108 Comments

The Strangites: Another Mormon Group

As I mentioned previously, I really enjoyed the Strangite session of the Mormon History Association meetings a few weeks ago.  Vickie Speek, John Hamer, and Mike Karpowicz gave some fascinating presentations on this little known group.  Following the session, they answered additional questions, and I thought it would be interesting to provide a transcript of the Q&A session.  But before I get into the transcript, I should tell you a brief history of the Strangite Church.

James Strang, prophet of the Strangite Church

James Strang was baptized into the church just a few months before Joseph Smith was killed in 1844.  He said he had a letter from Joseph proclaiming that Strang was to lead the church.  The letter is currently owned by Yale University; in the past few decades, they have declared Joseph Smith’s signature on the letter a forgery.

Evidently Strang was a dynamic leader.  Apparently, his church (officially known with slightly different punctuation as the Utah church: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [no hyphen, different capitalization]) rivaled the Brigham Young movement in size.  They had some well known converts too:  Martin Harris, William Smith (Joseph’s brother), William Cowdery (Oliver’s father), William Marks (stake president in Nauvoo), William McLellin (former apostle), Hiram Page, and some of the Whitmer brothers.

Strang claimed an angel visited him, appointing him as prophet.  As part of his calling, he translated the Brass Plates into a book of scripture called “The Book of the Law of the Lord” written by Moses, and in Laban’s possession.  Originally against polygamy, Strang translated the book (first published in 1851), which said polygamy was a godly commandment.

Strang originally moved his followers to Voree, Wisconsin, and then received another revelation to move to Beaver Island, Michigan.  He crowned himself king, and was assassinated there by disgruntled followers.  The Strangites still exist today.  The have a few hundred members in Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wisconsin.  Here is their official website.  Independent historian Vickie Speek, John Hamer & Mike Karpowicz of John Whitmer Books, and Bill Russell of Graceland University (the CoC version of BYU) answered a few questions following their presentation on the past 160 years of Strangite history.

Newell Bringhurst, “I found it very enlightening too, but the one area I wanted to hear a little bit more about was the core teachings, the liturgy.  Did you get a sense, particularly John and Mike?  [Vicky] You went into the Law of the Lord in your paper and those tenets and teachings, but what core teachings were perpetuated to the make things that give them an identity as far as their Mormonism or moving beyond or in a different direction in terms of their Mormon teachings that we would identify with as Mormons, from a Latter-Day Saint tradition?”

John Hamer, “I identified in my paper that there is a remarkable continuity.  When we first looked into this, we weren’t sure how this church that had been on Beaver Island and in Wisconsin, how did it end up being in New Mexico?  So we wondered, ‘is this a Neo-Strangite Church?  Is this a bunch of people who got converted and started calling themselves Strangites that don’t have any actual continuity?’  But we found in the course of looking through the records–we had incredible access to all the church’s records, we interviewed a dozen of the oldest members of the church, the branch records going all the way back to the 19th century are all kept in the vaults and all maintained— there is a remarkable continuity of practice and teaching that occurs because these Beaver Island members taught this new generation.  The practices remain and all sorts of things remain.

Some of the things we mentioned were sealing— sealing continues to be done, so that is unusual for Midwestern Mormons for example.  Most of the other branches other than the Cutlerites don’t do that.  You don’t have that in the Community of Christ.  It’s not in the Hedrickites.  They’re sealed for time and all eternity.  This idea of adopting into a noble and a princely household, these kingdom powers— that was being done all the way up through the [19]60’s, especially members of the Flanders clan were sealed, adopting into this Ketchum household that they were intermarried with in the 19th century, but essentially had forgotten that they were inter-married with.  This was more or less forgotten.  Some of this history has been recovered from the records, this connection between Joseph Ketchum and Granny Flanders.  Remember that Granny Flanders was this matriarch who had done this.

I would just say there are an incredible number of practices, there are all kinds of Strangite practices.  The Book of the Law of the Lord is integral as scripture.  It is read.  The Voree Branch are 7th day Sabbath-tarians— that’s Strangite practice.  The Laws of Sacrifice so they would sacrifice first fruits so again a lot of Strangite practice, because they had a second prophet, there’s all sorts of things that they have that other branches don’t have.  So I think the continuity is actually remarkable and the amount of practice and preservation is remarkable.  There are just a few things that fall out, because they don’t have the top priesthood offices.  So some things they don’t feel are valid to do.  One of those is plural marriages for example, they’re not done.

Vickie Speek, “There’s something we didn’t mention is the fact that according to Strangite belief, the lesser cannot ordain the higher. So they’ve lost their prophet, they’ve lost their priesthood, because only God can make a prophet.  Man can’t.  Man can’t make another prophet, so when James Strang died, the prophet died.

John Hamer, “It’s simply invalid for a teacher to ordain a priest.  Likewise, you cannot have an apostle ordain a prophet.  So that’s why Joseph [Smith] III’s ordination is invalid.  William Marks, as great of priesthood or whatever as he had is not a prophet, he cannot ordain a prophet.  Likewise Brigham Young, the other apostles that ordain him— that’s simply invalid in Strangite view, because the lesser cannot ordain the greater.

Newell Bringhurst, “So then the highest priesthood office then is a high priest, is that correct?”

Hamer, “Yes, High Priest.”

Bill Russell, “Since prophets die, and  Joseph was killed, then how are you going to have a successor to Joseph?”

Hamer, “Angelic ordination.”

??? “Just the way Strang was ordained.”

Vickie, “James Strang could have, under the direction of God, laid his hands and ordained somebody before he passed, but he did not.”

Larry Foster, “I also commend the excellent papers.  I had a couple questions more to Vickie, and maybe I missed part of it, or maybe it was answered elsewhere.  On the Book of the Law of the Lord, that’s an extremely impressive book I think.  I looked at it, but the 1856 edition is much bigger than the original book which is only about 50 pages?  A lot of the best stuff in the 1856 edition is these extended explanatory notes, I don’t know if polygamy is in the original text of the edition, or is it part of that explanatory notes stuff that extends the length of the book so much?

The other question I had was an inevitable question about Strang— what does one make of him?  He didn’t ordain a successor even though he was alive for several weeks after he was shot fatally.  Going back, how does polygamy get in there?  How about John C. Bennett?  It seems like john C. Bennett is right there at the heart of Nauvoo polygamy and Strangite polygamy and it seems like he was equally destructive in both contexts.  [audience chuckles]

I also wondered, I read one of Strang’s articles.  Golly, he could sure write.  He almost convinced me that polygamy was a great thing to liberate women.  [audience chuckles]  It gives them all kinds of choices they don’t have and they’re not stuck with a bunch of dodos.  It would appear, and I’ve been criticized by one of the Strangites for saying this, that certainly his letter of appointment was a forgery, that it seems to reflect his own diary.  It is block printed, the name has no relationship to Joseph Smith.”

Bill Russell, “We talked about his appointment at the beginning.”

Foster, “Oh you did.  There’s a pretty clear cut case of forgery, or maybe did you find some other approach?”

Vickie, “The way that I have looked at it.  When I wrote my book about the Strangites, I approached it basically as a newspaper reporter.  I was not going to take a position either way, I was just going to tell the story.  Because to me, it doesn’t matter to me what my opinion of James Strang was, but I was doing the story of the people who believed him, so that’s the way I wrote my book, and that’s the way I still basically look at it.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who followed James Strang, and the Strangites of today, because their [road] is not the main road.  Theirs has been a very hard, hard road with a lot of heartache.

Now I would like to make one comment.  As far as I know, there is only a few copies of the 1851 Book of the Law, and there is somebody here who is familiar with the 1851 Book of the Law, and I’d like to ask him if there is polygamy in it?”

John Hajicek, “Yeah, there is.”

Vickie, “It’s basically the same thing?”

