Friday, August 22, 2014

Leonard Arrington et al on Cooperation (Fragment)

Mormonism and the American Dream

Order, the value Puritans prized above all others, could not be maintained in the immensities of America. The very geography induced diversity in cultures and ways of life. (p.2)
More Puritan than Yankee, Joseph Smith consciously sought to stay the forces which threatened to disrupt the ordered rural village life of the early nineteenth century. His was not, however, just a rearguard holding action. In some respects it could be said that his aim was to realize the Christian commonwealth which had been the idea of John Winthrop. (p.3)
Based on his converts, the authors argue, one sees many of the principles that later became part of the revealed religion prefigured:
Found among these groups were beliefs in an eventual restoration of an unsullied primitive church, a conviction that the Lord's return was imminent, a desire to adjust prevailing social and economic patterns to conform more closely to some form of Christian communalism, a fondness for spiritual manifestations, and a literalistic interpretation of the Bible, all of which became in some form a part of the revealed religion. (p.3)
The authors suggest to resist the temptation to connect Smith with the radical reformation [[as some of his 19th century critics have done, RCK]], though many of his early followers had ties to communities inspired by these (p.4). Another source of possible inspiration might be Robert Owen, whose community in New Harmony, Pennsylvania, had started in 1825 (p.4). Though Owen claimed to abolish religion, his value system was so Christian that transporting it into religious reform was simple (p.4).
Certainly he encouraged many Americans in the optimistic hope that the traditions of the past need impose no limits upon their ability to build a better society. (p.4)
Clearly Joseph Smith was practical and experimental in the way Robert Owen was (p.4). But there is little advantage to drilling open the dependencies and inspirations (p.5).
A detailed genealogy of possible influences upon the Prophet would not explain his successes or his failures. The combination of ideas that he took into his system became, by his joining them together, logically and appropriately his. (p.5)
And, like Klaus Hansen, the authors see Smith as envisioning to extending his governance to the world.
No pietistic recluse, he was planning a system that he and his followers confidently expected would take over the reins of the world government. He consciously pursued power in earthly political realms as a preliminary to eventual world dominion. His design for the city of Zion included a plan for the proliferation of satellite cities in indefinite numbers destined to fill up the inland stretches of the North American continent from the Missouri to the Pacific. (p.5)
The authors then point out an interesting difference between Mormonism and modern reform movements.
Living under ideal institutions is not, in the Mormon view, an experience that perfects man. Rather, it is an evidence that man has achieved perfection. (p.8)
There was only a limited appreciation of beneficent institutions allowing one to make progress toward becoming better (p.8). Institutions were not instruments of reform; that instrument of change was faith (p.9).

In looking at the failure of Brigham Young's efforts, the authors remind us that Joseph Smith had set out in a very different America (p.12).
The Prophet's experiments took place during the heyday of communal experimentation in America. Though singularly far-reaching in design, they fit appropriately into a society where social ferment was proliferating communes in unprecedented numbers. (p.12)
Brigham Young's anti-capitalist idealism collided straight with a time that thought Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were heroes (p.12).

Smith Jr's communitarianism was also not anarchical and egocentric, like the social experiments of the 1960s and 1970s in the USA.
Deference to high church authority and obedience within a clearcut hierarchy of church offices and responsibilities have become prominent aspects of Mormon group character. (p.13)
These aspects caused the well-known economist Richard T. Ely in 1903 to compare the "perfect piece of social mechanism" of the Mormons to the German Army (p.13).

Communitarianism under JS

Of the law of consecration of 1831, the authors offer the following characterization:
Briefly, the law was a prescription for transforming the highly individualistic economic order of Jacksonian America into a system characterized by economic equality, socialization of surplus incomes, freedom of enterprise, and group economic self-sufficiency. (p.15)
Explaining the basic pattern of giving a consecration and then receiving a stewardship from the bishop, the authors note:
The stewardship might be a farm, building lot, store, workshop, or mill. It was expected that in some cases the consecrations would considerably exceed the stewardships. Out of the surplus thus made possible the bishop would grant stewardships to the poorer and younger members of the church who had no property to consecrate. (p.15)
The main idea was to provide an equal footing for all members (p.16).
The system aimed at equality in consumption but not in the capital controlled or managed by individuals. (p.16)
In order to stem creeping inequality, surpluses "(or residue, as it was called)" (p.16) were to be re-consecrated to the bishop (p.16). This surplus gave the bishop a way to equalize misfortune and pay for church needs such as lands in Missouri, education and publication, and similar (p.16).
... the properties placed at the disposal of each family head were to be used in producing whatever goods and services he desired, and whatever combinations of factors of production he selected, from among the limited opportunities open. (p.17)
[[The authors bring the Rigdon "Family" on (p.19) for the first time. RCK]]

At the same time, it was a communitarian system "in concept and application", as early critics already noted, such as "apostate bishop" John Corrill (p.17).
Social union, in turn, was indispensable to the establishment and operation of an exemplary Mormon community whose convert-citizens would have the disposition and means to prepare the earth for the return of the Savior and the institution of the kingdom of God. (p.17)
Orson Pratt offered the distinction between dividing property, and uniting property (p.18) to express the difference.
The Latter-day Saint community was to be established as the result of a "gathering" of the "faithful in heart" from "out of the bosom of Babylon" to a place designed as "Zion". ... Thus, an industrious, frugal, independent society was to be established under the direction of the priesthood. (p.18)
The authors point out that the approach of the law of consecration, because it gave the legal title to the bishop [in the early period, RCK] was different from the common stock of the Shakers, Harmonists, and similar.
Both theory and practice of stewardship as it was first established in Missouri disallowed unilateral conveyance of consecrated property by a steward to other persons with whom sales and exchange might be contemplated, including wife, children, and heirs. (p.18)
The authors point out that Rigdon and Campbell had fought over the communitarian aspects of the early apostolic church, and that Rigdon's group had experimented with the "Family" system, which was based on the common stock principle (p.19). Joseph Smith Jr replaced this system with the law of consecration and stewardship shortly after arriving in Kirtland from New York (p.19).
The need to suggest something positive to replace the impractical common-stock principle was one purpose of the revelation. (p.19)
But there was also the need to divide up the farmland to accommodate the poor families who were coming from New York and elsewhere to Ohio (p.19).
There was undoubtedly a third and more far-reaching objective in the revelations on consecration and stewardship. As the founder of "restored Christianity", Joseph Smith saw it as his responsibility to establish the social and economic basis for a Christian society. The passage in Acts ... was doubtless a challenge to the youthful prophet, as it was to Bible-reading Christians generally. (p.20)
In addition, scriptures already brought forth by Joseph Smith portrayed Book of Mormon peoples and the citizens of the ancient city of Enoch living an ideal, communal economic order. The prophecy of Enoch was particularly powerful, holding up to the Prophet's small group of followers a perfect society "of one heart and one mind ... and there was no poor among them." (p.20)
There was also such a proliferation of common law approaches at the time that it is hardly surprising that the revelation called the law of consecration "the more perfect law of the Lord." Even the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Carlyle were corresponding about communitarianism.
We are all a little wild here with numberless projects of social reform. Not a reading man but has a draft of a New Community in his waistcoat pocket. (p.20)
[[This also ignores that Joseph Smith's uncle was running a self-sufficient economic community in upper Canada with its own clippership. RCK]]
Thus, the Law of Consecration and Stewardship could be seen as a consequence of practical need and Christian idealism. It is not surprising that the plan should have been intensely practical in certain respects, and that it should have overestimated the possibilities of human altruism in other respects. (p.21)
And maybe as the best summary provided of the law, the authors note:
It was to a degree individualistic, though with strong elements of group control and influence. (p.21)
The authors then review some of the failures of the law. The first, by the Colesville Saints, in Thompson near Kirtland, Ohio, ran into troubles when the wealthier members [e.g. Copley, RCK] backed out and sued for their land back, causing such confusion that the Colesville Saints were more or less haphazardly shipped off to Missouri (p.21).

In their explanation of the second attempt to be made in Missouri, the authors talk about the intentions for the plat of Zion, which was supposed to not only provide families with homesteads, but also the farmers with land, the mechanics with tools, and the teachers & musicians & writers with a license specifying how they were to support the community [= HC 1:357-362]; but of course the plat of Zion only made it to Missouri weeks before the July 20th, 1833 Jackson County riots kicked the Mormons out (p.21).

The basic plan had been for the settlers to bring something to consecrate that could then be exchanged for an inheritance (p.22). The bishop had a storehouse operational [the Gilbert & Whitney store, RCK] in 1831, and a printing establishment soon thereafter [the Literary Firm, RCK] (p.22). By July 1832, somewhere between 300-400 church members were in Jackson County, Missouri, "almost all of whom were located upon their inheritances" (p.22). By July 1833, one year later, 1,200 had gathered in Zion, about 700 of whom were converted Latter-day Saints (p.22) [= Morning & Evening Star 2 (July 1833): 110, "The Elders Stationed in Zion to the Church Abroad, in Love, Greeting"].

[[The authors are trying to interpret a very obtuse passage: "At present, we have not the exact number of the disciples, but suppose that there are near seven hundred. - Include these, with their children, and those who belong to families, and the number will probably amount to more than twelve hundred souls." Are disciples to be only the men? But then what about the women? Given that most families had more than one kid, 500 for all the children for 350 families is a very low estimate. Who else would belong to the families but not be a disciple? Grandparents? Maids? RCK]]

The authors also wonder about idleness in the community of the Zion inhabitants, which occasionally is mentioned in the sources.
Perhaps some of the immigrants, filled with the millenarian spirit of the times, did not understand the necessity of laboring to build up Zion. (p.22)
Though some would later recall the Zion times fondly---cf. Parley P. Pratt autobiography---(p.22_ there were two serious problems (p.23), the legal status of the properties and the size of the inheritances (p.23). Partridge had come up with a way to lease the land out to the immigrants, to ensure that opportunism or free-loading were checked and that standards of quality could be maintained (p.23). [[See also the photocopies that I brought back from BYU, RCK]]

The authors then discuss some of the few deeds that have survived, which enumerated the responsibilities of both parties (p.23). The granting of the gift is itemized; in the case of James Lee, for example, that list included "household furnishings and clothing as well as livestock, farming equipment, and artisan's tools" (p.23). The specific items are
"... saddler tools, one candlestick & one washbowl valued seven dollars twenty five cents; --- also saddler's stock, trunks and harness work values twenty four dollars; --- also extra clothing valued three dollars" -- possessions totaling $34.25 in value. (p.24)
The wealthiest example, George W. Pitkin, gifted
... "sundry articles of furniture values forty seven dollars thirty seven cents,---also three beds, bedding and extra clothing valued sixty eight dollars,---also sundry farming tools valued eleven dollars and fifty cents,---also two horses, one harness, one waggon, two cows and one calf valued one hundred and eighty one dollars"---the total worth $307.87 according to the evaluation agreed upon by himself and the bishop. (p.24)
In return, the member received a loan and a lease of property.
Mormons would probably have called this document, printed on the other half of the form, a deed of stewardship or a stewardship agreement. In civil law it would be described as simply a lease-and-loan agreement. (p.24)
Only four completed land descriptions are known to have survived, leasing inheritances as small as carpenter Joseph Knight's village lot of 1.8 acres and as large as Levi Jackman's farm of 33 acres. (p.24)
There are also cases of the consecration of an individual, where all the gift was returned as loan and lease--a system that could not have worked in the general case (p.24).

