Salt Lake as we talk today. So, let’s talk a little bit about Kirtland. Kirtland was the first temple. I know, a lot of Latter-day Saints probably wonder why is it that we don’t actually own that temple anymore? Has anybody ever asked that?
Dick 06:10 Oh, yes. It’s very good question. We wanted to sell it. Brigham Young made the order to sell it.
GT 06:18 Oh, really?
Dick 06:19 Just like he did with the Nauvoo Temple.
GT 06:21 Oh.
Dick 06:22 We needed the money to move west. The Church was in a very, very difficult financial situation in 1845. As it became very clear that we’re going to have to leave Nauvoo and to fund the exodus of 20,000 people, or however thousands of people are going to be. It’s going to take a lot of money. And we had some properties, including the temples. And so, Brigham Young and the Quorum of Twelve made the conscious decision, not publicized to many people, that we need to sell off the temples. And so we did, or at least we tried to do so. It was not just the temples, but other properties in Far West and wherever we could to fund the cost of building those wagons to go west.
Dick 07:11 It’s not well known in Church history that most Latter-day Saints went on wagons that were owned by the Church. [They didn’t use] their own wagons. They had to give up those wagons at Garden Grove, Mount Pisgah, Winter Quarters to send them back to Nauvoo to bring out the rest of the saints. And so, the cost of each of those wagons was very formidable. And so, we needed to–when I say we, the Church needed, especially Newell K. Whitney was the Presiding Bishop ordering all these wagons and supplies from St. Louis, with funds that were available to us from anywhere: donated funds, tithing funds, property sale funds. That was the genesis for the sale of the Kirtland Temple.
GT 07:53 Who did we sell it to?
Dick 07:55 While eventually, it’s a very complicated story. Perhaps the leading scholar on this would be Lach Mackay, who is now a member of the Quorum on the Twelve of the Community of Christ, the Reorganized Church. He’s written extensively on it. Others have. Let’s just put it this way. It went through private hands from one place to another. Martin Harris became sort of like the janitor for it for many, many years. We never received much money for it. Eventually, however, the Kirtland Temple falls in the hands of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Dick 08:29 The Nauvoo Temple, we tried desperately to sell it. When I say we, the LDS Church [tried to sell it] to the Roman Catholic Church. We invited the Bishop of St. Louis to come up to Nauvoo and several priests and they were taken on tours of the Nauvoo Temple. We tried to get $100,000 for it. I think it finally sold for $2.
GT 08:53 Oh, really.
Dick 08:54 Because the Catholic Church finally decided they weren’t interested in it. It wouldn’t fit their needs. Some think it was sold to the Icarians who came in 1848, somewhere around there. But it was destroyed by a tornado and then burned.
GT 09:13 That’s so funny, because…
Dick 09:14 It burned and then a tornado knocked down the walls. And so, it was never any consideration for the Nauvoo Temple.
GT 09:20 Well, and it’s funny because as we’ve rebuilt the Nauvoo Temple, we bought a Catholic school, I believe. So, it’s funny how that switched around.
Dick 09:29 Well, Nauvoo became a Catholic community. It still is predominantly a Catholic community traditionally. But there were other reasons why we were interested in watching what happened to those temples. Almon W. Babbitt, who was a recalcitrant stake president in Kirtland and a barrister attorney, he had his eyes on reestablishing the Church in Kirtland in the late 1830s, contrary to the will of the First Presidency. And so as long as that Kirtland Temple stayed there, it would be a magnet for members of the Church to move there, which was exactly what the Church didn’t want in the 1840s. [Leaders] didn’t want the Church to gather to Kirtland, but to gather to Nauvoo. So there may have been some other reasons why the Church was interested in selling off the Kirtland Temple, because it represented our past, not our future.
James Strang’s Attempted Ownership of Temples
Dick 10:21 The same can be said about the Nauvoo Temple, because William Smith, the brother of the prophet Joseph Smith felt that there was argument over what belong the Church, what belonged with the Smith family. William Smith joined with James Strang. You’ve probably heard of James Strang.
GT 10:57 Go ahead and just tell a little bit about him.
Dick 10:59 James Strang was one of the claimants to succession, to the leadership of the Church after Joseph Smith’s death. And he made a claim which is far more persuasive than Sidney Rigdon’s claim ever was. James Strang felt that the Church should move to Wisconsin, not to the far West. And there he received alleged revelation to build a temple and to find new plates and to translate into the Book of the Law of the Lord, it’s called. So, he made this major claim, and he tried desperately to get a hold of the Nauvoo Temple. And the last thing the Church wanted is for somebody else to get a hold of that temple.
Did Brigham Try to Burn Nauvoo Temple?
Dick 11:36 This has led to some suspicion through the years that the Church torched their own temple, something like the German Graf Spee, that German battleship and South America that was scuttled by the Germans themselves, that we did the same thing. Well, there’s no real evidence for that. There’s no evidence at all for that. But we were very concerned that it not fall in the hands of enemies of the Church.
GT 12:08 So it sounds like we were concerned that it would fall into schismatic Mormons as well.
Dick 12:11 Exactly right. And so, we didn’t torch our own Temple. But we didn’t shed a whole lot of tears over the destruction of the temple by that cyclone. It solved some problems for us, although we never got any remuneration for all the time and effort we put into it. And so, it wasn’t really a factor in the finances.
How US Government/Mormon Battalion Saved Mountain Saints
Dick 12:36 The thing that really financed the exodus was the United States government in the form of the Mormon Battalion, in requesting the Mormon Battalion to march to San Diego or wherever they told them. They were going to be marching to California. And they paid a lot of money for that. Some $22,000 [went] to the families, individuals and their wives and families who in turn, contributed and donated most of that money. Not all but most of it, but most of that money [was donated] to Brigham Young at Winter Quarters to help fund the exodus. So, we owe the United States Government something. Don’t we?
GT 13:20 We talk a lot about how the United States Government hated Mormons, but that’s interesting to hear that they helped us so much.
Dick 13:25 They did. I shouldn’t say it was the only, or even the largest factor in their finances. The tithing of the Church membership in England and the United States, Canada, was a very important factor. But we desperately needed the funds. And another interesting sideline, we think of Missouri has been the great enemy of the Church. And it was, of course. In the 1830s [there was] the expulsion by the government or Governor Boggs and what have you. But as we were moving west, many of the saints went down into Missouri, on side trips to work for the season, whatever that might be: building fences, harvesting crops. And we had an interesting paradox that Missouri, saved the Church, heading west in 1846-47.
Dick 13:46 Wow. We’re going to have to schedule another interview. I can tell. I’m going to take way too much time. In fact, I will tell you this. The succession crisis is another topic that I want to talk about. So, I may have to reschedule you for another interview for that.
Kirtland Temple Cost
GT 14:34 All right, well, let’s go back to Kirtland a little bit. So, the Kirtland Temple was, I’m trying to remember. I don’t remember the numbers very well, but it was incredibly expensive, especially for a group of poor saints. Can you put an idea in maybe today’s dollars, what the Kirtland Temple would have cost the saints back in 1830s?
Dick 14:59 The cost of the Kirtland Temple?
GT 15:00 Yes. Do you know?
Dick 15:02 Yes, we know that in terms of contemporary dollars, 1836 dollars, for the property, and for the materials, and for the construction somewhere approximately $40,000. Looking at what that would be today you’re looking approximately at a 50:1 ratio in terms of the dollar equivalency.
GT 15:32 So that’s like $200,000 today, or more than that.
Dick 15:38 $2 million.
GT 15:39 Oh, wow.
Dick 15:40 Which I think is a conservative estimate, because a lot of it was donated labor. There was a lot of tithing labor. Sometimes men would contribute one in 10 days, tithing. They would work the other nine days, of course and get paid for it. Many of them would, of course. So, I think that’s a conservative figure. I don’t think it’s ever been fully plumbed what the total cost is, but it would be in the millions of dollars for a Church which had very little money.