Hamer, “It’s in the main text, right?  In other words, it just lacks the commentary, so it has the text, it just doesn’t explain it, right?”

John Hajicek, “Are you guys asking me?”  [audience chuckles]  “Yeah, I have an 1851 Book of the Law and it’s an 80 page preliminary version.  It was published as a pamphlet with colored, printed wrappers on it.  It doesn’t have the explanatory notes.  It has 95% of the sections.  He continued to translate some additional sections.  There are some interesting differences.  For example, the first edition doesn’t have a chapter on baptism for the dead, and Strang includes his earlier 1849 revelation on baptism for the dead instead, and then has a footnote that says baptism for the dead evidently didn’t exist in the Old Testament.  Later he translates a chapter after on baptism from this Mosaic period, allegedly Mosaic period record.  So his own views changed.  But on polygamy he didn’t change.  The laws on the number of wives a king could have and things like that are all in that first edition.”

Bill Russell, “That 1851 edition does have that you say?”

John Hajicek, “Right.

Mike, “Bill, is my assumption correct that with the assassination of Strang, that the tensions between the Strangites and the state and federal government kind of dissipated at that point.  It is interesting to me that whereas the army had a relationship with the Utah church for quite a while, Strang was shot virtually under the guns of the USS Michigan, a naval vessel on the Great Lakes.  I don’t know what the reports that were filed by the state of Michagan were, and how they were considered when they got back to Washington to the Navy Department in the Pierce administration, but were the tensions with the state governments of in Michigan and Wisconsin and federal government dissipated after the assassination?”

Hamer, “Yeah, because they also got expelled.  They picked up all the members.  They spoiled them of all their property.  They put them on rented boats and they dropped them off all along the coast line destitute in little tiny groups.  So it was the worst kind of persecution results than any other Mormons faced.”

Mike, “Did the navy play a part in that or was it all surveyance from Mackinaw City?”

Vicky, “There is no positive evidence.  However, you take all the circumstantial evidence together, and I say yes.”

Hamer, “Not in the dropping off of the people.”

Vickie, “Not in the dropping off of people, no.”

Hamer, “But like Mike said, the warship is there in the murder.”

Mike, “Does the USS Michigan ferry people from Mackinaw City to St. James as part of the mob?”

Hamer, “Yes.”

Vickie, “As part of the Mob?”

Mike, “Yes”

Vickie, “I don’t believe it was the Michigan.  There were 2 ships in Michigan.  There was a steamer and there was a warship.”

Mike, “I’m asking about the USS Michigan, the warship.”

Vickie, “I don’t know.”

Hamer, “Right, The warship left the dock though.”

Vickie, “Right, it left the dock when Strang was murdered and the murderers jumped on the ship and then left.”

Mike, “2 guys jumped on the ship.”

Vickie and Hamer, “Right.”

Mike, “They left on the USS Michigan?”

Vickie and Hamer, “Yes”.

Mike, “It’s an interesting parallel with the 2 churches: one with the army involved, and the other with the navy.” [audience chuckles]

Vickie, “I think the conflict was gone, because the Strangites were gone, they were scattered.”

Mike, “and the polygamy issue kind of faded away, then?”

Vickie, “Right.”

William Russell, “Here’s a question right here, and then our time is expired so maybe this should be our last one.”

Woman, “Why did they kill James Strang?”

Vickie, “That’s a good question.  Basically, people had become disillusioned with Strang.  Strang was caught trying to follow the Book of the Law and one of the tenets of the church is no alcohol, and basically the Strangites didn’t allow alcohol and they did not support the sale of alcohol to the Native Americans and there was a lot of conflict with the gentiles, and so forth who wanted to sell alcohol.  Strangites became thirsty and they left the fold for other reasons, and those are the ones that basically were in the conspiracy to kill Strang.”

Hamer, “That’s one of them.  That’s on ongoing conflict.  Whenever Mormons gather together in big numbers and took political control and things like that, they would have conflict with their neighbors.  There are all kinds of problems that result from that including the 2 groups don’t trust each other, they don’t feel they can get justice from each other.  The other Americans see Mormons gathering under one prophet as being un-American.  There’s a lot of tendency to go and kill that prophet.”

Bill Russell, “One other thing though, he did serve 1 term in the Michigan legislature.”

Hamer, “Two terms.”

Russell, “Well 2 years I think is all.  But anyway, he was considered very effective according to the Detroit Free Press.  It’s interesting that a prophet and king could be elected to the Michigan legislature and get along well.” [audience chuckles]  He was also a member of the farms.  Well thank you very much, this was an excellent session.”

Like I said, it was a fascinating question.  I’ve invited John Hamer and a few others to entertain questions if you have any.  Do you have any questions for them?

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108 comments on “The Strangites: Another Mormon Group

  1. Since John Hajicek is asserting his role as a historian, I will put aside the topic of his personal faith claims and beliefs, and simply discuss his interpretation of history.

    His interpretation of the church is a completely unwarranted misinterpretation of quotation he cites from the church’s Certificate of Incorporation. “Article III” asserts that “The purpose of this corporation is to propagate and exemplify the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; and it has absolutely no connection, ties, agency, or affiliation with any other religious group.” However the implication clearly means that the Strangite church — or rather, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly referred to by outsiders such as myself as the “Strangite church” — has no ties to any other church, such as the LDS Church in Utah (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is historically part of the “Brighamite” branch of Mormonism.) As I quoted above, the same document boldly asserts the church’s continuity with the church organized in 1830.

    No one joined the Strangite Church after the members formed a legal corporation in 1961, because it was historically and institutionally the exact same church before and after. In the same way, no one was rebaptized into the early church after Joseph Smith incorporated it in the state of Illinois in 1841. Although Brighamites were rebaptized when they went west, no one was rebaptized into the LDS Church when it was incorporated in 1851, and no one was rebaptized when it was reincorporated after being dissolved by the Edmunds-Tucker Act. No one was rebaptized when the RLDS Church was incorporated in 1871. Legal corporation has no bearing on historical continuity.

    The Strangite Church that was incorporated in 1961 is the same as the Strangite Church that existed prior to 1961 — there is no historical discontinuity whatsoever. As a historian, if John Hajicek can so clearly misread the evidence, it calls into question either (1) his very capacity as a historian no matter how many documents he’s gained possession of, or (2) his ability to transcend his personal biases and to produce objective history rather partisan apologetics.

  2. John Hamer, I appreciate you stopping by. With all … the… ellipses…it was…a pretty….suspicious….quote from….the document.

  3. I am an unbaptized Latter Day Saint of the fallen king sect, the Strangites. I think john hamer has a good point as does john hajichek, but i cannot, truly, cannot find someone who walks in the spirit and the the law of the lord… not mr. shepard, not mr. west, not mr. hajichek, and they all have there different doctrines on the regathering or the “deliverance from the field”. i live on beaver island and there are no mormons here… it is a sad day in the kingdom… but as a faithful and wise servant, i will find the residue and regather them, but first, i need a faithful apostle of the most high god to baptized me and ordain me to my calling… or choosing? hallelujah, the time is nigh for the sealing! thanks john.

  4. CERTIFICATE OF INCORPORATION
    OF
    THE CHURCH OF JSUS CHRIST OF
    LATTER DAY SAINTS (STRANGITE)

    We, the undersigned, all being citizens of the United States, do hereby certify that we have on this date formed a corporation, not for profit, under and pursuant to the laws of the State of New Mexico, and we do further certify:

    ARTICLE I

    The name of this corporation shall be “THE CHURCH OF JSUES CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS (STRANGITE)”.

    ARTICLE II

    . . . and it has absolutely no connection, ties, agency or affiliation with any other religious society. . . . The period of duration of corporate existence of this corporation shall be one hundred (100) years from the date of incorporation. . . . In Witness Thereof, we have hereunto set our hands this 5th day of September, 1961.”