A widow could enter the system on her husband's terms, and minors until their coming of age had "a claim upon the property for their support" (p.25). Grown children started out like new converts, thus inheriting nothing from their parents (p.25).
A steward could not by his own decision expand the productive facilities of either farm or workshop, for each year his surplus would be taken into the common fund, unless the bishop decided otherwise. (p.25)
The authors sum up the description with a historical comparison.
The economic system Joseph Smith offered his followers, especially his system of land tenure, would have fit more comfortably into medieval England than into Jacksonian America. (p.25)
The approach did not translate well into the legal thinking of the frontier.
Judges on the frontier viewed properties held in trust with noticeable disfavor. Some apostates successfully sued in the courts for the return of their consecrated properties. (p.25)
As Mario DePillis first pointed out in his dissertation (p.434 Fn 42), sometime after October 12th, 1832, when the Joseph Knight contract was dated, and before July 1833, when the Mormons were evicted from Jackson County, the format of the deeds changed, possibly in response to the legal challenges (p.26). In the face of such resistance, Joseph Smith Jr instructed Partridge on May 2nd, 1833 (p.26) to issue real deeds to the members for their inheritance. But it is not clear that the changes in the printed deeds were in reaction to the Prophet's instructions (p.27), because they came so late in the time frame and because the modifications to the wording are not completely in line with the Prophet's instructions (pp.27-28). The instructions of the prophet did arrive though, because the Church prepared its members (p.30) in June 1833 that they would be receiving "a warranty deed securing to himself and heirs, his inheritance in fee simple forever" [= Editorial in Morning and Evening Star, June 1833, p.100] (p.30).

It was also clear that the church was still struggling to explain to a skeptical environment that they were not doing a common-stock Quaker system (p.26). In an editorial from 1835, when reprinting the Morning and Evening Star from August 1832, Oliver Cowdery took position against this claim (p.26).
Some have said, and still say, that this Church, "has all things in common". This assertion is meant, not only to falsify on the subject of property, but to blast the reputation and moral characters of the members of the same.
The church in Jerusalem in the days of the apostles, had their earthly goods in common; the Nephites [inhabitants of ancient America described in the Book of Mormon], after the appearance of Christ, held theirs in the same way; but each government was differently organized from ours; and could admit of such a course when ours cannot. (p.26) 
The problem of how to assess fairly what the gift was and how much each family needed was also discussed in the May 2nd, 1833 letter, but it is doubtful that its instructions were implemented before July 1833 (pp.30-31).

The authors wonder whether the system of consecration was not flawed in that it gave to the poor more than they could handle, since they "were incapable of wise management of property" (p.31). While the bishop probably had theoretical flexibility in the amounts given out, the preponderance of poor made such a division scheme unlikely (pp.31-32). [[This tack is very surprising, that economic equalization seems to have been the driving motor of the law of consecration. RCK]]

The authors also share Brigham Young's suspicion that giving up the surplus was just not going to work.
I was present at the time the revelation came for the brethren to give their surplus property into the hands of the Bishops for the building up of Zion, but I never knew a man yet who had a dollar of surplus property. No matter how much one might have he wanted all he had for himself, for his children, his grandchildren, and so forth. [= BY, JD, 16:11] (p.32)
The system was not long enough in implementation to be fully tested; persecution in Jackson County commenced in April 1833 and were in full swing in July 1833 (p.32).

In the aftermath of the Zion's Camp debacle, in a revelation from June 22, 1834 [= D&C 105], the law of consecration and stewardship was suspended until Zion could be freed with purchase rather than blood (p.32).

The authors then turn to the discussion of the new inferior law given in Far West 1838 (p.33), which was supposed to be different from the celestial because of "the pollution of the inheritances" in Jackson County (p.34), but it differed not markedly from the "celestial" version of the law. The law still required the consecration of surplus property (p.34), which "obviated the transfer and reverse transfer by requiring that he consecrate only his surplus and retain the remainder" (p.34). The law was also weakened to a tithe or a tenth of the annual increase, rather than the entire increase (p.34). What it did not obviate was some solution to how to define surplus, as people would make provisions for all that they had (p.35), as Brigham Young pointed out (p.35).

While in Far West, agricultural companies were formed, one for each compass direction (p.36); cf. also the testimony of John Corrill. Similar plans for mechanics, shopkeepers and laborers were under way (p.36). The goal was to implement "economic equality, socialization of surplus incomes, partial freedom of enterprise, and group economic self-sufficiency" (p.36). Again the eviction from Missouri, this time into Illinois, tanked the experiment.

In Nauvoo, no attempt was made to-instate the law of consecration and stewardship [= HC 4:93; 6:37f] (p.37). The authors see this as a sensible choice of the church leadership given the altered circumstances in Nauvoo.
The church had to make far larger unit investments in land in Nauvoo than it had ever been called upon to do before, and its resources, financial and otherwise, were relatively fewer, partly because of forced property sales and partly because of the heavy expenses of frequent moving and establishing service enterprises. (p.37)
As a result, in 1841,  the law of tithing was adopted (p.37). At the same time, some of the intentions had be left behind (p.38), namely the ability to redistribute property and equalize the economic standing.

Biographical Record

Leonard J. ARRINGTON, Feramorz Y. FOX, Dean L. MAY, Building the City of God: Community & Cooperation among the Mormons, Salt Lake City UT (Deseret) 1976.

Whitney papers legal and personal

Power of Attorney (Kirtland, 1838-11-07) [Box 5, Folder 42]

Know all men by these statements [?] that I newell Whitney now of Kirtland Geauga County, Ohio, do authorize, constitute, ordain and affirm Samuel Whitney of Kirtland my true and lawful attorney or agent to act for me and in my name to honest bargainings [?] in this place in my absence, to scan [?] for and collect settle and discharge all such demand, as I shall leave with him, and to sel[l] such personal property as I shall have with him for that purpose, also to rent land and tenement as I shall give him direction, and to bargain for sale of real estate (but not give deeds), to bid on land which are to be sold by the administration of Algernon Gilbert [?] deceased. And whatever my said attorney or agent shall balefully [?] do on or about the premises shall be the same as though I was personally present to ratify and confirm the same. Given under my hand and seal at Kirtland, seventh day of November, 1838, N.K.Whitney {SEAL}

Paternity Suite (Nauvoo, 1842-09-15) [Box 4, Folder 44]

Know all men by these present [?] that I Gustavus Hills of the county of Hancock and the state of Illinois am held and firmly bound unto Mary Clift of the county and state aforesaid in the penal sum of a hundred Dollars, which payment well and truly to be made I bind myself, my heirs, and legal representations firmly by these bonds sealed with my own hand and dated this 16th day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty two.
The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas the said Mary Clift hath made sath [?] that she is pregnant with a child by the said Gustavus Hills and has agreed with the said Gustavus Hills to submit the matter of the support of the same to referees. Now if the said child shall be born alive the said Gustavus Hills agrees to pay the said Mary Clift Twenty ^five Dollars annually for three years, in in quarterly payments, in provisions or clothing suited to the condition of the said child, but should the child die, then the obligation to pay as aforesaid is to cease from the time of such decease and if the said Gustavus Hill shall well and truly comply with the conditions of the above obligation, or should the child die, aforesaid, then this obligation to cease and he would and further at on upon the delivery of said child the said Gustavus Hills shall pay five dollars in money for goods suitable for such an occasion besides the payments before mentioned. This obligation being complied with as aforesaid and in that case the obligation and everything therein contained is to cease, otherwise to remain in full force and effect.
Given under my hand and seal the day and year above written. // {SIGNATURE Gustavus Hills} {SIGNATURE Robert Clift // agent to Mary Clift}
In the presence of Elias Higbee [?] // {LIST of signatures of witnesses and scribe} 

Liquor License Petition (Nauvoo, 1844-01-18, Nauvoo) [Box 5 Folder 44]

To the Hon. Mayor of the City of Nauvoo. // We the inhabitants of the 3rd ward in said city would respectfully recommend Samuel Musick as a proper person to sell and retail sprirituous liquors within said ward and would recommend him to your honor for license in the same. // January 18 1844 // {17 SIGNATURES}

Whitney Letter Saturday 25th of Dec [?] 1841 [Box 6 Folder 1]

recto only
  • Whitney had to get off a steamboat early, 85 miles down river from his destination on the Mississippi, caught cold and was down with fever
  • Whitney was planning to stay in the store during the Winter and the Spring [possibly to improve his health?]
  • Whitney was planning a trip to Philadelphia to "lay in goods for the market" and was planning to visit the recipient in this context
  • Whitney asks for genealogical information about his family

Whitney Letter March 5th, 1842, Nauvoo IL [Box 6 Folder 1]

(to brother F.S. Whitney)

  • Whitney not going to Philadelphia after all by himself, sending someone else due to his state of health
  • Planning to go in the fall and will call then
  • Business negotiations with Gill Granger in which Whitney wants support from the recipient
  • more on the Gill Granger business, with bank mentioned and amounts of money

[Box 6 Folder 1 Remainder]

The remaining letters exceeded my capabilities of decipherment.

See Also

Michael H. Marquardt, The Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney, 2001, which includes a reference to the Diary of Hosea Stout.

Bibliographic Record

Newel K. Whitney Collection, Vault Mss 76, Box 5, Folders 42-46; Box 6, 

New Books by Michael H. Marquardt

Both are available as E-Books.

  • The Rise of Mormonism: 1816-1844 (Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged) 
  • Joseph Smith's 1828-1843 Revelations
See also Michael H. Marquardt, The Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney, 2001, which includes a reference to the Diary of Hosea Stout, police captain in Nauvoo IL, though his autobiography might be more useful.

