Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated in 1838 and was rebaptized ten years later in 1848. I have always felt Oliver got a bum rap. He was faithful. He was more educated than Joseph, but humble enough to let him lead. Joseph in several cases gave unwarranted preference to others: Sidney Rigdon (a fiery speaker with a built in congregation but a loose cannon who took one too many hits to the old noggin), John C. Bennett (the real villain of the restoration), and others after Oliver disagreed with Joseph about polygamy (Oliver considered it adultery).
Let’s take a look at Oliver’s case. Here are the charges he faced in his excommunication hearing, and for each, the council’s findings. Note that a letter from Oliver was read at the trial, although he was not present:
- For persecuting the brethren by urging on vexatious law suits against them, and thus distressing the innocent. This sounds like he was just practicing his trade and being villified for being a lawyer. Charge sustained.
- For seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith, Jun., by falsely insinuating that he was guilty of adultery. A matter of opinion. Oliver’s interpretation of polygamy as adultery is certainly an easily supported view, especially given the secrecy and the fact that Emma’s concurrence was frequently not a factor. Charge sustained.
- For treating the Church with contempt by not attending meetings. Let he among us who has not sinned cast the first stone on this one; it’s certainly not an excommunicable offense today. Charge sustained.
- For virtually (quite a qualifier) denying the faith by declaring that he would not be governed by any ecclesiastical authority or revelations whatever, in his temporal affairs. Given the fallibility of the economic advice being doled out at that time (Kirtland Bank Failure, anyone?) this seems perfectly reasonable. Again, this is not something that would be an excommunicable offense today. Charge rejected.
- For selling his lands in Jackson county, contrary to the revelations. See #4. Of course, this is complicated by the manner in which consecration was practiced at that time. Charge rejected.
- For writing and sending an insulting letter to President Thomas B. Marsh, while the latter was on the High Council, attending to the duties of his office as President of the Council, and by insulting the High Council with the contents of said letter. That must have been some letter! Of course, this is Thomas B. Marsh we’re talking about. It seems that people were highly prone to personal insults in that time (in a “culture of honor” where an insult could quickly turn into a challenge to a duel). This was not a very humble culture. Charge withdrawn.
- For leaving his calling to which God had appointed him by revelation, for the sake of filthy lucre, and turning to the practice of law. This again seems like he’s being indicted for simply being a lawyer. I know this profession is often the butt of jokes and disgust, but excommunicating over it seems a bit strong. We don’t like tax collectors either, but one of the original 12 was a publican. Charge sustained.
- For disgracing the Church by being connected in the bogus business, as common report says. That’s rich. If being connected to bogus business is enough to get one excommunicated, who would have been left of this lot? Charge sustained.
- For dishonestly retaining notes after they had been paid; and finally, for leaving and forsaking the cause of God, and returning to the beggarly elements of the world, and neglecting his high and holy calling, according to his profession. Once again, being a lawyer. There’s a reason Shakespeare said “First, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Charge sustained.
Of the sustained charges, 4 of them (1, 7, 8, and 9) are all related to being a lawyer. Charge 3 was for not attending church meetings, and charge 2 was for accusing JS of adultery. The church later classed this adultery as “celestial marriage,” although it doesn’t meet the requirements stated in D&C 132 (which hadn’t yet been written) in that Emma’s prior concurrence was neither sought nor obtained. Oliver’s label of adultery seems to be a matter of opinion, especially since the polygamous definition of “celestial marriage” was not yet doctrine. So he was ostensibly excommunicated for 1) being a lawyer, 2) skipping church, and 3) refusal to condone what he considered adultery. Despite his belief that JS had committed adultery and needed to repent, Oliver did not oppose JS as the prophet nor had he reneged his testimony or at any time stated disbelief in the church or his own experiences.
To quote one of the signs at the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally: “People who use hyperbole should be shot!” Hyperbole makes an emotional appeal when logic has failed to convince. Examples of hyperbolic language in the above charges: “vexatious law suits,” “distressing the innocent,” “contempt,” “filthy lucre,” “bogus business,” “beggarly elements of the world,” and “high and holy calling.” The level of hyperbole makes the charges seem even more drummed up.
