Abide #14: Doctrine and Covenants 111-115

  • In July of 1836 JS Hyrum Smith OC SR travelled to Salem, MA. They arrived on 5 August and rented a house on Union Street for the next 3 weeks. The revelation in section 111 might have been received there, BUT There is no contemporary evidence that tells us why they were there. THe contemporary evidence we do have, included in the JOseph Smith Papers, is a letter from Oliver to his brother Warren and a letter from Joseph to Emma, they talk of preaching and visiting historic places, of their financial worries for the church, but little else. And this was a long trip for little else. Finishing the Kirtland temple (known as the House of the Lord) and buying up land in Ohio left the church in a precarious financial situation. 

    There are two late accounts of individuals who were not on the trip that suggested they went to Salem to find hidden money. 

  • In July of 1836, Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon traveled to Salem, Massachusetts. They arrived on the 5th of August and rented a house on Union street for the next 3 weeks. The revelation in section 111 might have been received there, but there is no contemporary evidence that tells us why they were there. The contemporary evidence we do have included in the Joseph Smith papers is a letter to Oliver to his brother, Warren, and a letter from Joseph to Emma. They talk of preaching and visiting historic places, of their financial worries for the Church, but little else. And this was a long trip for little else. Finishing the Kirtland temple, known as the house of the Lord and buying a plant in Ohio left the Church in a precarious financial situation. There are two late accounts of individuals who are not on that trip that suggest that they went to Salem to find hidden money.

    My name is Janiece Johnson and I’m a Willes Center Research Associate at the Institute. Joseph Stuart is the public communications at the Maxwell Institute and we will be discussing each week’s block of reading from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Come, Follow Me curriculum. We aren’t here to present a lesson, but rather to hit on a few key themes from the scripture block that we believe will help fulfill the Maxwell Institute’s mission to inspire and fortify Latter-day Saints in their testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and to engage the world in religious ideas.

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    JOSEPH STUART: Wait, so you can’t leave us hanging there. What do you mean “two late accounts of individuals who weren’t on the trip” that suggest that these church leaders went to Salem to find money?

    JANIECE JOHNSON: So, it’s a fascinating thing. B. H. Roberts when he is writing his comprehensive history of the Church is trying to figure this out, trying to track this down and there are two late sources. One that accuses Joseph of treasure hunting, something that he’s gonna take kind of personally. And then there is an Ebenezer Robinson account from 1889 which says that “there was a brother in the Church whose name was Burgess, who knew of a house in Salem with a treasure in the cellar.”

    STUART: I mean, it kind of sounds like The Goonies honestly.

    JOHNSON: Seriously. So he came to Kirtland, he stated that a large amount of money had been “secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem which belonged to a widow” and he thought “he was the only person now living who had knowledge of it or the location of the house.” So there is only circumstantial evidence that would support these later accounts. But there is some circumstantial evidence that connects us there.

    Just for a little bit more context, from this Salem Observer in August of 1836, there was this account, this newspaper article titled, “Money Digging” and it says, “There are many spots in Long Island where tradition holds that Captain Kid buried sums of money. Number of men are now engaged, making excavations in that old ledge of rocks in the vicinity of Sand’s Point. More labor has been expended on Long Island in favor of the delusions of men in regard to buried gold than if properly bestowed would have sufficed to make many fortunes.”

    So the Salem Observer is reprinting this from the Long Island Star, but this idea that people could find buried treasure is one that is alive and well in the 19th century, particularly in the 1830’s.

    STUART: This is something too that we should remember that Joseph Smith and his family are involved in treasure digging in the 1820’s. I like what Richard Bushman has said about this that this was a culture that they understood and participated in, but nevertheless, you can understand why Joseph might’ve been sensitive to accusations of money digging or looking for buried treasure that wasn’t there, when this was something that he went through in the late 1820’s with searching for the Book of Mormon. And with the Church being in such financial distress and I can only imagine the Prophet not totally knowing what to do, seeing a way of financial salvation provided in this revelation where yes, a large sum of money would solve a lot of my problem and frankly, that’s about as relatable as anything in Joseph Smith’s life to mine.