Bitton on Ritualization of Mormon History

Without denying that written histories have enormous influence, especially those used in the schools, it should be recognized that a pervasive, ultimately more important influence in fostering a sense of the past is ritual. I am using this term in a broad sense to refer to the forms and symbols whose function is not primarily the communication of knowledge but rather the simplification of the past into forms that can be memorialized, celebrated and emotionally appropriated. (p.171)
Among these forms of ritualization are "heroes, monuments, ceremonies, even standardized narratives reminiscent of morality plays in their insistent simplification" (p.171).
Bitton then quotes Émile Durkheim:
There can be no society which does not feel the need of upholding and reaffirming at regular intervals the collective sentiments and the collective ideas which make its unity and its personality. Now this morla remaking cannot be achieved except by the means of reunion, assemblies, and meetings where the individuals, being closely united to one another, reaffirm in common their common sentiments. [= Elementary Forms of Religious Life, p.474-475] (p.171)
Bitton points out that the Mormons worked out their own calendar, whose function Bitton describes with the words of Harvey Cox [= Feast of Fools, Harvard (1969), p.7] as
a human form of play through which man appropriates an extended area of life, including the past, into his own experience (p.171)
Bitton demonstrates his contention by pointing out that the founding date of the church, April 6th, 1830, was first commemorated in 1833 [= HC 1:337], with no celebrations in the years 1834-1836 (p.172). In 1837 there was a multi-day event at the Kirtland temple, spanning the April 6th date.
In 1838, April 6th saw the beginning of a "general conference" at Far West, Missouri, to transact church business and "to celebrate the anniversary" of the Church. (p.172) 
In 1839, the prophet was in jail, but in 1840 in Nauvoo, the general conference pattern was repeated and from then on, until 1977, the conferences were scheduled to include April 6th (p.172). A special jubilee form of the celebration was held in 1880 (p.174).
Thus, a need for a regular annual conference was met while at the same time commemorating the founding day. (p.172)
Joseph Smith Jr may not have received much celebration because of the proximity of his birth and death to other big events: December 23rd is too close to Christmas, and June 27th, the date of his martyrdom in 1844, too close to July 4th (p.172). In addition, a martyrdom without resurrection does not make for a time of rejoicing (p.172).

"July 24th, the official day of entry into the || Salt Lake Valley in 1847" (pp.172-173) became the Mormon annual celebration par excellence, being sufficiently distant from July 4th on the one side and in the agriculturally inert time between sowing and harvesting (p.173). The first elaborate celebration took place in 1849. The day was commemorated at the local level as well (p.173).

There was also cross-pollination between the events; in the founding of the church jubilee of 1880, the July 24th celebrations were especially extravagant, including surviving pioneers of 1847 and surviving members of Zion's camp (p.174), as well as of the Mormon Battalion (p.175). This selection should come as no surprise.
Often the celebrations paid tribute to special groups, especially the surviving members of Zion's Camp, the Mormon Battalion, and the Pioneers of 1847. (p.175)
Parades were no special invention of the Mormons, of course.
The Mormon parades we have described were squarely in the mainstream of American public ceremony. The parade in its classic American form had been "invented", or at least assumed its definitive form,roughly between 1825 and 1850 (p.175).
In the latter half of the century major American cities punctuated their temporal existence with celebrations that included parades. Trader os occupations, immigrants or ethnic groups, voluntary societies, along with symbolic representations of concepts like liberty, characterized these parades. In the large cities, Mary Ryan has said, parades "made order out of an urban universe that teemed with diversity and change." Again, "the disorder and cacophony that reigned most of the year was ordered into reassuring, visually and audibly pleasing patterns." [= Mary Ryan, The American Parade: Representations of the Nineteenth-Century Social Order, in: Lynn Hunt (ed), The New Cultural History, Berkeley (University of California Press) 1989, 139, 152. Cf. Susan G. Davis, Parades and Power: Street Theater in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia, Philadelphia (Temple University Press), 1986.] (p.175). 
This suggests that the Mormon parades had the same functions as elsewhere.
... Mormons used parades to help propagate the community ideals and did this in part by symbolic references to past achievements or events. (p.175)
Historically accurate depiction, esp when lauding the special groups, was not the key concern.
Needless to say, the past events seen through the eyes of nostalgia were simplified, romanticized, and in the broad sense of the term, ritualized. (p.176)
The commemoration of the Mormon battalion in 1855, for which a report is available by the stenographer J.V. Long, is a case study in point. Despite the plurality of remarks and speeches, there were common themes that pointed toward a single historical interpretation (p.176).
Despite the differences, there is a common interpretation running through their remarks: the courage and dedication of the Battalion member, the conspiracy theory of the circumstances behind the muster, the providential overruling power of God, and rededication to their leaders. In a ritualized setting a sense of group consciousness was being formed by a simplified remembering of their history. (p.176)
Bitton quickly sketches the main lines of the historical narrative, which was not that dire.
... we can safely say that the decision to call it was made at least in part at the instigations of the Mormons, who saw it as a means of obtaining government help for the journey west. Some of the Battalion's pay did find its way back to the main body of the Latter-day Saints, where it doubtless was of help. As for the journey itself, there were few noteworthy events in the grand military tradition. (p.176) 
But the transformation of this event into a struggle between Mormons, central government and the Divine, happened remarkably quickly.
Remarkably soon, however, this whole experience was transformed into a symbol of federal oppression, Mormon heroism, and the overruling omnipotence of God. It was told and retold in these terms; participants even started remembering it in these terms. The men of the Battalion || (and later their descendants) were lionized as representatives of truth in a heroic struggle. (pp.176-177)
Bitton is clear that ritualization is not a matter of "invention out of whole cloth" (p.177), but of selection and of emphasis (p.177).
From the beginning some Mormons saw the venture as an onerous obligation; some did not know about the previous requests and negotiations; others who did know resented the timing of the call and the number demanded. (p.177)
The ritualization was not invention; it was a selecting out of certain aspects, dramatizing them, memorializing them, and giving to the whole the simplicity of a morality play. (p.177)
Bitton then notes that is "a short step from meetings of groups of survivors ... to the organization of descendants" (p.177), and names the Sons and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers as examples (p.177).
Such societies ... perform many functions, social and even political. But their main raison d'ètre is to celebrate and honor the past not primarily on the level of scholarship but on the level of ritual commemoration and rededication. (p.177) 
Bitton then turns to the physical form of ritualization, the historic site or the shrine.
In new York the Hill Cumorah and the Sacred Grove, for Mormons sites of sacred events, were visited with interest by Mormon missionaries and converts, who doubtless gained inspiration as they contemplated the surroundings. (p.177)
But there were no monuments, properly so called, during the first generation of Mormonism's history. (p.178)
[[One wonders if that is strictly true, and also what Bitton would call the digging traces on the Hill of Cumorah that were shown to visitors who were anti-Mormon. RCK]]

Monuments not only require organizations and a distance to the founding generation, but also the increased mobility and leisure time that the 20th century affords (p.178).
The 1930s and 1940s were a time of almost feverish activity in the erection of monuments and historical markers. (p.178)
Closely related to identification is restoration.
One activity in the making of historical sites that deserves mention is restoration---the attempt to restore homes and buildings to their appearance of a hundred or more years ago. (p.178)
Some pieces, such as liberty jail, had already been acquired early; but the rise of historical restoration, partially inspired by the success of Colonial Williamsburg, did not commence until after World War II (p.178). Efforts like the Nauvoo Restoration Inc showed what had become possible (p.179).

A similar tale can be told for portraiture. Bitton mentions the work of Charles W. Carter, who worked hard to align the prophet's image with the accepted notions of male attractiveness of his time.
In 1855, Charles W. Carter copied a daguerreotype of Joseph Smith, made prints, which he had heavily retouched by the artist Dan Weggeland, then rephotographed, copyrighted and distributed this "portrait". Quite unlike the profile portrait that community leaders of the 1850s considered authentic, the Carter portrait was preferred by most people. It was "aesthetically superior," closer to a recognizable standard of male attractiveness. (p.179)
Among the most influential contributors to the ritualization process were the artists who created many of the visual images that commemorated the key events, Philo Dibble and C.C.A. Christiansen (p.179). Christiansen painted huge canvases, eight of them completed by 1878, and took them on a road show of Mormon history through Utah, sewn together into one long roll, exposing one image after another [like a slide show, RCK] (p.180). Other forms of representation, such as statues and murals, as well as the production of movies through BYU Motion Picture studios. All of these efforts were whitewashing in some sense.
[All of these visual representations were, RCK] contributing to the process of ritualization by establishing a sense of the past that was primarily emotional, appropriate, and not primarily concerned with accuracy. Accurate or inaccurate, it was certainly selective. There are, for examples, no marble monuments to polygamy. (p.180)
Bitton then describes pageants, each of which "unquestionably set forth simplified images about the past" (p.180). Such pageants, just like the Rodgers & Hammerstein knock-off Promised Valley, a musical by Crawford Gates and Arnold Sundgaard (p.181), were functionally equivalent:
These are all vehicles for perpetuating a romanticized, ritualized version of the Mormon past. (p.181)
Bitton chooses as an illustrative example the miracle of the crickets and seagulls (p.181).
This famous miracle, which every Mormon child learns in Primary or Sunday School if not at his or her mother's knee, is a classic example of how the ritualization of history works. (p.181)
Although William G. Hartley has demonstrated that some contemporaries did not view the incident as particularly providential, at least if we are to judge from their diaries, it would be idle to || deny the historicity of the event---that is, there were crickets, and seagulls did devour them. (pp.181-182)
The point is not the event itself but what people did with it in later years. (p.182)
Bitton is careful to eschew the impression that such a behavior is particular to the Mormons.
Such simplified presentations of the past as parades, monuments, and pageants were contributing to nation building in many American cities. Especially poignant as a case study of conscious simplification of a ritualized past is the American South. (p.182)
The simplified history did not only help the Mormons persist in the face of persecution and ridicule, but also made an easy package for the new members to assimilate and thus make their own (p.182).
If one of the reasons for the creation of the "mythic history" by the early American was, as Major Wilson believes, their sense of being "orphans in time and space," the Mormons had the same need in their own communities. [= Major L. Wilson, The Concept of Time and the Political Dialogue in the United States: 1828-1848, in: American Quarterly 19 (Winter 1967), as cited in Robert Flanders, To Transform History: Early Mormon Culture and the Concept of Time and Space, in: Church History 40 (1971), p.108-117.] (p.182)
"Any people in a new land," says Wallace Stegner, "may be pardoned for being solicitous about their history: they create it, in a sense, by remembering it." [= The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail, New York (1964), p.2] (p.182) 
More important, perhaps the Mormons had their own special problem of orphanage. Cut adrift from the moorings of orthodox Christianity, and even, at times, from a sense of belonging to the American nation, they needed ritualistic support for their legitimacy. Robert Flanders has observed that the ritual incantations of restoration, priesthood authority, unity of faith, patriotism and so on, may be, in part, cases of protesting too much. In any event, the value of a standardized, moralized sense of the past during the Mormons' long identity crisis is unmistakable. (p.182)
[[There is a piece of the puzzle missing here, namely that Joseph Smith Jr was in general against ambiguity. He wanted a divinely inspired translation because it would eliminate contention and counter narratives. He had no problem rectifying revelations post-facto to bring out their meaning in full detail. A plurality of historical narratives was not in his line of thinking. RCK]]

