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.
Michael: Oh yes.
GT: Oh Wow. Why do you say that?
Michael: The document itself was hand-printed.
Michael: The signature was hand-printed.
Michael: Joseph never did that. No, it’s an absolute fraud.
GT: Absolute fraud.
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!
Michael: I would disagree with John Hamer that Sidney Rigdon was the most likely. He was the first publicly proposed alternative to the Quorum of the Twelve and he was voted down by the congregation that met in August of 1844. When their choice was only Sidney Rigdon or the Quorum of the Twelve, they chose the Quorum of the Twelve to continue in the Twelve’s position in its place of having all this prior role administratively within Nauvoo, the headquarters of the church. And they rejected Sidney Rigdon. But the fact that he was the first publicly proposed doesn’t mean that either one of them was the most likely. That was the choice that the Quorum of the Twelve and Sidney Rigdon had advertised. And this had been advertised before the Twelve was even back in Nauvoo. Most of the apostles, members of the Quorum of the Twelve were in the eastern states, and there were only one or two members in Nauvoo and two of them were wounded in and the attack on Carthage Jail.
We’ll talk about several of the possibilities during the succession crisis. Check out our conversation, and don’t forget our previous episodes with Michael!
James Strang was one of the most unlikely people to succeed following the death of Joseph Smith in 1844. Historian John Hamer will talk more about James Strang and his group, sometimes called the Strangites.
John: Yeah. Of all of the different people that could have emerged in the Succession Crisis, this is the one that would be most unexpected to anybody before Joseph Smith’s death because he had been a relatively recent convert. He had been to Nauvoo. Strangite recollections are that he had been baptized by Joseph. He lived in Wisconsin, and so he wasn’t an insider in any significant way.
But what happens fairly quickly is that he announces all sorts of new prophetic signs, callings, and things like that that, or examples. For example, there’s a new set of plates that are found by a new set of official witnesses. There’s a new translation.
One thing he says, at the same moment that Joseph Smith is killed, an angel appeared to him and ordained him to be prophet, seer, revelator, and translator to the church. There can only be one on the planet at a time. So there’s not a thing where Joseph Smith can just give a bunch of keys to different people and then you collect the keys or something like that. It only can be one guy at a time and it’s not because you can’t—if we ran out of elders in the LDS Church, you can’t have a deacon ordain some new elder, so Strang says you can’t have apostles ordain a prophet because that doesn’t make any sense. You can’t a lower ordain [a higher.] Essentially the only way, according to Strang, that you could have had a successor is the same way that Joseph Smith became prophet which is through angelic ordination, or two, there is a verse in the Doctrine & Covenants that says if Joseph shall fall, he will not have any power save it be the need to appoint another in his stead.
So James Strang had a letter. His interpretation of the letter is that it appointed him to be the successor, Joseph Smith’s successor. It’s a little bit ambiguously worded in that way. Also nobody who wasn’t a Strangite believed the letter was genuine. So it’s a contested letter, but he used the letter also as a claim on the two fronts there: there’s angelic ordination on the one hand, and he’s also been appointed the successor.
We’ll learn more about some golden plates that he translated.
GT: Ok. He also had some plates. I think there’s The Book of the Law of the Lord, and yesterday you talked about the Voree Plates.
GT: Let’s talk about those.
John: The first set of plates are the Voree Plates.
GT: Oh that was the first set.
GT: Oh I didn’t realize that.
John: Yes. The first set of plates that Strang announces are the Voree Plates and it’s just very interesting story. I could talk about it for hours and hours. But anyway the idea of it is that near Strang’s house in Burlington, Wisconsin in a place that comes to be known as Voree. There’s a hill. An angel in a vision, Strang says, told him where plates are buried. He brings four guys to that spot. He shows them where the angel told them. They have shovels or whatever, and then Strang leaves.
So they dig up what I told you, they believe that the earth has never been disturbed and that they actually have to get under the roots of this big old tree and things like that. They are convinced that the thing had been buried many, many years ago before this oak tree was on top of it and that kind of thing.
Anyway they dig up plates. They are plates, though, that people physically see and it’s not simply the official witnesses who see. Thousands of people see the plates including obviously lots of non-members including the local newspaperman who is the newspaper editor of the Kenosha newspaper and he actually goes on to be the guy that invents the QWERTY typewriter keyboard. So that guy saw them. He didn’t pass judgment on them or whatever. He said some people thing they are pretty marvelous. But the point is it was a physical artifact.
So Strang prints a translation of it through the gift and power of God. He says that he able to translate these plates. The gist of the translation is again, it’s a people that are killed off, just like the Nephites. It doesn’t say Nephites, but anyway, a Native people that have died in a great battle at this spot again, but this spot is going to be a place of refuge that at some point or other the church, God’s people, are going to, the forerunner, essentially the first prophet Joseph Smith—it doesn’t say it in those terms, but I’m just going to read between the lines here, Joseph Smith is going to get executed and the people are going to have to flee, the first refuge, and so they’ll come to gather to Voree, the great successor is going to emerge.
 Alice Cooper was a famous man from the “shock-rock” performer from the 1970s. His performances included special effects that made it appear his head was chopped off, and other gruesome acts during the concert. He continues to perform. He was born February 4, 1948 and his birth name was Vincent Damon Furnier.