  5. The WordPress editor posted that without me finishing it.

    CERTIFICATE OF INCORPORATION
    OF
    THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF
    LATTER DAY SAINTS (STRANGITE)

    We, the undersigned, all being citizens of the United States, do hereby certify that we have on this date formed a corporation, not for profit, under and pursuant to the laws of the State of New Mexico, and we do further certify:

    ARTICLE I

    The name of this corporation shall be “THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS (STRANGITE)”.

    ARTICLE II

    The location of the principal office of the corporation in the State of New Mexico shall be in the City of Artesia, County of Eddy, State of New Mexico, and the names of the agent therein and in charge thereof is Vernon D. Swift, whose mailing address is P. O. Box 522, Artesia, New Mexico.

    ARTICLE III

    The purpose of the corporation is to propagate and exemplify the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; and it has absolutely no connection, ties, agency or affiliation with any other religious society.

    ARTICLE IV

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) is a sole, autonomous, religious, charitable, benevolent and fraternal society, organized at the command of God and does not afford pecuniary gain, incidentally or otherwise, to its members.

    ARTICLE V

    The period of duration of corporate existence of this corporation shall be one hundred (100) years from the date of incorporation.

  6. I typed the document from its title to Article V.

    I am really not sure why historian John Hamer changed the word “society” to the word “group” in his quotation, or why he fiddled around with the name of the church when it is clearly right in the document.

    Nor am I sure why historian Hamer thinks he can interpret the document as having to do with what he calls the “Brighamites”. The document was created by Stephen West after his dispute with another family following Strang, the family of Theron Drew. The two families feuded for years in Colorado, then both moved to Wisconsin and feuded again. There were fights about the church archives, fights over new book inventories, fights over the meeting house, fights over the printing house, and fights over tithing. This document was created to delineate a new church to exclude the Drews, or in other words it was a new organization whose primary purpose was to exclude other followers of James Strang, not what Hamer calls the “Brighamites.”

    I am not sure why historian Hamer says “As I quoted above, the same document boldly asserts the church’s continuity with the church organized in 1830.” First, he did not quote anything like that, but second, the document does not state that. Perhaps he is thinking of the Constitution of the same organization, an entirely different document reprinted as part of the later edition which historian Hamer is using, but is not part of my original carbon copy of the Certificate of Incorporation which we are discussing. When a historian says “the same document” it had better be the same document.

    And as for joining this new corporation, it was effectively done when the 34 members voted to accept the Constitution at their general conference in 1961.

    Hamer writes, “The Strangite Church that was incorporated in 1961 is the same as the Strangite Church that existed prior to 1961 — there is no historical discontinuity whatsoever.” Evidently John Hamer is ignoring the Constitution of that church with all of its changes from the previously existing church. What actually happened was that one group of four intermarried families set out to differentiate themselves from other followers of James Strang. That does not make them the “mainline institutional heir” as they had already evolved with continuous “historical discontinuity” since 1856.

    Finally, I invite good historian Hamer to find for us the 1841 certificate of incorporation, constitution, or charter since he suggests that this one is a parallel that can somehow be used as a precedent.

  7. John Hajicek,

    Thank you for retyping the document so we could all review it–that was really helpful. I sincerely appreciate it.

    On my About page, I state that the purpose of my blog is to have “a thoughtful and respectful forum.” I also said, “I certainly don’t have all the answers, and welcome those of you who can fill in some answers for me regardless of your religious affiliation.”

    I want you to know that I sincerely want to understand Strangism better. I don’t want to listen to you argue with John Hamer about whether each other has better credentials as a historian. It’s neither thoughtful or respectful, and is off topic anyway. I would like to know more about Strangite beliefs. I would like to hear more about the prophet James Strang. I’d like to know more about the Voree plates, the Book of the Law, sealing ordinances among Strangites, the final days of Strang, the missionary work of Martin Harris, etc.

    Can we please focus on that instead of arguing?

  8. Elyahu, thank you so much for coming! It’s great to have 2 of Strang’s followers here. Can I ask how long you have been studying Strangism? Can you tell me what attracted you to Strangism? Have you studies other branches such as the LDS church or the RLDS church? If so, why do you feel Strangism is superior to these other branches of Mormonism?

    Sorry for all the questions…Answer as many or as few as you like.

  9. Here is a question I would like to know about Strangite beliefs. I have heard that Strangites believe most everything from the Prophet Joseph and the Prophet James is scripture, even including some of the old church periodicals.

    (1) Do Strangites consider the Book of Abraham as scripture?

    (2) I know that Strang initially denounced polygamy (attracting many Mormons who had discomfort with the practice of polygamy.) Then Strang either had a revelation and/or translated the Plates of Laban and discovered polygamy was a celestial principle. So, given this idea that almost anything written by Joseph was scripture, was LDS section 132 ever considered scripture by Strangites, or since it wasn’t publicly announced until 1852 by Brigham Young, did Strangites view section 132 with suspicion? (I believe the Plates of Laban were translated in 1851, but I am not sure if the polygamy section had been translated at that time.)

  10. Here’s another few questions: (3) The LDS are all familiar with the First Vision account in the Pearl of Great Price. I know that Strang was ordained prophet by an angel. Is there a “First Vision” account of this incident anywhere?

    (4) How do Strangites feel about the “Inspired Translation” (CoC term) or Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (LDS Term)?

  11. Elyahu: Give me a call again when you have a chance. I’d like to check in with you and see how things are going on Beaver Island. I’ll be in Chicago all weekend for a wedding, but I’ll be back home the week of July 26-30. If you don’t have my number anymore, e-mail me at jhamer@johnwhitmerbooks.com.

    John: I have no interest in arguing with you. I stand by everything I’ve said — and I reiterate it — and as far as I can see, nothing you’ve written merits a response.

    For those interested in the 1841 incorporation of the early church, a record exists in the Hancock County Courthouse which shows that Joseph Smith used the provisions of the 1835 Illinois “Act concerning religious societies” which allowed churches to incorporate for the purposes of holding property. I’m told that there is another copy in the LDS Church Archives in Salt Lake City, although I haven’t seen that copy. I discuss the Hancock County recording here: http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/04/17/newly-located-hancock-county-records-shed-light-on-1844-succession-claims/

  12. Elyahu: Vickie Speek is up on Beaver Island giving a presentation at the Beaver Island Historical Society — I presume they’re meeting at the Mormon Print Shop in St. James. I don’t know the exact time or the details, but you’d probably find it interesting if you can make it over there.

  13. John, that is a fascinating post at BCC. With you posting there, I may have to quit boycotting them. 😉 Maybe I’ll just have to read your posts, and ignore the rest. 😉 (If only I had time to read all the blogs I wanted to.)

  14. John Hamer suggests that I hoard documents without the ability to read, but at least I do not make things up like he does. Once again, he takes a simple legal document and overstates what it says on its face.

    This 1841 certificate is not a certificate of incorporation, nor charter, nor by-laws, nor constitution. It is merely a personal certificate of Joseph Smith that he was elected the trustee-in-trust of the church. This certificate is not new information, having been published in its entirety by John C. Bennett (1842), James J. Strang (1846), and Franklin D. Richards (1856); it is later reprinted in Tullidge (1880), and the History of the Church (1908).

    In Illinois, before the arrival of the Mormons, banks, counties, libraries, towns, and religious societies were incorporated by acts of the assembly of Illinois.”An Act Concerning Religious Societies”, passed by the assembly in Illinois in 1835, was primitive legislation that made it lawful simply for a religious society to own land (up to five acres) and buildings (on that land), choose a name, and choose any number of trustees (from one to ten) to own that land and buildings, without applying to the legislature for incorporation. This filing on 1 or 2 February 1841 is consistent with the laying of the first Nauvoo temple cornerstone on 6 April 1841. Joseph Smith was merely personally certifying in his own county that an election had reconfirmed what was previously evident since 1830, that he was a trustee of a body corporate known as a church, which meant that he could hold the temple lot.