Bitton then turns to the problem of how the simplification process skews the experience of center and periphery.
 It is significant that the rituals have tended to focus on the "centrist nucleus" by giving attention to people and events near the center. The cohesion of the groups is enhanced, the lines of traditional identity maintained. Selecting only those events clearly related to the doings of hierarchy, however elitist it appears, may be unavoidable, just as national || heroes are usually figures high in the government or the national military circles. (p.183)
Bitton closes with some warning words about the problems of ritualized past.
Those who probe more deeply are bound to discover that men and women of the past were not that flat, and more essentially, that the past was not that simple. Historians have a duty to criticize and correct inaccurate, inadequate, or oversimplified versions of the past. (p.183)
And the key is that the expertise and scholarship expended do not tend toward the unified history.
But it will not be the one true history or the only possible history. (p.183)
Finally, Bitton warns that historians should not deride ritualized history.
The fact is that most people are not historians---which is to say that most of us will possess our history ritualistically or not possess it at all. (p.183) 
[[I am not sure I agree with that assessment. I agree with the statement that most of the history we will possess will be simplified in the way that ritualistic history is. I believe that to be true even for the historians, who may know "three names at best for the Reformation in Iceland", in the words of Prof. Peter F. Barton, that is they will form islands of expertise in a sea of simplified history outside their domains. I believe that to the extent that we participate in communities, who push ritualized histories---our governments, our churches, our alma mater institutions, our companies, our neighborhoods---we will be exposed to much ritualized history, so in those domains our simplified histories will be ritualized as well. But a historian could never see that as anything than preliminary and eventually as problematic. RCK]]

Bibliographic Record

David Bitton, The Ritualization of Mormon History and other essays, Urbana -- Chicago (University of Illinois Press) 1994; pp.171-188.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jan Shipps on Mormonism


Shipps' interpretation works with what she terms a "foundational tripod" (p.xiii)
Taken together these first three chapters [of the book, RCK] describe what may be thought of as a foundational tripod, a metaphorical support unit composed of prophetic figure, scripture and experience---Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the corporate life of the early Saints. ... Accounts that focus attention more or less exclusively on Joseph Smith or one of the other "legs" of the tripod fail to provide an adequate explanation .... (p.xiii)


To be more precise, in the LDS histories adopted as authoritative by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the ancient Judeo-Christian past is set forth as the background of Mormonism. Brigham H. Roberts and Joseph Fielding Smith, who wrote the most important official accounts of the Mormon past, both begin the LDS story with the foundation of the world. Their timelines move forward through a series of "dispensations" from Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Moses, and Moses to John the Baptist. (p.2)
The "dispensation of the meridian of time" is the ministry of Jesus Christ, followed about 300 years later by the "Great Apostasy" which plunged the Church into darkness for a millenium and a half (p.2).
A new "dispensation of the fulness of times" opened with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (which meant the reopening of the Judeo-Christian canon), the reintroduction of prophetic leadership for the people of God, the re-formation of the Church of Jesus Chris, the restoration of the priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek, and the gathering of the Saints. (p.2)
The nineteenth century critics of Mormonism inverted this "light-into-darkness" model and accused the Church of blinding its believers to reality and pushing them back into the dark ages of superstition and gullibility (p.3). On top of this, the context of American Jacksonian Democracy was used to make the hierarchical organization of the church appear old-fashioned and out-of-touch with the "halcyon days" of the early republic (p.3).

Shipps insists that the facts of LDS history do not speak for themselves.
It is as important to remember that the very same descriptions of the very same events can take on radically different meanings when they are placed in different settings as it is to keep in mind that "inside" and "outside" perceptions of what was happening differed at practically every point in LDS history. (p.4)
[[The brief sketch of Joseph Smith's life that Shipps offers (pp.4-5) is negligent in pointing out just how wealthy Steven Mack was, and how good an economic start the Smith Sr family had, even up to and including New Hampshire and the typhoid epidemic. RCK]]
But Joseph and Lucy were unable to prevent the drift that carried the Smith family away from the solid center of respectability toward the fringes of polite society. (p.6)
[In Palmyra and Manchester, RCK] as landless settlers, they were easily relegated to marginal status. (p.6)
Their religious orientation was those of seekers, not affiliated with any denomination, and at the same time involved in the magical substratum of the time.
As did the religious lives of many of their forebears, the religious lives of people like the Smith family held in suspension both a reliance on magic and the occult arts, and a thoroughgoing acceptance of the truth of the claims set out in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. (p.7)
Shipps argues that the religious climate of the family which provided Joseph Smith's vision accounts with their first acceptance and support cannot be underrepresented (pp.8-9).

For Shipps argument, the order of first-vision (1820?), finding of seer-stone on Willard Chase's farm (1822), Moroni revelation (1823), and recovery of the plates and the Urim and Thummim (1827), is important to the argument (p.11).
... all of the family members extended such assistance as they could manage to further the work of the one of their number through whom they believed God had started to speak anew to their generation. (p.12)
Shipps points out that no only Emma Hale (p.12), but also Martin Harris, Joseph Knight Sr of Colesville, Oliver Cowdery, and members of the Peter Whitmer family, supported the "gold bible" effort (p.13).
These were all persons who not only came to believe that Joseph had gold plates, but also to accept his claim that the plates were actually a book whose text contained the fulness of the gospel that would lead to salvation. (p.13)
Shipps correctly points out that the plates seemed to have no role in the translation process (p.13), and that the seer stone or Urim & Thummim was the key to the translation process (p.14).

Shipps points out that the story with Harris taking the copied hieroglyphics to Samuel L. Mitchill of Rutgers and Charles Anthon of Columbia College (p.15) to Joseph Smith Jr was a fulfillment of the Isaiah 29 prophecy, that a sealed book would inaugurate a marvelous work and wonder (p.15).

Shipps attributes key importance to the loss of the first 116 pages by Martin Harris around the time of the first baby of Emma and Joseph being born (p.16), and the arrival of the angel to take away the plates and the Urim and Thummim for interpreting them (p.17). Shipps points to the odd lacuna between the revelation of how to proceed in July and the actual return of the plates September 22nd, 1828. To her Joseph Smith spent the summer "laboring with his hands upon a small farm" as a contemplative exercise (p.18), structurally akin to the retrospective phase of Jesus in the Wilderness (p.19).

By February 1829, Smith Jr was back at translating and revealing to his father a role in the work (p.19). The process of retrospective had clarified his thinking, and a new revelation explained the program of the coming religious tasks [= D&C 5]. [[Unfortunately, Shipps' analysis of the "first translate, then prophesy" is marred by the fact that the D&C was retroactively edited to turn a singular gift into a sequence of gifts, as D. Michael Quinn has pointed out. RCK]] In this context (p.20), the relationship with former patron Martin Harris, who probably had supported Smith since 1824, also was elucidated (p.20).

This process of clarification took until March 1829 (p.20), but with April 7th, 1929, and the arrival of Oliver Cowdery, the process of translation seriously took off, and the book, 600 pages, was completed by the beginning of 1830. The relationship between Smith Jr and Cowdery was sorted out by three more revelations, which solidified Cowdery's role as scribal non-translator but predicted contributing to the larger work (p.21).

Shipps tries to convey the excitement that was building in the small circle of supporters at the expectation of a new dispensation of the fulness of times (p.22).

However, the ground still needed to be prepared for a church with a doctrinal program (p.23), and this required the completion of the Book of Mormon translation; the authentication of its translation through witnesses of the golden plates; and the preparation of the theological ground for the church (p.23).

These conditions were fulfilled rapidly: In the summer of 1829, while the translation was being finished, two sets of witnesses---Cowdery, Harris and David Whitmer in the three witnesses, five Whitmers plus Hyrum and Samuel and Joseph Sr Smith for the eight witnesses---attested to their experiences with the Golden Plates (p.23). On May 15th, 1829, the Levitical or Aaronitic priesthood was restored to Smith and Cowdery, "making baptism under a new and everlasting covenant possible" (p.23).

In the Beginning

In her summary of the Book of Mormon, Shipps points out how the loss of civilization of the Lamnites was tied to their loss of institutional memory (p.26).
With access neither to history nor genealogy [one of the key objects that Lehi brought from Jerusalem on brass plates, RCK], in time the Lamnites---for whom, say the words, American Indians are descended---would forget their heritage as children of the wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt long ago. (p.26)
Initial reactions to the book saw it as a romance, a heresy (e.g. Diedrich Willers, (p.174 Fn 2)) (p.26), or indeed as a translation from ancient records (p.27). Shipps reminds us that "all truth claims are potentially divisive", and that from the get-go the Book of Mormon called into a decision of whether it was genuine or false (p.27).

Though the veracity of the Book of Mormon has been asserted in numerous ways, including the different literary styles of the authors, and the complete absence of interest in liberty and the political process (p.28). But the real reason that the book could function this way, becoming more than a mere book by its religious role (p.29), was due to the underlying assumptions about the Bible (p.29).
The work that Smith said he translated from records engraved on gold plates presented itself as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy to a world wherein the Bible was still culturally defined as an undoubtedly authentic record of actual events involving real people, a record whose prophetic predictions would be literally fulfilled. (p.29)
... Americans in the 1830s generally regarded the Bible as the actual "stick of Judah" to which, so Ezekiel had said, the "stick of Joseph" would someday be joined. Hence, when people credited the Mormon claim that the Book of Mormon was the "stick of Joseph in the hand of Ephraim", the work took on a biblical character for them. (p.29) 
The logic of the matter was that if one accepted the contents of the book, then the process by which Joseph Smith Jr had received equally was acceptable at face value (p.29). And there were slots in the Biblical narrative for many of these conceptions, e.g. Moroni as the angel of Revelation 14:6 (p.30).

