Death of a Mormon Prophet

On Monday afternoon, 18 April 2011, Stanley E. Whiting passed away at a Hospice center just outside Independence, Missouri. Earlier this year, at age 76, Stanley learned that the pancreatic cancer he successfully pushed back 3 years ago had returned with a vengeance.

Born on 26 October, 1936, Stanley spent his entire life in and around the Mormon Zion, graduating from William Chrisman High School in 1952, and working for Armco Steel Company until his retirement in 1989. He was also a vintage motorcycle enthusiast, avid squaredancer and accomplished pilot, who built racing airplanes. He was married for 57 years to his beloved Shirley, who, along with 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren, survives him in their modest Independence home.

Stanley was a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite). One of the smallest branches of the Restoration, the Cutlerites are named for Alpheus Cutler, bodyguard to Joseph Smith, member of the Nauvoo High Council, Council of Fifty, and Anointed Quorum, and “chief architect and master workman of God’s holy houses”—i.e. the temples. When the Twelve secretly returned to Missouri en route to their missionary duties for a planned cornerstone ceremony in Far West, Cutler accompanied them and actually laid the cornerstone. Though Cutler initially supported the authority of the Twelve over the church in the wake of the assassination of the Smith brothers, he eventually broke ranks with Brigham Young during the trek west. After receiving a visionary sign, Cutler reorganized a Church in Manti, Iowa, in 1853. Cutler claimed that the Church in Nauvoo had come under divine condemnation for its failure to complete the temple in “sufficient time” (cf D&C 124:31-32). At its height, during Cutler’s presidency in Manti, the Church had nearly 200 members. After Cutler’s death in 1864, RLDS missionizing led to a diminishing of Cutlerite ranks, and the movement eventually relocated to Independence, where a tiny group still upholds Cutler’s legacy through weekly worship, sacred priesthood ordinances (said to derive directly and without alteration from the Nauvoo endowment), and the consecration of properties.

It is perhaps a technical misnomer to call Stanley Whiting a Prophet. Strictly speaking, he was the President of the High Priesthood, to which he was ordained by (and as successor to) his father, Julian, on 30 April 1997. The Cutlerites recognize a distinct separation between the Church and the Kingdom, associating the priesthood more with the latter, which can exist independently of the Church. Stanley died as the possessor of the keys to the kingdom, which he traced to Cutler who received them, as a member of the Anointed Quorum as well as the Quorum of Seven (a governing body within the Council of Fifty), from the Prophet Joseph. In the weeks to come, those few Culterites who remain will gather in a conference and sustain a new President of the High Priesthood and Kingdom (Stanley’s cousin and first counselor, Vernon Whiting), and the movement will go on in patience and faith.

On a more personal note, what little time I was able to spend with Stanley and Shirley showed me a remarkable man. Combining absolute conviction in his calling with a striking personal humility, this steel-worker-cum-prophet was as personable and down-to-earth as anyone I ever met. His wife, Shirley, took heroic care of him as his body slowly failed him. He will undoubtedly be welcomed by a loving Heavenly Father, grateful for the humble dedication of this good and faithful servant. Would that we all could meet our maker having lived the honorable and fulfilled life of Stanley E. Whiting.

Comments

  1. I know this is terribly elementary, Brad, compared to all the Cutlerite work you have done, but it’s complimentary and appropriate for an event like this, so I’ll go ahead and offer my two cents.

    A few years ago I worked on a major project to trace the descendants of Porter Rockwell. His first wife, Luana Beebe, followed Alpheus Cutler after the Rockwell marriage ended, and she and some of her children lived for a time in Minnesota with the Cutlerites. In the course of looking for material on their lives there, I had occasion to read several historical items written by this generation’s Cutlerites. Your term “in patience and faith” perfectly captures my impressions of an admittedly brief and shallow acquaintance with their people. Somehow, without the constant infusion of new blood which otherwise seems necessary for families and nations and organizations to thrive, they have quietly persisted, maintaining their faith and succeeding in passing it along to the next generation, over and over again. That is something to marvel at, IMO.