Oliver later rejoined the church in 1848. Despite what had happened, he never lost faith in the spiritual experiences he had, and he never recanted his statements about the Book of Mormon or the restoration of the church. He just couldn’t stomach the actions of some of his fellow leaders.
Would you have behaved any differently than Oliver? Was he wrongfully excommunicated? Are you glad that excommunications are not done for such specious reasons today? Or do you disagree that they are better now? Discuss.
“The bogus business” refers to counterfeiting. This was before there was a uniform national currency, of course, so there were a lot of options to choose from.
Well, what are we excommunicated for these days? Do we have individuals being excommunicated for challenging church leadership? Do we have individuals excommunicated for sexual transgressions? Do we have individuals excommunicated for belonging to groups church leaders might view in a bad light?
I think his excommunication and return tell a strong story in regards to his faith in the restoration.
On the other hand, it is easy to approach anything, from collecting on notes and then retaining them (to double dip and defraud people) to the bogus business (fraud) in a number of ways.
It can be easy for someone to slip over the line from enforcing legal rights to sharp practice to outright fraud in the guise of legal practice. I see people doing that all the time.
Though I see people on the wrong end of lawsuits who can’t tell the difference.
Great post. I don’t have much experience with the church’s practice of excommunication now-a-days, so don’t feel I can speak much on it. Reading this post makes me feel even more respect for Oliver. He had certain spiritual witnesses that he did not deny, even when his conscious ran counter to the church at the time. Despite his conflicts it seems that he was able to make some kind of peace with the church later and include it as a part of his continued spiritual journey.
I think some of us have a similar struggle today in that we have a testimony of certain parts of Mormonism, but may feel conflicted with some church practices or with mormon culture in general. Finding our own spiritual path in an “all or nothing” church culture can be difficult with these conflicts (for me at least). It’s nice to know that I probably won’t be dismissed from my church for simply having the conflicts today. Er…. at least I hope not.
Dave #1 – while it’s true that as bank president, Oliver obtained the currency printing plates, it seems hypocritical to excommunicate him for his association with the failed bank in charge #8, and then to excoriate him in charge #4 which I see as evidence that he learned his lesson – don’t get talked into foolish financial endeavors. Effectively, don’t mix religion and state. After all, if he was guilty of actual counterfeiting (the practices were mighty loose and free back then), that’s a matter for a court of law, not an excommunication, IMHO. He was not legally charged for his involvement in the Kirtland Bank.
I suppose some of this hinges on whether one considers the adultery insinuation (#2) to be objectively fair or evidence of disloyalty. To consider it disloyalty to question his friend’s behavior in this matter seems like a mix of revenge and cover up, bearing in mind that at that time most of those in the disciplinary council did not know about the practice of polygamy, and this was just JS’s word (who was denying it) against OC’s word.
Was he actually a Lawyer? i thought he was a school teacher? i have the bio so I ‘ll haveto look it up.
also, one must remember that Oliver was no garden variety member. He was the second Elder of the Church and he held a high position. the expectation on him was very different. He was held to a much higher standard i think.
I take exception to a few of the assumptions in the original post.
Caling “high and holy” hyperbole? He was the second elder in the church, then a counselor in the first presidency.
The record does not reveal why Joseph favored Rigdon, for instance.
A disagreement with the prophet is different from a disagreement with a friend. He is, of course, free to disagree. But if one assumes the leader of the church has gone astray, why would one stay in the fellowship anyway?
It’s interesting to me that he returned to the church while it still practiced polygamy — even did so on a far grander scale.
As for excommunication today — generally it depends on a number of factors, including the seriousness of the trangression, the attitude of the transgressor, the position that the transgressor holds (a more public or responsible position is likely to have more formal and serious consequences).
Interesting post. But I have to disagree with you on the assumption saying the church should discipline a member for doing immoral things. Isn’t that part of the purpose of churches? To help people attain a higher moral ground? If excommunication is a path to help people overcome immorality then by all means, it is the churches position to act on this.