Myth of Broken China for Kirtland Temple
GT 16:15 Yeah, yeah. That’s for sure. There’s a story about the saints used to crush up their China to make plaster on the temple. Is that a true story?
Dick 16:28 No, that’s not a true story.
GT 16:29 Okay.
Dick 16:31 That’s one of those Mormon-isms that have come through somewhere along the line. There’s no question that they sacrificed to build that temple, as did the sisters. And they sacrificed in many, many ways, whether it was boarding workers, or cleaning clothes, or mending clothes, and all kinds of things. But that story about mixing the crockery and everything else to make that beautiful, shiny outside, veneer of the temple, we really don’t have any firm evidence for that. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful bluish tinge to it. And that would shine in the rising sun, the setting sun because it is on a hill. The Kirtland Temple has all kinds of forestry around it today. I don’t know whether that was there then. But it was considered to be a beautiful structure at the time.
Kirtland Temple & Purposes
GT 17:34 Well, that’s great. So the Kirtland Temple, as I understand it, but you’re the expert here, so please correct me if I’m wrong. It seems to me sort of more of almost a tabernacle purpose. It was more of a meeting place than, say, our modern temples. Could you comment on that?
Dick 17:54 Well, let me first comment on who I think are the best scholars on this topic. I have already mentioned Lach Mackay of the Community of Christ. I would also add Mark Staker who works for the Church History Library. His most recent work on Kirtland, “ Hearken, O Ye People” is a remarkable study. He talks much.
GT 18:20 I’m trying to interview him but he hasn’t [responded yet.]
Dick 18:22 He talks much about the Kirtland Temple. He does a beautiful job and doing it. Let’s see. (Do you want to close that? Is that making noise for you? Okay.) “ The Heavens Resound” by Milt Backman is a remarkable book and study. Milt is now deceased. But his work on the temple [is great.] Marvin Hill, Larry Wimmer, their economic study of Kirtland. There are some other great scholars, much greater than I would pretend to be, although I’ve learned quite a bit recently about the Kirtland Temple in the last several years, though. I just wanted to mention who I consider to be some of the better scholars.
GT 18:34 Okay, I appreciate that. I will definitely contact them and see if I can talk with them.
Dick 19:02 Your question was?
GT 19:04 It was more of a meeting place then. I mean, the Nauvoo endowment didn’t obviously exist, and the Kirtland endowment was just being begun. They didn’t do baptism for the dead. So, it seems to me it was more of a meeting place, kind of like our Salt Lake Tabernacle now. Is that a true statement?
Dick 19:26 Yes, in some ways, it definitely was a meeting house. There was no chapel in Kirtland. There is no chapel in Nauvoo. We were building temples long before we were building chapels. So yes, it was an assembly place, but it wasn’t always just open for anybody. There were very selective meetings, particularly for priesthood brethren, that weren’t open for everybody. [Meetings were] usually for those who were about to serve on missions or had special commissions of one kind or another, for special meetings. They weren’t like every Sunday, we’re all going to meet there. They would have some of those general meetings from time to time, but it was really very selective in who was able to attend some of those meetings.
GT 20:11 So I understand when the mummies were brought to Kirtland and then Joseph Smith and the Church purchased them, that they actually displayed those in the temple, and I believe they charged admission.
Dick 20:24 Yes. They obtained those mummies in 1835. And there’s no question that Joseph Smith had begun the interpretation of what we now have as the Book of Abraham in Kirtland. Kerry Muhlestein’s work on this is very pioneering, I should say. He shows that the impact on the Kirtland Temple of the Book of Abraham has yet to be really evaluated and ascertained and plumbed. We know it had quite a bit of significance in the Nauvoo endowment. But there seems to be clear evidence now that Joseph Smith’s translation of the papyri in Kirtland had an impact on the Kirtland Temple.
GT 21:11 You’re giving me a lot of good leads here. This is great.
Dick 21:13 Yeah. Kerry Muhlestein has done some fine work on that. He’s on our faculty. He and I are doing some work together. So yeah, they were shown. The Smith family took possession of them, or at least shall we say, they were owned by the Church. But the Smith family took care of them and would invite people to come and see them, not just in the temple, but at the Smith home for maybe 25 cents to come and see.
GT 21:13 If I remember right, I believe Joseph Smith Senior was actually one of the tour guides for those.
Dick 21:44 Yeah, you might call them the curators.
GT 21:48 Okay.
Dick 21:49 And they did that clear through to Nauvoo too.
GT 21:52 Okay. So I think that would just be really surprising, because our temples are much more closed now. It seems like Kirtland was more open.
Dick 21:58 Oh, it wasn’t just in the temples. But no, the temples, you didn’t have a recommend. You didn’t necessarily have to have a recommend for the Kirtland Temple. But for many of those meetings, you had to be invited to come. Other times, it was a Sunday meeting, Sunday morning meeting, Sunday evening meetings over there. They come and sing, what have you. It’d be kind of like a chapel that way. It was ambidextrous in the sense that it was both for the public and for private.
GT 22:28 So as I understand it, at the time they referred to it as the endowment. But we’d probably more call it the initiatory, or the Washings and Anointings. Do you know about the evolution of that in Kirtland? Was that right away as the temple started, or was that after?
Dick 22:46 The development of the Kirtland endowment is a progressive one. It doesn’t come immediately. Joseph seemed to indicate something was coming. And it created an anticipation of something special in the Kirtland Temple to coordinate with its dedication in April of 1836. But even before that, there were what they would call special washings and anointings and washing the feet as well. This began in the Newell K. Whitney store, and eventually migrated in the Kirtland Temple. So, there were a series of what we today call preliminary ordinances that were given to priesthood holders for preparation for going on missions, and as a blessing and a benediction for having worked so hard on the temple.
Dick 23:48 I think there’s a tendency in Mormon history to dismiss the Kirtland endowment as merely preliminary. I think we do ourselves a disservice. I think it was foundational for what’s going to happen. You can look at the 1836 vision of Elijah, the Savior, Moses, Elias as a great endowment. It was foundational to the history of the Church. I’d like to see Kirtland is not just an early beginning, but a true foundation to everything’s going to happen in the temple. Certainly, Wilford Woodruff saw it that way. He saw it as, “Wow, this is Church changing. This is so fundamental,” when it first comes to the Kirtland Temple.
GT 24:36 If my memory is correct, I think some of the Whitmer brothers, were they opposed to some of these newer revelations about temple worship and things like that? Or maybe my memory is not correct on that. Do you know anything about that?
Dick 24:50 Well, are you talking about John Whitmer?
GT 24:52 Yeah.
Dick 24:53 There’s a wonderful new book out on John Whitmer. It’s called “ Eighth Witness.” It’ll come to me in a minute who the author of that one is. I just lent it to someone. Ron Romig.
GT 25:05 Okay.
Dick 25:06 He is of the Community of Christ. And yes, the Whitmer’s didn’t quite keep up with the changing evolutionary doctrines of the temple. But [they were] very, very instrumental in settling the Far West, [Missouri.] That’s where they left the Church. But Whitmer’s really do not play much of a part of the Church in Nauvoo. They certainly did in Kirtland and in Far West.
LDS Temple Work Evolution (Reclamation of Revelation)
GT 25:37 So, back in 2011, Elder Bednar gave a talk about temple work. And one of the things that he cited was the vision of Elijah and 1836. It was a surprise to me to discover because that vision was actually secret for about 40 years, as I recall. It wasn’t revealed. A lot of times we think that this is the way it’s always been done. And so, it’s interesting to me about how sacred and secret, I guess in a sense, that revelation was for some 40 years.