    A big sum of money would go a long way to make my life better.

    JOHNSON: Yes. I always like what Joseph Said in the Elderish Journal, I think it’s in 1838. But it’s this Q&A for Joseph, which is answered in the 3rd person, but it’s signed with his name, which is interesting. But, “Was Joseph Smith a money digger?” is one of the questions. And the response is, “Yes, but he was never very successful.” Yeah! This was part of his culture, this was something that he was involved in, but it was not profitable and the Church is in the red consistently and I think as we go to the verses, it seems to me anyway that the verses perhaps give us some more circumstantial evidence that maybe this is the case, maybe this is what was happening. Verse one, “I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming to this journey with your coming this coming, notwithstanding your follies.” So, there’s some folly involved here.

    STUART: Yeah, and I like the definition of folly from a dictionary at this time period, because can it really be a Latter-day Saint podcast without a dictionary in there? But thinking about something that is foolish or troublesome, but not something that rises to the level of felony. So this is something to keep in mind that this is something not necessarily of eternal significance in this folly or misstep that Joseph is making.

    JOHNSON: Then it continues. So, “Notwithstanding your follies, I have much treasure for you in this city for the benefit of Zion and many people in the city whom I will gather out in due time through your instrumentality, therefore it is expedient that you should form acquaintance with men in this city as you shall be lead and as it shall be given to you.” We’ve got in the Salem Gazette in 1841, they report that a very worthy and respectable laboring man and his wife were baptized by immersion into the Mormon faith. The Salem Register in 1842 says, “Mormonism is advancing with a perfect rush in this city.” So we get some evidence of this growing, the kind of treasure that maybe is actually there. And I think that this is a pretty cool thing. If they went there for something that didn’t actually pan out, the Lord was still able to transform it into something worthwhile and something important.

    STUART: Absolutely. I think that it also just points to the amount of pressure that Joseph Smith is under. I know that in my life, the more desperate I seem, the more desperate I am for something that will fix all of the problems that I have going on at the same time. In section 112, we’re going to be getting into disputations and arguments among members of the quorum of the twelve apostles. And while the revelation is specifically directed to Thomas B. Marsh, the presiding member of the 12, because he’s the oldest, that’s how it was settled in the early years–

    JOHNSON: Well, they thought he was the oldest. Patten is actually older, but he didn’t know his birthday.

    STUART: I guess unfortunately for them, neither one of them ended up coming in any sort of succession debates. But absolutely a fair point. Birth certificates are something that aren’t as clean cut, maybe you could say, as they are today.

    JOHNSON: Definitely. Thomas B. Marsh I think many of us know him for a particular cream (?) incident. We’re not going to rehearse those elements there today because I think that there is a lot more to this individual and I think that it’s important that we think of him as a whole and not reduce him down to a single moment. I don’t think that his relationship with the Lord was reduced down to a single moment.

    Marsh was a Boston printer and a seeker. He is one of those who is seeking out a returned New Testament Christianity and he was led to Palmyra and the Book of Mormon. He actually got a galley sheet of the Book of Mormon, so that’s got 16 pages, 8 on one side and 8 on the other. And that galley sheet from the Book of Mormon converted him. He believed that the Book of Mormon was divine. He brought it home and he read it to his wife and they both were converted to the Book of Mormon.

    He is the president of the twelve apostles from 1835 to 1838 and in the summer of 1837, he along with David W. Patten and William Smith traveled from far West Missouri to Kirtland, Ohio because things were chaotic. They wanted to quell the contention that was there. When he gets to Kirtland on the 24th of July, shoutout Pioneer Day before there ever was one, he calls a meeting and he’s trying to reconcile these disaffected members of the 12. One of his ideas was that he was going to send the twelve on a mission to Great Britain and he saw it as his responsibility to direct missionary work in foreign lands and then he learns that Joseph had already sent Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde to Great Britain and he is annoyed.

