David Ostler is the author of “Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question.” This book is designed for LDS Leaders to better understand a faith crisis, and how to help members in their wards and stakes to better empathize and maintain members who struggle with issues of faith. David has interviewed several hundred people to better understand their perspective and shares that knowledge with all of us.
David: When I started studying faith crisis, disaffiliation, my own background is in evidence-based medicine. So, you know, it’s like, what does the data say? It’s the first question we ask. So I spent time trying to understand what we knew about the problem, what people had written, what studies had been done, what data had been collected. Like most problems, we all have impressions about a particular area, but when we go in and study it systematically, sometimes we find those impressions are not entirely accurate. For my own life, that’s been the case often. But certainly with this topic, I found it to be the case. So I wanted to, as I learned about this for myself, and then ultimately, as I wrote the book, to make sure that I had the best information that can be brought on it, and where it wasn’t available to see what I could do to create more information there. So with regards to Leading Saints, and Kurt Francom, we were able to, using the leaders that subscribe to his newsletter, to be able to survey them and understand what local leaders thought about faith crisis, issues of faith, how they were responding and the like. So that’s been kind of a fun thing for me to get to know Kurt and that community a little better.
Check out our conversation…
And don’t miss our previous conversations with Kurt Francom!
This is our final conversation with Brian Stutzman, and we’ll talk about Warsaw, Illinois today. Brian thinks this should be a must-stop for church history buffs. We’ll also discuss how Brian came to love the city, and how he came there and how he would like to restore the city to its historic roots.
Brian: I drove into town and saw this building. It says Thomas Sharp, Warsaw Signal. Little did I know that the Lutherans help fund that building. How ironic. In 1987, there was a Mormon historian from Nauvoo named Michael Trap. He came down and he gathered some people together and says, “You know what, you got some history here. Maybe it’s the dark side of Mormon history. But let’s take this old grocery store.” I think it was built in 1880, “and we’ll raise some money and we’ll make it look like it would have an 1840. We’ll get an old press in here.”
So I really enjoy getting to know the good people. They had me speak at their historical society last year when my book was in the first edition. There’s a ton–1550 people, we had over 100 people together at the high school and I gave a little presentation on the overview of my book. This sweet old lady comes up and says, “Will you move here to Warsaw?” Because I told them at the end of my presentation I said, “You need to promote your town. You’ve got a story to tell. There’s a tragic triangle here. Thousands, millions of people know about Nauvoo. Thousands, millions of people know about Carthage. Nobody’s heard of Warsaw. When people go, they’re only seeing two thirds of what they should see. You need to come down. You need to invite LDS tourists to come here. You need to have a sign that says this is where Willard Richards and Brigham Young we’re going to build a Mormon community at our request that people of Warsaw’s request, even though the local histories, including 1880 Thomas Greg said that they almost fell into the hands of the Mormons.”
He also tells about a beloved Mormon family in Warsaw. Check out our conversation, by signing up to our free newsletter to hear the final part. Go to https://www.GospelTangents.com/newsletter and I will send you a secret link to hear the conclusion!
I think Thomas Sharp should be the ultimate villain in Mormonism, but I’ll bet most people don’t know who he is. In our next conversation with Brian Stutzman, we’ll learn more about the man who incited a mob to kill the prophet Joseph Smith.
Brian: Thomas Sharp came from a Methodist family. In England, in the late 1700s, John and Charles Wesley started the Methodist movement….Thomas Sharp was 22 years old when he came to Warsaw in 1844 or 1840, rather, so he’s a rather young man. He tries his hand at the newspaper business with a partner named James Gamble. They spent six months, about, down on the river at the foot of Main. Then they move their press and change the name from Western World to the Warsaw Signal and they go up into an unknown location up on Main Street. Now some of the tour buses stop and point to building at 204 Main. They say, “This is where Thomas Sharp published.” That building wasn’t built till 1851, way after Thomas Sharp published there, but it was after the Mormon period.
But the turning point and Ben A. Marshall wrote a paper called the Turning Point of Thomas Sharp. There’s some discrepancy over some of the facts here. But when they set the cornerstone for the Nauvoo temple, in April six of 1841, Joseph Smith had a table up front for the dignitaries and some of the dignitaries, one of them was Chief Keokuk, from Iowa, who this town is named after, and he was up at the front table. He invited young Thomas Sharp, again, 22-23 years old to be up at the head table with him and they had this big feasts and a military parade and they set the cornerstone for the Nauvoo Temple.
GT: So at this time, Thomas is still friendly.
Brian: Yeah, neutral at best, neutral or friendly. Sometime after–now, people speculate that that day he turned against the church. There’s another historian and she’s kind of in my house with me and my wife. We’ve done some history, Brooke Lethar. She was at BYU. Now she’s studying at the University of Utah, and she has found research that it was awhile later before, Sharp turned negative. So there was a time where he was friendly and that he turned negative. So he goes up there and he starts writing terrible things in his paper. There was a term in in that area about Masons. If you were not a Mason, but you’re referring to Mason’s there was a term called Jack Mason.
Thomas Sharp is sitting there, seeing this bloc-voting going on up Nauvoo, and the two main political parties at the time were Democrats and Whigs. He says to his fellow people, fellow residents, he says, we don’t have a shot in heck of getting somebody elected unless we join together, put our differences aside, and maybe we can get somebody elected locally. So he and Aldrich, again, these are two guys stood trial, and the guy named William Roosevelt. William Roosevelt was the cousin to Teddy Roosevelt’s father. They’re living in Warsaw and they get together and they create this political party in 1841. It’s called the anti-Mormon political party. That wasn’t a mob. It wasn’t hostile, at least at first, but it was a political party to try to outvote the Mormons. Well, in 1842, Thomas Sharp decides to run for a seat in the state legislature. Well, who was he was he opposed by? The prophet’s little brother, William Smith, and William Smith beats him. In 1844 when Joseph Smith was running for President Thomas Sharp talks about running for the United States Senate, and then he learns that Hyrum Smith, the prophet’s brother was considering running for the same seat in the United States Senate and Sharp withdrew.