I also think the church has more moral ground to act on these sorts of issues than the government does. Take for example the heated debate on homosexual marriage. If the government wasn’t involved in telling who can and who can’t get married but was left to the churches how wonderful would it be? A private contract made between two people without government interference and only the church to be the final arbitrator of the contract.
I do think, if you are going to have a government, their role would be the defense of the individual rights (as said in the AZ constitution, written by very liberal democrats of their day). Then the only thing the government could do is uphold the contract made by those who made the contract, and only after one party in the contract complains that the other party hasn’t upheld their part of the contract. But it’s not the governments job to say who can contract and who can’t.
I disagree with your point that ex-communication depends on transgressor. I think that attitude is important on both ends.
I have never been ex-communicated, but I’ve considered having my name removed from the records because of actions of my BP which were totally inappropriate. Had my SP not removed my name and transferred my records to another branch I certainly would have had my name removed.
The thing about it is, that I still never got my chance to confront my BP about his actions which he made public that were totally bias, so I am still angry.
And yes, I have trouble with my testimony because of what took place and I am actively investigating other churches because of everything that happened.
Oliver got excommunicated more or less for getting on Joseph’s bad side.
The thing with prophecy, is that it tends to encourage great deference to prophets. That would be fine, if prophets were always acting as prophets. But since they aren’t, there’s no fixed standard — “a government of laws, not of men” — to prevent essentially arbitrary exercises of power.
#10: “there’s no fixed standard — “a government of laws, not of men” — to prevent essentially arbitrary exercises of power”
I think that what you describe is especially apparent in the early days of a movement where “establishment” does not yet exist, such as in the early days of the church. When seen through our modern eyes those events may look different than they did to the participants.
Oliver got ex-communicated because he got on Joseph’s bad side.”
churches have the right to excommunicate for
to teach immorality. But, here’s a caveat, who is to say that someone is really being immoral vrs. whether or not BP, just doesn’t like you and refuses to support no matter what. Then who steps in to stop the process. The Stake President? I don’t think so, My Stake President refused to intervene for nearly a year, until I went to my branch and stood up and refused to support my Branch President in an open meeting. That was the only reason he moved my records, otherwise things would have stayed status quo. And I wasn’t about to let that happen. I wasn’t going to support someone who clearly did not support me.
I have a feeling that this is exactly what Oliver was going thru with Joseph. In my opinion, I think Joseph for what ever reason probably felt a little intimidated by Oliver’ knowledge and that(ex-communication) was the only way Joseph could think of to control him.
Paul – You ask: “But if one assumes the leader of the church has gone astray, why would one stay in the fellowship anyway?” Oliver seems to be one of those rare individuals who can distinguish between JS acting as a fallible man and acting as a revelation-receiving prophet, at least in his own mind. Perhaps because of his own experiences, he was able to still believe in the restoration and even in JS’s calling while not condoning actions he felt were immoral on JS’s part.
Although he returned to the church when it practiced polygamy, he did not ever practice it. After the martyrdom, he associated with the Strangites in Wisconsin for a time (that movement had 40K followers vs. the BY movement with 55K followers). Even though Strang started out anti-polygamy, they eventually adopted it, and that sect quickly declined afterward.
Jon: “I have to disagree with you on the assumption saying the church should discipline a member for doing immoral things.” What immoral thing did Oliver do? None of these charges is moral in nature, IMO.
It’s wonderful how 170+ years of church history since Oliver was ex’d enable us to judge both him and Joseph by our standards and knowledge of today. In light of the times, the persecution, the growing pains of the church, etc., what happened is probably understandable. The beginnings* of most organizations have messy incidents and skeletons in the closet.
*and ‘middles’ and ‘endings’.
“It’s wonderful how 170+ years of church history since Oliver was ex’d enable us to judge both him and Joseph by our standards and knowledge of today.”
It is, isn’t it?
Doubtless our descendants will look on us, two centuries on, and judge us by their standards. Good for them. Standards should evolve.