Shipps now leverages the work of James B. Allen to point to the first traces of the canonization of the Mormon history by looked at the way the first vision, which had originally been reported in 1838 for the first time (p.30), moved to the central locus of the narrative in the 20th century (p.31), also establishing the duality of personhood of the Father and the Son (p.32) en passant. Shipps believes that Allen showed that the vision helped the Mormon leadership after the generation switch between those leaders who knew Smith and those who did not to keep alive the memory of Joseph Smith Jr (p.32). Shipps points out the problematic aspects of fronting the First Vision in this way.
Doing so almost always leads to an oversimplification of the cultural situation into which Mormonism || irrupted. (pp.32-33)
More specifically:

  1. "It ... suggests that a more or less complete theological system was revealed to Joseph Smith in embryo, hiding the dynamism of the developmental process by which Mormonism's present theological system evolved. " (p.33)
  2. "It obscures the centrality of the story of the appearances of Moroni and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and, as a result, also obscures the extent to which Mormonism, through its demonstration that divinity had not ceased direct intercourse with humanity at the end of the apostolic age, responded to the concerns of the inhabitants of the biblical culture out of which it emerged." (p.33)
  3. "Most important, telling the story the modern way tends to take the Book of Mormon away from the limelight, making Joseph Smith the focal point of the Mormon story. Whether intended or not, this has the effect of making Smith's spiritual experience serve to legitimate the Book of Mormon." (p.33)
[[But the question is whether that was not always the case; with the burning in the heart of the translator; with the ways in which Smith could replace prior revelations with later revelations, e.g. regarding marriage; it really just pushes the emphasis from the spiritual experience of his translator role to the experience of his revelator role. RCK]]

Such a shift to a charismatic origin obscures the historical fact that it was the Book of Mormon that then attracted people to the Church (p.33). 

Shipp then reminds us not to over-focus on the "burnt-over" situation in Western New York.
The situation throughout the union was unsettled and things were extremely fluid in this period where all America seemed to be streaming westward after || the Revolution. A new physical universe was there to contend with. A new and somewhat uncertain political system existed and Americans had to operate within it. The bases of social order were in a state of disarray, and as a result of the nation's having cut its ties with England and her history, a clear lack of grounding in the past was evident. (pp.33-34)
Shipps also points to the rise of skepticism and direct contention between the denominations.
That uncertainty placed in jeopardy the religious dynamics that for centuries---through formal or informal catechizing----had passed from one generation to the next a body of unquestioned information about divinity, humanity, the system of right relationships that created the social order,  and the nature of experience after death. (p.34) 
To this situation, there were a plurality of responses, one of which was the development of an "anti-creedal sola scriptura movement", American primitivism, in the style of Alexander Campbell, Elias Smith, James O'Kelly, Barton Stone, and the great revivals, with reference to A Shopkeeper's Millenium by Paul Johnson (p.34).
Both of these Christian revitalization thrusts were, at base, conservative and reintegrating [with the "post-Reformation Christianity brought from Europe to America" (p.35), RCK]. (p.34) 
Mormonism was initially like a primitivist response, which is why it appealed to Campellites (p.35).
It drew, however, on so many elements other than the Judeo-Christian tradition that its adherents were not reintegrated into traditional Christianity but quite the reverse. (p.35)
[[Which is just fine with Mormons, since that fixes the "Great Apostasy" in their view. RCK]]

The Mormonites ... moved ... into the new dispensation of the fullness of times ... by accepting a complex set of religious claims that brought speculation about the origin of the American Indian and America's place in the grand scheme of things into synthesis with the story of the Hebrews, generally as redacted by New Tes- || tament writers .... (pp.35-36)
Thus was formed a new mythology that gave rise to social, institutional, ritual, liturgical and doctrinal innovation, leading to a new religious tradition (p.36).

Shipps explains this by reference to the work of John S. Dunne, Time and Myth, on the connection between world story and mankind story (p.36).
People live inside stories, as it were. Consequently, when the reliability of the story of the world is questioned, the result is confusion in individual lives. (p.36) 
And the crisis was there:
Although it took a very long time for the fundamental questions that were introduced during the Reformation and Enlightenment to trickle down to the popular level, as Gordon Wood has shown, they had started to penetrate every aspect of American popular culture in Joseph Smith's generation. [= Gordon Wood, Evangelical America and Early Mormonism] (p.36) 
The evangelical thrust that radically altered American Christianity during the period of the Second Great Awakening made religious authority subject to the democratic process, while skepticism questioned the basis of religious authority altogether. A dramatic weakening of the link between the story of the world told in Christian terms and the story of individual American lives was the outcome. (p.36)
As a response to the feeling that the heavens had "turned to brass" and the voice of God would no longer be heard in the land, as Brigham Roberts and Joseph F. Smith phrased it (p.37) (p.177 Fn 28), the Book of Mormon was helpful.
But the new scripture was even more vulnerable to hard questions about its history and its || historicity than the Old and New Testaments,  whose authority was under attack from skeptics and deists. (p.37)
This made the Book of Mormon by itself insufficient, but coupled with the prediction of its prophet, Joseph Smith Jr (p.37), it was more plausible.
As prophet, Smith turned these predictions into actualities. They validated the book and vice versa. (p.37)
It was only as the union of the live of the prophet and the book that the
... link between a Hebrew-Christian understanding of the story of the world and the personal lives of the prophet and the people who became his followers (p.37)
could be established (p.37). Shipps believes that the plurality of roles ascribed to Smith Jr in revelations, such as "to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and a prophet" (p.37) served to fill out the multiple positions identified in the Old Testament "deliverer (Moses), military commander (Joshua), prophet (Isaiah), high priest (Eli), king (Solomon)" (p.37) as well as the New of "church founder (Peter) and apostle to the Gentiles (Paul)" (p.37) in one fell swoop (p.37).

Shipps points out that this "renewal through replication" was a process that the Church continued to apply which "gave the Saints a particular perspective on the biblical past and a literal understanding of what happened in ancient times" (p.38).
... in proposing that Smith's story is best understood in the context of his sequential assumption of positions/roles that allowed the Saints to recover a usable past, it suggests a way of shifting the focus. (p.38)
The result is a picture of a seer who, in becoming a "translator" (not only of a "new testament of Jesus Christ"  but of the Old and New Testament as well), made the biblical story meaningful and accessible to a doubting generation; a prophet who spoke for God, comforting his people and gathering them into a community so that the Lord could protect them as a hen protects her chickens under her wing; a revelator who called both church and temple into being; a presiding elder who was instrumental in bringing his people into institutional relationship with each other; a high priest whose words and actions harnessed spiritual energies to produce a physical temple where the "ordinances of the Lord" could be performed; and a king whose leadership made possible the organization of the political kingdom of God. (p.38)
This approach is no silver bullet but gives an overall clarifying framework.
... it reveals the movement as one in which leader and followers were together living through---recapitulating---the stories of Israel and early Christianity. (p.38)
Operating together, these components [i.e. "the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith's prophetic leadership, and the experience of the Saints" (p.39), RCK] brought this new religious tradition into being, reopening the canon and bringing God back into the history of the Saints in such a substantial way that within Mormonism, divinity is still as real as all the other realities of everyday existence. (p.39)

History as Text

Shipps rightly points out that the renegotiation of societal order as the proper identification of the responsibilities and relationships of the societal actors---what Shipps terms "cultural chaos"---lie at the root of all great religious movements (p.42).
[The voices of the great religious founders] ... were all first heard in troubled times and places in which new peoples, new ideas, or new methods of organizing political and economic life had so severely disturbed the traditional network of right relationships that chaotic situations obviously existed. (p.42)
New religions generate new ordered universes of meaning (p.42).
In a manner never easy to determine precisely, the inhabitants of the several cultures under stress came to accept the messages spoken or written by the prophets or enlightened ones as absolutely reliable information that, by extension, could answer all imaginable questions and provide solu- || tions to problems that had appeared insoluble. (pp.42-43)
The documentation of early Mormonism and its setting vastly exceeds anything we have for the ancient world, the existence of conflicting data hampers the investigation (p.43). This leads to a plurality of stories--first and second hand witnesses, apostate and long-time critics, etc---that are not easily unified (p.44).

In analyzing the relationship between early Mormonism and early Christianity, with its self-witnessed paradoxical event at the core, Shipps unpacks dimensions of analysis in a particular order, focusing on the mythological rather than the experiential, doctrinal (p.45), or sociological (p.46).
As the Christian story is neither simply a reinterpretation nor continuation of the Hebraic-Judaic story, so the Mormon story departs significantly from the story of Abraham and the histories of Israel and Christianity as those stories are understood by Christians and Jews. (p.46)
Shipps then sorts out the use of the terms "church, denomination, sect and cult" (p.47) arguing against any pejorative use of these terms and providing short definitions for them.

  • "... the term church will be used to refer specifically to institutions that assume direct responsibility for the whole of a tradition's story: for proclaiming it, keeping it alive through liturgy and ritual, and transmitting it from one generation to another; for preserving the story's integrity through canonization and systematic doctrinal statement; and for drawing from it pat- || terns, examples, and principles that will insure the arrangement of a network of right relationships within the community, will prescribe the proper relationships to maintain with the world outside, and will serve as the basis for an ethical code." (pp.47-48)
  • "Denomination also refers to an institution, one that is by and large a subdivision of a church, the more inclusive term. Denominations likewise bear responsibility for a tradition's story, but as a result of their various histories, the different denominations within a tradition preserve the story in distinct ways, emphasizing some things and neglecting others." (p.48)
  • "Sects refer to groups that coalesce around a leader or leaders who find themselves in disagreement with ecclesiastical authorities over matters that manifest themselves as concern about ritual and liturgy, institutional structure, the pattern of relationships within and without the community, or the nature of the authentic spiritual experience, but are matters ultimately rooted in disagreement over interpretation of a tradition's story and the implications following therefrom." (p.48)
  • "Cult, by contrast, refers to a group that coalesces around a leader who mounts a challenge to the fundamental integrity of a tradition's story by adding to it, subtracting from it, or by changing it in some more radical way than merely setting out a new interpretation of the events and happenings in the existing story." (p.48)
Churches and denominations are more part of the culture, while sects and cult create a counter-culture defined by an "alternative symbolic universe" (p.48). 
[Sects and Cults, RCK] ... are similar in the makeup of their membership, in their appeal to the disinherited (whether relatively or absolutely deprived), and in their tendency to become millenarian/millennial movements. Yet sects and cults stand in opposition to the world on different grounds ... || ... [as] a sect grows out of disagreement about how a tradition's story ought to be understood, i.e. over interpretation, while a cult's antagonistic stance rests on acceptance of a story changed in its essentials .... (pp.48-49)
Shipps briefly reviews some well-known sects, and identifies Pharisaic Jews, Seventh-Day Adventists and Christian Scientists (pp.49-50), while of the cultic movements, "only Christianity and Mormonism are now full-scale religious traditions" (p.50). Believers will turn the question of why into an ontological argument, proving by the existence that the movement is "of God" (p.50). Shipps has no new model to add to the existing bag, rather wishing to focus (p.50) on the question of how the internal workings of Mormonism played out as the cult turned religious tradition (p.51).

