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*Phelps From Nauvoo to SLC (Part 8 of 8)

W.W. Phelps was editor of the Times & Seasons in 1844 when Joseph Smith was killed. He not only gave the funeral sermon for Joseph & Hyrum but played a critical role in resolving the Succession Crisis. He embraced polygamy, got excommunicated for it for 2 days, and then helped start up the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. Dr. Bruce Van Orden details the last years of his life.

Bruce:  Let me say, though, that in the immediate aftermath of the martyrdom, the apostles were in the east. They didn’t hear of Joseph Smith’s death until a few days after it occurred. The only two apostles left in the Nauvoo to lead the Church were Willard Richards and John Taylor, but John Taylor was nearly killed and ineffective for five or six weeks. Phelps had been in on all the councils leading up to the time when Joseph Smith was killed.

GT:  Was he kind of a 13th apostle?

Bruce:. In many ways, yes he was. Not officially, though. I don’t want to ever give that impression.

GT:  Right.

Bruce:  But he was in on all the Councils, including the Council of Fifty, and the Nauvoo City things, which was a Church/State operation, no question. Anyway, in the immediate aftermath of the martyrdom, the two men who kept peace and kept the Church in harmony, more or less, for five weeks until the apostles arrived back, were Willard Richards, and his good friend, W.W. Phelps and collaborator. Those two pretty much took care of things for five weeks until the apostles began coming back. Someone had to give the funeral sermon for Joseph and Hyrum, and it was W.W. Phelps who gave the funeral sermon, in which he articulated the teachings of Joseph Smith, about the kingdom of God on the earth, including the political part of it. People have wondered why Phelps gave the funeral sermon. It’s because he was one of the leaders of the Church and one of the two who really was around to take care of things in the immediate aftermath. He, of course, continued to put out the Times and Seasons and even though John Taylor was editor, obviously, was near death. He didn’t run the Times and Seasons. So, Phelps, of course, continued. He wrote all of the story of the martyrdom and reported it all. In fact, he used the word martyrdom. Then, he wrote this poem, which is Praise to the Man who Communed with Jehovah, which we sing.  But he wrote that immediately and put it in the Times and Seasons.

GT:  When the Saints were on the way west in Winter Quarters, Phelps was assigned to go get a press, because they needed a new press. He went and got it in Boston. That was the press that was used for all of the publications in Salt Lake, including the Deseret News and the Deseret Almanac. Phelps single-handedly put out the almanac for 15 years in Salt Lake on an annual basis, the Deseret Almanac.

GT:  So that Deseret Almanac was kind of based on something Thomas Jefferson had done.

Bruce:  Well, almanacs had been started in Britain, actually. But Benjamin Franklin had almanacs in America prior to the revolution, even.

Remember, to check out our last conversation with Bruce, you need need to subscribe to our free newsletter at https://gospeltangents.com/newsletter

Bruce details WW Phelps life as he moved from Nauvoo to Salt Lake Valley.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Bruce.

567: Phelps Role in Book of Abraham Civil War

566: Phelps Role at Times & Seasons

565: Danites in Missouri

564: Mormon-Missouri War of 1838

563: Cleaning House in Kirtland: Phelps vs Marsh

562: Were Phelps Missouri Troubles Self-Inflicted?

561:  Jailed Before Joined

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Phelps Role in Book of Abraham Civil War (Part 7 of 8)

W.W. Phelps assisted with the translation of the Book of Abraham.  Amongst believing scholars, there is a bit of a civil war over the Book of Abraham, and Phelps plays a role in that dispute.  Dr. Bruce Van Orden will discuss why believing scholars disagree.

GT:  I know we talked a little bit about the Civil War. It seems like there’s kind of the Kerry Muhlestein/John Gee camp that basically say there’s some missing papyrus and that’s the real Book of Abraham.

Bruce:  I would say the Kerry Muhlestein is not quite as firm on that. He says it’s a possibility. John Gee is really strong on the fact that they’re probably–he’s not 100% sure, either. But, John Gee does believe that there were other papyri.

GT:  Okay. Then, you have kind of the more Robin Jensen/Dan Vogel/Brian Hauglid that are kind of more of the catalyst theory, is that fair?

Bruce:  Hauglid and Robin Jensen, yes, I’m with them. Dan Vogel, of course, believes that Joseph Smith was not a prophet in the first place. [Vogel doesn’t believe this was] really from God, but [Joseph] concocted this based on what he thought he was coming up with Egyptian alphabet and so forth.

GT:  So, as far as the Egyptian alphabet, because I think that there’s a big issue on the timeline there. If I remember right, and correct me if I’m wrong, Muhlestein and Gee basically say, these Egyptian characters were just like an outline, and that’s not really a translation.

Bruce:. That’s what they believe. I actually agree with them.

GT:  Oh, you do?

Bruce:  On that, that the Joseph Smith dictated the verbiage that’s more or less in the Book of Abraham, now. I believe it came from God. It was inspired. I don’t say that every word was written by Abraham, ever. But I believe it’s inspired writing and the Egyptian alphabet was more of a side project. I do. I agree with that.

GT:  Okay, because I think Vogel says, “No, this is the Egyptian character, and this is supposed to be the translation.”

Bruce:  Except, it really isn’t, except for what he thinks is in Abraham 1:1-3. I think that Phelps put that in there. I think he [Phelps] thought it was that. I don’t think that Joseph Smith thought that was. We don’t know.

