The year 1837 was one of the most turbulent periods in all of Mormon history. It was the year the Kirtland Bank collapsed. Many, including apostles, lost faith in Joseph Smith and his ability to lead. Why did Joseph decide that Kirtland needed a bank? What were the economic reasons behind this? Historian and Author, Dr. Mark Staker talks about this in his book [Hearken O Ye People: The Historical Settings of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations] about the Kirtland period. One of these events dealt that led Mormon leaders to consider a bank was a visit to New York City.
While they’re going out there, they go through New York and they visit Wall Street. They see these trains. They see all this industry going on and things. Oliver Cowdery is writing back these letters and suggesting that banking is something that interested them. Exactly how that congeals in their minds, what it is that they plan on doing? Why? What is it that they see that leads them to these decisions? They come back and with the idea that they need to have a bank in Kirtland and they need to be able to print their own money to do their own things and it will foster this growth.
Listen to describe other events that led up to the Kirtland Bank. (In part 2, we’ll discuss events leading to the collapse of the bank.)
Baptism for the dead is one of the most unique things Mormons do in all of Christianity. What were the events that led Joseph to inquire about this practice? Dr. Richard Bennett, a BYU professor in Church History talks about these events. They started in Kirtland, although a lot of the events also happened in Nauvoo.
Alvin Smith, Joseph’s brother who died in 1823, was a big supporter of Joseph’s prophetic gift. Alvin died from what was called bilious colic back in the day. Doctors gave him some mercury to cure him, which ended up killing him. The cure was worse than the disease in that case. A Presbyterian minister said that since Alvin was never baptized, he was consigned to hell. Joseph Smith, Sr. was so offended that he never joined with any of those protestant churches. I asked Dr. Bennett if this was the source of Joseph’s thoughts on baptism for the dead.
It’s reasonable to suppose that this was a factor, but it’s impossible to prove. It is certain though that Joseph Smith, Sr. himself is sick and dying in 1839, before Joseph Smith reveals baptism for the dead, and he dies within days of 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 certain yet. We haven’t found anything yet where Joseph Smith says, this is where I came up with this idea. 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 Haun’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 in what I’m telling you but people are giving their lives for it. The Missouri conflict and conflagration, all those who died in sickness and death, David Patton [an apostle who died at Battle of Crooked River] and all the rest of the young boys and men and all the rest who died at Haun’s Mill, well what’s my answer to this? What’s the Lord’s answer to this? I think Joseph was asking the Lord very carefully. We’re having an H of a time. What are the answers to this? I think that’s where you have to see baptism for the dead coming out of a much bigger context.
It should be noted that the Kirtland Temple never had a font. A previous discussion said it was originally intended to be a school, not a temple, so that may explain some of that. We talk about the Spirit of Elijah as being a spirit of genealogy work. Could Elijah’s visit be more properly recognized as sealing dead ancestors through temple work, more so than marriage sealings? What do you think?
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The vision of Elijah is one of the most important Church history events in all of the Doctrine & Covenants. It’s the vision where Elijah came to Joseph and Oliver and restored the sealing power. Did you know that Joseph was sealed to his first plural wife, Fanny Alger a year or two prior to that? We asked LDS Anthropologist Dr. Mark Staker how to explain that, and I think you’ll find his explanation very interesting.
I believe that Joseph Smith received from Peter, James and John all the authority that he needed, including the sealing power. He holds all those through Peter, James, and John. What Elijah brings is keys; keys to enact those sealing powers on behalf of other individuals.
I don’t think that’s what we typically learn at church. Do you agree? Did Joseph get the sealing power in 1830, and the keys to share with others in 1836? What do you think of this distinction between sealing and sealing keys?
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In today’s conversation we’ll talk to BYU Church History Professor Dr. Richard Bennett. We’ll talk about the vision of Elijah. Did you know it took 40 years for that revelation to be canonized? Why did it take so long? Dr. Bennett introduced me to a concept he calls the “Reclamation of Revelation.” What does he mean by that? He also says why studying church history is so important.
And that really opens up a topic in church history about why studying our history is so important is because sometimes we miss things, and I think you’re referring here to section 110 and these other revelations. It’s wonderful that Elder Bednar makes a great point of it. These sealing keys were extremely important. They were all written 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. It’s not until Orson Pratt in 76, under the direction of the President of the Church of course, says we better get that down.
A few weeks ago, I told you I became a fanboy Orson Pratt because of his position on slavery. Once again, this seems to show Elder Pratt’s unrecognized contributions to preserving Mormon history. Why do you think it took 40 years to canonize the vision of Elijah?
I’d like to thank everyone who listens to our podcast on your phone or iPod, or however you listen to us. For those of you who are watching on YouTube, I want to point out a special extra thing that we’ve done this time. I have some old public domain photographs of the Kirtland Temple that I think you’ll find really interesting.
I also have also got two special guests, rather than one today. In addition to Dr. Mark Staker, I’ll introduce Dr. Richard Bennett. He’s a professor of Church History at BYU and we’ll talk about the construction of the Kirtland Temple. How much did it cost to build the temple? We’ll also talk about the Mormon myth about whether the saints really crushed up their china and put it into the plaster of the Kirtland Temple. When I asked Dr. Bennett that question, he said
No that’s not a true story. It’s one of those Mormonisms that have come through, somewhere along the line.
However, Dr. Staker said,
I was digging in the ashery pit. It’s 30 feet across, probably about 15 feet deep pit of ash, and I went through bushels of ashes and I found fragments of ceramics after fragments of ceramics…
Dr. Bennett said,
Nevertheless it was a beautiful, bluish tinge to it and that would shine in the sun…
Staker said that the LDS builders got a patent for the special process and
the sun would shine on it and you’d get little sparkling from a distance and it was quite a dramatic view from the distance.
What’s the true story? You can listen to the link above, watch the YouTube video below, or get a transcript here, or on Amazon. Have you heard this story before? What do you think of the saints sacrifice to build the Kirtland Temple.
Mormons often refer to the temple as the “University of the Lord.” In Doctrine and Covenants 88:119, it says the temple is to be a “house of learning, a house of faith.” Did you know that the original Kirtland Temple was envisioned to be more of as a real school than a temple? Dr. Mark Staker, an LDS Anthropologist at the Church History Library tells us more about the evolution of the Kirtland School into the Kirtland Temple. Check out the video below, the audio above, or you can get a transcript here or on Amazon!