    Incorporation meant less in 1835 than it does today. The word did not even appear in the 1835 Act as it was passed, but only in the later index of the laws. All unions and associations were considered to be bodies politic and a bodies corporate, so corporate identity would have been presumed by definition in 1830 when they organized according to the permissive law of New York. What occurred in 1841 was only the election and certification of the trustee, who had, incidentally, been given the same responsibilities by a much earlier Illinois conference down in Quincy, Adams County.

  15. john hajicek, I have asked several questions about strangite beliefs. could you please answer them?

  16. I don’t know anything about Strangite beliefs. Ask John Hamer.

  17. ok john have it your way. I tried to be nice, but if all your want to do is be a jerk, I will spam any future comments from you. i’ve only asked one other person to leave for bad behavior, so I guess you can consider yourself as part of a very special group. my blog is a place for repectful disagreement. I will welcome you back if you want to be respectful. if not, well it was nice to get to know you until I realized I don’t like you anymore.

  18. Rewritten. This debate was started by John Hamer, who was making decisive judgments about which people are the “official” church “heirs” to the church led by James Strang 1844-1856. It basically treated me parallel with the “Mormons are not Christians” approach. As I said in my first post, I was not here to answer questions or correct misinformation about James Strang. There are more productive places for me to do that. I said I was just here to caution that the answers of John Hamer were incorrect, based on his siding with a liberal Strangite group and his exclusion of all others. He defended this by defining them as “the mainline historical heir”; and he tried to support it with a reprint of documents instead of primary documents. He did not distinguish between a Certificate of Incorporation and a Constitution, treating them as the same, and ultimately even a personal certificate of a sole trustee 120 years earlier. He even said in one post that it is not the role of religious studies scholars to attack faith claims, and then went on a series of challenges to those same faith claims from the Book of Mormon, the Letter of Appointment, the Bible, and then about me directly. When I paraphrased the Certificate of Incorporation, he said he was holding his in his hand, but he would not acknowledge what I said so I had to go off-property to get my own copy and quote it. The Certificate said in substance what I said it would say, and it showed that John Hamer was withholding information that he had admitted he was literally holding in his hands. John Hamer wants to write Strangite history, so let Hamer answer your questions. I am anxious for his answers on the New Translation, the Book of Abraham, Section 132, and James Strang’s “First Vision.”

  19. John Hajicek, the tone of this was much better, thank you. I know you were curious why my previous comments had little capitalization. I was trying to respond to the blog on my cell phone. Capitalization and spelling are a bit tougher on a cell phone, and I hope that everyone will understand.

    From your latest response, I fully understand that you disagree with some of John Hamer’s conclusions. Fine. You’re welcome to your opinion, just as he is welcome to his. I think we’re all clear on the message at this point.

    While the tone is better, this still feels like a taunt: “John Hamer wants to write Strangite history, so let Hamer answer your questions. I am anxious for his answers…”

    There are a million blogs out there. I get that. I think you are positioned to be a good ambassador from Strangism, and frankly, I think John Hamer is an excellent ambassador for Strangism (even if you think he is wrong on some things.) John Hamer’s presentation made me want to hear more about Strangism. Some of your responses up to this point have made me want to know less about Strangism. While I think it is absolutely fine that you disagree with him, the adversarial relationship you seem to have with him absolutely does not need to be here, and I would really like the adversity to go away (at least on my blog.)

    I would really like to hear what you think. At first I thought it was great that you came by my blog, but if your purpose is only to fight with John Hamer, I’d rather you did that on one of the other million blogs out there.

    It still appears to me that you would rather taunt John Hamer than engage in any sort of dialogue with me. That makes me a little disappointed, and you still strike me as a bit of a bully when you’re here. You seem to view me as a worthless puppy not worth the time of day. That still strikes me as arrogant.

    I am not trying to provoke you, but I would like you to see you are perceived by others. It sure would be nice if you could stoop so low as to answer a dumb blogger that is trying to learn a bit about Strangism. I really don’t like the bully approach, whether it is directed at me or at someone else.

  20. Given MH’s injunction to avoid fighting, I don’t think there’s any reason to keep rehashing this debate. My central point remains that the Strangite Church that existed in 1960 is the same Strangite Church that existed in 1962. There is no historical discontinuity. By analogy, I said that no one would argue that the church that Brigham Young was leading in Utah in 1850 was one church, and then after that the Utah Territorial legislature incorporated that church in 1851 the result was a totally different church. In 1852, Brigham Young wasn’t the leader of some brand new church. He was the leader of the same church in 1852 that he’d been leader of in 1850. Things had evolved as everything does — which is why much of history is about exploring the interplay between continuity and innovation.

    John — MH has demonstrated his interest in this topic by writing a number of posts on the broader Latter Day Saint movement. In this case, he went through the trouble of writing up a transcription of the Q&A portion of the MHA session where Vickie Speek, Mike Karpowicz, and I presented papers.

    It’s clear that the reason MH asked those four questions (page 2, comments 10-11) was to engage you in constructive dialogue. He has an opportunity to directly engage blog-commentators who profess to be Strangites. You and Elyahu are in a similar category in that neither of you are affiliated with the Strangite Church, and neither of you were born Strangites, but you nevertheless became converted to the gospel that James Strang helped restore and you both now profess to be Strangites. You don’t have to speak for all Strangites everywhere (who clearly don’t all agree about everything) and you don’t have to speak about what the Strangite Church believes, but you can certainly say what your own beliefs are on those topics, and I’m sure that would interest MH and his readers very much.

  21. Again, I am not here to write a history of James Strang. I am doing that elsewhere. But it is ironic that this debate started because John Hamer wanted to direct the reader away from my website and to another website; and yet the answers to your questions that John now wants me to answer have been on my website for almost fifteen years:

    http://www.churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints.org/Scriptures.htm

    For the record, I have always liked John Hamer. But his increasing effort to legitimize one church over another is insensitive, unscholarly, and inaccurate. John does the same thing in his last paragraph above. His paragraph rhetorically works to imply that I am a newcomer (I have been in follower since I was 8 and an elder for 28 years), that I am not a member of the Church (I am a baptized Latter Day Saint), that I “profess” to be a member rather than actually being one, and that I cannot officially (as he started this thread) represent anyone but myself and nothing that I write is “official.” All of this implies, of course, that whatever I say is dismissible as what he coins my “faith tradition” instead of history of the official “Strangite Church” as he calls it. And this is essentially parallel to the Baptist argument that “Mormons are not Christians” because they do not subscribe to an ancient Creed that came after Christ. That is, from my perspective all that I hear is John Hamer saying is the same as if he were saying, “Mormons are not members of the ‘official Christian Church.'” When he dismisses me into a class with Samuel West and Anthony Siegried, it is like hearing that John Hamer and Warren Jeffs think alike because they have both rejected President Monson. As I defended myself on this site, I was called a jerk by the anonymous host, and then the anonymous host called me a bully in his next post. John Hamer is a great contributor to Mormon history and to the history of James Strang. If I wanted to have a fight with John, I could quickly set up a blog using MormonBlogger.com or JWHA.org or TheChurchofJesusChristofLatter-daySaints.org or any number of creative domain names. I am just calling him on this one issue where he says that his approach is inclusive but where he works to invalidate my minority viewpoint in an insensitive, unscholarly, and inaccurate way.

