Day 3 at MHA

John Hamer, Mike Karpowicz, and Vickie Cleverly Speck gave a very interesting history of the Strangite movement.  What’s a Strangite you say?  Speck filled in many details: she said that James Strang was baptized into the LDS church just 4 months prior to the death of Joseph Smith.  Strang claims to have a letter from Joseph Smith making him the new leader of the LDS movement, and claims to been visited by Smith at the moment of Smith’s death.  An angel later anointed Strang with oil as the new prophet.  Amazingly, Strang counted many of the Smith family (including  Joseph’s brother William) as followers, and other prominent members, such as Martin Harris.

Strang translated the Brass Plates: the official name is the Book of the Law of the Lord.  Strang initially denounced polygamy, but after translating these plates, he was commanded by an angel to practice polygamy.  This book of scripture plays a prominent role in Strangite worship services, outlining the proper practice of polygamy, marriage, adultery, and inheritance.  Strang was an abolitionist, and believed that servants should receive inheritances from masters, just as children.

Hamer detailed the history of the Strangites following Strang’s assassination in 1856 (by disgruntled followers).  Apparently, there were about 4-5 prominent families, and most members have descended from this family.  Strangites originally settled in Voree, Wisconsin, but later moved to Beaver Island, Michigan.  Following Strang’s death, the group was forcibly removed from Beaver Island and their property was confiscated.  They settled in other areas: Michigan, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico.  A schism in the group split the families, but the group unified in 1955.  The largest branch in Voree has added some new converts and no family currently dominates in Voree, unlike other branches.  Voree has the largest branch in the church, and their website is found here.

In another session, Max Muellar from Harvard talked about changing portraits of Emma Smith, and Darin Tuck discussed the story of the gulls eating crickets.  Apparently he irritated a few in the audience when he said the gull story had obtained “mythical” status— the question and answer was more animated than the presentation.

Livinia Fielding Anderson discussed some very general similarities of Joseph Smith Sr’s patriarchal blessings.  She outlined only blessings with known dates between Dec 9, 1834, and April 8, 1838.  LaJean Purcell Carruth described translating some old Mormon records written in Pittman Shorthand.  She noted that Brigham Young said that the law seemed tilted against the Mormons.  Gary James Bergera discussed some of the ethical and moral aspects of spiritual wives.  He noted that Joseph had 20 wives before Emma learned he had taken any polygamous wives.

So, that’s a quick summary from yesterday.  Questions or comments?

7 comments on “Day 3 at MHA

  1. My claim to fame.
    Gary Bergera taught me in the MTC.
    We called him Frere Bergera.

  2. MH, has there been any progress made toward identifying mormon-related historical sites in the Independence area? 15 years ago only 2 had historical markers; the Temple Lot and the 1831 era courthouse.

  3. Mark, I don’t know. I spent most of my time in the Holiday Inn where the speeches were. Sunday was my only day to really go sightseeing (I was too cheap to pay for the pre/post conference tours that I’m sure were excellent.) I did see the Temple Lot marker, but I really didn’t have enough time to look for other things.

  4. I am jealous! Cound’t make it this year, but I hope to attend next year and present a paper, but we’ll see. (not just cause its in Utah next year- I live outside the US, travel takes years to save & plan). Iknew about the Strangites- but I thought Strange was also a polygamist– isn’t that one of the reasons they were forcibly removed? Has Bergera written anything on the plural wives of Joseph? I thought I heard Bushman record that Joseph had 10 documented wives– Bergera says there were more? Do you know if this includeds women that were married to more than one man as well? Polyandry is a sick facination of mine….

    Do you have a different blog with a more detailed report at all?

  5. Speek states that Strang was originally against polygamy. After receiving a visitation from an angel telling him to obey polygamy, and after translating the Brass Plates (a book called “The Book of the Law of the Lord”), he discovered that polygamy was a Celestial Law, and so they practiced polygamy for a time.

    Yes, polygamy was the main reason for the problems of the Strangites. There was some question about the USS Michigan firing on the Strangites or something–I don’t know much about that. Apparently the Strangites were forcibly removed from Beaver Island, Michigan and their property was confiscated. After Strang was killed, the church decided to abandon polygamy as a practice and they don’t practice it any more.

    Bergera’s paper will be in the next MHA periodical I think, so you can read that there. Perhaps I was tired for that session, because I didn’t get much out of it, but I remember that he had many questions during the Q&A. I recorded the session, so I’ll have to go back and listen to it again (I hope the audio is good.) I don’t think he has published anything about polygamy only, but he has written about temple ceremonies, so I’m sure he’s touched on polygamy in some of his books. Here is a list of his books at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=gary+bergera&x=0&y=0

    I remember that Bushman wrote in Rough Stone Rolling that Joseph had 27-33 documented wives (depending on who is documenting.) If you go to familysearch.org, and type in Joseph Smith, Marriage in Illinois 1840 + or – 10 years, click on the first link in the Ancestral File. That record alone shows 24 wives. Bushman discusses Polyandry in RSR, so I recommend that if you want to know more on the topic. I think it’s pretty well known that Joseph had in the neighborhood of 30 wives, and the church easily documents 24 in familysearch.org. (This particular record excludes Fanny Alger, who nearly all historians believe was Joseph’s first polygamous wife.)

    This is my most detailed blog–I know these entries were brief, but I recorded a ton of info and have plenty of blog ideas from this point forward. Keep stopping by to see the details!

  6. Mark — The Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation has been busily placing historical markers all over NW Missouri, including Independence, where they added 14 plaques on a walking tour (among others). You can see some of those here: http://www.jwha.info/mmff/mmarks.htm

  7. […] I mentioned previously, I really enjoyed the Strangite session of the Mormon History Association meetings a few weeks ago. […]

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