The majority of religious movements in America were tied together by the common thread of the European Christian experience, the religious history of Europe, which chained the Jews to the New Testament as well, as the aggressors against Jesus (p.51).
Latter-day Saints, however, were not tied to the ministry of Jesus and the world of the early church through the history of Christianity in Europe. Theirs was a different past. (p.51)
Because the theory of the Great Apostasy had truncated some 1,400 to 1,800 years out of the Mormon history, the only history they had left was the history of the New and Old Testament (p.51).
This huge hiatus meant that parallels between their experiences and experiences described in the Bible came so naturally to the Saints .... (p.51)
Yet, the profound historylessness of early Mor- || monism cannot be satisfactorily explained entirely in terms of the Saints' conscious rejection of the institutional history of Christianity. (p.52)
Shipps then tries to argue that the Mormon replication was "not conscious ritual re-creation of events, but rather experiential "living through" of sacred events in a new age" (p.52).
Although it seemed strange and even dangerous in the modern world of nineteenth-century America, this activity allowed the Saints to recover their own past, their own salva- || tion history, which, despite its similarity to words and acts, places and events in the biblical stories of Israel's history and the history of Christianity, was the heilsgeschichte of neither Christian nor Jew. (pp.52-53)
Shipps is trying to argue that past and future must be both made anew for all new religious movements, including the early Christians, whose interpretation of Jesus as the Messiah effectively created a separate past from the Jewish past (p.53).

In both cases, Christianity and Mormonism, there is a claim of the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible having been fulfilled (p.53), Jesus having been foretold by Isaiah, and the Book of Mormon as the "stick of Joseph in the hand of Ephraim" by Ezekiel (p.53).
By recognizing this structural parallel, and by paying close attention to what happened as the early Christian saints appropriated a vision of Israel's past that could be ritually re-created to serve as meaningful background to the Christian story, .... (p.53)
Shipps wants to show how the Mormon story acquired its new background story (p.53).

Shipps points to the recapitulation of the Jewish story in Acts 7 as an exemplar of the type of argument that the early Christians must have made all the time (p.54). Shipps thinks that Hebrews may even be the most powerful example of re-imagining the Jewish past (p.54).

Shipps then points out the way in which specific stories in the New Testament can be interpreted as recapitulations of the Jewish past, including John the Baptists as the new Elijah; Jesus spending as many days in the wilderness as the Israelites did years; twelve apostles for the twelve tribes; etc. (p.55)
[[Some examples are less convincing, e.g. the story of Mary and the virgin birth forming a parallel to the Samuel story; Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt like the Israelites did; etc. RCK]]
So delineated, the activities by which the early Christians appropriated Israel's pat, made it an integral part of their ritual and liturgical life, and used it as the foundation for the development of a new religious tradition appear more spontaneous than calculated, more open than esoteric, more transparent than opaque. (p.55)
But the illumination of the Mormon early history indicates that the complexity of analysis applied has been wanting (p.56).
... Mormonism's ritual re-creation of the stories of Israel and Christianity rests not only on theological reinterpretation, but on a recapitulation of biblical events much more complex than scholars have heretofore recognized. (p.56)
Shipps points out that the ordering of the elements is non-chronological, that the revelation of a book about the history from before Europeans came to America copies the discovery of the book written by Moses in the time of King Josiah in the Old Testament (p.58), which is however immediately followed by the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood [which occurs earlier in the OT, RCK] and the establishment of the "Church of Christ" [which is in the NT, RCK].
A temple modeled on the pre-exilic temple of Solomon's day was constructed in Kirtland, but in the initial ceremonies conducted there, the Christian ordinance of washing of the feet was introduced. (p.58)
Analyzing the visionary experience of Joseph Smith Jr and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple, when they stepped behind the veil, what happens is a collage of an Old Testament Jehova epiphany (p.58), the presence of Christ in Revelation-style language (p.59), and the meeting of Jesus with Moses, Elijah and Elias (Mt 17) (p.59).

[[It is not clear to me that Joseph Smith Jr's death failed to unify the Mormons, rather it exacerbated the divisions that were already present with respect to polygamy. (p.59) RCK]]

Clearly the death of Joseph caused a schism in the Mormon community. Shipps analyzes that schism as follows:
For the former [= RLDS, RCK], Mormonism ever afterward took on the character of primitive Christianity that it had in the very beginning. For the latter, the prophet's observation that he was "going as a lamb to slaughter" apparently suggested suffering servant more than crucified messiah, Israel more than early Christianity, since his death turned these Latter-day Saints away from New Testament stories to an even more elaborate and direct reprise of Old Testament times. (p.59)
[[Here, we have to decisively disagree. As if the restoration of the priesthoods and the Solomonic temple had not been OT enough, and the language of crushing one's enemies under foot, the introduction of polygamy, which has no foothold in the NT, pushed the OT focus already over the top. RCK]]

Shipps is right that the mythology of the trek to Utah was heavy with Israelite recapitulations, including feeding miracles and dry-foot crossings of the ice river (p.60), but that imagery only shows that the Saints were then already thinking in OT terms, not that this was then they began (p.60). The whole debate about the militant "Kingdom of God" question belongs here as well (p.60).

Shipps knows and argues that plural marriage entered Mormonism at Kirtland (p.61); which makes her insisting that the OT focus hails from Nauvoo doubly odd.
All were part of a latter-day recapitulation of the ancient Patriarchal Age, which in the Bible, is separated from the kingdom-building of David and Solomon by a great span of years and which, in Mormonism, is analytically distinct from the creation of the political kingdom of God. This means that a literal plurality of wives was one of the main elements figuring in the Saints' recapitulation of the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph ... (p.61).
Shipps tries to argue that the plurality of marriage revelation recorded in 1843, D&C 132, reflects Smith Jr's distinction of two ages of Israelite History, by separating Abraham, Isaac and Jacob on the one hand from Moses, David and Solomon on the other hand, who represent the time of the conquest of Canaan and the establishment of the Israelite kingdom (p.62). [[The problem of course is that no other wives for Isaac are recorded than Rebecca, and no concubines with offspring either. RCK]]

Shipps argues that with the relationships between Utah and the United States, the experience of Babylon as exile had also been experienced (p.62), thus filling the available slots in the Hebrew history (p.63).
With Zion and Babylon come to terms, the past was filled up. Complete. (p.63)
Henceforth, there could only be re-interpretation and ritual re-enactment (p.63). The return to Salt Lake City, for example, on July 24th, from the US government imposed exile, is now a festival (p.64). This impulse has powered the restoration of Kirtland, Nauvoo and other sites of the Mormon experience (p.64). Thus, modern Mormon history begins with Abraham and includes the pioneers of the Utah settlement (p.64).
... accounts of Mormon history that reflect the experience of the Saints themselves consolidate and reshape the vision of Old and New Testaments in much the same way that accounts of the experience of the early Christian community consolidated and reshaped Israel's story. (p.65) 

Reformation and Restauration

Shipps now turns to the problem of working out in more detail how Mormonism is a restoration religion (p.68), pointing out that Christianity was itself a restoration movement of Judaism (p.68). Like all religious traditions including Christianity, Mormonism was derivative and synthetic, and not limited to the scriptures whose interpretation it was restoring for its fodder, but also looking to its context of discovery (p.68). 

Shipps postulates that radical restoration movements are a general feature of history (p.69), but requires a clear theoretical framework to make the objects of study appear (p.69). 
By their very nature radical restoration claims are exclusive: they admit no alternative versions of truth. ... they issue up in times of confusion when the worldview marketplace is crowded with contenders for primacy .... (p.69) 
... multiple belief systems about and ... cultural and religious disorder is aggravated by the shifting of the social, political and economical bases on which society has long rested .... (p.70)
The gift of the restoration is to return to that point in time when relationships were straightforward, understood and ordered (p.70).
   ... restoration claims [when "accepted wholeheartedly" (p.70), RCK] banish confusion and make possible the passage from chaos to cosmos, settling with unassailable authority the tumultuous questions which at once generated and reflected the chaos. (p.70)
They offer believes persuasive explanations allowing them to determine which of several belief systems they ought to adopt, which of several religious institutions is legitimate, which rituals and ordinances are necessary and proper, and which human beings possess authority to speak and act for divinity. (p.70)
These descriptions are propositions, and some community needs to accept them as their interpretations and act accordingly.
... the study of restoration movements calls for investigation of the process by which believers transform restoration claims into objective facts and operating principles. (p.70)
Shipps recommends to reconstruct this process at the level of the community, not so much at the level of the rebirth of the individual (p.70) [[in language heavily influenced by Mircea Eliade, RCK]].
Instead of starting over as little children, the pristine community of belief enters collectively into a new world. Because restoration claims postulate a return to an original situation, their immediate effect on the community that accepts them is, as will be shown in chapter six, the obliteration of history and the regeneration of time. (p.71)
... as they are the first to perceive and react, their perception of and response to the restoration sets this group, which "once again at the beginning", apart from those who follow them in faith. (p.71) 
The experience of the original group becomes profoundly important in that ... their belief makes the beginning of the restoration possible. Consequently, their acceptance itself becomes in time, a part of the original set of restoration claims. (p.71)
The first acceptance becomes a paradigmatic act that can be replicated ad infinitum, as a chain of restorations, across time.
New believers banish cultural and religious confusion by coming to accept ... the reality of the restoration. (p.71)
Shipps then wishes to distinguish the radical, discontinuous restoration movements from those that are primarily reformative, re-interpretative or revitalizing (p.71). Reformation harkens back to a past where the necessary information is already available within the tradition (p.72).
Radical restoration involves a changing of the means of, or the reopening of, communication between divinity and humanity. In that sense and for that reason, it breaks through the ongoingness of experience, tearing across history's seamless web to provide humanity with a new world wherein God is actively involved. (p.72)
Shipps reminds us that the switching between restoration movements, as both the recruitment from Campbellites and the various apostasies demonstrate, and underscores the similarity between Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith Jr, for example (p.72).
Both groups accepted the fathership of Abraham and both accepted the Sinaitic Covenant. The members of both groups believed that their was the true church, organized according to what they took to be the pattern laid down in the apostolic age; and both groups stood on the simple principles of faith, repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. (p.72) 
Yet the decisive difference between Mormonites and Campbellites turns out to be the very difference between reformation and radical restoration. Campbell offered what he considered rational arguments in his Millenial Harbringer, drawing upon the scriptures for support (p.72); while the Book of Mormon offers radical restoration, tying together the history of the Indians and the Europeans, of Jesus and the Northern Kingdom, thus making the coming forth of the Book of Mormon "the preeminent event toward which all history had been tending, at least since the Resurrection" (p.73).

