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Cleaning House in Kirtland: Phelps vs Marsh (Part 3 of 8 )

Following the Kirtland Banking Crisis, many were disillusioned with Joseph Smith’s leadership.  Thomas Marsh was among those who helped Joseph clear out the disaffected, and he set his sights on a disgruntled W.W. Phelps.  Dr. Bruce Van Orden, biographer of W.W. Phelps and author of We’ll Sing and We’ll Shout, will tell us more about the showdown.

Bruce:  [Marsh] was the president of the Twelve because he was supposedly the oldest. Section 112, which outlines what the Twelve Apostles do, in taking the gospel to all the world. Well, [apostles] Marsh and Patten stayed in Ohio for a while and got rid of some of the apostates that were coming forward as a result of this bank crisis and other apostate activities going on. There were lots of them. Four of the original Twelve were cut off from the Church, under the direction of Joseph Smith, with the aid of Thomas B. Marsh. Marsh was trying to say, “I’m helping you clean up the place.”  Then, he was assigned to go back to live in Missouri, where he didn’t have any specific authority, but he took with him an admonition from Joseph Smith that Phelps and John Whitmer, were doing some things in error. Well, what Joseph Smith had heard from Marsh is that they were using these monies to buy up the property. Then, they would carve out the property into lots in Far West into square lots, and then sell them for a profit. But, the money that was brought in as a result of the profit from selling these lots was to go to the temple. But Marsh didn’t like the idea that these guys were in charge, and he wasn’t. So, when he got back to Missouri in late 1837, and then in 1838, he concocted another court, and this time had enough support from the High Council. It wasn’t presided over in the right way, at all. They excommunicated W.W. Phelps and John Whitmer and installed themselves as the new presidency. ‘Okay, we got rid of them. We’re not the presidency,’ Thomas Marsh and David Patten.

GT:  So this is confusing.

Bruce:  It is confusing. It’s complicated, but it was a power struggle. It was a coup. By the way, Phelps was not perfect in his relationship.  He shot back and had snide remarks and was a bit mischievous in his relationship with Marsh at that point.

GT:  So, let me make sure we understand. Essentially, the Whitmers and W.W. Phelps are leading the church. Marsh is an apostle and actually president the Twelve Apostles, but they’re not supposed to have authority where a High Council exists. Marsh, essentially, usurped authority in Missouri and excommunicated Phelps and the Whitmers. Is that right?

Bruce:  He and Patten both plotted with members of the High Council to undermine Phelps and Whitmer. Remember, David Whitmer still in the east. By the time they finally held the proceedings, David Whitmer had returned, but they didn’t excommunicate him because they felt that–well, Bishop Partridge says, “You’re doing this entirely illegally. A court for them would be held by the bishopric, not by you guys.” According to the revelations, Partridge was right, but they went ahead and excommunicated those two anyway, with the High Council’s approval.  He wanted to get it done before Joseph Smith arrived. Then when Joseph arrives, he can say, “See, I helped you clean out Ohio, and I’ve cleaned up Missouri and now we’re ready to have you just take over.”

GT:  Okay. Marsh basically cleaned out all the apostates.

Bruce:  And Patten, together.

GT:  So, all the people that were upset about the bank, so that would have been McLellin, probably.  Is that right?

Bruce:  McLellin was the fifth one that ended up being lost.

Phelps would return to the church, but this wouldn’t be the last time he was excommunicated.  Check out our conversation….

Thomas B. Marsh and W.W. Phelps had a power play against each other for leadership in Missouri.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Dr. Van Orden.

562: Were Phelps Missouri Troubles Self-Inflicted?

561:  Jailed Before Joined

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The Strange Kirtland Temple Ownership Problems

Following the Kirtland Banking Crisis in 1838, Joseph Smith left town in the dead of the night.  The town of Kirtland was basically bankrupt.  Because of this, ownership of the temple was claimed by several people.  John Hamer and Lachlan MacKay will talk about Kirtland Temple ownership problems.  It’s a little bit like a soap-opera.   We’ll also hear an episode where people stormed the temple with guns and knives to try to take ownership of the temple.

Lachlan:  This is the one where Joseph Smith Sr. is at the pulpit on the west end.  The dissenters are concerned and hoping to take possession of the temple, and they stormed to the front with guns and knives drawn.  I think this is Oliver Huntington, one of the Huntington boys said, “Them that had chicken-hearts dove out the windows for safety.”

The police are called in to restore order.  They rush in and they knocked over a stove-pipe.  So I just imagine soot filling the room.  The best part is, after that chaos, they eject the belligerents and resume the services of the day.  {Everyone chuckles}

GT:  Really!  Wow.

Lachlan:  So I think that’s probably what you were referring to.

GT:  Yeah, it must have been quite a service!  {all chuckle}  We don’t talk about that in the LDS tradition very often.  I remember reading that somewhere and just going, “Wow!”

Lachlan:  I think one of them is even—they are walking from the front to the back, in some cases over the back of the pews, so stepping from pew-box to pew-box because the aisles are full of people, so they have to walk on the top of the pew-boxes to get up there.

We also talk about some other Mormon groups:  Strangites & Hedrickites and their involvement in Kirtland Temple ownership.  I also update our previous conversation with Dr. Richard Bennett about Brigham Young trying to sell the Kirtland Temple!  Was the Kirtland Temple turned into a sheep shed?  How did the Kirtland Banking Crisis affect ownership?  What else can we learn about the Kirtland Temple over the years?  Check out our conversation…..

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Evolution of Temple Worship: From Speaking in Tongues to Masonry

Temple worship has changed significantly over the years.  In early Kirtland, many of the Saints spoke in tongues at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.  Also in Kirtland, the ritual of washing and anointing was first practiced by many of the early saints.  In Nauvoo, not only did we have baptisms for the dead, but also many Mormons were Masons, and Masonry was highly influential in the development of temple endowment.  In this episode, Dr. Richard Bennett a BYU professor of history and religion will talk to us about the development of many of these early temple practices.  Some quotes:

Brigham Young spoke in tongues many times.  When they got here out in the [Salt Lake] valley they spoke in tongues.  But it’s just gradually been, not replaced, but that other gifts have been emphasized more than the gift of tongues.

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 at the Kirtland Temple to coordinate with its dedication in April of 1836.  Even before that there were what they would call special washings and anointings and washing of the feet as well which began in the Newell K. Whitney store and eventually migrated into the Kirtland Temple.  There were a series of what we would 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.

The signs and symbols that you sometimes see in the temple, whether they are 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 has some parallels.  But Joseph Smith explained that he did it, he may have borrowed some of it, but for and 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 scripture and prophetic and Christian.  Masonry is a benevolent and wonderful society, but it’s not necessarily for just the Christians.  It’s not a religion.

What do you make of early temple practices?


Evolution of Temple Worship: From Speaking in Tongues to Masonry