  2. Thanks for this, Brad.

  3. I had a chance to visit the Cutlerite church/temple in Independence a few years ago. I’m particularly taken with this branch of LDS thought that was so fiercely devoted to the temple ceremonies; it seems to me the other non-Brighamite succession crisis offshoots stayed closer to traditional Judeo-Christianity in what they chose to keep and reject. I’m glad to learn more about their nature and leadership — thank you. I certainly felt more kinship with the Community of Christ after having a chance to hear the humble, thoughtful Grant McMurray speak a few years back.

  4. Thanks, Brad. A fine tribute, to a people and to this person.

  5. Thanks, Brad.

  6. This is beautiful, Brad. Thanks.

  7. A fitting tribute, Brad. Thank you.

    I was privileged to meet President Whiting in 2006 when he participated in JWHA’s “Scattering of the Saints” conference in Independence. Members of nine Restoration churches participated in the conference — the largest ecumenical Latter Day Saint gathering that I’m aware of to date. The Cutlerites welcomed our association into their church as part of our tour of Independence, and their leaders, including Stanley, attended our presidential banquet.

    Of the six extant branches of Mormonism resulting from the 1844 schism (Brighamite, Josephite, Strangite, Rigdonite, Hedrickite, and Cutlerite — the Whitmerite branch went extinct in the 1960s), the Cutlerites are in the most precarious condition, especially having now lost Stanley’s leadership. I wish them all the best and I hope that younger Cutlerites will find the traditions meaningful enough to maintain and make their own in the decades to come.

  8. Thanks Brad, and thanks Ardis for the interesting tie-in.

  9. One of the things I like about BCC is the updates on our “cousins” in the other Restorationist branches. Keep up the good work.

    How many members do the Cutlerites have today?

  10. ~12.

  11. Most living descendants of Cutlerites in the Restoration are in the Community of Christ (and related Josephite churches). I have good friends in the Community of Christ who are Whitings and Murdocks and others who are descendants of Cutler himself. (I’m not sure if there are any Cutler descendants in the Cutlerite church, as his sons became RLDS?) Conversions from Cutlerite to Josephite have continued into the 2nd half of the 20th century, which is a primary reason for the small numbers left in the church itself.

  12. I’d love to know more about their Nauvoo liturgy. What did they do about polygamy?

  13. RJH (#11): The current Cutlerites themselves believe, as an article of faith, that their ancestors never practiced polygamy. Historians like Danny Jorgensen and Billoine Whiting Young have shown that Cutler and his leading followers were initially engaged in polygamy, but after separating from Brigham Young’s group, the Cutlerites terminated all the plural relationships and pretended they never happened.

    No one knows about their Nauvoo liturgy because it’s secret/sacred and they haven’t actually told anyone about it.

  14. A beautiful tribute, Brad. Thank you for sharing it.

  15. Jim Jenkins says:

    I was an Elder in the Cutlerite organization from 1990 to 1992, and I knew Stan Whiting well. I’ve met a lot of folks in my forty-five years, but I could stand before God Himself and say I never met anyone finer. Straightforward, humble, intelligent, dedicated; a first-class man in every possible way, and a far better man than I. And his wife is just like him. Rest in peace, Stan!

  16. Debbie Marsh says:

    Thank you for letting us know Brad. I feel blessed to have met this good man.

  17. Roger Cutler says:

    I have lived in Utah most all of my 60 years. I am a member of the LDS church although not very active I was told by my grandparents before their death I am a direct descendant of Alpheus Cutler, I myself am not sure of this. I have been told by those who know alot about the Cutlerites and Alpehus that I resemble him in body style according to his writings and a few published pictures. I feel some connection to all this somehow. How would I go about determining any fact to this?

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