Shipps then points out that by starting the church with the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood on the one hand the renewed sending out of apostles to preach repentance, the church had laid an OT/NT foundation that was "contrapuntal" (p.74). When the church was organized on April 6th, 1830, it was structurally modelled on the Apostolic Church of Acts, akin to Alexander Campbell's Disciples of Christ, but had literal prophetic leadership superimposed on it (p.75).

Melodie Moench had shown to Shipps' satisfaction, that early Mormonism continued to interpret Israel mostly through the lenses of St Paul and the authors of the synoptic gospels (p.75). However, Shipps sees the difference therein that the Mormon plan for the fullness of time includes not only a restoration of the church, but the restoration of Israel thereafter (p.75).

[[This claim is only weakly worked out; it is doubtful that Alexander Campbell would not have expected a restoration of Israel. It is the millennial character of early Mormonism that pushes that characteristic into view, not the difference in their perception of Israel. RCK]]

Clearly that led to theological tension (p.76).
Without a doubt, this tension was heightened by the difficulty engendered by the need to mesh a belief in a literal restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods and, more important, an open canon and the leadership of a living prophet into an ecclesiastical organization whose blueprint was the one set out in the Book of Acts. (p.76)
Entrance thereunto [the new church, RCK] required repentance, baptism by immersion, and so on, but also the administration of ancient ordinances not described in the New Testament, but a part of those "plain and precious things" that the Mormons believed were left out when the New Testament scriptures were published to the world. (p.77)
Shipps point out that both Paul's letter to the Galatians as well as to the Romans lend themselves both to figurative and to literal interpretations of a connection to Israel, esp. when read in the light of Isaiah and Ezekiel (p.77). Shipps points to Romans 4, Romans 11 and Galatians 3:7 as an example configuration in this regard.

Shipps points out that DePillis investigation showed that what made early converts convinced of the validity of the message was the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood as a form of return of authority (p.78). And of course to many it appeared as synonymous with Apostolic christianity (p.79).

Shipps briefly discusses how D&C 29 with its talk of the gathering of the elect and the expectation of a new heaven and earth, after the consumption of the old (p.80), "appropriated Old Testament concepts by way of the New Testament reappropriation of those concepts" (p.81) The revelation to go to Ohio almost uses Exodus patterns in describing the move, which Shipps interprets as a move toward a literal identification with Israel rather than a figurative one (p.81). Shipps also interprets the "translation" work that Joseph Smith Jr started doing on the Old Testament as a part of the process of sorting out the relationship between Mormonism and ancient Israel (p.81). Shipps then makes a lot of the Kirtland temple, pointing out that it was no typical New England meetinghouse [[neither was it a temple like in Nauvoo, it was an intermediary, and it was a stop-gap measure because the Missouri Zion had not worked out, RCK]] (p.82).

Shipps dates the patriarchical blessing, which ties the individual into the Abrahamitic lineage, into the Kirtland time (p.83), and combines it with the beginning of the endowments, and with the doctrine of plural marriage, thus indicating "literal connections with Israel" at that time already (p.83).

Shipps however believes that the RLDS is the part of the Mormon Church that maintained the figurative connection to Israel, rather than the literal, and pooh-poohs the difference being polygamy (p.85).

[[I think this part of her argument needs work. I find the few sections that Shipps has cited largely unconvincing that Joseph Smith Jr saw the Mormons themselves as the new Israel, rather that Zion was to be built up to bring down Israel from the Lamnites and from the polar caps and restore it. The Saints never wanted to be the Israelites, though the may have wanted to have access to their prophetic capability, their temple and the multiple marriages. But they wanted in an indirected, mediated way, not by becoming Israel. RCK]]

Bibliographic Record

Jan SHIPPS, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition, Urbana -- Chicago (University of Illinois Press), 1985.

Recommended Reading

James B. ALLEN, Glen M. LEONHARD, The Story of the Latter-day Saints.
Leonard J. ARRINGTON, Davis BITTON, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints.
John GAGER, Kingdom and Community: The Social World of Early Christendom, 1975.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Williams on F.G. Williams -- Selections

Introduction [RCK]

Since in this case, the author and the object of the state have the same name, and not for accidental reasons, the object has been abbreviated FGW to distinguish it from Williams the author.

United Firm (United Order), Literary Firm

Within a few years, the First Presidency was inspired to establish or to expand a number of key organizations and institutions to deal with these and other issues of a growing church. Some of these were already in operation prior to March 18th, 1833, when the First Presidency was officially informed. (p.275)
Williams then gives a chronology of the institutions and their establishment to help keep the timelines straight (p.276).

  • November 12th, 1831: Literary Firm
  • March 1832: United Firm
  • December 27th, 1832: School of the Prophets
  • March 23, 1833: Kirtland Temple & Stake
  • September 11th, 1833: Firm of F.G. Williams & Co.
  • December 18th, 1833: Patriarch of the Church
  • February 17th, 1834: High Council in Kirtland
  • July 3rd, 1834: High Council in Far West
  • February 14, 1835: Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
  • February 28th, 1835: Quorum of the Seventy
Williams takes Cook's careful statement
The United Firm was a business partnership consisting of about a dozen Church leaders. Members of the firm were either landowners or merchants whose purpose was to work in concert, using the financial means, to generate profits. Inasmuch as the members of the partnership were also presiding Church leaders, it is difficult to determine which of their financial transactions were purely personal and which were Church related. (p.277) [= Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City (Deseret Books) 1985, p.167-168. RCK]
and turns that into
In an attempt to address the temporal and literary needs of a growing Church, Joseph, under the guiding spirit of the Lord [= Kirtland Revelation Book, March 1st, 1832 RCK], established an entity known as the United Firm that was made up of the top leaders of the Church together with its wealthiest members. (p.276)
which overemphasizes the Church relationship over the private financial endeavor (compare Max Parkin's assessment, for example). Though Williams admits:
The United Firm, although technically a private for-profit business venture, was also responsible for and administered the financial affairs of the early Church. Thus, the firm;s members were set-apart stewards over the sacred funds of the Church, while, at the same time, trying to earn a profit. Ultimately the firm did not prosper and its operation was discontinued less than three years after it was begun. (p.278)
Jesse Gause is not mentioned in the foundation story (p.277), only in the membership list taken from Lyndon W. Cook (p.278) and post-facto in the literary firm narrative (p.320).

Williams is clear that the dissolution of the firm was related to its indebtedness (p.280), to which the Kirtland members had found no solution. The pieces were doled out to the constituent members (p.280).

Williams then turns to the problem of the cancellation of the debts. Though FGW's company was down by $584.14 and FGW himself owed $485.67 to Whitney, making the overall cost comparable to Joseph Smith's whooping $1,151.31 (Rigdon clocked in around $780) (p.281), FGW had his own lists, especially with respect to what Joseph Smith Jr owed him: $4,613. (p.281)

This sum breaks down into the price of the farm ($2,200), a yoke of oxen ($80), a two-ox wagon ($75), a silver watch ($50), and other goods and services (which make up another $2,000 then) (p.283). The story with the farm is especially tricky, because the United Firm had been dissolved on April 23rd, 1834, but the farm had only been sold May 5th, 1834 (p.282).

Williams has a plausible idea for the context of the statements of facts and the account of the farm that FGW authored (p.283).
These statements on the farm may have been written later by President Williams [= FGW, RCK] in response to disgruntled members over the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society. They show that, notwithstanding he was an officer of the bank and a member of the First Presidency, Frederick had never received any money for his property. (p.283) 
Williams points out that FGW did not doubt the revelation.
If he [= FGW, RCK] were discontented or in apostasy, he would call the revelation bogus,merely a clever ploy by Joseph Smith to cheat him out of $4,613 and cheat Newel K. Whitney out of $3,635. But Newel and Frederick were not merely hearers of the word, but doers also, and canceled their outstanding debts. (p.283)
The question of what the relationship between Joseph Smith Jr and FGW was at that time is tricky; the main clue is provided by a letter that Rebecca Swain, FGW's wife, sent to her father regarding the status of their relationship with the Church, which seemed sufficiently unchanged to disappoint her father (p.285f).

Williams mentions that Oliver Cowdery had talked with FGW about the way the farm was sold, a story recounted in a letter to Cowdery's brothers on June 2nd, 1838, when Cowdery was already estranged from the church (p.284); but the Swain letter two months later makes it hard to believe that FGW was actually interested in suing for the land (p.286), and possibly Cowdery was hearing what he wanted to hear (p.284).

Hebrew School and Egyptian Antiquities

The good feeling between FGW and Joseph Smith Jr, which was strengthened through their numerous collaborations, found expression in Emma and Joseph Smith Jr naming their 2nd son, born June 20th, 1836 in Kirtland, Frederick Granger Williams Smith (p.308), that is, after FGW. The Williams family reciprocated when Lovina (née Williams) and Burr Riggs named their daughter after Emma (p.308).

Williams summarizes their personal closeness by reviewing their collaborations.
Williams [= FGW, RCK] had been the Prophet's scribe for the past four years, the President's counselor for the past three years, his disciple in the School of the Prophets for the past two years, his missionary companion at different times, and his physician for the past five years, and all of these activities had kept the two of them in close proximity, had enlivened them spiritually, and had formed a bond of trust between them. (p.307)

F.G.Williams & Co, Publisher and Editor

In November of 1831, during four conferences, the Church leadership had hashed out the way in which the revelations were to be published in Zion (p.318). Rigdon, Smith, Cowdery, Harris, John Whitmer and Phelps were called to take care of that issue (p.318). The Literary Firm, which had been founded in November 1831 (according to Cannon & Cook, Far West Record, p.46 Fn 1), was tasked in a revelation on April 30, 1832, with printing 3,000 copies of the Book of Commandments.