    STUART: Yeah and I think this is something that most of us can relate to when we’re part of an organization like a church or a professional organization. We care very much for its success and we feel like we have this great idea and nobody is listening to it or that somebody has already used that idea and not in the way that we thought it would, in the way that we thought it would go. I can understand the frustration, this doesn’t mean that he was justified in what happened later, but it’s important to remember, people in the past are still human. They get upset with each other, they really want things to work out and when they don’t, people have their feelings hurt.

    JOHNSON: Yeah, Thomas is speaking with Brigham Young and Brigham sends him to go talk to Joseph one-on-one individually. Which I think is always a good idea when there is trouble. And Joseph receives a revelation…Thomas is actually the scribe as we understand of the original revelation, even though that copy of the revelation is not extant. This is a really difficult time in 1837-1838 after this great contention, it leads to many leaving the Church. Nancy Tracy talks about how much of a shift it was and kind of whiplash to go from this period of this “copious effusion of the Spirit” as Lorenzo Snow would say and this outpouring in this season of Pentecost around the Kirtland temple dedication to suddenly people are leaving the Church or speaking out against Joseph. And it is very difficult.

    Valay Kimball is writing to Heber, Heber C. Kimball, who is in Great Britain on that mission. And she is describing some of this. “Now after all that I have said about this dissenting party, there is some of them,’ let’s say that word again, dissenting…she spells it desenting, “there is some of them that I love and have great feelings and pity for them. I know they’ve been tried to the very quick which grieves most of all. The many things which they tell I have no doubt but what are true. Still I do not think they are justifiable in the course that they have taken.”

    Interestingly, the earliest extant copy of this revelation, at least a portion of this revelation, is in Valay Kimball’s handwriting. I actually misspoke earlier, Anne Marcia Abbott’s copy of the word of wisdom is the only female manuscript I was aware of, but in reading the Joseph Smith papers preparing for this episode, I realized that there is one also in Valay Kimball’s handwriting.

    STUART: While it’s exciting that we have another manuscript revelation written by another woman’s hand, it’s crucial to remember that the Latter-day Saint community is not particularly large. And so when people disagree with each other, especially leadership, you can think about this as a stake today having major disagreements with each other, except the members of the stake are the prophet and his counselors and the twelve apostles.

    And while I was thinking about this, perhaps revealing how much I am enjoying the NBA finals that are going on, is the idea that the Los Angeles Lakers’ coach Pat Riley spoke about in a book on leadership that he wrote. Now, please don’t turn off Jazz fans, this isn’t because it came from the Lakers’ coach, but it’s something that stuck out to me that Riley talks about the “disease of me” and how that is the most dangerous thing for an organization experiencing success. Because first of all, people have inexperience in dealing with sudden success. Maybe not even sudden success but just going from this Pentecostal type moment in Kirtland to disagreement and to the troubles in Missouri. Chronic feelings of underappreciation like President Marsh wanting to send the apostles and the quorum that he presided over to Great Britain and finding out that Joseph Smith had already sent two men to Britain. Paranoia over being cheated out of one’s rightful share or credit. Resentment over the competence of partners. Personal effort mustered solely to outshine a teammate. Our leadership vacuum resulting from the formation of cliques and rivalries. Feelings of frustration even when the team performs successfully.

    This is something that I find incredibly illuminating in thinking about Latter-day Saints in history as humans. People who, despite the fact that they are on a team you might say, that they are all on the good ship Zion together, that does not mean that everyone always works perfectly in harmony or in concert with one another. I think you only have to watch a church ball game or see fundraising for summer events to see that not everyone’s ideas, despite everyone wanting to achieve success, is happy with what’s going on.

    JOHNSON: And I think it’s important for us to remember that at the time this revelation is given, Marsh is annoyed, but he is not one of the disaffected, he came to help the disaffected. He came to bring them back and to create unity within the quorum and in this revelation we get fantastic words: “Be thou humble and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by thy hand and give thee answers to thy prayers.” The Lord says, “I know thy heart and have heard thy prayers concerning thy brethren. Be not partial towards them in love above many others, let thy love before them as for thy self and let thy love abound unto all men and unto all who love my name.”