Dick 26:12 Yeah, I’ve written on this.
GT 26:12 A lot of people didn’t know about it. Can you talk a little bit about that vision?
Dick 26:17 You’re talking about the vision and April 1836 of the Savior?
GT 26:21 The sealing power.
Dick 26:22 Elias, Elijah, Moses.
GT 26:25 Yeah, I think it was April 3, 1836. Three appeared and gave the sealing power. And in Elder Bednar’s talk, one of the things that he said was, when we think of the sealing power, at least, myself, I think of husband and wife being sealed together. But in Elder Bednar’s talk, he mentioned how we were being sealed back to our ancestors. And I think it was right before that Joseph had a vision of Alvin. And [Joseph was] surprised that Alvin was in the Celestial Kingdom and baptism for the dead [came from that vision.] Although, there was no font in Kirtland in 1836. And so, the evolution of baptism for the dead really didn’t happen until Nauvoo, but the foundations, as you said, were laid in [Kirtland]. And so, it’s really interesting to me to see how, I guess, rudimentary at things were in Nauvoo. A lot of these visions that we take for granted today [like] the vision of Elijah weren’t very well known, especially in relation to Temple work. Could you comment on that?
Dick 27:33 This is a classic case in Church history of what I would call the reclamation of revelation. And, in 1876, under the specific direction of Orson Pratt, many earlier revelations that were given in the history of the Church, including section 110, which you’re referring to, but not just 110, section 109, which is the dedication of the Kirtland Temple; section 121, 122, 123, the Liberty Jail revelations; sections 2 and 13, the Moroni and John the Baptist revelation; section 132, plural marriage, the celestial marriage section, were finally put in the Doctrine & Covenants and canonized in 1876, by membership vote. It was a reclamation of these earlier revelations which we had come to really begin to see after 40 years. Those are extremely important. And we reclaimed them. They were always there but they weren’t ever canonized. Do you see what I mean?
Dick 28:41 It set a precedent for the Church. In 1976, Spencer W. Kimball, looking back to Section 138, today our section 138, the great dream and vision of Joseph F. Smith back in 1918. It took us what? [It took] almost 60 years to catch on to the significance of that. If you asked the question, “why did we wait so long to reclaim such a powerful revelation?” I remember reading that in the book called Gospel Doctrine, which was a collection of Joseph F. Smith’s great sermons. [I was] wondering why isn’t that in the Doctrine & Covenants? I’m sure others thought the same. Well, President Kimball looked back, and the rest of the Twelve, with the keys of revelation thinking “That revelation is foundational to what we have to do now.” And so, they reclaimed it, and put it first in the Pearl of Great Price, if you recall, and then later in the Doctrine & Covenants in Section 137-138. [It was the] same thing with Joseph Smith’s vision of Alvin. So, this idea of looking back to our history often leads to a reclamation of Revelation, which doesn’t deny the significance in the validity of the original revelation whatsoever. But it indicates how the Spirit of the Lord moves and says that you better write it down.
Dick 30:02 It reminds me in the Book of Mormon when Christ comes to the Nephites. And he says, “Did I not tell you? Did not Samuel prophesy that there would be many that would rise from the dead?” Remember that? And Nephi is kind of shocked.
Dick 30:14 He says, “Oh, yeah. He did say that.”
Dick 30:16 Savior said, “Well, why didn’t you write it down?” Remember? It’s right there in Third Nephi. Write it down.
Dick 30:22 “Okay, we’ll go out and write it down.” That was the reclamation revelation. And that really opens a great topic in Church history about why studying our history is so important, because sometimes we miss things. And I think you’re referring to here, section 110. And these other revelations is a wonderful [example.] Elder Bednar makes a great point of it. These sealing keys were extremely important. They were written all down by Warren Cowdery. Joseph and Oliver didn’t write it down. Warren Cowdery wrote it down. Joseph never refers to that revelation, if you want to know the truth, although he talks a lot about the substance of it. But it’s not until Orson Pratt in 1876, under the direction of the President of the Church, of course, we better get that down.
GT 31:13 Why do you think it has taken so long? I mean, decades to get some of these foundational revelations.
Dick 31:19 I don’t know. But I think it’s like a person’s childhood. You look back sometimes, and you say, “That was an experience that changed my life. I better give more importance to that. I better write that thing down.” When I’m writing my family history, that person really changed my life in retrospect. Revelation is also retrospective, not just prophetic. It’s also looking back. I think that’s what happened. And that’s what continues to happen. Sometimes we look back. It wouldn’t surprise me, Rick, for a moment. If we were to go back and say, “That Proclamation on the Family,” given by President Hinckley back there 1992 or whenever it was, “that should go on our Doctrine & Covenants.” That was revelation. It wouldn’t surprise me for a moment. We’d have to go buy some new Doctrines & Covenants, and say, “Here we go again.” But it’s a living Church. It’s a discovery. It’s discovering all the time from our past as well as our future.
GT 32:23 Well, I’ll tell you what I think that they should put in a Doctrine and Covenants as a new revelation. If you read the Official Declaration 1, it’s very businesslike, very governmental. But if you read the footnote, Wilford Woodruff says, “I had a vision.” I’m like, why are we not emphasizing that vision?” I’d like to see it. I’d like to know more about that vision. Even with Official Declaration 2, I’d like to know more about that revelation with priesthood. Are there any other revelations? There’s one about was it Lorenzo Snow that saw Jesus in Salt Lake Temple? I might have the Prophet wrong. Do you know what I’m referring to?
Dick 33:02 Yes.
GT 33:03 I would love to see these sorts of things and the Doctrine and Covenants. We need another Orson Pratt, I guess, to help us write these down, I guess.
Dick 33:13 Well, we have wonderful prophetic leaders today, who when inspired will, if necessary, make all the reclamations that we need, and all the modern emphases that we need. We do believe in revelation. Right? Past, present and future. We believe all that God has revealed. Oh! We didn’t quite understand why that was so important. We do now. And he’s revealing it today just like the Savior said. He said, “Did I not tell you? Write that down.” It doesn’t make the Church any less true. In fact, it makes it more viable.
No More Tongues or Dancing in Temples
GT 33:50 Well, that’s great. One last thing in Kirtland, but it happened in Nauvoo. There are a lot of Mormon journals that talk about people who spoke in tongues. That’s not something we do now. That’s another evolution. What are your thoughts about speaking in tongues in the days of Kirtland and the evolution? Why isn’t that something that happens anymore?
Dick 34:21 Well, it’s still a key on the piano. We’ve never denied the possibility of speaking in tongues. I think it goes back to Joseph Smith’s caution on abuse of speaking of tongues, which he gave in Nauvoo, actually. There are a lot of manifestations of speaking in tongues in Kirtland. We know that. There were several in Nauvoo as well. But there were many joining the Church who were excessive in it. And Joseph felt that that was of all the gifts probably the one most easily abused.
Dick 35:01 And I think that imprinted on Brigham Young’s mind as well. Brigham Young spoke in tongues many times. When they got out here in the valley, they spoke in tongues. But it’s just gradually been not replaced. But other gifts have been emphasized more than the gift of tongues, gifts which seemed to reflect more our temple worship, and our reverence of certain gifts. The gift of tongues is really not associated so much with temple worship. We have certain gifts in temples, especially discernment and recognition of the Spirit that aren’t easily duplicated. And so, I think that the rise of temple work moved some of these other gifts to the sideline. Does that make sense?
GT 35:55 Yeah. So, since you mentioned Brigham Young, one of the things I was reviewing was there was a lot of different music, and they used to dance inside the temple. I was reading that Brigham Young said, “the temple was a holy place. And when we danced, we danced into the Lord.” 