    John coins phrases like “mainline institutional heir” while I am attempting to recite merely the facts of history observationally. Why is it that my reading of a 1961 legal document is dismissed as a “faith tradition”, right or wrong? From whom did I get the tradition, and why has it anything to do with faith? The 1961 Certificate of Incorporation says they that day formed a church without any connection to any other church. That is a pretty plain document–it requires no faith nor lack of faith to understand it–there is no traditional interpretation nor untraditional interpretation. Their charter, a separate document, adds their _tradition_ that they are the same church organized in 1830. My lack of faith in that charter is not a “faith tradition.”

    Traditions are unwritten customs inherited generationally within social groups, not things that an individual observes in a document and then interprets. Traditions that differentiate some followers of Strang from others include customs like abstinence from pork. The 1961 Church has pig roasts, even though descendants from Beaver Island traditionally did not eat pork. I say that this is a tradition because there is no clear law from James Strang, but it was handed down that way in families from Beaver Island until the present. Another tradition, this one within the 1961 Church, is the practice of adopting or sealing to a new family to a royal family, and then a third family to the new family, and a fourth family to the third, and so on in endless chains of previously unrelated families. This was a tradition begun by the Ketchumites and continued by the Flanders families which is a broad interpretation of a concept of sealing into someone else’s family with whom by exception you shared a farm inheritance on Beaver Island. Thus, some families that follow Strang have some traditions, and others have different traditions. But when I say that the 1961 Constitution has laws, officers, and councils that have no precedent from Joseph Smith or from James Strang, I am not expressing my “faith tradition” I am making observations from empirical information. John could refute my evidence by offering other facts into evidence, but it is simply rhetoric to avoid it by calling it my “faith tradition,” or saying I am not a member of the Church, or saying that I am not a historian, or that I am an outsider, a newcomer, or an individuals, or like another individual with whom he disagrees.

  22. John, as you say, we haven’t ever disliked each other or had personal hostilities. Let me try to clarify my position on some of the points you’ve raised.

    On this thread, I think you aren’t understanding the difference between your two hats. On the one hand, you’re making claims as a historian; on the other, you’re making claims as a person of faith. You’re suggesting that I’m attacking your faith claims, when I’m actually explaining that (in my opinion) the proposition you’ve made as a historian is totally untenable.

    The problem in this debate — which you continue to say I started, even though I was merely here answering questions concerning a presentation I made at MHA (the topic of the original post) when you came on the thread guns blazing — is that you are repeatedly mischaracterizing a church other than your own. If you want to just talk about your own faith as a person of faith, that’s one thing. However, if you want to make misrepresent someone else’s church as a historian, that’s another matter. In the latter case, I think it’s quite reasonable for me to correct your misrepresentations as I see them.

    I’m not calling your religion a “faith tradition” and I’m not calling you an “independent Strangite” in order to belittle you. I used those euphemisms because I’m unaware that you consider yourself to be a “church.” On this thread you say: “…his increasing effort to legitimize one church over another…” To which I ask, am I doing that? To be legitimizing “one church over another,” implies there are two churches. I am certainly aware of one Strangite Church, headquartered in Burlington, Wisconsin. Forgive my ignorance. Are you a church? I haven’t heard you express this claim. Is your church organized in any way or is it an abstraction? Sam West reports hundreds of members in Africa in communion with him, but he doesn’t claim to be a church as far as I know; my understanding is that he believes the church is disorganized and consequently that there is no church. I would love to hear your position so that I don’t unintentionally misrepresent you.

    The word “official” comes from MH in the original post; that was not my word originally. Do you claim that your website is the official website of the Strangite Church, as MH posted? If not, why haven’t /you/ corrected MH’s error? Do you have a disclaimer anywhere on your website explaining what organization (if any) operates your website? The website is your personal website, correct? Why the ambiguity? I’m quite sure you don’t want to deceive people.

    On the word “profess”: I think you may be thinking I’m saying something like “purport,” which would be negative. To “profess a religion” just means to make an open affirmation of faith; it’s not a negative term.

    On your Thomas Monson analogy: If any lay person asked, “what’s the official website of the Mormon Church?” the answer is clearly LDS.org — it’s not CofChrist.org or http://www.churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaintsstrangite.com or Strangite.org. I don’t think any historian has any doubt that the “mainline” or “primary institutional successor” of the early (1830-1844) church is the LDS Church of which Thomas Monson is president. That’s not a faith claim and frankly it’s not particularly insensitive to say; that’s institutional history and that’s life. You and I, as members of minority traditions within Mormonism, ought to have thicker skins about this.

    Finally, I think you’re totally misunderstanding what I mean by “Neo-Strangite” — I’m trying to suggest something that is precisely the opposite of what you’re suggesting. Differences between Beaver Island practices and 2010 practices of the Strangite Church headquartered in Burlington are totally irrelevant to the question of ongoing historical continuity. Does the LDS Church maintain identical practices to the church in 1844? Of course not. Traditions and practices evolve. A “Neo-Strangite” group or individual, on the other hand, would be believers who reject a living tradition that has been passed down because they’ve done research about the original practices — which obviously differ from the current tradition because all living traditions evolve — and then try to revive dead practices. When you do that, no matter how closely you attempt to revive the dead, you actually create something new, e.g., a “Neo-Gnostic” would be someone who has read a lot of gnostic literature, and converted to gnosticism by resurrecting practices he or she has read about, rather than participating in a living tradition.

  23. John (Hamer), thank you for your kind response.

    However, you know little about me or my beliefs. You seem to have blended what you think Samuel West believes with what David Flanders thinks I believe, and then assumed any unknowns. As you are a member of the church formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now the Community of Christ), I am going to try to give you an analogy. This is a bit like me writing about your beliefs by saying: “John Hamer is not a church himself, nor is he in the mainline heir church, but he professes to be a Mormon so he must believe much like Warren Jeffs and what my LDS friends told me that Neo-Mormons believe.”

    I am sorry that you think that I have mischaracterized a church other than my own. I have repeatedly referred to their legal document called a “Certificate of Incorporation” and agreed with you that it is not their faith tradition, but it is an official document. The document speaks for itself. The second document printed with your reprint is called a “Constitution” is a separate legal document. You are handling a 1984 reprint, amended, of the early ditto sheets that were combined for member use. I am holding the original carbon copy made when the “Certificate of Incorporation” was filed in 1961. I have made no representations about what others believe. I have simply stated that their legal documents says they formed a church that day, with a duration of one hundred years, that the founders said had no affiliation with any other church.

    I do appreciate your intellectual observations and efforts to conceptualize, organize, and communicate Mormon structures and concepts spatially in your maps, in your graphic presentations, and in your skillful language. However, your concept of “historical continuity” leaves too much room for subjectivity, often your own. One could argue that most of the greater and lesser Mormon churches have some historical continuity on one end of a dichotomy, and on the other end one could argue that none of them have any historical continuity at all. But this leaves you as the one who gets to decide. Do you go with the greatest numbers? Do you go with legal documents? Do you go with doctrinal consistency? Do you go with famous leaders? Do you go with good-membership standing? This returns us to all of the traditional succession questions. Just what is historical continuity? Do the followers of Brigham Young have historical continuity despite being rebaptized in 1847, and in 1857, and despite being disincorporated and never reincorporating, and despite the abandonment of early doctrines? Yes, I observe that their numbers and traditions give them a type of historical continuity. And the Strangites have significant discontinuities like L.D. Hickey joining the Reorganized Church and then returning to be received as the last of the Twelve; Wingfield Watson being manipulated to forge his licenses; and the Flanders line usurping authority. But if the Utah Mormons can still be what you have coined the “mainline institutional heir” without a corporation, then the Strangites of Lyons township in Wisconsin should not automatically be entitled to the designation “mainline institutional heir” merely _because_ of _their_ incorporation. I think that what really compels you is the viewpoint of the majority, and yet the little Strangite corporation that you favor consisted of only 34 people in 1961, hardly the majority of the followers of James Strang according to the 1955 census of the movement.