The point is not that Joseph and his colleagues were worse or better people than we are. All good people can do, is to do their best to do right, as God gives them to see the right. One of the means God gives us to discern right from wrong, is the lessons of history. If — out of concern not to “judge” people for following traditions which, from our perspective, we can see not to be correct — we may diminish the impact of those lessons, and prevent ourselves from discovering that further light God wants us to find.
I must say, I have always had the vague feeling that Oliver got a bum rap, but do not know enough of the facts to really say. This post helps a lot, but the lawyer in me (the horror!) thinks the devil is in the details. How and why did he urge “vexatious lawsuits” and against whom? What was the basis for them? What commitments/covenants had he made regarding being governed by church authority in his temporal affairs? What were the particulars of his leaving his calling? I have a general sense of these things, but would need to delve into the specifics much more deeply to form a conclusion.
My gut tells me that Oliver was treated more harshly because, as a high leader in the Church and confidante of the Prophet, he was held to higher standard. His return to the church under the circumstances speaks volumes about his humility and faith.
“someone is really being immoral vrs. whether or not BP”
Isn’t that the great thing about church disciplinary action vs the government? When a member of the church messes things up (like your BP) then the consequences aren’t that bad (you might have to move to a different branch, or wait it out, or just put up with it). But when government messes things up because of corruption you could have spent several years in jail or be dead.
How do you fight corruption? First you try and work the system, which didn’t work right away for you. Then you refused to uphold him as BP by the vote? Or just did some form of civil disobedience, which worked out for you. Nothing is perfect. We live in a world of imperfect people.
“What immoral thing did Oliver do?”
I was referring to your statement that said:
” Effectively, don’t mix religion and state. After all, if he was guilty of actual counterfeiting (the practices were mighty loose and free back then), that’s a matter for a court of law, not an excommunication, IMHO.”
My point being theft is immoral (counterfeiting) and should be dealt first with a private entity vs the government. Whether Oliver did anything moral or not I make no claims since I don’t know his history. You were claiming that there should be a separation between between church and state and I’m saying that government is the one that should have less power and the church should have more say (in a voluntary sense, not coercive/forceful/violent like the government’s).
Jon – Dave’s comment in #1 stated counterfeiting. The charges in the disciplinary council didn’t state that directly. Note that he is not accused of theft or even counterfeiting in charge 8: “For disgracing the Church by being connected in the bogus business, as common report says.” In charge 9 it states: “For dishonestly retaining notes after they had been paid.” That one sounds like theft, but again, he was never charged in a court of law for this, so there’s still enough loophole to drive a truck through.
There was a point above that is worth repeating – we have the benefit of hindsight and 170 years of legal and religious experience. Today, we don’t excommunicate you for embezzlement unless you are convicted in a court of law. Merely being suspected “as common report says” is not sufficient to sever you from eternal salvation.
I think your reading more into what I’m writing than what’s there. All I’m saying is that in a perfect world we wouldn’t rely on government to coercively be the judge and jury but we would keep that more in the private market, i.e., churches would take up the slack. Since we currently rely on government to do so much for us the church has delegated it’s proper role to the government.
Jon – thanks for clarifying. Not sure I agree that churches are better equipped than governments to take up that role. Perhaps I’m just too much of a secularist (doubtless), but I’m skeptical about the objectivity of any religion to judge in temporal matters, even when there is a moral component (e.g. theft, assault or rape). Especially in this case where those who were judging were essentially victims (some partly complicit) of the failed bank. Some of the things that tug at objectivity (that you can even see in the above charges): the way the offense reflects on the religion itself, perceived impacts to those in the council or to the legitimacy of the religion, perceived loyalty, etc. It just seems like a lot of human stuff that gets mixed in.
Yes, objectivity is a problem wherever we are judged. We can definitely say the same things about the secular government and judges that govern us. I would go into the details but I’ll wait for a post (if that ever happens) on the subject before elaborating here (I don’t want to hijack the thread more than I have).