GT 36:17 And I thought, well, we don’t dance in temples anymore. I think this was after a wedding. There had been a big wedding celebration in there. And it says here, “the sisters retired the side rooms. The brethren stretch themselves on the floor, or on the sofas and we were all soon in the embraces of a tired nature’s sweet restore balmy sleep.” They actually fell asleep in the Nauvoo Temple. So just as I think about my experience at the temple, it’s very different. So, can you talk a little bit? What do you think about those differences in the Nauvoo days and our temple worship today?
Dick 37:01 There’s no question that they danced unto the Lord and the Nauvoo Temple. You don’t see that so much in the Kirtland Temple. But in the Nauvoo Temple, as they were preparing to move west there was this great push that let’s have as many as possible receive their endowment, even though the temple isn’t dedicated yet. And so that there are 5500 people received their endowment in the Nauvoo Temple before they left between the 10 th of December and the end of January. And they were giving them around the clock. Brigham Young particularly was the one in charge because Joseph was gone by now and the Twelve holds these keys of sealing which Joseph had bestowed upon them. They were exhausted. But they wanted to bless their people, particularly those who had labored on the temple, and particularly those who had given so much not in Missouri, and in Kirtland who had never received their endowment before these great blessings.
Dick 38:05 I think they celebrated. There was a spirit of celebration, and a spirit of anticipation. They’re heading west. There wasn’t the formalization, like we have today of the very formal, very specific things to receive in the temple. There it was a celebration. We finished this; all but finished it anyway. Let’s enjoy it. Let’s make a joyful noise unto the Lord. And let’s dance and praise the Lord. We can do this. And that’s how they interpreted the scriptures anciently. They did the same sort of thing.
Dick 38:38 And so under prophetic direction they did. They sang and they danced, and they had public meetings, some of them. It wasn’t quite the same as our temple. You’ve got to see. It was more, in some ways, like the Kirtland Temple. It was more open too. So, they weren’t trespassing on anything sacred. They were expressing some sacred feelings in a brand-new setting in a spirit of celebration that we don’t quite have the same feeling today. We’re not leaving Salt Lake. If we all were heading out to Australia somewhere and this is the last time we’re going to meet in the Nauvoo Temple, or the Salt Lake Temple, we might do something similar. Let’s have a special finale. I think that’s what they were doing.
Origins of Baptism for the Dead
GT 39:20 That’s cool. So it was in Nauvoo that we got a lot more of the temple ordinances that we are more familiar with. We’ve got baptism for the dead, although, I guess the first baptisms for the dead were done, actually in the Missouri and the Mississippi River because the Nauvoo Temple wasn’t completed. We also got the full Nauvoo endowment, whereas it was more of a preparatory thing in Kirtland. Can you talk about the evolution from Kirtland to Nauvoo, as far as temple worship happened and ordinances?
Dick 39:59 That’s a big topic. Which ordinance do you want to talk about? Baptism for the dead?
GT 40:05 Sure, we’ll start with baptism for the dead.
Dick 40:10 The saints started building a temple in Far West and dedicated a spot in Adam-ondi-Ahman too. Brigham Young [dedicated those places] for the building of a temple. To the best of my understanding, those temples had they been built, and Jackson County, Independence Temple; had those temples been built, they would have replicated much of what you saw in Kirtland. One of the key developments between what happened in Far West, or shall we say, in Kirtland, Far West, and Nauvoo was going to be the experience in Liberty Jail.
Dick 40:53 The experience of the saints who are being driven east from Far West to Quincy, in Illinois in 1839. This period is extremely difficult for the saints. They’re being driven out, by order the governor. Where are they going to go? Joseph Smith was in jail. And Joseph Smith received several wonderful revelations in that jail temple of what we call Liberty Jail in preparation for what’s going to happen, including sections 121, 122, and 123, which were reclaimed again. They put in [the Doctrine & Covenants in] 1876. But as you read Joseph Smith’s letters and study his life and his revelations in that period of time, we’re talking about approximately six months in the winter of 1838 and 39. He’s a transformed prophet. He’s not the same guy coming out as he was going in. There’s an awful lot that he learns in this period of time in this timeout period, that has a great impact on the Nauvoo Temple ordinances, one which is going to be baptism for the dead.
Dick 42:15 The origin of baptism for the dead is a mystery. We don’t know, where and when Joseph actually comes to grips with this ordinance. We know, back in Kirtland, that revelation that he had that vision of Alvin, we know that it happened. He wondered how it is that Alvin is in the Celestial Kingdom, and he had never been baptized. Was this the opening bell of baptism for the dead? Many scholars think so? Guy Bishop, one of the fine scholars, argues this point. So do others. How? How is that he got in the Celestial Kingdom, and he was never baptized? Baptism still had to be performed. Therefore, was that one of the foundation points for baptism for the dead? Possibly.
Dick 43:08 When Joseph Smith is escapes from Liberty Jail, they come to Quincy and then up the river, up to Mississippi. And in the summer of 1839, as you recall, what’s happening to the saints that are trying to settle in Commerce? Well, if you know your history, there’s an awful lot of sickness and death. Some 60 die that summer alone in Nauvoo.
GT 43:37 That was because of malaria, the malaria outbreak? Is that right?
Dick 43:40 And the river borne infestations and what have you, the swamps and what have you. And eventually even Joseph Smith Senior is going to die. He comes down sick in 1839. Don Carlos is going to die in 40, Joseph’s brother. Several others are going to die. The statement at the Seymour Brunson funeral in August of 1840. It’s coming out of a context of death. The great exodus east, from Far West to Quincy, so many became sick and died of this, far more so frankly than we’ve given credit for. When Joseph, interestingly enough, gives this revelation on baptisms for the dead, it’s at a funeral. And there are many who are dying. And so there’s this context of death. And where do we go for an answer to this scepter of death? And it’s in that context that Joseph Smith will reveal baptism for the dead, a salvific response to the horrific deaths that are occurring. Where and when that began, we don’t know. But it is pronounced and announced in that kind of context.
GT 45:05 Now, as I recall, Alvin, did he die about 1823?
Dick 45:11 Yeah, he died in 23.
GT 45:12 So, if my memory is correct, you know, Joseph has had the First Vision in 1820. Alvin was a big supporter of Joseph’s prophetic gift. And then he died from what I understand is from bilious colic is what they called it back in the day. They gave him some mercury to cure him, which ended up killing him. The cure was worse than the disease in that case.
Dick 45:38 That was often the case.
GT 45:39 Yeah.
Dick 45:40 Bleeding, bloodletting, things like that killed more people than anything.
GT 45:44 Yeah. Well, what I understand was, and correct me if I’m wrong, I believe it might have been a Presbyterian minister who said that Alvin was never baptized, so he’s going to hell. And so that offended Joseph Smith Senior. And so, that was one of the reasons why he never joined with any of those Protestant churches. Are you familiar with that story? Am I getting that right?
Dick 46:13 No, you got it right. William Smith speaks of this.
GT 46:15 Okay.
Dick 46:16 William Smith is our source for this, the brother Joseph Smith. Richard Bushman speaks abundantly of this in his book, Rough Stone Rolling. Dr. Sam Brown, in his work on early death in Mormonism speaks to this in a beautiful study. Yeah. The presbyterian minister saying that Alvin had lost his soul, because he had died without these blessings and ordinances did not go very well with Joseph Smith Senior. It’s reasonable to suppose that this was a factor. But it’s impossible to prove that.
Dick 46:57 It is certain that Joseph Smith Senior himself, is sick and dying, in 1839 before Joseph Smith reveals baptism for the dead. And he dies within days or a few weeks of the announcement. And Joseph Smith is clearly thinking about his father, and perhaps of Alvin. So, you wouldn’t want to dismiss this as immediate factors for it. But you can’t say for certainty, yet. We haven’t found anything yet where Joseph Smith says, “Well, this is where I came up with this idea.”
