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Saints: The Standard of Truth Part 18: Handling Dissenters

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
February 25, 2020 8:06 pm

Saints: The Standard of Truth Part 18: Handling Dissenters

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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February 25, 2020 8:06 pm

This is the fourth week of a series of articles on the 2018 history manual titled Saints: The Standard of Truth.

Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever
Viewpoint on Mormonism
Bill McKeever

Answering Mormons questions by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson deals with 36 commonly asked questions by your LDS friends and neighbors. It's a great resource for Christians want to share their faith with friends and loved ones. Be sure to pick up your copy today at your favorite Christian bookstore viewpoint on Mormonism program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from a biblical perspective viewpoint when Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism research ministry since 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. How did the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints handle dissenters in the year 1838. Welcome to this edition of viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director Mormonism research ministry with me today is Eric Johnson.

My colleague at MRM we been talking about the salt sermon. It is mentioned in this new history titled saints, the standard of truth published in 2018 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and as we have said in this series we are quite pleased that this history is certainly much more transparent than many of the things talked about in Mormon history in the past. However, there still a lot.

That, of course, you could say to fill in a lot of the blanks in one of the criticisms that we do have of this new volume of history is it tends to bounce around back and forth. You really have to pay attention or you can be lost. It's kind of difficult sometimes to get a good timeline on how all these events are coming down, but as we been talking about this week we been discussing a controversial sermon given by Joseph Smith's right hand man Sidney Rigdon a sermon that came to be known as the salt sermon where Sidney Rigdon had finally had enough of all the criticisms against himself against Joseph Smith and other leaders in the church for now he's going to bring down the hammer in condemnation against all those who are dissenting against the leadership and in doing so, we told you that we are going to go to another book titled Sidney Rigdon a portrait of religious excess written by Richard Van Wagoner on page 218. He goes into some of the details regarding the salt sermon and the aftermath of the delivery of that sermon. He writes on page 218. Immediately following the salt sermon as it was subsequently known. John Carrillo sought out Mormon dissenter John Witmer and advised him that in the wake of Rigdon's address witness safety might be in question.

Witmer did not believe that the saints as a body would turn on him but he went to the prophet for advice. He was told that he and WW Phelps would have to surrender their property in Far West and as you mentioned yesterday, Bill. That's a Mormon settlement in Missouri real estate that they were accused of purchasing with church funds.

He advised Witmer to quote place the property in the hands of the bishop and high council to be disposed of according to the laws of the church and things will quiet down," so it seems that John Witmer, the father of David Witmer whose name is in every edition of the book of Mormon because he was one of the three witnesses really believe that his life could be in any danger. Apparently, even after Rigdon gives this address he's questioning whether or not that is to be taken seriously. But as were going to find in this book, they better take it seriously if they are in the crosshairs of Sidney Rigdon and even Joseph Smith. Because, as we mentioned yesterday, Joseph Smith. After Rigdon gives his salt sermon. He gets up, and as Van Wagoner notes the prophet delivered a short speech sanctioning Rigdon's address so Joseph Smith is condoning what Sidney Rigdon said in the salt sermon, although it says that Smith had a qualification he didn't want the brethren to act unlawfully. But as we discussed yesterday when this sentence goes on, Smith says, but I will tell them one thing Judas was a traitor and instead of hanging himself was honed by Peter and of course that raises the question, what did Joseph Smith mean by that because it sounds like in one breath he saying don't act unlawfully but in the second breath he saying take the law and do your own hands well. Could it be a higher law that is referring to, because if the law of God supersedes the love man, then perhaps there might be opportunities to be able to do things that the law on this earth would say is wrong. But God's law would say was okay and I I would probably argue here, there's probably several precedents that would support exactly what you just said the Mormons always look to this higher law as overwriting man's law. Look at the subject of polygamy. For instance, there's a good example right there. We find that John Witmer has been told by John Carrillo that he better get out of here and Witmer doesn't believe it but he's told also that he and WW Phelps need to surrender their property in Far West and of course the excuse being that they were accused of purchasing this land with church funds.

But what is it going to say at the bottom of page 218 Witmer refused in consequence he Oliver Cowdrey, David Witmer, WW Phelps, and Lyman E. Johnson received a lengthy ultimatum drafted by Rigdon demanding that they leave Far West in three days so we have three days to pack their bags packed their family. All of their belongings and get out of the area. In other words, they have just threatened some of their own members with the same kind of punishment that a lot of the locals in Missouri wanted to instill upon the Latter Day Saints because they didn't like them being there. So here we have the Mormons doing the very same thing with some of its own members, though I admit they are dissenters they are critics of Joseph Smith in the leadership but you can see the kind of tension that is taken place in 1838 in Missouri, but then on page 219.

