A Land War in Missouri

“You fell victim to one of the classic blunders: Never get involved in a land war in Missouri!”
— Thomas B. Marsh, President of the Twelve (paraphrased quite roughly)

Mormon Missouri War RISK!

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No Press Is Bad Press

“There’s no such thing as bad press, or, how an RLDS elder converted my great grandparents to the LDS Church: A family history tale.”

My mother’s father was born in Utah to a family with deep roots in Mormonism, but my mother’s mother’s parents were converts — from among the first wave of people who joined the LDS Church in the early 20th century, when it began to reach out again from its Rocky Mountain stronghold. [Read more…]

Restoration Studies X

Restoration Studies X
The new volume of Restoration Studies is out — and I have the first copy here in my hands. If you’re not familiar with it, the first nine volumes of this Mormon studies journal were published irregularly by the Community of Christ’s Temple School. Going forward, Restoration Studies will be an annual journal, jointly published by the John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA) and the Community of Christ Seminary Press.
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Diverse Latter Day Scripture

I’m house-sitting for my friend Steve Shields while I’m visiting Jackson County, Missouri, doing research. Steve is the author of Divergent Paths of the Restoration and is the top expert on the subject of all the smaller expressions of Mormonism, which are quite numerous. Whenever I visit friends in the Mormon history community, I’m always eager to see their libraries. Steve has quite an interesting collection, especially relating to the subject of little known Restoration churches. I’ve been marveling at all of the works of Restoration scripture he has on a single bookshelf. These are very interesting, and I thought I’d share some of the titles with you along with some quick excerpts, picked nearly at random.
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The Mists of Nauvoo

Mike and I spent much of last week in Nauvoo. This corresponded to a brief window of warmth in our unusually chilly and snowy winter here in the Midwest. Nauvoo was where I first became fascinated with church history as a teenager, and I always love returning to this quiet little town on an isolated stretch of the Mississippi.

On Thursday I woke soon after sunrise to find the town shrouded in a thick fog. Even in the summertime, when the grass is green, the trees are full of leaves, and the streets with tourists, Nauvoo is somewhat barren. After all, only a few buildings remain from the 1840s boom town and these are separated by wide, empty blocks. [Read more…]

Restoration Studies Symposium 2009

I’m very pleased to announce the program for our second annual Restoration Studies / Sunstone Midwest Symposium, held from the evening of Friday, April 17, to the morning of Sunday, April 19, in Independence, Missouri. The first of these was held last year and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. This year’s program leads me to expect a similarly energizing experience. [Read more…]

The Temple Lot: Visions and Realities

Hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, who have assembled yourselves together, according to my commandments, in this land, which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints. Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse…(D&C 57:1-3).

Since Joseph Smith announced this revelation on July 20, 1831 — just over a year after the organization of the church — the “Temple Lot” in Independence, Missouri, has held a special significance for members of the Latter Day Saint movement. (Please excuse the width of the illustrations that follow.) [Read more…]

New Map Sequence: The Journey of a People

I’ve been commissioned to produce all the maps for Mark Scherer’s new three-volume history of the Community of Christ. The first volume is entitled The Journey of a People: The Era of Restoration, 1820-1844 — and so it covers the period of history the Community of Christ shares with the LDS Church and all other extant Restoration churches. The next volumes will tackle The Era of Reorganization, 1844-1958, and The Era of Community, 1958-Present. Mark Scherer is the Historian of the Church and the book is being published by Herald House (the Community of Christ equivalent of Deseret Book) and the Community of Christ Seminary Press. Although officially billed as “not the official history,” these details give the project a certain official quality.

The volumes will be richly illustrated and I’ve just finished my first draft of all the maps. The maps have yet to be edited, but I’m so excited that I decided to share a low resolution sneak peak here. [Read more…]

A New “Bird’s Eye View of Old Nauvoo”

On my visit to Nauvoo last month, I was pleased to discover (and purchase) a beautiful new poster which presents a historical reconstruction of Nauvoo at its greatest extent in 1846. [Read more…]

The Book of Jasher

Growing up, I had in my home an unusual book organized into chapters and verses that read like scripture. Published in Salt Lake City in 1887 and reprinted in 1973, it announced itself to be “The Book of Jasher referred to in Joshua and Second Samuel.” The title page itself cited Joshua 10:13 “Is not this written in the Book of Jasher?” and 2 Samuel 1:18 “Behold it is written in the Book of Jasher.” The book was translated into English from Hebrew “faithfully and elegantly” according to four certificates dated 1840. What was this scripture-like book, referenced in the actual Bible, that I’d plucked from my mother’s library? [Read more…]

Thanksgiving in 3 Minutes

As we’re getting ready for this year’s Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share a little video we made of last year’s dinner with the Hamer family. [Read more…]

Values…Then and Now

As an 11-year old in 6th grade, I filled out a worksheet that asked me to rank my Top Ten Values (from a list of eleven). This is what I came up with… [Read more…]

The Voree Temple

The Planned Strangite Temple at Voree, Wisconsin
My conception of the planned Strangite Temple at Voree. [Read more…]

Inconstant Chronicler

I began my first journal in 1975 (age 5) in response to commandment (and maternal encouragement). The initial volume served me infrequently and irregularly until around 1979. In 1983 (age 13), I tried my hand at journal keeping again using a much more nicely bound artist’s sketchbook which I’d filled after one year. This was followed by a second matching journal that was kept less consistently over the course of 1984. The next journal sporadically lasted from 1984-1990, a time period that overlapped with entries made in a larger, folio journal in 1988, and also with entries in my final, smaller journal 1988-1995. This last volume includes the final formal entry I’ve made in a journal (age 25; I’m now 38). Taken together, my journals are hardly a complete chronicle of my life. [Read more…]