Dick 47:32 It was a process of revelation. We talked about the reclamation of revelation. We have to think about the progression of revelation too. What is the answer to the Hawn’s Mill Massacre? Joseph now is not just leading a church; people are dying for his religion. The ante goes up in his mind. It’s one thing to believe what I’m telling you, but people are now giving their lives for it. The Missouri conflict and conflagration all those who died, the sickness, the death, David Patten, all the rest, those young boys and men at Hawn’s Mill. Well, what’s my answer to this? What’s the Lord’s answer to this? And I think Joseph was asking the Lord very carefully. We’re having an h of a time. What are the answers for this? And I think that’s where you have to see baptism for the dead coming out of a much bigger context.
GT 48:32 These are wonderful insights. This is fascinating.
Masonic Influence on LDS Endowment
GT 48:36 Let’s turn over to the endowment. As I understand it, masonry actually played a big role in the Nauvoo endowment. I know a lot of those Masonic influences have come over the years. It seems like at first, Mormon leaders acknowledged that freely. And then over the years, they’ve been more hesitant to acknowledge that. And actually, I believe it was in 1991, some of those Masonic influences were actually removed. There’s still quite a few there, but can you talk about how masonry influenced the Nauvoo endowment?
Dick 49:21 How masonry influenced the Nauvoo endowment? Do you want to short answer or a more [involved answer?] There are many scholars who have written on this. Another man named Matt Brown and Hogan. I forget his first name, over the years.
GT 49:39 Michael Homer, I believe.
Dick 49:41 and Homer. Yeah. But I’m talking Hogan has written a lot of this. Okay. There are some obvious similarities between the Nauvoo endowment and the masonry ceremony. I think going back in history, you have to look at the Red Brick Store which Joseph Smith opened as a store on what? January the 6th, 1842. He was a storekeeper. But he never was much of a storekeeper. I don’t know how he ever got into that. But anyway, it’s at the Red Brick Store. It was also going to double as a Masonic Hall, because a lot of people in Nauvoo were masons. Masonry was very, very popular at that time. Anyone who was anybody would join the Masons: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Madison, all the rest of them. It was just the thing to be, a mason.
Dick 50:40 Many Latter-day Saints and now who are joining the Masons for benevolent purposes. Mason Lodge is very benevolent. Taking care of the widow and the family in the time of death, and there’s a lot of death. And so, one of the reasons why the Masonry is becoming important is to be a support for the poor and the indigent. It’s starting at the same time as the Relief Society which has started at that same place for the women, which I think is significant that the Nauvoo endowment is not going to be closed to women.
Dick 51:14 One of the fundamental differences between the what happened in the Nauvoo Temple and the Kirtland Temple is that the Nauvoo Temple very, very significantly involved women. Masonry never was. It certainly wasn’t at that time. It isn’t today for many other things. And so, a big difference right away is who’s going to receive the endowment?
Dick 51:38 The signs and symbols that you sometimes see in the temple, whether they’re the all-seeing-eye or the geometric symbols have some similarity to Masonry. There’s no question about that. Maybe even some of the clothing would have some parallels. But Joseph Smith explained that he may have borrowed some of it, but for an entirely different reason, something that they were somewhat familiar with, but for an entirely different reason. To the best of my knowledge, the differences are very, very stark when it comes to scriptural and, and prophetic and Christian. Masonry is a benevolent and wonderful society, but it’s not necessarily closed just to Christians. It’s not it’s not a religion. The scriptural emphasis in the Nauvoo endowment is fundamentally different than what you see there. Although they use the same terms of lodges. They have a celestial lodge, even in masonry. Some people will dismiss it right away and say, “Oh, it’s just a perversion of masonry.” And Joseph Smith does make some comparisons. But it’s a religious devotion, not a benevolent expression in the sense of the Masons.
GT 53:02 As I understand it, the Masons, supposedly as the story goes, that they were masons of King Solomon’s Temple. The temple ceremony supposedly dates from those days. I believe historically that’s not true. But as the story is told of Hiram Abiff had seen some of the temple ceremonies. But those aprons that they have are for a stonemason would use. Whereas in the LDS endowment, they have more of a ceremonial, scriptural [purpose.] So, the purpose is completely different. So, there’s some really significant changes that Joseph made.
Dick 53:45 The covenants are significantly different, very, very different. Not to trespass upon the sacred precincts of the endowment, but from a Latter-day Saint perspective, the endowment is more Christian, than it is Masonic, and it’s certainly more Abrahamic than it is Masonic. It owes much, I believe, as many scholars have pointed this, that Joseph Smith’s work in the Book of Abraham had a major impact on the development of the endowment. But it’s also based on Joseph Smith’s progressive understanding of eternal progression and eternal improvement. And it leads to the one of the other great ordinances and that’s eternal marriage, which has nothing to do with Masonic.
GT 54:41 Yes, that’s exactly where it was going to go next.
Dick 54:45 If you’re looking at the ordinances of the temple, baptism for the dead, which is salvific-based for those who have died, endowments for the living and eventually for the dead, and marriages for eternity have nothing to do with masonry at all. But some of the trappings might be similar.
Sealing The Dead Across Generations
GT 55:04 Well, let’s talk a little bit about the sealing ordinance. And I’m trying not to step anywhere I’m not supposed to when we talk about this. But as I understand it, I think it was Brian Hales has said–I originally believed in Nauvoo that the temple ordinances were only for the living, although I believe Brian Hales has said that they did seal some usually like Alvin to Joseph Senior, and some of those. So, some of the participants by proxy were dead. Some of them were living in Nauvoo, but primarily, most of the sealing to spouses and to mother and child were, were primarily living people. Is that correct?
Dick 56:00 Well, baptism for the dead was offered.
GT 56:02 Yeah, but as far as sealing…
Dick 56:04 Endowments for the living in Nauvoo and sealings, the great preponderance in a marriage circumstance of a woman, or women being sealed to a man, there were a very few examples of deceased children being sealed to those families. But that doesn’t really play much of a part in Nauvoo, but it laid the foundation for it. But yeah, living sealings, living marriages [were performed.]
GT 56:32 Yeah. So it was primarily [for the living.] There was not really very much work for the dead in Nauvoo, other than baptisms for the dead.
Dick 56:38 Of which there were thousands.
GT 56:39 Okay.
Dick 56:41 And like you said earlier, it began first in the river. And then eventually in the wooden font, in November of 1841, which Brigham Young dedicates and then eventually, that’s replaced by the actual font in the Nauvoo Temple. So, I mean, baptisms for the dead is a very big thing in the Nauvoo Temple, which had nothing Kirtland like that.
GT 57:02 Okay. I understand that originally Elijah Abel, I believe, was baptized on behalf of his mother, because back then they didn’t really have all those rules. And I believe it was Brigham Young, who changed it and said, “No, you need to be the same gender for the person you’re being baptized for.”
Dick 57:19 That’s right. But going back to baptism for the dead, Joseph Smith in Section 128, in one of his talks there in Nauvoo which was later canonized talks about baptism for the dead being the linkage between generations. Remember this. He talks about it as the great link. Well, baptism for the dead isn’t a sealing in that sense. We never think of a baptism for the dead as a sealing. But he talked about it as the great link of families. And so, you can’t dismiss baptism for the dead as something that wasn’t a sealing. In Joseph’s mind, baptisms for the dead is more than just doing the ordinance for that person. It’s a linkage of the generations in some way that I think needs to be further explored in our doctrine and our history. It laid the foundation for the later doctrines of sealing generations, one to another. But it all starts with this foundational ordinance of baptism for the dead. There’s a sealing emphasis on that, Elijah.
GT 58:26 Yeah, well, that goes back to other Bednar’s talk.
Dick 58:28 It goes to Elder Bednar’s talk.
