William McLellin (or M’Lellin) is an interesting figure in LDS church history. He was called as an original member of the Quorum of 12 Apostles, and was excommunicated for apostasy in 1838. At this point, he became a vocal critic of the church.
Mormon Times recently published an article about a recently discovered McClellin notebook, and more information can be found here.
McLellin is mentioned at least 4 times in the Doctrine and Covenants, generally all of which deal with missionary work: (1) D&C 66: 1, (2) D&C 68: 7, (3) D&C 75: 6, (4) D&C 90: 35. All of these revelations date between 1831 and 1833.
Due to a banking crisis in 1837-8, McLellin declared that he had no confidence in the presidency of the Church. He was excommunicated on May 11, 1838 and subsequently actively worked against the LDS Church and its leaders. Some believe he may have participated in robbing Joseph Smith’s home and stable while Smith was being held in jail. Joseph had been jailed on charges relating to the banking institution known as the Kirtland Safety Society.
Even though McLellin became a critic of the church, he always had a testimony of the Book of Mormon. The Mormon Times article quotes from one of his notebooks,
McLellin then recounts a story of meeting two of the witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, in July 1833 in Missouri. McLellin and the two were in danger of their lives from anti-Mormon mobs. McLellin wrote:
“I said to them, ‘Brethren, I never have seen an open vision in my life, but you men say you have, and therefore you positively know. Now, you know that our lives are in danger every hour, if the mob can only catch us. Tell me, in the fear of God, is that Book of Mormon true?’ Cowdery looked at me with solemnity depicted in his face and said: ‘Brother William, God sent his holy angel to declare the truth of the translation of it to us, and therefore we know. And though the mob kill us, yet we must die declaring its truth.’ David said: ‘Oliver has told you the solemn truth, for we could not be deceived. I most truly declare to you its truth!!’ Said I: ‘Boys, I believe you. I can see no object for you to tell me falsehood now, when our lives are endangered.’ ” (punctuation modernized)
McLellin experimented with some other Mormon offshoots, such as RLDS and Strangite branches. He unsuccessfully tried to persuade David Whitmer to lead a movement as well.
So what do you make of McLellin? Did Joseph put too much trust in him?