#18 HG — it is not excommunication which severs us from salvation. It is our sin or transgression. Excommunication is a step toward repentance. At least that is how we practice these principles today.
I have a great deal of love for Oliver. I appreciated his perspective on the restoration of the Aaronic PH, and the translation of the Book of Mormon. It is telling that he did not deny those spiritual milestones in his life. His return to the church speaks volumes about his character.
I don’t see the evidence that Joseph was intimidated by him (as Diane suggests in #12.
While I respect your right to present the analysis as you have in the OP, HG, I don’t agree with it. I think you are reading that history with today’s eyes.
It doesn’t sound as if he should have been excommunicated, but the path that resulted did allow him to have some great opportunities in life which he would not have had if he remained in the church.
“It seems that people were highly prone to personal insults in that time (in a “culture of honor” where an insult could quickly turn into a challenge to a duel). This was not a very humble culture.”
Yet, he asked for readmission into the church in an extremely humble fashion and doesn’t appear to have let the actions of other men that he couldn’t stomach drive him to actions of bitterness during the time he was out of the movement.
In a way, this seems to point out the difference between the church and the gospel as alluded to in Poelman’s (???) talk several years ago. The issues raised generally say nothing about Cowdery’s relationship with God, but more with his relationship with the institution of the Church. His character could still have been good; he could have felt he maintained integrity between himself and God; he essentially just didn’t accept certain actions of leaders of the church. None of the accusations are really anything against the gospel or God, they are essentially things between Cowdery and the organization.
I personally think I would have had a hard time with this if I were alive then. If President Monson started having relationships with other women, some young, some already married; and if he used me to help keep this secret from his wife; I think that I, too, would murmur. Perhaps President Monson might excommunicate me in that instance, perhaps not. But I would probably act now how Cowdery did then.
My feeling is that Oliver Cowdery wanted out as much as others wanted him out.
I’ve recently read some writing by the Prices which argues that Joseph Smith never taught nor supported polygamy. It’s compelling reading. More importantly, it shows a depth of division in between Joseph Smith and many early members and leaders that I think has been largely glossed over by modern writers.
Another point is that Sidney Rigdon was largely responsible for the form of the early church. I think his vision appealed greatly to Joseph Smith and I’ve no doubt he would have led the church had he not lost him mind after being severely beaten. I’ve had the feeling, with admittedly scant evidence, that Cowdery preferred a more simple, less hierarchical religion. By 1838, Mormonism had shifted quite a bit from 1830, and it continued to evolve. (Despite claims by apologists, Mormonism of today bears only passing resemblence to Mormonism of 1844.)
I’ve felt for years that Oliver got a bum rap. I need to read more about Oliver–I’d love to hear more details on his law career–that’s not something I’ve heard much about. As I recall, in Rough Stone Rolling, Oliver (and others) had misgivings about mismanagement of consecrated properties, and refused to participate, which rankled Joseph. Combined with his (understandable) misgivings about polygamy (which had an almost identical similarity to adultery), I can see why Oliver and Joseph parted ways.
I wasn’t aware that Oliver participated with the Strangites. It it my understanding that it wasn’t polygamy that doomed the Strangites, as much as it was the death of Strang. Soon after Oliver re-joined the Utah church, he contracted tuberculosis I believe, and never made it to Utah.
It’s true that Oliver died 2 years after rejoining (in 1850). I suppose I often feel he got a bum rap because I identify with his specific objections. I have always had a hard time with both consecration (as practiced by humans at least) and polygamy (for obvious reasons). Maybe Oliver was just a man out of time. It seems he would have done better in our day, except that instead of dabbling in divining, maybe he would have read his horoscope or practiced feng sui. I also feel a little sorry for his public correction in D&C 9. Perhaps this revelation explains why we’re not getting a lot of new translations from the prophets since JS.
“I think you are reading that history with today’s eyes.”