GT 58:30 He talked about that.
Dick 58:31 But you don’t think of baptism for the dead as an ordinance of sealing to the family. That’s something else. But you couldn’t have sealings of one generation to the other without baptism for the dead. So, you have to see it as a foundational cornerstone to the later doctrine of sealing. Do you see what I mean? I think [this] needs to be further explored in our history. I think that’s an area that we could explore further, the doctrine of sealing of the dead in baptism for the dead, sealing of families.
Law of Adoption
GT 59:03 So one other topic I want to talk about while we’re still kind of in Nauvoo is the Law of Adoption. That’s always been something I haven’t understood very well. Is that something you [are comfortable talking about]? Can you talk about the Law of Adoption?
Dick 59:17 The Law of Adoption? You mean the sealing of a person to a general authority? You’re talking about that Law of Adoption?
GT 59:24 Yes. Why did they do that in the first place?
Dick 59:33 Fascinating question. I don’t think you can talk about the Law of Adoption without understanding the development of the doctrine of the spirit world and the doctrine of the gospel being taught in the spirit world, which really doesn’t come to fruition in our doctrine and our history until Joseph F. Smith’s great revelation 1918, and what was going on the spirit world. But it’s a progressive doctrine about the souls of men and women that are living in the spirit world. Are they being reclaimed? Are they being taught the gospel? Are they being converted? Are they being forgiven? Are they being? Are they receiving the fullness of the gospel there?
Dick 1:00:31 Baptism for the dead opened that door, to actually begin to do ordinances for the dead. But could we be sealed to though to our ancestors, like we do today? We take it so for granted of just being sealed your ancestors. Well, they’re not receiving the gospel, we wouldn’t want to take the risk of being sealed to them. Because what’s going to happen to us if they don’t accept the gospel? Until it became clear that the fullness of the gospel was being taught to them, the deceased, and that they were receiving the fullness of the ordinances, it’s better to be on the safe side and be sealed to a living prophet, or a deceased prophet, maybe like Joseph Smith. Until we know more clearly what’s going to happen, let’s be sealed to the prophetic priesthood lineage of the Prophet Joseph’s priesthood claim, and therefore it’s a done deal. Can I use that term? It’s a safer way, than we don’t know what’s happening to our ancestors.
Dick 1:01:42 That’s going to change as we learn better and more clearly, especially in 1877 with Wilford Woodruff. When he announces that, from now on, we’re going to do endowments for the dead. So, we don’t begin to do endowments for the dead until 1877. That’s 30 years after Nauvoo. And the great significance of that is, do you mean to tell me that they’re receiving the fullness of priesthood blessings in receiving their endowments? It isn’t just accepting the gospel? They’re receiving the fullness of the gospel with all the priesthood blessings? Well, yes. That’s what Wilford Woodruff manifests, he says they are! Therefore, we should be sealed to the priesthood that they hold, and not anymore to this other way of doing it, which was the roundabout safer way. Now we have recognized the doctrine of the spirit world is reclamation and teaching the gospel. Do you see? You have to explore all that spirit world redemption doctrine reaches the point that now we can do endowments for the dead.
GT 1:02:53 Well, that’s interesting, because as I understand it, in the 1840s especially a lot of people joined the Church, and their families were very opposed to their baptism in the Mormon Church. And so, a lot of people felt like, “Well, they’re not going to accept the gospel.” The same spirit which exists now, it’s going to be in the next world. And so, “I don’t want to risk being sealed to somebody who’s antagonistic to the gospel. And so, I’m still to Joseph for Brigham.”
Dick 1:03:22 How unpopular the church was, they knew that from families. They were ridden out of town over this and their families, turned them out of doors. They don’t have a hope in heaven of joining this Church. “Do you mean to tell me that when they die, that we not only do baptisms for the dead, but that they’re going to have a whole turn of heart? I mean, a whole disposition change to receive all of this?” It took a while for us to reach that point. It’s one of these progressive doctrines.
GT 1:03:54 So it sounds to me, because you’re going right where I wanted to go with Wilford Woodruff in St. George. So, tell me if this is correct understanding. So, in Nauvoo you had people who were worried their parents weren’t going to accept the Church. And so, they didn’t want to be sealed to them. So, they tried to tie in to General Authority line.
Dick 1:04:15 Yes, that’s what happened.
GT 1:04:16 Then, as we came west, St. George was the first temple completed here in Utah. So, Wilford Woodruff was the first St. George Temple president. So, as he’s taking over as president, the thought process changed. And I don’t know if it was Wilford Woodruff who said this, but somehow, we changed the mindset from “I’m not sure if they’re going to convert,” to “Everybody’s going to accept the gospel” in the next world. Is that a correct portrayal of what happened?
Dick 1:04:52 I don’t think it was ever understood that everyone would accept it. They all have their agency. But everyone would have the opportunity to accept it. Acceptance isn’t the right word. Acceptance is just opening the door to actually living it. There would have to be the same ordinances and the same change of heart that would occur in the spirit world existence as it did here. It would have to be repentance and the whole process of salvation in that situation. So, acceptance is just part of it. It’s actually undergoing this mighty change in the lives, in the spirit world existence, which we came to understand more fully at least in 1918 with Joseph F. Smith, and his great vision of the dead.
GT 1:05:46 So we were talking a little bit about the Law of Adoption. St. George, and just so how long I guess, did that continue happening in St. George?
Dick 1:06:00 Wilford Woodruff signals to begin to end it as early as 1877. But he wasn’t President of the Church until much later. His revelation of 1893-1894 ends it when he says we will no longer do such adoptions in the temples, and he instructs the four temple presidents at that time, Salt Lake, Manti, St. George, and Logan to desist from any more adoptions. And so, it ends then, in 1893-94, with the statement from President Woodruff. It never sat well with him. The whole idea wasn’t quite clear. And especially after they begin to do endowments for the dead, he recognizes “Oh no. We’re not going to do this anymore.” It’s with our families. But during its heyday, I don’t know how many hundreds of people were sealed to Joseph Smith, in that form of the Law of Adoption, and to Brigham Young and Willard Richards and John Taylor, and many of the General Authorities.
GT 1:07:15 As I understand it, John D. Lee was sealed to Brigham Young as a son, right? Even though he was older; wasn’t he older than Brigham Young?
Dick 1:07:21 It didn’t make any difference. It was a spiritual adoption, in return in which they would do physical things for the family to help. They had a social aspect to it. In fact, much of the 1847 migrations and 48 migrations too, of the saints are built around this concept of tribal families. Brigham Young’s family with all of his real children and adopted spiritually with him and Willard Richards and Heber C. Kimball. They are going out by family.
GT 1:08:04 Is this kind of like the 12 tribes of Israel kind of a thing or is it different than that?
Dick 1:08:07 It wasn’t the 12 tribes, but they were by adopted family. So, it has a role for a while.
How Spiritualism (Ouija Boards) Led to Endowments for Dead
GT 1:08:18 So, you mentioned also something about the endowment for the dead were reaction to some other things going on in Salt Lake? Could you talk about that?
Dick 1:08:33 Are you talking about Spiritualism?
GT 1:08:34 Yes.
Dick 1:08:36 Well, that’s only one factor, but it is a factor. Spiritualism is the practice of communing with the dead, adulterated today by Ouija boards and things like this, and telekinesis, and paranormal. But Spiritualism is well known in American history as flowering after the Civil War. With so many dead lost, there was the great desire of many families to know what happened to their sons or their fathers or their brothers. How did it happen? [There was] this great desire for resolution, which war does not allow for, in many cases. It led to many people seeking the dead through Spiritualism, which is knocking on tables, spiritual writing from the other side through seances and what have you.