What does Van Wagoner say or he said 84 of Far West most influential Mormons including Hiram Smith of the first presidency signed the document which reads in part before you read that was mentioned Hiram Smith of the first presidency that is Joseph Smith's brother Hiram Smith. That's who it's talking about now what is it say in this document that is going to threaten these particular dissenters out of the county.

You shall go, and no power shall save you and you shall have three days after you receive this communication to you, including 24 hours in each day for you to depart with your families peaceably, which you may do undisturbed by any person, but in that time.

If you do not depart.

We will use the means in our power to cause you to depart so it sounds like a forced evacuation. There you for three days to get out of Dodge. And if you don't do it.

Something is going to happen to you now if you were on the receiving end of this thread, Eric. How would you feel I would think I would be taking this pretty seriously this affidavit. This document goes on to say what we have solemnly warned you and that in the most determined manner that if you did not see set course of wanton abuse of the citizens of this county that vengeance would overtake you sooner or later, and that when it did come. It would be as furious as the mountain torrent and as terrible as the beating tempest which you have affected to despise our warnings and pass them off with a sneer or a grin or a threat and pursued your former course inventions sleep. If not, neither does it slumber. And unless you heed us this time and attend to our request. It will overtake you at an hour when you do not expect it and at a day when you do not look for it and for you, there shall be no escape for there is but one decree for you which is depart, depart, or a more fatal calamity shall befall you more fatal calamity shall, before you now again I asked the question if you're on the receiving end of this threat. How do you take that I'm sure they would take this very seriously. It sounds like the church leadership means what it is saying here now, thankfully, folks.

The LDS church doesn't quite operate this way any longer though, as I've mentioned many people do feel threatened when they finally decide to leave their membership behind and become an ex-Mormon. They do find themselves being treated in a most uncomfortable manner. Many times, and they do have their character assassinated often times sadly by some family members even it's a sad state of affairs as to be sure, but let's get back to what the book says here page 219 after it has this excerpt from this document.

What does Van Wagoner say on Tuesday when dissidents were informed that preparations were being made to hang them up. That night they fled town with only the clothes on their backs and we should mention the phrase hang them up is in quotation marks.

No, again, how would you take it if you think they're going to hang you and they've already said that a more fatal calamity can befall you. How do you understand this message. It sounds like it's a death threat and if you think you're going to stay there in and fight that offer think they're bluffing that could be very dangerous. They end up realizing they better flee, and they do. They fled town with only the clothes on their backs. At the bottom of this chapter it says in years to come after Rigdon dissented from Brigham Young's brand of Mormonism blame for these civil rights violations was heaped squarely on his shoulders and again this is Richard Van Wagoner writing. This is the bottom of page 219 of his book. See Rigdon's later on going to leave the LDS church. When Brigham Young ends up becoming Joseph Smith's successor Rigdon. I'm sure felt that because of his position in the church up until the time of Joseph Smith's death. He was next in line, but that's not what was going to happen Brigham Young instead becomes the new leader of the church, and you might say Rigdon kind of rides off into the proverbial sunset. He doesn't totally and in this restored message that is learned from Joseph Smith but he no longer becomes a viable force in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It's almost like you have two competitors right after the death of Joseph Smith trying to figure out who was going to be the leader and certainly said he Rigdon thought that he to be the one who ought to be named the president and Brigham Young was better in the political sense of the word to be able to figure out how to get the people to side with him and so city Rigdon. I think after that, there's not room for two Queen bees ones gonna have to be out of the picture. Then Wagoner goes on to say that Jedediah M. Grant, now Grant would later become a member of the first presidency under Brigham Young about 10 years after this event takes place but it says Jedediah M. Grant, for example Road in 1844 that Rigdon began to quote poor his wrath in Torrance upon the heads" of the dissenters who had quote made ship wreck concerning the faith. But John Witmer focus the situation more accurately when he wrote regarding the persecution of apostates. See John Witmer sees it little bit differently. He obviously did not agree with Brigham Young's later assessment that this was just Sydney Rigdon's fault. And as we mentioned earlier, Joseph Smith was a part of this also. But according to John Witmer and this is in quotation marks. J. Smith, which of course is Joseph Smith S. Rigdon that would be Sydney Rigdon and Hiram Smith were the instigators.

According to John Witmer and it says that book of Mormon witness David Witmer confirmed this perspective.

In 1881 interview where he quotes him saying Smith and Rigdon issued a decree organizing what was termed the dam knights or destroying angels who were bound by the most fearful oats to obey the commandments of the leaders of the church in tomorrow's show we're going to look at this group that came to be known as the dam knights.

Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding his research ministry. We encourage you to visit our website you can request a free newsletter.

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