I posted 3 podcasts this week dealing with the early Kirtland time period that are amazing.  Dr. Mark Staker, an anthropologist for the LDS Church History Library has written a book, Hearken O Ye People that details the first missionaries to Kirtland, Ohio.  Did you know that a former slave, Black Pete as he is known in Mormon journals, was baptized in November 1830, just 6 months after the LDS Church was organized?  In part 1 (you can listen for free here), Staker says that Black Pete was the first person to speak in tongues:

Over time they seem to be incorporating some new things as well, such as speaking in tongues.  What kind of tongues are they speaking in?  Indian tongues.  They’re speaking Indian.  Now we don’t have any recordings of these early discussions of what Indian might sound like to them but there are people in the community that had been out west living among Native American communities including Newell K. Whitney, the store leader who had been a trader out in Michigan with Native Americans there.  They said, oh yes, these are Indian languages so there was that focus.  Later on it shifts a bit to talking about adamic languages and they’re speaking adamic but in this early period it’s Indian that they are focused on because of that Book of Mormon connection.

GT:  Now I’ve heard in this early time period that there were Methodists I believe that did a lot of speaking in tongues.  Is that true or was that more of a Baptist thing?

Mark: You know, I looked and looked through source material to find early accounts of speaking in tongues before this happened even among the Shakers, because it is a Shaker practice as well to speak in tongues.  I couldn’t find anything before Black Pete’s introduction of this.  Shakers pick up on it within a couple of years within the nearby community, they are practicing speaking in tongues and they talk about it being a new thing that they hadn’t been doing that before.

GT:  Wow.  So is this something that you think Black Pete may have introduced the Mormons in Kirtland was speaking in tongues?

Mark: I believe he did.

GT:  Oh wow.

In Part 2 (listen here), Dr. Staker tells us the Black Pete went on to serve a mission in 1831 and likely baptized people!

Mark: Black Pete is one of these individuals that goes out preaching.  He joins three other individuals and they all go out as a group of four. They’re very interested in religious enthusiasm.  That might be what ties them together, but what this also suggests is that since those that we know about were ordained elders such as John Murdock, it could be that Black Pete had been ordained an elder as well to go out and he’s assigned to preach just like these others are assigned to go out and preach.  He clearly is doing that.

GT:  So do we have any record that he baptized anyone?  I actually had somebody ask me, is it likely that if he baptized, were they white people or were they black people?  Do you know that?

Mark:  A great question.  I don’t know their race but this group of four are baptizing people so presumably he is one of those baptizing individuals.

In Part 3 (listen here), Dr. Staker makes a few more extraordinary claims.

Mark: This is followed up with another revelation that suggests to me that it’s a response to what Black Pete has introduced in terms of polygamy at the time.

GT:  So wait a minute.  You’re telling me that Black Pete may have been responsible for introducing polygamy into the Kirtland community?

Mark:  I believe so, and I believe that’s why often we say well Joseph Smith was translating the Bible and he wants to know about Abraham and his wives, Isaac and Jacob and their wives and so he asks that.  Well everybody knew about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and nobody else is really asking—well a few people are asking those kinds of questions.  Some are.  But I believe that there specific issues at hand that led Joseph Smith to ask those kinds of questions about marriage and Abraham and Isaac and so on.  I believe that Black Pete introduced that idea to him.  Now is there really a step by step process to the doctrine as how that happened?  No.  It’s a circumstantial case.

GT:  Wow!  Wow.  This is great!  {chuckles}  I’m learning all sorts of stuff here.

He also says he thinks it was Oliver Cowdery, not Joseph Smith, who wrote the Declaration on Marriage!  It was a fun interview (and I’m not done yet)!  Have you ever heard this stuff before?  Does this change any of your opinions about Mormons and race?  Polygamy?