Dick 1:09:32 This really flowered in America after the Civil War. And it was a factor in the rise of the Godbeite Movement, William S. Godbe and some of his intellectual friends from England who broke with Brigham Young over his economic policies of not trading with Eastern merchants and what have you. Brigham Young was very much for, “We’ll make it ourselves. We’ll be self-sustaining. We don’t need to deal with the Eastern merchants.” All of this flowers after the coming of the railroad, all this new merchandise and the economics. Economics is with Leonard Arrington in his great book, Great Basin Kingdom is a factor in a lot of our doctrines, a lot of our organizations. So, the Godbeite movement is an economic negative reaction to Brigham Young. But they have to have a theological underpinning to it and the fasten-on spiritualism.
Dick 1:10:41 Amasa Lyman, a member of the Quorum of the 12 apostles is converted to them, and becomes quite an advocate of Spiritualism, which really isn’t a religion at all. It doesn’t believe in the atonement of Christ or anything like that. But it does believe in communing with the dead. In the 1870s, there’s a lot of comment by General Authorities, leaders of the Church, particularly Orson Pratt, about that this is a counterfeit [practice.] But it has its place. We understand why people are seeking the dead. Was that a factor in the beginning of endowments for the dead and church in 1877? I claimed it may have been one of the factors to begin to address how we really believe about this.
Dick 1:11:27 There is redemption for the dead, but it’s not that way. It’s another way. So, was it a factor? I argue that it probably was one of the factors. The coming in the railroad certainly was a factor. In the re-establishment of the Relief Society in 1867, all the auxiliaries. We needed to have a response to all these new philosophies that are coming down the track, the new religions. Was the building of the St. George temple in 1877 somewhat of a response to that? Maybe.
Dick 1:11:59 But I think it’s a reclamation of much of what we had done in Nauvoo and all the way back to Kirtland. “Oh!” It’s a progression of our theological understanding of temple work. If we’re going to have baptisms for the dead, why wouldn’t we have endowments for the dead? It’s a logical progression in my mind. But it didn’t come immediately to the saints. It took a while for us to get there.
GT 1:12:24 Interesting. So was William Godbe. Was he ever a Mormon?
Dick 1:12:28 Yeah, he was a very, very strong Latter-day Saint. There was a there was a coterie, a cluster of intellectuals. Harrison was another one. I’m trying to think of all the other ones. There were a small number of astute intellectual Latter-day Saints who broke with Brigham Young in the 1870s, who thought they knew the gospel a little bit better than Brigham Young did. But they thought that they knew economics better than Brigham Young did, and they broke on the Church over that. The Salt Lake Tribune starts with the Godbeite movement, which was very negative, of course, against the Church. It still tends to be a little bit on that side. But that’s its history.
GT 1:13:14 That’s interesting. All right. So, I guess 1893, Wilfred Woodruff, is that one of those revelations that we need to reclaim as far as getting rid of the Law of Adoption? Now you’re just sealed to your family, as far back as we can trace.
Dick 1:13:36 I think that’s the doctrine of readjustments. There’s reclamation, and adjustments, a coming of understanding of this is what this means. Okay. We’ll do that.
GT 1:13:48 So I would just like a new edition, where we’ve got that that revelation in there. I’d love to see that one.
Dick 1:13:53 I think it goes back to our eighth article faith. “We believe in that all that God has revealed.” Now we have to understand that a little better, “all that He is revealing and all that he will yet reveal.” It’s a radical theology. Revelation could mean radical change. And the Manifesto, for instance of 1890, ending polygamy was a radical thing.
GT 1:14:13 That’s actually where I wanted to go next,
Dick 1:14:15 Maybe revolutionarily would be a better term, but you know what I mean. It was not a little thing.
GT 1:14:20 So because that was a big part. I know you gave a presentation at the Sons of Utah pioneers a while back. That was one of the things that struck me was you said, in Wilford Woodruff’s mind, there was all these polygamy prosecutions, and it was more important to save the temples. Because at that time, what was going on there that we were worried about losing all the temples?
Dick 1:14:42 Well, we were losing the temples over this fight with the United States Government on plural marriage. Because the Church wasn’t going to give that up. John Taylor dies in hiding in defense of it. There’s no question that plural marriage was a very, very major commitment of the Church. And it defined us, and we were commanded to live it.
Dick 1:15:11 A lot of saints today think, “Oh, this was just Wilford Woodruff put a stop to this.” This was a huge deal. Here I’ll read from the official declaration, which is the footnotes from declaration number one. Wilford Woodruff says, and I’ve got other evidence of this in other places he said this. He said, “The question is this. Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue? To continue to attempt to practice plural marriage with the laws of the nation against it, and the opposition of 60 million people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the temples? And stopping all the ordinances therein, including for endowments for the dead now both for the living and the dead? Or after doing and suffering, what we have, through our adherence to this principle, cease the practice and submit to the law. What’s the wisest course?”
Dick 1:16:15 The whole question how Wilford Woodruff reached the conclusion long before this? Long before the fight over the United States government and Edmunds-Tucker Act and the confiscation of our properties. Well, the wisest course is what we’ve been doing since Nauvoo, since baptism for the dead, and now endowments for the living in Nauvoo, and now endowments for the dead in St. George. Are we going to give up all this, for what you would have to say in his mind was a temporary subset of the law of eternal marriage?
Dick 1:16:51 “If I will command, I will” says the Lord on plural marriage. “If I do command,” in other words, it’s not a permanent law. Book of Mormon makes it very clear. Wilford Woodruff understood that it has its place at a certain time. But are we going to give up the eternal doctrine of redemption for the dead for a temporary subset of eternal marriage? Which is the wisest course?
Dick 1:17:25 Was he selling down river Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor? Not in his mind. He had received clear revelation that how can we hold on to what they taught, and still make a major change? It was tremendously courageous to do what he did. And it took a man like Wilford Woodruff because he was bathed in the water of plural marriage, in that sense that he had five wives. He had suffered with all the rest of them to live it day by day, and he wasn’t going to give it up for any little thing.
Dick 1:18:04 But he says he received revelation from the Lord saying, time is up on this one. But redemption for the debt is an eternal law. Temple work is an eternal thing. Plural marriage is a temporary subset of an eternal marriage law. Right? It’s very, very important, though. We gave our lives for it, went to prison for it. We fought everything for it. It was a major junction in the history of the Church. Did we sell our soul? Do we sell them down the river? Not in Wilford Woodruff’s mind. Even in Brigham Young’s mind, the full understanding of temple work hadn’t developed. Even Joseph’s own mind, it was a line upon line thing. So, this is where this is now coming. We were doing all these millions of ordinances that we’re going to give all this up for this? What’s the wisest course?
GT 1:18:55 Fascinating.
Dick 1:18:58 That’s the title of the book in writing. Hopefully, we’ll be done soon.
GT 1:19:05 I will definitely help you sell that book. So, it sounds very interesting.
Temples are More Important than Polygamy!
Dick 1:19:09 In a very real sense, let me just say this last thing. Our surrender of plural marriage was in many ways, our greatest affidavit to the significance of temple work. Because what you surrender for something else, is a testimony of how that something else is so important. And that’s how we can reclaim and should understand plural marriage. It was what the Lord asked us to do for that period of time, and a great sacrifice to do it. And to give that up, after all that we had gone to prison for, is the greatest statement of how significant temple work has become.
GT 1:19:48 Well, a lot of people had a problem with that because they believed the plural marriage was more important.
Dick 1:19:55 A small number. I think you have to see it. Despite all the problems that we had in surrendering plural marriage, and we did, we had to come up with another manifesto in 1904. And there were break-offs down the road over this whole thing. But it’s always a very small number that claim that. The great majority of the Church recognized the time has come. Let’s move on.
GT 1:20:22 So, looks like 1893-94, we’ve changed from the Law of Adoption to what we have now.
