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Gospel Topics Chapter 6 Turner Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
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May 10, 2021 9:11 pm

Gospel Topics Chapter 6 Turner Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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May 10, 2021 9:11 pm

John G. Turner wrote a response to the “Peace and Violence” Gospel Topics essay, and this week Bill and Eric discuss his review and more about one of the 13 original essays published by the church.


In their own words, a collection of Mormon quotations compiled by Mormonism Research Ministries Bill McKeever is a valuable resource when wanting to know what Mormon leaders have said on a given topic.

Pick up your copy at the Utah Lighthouse Bookstore or In 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now, your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. Thanks to a gentleman in last week's show, a man by the name of Paul R. Chesman, but we had been pronouncing it Cheeseman because that's the way it seems to read.

But we had a very kind listener inform me that, in fact, his name is pronounced Chesman, not Cheeseman, so we would like to make that correction. These are so dark and mysterious, the Thomas Lewis case and violence in early LDS Utah. It's a chapter written by John G. Turner. John Turner writes chapter number six, and it's to the book LDS Gospel Topics Series, a scholarly engagement. He is going to talk about the essay titled, Peace and Violence Among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints. Although he admits there is a lot that could be discussed regarding that topic, paragraph number one on page 166 gives a lot of, I guess you could say, bullet points for what could have been discussed in this chapter, but unfortunately, John Turner doesn't do that. He lists a lot of subjects that could have been discussed, but he spends a lot of time on the Thomas Lewis episode, which we are going to talk about.

He writes on page 166, it is also important to note that peace and violence could not possibly discuss everything pertinent to its subject. Notable omissions include the 1834 Zion's Camp march in response to the expulsion of Mormons from Jackson County. Zion's Camp supposedly was given by revelation to Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon movement, led this Zion's Camp to go to Jackson County, Missouri, to get back the land that the Mormons were kicked out of. Now you would think if this is by revelation, and Joseph Smith feels led to lead this camp, why didn't he succeed? See, Zion's Camp was an utter failure.

Even though it began in May and June of 1834, it was disbanded in July of 1834. They did not accomplish what Joseph Smith claimed they were to accomplish by getting this land back. When the Missourians heard about a group of Mormons coming towards them, they were prepared for them, and Joseph Smith had to back down, so they did not get that land that Zion's Camp was supposed to succeed in getting for the Latter-day Saints.

So I wish that could have been a topic that was discussed. But then he also mentions the allegation that Oren Porter Rockwell, with Joseph Smith's encouragement or approval, attempted to assassinate former Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs. That would have been an interesting topic, because here we have a case, as he says, Joseph Smith's encouragement or approval, that shows some culpability on the part of Joseph Smith. This isn't just being done by rogue members of the church, as I think the essay is trying to imply. This would have been a great opportunity to show that Oren Porter Rockwell, who at this time is Joseph Smith's bodyguard, he later becomes Brigham Young's bodyguard, or assassin, depending on which side you might be on, you could say, because there's a lot of controversy with Oren Porter Rockwell.

That would have been a great portion, I think, to include in this chapter, but he doesn't really deal with that. Oren Porter Rockwell said that he did not try to assassinate Boggs. What was his statement about that whole incident? Rockwell said something to the effect that if he was the one that took a shot at Boggs, he would have killed him, not just wounded him.

And what does that say? There was motive for him to be killed, and so that says a lot, I think. Either that, or he was giving us a little bit of bravado on perhaps how good a shot he was, I don't know, but a lot of people seem to think that Rockwell probably did have something to do with that, and Boggs was not killed, however.

He was merely wounded. Then he also mentions Sidney Rigdon's Salt Sermon, in which he called for Mormon reprisals against both mobs and dissenters. That also would have been a good story, although, as far as we understand, there is no extant transcript of Sidney Rigdon's Salt Sermon. We only know what it tended to be about based on parties who heard the sermon and wrote about it. But in Sidney Rigdon's Salt Sermon, it was taken from Matthew 5.13, where Jesus talks about salt losing its savor and as being good for nothing and trampled upon. He uses that verse, and he uses it in a way, well, what would you say, Eric, to use his bully pulpit against dissenters in the Mormon Church? So that was a sermon more against those who were questioning the leadership. I thought that would be a fascinating section in this chapter. Especially since Joseph Smith himself seemed to approve of what was said in the Salt Sermon. He goes on to talk about instances of violence in Nauvoo, Illinois, in the wake of Joseph Smith's 1844 murder, including the existence of whistling and whittling brigades to threaten church enemies.

