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Conspiracy Theories: Sam Smith, William Smith, James Strang (Part 4)

Steve Shields and I discuss the conspiracy theories against William & Sam Smith following the death of Joseph & Hyrum.

Following the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, brother Samuel died within a month.  Was Samuel poisoned?

Steve:  You know, conspiracy theorists. Okay, fine. Was he poisoned deliberately? Who knows? There’s no way to know. The typical story had been that he, was [ill with] was it pneumonia or cholera or, I can’t remember what. In those days, in the Midwest, in the summer months, you had malaria, you had typhus, you had cholera. I mean, that stuff was rampant. Their food sanitation was different from what we would have today. It could’ve been any number of things, I think. There’s no way to ever know for sure now, even if we were to exhume his remains, there’s not enough left to do any of that kind of study, probably. Was he poisoned deliberately by somebody? Well, it could be, but why? Maybe I have a different view of Brigham young and his colleagues than some, I’m not willing to just write Brigham Young off and call him an evil, you know, usurper.

Were people out to kill the other prophet’s brother William?

GT:  Back to William Smith. So he came to Nauvoo [in] September of 1844.

Steve:   By the end of August, early September, he was back in Nauvoo, I’m pretty sure.

GT:  And Brigham ordained him as patriarch.

Steve: He was called as patriarch and I presume they ordained him. I don’t know, because I’m not sure that all that ritual stuff had really been solidified at that early time. I don’t know. Today, of course we would always do that. Did they need to? He was already an apostle. Maybe he just needed to be designated that. I don’t know.

What about James Strang?

Steve:  Within weeks of affiliating, William Smith was disaffiliated, and that was before Strang ever got involved, ever publicly announced polygamy. I’m not sure when he [William] got involved in it. Somebody knows those dates, I just can’t remember them.

William Smith was there long enough to write this hymn that was published in Strang’s paper at Voree, which is near Burlington, Wisconsin. Actually, it’s now part of the city limits, but it [the hymn] was an ode to Voree, and it has something like 15 verses.

Check out our conversation…

Here’s the first 3 parts with Steve Shields!

226: Sidney’s Unsung Role in Restoration (Shields)

225: Steve’s Shields Own Divergent Path

224: Who Owns the Temple Lot? (Shields)

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Smith & Strang Translation Process (Part 7)

We’re continuing our discussion of the Succession Crisis. Strang was known to translate the Voree Plates. How does that compare to Book of Mormon translation process Joseph Smith did? Michael Quinn tells his beliefs about the translation process of the Book of Mormon.

GT: Do you have an opinion on the Book of Mormon?

Michael:  Yes, I believe it is written based on ur-text? I believe it’s tribal history. The way the Old Testament was tribal history originally told around campfires and that the Book of Mormon is based on an actual ur-text, written ur-text, Gold plates. I believe those. But I don’t think that everything in the published 1830 Book of Mormon derives from that ur-text, derives from that ur-text.  That’s a German phrase: Ur-text meaning the original text. I don’t believe that. I mean, there are things in there you can see as Joseph Smith’s understanding of the Bible. You can see things in there that reflect attitudes of the people at the time.

James Strang was a big rival to the Brigham Young movement. He claims to have a letter from Joseph Smith putting him in charge of the LDS Church. Dr. Michael Quinn tells why he believes the letter was a forgery.

GT: So what do you think about Strang’s claim?

Michael: Absolute fraud.

GT:  Really?

Michael: Oh yes.

GT: Oh Wow.  Why do you say that?

Michael:  The document itself was hand-printed.

GT: Okay.

Michael: The signature was hand-printed.

GT: Really?

Michael:  Joseph never did that. No, it’s an absolute fraud.

GT: Absolute fraud.

Michael: Yeah.

GT: I know that some…

Michael: But he was a charismatic fraud, which is why people followed him because Brigham Young did not come across as charismatic even though he spoke in tongues and sang in tongues.

Check out our conversation… as well as our other conversations with Dr. Quinn!

Both Joseph Smith & James Strang translated plates. How do they compare. What are Dr. Quinn's thoughts on Book of Mormon translation?
Both Joseph Smith & James Strang translated plates. How do they compare. What are Dr. Quinn’s thoughts on Book of Mormon translation?

187: LDS Succession Crisis (Quinn)

186: Quinn on Hofmann (Quinn)

185: “The Church Makes No Distinction Between God & Mammon” (Quinn)

184: Would LDS Church Income Ever Support a Paid Ministry?(Quinn)

183: Are LDS Church Revenues really $50 Billion/Year? (Quinn)

182: Michael Quinn Discusses Deseret Hemp Company (Quinn)

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Walker Lewis: Faithful Black Elder

We’re winding down our Black History Month conversations with Dr. Newell Bringhurst.  In our next conversation, we’ll talk about Walker Lewis, a black elder in Boston, Massachusetts.  In fact Wilford Woodruff once described this faithful black elder as “an example to our more whiter brethren.”

Newell:  He was based in Lowell, Massachusetts and he was a barber.  He also belonged to a black Masonic lodge.  There was kind of an interesting Masonic connection there with him.  Connell O’Donovan has done a lot more research on him than I have and shown that he had interaction with a number of apostles that were coming through, so he was well known amongst the apostles that were coming through.  It was William Smith, the younger brother of Joseph Smith that ordained him an elder.

It’s William Appleby who expresses shock when he comes upon him and he finds out Walker Lewis is an elder in the church and this is after the death of Joseph Smith, and [Appleby] writes back, “Is it right that this man should hold the priesthood?  If it is so I have yet to learn it.”

So that’s caused some people to say the ban maybe was in place even earlier but there isn’t other evidence to support that.  Maybe it was just because whatever was going through Walker Lewis’s mind.  There just weren’t that many blacks in the church.  Maybe this was kind of an unusual situation for him.

Ultimately as I say he becomes kind of a well-known figure.  They don’t seem to question his priesthood.  That kind of supports the argument and is one more indication that there was no ban on black ordination.  Even in later church leaders, all the way down into the 20th century when Bennion is doing his study in [19]54, church leaders acknowledged that Walker Lewis had been ordained.  That was acknowledged by even J. Reuben Clark.  I discuss this in an article that is going to be forthcoming, the ’54 recollections and the church struggling with whether blacks could be ordained and what could be the historical justifications were.

But getting back to Walker Lewis himself, he eventually makes his way out to Utah thinking that maybe he can get his endowments but they deny him so he makes his way back to Boston or to Lowell and resumes his barber practice.  There are suggestions that later on, Jane James wants to be sealed to Walker Lewis because she is aware of who Walker Lewis was and that he was indeed a priesthood holder.  To bolster the legitimacy of her request for endowments, she says “Can I be sealed to Walker Lewis?”  Of course that is denied.  That is a poignant story in and of itself.

Had you heard of Walker Lewis before?