    I like how you threw in that hyperlink to one church only. 🙂

  24. Just to note: On the hyperlink, that happened because the LDS Church, the Community of Christ, and you all have normal URLs that I am able to type from memory. The long URL, by contrast, is so bad I must go to the site and copy-and-past it into the browser. Apparently by doing that, I also copied the “http” portion which this blog requires to create a live hyperlink.

    Thanks for your kind response to my last response; I’m glad we’re back to the civil discourse you and I have always enjoyed. At the end of the day, I’ll have to argue what I think constitutes what degree of historical continuity and what doesn’t, in my own work based on the research I’ll publish, and you’ll be invited to agree or disagree in part or whole, on the one hand as a historian and, on the other, as a person of faith.

    On your analogy: I obviously don’t believe what Warren Jeffs or Thomas Monson believes on most issues, even though I’m a 7th-generation Latter Day Saint. However, while I’m certainly a certain kind of Mormon, I’m clearly not a member of the mainline Mormon church and neither is Warren Jeffs; Thomas Monson, by contrast, is a member of the mainline Mormon church. What compels my view is not solely that the overwhelming majority of Mormons are members of a single organization; that’s a factor, but my view is based on multiple factors.

    Note that in a religious sense, I believe that Brigham was a usurper; but at the end of the day, that’s a faith claim. God may agree with me; be even if that’s the case, it doesn’t alter the fact that the “usurper” seized control of the bulk of the institutional church. Usurpation or no, the LDS Church organization descends directly from that organization. Strang’s church in 1844 and Joseph III’s church in 1860 were both discontinuous reorganizations in an institutional sense. That doesn’t mean that they lacked /any/ historical continuity with the early church; however, they had less institutional continuity than the Twelvite organization had with the church organization that existed prior to Joseph Smith’s death. (One or the other of them may have possessed sole divine continuity, but that, again, is a faith claim.)

    As for me mischaracterizing your beliefs: this is the last thing I want to do. However, what I actually did was ask you many questions so that I could hear your views directly and avoid mischaracterizing your views — and you really haven’t answered any of those questions. For example, I asked you if there are two churches and you responded with all sorts of arguments about why you belief the Strangite Church that traces its lineage through leaders like Hickey, Watson, and the Flanders is invalid. That’s not an answer to my question; that’s making claims about a group that I don’t think you claim to be a part of — although I don’t know since you don’t seem to make any actual positive statements about your own church, or faith expression, if you’re not actually part of an organized church. In other words, say what your beliefs are and I’ll quote you directly. Explain your beliefs in detail and I’ll be less likely to make inaccurate suppositions.

  25. Well, this thread is a bit old now, but I did get an email from Gary Weber. He said,

    “The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangites) does not believe that being “incorporated” by the States to be legally recognized as a legally organized Church, so they can have bank accounts in the Churches name and be tax exempt, non profit; and can hold property did not change the identity, sovereignty, or authenticity of the Church in any way. Both Joseph Smith and James J. Strang incorporated the Church by the States with which they resided for the same purpose, and it did not change the identity of the original Church or the authenticity of the Priesthood. We were taught by the Prophets to gave unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, we believe in living and acting in accordance to the laws of the land. Gary Weber”

  26. The laws of the land do not require a certificate of incorporation to own land, nor do banks require one to open a business account. If they did, there is no certificate of incorporation known from either Joseph Smith and James Strang. If there was, Gary is not equal to Joseph Smith or James Strang. If he is, he is still in a new corporation formed in 1961 that had no affiliation with the existing church.

  27. John Hajicek, as I recall, Joseph Smith changed the name of the church several times, including such iterations as “Church of Christ”, “Church of the Latter-Day Saints”, and the name our churches essentially share, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (or Latter Day if you prefer.) They originally set up the church according to the laws of New York in 1830, and as I recall, set it up as legal entities under different names in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois as well during the period from 1830-1844. Are you saying these incorporations (as well as official name changes) now make the 1844 church disjoint with the 1830 church?

  28. The names are discussed at http://www.TheChurchofJesusChristofLatter-daySaints.org/Name.htm

    I have found no evidence for a Certificate of Incorporation for any of the linguistic name changes; only a registration of the trustee in trust of a defacto body corporate. Incorporating prior to that registration was done only by state legislatures, and so an incorporation by Joseph Smith or James Strang should be easily documented but has not been.

    If there were incorporations, they were made by a first presidency of the church or the appropriate quorums. That does not give Gary Weber’s family authority or jurisdiction to make a corporation that excludes others and makes himself the Noah of the last days.

    If he did have that authority and jurisdiction, they still used it to create a new entity, not to incorporate a previously existing entity (at least that is what the Certificate of Incorporation says, notwithstanding their collateral faith claims that they are the same church headed by Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham).

  29. Are you saying these incorporations (as well as official name changes) now make the 1844 church disjoint with the 1830 church?

  30. What incorporation?

  31. D&C sections 20 and 21 discuss the organization of the Church of Christ on April 6, 1830 in the home of Peter Whitmer. Joseph, along with 5 others organized the church according to the laws of New York. This is the incorporation I am referring to.

    Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems like you’re being evasive here, and you don’t seem to want to answer my question. Can you please speak to the issue of whether this original 1830 organization and subsequent name changes between 1830 and 1844 make the 1830 church disjoint with the 1844 church at the time of Joseph’s death?

  32. Perhaps I am wrong, but you are so evasive that your identity is concealed from me. 😉 Your question does not make sense to me. What does disjoint mean in this context? I didn’t understand whether you meant before his death, or after his death. Are you asking if I think that Joseph Smith ever created a new corporation after 1830? No, I do not. But in 1961 Gary Weber’s family did, and they said it had nothing to do with any other corporation. Again, there are no documents of an incorporation in 1830. I really feel like you are ignoring my previous posts and asking questions just to provoke me. The laws of New York did not require a certificate of incorporation. Show me where they did? Show me the incorporation? By the Nauvoo period, a new Illinois law required that an organization file a certificate from the trustee, as Joseph did, but that did not create a corporation nor incorporate an existing organization. And as I have already said, Wisconsin and New Mexico still do not require churches to be incorporated, nor organizations who are landowners or bank account holders to be corporations. I have covered all of this again, and again, in this thread. I guess you could call it Gary Weber’s “faith tradition” (using the trendy phrase of bloggers), that his family needed a “certificate of incorporation” to have those boilerplate legal disclaimers that they were a new church. But it is not the law. They believe it, I am sure. I am finished talking about Gary Weber’s church. If he wants me to explain anything more, I will post his 1978 General Conference minutes in PDF, as it is the most insightful single document of his church. His means nothing more to me than the Catholic church into which I was born, with its traditions. I do not care whether one is the largest Abraham church, the Moses church, the largest Bible church, the largest Book of Mormon church, or the largest Book of the Law of the Lord church; nor which of the temple lots they own; they are all unrecognizable as any church instituted by God.

  33. Greetings,

    I was baptized four times in my life. The first time was in 1956 by a catholic priest (My uncle has it on film), the second time was in 1989 (if my fading memory is correct) by John Hajicek, the third time was shortly after that event by Bruce Flanders (one of the main founders of the corporation called the Church of Jesus Christ (Strangites), who informed me that John Hajicek’s priesthood was not authorized by the church, and shortly after that I was baptized under the hands of Richard Drew, who claimed repletely that he heard a voice calling him to the priesthood of an Elder. Out of these four men who baptized me, only one is still alive. (Hello John. I hope and pray that things are going well for you.)

    The question remains, which one of these men held a valid priesthood when they baptized me? Did they all have God’s authority to use his name? Or were they all usurpers? That is the real question(s).