    Love abounds. This is the word of the Lord to Thomas at this moment is to love them and pray for them and yes you’re going to admonish them at times, but love them. Be humble about it. Regrettably this doesn’t necessarily stick. By the time that we get to October of 1838, Marsh signs an affidavit against Joseph Smith asserting treason.

    STUART: And this is something that leads to the Prophet’s arrest as well as others. When we get to the letters from Liberty Jail, they are in prison as a direct result. Not only of Thomas Marsh’s affidavit and Orson Hyde’s affidavit, but of others that Joseph and others would have considered friends and brothers.

    Something else just to keep in mind is that there was a disagreement between Marsh and Hyde in directions that the Church was taking, especially in the Church’s not choosing to denounce the Danite organization, which we can think of today, thinking of this a little ham handedly, but as a paramilitary group meant to work outside the law to avenge what had been done to Latter-day Saints in Missouri. And so it’s important to remember that in the same way that you or I might feel uncomfortable if the Church was looking the other way about paramilitary groups today, there were others in the Church that felt uncomfortable.

    JOHNSON: Let’s go to section 113. And here we have a question and answer. Much of the Doctrine and Covenants is in response to questions and particular questions that Joseph and others have of the Lord. Here, we’ve got some of our questions just laid out for us. Many times, we have to guess what the question was initially. Here we don’t. What’s going on here Joey?

    STUART: So, Joseph Smith continues to be translating the Bible, but he’s also just a Bible reader and he has questions about the Book of Isaiah which frankly again, is something relatable about Joseph Smith and he asks in verse one, “Who is the stem of Jesse spoken of in the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth verses of the eleventh chapter of Isaiah?” This hearkens back to Moroni when he appears to Joseph Smith in 1823, where he quotes the 11th chapter of Isaiah to him.

    JOHNSON: And when Moroni quotes that eleventh chapter of Isaiah he says that it was “about to be fulfilled.” So recently we’ve talked about with section 110 Moroni pointed to Elijah coming and turning the hearts of the fathers to the children. Here again, another thing that is from that beginning point or one of the beginning points of Joseph’s prophetic call and pointing again to Isaiah 11 and we’ve got some specific questions. Elias Higby is also mentioned later on in the verse. It seems that Elias also has questions regarding restoration and the building of Zion and forsaking of Babylon. And here we get this very direct process, a result of their study.

    STUART: Again, trying to get into Joseph Smith’s head for a second, put myself in his shoes, to think about all that had gone on with the Kirtland Pentecost, with many angelic visitors coming to him and Sidney Rigdon, to him and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple and I wonder if he thought back to that might when Moroni appeared to him and thinking, “I had no idea how enormous this project was going to be when it began,”

    JOHNSON: “I didn’t know what was going on”

    STUART: And then realizing just how big it was going to be.

    JOHNSON: So, in section 114 we have a revelation given to David W. Patten. Now Patten was the one who was ordained a member of the quorum of the twelve and he actually was the oldest. So he actually should have been since they were all ordained at the same time so they did the order of presiding according to one’s age. But Patten didn’t know when he was born. Because David W. Patten dies in 1838, he’s mortally wounded in the Battle of Crooked River, we don’t know a lot about him, we don’t know his name particularly well. But he was a Methodist, he was baptized by his brother in 1832 in Indiana. He served five missions between 1832 and 1835 and so even though he was in the Church and a member of the Church for a very short period of time, he had a significant impact on the Church.

    He is known as a healer. One who had the gift of healing. He was ordained a member of the twelve in 1835, he was disaffected for a time and the Lord says, “Okay, you got a chance to work it off to figure things out in the mission field.” And he figured things out. He was a local militia leader in Caldwell county and then he dies in 1838 in the Battle of Crooked River.

