Sunday, June 2, 2013

Brigham Young - John Turner Review Chptr 3

Shortly after the publication of Richard Bushman's monumental tome Rough Stone Rolling, he began recording his candid observations of the publication's aftermath in his personal journal. Included in his entries he discussed some of the reviews of his book, and the following entry addresses one of his primary concerns with some of the critical reviews received:
I am annoyed by what the reviewers choose to emphasize in Joseph's life. Most of them pick up a few fragments and present them as if they were the key elements. There is something so cavalier about the implicit assertion that they have delivered the essence of the man.1
The opposite has been true thus far in this biography. Rather than reviewers inappropriately highlighting fragmentary information, the biographer has actually provided us with morsels of Brigham Young's life and character. In fact, in the first ten pages (of 25 within this chapter), Brigham is virtually all but missing from the content. There are some passing references to him with surface-level attention given to some of his actions, but minimal insight is gained in capturing his character development. Brief reference to Brigham's contributions during the Missouri period in church history are overshadowed with the narrative of general church history. Professor Turner intermingles LDS and non-Mormon perspectives, providing somewhat of a balanced summary of this historical period, but he distances the narrative from biography and, I believe, underplays Brigham's role in this larger setting.

In this review of Chapter 3 - "Acts of the Apostles" - I suppose I could echo what I had previously stated regarding the material that Turner brings to the table in Chapter 2. His attention to the multi-dimensional Brigham Young is cursory, while his subtle enmity against Joseph Smith permeates its pages. In this chapter there is an increase in unsupported assertions. While certain statements may be corroborated through footnotes, many claims are posited to be taken at face value without any underlying support. I personally enjoy scouring through footnotes for personal research purposes, but a typical reader shouldn't be required to turn to the primary and secondary sources cited to substantiate the author's arguments. The author should at least be accountable for demonstrating evidential corroboration within the body of his book for contestable statements.

Misleading assertions and a negligent narrative

Some of the more provocative statements in this chapter focus on Joseph Smith, with a few slights against Brigham Young. For example, Turner declares that Joseph Smith's prophetic authority "collapse[d]" in Kirtland (pg 56), but neglects to document why or how this supposedly happened. He states that the formation of the Danites caused "previously loyal members to question the political and economic pretensions of the church's presidency" (pg 57), but provides no examples in support of his claim. He quotes Brigham Young as saying that he "knew men" [i.e., Missourians], who gathered their flocks, herds, and families, and then burned their houses down, claiming that "Mormons had driven them from their homes and burned their houses" (pg 59). Turner rejects this possibility because it "strains credibility" [credulity?] since Missourians were already anticipating anti-Mormon militia action. Conversely, I am inclined to accept Brigham's comments considering the fact that the governor of the state issued an extermination order against all Mormons, some Missourians shot and killed Mormon children point-blank (pg 60), some Missourians attempted to "violate the chastity of the women in sight of their husbands and friends" (pg 61), and even more relevant, General Lucas demanded that Mormons deed their property to Missourians as restitution for the depredations against Missouri settlers (pg 60-61). In light of these facts, is it hard to believe that arson could be staged in light of the possibility that opportunists identifying more attractive circumstances could forsake their own homes to potentially adopt forfeited Mormon homes? I don't believe Brigham's comments are so far-fetched as Turner tends to portray.

Professor Turner recognizes that Missourians took measures into their hands and implicitly acknowledges the lack of adequate rule of law in this time period and in this location. He further acknowledges that the "Mormon expulsion from Missouri was another chilling reminder of the fragility of minority rights in Jacksonian America" (pg 61). With good reason, he suspects that the influx of Mormons into Missouri, and their spilling over into counties outside of designated boundaries, as cause of concern for locals who feared the potential political and economic impact. Being quickly outnumbered with the growing body of Mormons, their concern for having the scales tipped out of balance reasonably triggers justifiable concern. However, focus on political and economic concern provides too narrow of a scope for Missourian rejection of the Saints. Mormonism as a whole was a threat to locals, as can be garnered from the "Manifesto of the Mob,"2 an article that Turner curiously never refers to.

The Manifesto explicitly states that the Saints' belief in revelation and all of the New Testament gifts and miracles was just cause for deeming them all to be "deluded fanatics." The gift of revelation was specifically singled out as blasphemy against God. Additionally, the Mormons were at odds with the Missourians on certain social issues. The document indicates that Mormons were attempting to invite "free negroes and mulattoes from other states to become Mormons...[and] to settle among us." The consequences to the Missourians would be a "corrupt[ion]" to their "blacks" which would "instigate them to bloodshed."3 Meddling with Missourian slavery was apparently not well received. At any rate, there were a number of facets contributing to the complications between Mormons and Missourians which were as relevant as politics and economics, but were not given any attention.

