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?
Please consider a donation or purchasing a transcript here or at Amazon so we can put together some documentaries about the progression of temple work. Please invite your friends and family who have questions about Mormon history to listen to the podcast above, video below so more can find out about this resource to learn more about Mormon history.
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!
This is not your typical polygamy conversation. How did polygamy get started in the LDS Church? Dr. Mark Staker has a very interesting theory: he thinks it was started by a former slave, Black Pete, who joined the Mormon community in 1830. I talked about Black Pete in Part 1 and Part 2 of my discussion with Staker, an LDS Anthropologist, and Staker also makes the case that Oliver Cowdery, not Joseph Smith, wrote the Declaration on Marriage that was replaced by D&C 132 in the Doctrine & Covenants. With the LDS Church’s stance on monogamy being God’s standard, does Staker believe that this de-canonized revelation could be re-canonized? Check out the audio above, video below, or transcript (also on Amazon) to find out! You’ll learn a lot about polygamy the foundations of polygamy in this episode!
Here’s a few interesting quotes from the podcast:
GT: So wait a minute. You’re telling me that Black Pete may have been responsible for introducing polygamy into the Kirtland community?
Mark: I believe so, and I believe that’s why often we say well Joseph Smith was translating the Bible and he wants to know about Abraham and his wives, Isaac and Jacob and their wives and so he asks that.
Who authored the Declaration on Marriage?
Brigham Young believed it was all Oliver Cowdery. Did he know all the details? Scholars have disputed that but some of them have accepted his declaration. I tend to believe that Brigham Young did know enough about those details that he was right that Oliver Cowdery had played the principal if not the sole role in getting that material included.
It may be surprising to many to discover that a man known in Mormon journals as Black Pete served a mission for the LDS Church in 1831. (Back then, it was known simply as the “Church of Christ.”) Dr. Staker notes,
Black Pete is one of these individuals that goes out preaching. He joins three other individuals and they all go out as a group of four. They’re very interested in religious enthusiasm. That might be what ties them together, but what this also suggests is that since those that we know about were ordained elders such as John Murdock, it could be that Black Pete had been ordained an elder as well to go out and he’s assigned to preach just like these others are assigned to go out and preach.
In this episode, we’ll discuss his visits from a black angel, and some of the unusual religious practices he imprinted on Mormonism. We’ve already mentioned that he started speaking in tongues in Part 1 of our conversation, but in this episode, we’ll learn that Joseph Smith tamps down on these religious practices. However, missionaries from Kirtland convert Brigham Young, who re-introduces the practice of speaking in tongues in Kirtland! Pete also attempts to marry within the predominantly white community of Kirtland. Staker notes that interracial marriage in 1831
would be national news, and it did happen occasionally. It ended up in the national papers that someone married a black person, but Emma’s aunt had done exactly that.
GT: Emma Smith?
Mark: Emma Smith’s aunt Diantha Hale had married a Joseph Wallace, a black man.
GT: Oh I did not know that.
Mark: Nobody did. They kept it quiet. By law they had to announce it in the newspaper, the marriage, but they didn’t mention race in that official announcement.
Please listen here! Here’s a link to a transcript (also on Amazon). A video is found below.
I really enjoyed sitting down with Dr. Mark Staker of the LDS Church History Library. Mark is a historian and has written about the first community that accepted the Mormon Church in Kirtland, Ohio. I was surprised to learn that a former slave by the name of Black Pete was one of the leaders of this early Mormon community! In part 1 of our interview, we’ll talk about Black Pete’s introduction of speaking in tongues and his leadership in the fledgling Mormon community in 1830-1831. I think it’s a great interview! Please listen.
It’s time to conclude #BlackHistoryMonth, and here’s my latest conversation with Dr. Paul Reeve! In recent years the LDS Church has published a series of essays with a goal of giving Latter-day Saints good information regarding many aspects of LDS History. These essays are well footnoted, and seem to have been written by historians. I asked Paul if he helped craft the essay and he said that he played a major role in crafting the essay. Please listen to him describe his role. I think this is quite a scoop!
I also asked Paul to talk about race issues in our day, including the ban on children of gay parents and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing at President Trump’s recent inauguration. He was very candid in his opinions and I’m sure you’ll enjoy listening to this interview!