    STUART: The biggest thing that sticks out to me in section 114 is in verse 2, “Verily, thus saith the Lord that inasmuch as there are those among you who deny my name, others shall be planted in their stead and receive their bishopric” (D&C 114:2). Or in other words, if you aren’t living up to what is expected of you, others will be given the opportunity to serve instead. And actually going back to Thomas Marsh for a second here, he eventually rejoins the Latter-day Saints in May 1857, he writes a letter to Heber C. Kimball who was then in the first presidency and he comes and confesses his sin and his error to the Church publically and at the end of his confession for lack of a better word, he says, “A mission was laid upon me and I have never filled it and now I fear it is too late, but it is filled by another I see. The Lord could get along very well without me and has lost nothing by my falling out of the ranks, but oh what have I lost?” And this about kills me every time I read it. I also agree with Brother Marsh in thinking about what have I lost because I have not been able to serve in the position I have been asked to? That is so much in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s not where you serve but how, but so much of why you serve is not only for the people you’re serving, but for personal growth as well.

    JOHNSON: And the word of the Lord will go on, but how much better if we’re all together? We grieve those that we lose and want them back.

    STUART: I mean, hearkening back to section 18 thinking about how the worth of souls is great in the sight of God and how great will be our joy if we can bring save one soul to him? Sometimes that soul is our own. We are missing out on that joy by not being able to participate and I guess to get on a soapbox here for a moment, that’s why we reach out to those who aren’t coming to church and that is why any effort that is motivated by anything other than love and a desire to have them be included with the Saints again isn’t going to work. It is always about extending God’s love to others, never about aggrandizing ourselves by our work on the Lord’s behalf.

    JOHNSON: Now, let’s look at section 115 and I think we’re just gonna look at one verse. We’re gonna spend our time with verse four: “For thus shall my church be called in the last days even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” On April 6th, 1830, the Church was called the Church of Christ and between that time you get some people calling the Church of Jesus Christ, you get different formulations, but here by revelation we have the name of the Church of Christ. And the name of Christ’s church. The spelling is important here because invariably you can go to many wards on any given Sunday and find the name of the Church spelled wrong. How do we spell the name of the Church?

    STUART: So, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter, right? And then a hyphen and then a lowercase d for day and then a capital S for Saints. If you use the capital D, you are in fact referring to another organization. I have a Catholic friend who uses the term Mormon in her academic work and well-meaning Latter-day Saints will chastise her on social media and spell the name of the Church wrong and every time it happens I get a screenshot of what’s happening and anyway, check your spelling. It matters.

    JOHNSON: If we want to get the name of the Church right, President Nelson has asked us to focus on the actual name of the Church, the name of the Church that came by way of revelation.

    STUART: I think as well as people have gotten used to the idea that we should use the full name of the Church and call ourselves Latter-day Saints rather than Mormon, some folks have been really upset by this. I understand the idea, I can understand it especially as a historian, it is so much shorter to write Mormon rather than Latter-day Saint, but at the same time, if someone wanted me to use a new name of theirs that they decided to go by, whether it was a middle name or they got married and changed their name, or whatever reason that mattered to them, I would use the name that they preferred to be called. And that’s part of why I feel comfortable. In addition to sustaining the prophet, I try to call people what they want to be called.

    JOHNSON: Let’s end with President Nelson’s words.

    NELSON: Now if someone should ask, “Are you a Mormon?” You could reply, “If you’re asking if I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, yes I am!” If someone asks, “Are you a Latter-day Saint?” You might respond, “Yes I am! I believe in Jesus Christ and am a member of His restored church.” My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s church, He whose church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen. We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. And to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord. So, what’s in a name? When it comes to the name of the Lord’s church the answer is everything. Jesus Christ directed us to call the Church by His name because it is His church filled with His power. I know that God lives. Jesus is the Christ, He leads His church today. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

    STUART: Thank you for listening to this episode of Abide: A Maxwell Institute Podcast. Head on over to iTunes or your preferred podcast provider to subscribe, rate, and leave a review, each of which are worth their weight in podcast gold. You can receive shownotes, including references to the sermons and articles referenced in this episode by signing up for the Maxwell Institute newsletter at mi.byu.edu. Please also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube for more content from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Thank you.