With the destruction of the press in Zion on July 20th, 1833, the publishing plans had to move to Kirtland (p.318). Here, FGW had joined the United Firm in March of 1833 [= D&C 92] and was affirmed as member to the Zion church leadership in a letter dated June 25th, 1833 [written by Sidney Rigdon, see first page of letter, RCK] (p.318).

Williams expends some energy trying to determine why Williams was chosen (p.319) and concludes that his standing in the local community may have been the decisive point (p.320). 

F.G.W and Cowdery had received the printing establishment at the dissolution of the United Firm, and managed it together, contracting to the Church, until Cowdery bought out F.G.W in June of 1836 (p.321). Though it did a lot of work, publishing three newspapers and two books, the business failed to make much money (p.321). 
In November 1835, at the peak of its production, F.G. Williams & Co.'s printing office employed four journeymen printers and typesetters and three apprentices. The operation also included a bindery. (p.322)
In many ways, the cash book for F.G.Williams & Co. was the de factor account book for the Church's early financial operation, just as the Kirtland Council Minute Book (together with Joseph's various journals and histories) was a record of the Church's religious activities. (p.322)
The cash book for the printing firm used incoming and outgoing columns to track debts and receipts (p.322).
The ledger entries naming Frederick G. Williams total 77; they include such diverse items as (1) travel expenses (Cleveland five times, Painesville twice, Missouri once); (2) living expenses, including food || (butter, oats, sugar, wheat and fish); (3) office supplies (postage, paper, tallow, lamps and books); and (4) miscellaneous expenses (school, medicines [for both humans and horses], taxes, hammers, pistols, hired girls, Books of Mormon, lawyers, court and sheep), plus reimbursement for purchases such as deer skins, which were used to make inking balls for printers before rollers were introduced. Similar entries for food, school, travel and sundry other expenses exist for Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and several others. (pp.231-232) 
[[Notice that the "hired girl" is based on an unclear reading in the cash book for January 14th, 1835, and lacks any amount entered. RCK]]

The financial constraints on the firm were severe; October 6th, 1835, Brother Stevenson came to Smith Jr's house and loaned F.G.Williams & Co. six hundred dollars (p.342). But by October 23rd, 1835, they were back to praying to the Lord in face of their financial difficulties [= HC 2:291].

Officer of the Kirtland Safety Society

Although the Kirtland Safety Society existed for less than a year (November 1836 to July 1837), the failure of the short-lived Mormon bank would focus attention on the economic plight of the Church, .... (p.455)
The situation of the church after the completion of the temple was financially dire.
But personal loans had made up the bulk of the money for the land and the construction, and the promissory notes were coming due. (p.456)
Williams reminds us that banknotes before the Civil War were much more like 20th century personal checks (p.456) made out against the banking institution. This worked well enough on a local or rural level, but it had little liquidity or shiftability. [[Williams cites Scott Partridge's BYU Studies (1972) article in this context. RCK]]
In order to avoid the possibility of being robbed, banknotes were often used to pay debts and thus circulated as money between one individual and another, and from one bank to another, but without anyone ever redeeming them. Thus the notes circulated as money, which was in high demand as a medium of exchange before the establishment of a federal monetary system. (p.457)
Bank debt was an accepted medium of exchange, a firm's or individual's debt was not (p.457). In order to expose failed banks and counterfeiting, Robert T. Bicknell of Philadelphia published his Bicknell's Counterfeit Detector and Bank Note List (p.457), launched in the early 1830s.

Williams then gives the daily life of the Thompson Bank of Connecticut [unfortunately cobbled together from an interview with the living history re-enactor and unpublished research papers from Old Sturbridge Village. RCK] where the cashier was the man in building, while the president dropped by once a week to check in, sign banknotes as needed and grant loans higher than what the cashier could grant (p.458). The cashier made $400 per year, ~$2 a day, for about ten hours of work; Williams estimates that unskilled labor at that time was remunerated at $0.50 per day (p.458).

The loans were ninety-day loans at 6% interest, with the possibility of extension (p.458), though that required paying a fee and upped the interest rate (p.459).
If the individual did not meet the payment deadline, the cashier would seek a writ from a justice of the peace, directing the constable to visit the delinquent borrower's abode. There he was authorized to seize property to satisfy the debt. The items seized could not be the tools of the person's trade or the clothes on his back, but practically any other items could be seized and then sold at auction to pay off the debt. If the debt were more than $20, then the case would go to the circuit court. (p.459) 
Bank loans were meant for businesses, not individuals, who would find another individual and work it out with a promissory note (p.459).

The Thompson bank issued its own notes, intend for trading not reimbursement (p.459).
The coins kept on deposit that guaranteed the banknotes and that were kept in the safe on the premises of the Thompson Bank, were typically Mexican pesos, Spanish pesos, American dollars, or English pound sterling. (p.459)
Banks that the Thompson bank collaborated with would keep silver reserves at each other's locations, so that bank notes could be cashed in full (p.459). For notes issued by non-collaborating banks, people could not obtain the full face value from the Thompson bank (p.459).
The cashier was audited regularly. He also reported monthly on the entries in his books, and he was responsible for paying a percentage of the profits monthly to the trustees. The trustees were shareholders whose combined assets (that is, the money they put into the bank safe) was $100,000. It was from this money that the loans were made. (p.459)
The banknotes were printed in New York, and the bank could issue 25% over what it held in specie (p.459). If one person signed a banknote over to another, a fee was charged for that (p.460).
The cashier was bonded for $20,000 [= 20%, RCK], a sum he obtained by taking out insurance, whose premium he had withheld from his own pay. (p.460)
Frustrated in their attempt to obtain a bank charter and having plates for the money printing already (p.460), the church leadership proceeded to establish a stock company instead (p.461), and fixed the naming issues on the plates with stamping---"Anti" and "ing"---and blotting out---"Cashr" and "Pres"---(p.461).

But this was really only the smallest of the issues. The main problem was the capital inlay.
Whether establishing a bank or a joint stock company, no one person or even group of persons (such as those who had belonged to the United Firm) was in a position to provide enough funding to make the "bank" operational. It was ultimately decided that the members of the "Anti-Banking Society" should purchase discounted shares with their hard currency and legal notes, which would then provided the needed specie to back the banknotes. To hold the specie, the new financial institution procured a small iron safe, which can be seen today at the Western Reserve Historical Society Museum in Cleveland. (p.461)
Based on Warren Cowdery's analysis in the 1837 Messenger and Advocate,  Williams believed that the Kirtland safety society was sunk by the financial downturn as well as by enemies of the Mormon church staging a run on the bank (p.463). Cowdery sees the downfall of the institution tied to the goods purchased through credit with New York bankers and debt acquired in purchasing land, which was coming due (p.464).


As early as 1972, Paul Sampson and Larry T Wimmer had pointed out in their BYU Studies article
 It seems likely that bank officials used projected real estate values as a basis for establishing the $50 per share face value. The high face values of shares owned could possibly be the reason for the complaints in some letters and journals that the Saints were given to worldliness and to thinking that they were now wealthy. One might excuse them for thinking so, for with $5.25 they could purchase twenty shares of stock with a bank-credited face value of $1,000. The failure to realize such inflated values might explain the widespread discontent and apostasy after the bank's failure. (p.474)
While it is not completely clear what the Saints that accused FGW on May 29th, 1837---Abel Lab, Nathan Haskins, Harlow Redfield, Artemas Millett and Isaac Rogers (p.477)---actually had against him and how severe his ``failings`` were in their view (p.478), the rift between Smith and FGW was tied to the interpretation of how Warren Parrish had behaved after Smith and Rigdon had abandoned ship (p.479). The editorial in the Elders' Journal published in Far West, in August 1838, accused Parrish of stealing, counterfeiting, and similar, and report of a clash with FGW over searching Parrish's trunk (pp.479-480).

In spite of these misgivings, Williams was sustained in the first presidency in Kirtland on September 3, 1837, in Kirtland (p.482).

Move to Zion

FGW and his family moved mostly by riverboat to Kirtland; the expense report managed by David Whitmer still exists (pp.494-495). In reconstructing the experience of riverboat travel, Williams uses Frank Donovan, Riverboats of America, New York (1966).

In Kirtland, FGW had hired the firm of Lewis Henderson and Ebenezer F. Punderson of Cleveland (p.507) to settle his accounts and obtain all the outstanding debt. The docket book of Warren A. Cowdery shows their representation of FGW (p.507), in eighteen of thirty-seven cases (p.508).

Sorrows in Zion

When FGW arrived in Missouri in late November of 1837, where he treated David Whitmer on November 30th, 1837 (p.526). On December 7th, 1837, Lyman Wight and FGW were added to the committee consisting of Cowdery and David Patton to explore the north country (p.527). In addition, FGW bought property in the township of Kingston, Caldwell County, on December 26th, 1837 (p.526). 

By the time FGW arrived in Missouri, the church conference on November 7th, 1837 had already replaced him with Hyrum Smith (p.528). Williams thinks that there was some chicanery going on, noted by the fact that FGW was not even present; Rigdon had suggested Hyrum as replacement before FGW had been voted out; and that Joseph Smith Jr had proposed FGW and Bishop Partridge had seconded FGW (p.529). 

During his stay in Missouri, FGW testified against Oliver Cowdery in a trial of counterfeiting, which Cowdery was supposed to have pursued in Kirtland with John Boynton, Warren Parrish and Burton H. Phelps (p.539). Cowdery still went to FGW to get treated, though (p.541). 

According to John Whitmer's history, FGW was under threat from the Danites to be run out of the county, as Oliver Cowdery had been on June 19th, 1844 (p.544). Joseph Smith had told George W. Robinson that those talking against the presidency should receive 39 lashes to make them repent (p.545), as Burr Riggs states in a sworn deposition. Riggs also heard that Rigdon felt that Phelp, FGW and John Corrill were amongst those men whose influence needed to be put down (p.545).

However, Phelps and FGW reconciled and were re-baptized into the church (p.545), sometime before August 5th 1838. Phelps had been excommunicated on March 10th, 1838; there is no clear date for FGW available (p.545). There was a revelation given July 8th, 1838, that stated that the transgressions of Phelps and FGW had been forgiven, but reminded them not to lapse again (p.547). 

Bibliographic Record

Frederick G. Williams, The Life of Dr Frederick G. Williams: Counselor to the Prophet, Provo UT (BYU) 2012.