Dick 1:20:32 Actually, it was scaling down long before that. I’ve gone through all these records, I’ve seen them. The number of adoptions were declining all through the 1870s and 80s. It was not a big thing in the 1890s. It was it was the death knell in the 1890s. But the rush was now to family work through the 80s and early 90s. It was hardly even understood amongst the Church members at that time.
GT 1:20:59 Well, yeah, so my question was, to me, that was pretty big, even if it was declining, that was a big point.
Dick 1:21:05 It was. It was the beginning of the Genealogical Society.
GT 1:21:07 Right.
Dick 1:21:08 The whole work of doing work for the dead. Another reason, by the way, for the demise of the Law of Adoption, and the rise of endowments for the dead, and everything else, was the growth in genealogical societies and genealogical research worldwide. You really have to study that phenomenon about how genealogy becomes a major hobby of a lot of people and the development of societies worldwide in the 1880s-1890s. It has something to do with the wars. But there’s the same thing going on worldwide about reclamation of family histories, and the availability of records. We didn’t have the records that we wanted to have in the 1860s and 70s. So only as with the railroad allowing for the quicker movement of records and postage and people were able to get their records, where it is an impetus for this. So, there’s a lot of things happening outside of just Mormonism, which are factors in all of this equation. Major things.
Gathering to International Temples
GT 1:22:20 Interesting. So what are the big [events?] Let’s use 1890 as a cutoff point. What are the big things that have happened between 1890 and today as far as the temple is concerned? Is there anything really?
Dick 1:22:39 Change in temples? Not just the growth in numbers of temples, you mean?
GT 1:22:46 Well, yeah. So, kind of what I’m looking at in Kirtland, you’ve got the Kirtland endowment. Then in Nauvoo, you’ve got baptism for the dead and you’ve got the Nauvoo endowment and sealings. St. George, we’re getting rid of the Law of Adoption. Are there any other theological changes going on between 1890 and now?
Dick 1:23:12 The doctrine of the gathering. Temples are magnets and were a powerful factor in people gathering from Europe and England to the Rocky Mountains. Originally, it was in Nauvoo. The saints want to be where the temple is. After 1900, and the beginning of an understanding that we should stay where we are and gather to the local units and gather in your own nations, you begin to see temples now moving out from Utah. I think the first major expression of that would be the Cardston Temple.
GT 1:24:01 Was that under President McKay?
Dick 1:24:03 No, that’s back in the 19 teens. It’s going to be in Joseph F. Smith’s time. I’m trying to remember the exact date of the Cardston Temple. But to actually build a temple in another country, that people would gather there, is a signal of the changing place of temples as a gathering force for the Church in different nations. And of course, the whole story of temples in modern times has been building temples where the saints are, especially on the president Hinckley. They are to gather to the temples in their own nations. President McKay [continued this] with New Zealand, England, and Swiss temples [showing] the international growth of the Church. Gathering in your own nations where the temples are, you’re seeing the temples going to where the people are, rather than the people coming to where the temple is. That’s a major change in the whole story of the growth of Mormonism.
GT 1:25:06 So you say that started in about 1910? 
Dick 1:25:09 Certainly with the Cardston Temple.
GT 1:25:10 Okay. And then the 1950s was, I believe New Zealand. Is that right?
Dick 1:25:16 1956, well that was Los Angeles Temple and then just right around that same time, the New Zealand and the Swiss temples [were announced under] David O. McKay. And then it just compounded ever since.
GT 1:25:30 President Hinckley just went like a rocket.
Dick 1:25:34 Yes. Under President Hinckley, there’s no question that the internationalization of the Church, President McKay’s vision of it, really solidifies with him, and the taking of the temple to where the people are. But this thing about the gathering, the doctrine of gathering in the temples, goes clear back Kirtland. That’s why they were gathering there was because of the temple. That’s why they gathered to Nauvoo and all the saints coming from England. Right? And that’s why they’re gathering to the Rocky Mountains, because the temple is very, very [important.] It wasn’t only an economic reason for them gathering. There was no question about the economic factor. It’s going to be a better maybe a better life than we had in Devonshire, in those days. But the spiritual aspect of it is going to be in the temple. And we’re going to give up this for whatever reason? Do you see what I mean?
GT 1:26:37 Yes. In Greg Prince’s biography on President McKay, there was a very interesting story about the proposal for a temple ship. Do you know that story very well? Can you talk about that?
Dick 1:26:48 I know that story. It was like a hope ship. It had a lot of traction at one time. It’s pretty hard to keep sacred a ship, though. And I think that was the thing that sunk it, the idea that, Oh, we can have this boat that would be a dedicated temple. And they had to try. The reason it had traction is they could go to places where the saints were. You could go to the islands and different countries all over the world.
Dick 1:27:16 I don’t know. I remember studying that when I was studying the life of David O. McKay years ago, when I wrote the history of Brigham Young University, a shadow history. This is going to be difficult to keep the ship afloat that’s a temple and keep it sacred going all over the place and having it serviced and everything else, plus the cost.
GT 1:27:41 What was the bigger issue? Was that the cost?
Dick 1:27:43 I can’t tell you. I don’t know. It’s the combination of those and other factors.
GT 1:27:48 As I recall, I believe President Dyer was concerned because there’s that scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants about the waters. 
Dick 1:27:58 I don’t know what that was so much a factor. But I think it was a combination of how are we going to keep something like that sacred? And how are we going to keep it? How are we going to finance it? It didn’t have the gathering impulse also. The Swiss Temple had [the gathering impulse] for the Swiss folks in Europe, or the New Zealand Temple had for the folks in New Zealand. It didn’t have that permanency that we’re here to stay. And I think that was probably the bigger factor, the gathering factor.
GT 1:28:34 Great. Well, I know I’ve taken a lot of your time, but I really appreciate you sitting down with me.
Dick 1:28:38 Do I get a copy of some of this stuff?
GT 1:28:40 Sure.
Dick 1:28:41 Do I see this? When does this go up? Do you edit this?
GT 1:28:44 I’ll definitely give you some warning on that. But yes, I’ll be happy to send you a transcript and that sort of thing. Do you have any last thoughts about the temple and temple development?
Dick 1:29:01 Well, we didn’t get into the whole idea that temples preceded the Kirtland Temple. The whole doctrine of the temples goes clear back to the beginning of it. It’s been there from the beginning. It wasn’t a later overlay. I think we could clearly make the argument that Moroni taught temples with his turning the hearts of the fathers to the children in 1823. Sister Beck makes that point om one of her talks very, very well. The doctrine of eternal salvation for the dead goes clear back to Moroni: glad tidings from Cumorah. I make the argument in this forthcoming book that there was a clear connection between the very, very beginning of Mormonism and what’s happening in temple work today. It’s the same Church as it was from the very beginning, contrary to some critics. They say we’re hardly the same church at all. By looking at plural marriage, you might argue that. But if you look at temple work, and how it developed and how it was understood by those early leaders of the Church, I make the argument and I think it’s very clear that it was in our DNA from the start.
GT 1:30:19 Great. Well, I thank you. Thank you for letting me take your afternoon here.
Dick 1:30:27 Yeah. I’ll send you a bill.
GT 1:30:30 So, anyway, once again, thank you for participating in Gospel Tangents, and I’ll have to make another appointment. We’ll talk about the succession crisis next time.
Dick 1:30:39 Okay.
GT 1:30:40 All right. Thanks a lot.
Dick 1:30:41 Thanks, Rick.
 This comes from “The Mysteries of Godliness,” by David John Buerger, which can be purchased at https://amzn.to/3yFOj90.
 The Cardston Temple was announced in 1913 and dedicated August 26, 1923.
 See D&C 61: 14-19, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/61?lang=eng&clang=tgl
All right. Thanks a lot.
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