    If my fading memory is correct, it was in the summer of 1989 that I stumbled across a very nice (Brighamite) Mormon lady that later that year wrote me a letter with the following quotation from the Book of Mormon:

    “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

    So I prayed and asked God in the name of Jesus Christ with a very sincere heart if these things were true. After I prayed, I took the Book of Mormon and laid down on my bed and begun to read the book with it setting upright on my chest. I must of dosed off for I had a very vivid vision like dream. In my dream I dreamt that I was walking along a split-rail fence in the fall of the year with someone who I perceived to had been Joseph Smith Jr. as we were walking he was teaching me things. All that I remember of what he taught me was that the Book of Mormon was true, and that he told me that he had something else to teach me. At that instant I woke up and took that book, which was still in up-right position on my chest, and threw it will all my might against the wall and cursed both God and the book.

    I have never had a dream anything like it in the past, nor have I ever had one like it since. It is still etched in my mind like it happened yesterday. That is the main reason why I believe the Book of Mormon to be true.

    Since 1987 I have been renting from the (Brighamite) Mormon Church. I have a great love for that church. I have thanked God many times for it, something that I have never done for any other church. My $100.00 per month rent is more than 10% of my income. Soon, I suspect, my house is going to be leveled to make room for development.

    The other day I helped my friend install a rock face on a four hundred and twenty five thousand dollar house located next to a golf course. Only about fifteen years ago, it use to be vacant land that my father kept his bee hives on. It was land owned by the (Brighamite) Mormon Church. They built the golf course and donated it to the city, developed the land and are now selling it off by the lots making mega bucks. People around this area (Liberty/Kansas City Missouri) think of the church as big business out to make money, which it has.

    “For the time speedily shall come that all CHURCHES WHICH ARE BUILT UP TO GET GAIN, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.” (1 Ne. 22: 23 ).

    Postscript

    If anyone is interested in receiving the 1856 edition of the Book of the Law of the Lord along with an index that I wrote for it, I will send it to them as an attached file. You can contact me at the following email address: ricksindexing@hotmail.com I also have the Book of Jasher with an index that I wrote for it.

  34. Rick, I appreciate your comment, and I would love a copy of these books. I’ll send you an email.

  35. “The letter is currently owned by Yale University; in the past few decades, they have declared Joseph Smith’s signature on the letter a forgery.”

    This letter, known as the Letter of Appointment, was examined by an independent group of handwriting experts who came to the conclusion that the signature on it, that of Joseph Smith’s, was genuine (See The Teachings of a Mormon Prophet p. 250-263.)

  36. Rick, who is the author of this book? I did a Google search for it and kept finding you referencing it, but I couldn’t find it on Amazon, Goodreads, or Abebooks. I’d like to know more about these independent researchers.

  37. The Book (Teachings of a Mormon Prophet) was coauthored by William Shepard and Donna Funk (SP). I remembered ordering it through my local library, who got it from the former RLDS library.

    “The letter is currently owned by Yale University; in the past few decades, they have declared Joseph Smith’s signature on the letter a forgery.”

    Cite source please.

  38. Do you know if there are any internet links to the Shephard/Funk book, or how I can get this book? I don’t want to be one-sided at all, so I would like to see counter-arguments to the sources I am quoting below.

    Let me cite my sources.

    The letter is currently owned by Yale University; See following link:
    http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/SetsSearchExecXC.asp?srchtype=ITEM

    in the past few decades, they have declared Joseph Smith’s signature on the letter a forgery.

    I have several sources. The easiest to find online source is Robin Jensen’s thesis found at http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/ETD/image/etd956.pdf

    If you open the PDF doc, select page 17 of 179 (it is numbered page 6 is the document itself.) Quoting from Jensen’s thesis,

    Joseph Smith’s signature in the letter seem to be a copy of Smith’s actual signature. The rest of the letters in the signature match the block letters of the body of the letter. Of course the letters “J” and “O” are not a sufficient sample for comparison, but it appears that the apparent forger had an original signature of Joseph Smith to copy. Thus there is a strong possibility that Smith actually wrote something to Strang as suggested by William Smith. For an image of the signature on the Letter of Appointment, see Van Noord, King of Beaver Island, 92-93, and for an image of Smith’s signature, see, Dean Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2001), especially 569.

    Of course, you can see an image of the Letter of Appointment, as well as Joseph’s signature on the Letter of Appointment at the Yale University website I referenced above.

    On page 210 of D. Michael Quinn’s book The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, he wrote,

    Modern analysts of the document have agreed with that verdict and judged the signature on the letter to be a forgery.

    Quinn is well-known for his footnotes and uses many of the same references that Jensen does. Here is a list of Quinn’s sources that reference the sentence I just quoted. (I own this particular book, so it was easy for me to find.)

    1. Charles Eberstadt, “A Letter That Founded a Kingdom,” Autographs Collectors’ Journal (Oct. 1950):4-5

    2. Thomas F. O’Dea, The Mormons (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), 70

    3. Robert P. Weeks, “For His Was the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory…Briefly,” American Heritage 21 (June 1970): 70

    4. Dale L. Morgan “Calendar of the Strang Manuscripts,” 25-28, Strang Manuscripts, Bienecke Library

    5. Van Noord, King of Beaver Island, 55-56, 274

  39. For some reason, the first link doesn’t work, but this link goes directly to the signature page of the Letter of Appointment at the Yale library: http://brbl-images.library.yale.edu/BRBL_InsideJob/size4/D0003/1095569.jpg

  40. Mr. Shepard’s email address is: bdshep1320@yahoo.com

    Perhaps you can get him to join in this debate, or tell you where you can obtain a copy of his book.

  41. Quoting from Jensen’s thesis:

    “Joseph Smith’s signature in the letter seem to be a copy of Smith’s actual signature…”

  42. “…it appears that the apparent forger had an original signature of Joseph Smith to copy.”

    Rick, don’t forget to reference the whole quote in Jensen’s thesis. Cutting it off where you did really changes the meaning.

    Thanks for Mr Shepard’s email address. I just emailed him.

  43. Again, Quoting from Jensen’s thesis: “Joseph Smith’s signature in the letter seem to be a copy of Smith’s actual signature.”

    Jensen agreed that the signature on the letter was Joseph Smith’s. Who is saying it wasn’t? What is there to debate?

    “This letter was received at Burlington by regular course of mail, coming through the distributing office at Chicago, and bears the Nauvoo post mark of June 19, the day following its date. It arrived at Burlington July 9th, and was immediately taken from the office by C. P. Barnes, Esq., a distinguished lawyer at that place who, in consequence of the rumors of persecution and civil war against the Mormons, and a general anxiety to hear the latest news, immediately carried it to Mr. Strang with the request to be informed of any news of public interest which it might contain. It therefore became public the same evening.

    As much pains has been taken to belie this document and to derogate from its authority, it is proper to add that from the day of its reception to this (April 1848) it has always been kept open to public inspection, and not an iota of evidence has yet been produced derogatory to its authenticity. The Brighamites and other apostates have reported far and near that it had a black post mark, and that such were not used in the office at Nauvoo. this report is a falsehood. The post mark is red. They also stated a story that no proper entry of the mailing of such a letter could be found in the register of “mails sent” from Nauvoo But Mr. Strang caused the register to be examined, and under date of June 19th, 1844, the proper entry was found of such a letter to the distributing P. O. at Chicago, and the register at Burlington of “mails received” contains the proper entry from Chicago. In the winter of 1845-6 these facts were publicly proclaimed in the Temple at Nauvoo by Moses Smith, Samuel Shaw and others; an examination of the registers called for. The next day crowds were at the P.O. to inspect the register. But though the register of every other quarter from the establishment of that P.O. was safely there, that particular quarter was no where to be found. It has never since been produced.-Comment is unnecessary. (Extracted from the Diamond, which was printed by the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” on May 1st, 1848.)