I’ve heard this rationale used my entire life to excuse anything and everything done by early church leaders that might be criticized. Although there is doubtless some truth to this tired line of defense, it’s a little insulting to be repeatedly and condescendingly told that we have no business judging these people because we weren’t there and can’t understand the dynamics of the time. What’s most interesting to me is that I rarely, if ever, hear this rationale employed to defend any public figure outside the church, even by church members. To use only one extreme example, Hitler’s rise to power was nearly 100 years ago, and I have never once heard anyone attempt to stem criticism of his actions based on the fact that we really can’t understand what it was like to live in post WWI Germany in the early 20th century. The idea is absurd. Hitler did things that were clearly wrong, regardless of the time and place.
I am NOT equating JS with Hitler. What I’m saying is that right is right and wrong is wrong, and it’s garbage to try and refute legitimate criticism by saying “it was a different time.” It’s humorous how so many members of the church pride themselves on the church’s strict, even rigid, moral objectivity, yet when anyone seeks to question something JS or BY did that is clearly morally questionable, moral relativism becomes all the rage. Oh, but god, the guy supposedly running this show, is still the same yesterday, today and forever. This is an embarrassing tactic, and beneath anyone with even a moderate intellect.
My dad did some pretty stupid stuff when were kids (nothing to us kids besides not living up to his moral responsibilities as a parent). Which caused my parents to get divorced. I still wish he would have never messed up but he has repented and I forgive him.
I don’t know the history enough of to say what JS did but I do know that he did do some great work (of course, I believe the BoM to be work of God). Likewise King David of the old testament did some great things but wasn’t faithful and when I think of him it makes me sad for what he did. But I still respect the good works he did. Lessons learned, no bodies perfect and it’s good to look at their good works while recognizing they are human.
#29 – Jon, I have absolutely no problem with this. I didn’t live in the 1800s and I don’t know exactly what it was like back then. My problem is that this does not mean I can’t analyze thing that were done in that time and make a judgment about whether they seem to be right or wrong. I’ve never heard a single member of the church defend Lilburn Boggs’ actions based on the fact that we don’t really understand 19th century politics on the American frontier. I also don’t hear anyone hesitating to praise Joseph Smith’s GOOD works based on the idea that we don’t can’t really judge them by our current standards. If our modern standards of right and wrong are incapable of judging past people’s actions for bad, then why in the world do our modern standards seem to be perfectly sufficient to judge all the great things someone may have done? The very idea is inane.
I agree that JS did some good things. I’ve never said otherwise, and I have and would never criticize anyone for pointing those out. However, it’s the height of hypocrisy to laud every good thing he did, while deflecting and defending his mistakes based on the pathetic idea that we just can’t judge by our current standards. Worse, it’s condescending and insulting to try to diffuse others’ legitimate criticisms and concerns using such an illogical and clearly biased rationale.
Yes, I think you’re right. We should be able to judge. I do think some historical context should be given in our judgments though. I think what makes it more difficult is that those who are portrayed as good often times their weaknesses are covered up in mystery or confusion, which makes it harder to judge.
For example, Thomas Jefferson was claimed to have children with one of his slaves but some historians believe it was just a smear campaign against Thomas for his political beliefs and that he never did have slave children. Or people blame him for just having slaves to begin with. I agree that either way we should look on him and say it was bad that he had slaves and he should have set them free but also recognize that from a historical context we can see that it would have been difficult to give them up.
Likewise, with JS we can recognize that his “plural wives” was bad (assuming that he did take on mistresses, since some people contend he didn’t). But we can also recognize that many people in his position have done the same (taken on concubines where the Lord has said no), not that that makes the sin any better.
So, in short, I agree with you.
#28: My specific reference to today’s eyes was judging specifically the excommunication proceedings based on today’s practice. The church in its infancy was very different in many, many ways, and only in the middle of last century did we begin to formalize many of the administrative procedures we consider standard today.
Maybe I am missing a few things in this dicussion. If Oliver was ex’d in 1838, who were these alleged plural wives of Joseph? I remember reading about Oliver calling the Fanny Alger thing a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair,” but that was back in Kirtland in 1833, and even Oliver was rumored to have had issues with adultry at that time, or so implied Bushman if I am remembering correctly — yet adultry is not on the list for Oliver’s excomunication. But who else would Joseph have been with in 1838 — Lucinda Harris? They didn’t get into Nauvoo and really start things cookin’ intil ’39.
