President Nelson has made a big push about using the name of our church, but it wasn’t always known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Michael Marquardt, an unsung hero in Mormon history, tells why the church changed names a few times.
Michael: In May of 1834 members of the United Firm, which was like an auxiliary of the church at that time, met and changed the name of the revealed name of a Church of Christ to the Church of Latter Day Saints. And that’s where that name comes in.
GT: Now, I just interviewed–in fact we just published it yesterday it was–an interview with Steve Shields and he said that it was Sidney Rigdon who came up with that name Church of the Latter Day Saints.
Michael: Yes. He proposed that. Sidney Rigdon was an elder and also high priest in the church. And the church is in deep debt at that early time of 1834. And that was one of the reasons at that time that they, said that the church was organized in Fayette–to protect the organization. It’s the same reason as the next year in the 1835 First edition of the doctrine and covenants, they used pseudonyms. No there was not real names but other names. So people would not know who the revelation that we’re referring to to protect the organization, protect the individuals.
GT: For financial reasons is that the main reason?
Michael: From what I can gather that that’s the main main reason at that time.
GT: Okay. Okay. So let’s recap here. So April 6, 1830 the Church is organized in Manchester. In 1833 it’s published that it’s still organized in Manchester. In 1835 we start having some difficulties with finances. So they renamed the Church: Church of Latter-day Saints. They left out Jesus Christ, by the way, I’ll add in.
Michael: Well, it was 1834. Yeah. You’ll notice sometimes while the name, Jesus is not there or the title Christ, it was also used at that time.
You probably noticed that Michael said the was founded in Manchester, New York, contrary to the official church history record that the church was organized 30 miles away in Fayette. How does Michael make his case, and why is there a discrepancy?
GT: Why does the church say Fayette and why are you saying it’s in Manchester?
Michael: Well, it’s basically trying to look at over a period of time, where the baptisms occur, where the revelations were given. And, of course the early Church of Christ did publish in the “Evening and Morning Star,” the first church periodical that it was organized and established in Manchester on April 6. And that’s also where you find where it mentions six members. So there’s probably was six individuals. We don’t know if they’re a male or a female.
GT: Okay. You said this was published where again?
Michael: In the ‘Evening and the Morning Star’ in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri.
GT: And what was the date on that?
Michael: It would be March, 1833 and April, 1833.
GT: So in March and April of 1833. The “Evening and Morning Star” is saying that the church was organized in Manchester, not in Fayette.
Marquardt says several revelations occurred in Manchester in April 6, 1830, and this was because it was the first church meeting. Were you aware of a discrepancy in the historical record for the location of the founding of the Church?
April 6 marked 189 years since the founding of the Church. We know from history that Joseph Smith said there were the original 6 members. But who were they? Michael Marquardt makes some educated guesses.
Michael: Yes, well the earliest [sources] we have, because if they’re men, of course they would be ordained to an office in the church: elder, priest, teacher. And so since there was no minutes and no other church record, even though they were supposed to keep records, we don’t have that. And so the Manuscript History of the Church mentions Joseph Smith, Sr. It also mentions Lucy Mack Smith and those are Joseph Smith’s father and mother. It mentions Martin Harris. And, it didn’t have the first name, but last name was Rockwell.
GT: So was it Porter Rockwell probably?
GT: No? Oh really.
Michael: That is pretty close. It was his mother…
Find out who else was likely there!
What was early priesthood like in 1830? Michael Quinn has said there are three different dates for the restoration of the Melchizedek: 1829, 1830, and 1831. I asked Michael Marquardt to weigh in on the issue of early priesthood.
Michael: The high priesthood was like the office of high priest. So an elder, if you go backwards, would be an elder in the church and according to the Articles and Covenants. An elder is an apostle. An apostle is an elder. So just like any organization, there’s a development over time.
GT: So if I remember right, there were only three offices when the church was organized on April 6, 1830: teacher, priest, and elder. And so, there’s a question as to whether elder was part of the Aaronic priesthood or the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Michael: Yeah. There was no priesthood at that time.
GT: It was just “the priesthood.”
Michael: There was no priesthood.
GT: There was no priesthood?
Michael: No, it was an office in the church.
What do you think about Michael’s assertions?
The Church as a legal entity or religious society was organized in New York and under the laws of New York. Six people were required by law to organize the religious society, but those six should not be thought of as the entirety of the church membership on that day.
If we want to understand how early Church members saw things, we have to totally set aside all of our deeply-entrenched ideas and notions about these things. If we impose our ideas and notions on them, we are not being true to history. Yes, certainly, they thought of things differently than we do today. The original posting teases but does not inform. I would be interested to hear the professor’s thoughts on how early Saints viewed certain matters.
Michael is not a professor, but if you want to know more about his reasoning, just check out the videos. In short, anyone can organize a church due to the Freedom of Religion clause in the Constitution. It requires no legal paperwork. You only need paperwork if you want to hold property. There was no church property on April 6, 1830, nor is there any document formally organizing the church in New York.
Here is an article from BYU Studies that confirms Michael’s point that there was no legal incorporation in New York on April 6, 1830. https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/legal-insights-into-organization-church-1830
I agree that there wasn’t a legal incorporation, just the formation of a religious society. The six organizers (“members”) met the legal need, but I suppose that almost all of the thirty or fifty people present who were already baptized thought of themselves as members of the new church. Those persons, including the six, and others who were baptized that day, were confirmed members of the new church. At least, that’s how I think of it.