  44. Jensen agreed that the signature on the letter was Joseph Smith’s. Who is saying it wasn’t?

    Uhh, Robin Jensen believes it is a forgery. I personally spoke to him at the MHA convention, and he told me to my face that he believes it is a forgery. If you want to parse his words to make it sound better, you’re guilty of quoting him out of context.

    That’s not the only Mormon history expert. Michael Quinn believes it is a forgery; so does Bill Russell; so does Craig Foster; so does John Hamer. I could go on.

    Don’t try to twist Jensen’s words to match your belief. You’re right, there is no debate. Jensen believes it is a forgery. To quote him out of context shows your biases, and shows that you’re interested in reporting your beliefs rather than accurately presenting Jensen’s true beliefs.

    You’re welcome to believe that the signature is real, and I’m not trying to tell you that it is not genuine. But I am here to tell you what the experts think. You’re welcome to disagree with them, but don’t quote them out of context. Certainly experts can be proven to be wrong, but prove them wrong–don’t misquote them.

    I’d be happy to report Mr Shepard’s true feelings as well (which is why I emailed him and am interested in his book), and I can report that you believe the signature is legitimate. I’m not here to twist the truth to meet anyone’s agenda. I am interested to hear how Strangites react to the story, and I will be happy to report that you disagree with the experts. But I won’t quote you out of context, and I would prefer that you don’t quote Jensen out of context either. As I said before, I have spoken to him in person, so I feel I have a really good handle on his opinion of this matter. You’re grossly misinterpreting his position. Jensen believes the signature is a forgery. Read the entire quote again if you disagree. If you think Jensen says the signature is legit, contact him via Facebook to see if I am wrong.

    Since you mentioned the postmark, you may be happy to know that most Mormon history experts believe the postmark to be genuine. Jensen also stated that it is possible that Strang may have indeed received a legitimate letter from Joseph Smith, with a legit signature. But most experts feel that the Letter of Appointment has a forged signature of Joseph Smith. Once again, Jensen says

    Joseph Smith’s signature in the letter seem to be a copy of Smith’s actual signature. The rest of the letters in the signature match the block letters of the body of the letter. Of course the letters “J” and “O” are not a sufficient sample for comparison, but it appears that the apparent forger had an original signature of Joseph Smith to copy. Thus there is a strong possibility that Smith actually wrote something to Strang as suggested by William Smith.

    Yes, there is nothing to debate here. Jensen believes an apparent forger copied Joseph’s signature. You believe the signature is not forged. Obviously there is a difference of opinion between you and Jensen, and that is fine. Just don’t misquote Jensen. I’ve spoken to Jensen in person and feel quite capable of properly representing his opinion on this matter. Between our interactions here, I feel quite capable of representing your position that the signature is not forged, and that you believe the postmark is genuine.

  45. I do not need, nor do I desire to have you represent my position. I feel that I am quite capable of doing that my self.

    Well, I hope that you inform your “experts” of the following: That the letter, known as the Letter of Appointment, was examined by an independent group of handwriting experts who came to the conclusion that the signature on it, that of Joseph Smith’s, was genuine (See The Teachings of a Mormon Prophet p. 250-263.)

    The next time you speak with Robin Jensen ask him why he would write “Joseph Smith’s signature in the letter seem to be a copy of Smith’s actual signature,” and then go on to call it a forgery even though handwriting experts thought otherwise. Didn’t he read William Shepard’s book The Teachings of a Mormon Prophet? He thanked William Shepard in the Acknowledgment section of his thesis for giving him a place to stay. Surely Mr. Shepard would have pointed it out to him.

    If the Letter of Appointment is fake, and Joseph Smith’s signature on it a forgery, than who was appointed to fill Joseph Smith position? It had to be fulfilled by someone appointed by Joseph Smith, or people like yourself could claim Joseph Smith to have been a false prophet, for he claimed the following revelation was given to him:

    “Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you while thou art in this world, neither in the world to come; nevertheless through you shall the oracles be given to another, even unto the church.” ( Doctrine and Covenants 90:3-4. see also D&C 35:17-18, 43:3, 43:4-7 and 28:2-7)

    Whoever it was also had to be appointed by revelation:

    “The President of the church, who is also the President of the council, is appointed by revelation.” ( D&C 102:9.)

    And ordained by an angel (see D&C 27:5-13.)

    If James J. Strang wasn’t appointed by Joseph Smith by revelation than who was? If you don’t know, perhaps you could invite those “experts” who get all that gain and praise from the world here to explain it for us.

  46. Rick, you can come to the the MHA convention in May and ask Robin Jensen these questions yourself. It’s at the Dixie Center in St. George, May 26-29, 2011. See here for more info: http://www.mhahome.org/conferences/index.php

    Since you raised the issue of succession, I think I’ll write a future post on the topic. Michael Quinn has documented at least 8 legitimate succession claims. John Hamer says that the trustee documents at the time of Joseph’s death point to Sidney Rigdon as the best possible successor. Sidney did start his own church but it failed within a decade. Richard Van Wagoner discusses some of the events between Brigham Young and Sidney Rigdon. See this link for more info: http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/03/30/sidney-rigdon-after-the-martyrdom-part-5/

    Anyway, I think this whole idea of angelic ordination is interesting. In about a week or two, I will post on the topic of angels visiting Mormon followers. Strang isn’t the only one. I will discuss Strang as well as others, so I hope you’ll stick around. I think it is an interesting phenomenon. Angelic ordination obviously trumps any letter. There are many since Strang that claim to have angelic ministrations, and I’d be curious to hear your take on them.

  47. I appreciate the information, but I am trying to save up enough money to have a tooth pulled. To travel to St. George to attend the MHA convention in May is way beyond my financial means.

    Of all those who have claimed to be the successor to the prophetic
    office, only James Strang claimed to be both appointed by Joseph Smith
    and ordained by angels. As far as I know, none of the others who wanted leadership of the church even claimed to fulfill the minimum requirements.

    In my opnion, Sidney Rigdon, having been a member of the First Presidency at the time of Joseph Smith’s death, had a valid claim, but he wasn’t appointed by Joseph Smith or ordained by angels.

    The high council should have been consulted on this matter, but I have yet to find any evidence that it was.

    “The high council was appointed by revelation for the
    purpose of settling important difficulties which might arise
    in the church, which could not be settled by the church or
    the bishop’s council to the satisfaction of the parties.” (D&C 102:2)

    Records indicate that the high council existed in 1842 (see History of the
    Church, Volume 5, Pages 15-17). I suspect that it was in existence at the time of Joseph Smith’s death, but I have yet to find any evidence that it acted on this important issue.

  48. Rick, I encourage you to listen to this interview with John Hamer, a fantastically interesting Mormon historian. I plan to transcribe this interview at a future time because it discusses many of the topics you raise. He discusses the High Council, which was essentially equal in power to the Quorum of 12 Apostles. This council has essentially been disbanded by Brigham Young, and only stake High Councils are around now. As I said, it is a fantastic interview. Here is the link: http://mormonstories.org/?p=792

  49. Thanks for the link, but please try to understand that I am connected to the Internet through a cell phone using a Mobil Office Kit. It is a very slow connection, and my time is limited. There is no way I could handle an Pod Cast.

    At the time of Joseph Smith’s death, the Quorum of 12 Apostles were divided. The Apostle Lyman Wight went to Texas, and the Apostles John E. Page and William Smith joined with James Strang.

    “And every decision made by either of these quorums must
    be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member
    in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to
    make their decisions of the same power or validity one with
    the other– ” (D&C 107:27)

    Sunday night I turned on the TV, and Low-And-Behold! There he was! Robin Jensen! On BYU TV!

    Do you think that Robin Jensen would have been on BYU TV if he would had made reference to the book The Teachings of a Mormon Prophet in his thesis, and explained how an independent group of handwriting experts examined the signature on the Letter of Appointment concluding that it was Joseph Smith’s?

    “He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.”

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