I have recently been reading Van Wagoner’s biography on Sidney Rigdon, and my sense of Oliver is that he got pushed aside pretty early on with the move to Kirtland. After having been second to Joseph for so long, here comes Sidney, and there goes Oliver off to establish Zion in Missouri — sounds like a great assignment — preparing a land flowing with milk and honey to build a temple and a city for the return of the Lord who will reign personally in your midst — but it sucked. And if you look at the stuff going on in the revelations, people were being moved around like pieces in a chess game where the rules were constantly being changed — or at least it is easy to see how they could have interpreted it that way, as so many of the apostates did. So it is not hard to empathize with a guy like Oliver getting his ego stepped on all over the place.
Yes Hawkgirl, I agree — I think Oliver got a a totally bum rap, and I am very curious to learn more about what was really going on. If only I had a peep stone and a dark hat of my own to drop it in. Oh well. I’ll just have to wait until the day I have a celestial world of my own that is my personal crystalized urim and thummim. Can’t freaking wait.
Good details and questions hawkgrrl. I have often felt a sympathy for the “second elder of the church.” He not only was instrumental in translating the BOM, he had an unshakeable testimony of the restoration. As you infered, there was some problems in Joseph’s plural unions. In addition to what was mentioned, he proposed to Oliver’s sister. I too feel I have an unshakeable testimony, but am frankly bothered by most LDS’s revering of Joseph and Brigham. While I do not believe Frawn Brodie’s perspective of Joseph (if he did really engage in these plural unions to accomodate a massive libido, there would have been fitz starting up new Mormon churches all over!). I don’t recall Oliver ever being involved in adultery–I believe Bushman stated that many of the leaders, including Cowdery were puritanical and horrified at the aspect of plural marriage. I have long decided to leave the whole business, including “spiritual wifery” which I find equally troubling, as irrevelant and passe revelation.
Although not a bio, I have several essays written by this wonderful early leader bearing his witness of the restoration (including that eloquent quote contained at the end of the BOM) in a Book entitled The Prophet and the Plates.
I disagree with you about him being displaced by Rigdon. Joe is correct, Rigdon had a vision of the organization of the church that Joseph embraced. I went to a Church of Christ and found the worship service actually similar to ours. (I guess that is why they are so vehemently anti-Mormon, today) I also believe that he wrote much of the Lectures on Faith and had more of a genius for doctrine. I heartily concur with all those comments about the “knocks on the head,” that seem to have quite unsettled the man and made him manic and power hungry.
I think that as believers we owe much to many heroes of the Restoration that wrote for Joseph and were his right and left hands–including that incredible Emma Smith. These early leaders did much to shape the fabric and scope of the church.
Finally, while I think the church has become too heirarchical and dogmatic, my witness of the richness of the gospel lies in the miracle of institution and the power of doctrines. Get a grip, Diane, find another body of people 13,000,000 strong that has leaders who devote their lives and all that they have to helping others improve and is run by a few hundred full time employees that recieve a pitance for giving their all. Then tell us about it. I’ve seen the Jimmy Swaggarts and the Jimmy Bakers and all the exposes on the Pass The Loot clubbers. The greed, the parsimony, the corruption, the hypocrasy, the ego’s and the lack of sexual control is rampant in other churches (Followed the Catholic church’s scandalous law suits lately?).
I have had one or two leaders I did not like–in over 40 years of church membership! After two divorces, I know what one of the black church members meant clear back in my early days of the church–It’s You and Me Lord!
Thanks for all the discussion.
Excommunication is a last resort to bring a person back on the path of righteousness
when they have strayed.
The exception I know of is lying to priesthood
authorities to cover up personal sins.
In this case it becomes automatic almost
but would yet have to be reviewed at the stake level.
The whole ordeal is just plain crazy and this is not who god is.