Most people probably have no idea what that is about. The Tanners did write about whittlers, and it makes you wonder, do most people even know what a whittler is? What is whittling to begin with?

Well, of course, it's carving something out of a piece of wood using, in most cases, you would say, a penknife. Although the whittlers in Mormon history tended to use something a little larger than a penknife. Now, the Tanners talk about this on page 538 of their book, Mormonism, Shadow or Reality, and they have a few quotes in there that show that these whittlers really did exist.

But what were they trying to accomplish? The Tanners cite Oliver B. Huntington, who recorded the following in his journal. Now, we should mention Oliver B. Huntington is what we would say is a friendly. He's not an enemy of the church, so you can't say, well, this is just an enemy trying to make the church look bad.

He's a friendly here. He's a member. He said, I belonged to the Whittling Society, and the 6th of April helped whittle Dr. Charles of Warsaw, this would be Warsaw, Illinois, out of town. No one liked the sight of half dozen large knives whittling about their ears and not a word said.

Now, that gives us an idea of what they were doing, but there still seems to be a lot of question marks about that. So the Tanners included another citation from John Taylor, who they say became the third president of the Mormon Church, who made these statements, quoting, And that state robbed us of the rights of freemen, and the only chance we had then, when they sent their scamps and rogues among us, was to have a whittling society and whittle them out. We could not get them out according to law, and we had to do it according to justice, and there was no law against whittling, so we whittled the scoundrels out. Taylor goes on to say, I remember that one of the legislators who had annulled our charter named Dr. Charles, who by the way is the one that Oliver B. Huntington mentions as well, he went to President Young and says he, Mr. Young, I am very much imposed upon by the people around here. There are a lot of boys following me with long knives and they are whittling after me wherever I go.

My life is in danger. The Tanners also include Brigham Young's response, where he basically tells Dr. Charles, your cause is just, but we can do nothing for you. So what is going on here? Apparently if there was someone that the Mormons disliked and did not want in their community, a group of them would surround that individual when he was seen in public, and rather than say anything to that individual, they would pull out a piece of wood and these long knives as described here, and they would whittle this piece of wood in their hands, not saying a word. Now would you feel a little bit intimidated, Eric, if a number of people surrounded you doing just that and not saying anything, and it doesn't say what their countenance looked like. I'm sure they didn't have smiles on their face unless it was maybe a sinister smile, perhaps. I can imagine that that would probably not be a comfortable situation.

I think you're looking at exit stage left, and are you going to want to remain in a community where they are, in essence, threatening violence against you with those knives? And if that really happened, I would say that's probably something people should know, and I'm just disappointed that Mr. Turner didn't take advantage of this space that he had to write this chapter, to give several examples showing how the Mormon Church itself and the people within the Mormon Church weren't always as peaceable as they often led on. And I think you're exactly right. We've just given a few of the examples that he could have talked about and written more on, but I think when we get to the Thomas Lewis affair, that is really an obscure case that happened actually in St. Pete County here in Utah, but not many people know about it, and I think a lot of people could distance themselves from Thomas Lewis from that whole affair, because, well, how do we know that there were any officials from Salt Lake City with the LDS Church actually involved in that? Well, I think what Turner is going to try and show, because apparently he's done a lot of research in this Thomas Lewis story, and I think he's using the space that was provided for him to just let people know, hey, I've done a lot of research on this. I think his research is good, but I don't know if it really fits, in my opinion, the storyline of the book.

In other words, let's critique the essay, let's look at what it says, and let's show examples that either supports what the essay is saying, or perhaps even contradicts what the essay is saying. He gives one more point, though, when he talks about this idea of the controversy surrounding the temple endowment ceremony in which initiates promised to pray that God would avenge the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith upon the United States. This was known as the oath of vengeance. It was a part of the Mormon temple endowment ceremony up until the early 1930s.

We're not just talking 19th century here. And basically what people in the temple were told to vow was if they had an opportunity, they would take vengeance on those who harmed Joseph and Hyrum Smith. This is actually taking place with Brigham Young in the Nauvoo endowment in 1845.

That's soon after the death of Joseph Smith in 1844. This is what the oath of vengeance said. You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children's children until the third and fourth generation. Now, even though they were supposed to teach their children and their children's children to the third and fourth generation, most Latter-day Saints probably are not even aware that an oath of vengeance even existed in the temple endowment ceremony. But again, as I said, these are some really good subjects that I wish Mr. Turner had elaborated on. But as we said, he's going to turn his attention to this violent act that was made against a man by the name of Thomas Lewis, and we're going to talk about that in tomorrow's show. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-19 16:55:04 / 2023-11-19 17:00:07 / 5

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