Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — The Origins of Mormonism - Joseph Smith's Mormons Move West

Ohio's Pre-Temple Years - 1831-1836 -
Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics

After spending approximately one month in Independence, Missouri-the New Jerusalem-Joseph Smith and his traveling companions returned to Ohio in late August 1831. Smith- now approximately twenty-five years old-gave a glowing, detailed report to the Ohio Saints concerning the newly discovered land of Zion, and immediately moved to Hiram, Ohio, located approximately thirty miles south of Kirtland, where he began to work again on his new Bible revision and organize his revelations for publication.

The next four and a half years before the Kirtland temple was built-from late August 1831 to March 27, 1836-was a time of new doctrines, new revelations, and the beginning of the practice of polygamy.

Although Joseph Smith had begun his inspired revision of the Bible back in New York during the summer of 1830, it was during his first few years in Ohio that he zealously dedicated much of his time to it. Numerous Ohio revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants are the direct result of Smith's revision of the Bible.

Throughout his life, Joseph Smith emphasized that many salvation truths were missing from the Bible, and that he was the chosen instrument of God to edit and add to its pages. Although Smith announced on July 2, 1833, that his Bible revision was completed, it would never be published in its entirety. Yet the influence of Joseph Smith's revision of the Bible was extremely significant in creating and shaping many of the official Mormon doctrines and practices used today. During this time, along with the revelatory establishment of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Quorum of the Seventy, Joseph Smith received and recorded some of today's most controversial revelations, such as the Mormon belief in three heavenly kingdoms, the preexistence of humans, and the LDS priesthood.

In addition, since 1831, Joseph Smith had kept private his personal belief in polygamy. In 1833, however, he married his second wife, Fanny Alger, putting his faith into practice. From 1833 on, Mormonism's exclusivity from Christianity would harden through the practice of polygamy, especially by Mormon Church leaders.

The Doctrine and Covenants

Approximately three months following the organization of the first Mormon church in April 1830, Joseph Smith had already begun copying and arranging the revelations that he claimed to be receiving directly from God. Smith would often provide written copies of these revelations to leaders and missionaries. Now that William Phelps had opened a Mormon printing shop in Missouri, however, he desired to have his revelations printed and bound in book form.

On November 20, 1831, the Mormon leadership sent Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer to Missouri with Smith's revelations, in order to have Phelps print three thousand copies of what was then called the Book of Commandments. The Book of Commandments consisted of 160 pages of Smith's revelations. After a major revision, these revelations were republished as the Book of Doctrine and Covenants on August 17, 1835.

Smith's Book of Abraham

An Italian explorer discovered several mummies and papyrus scrolls on the west bank of the Nile River near the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. During their exhibition throughout the United States, these mummies and papyri were displayed in Kirtland, Ohio, in June 1835.

What is crucial in understanding the origin of Mormon Scriptures is the historical fact that Joseph Smith bought several of these papyri, and declared through revelation that they contained the ancient lost writings of biblical Abraham and Joseph. By the same so-called revelatory spirit and power of divine translation through which he had produced the Book of Mormon, Smith also claimed to have translated these papyri into what is known today as the book of Abraham. The book of Abraham has been officially included in the Mormon scriptural collection of the Pearl of Great Price.

Ohio's Temple and Apostasy Years (1836-1838)

The two years following the completion of the Kirtland temple- from March 1836 to early 1838-were the highest and lowest times for the Ohio Mormons.

The Mormons in Ohio labored for three years, from 1833 to 1836, building the first LDS temple, which cost approximately $50,000. On March 27, 1836-approximately six years after the organization of the first Mormon church in New York-the seven-hour dedication of the first Mormon temple was apparently filled with many supernatural signs and wonders, including speaking in tongues, prophesying, visions, seeing heavenly visitors such as the apostle Peter, and angelic choirs. It was the Mormon day of Pentecost:

A noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind
which filled the temple and all the congregation simultaneously
arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began
to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions;
and I beheld the temple filled with angels.

As we have seen, early Mormonism was founded on the reports of heavenly visitations, such as Father God, Jesus, Moroni, John the Baptist, and the apostles Peter, James, and John. Again on April 3, 1836, a week after the official dedication of the temple, Smith recorded that Jesus Christ, Moses, and Elijah had also visited him and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple to reaffirm their exclusive priesthood authority to administer the keys of the kingdom of God on earth. The appearance of Elijah is very significant to the Mormons in that it represented for them the fulfillment of receiving the promised keys of Elijah recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 2. It was during this special Elijah visitation that the authority to seal, bind, and loose was conferred on the Mormon leaders. The Elijah keys to bind and loose on earth and heaven relate directly to Latter-day Saints' perceived ability to provide salvation to the dead.

Following the first temple dedication, the Mormons faced major financial problems. In a state of desperation, Joseph Smith took a long trip to Salem, Massachusetts, on another treasure hunt in July 1836. Smith hoped to find treasure-a common pattern during his life-that was apparently hidden under a Salem house. In the end, no treasure was discovered, and he returned to Kirtland empty-handed. This is how the official LDS Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual explains Smith's Salem treasure hunt:

There came to Kirtland a brother by the name of Burgess who
stated that he had knowledge of a large amount of money secreted
in the cellar of a certain house in Salem, Massachusetts,
which had belonged to a widow then deceased, and thought he
was the only person who had knowledge of it, or of the location
in the house. The brethren accepting representations of Burgess
as true made the journey to Salem to secure, if possible, the
treasure. Burgess met the brethren in Salem, but claimed that
time had wrought such changes in the town that he could not
for a certainty point out the house and soon left.

Needing money badly, Smith decided to start his own private bank on January 2, 1837, which he named the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company. The collapse of Smith's private bank led to the downfall of Ohio Mormonism. In March 1838, a warrant was issued for Smith's arrest on bank fraud. Consequently, late one night, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and other church leaders fled to Missouri.

What happened next in Ohio is often identified by Mormons as the "great apostasy." During these dark times of economic trouble and chaos in Ohio, many Mormons simply hit bottom physically and spiritually and made the rational decision to leave the Mormon Church. Between November 1837 and June 1838, several hundred people left Mormonism.

By July 1838, only a few years following the Pentecost dedication of the Kirtland temple, the Mormons who remained faithful to Joseph Smith totally abandoned Ohio for Missouri, the Mormons' holy land of Zion. By early 1838, the past Mormon glory of Kirtland, along with its temple, had all but disappeared.

It is interesting to note that between the dedication of the Kirtland temple on March 27, 1836, until Joseph Smith fled Kirtland in early 1838, only two brief Smith revelations were recorded. In fact, from the flight from Kirtland to his death on June 27, 1844, only approximately twenty new revelations were added to Mormonism's Doctrine and Covenants.