Reflections on the JWHA Conference in Voree

Mike and I are back home after another enlightening, productive, and thoroughly enjoyable conference of the John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA). This was our third JWHA since Mike and I became the association’s executive directors, and the sixth I’ve attended in total. [Read more…]

Williamite Hymns

Following up on my previous post on Strangite Hymns, I thought I’d offer a selection of Williamite hymns. [Read more…]

Conference on Restoration Scriptures

“Examining the Origins of Scripture” will be the theme of the 2nd Annual Restoration Studies / Sunstone Midwest Symposium, to be held April 17-18, 2009, in Independence, Missouri. [Read more…]

Hymns in the Key of Strang

Each year at the John Whitmer Historical Association conference we have an ecumenical Restoration devotional service — i.e., one that includes multiple Latter Day Saint traditions. This year’s conference will be held near Old Voree, Wisconsin, once and current headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite). Our conference’s Sunday devotional will be held in the Strangite chapel and will include common hymns from the early church (published in Emma’s 1835 hymnal) as well as distinct hymns from a number Restoration heritage churches. Selections will include hymns from the LDS Church (Brighamite), the Community of Christ (Josephite), the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Josephite), the Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite), and of course the Strangite church.
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A Red Horse Prophecy?

We spent the weekend in Washington DC, visiting our own Karen H. (newly returned from Central Asia), and seeing the sites. One of the first museums we hit was the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI*) — an impressive new branch of the Smithsonian that has opened during the decade since our last visit. The NMAI was designed by Native Americans and is devoted to telling the stories of the original peoples of the western hemisphere in their own voices. The museum includes three major exhibit spaces labeled: “Our Lives” (contemporary stories of Indians today), “Our Universes” (traditional Native cosmologies and world-views), and “Our Peoples” (history from the Indian perspective).

Imagine my shock when I saw that the exhibit in the “Our Peoples” section devoted to native religion was dominated by an art installation representing the (Mormon) White Horse Prophecy.
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147 Generations

That’s the number connecting me to Eve and Adam — at least by one count on one line. When I was a kid, our ward had a large chart entitled THE ROYAL LINE hanging on the wall near the library. The chart traced lineage from Adam to Judah through European kings like Charlemagne and Alfred the Great to modern leaders including Queen Victoria, George Washington, FDR, and the prophet Joseph Smith.
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“Take My Wives… Please”

There are all kinds of bad movies. Some bad movies are dull, some are annoying, some are unwatchably horrific, but some bad movies are so bad that they become interesting to watch. It is in this last category that I put Rodney Dangerfield’s little-known Mormon cult classic, My 5 Wives. [Read more…]

My Standard Plan Tabernacle (1986)

When I was a teenager in the early 1980s, I was a member of a choir that toured the churches of many other Christian denominations — Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Catholics, and more Lutherans (I lived in Minnesota). This culminated in touring the cathedrals of Germany and Austria. What glorious and uplifting edifices these believers had built for God!

Coming home to our ward’s meetinghouse with its painted cinderblock chapel and orange industrial-grade carpeting (that clashed with the slightly-different-shade-of-orange pew cushions) left me unimpressed. My mother always reminded me that the LDS Church built temples as houses of the Lord that were monumental (an argument that was already losing potency as smaller, less unique, less impressive temples had begun to dot the earth) and that meetinghouses and stake centers were supposed to be utilitarian. [Read more…]

Yes, Non-LDS Mormons Are Mormons

Last week saw another round of back and forth between the LDS Church’s public relations department and the Principle Voices Coalition, an inter-denominational group advocating the awareness and rights of “fundamentalist Mormons.” It should be noted that Principle Voices is made up of independent fundamentalists and has associations with the Apostolic United Brethren (the Allred organization), the Work of Jesus Christ (the Centennial Park organization), and the Davis County Cooperative Society (the Kingston organization), but has no ties with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Colorado City/Hildale organization).

The LDS PR folks are again arguing that the word “Mormon” can only be properly applied to the LDS Church and its members, while Principle Voices maintains that the term applies to everyone whose faith derives from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. [Read more…]

The Miraculous Plates of Voree Examined

On September 13, 1845, four Mormons acting at the call of the prophet James J. Strang went to a certain hill near Burlington, Wisconsin, and, at a spot beneath a great oak that showed no signs of having been disturbed, they dug and found an earthenware box containing a set of three plates of brass. Beyond the four witnesses, the plates were viewed by hundreds of curious spectators including a local non-Mormon newspaper reporter. [Read more…]

The E Source, Ephraimite Lineage, and the 8th Article of Faith

Biblical scholars have long identified distinct sections within the early books of the Bible that employ a consistently different tone, language, and content from one other. In what is generally called the “documentary hypothesis,” these scholars have labeled the major underlying sources with letters: J, E, P, and D, along with R (the redactor, who assembled the whole). [Read more…]

Observations from My Brief Visit to Colorado City

While my partner Mike and I were in southern Utah last week, we decided to swing through the fundamentalist Mormon communities of Hildale/Colorado City and Centennial Park. [Read more…]

Newly Located Hancock County Records Shed Light on 1844 Succession Claims

John Hamer is our latest guest-blogger here at BCC. We are happy to have him with us and look forward to his contributions.

Bill Shepard, President-Elect of the John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA) and trustee of Strangite properties in Voree, Wisconsin, has located an important document in the Hancock County Courthouse in Carthage, Illinois: a record of the incorporation of the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints” in the state of Illinois by Joseph Smith. (Bill has given me permission to publish his find on BCC.) Although its contents have long been known (see History of the Church 4:287), the physical document itself seems to have eluded notice. [Read more…]