GT:  Yeah.

Bruce:  But that’s only three verses.

GT:  So you think the first three verses of the Book of Abraham are Phelps translation.

Bruce:  It’s in his handwriting. I don’t think it’s necessarily Phelps translation. But once it was put in there, I feel that he thought that this project that he was working on, then that Joseph Smith may have participated into a certain extent, the Egyptian alphabet was different from the translation experience, I think. Then, Phelps superimposed what he thought was from the Egyptian figures, hieroglyphics, to those first three verses. We don’t have any other evidence that there’s a connection, specifically.

What are your thoughts on the Book of Abraham translation and the civil war among believing scholars?  Check out our conversation….

There is a civil war among believing scholars over the Book of Abraham.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Bruce!

566: Phelps Role at Times & Seasons

565: Danites in Missouri

564: Mormon-Missouri War of 1838

563: Cleaning House in Kirtland: Phelps vs Marsh

562: Were Phelps Missouri Troubles Self-Inflicted?

561:  Jailed Before Joined

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Phelps Role at Times & Seasons (Part 6 of 8 )

W.W. Phelps was one of the best writers in Mormonism.  It should come as no surprise that he assisted Joseph Smith in the First Vision account.  Dr. Bruce Van Orden gives more details.

Bruce:  Officially, Joseph Smith became the editor [of the TImes & Season] for eight months in 1842. But the problem is Joseph Smith never even went to the printing office, except a few times at night to check on newspapers about what they were saying about him, that it come in from the east. Remember, all newspaper offices got newspapers from all over the country, that was just part of the arrangement in those days. He wanted to check about what they were saying about him. He did not play a role in the day-to-day functioning of the editing of the Times and Seasons.

Bruce:  I came to the conclusion based on internal evidence and writing styles, and some of the historical evidence that comes from the journals, that Phelps was running the day-to-day operations, then, of the printing of the newspaper. John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff were involved, but, they didn’t do any of the writing.  Woodruff did entirely the business operations, and John Taylor was sick some of the time and doing other assignments. He wasn’t even there to run the newspaper, although he was kind of the assistant editor under Joseph Smith. This is the shocking thing that I came up with. It shocked me that that Phelps was actually doing the writing for The Times and Seasons, particularly making sure the content was what he wanted, in the Times and Seasons. Around this time, John Wentworth, a major newspaper editor in Chicago, asked Joseph Smith, if he might produce a history of the Latter-day Saints. The title was Church History. In a letter, Joseph Smith supposedly put together this history. It’s multi page. It was not ever published by Wentworth, but it was published in the Times and Seasons at the upstart of Joseph Smith’s editorship, official editorship of the Times and Seasons. The Wentworth letter includes the First Vision story, the first published story in Joseph Smith’s name.  The official 1838 edition had not come out in published form, yet. So, this was the first one.

GT:  Oh, I didn’t realize that.

Bruce:  It came out later in the Times and Seasons, as part of the official history as Phelps put together, Joseph Smith’s History. He called it that in the Times and Seasons, but this was the first published version by Joseph Smith. However, preceding this version, were printed accounts of the First Vision by both Orson Pratt in Scotland and Orson Hyde in continental Europe, where they described what happened in the First Vision. It’s obvious that some of the same language used by Pratt and Hyde was used in the Wentworth letter account, 1842 account. It’s very obvious to me and it even comes out in the Joseph Smith papers project, that Phelps was Joseph Smith’s assistant in putting together this Wentworth letter. It’s a lengthy history of the Church for those 12 years, including all of the problems in Missouri. It’s obvious that Phelps wrote that part, because he was part of what happened in Jackson County and Clay County and Far West. Joseph wasn’t part of any of that, and it’s in Phelps’ language, his rhetorical style.

We’ll also talk about the elevation of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1841, that superseded the role of the High Council.

Bruce:  But, when he arrived in Nauvoo, and Don Carlos Smith, had passed away and the editorship of the Times and Seasons fell into the hands of Ebenezer Robinson, who had been a Danite with Sidney Rigdon back in Missouri. He [Ebenezer] now was doing some things that were not pleasing to Joseph Smith and the Twelve.  By this time, the Twelve had come back from their mission in Britain and had been instated as leadership over the entire Church by mid-1841. The Twelve were under the First Presidency, over the whole Church.  That did happen.

GT:  Okay, There was still a High Council, though.

Bruce: A high council, but it was a stake. It was a stake high council, in Nauvoo.  There were other stakes. There were several stakes of Zion at that stage of the game.

GT:  So essentially, the apostles did take up supremacy over the High Council.

Bruce:  Yes. Now, some people argue that William Marks, the president of the high council in Nauvoo had equal authority to the Twelve. He maybe thought he did, but in the succession crisis, he played a role, that’s true. But we now can see that Joseph Smith had placed the Twelve Apostles under the First Presidency and used them in authoritative ways for the rest of his life, from 1841 through 1844, for three years.  The Twelve did play a huge role.

We also talk about Phelps role in the Succession Crisis.  Check out our conversation….

Phelps was ghost-editor of Times & Seasons.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Bruce!

565: Danites in Missouri

564: Mormon-Missouri War of 1838

563: Cleaning House in Kirtland: Phelps vs Marsh

562: Were Phelps Missouri Troubles Self-Inflicted?

561:  Jailed Before Joined