Returning to some of the problematic and narrow views postulated by the author, Professor Turner identifies that it was "sheer luck" that Brigham became the presiding member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As Brigham was sixteen days older than Heber C. Kimball and Joseph had indicated that the eldest member of the quorum should preside (pg 62), the author decided that providence was apparently out of the question, as was whatever potential forethought and intentions Joseph may have had. Next, the author portrays Joseph as indecisive. Since the expulsion of Mormons from Missouri led to re-strategizing and the gathering was "of necessity stopt," the author asserts that Joseph "refused to identify a single place of gathering," whereas, Brigham Young organized settlements of companies led by "shepherds" in the meantime. "In the end," Joseph eventually "changed his mind and reaffirmed the principle of gathering" (pg 63). In this case the biographer makes it sound as though Joseph couldn't make up his mind and that it was only after a long indecisive delay that he finally agreed it was important after all. This portrayal is inadequate. Joseph began teaching the Saints to gather not long after the church was organized, and specifically connected this principle with temple building, an entirely unique concept in latter-day Christianity. Four years previous to the Mormon expulsion, Joseph wrote that the gathering was a "principle I esteem to be of the greatest importance to those who are looking for salvation in this generation..." and that this principle was "one of the most important points in the faith of the Church of the Latter-day Saints."4 This is a point that Turner concedes (pg 64), but only after attempting to portray Joseph as lacking prophetic conviction.

During imprisonment in Missouri, Joseph and Hyrum are said to have "escaped during their transfer to a different jail" (pg 64). The author may have been unaware of more recent scholarship that substantially corrects this notion, so he shouldn't be faulted too heavily, but it should be observed that this representation is not fully accurate as it was more of a release than an escape.5 Minimal attention is given to the context of this imprisonment and the illegitimacy of Joseph's numerous legal trials.6 Subsequent to Joseph and Hyrum's rendezvous with the Apostles in Quincy, Illinois, Professor Turner notes that the next several months were a "time of preparation and instruction" for the Apostles prior to fulfilling missions to England (pg 64). From this point forward, the chapter moves towards the missionary work in England and the unprecedented success that the Apostles were met with there. Previously, the author had noted that there had been nothing noteworthy from which Brigham's future greatness could be predicated upon. As he moves into Brigham's leadership role in the British mission field, signs of his skills and talent for leadership begin to emerge. While it would be easy to gloss over Turner's previous statement regarding preparation and instruction, this period demands more attention then is provided in the biography.

As Brother Esplin has astutely observed, it was during Joseph's imprisonment that Brigham Young and Heber Kimball were the only apostles that could realistically take the leadership reigns. Thomas B. Marsh, William E. McLellin, Luke and Lyman Johnson, and John F. Boynton had all apostatized, Orson Pratt was serving a mission in New York, Parley Pratt was imprisoned, David Patten had been shot and killed, William Smith "could not be relied upon," and Orson Hyde had been temporarily disaffected. Accordingly, Brigham's role, along with Heber C. Kimball, in rearing up the scattered church is given substantially more depth and analysis in Esplin's The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve to Mormon Leadership. He discusses the crisis in Missouri that church members faced while the primary church leadership were imprisoned. "Available records, though sparse, document their [Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball's] involvement in every aspect of church affairs in this troubled period. Mobbings, forced removal, imprisonment, and apostasy had left every quorum disrupted and church organization in disarray."7 It was up to Brigham and Heber to reorganize the quorums, and assist the poor Saints in their winter exodus from Missouri.

They began by reorganizing the High Council, and then by ordaining, under the direction of the Church's presidency, other Apostles to assist and replace those who had fallen. Removing the Saints became increasingly urgent and problematic. The Saint's crises in the winter of 1838-1839 escalated as Missourians, who had previously determined to allow Saints to leave following the winter, now threatened to shoot any Mormons found after February. Many of these Saints were already poor and destitute and unable to leave in the middle of a harsh winter. Even Bishop Edward Partridge, after dealing with extremely demanding and frustrating circumstances, allegedly stated that "the poor may take care of themselves, and I will take care of myself." Accordingly, Brigham Young, with others, appointed a meeting for the purpose of determining how to handle the circumstances. During the meeting, "On motion of Brigham Young," those in attendance covenanted to "stand by and assist each other to the utmost of our abilities in removing from this state and...never desert the poor who are worthy till they shall be out of the reach of the exterminating order..." This extended to their personal property as collateral for providing means "for the removing of the poor and destitute." Brigham subsequently enlisted three hundred and eighty individuals to subscribe to the covenant within two days following the meeting.8

On February 14th, "in the midst of bitter winter cold," Brigham and his family, with Heber and his family, left Far West, Missouri, and "shepherded...more Saints than he had teams and wagons to move." Esplin notes that, "after advancing with one part of the camp as rapidly and as far as possible, he returned with equipment to bring up more..."9 It seems clear that Brigham's role as a budding leader is vastly overlooked by Turner during this stage of life and period of church history. It also seems that Brigham Young as a caring, sympathetic, and committed individual is grossly overlooked in Turner's biography. The future prophet's conviction at this stage, and faith in the living prophet is given virtually no attention. Again, Esplin notes that even Sidney Rigdon, who was released from prison in March 1839, declared that each Saint should make his own way, "for the work [of the gathering] seems as though it has come to an end," and "these Saints will never be gathered again." Joseph had previously written to Brigham and the Twelve, noting that Zion would rise again, and accordingly, Brigham responded to Rigdon observing that the Saints would indeed be gathered again and that the Prophet would again be with them.10 When other leaders faltered, such as Sidney Rigdon and Bishop Partridge, Brigham rose to the occasion.

While my above skimming of events during this period is inadequate, it should be evident that Brigham's importance and leadership capabilities were ripening quickly at this stage, rather than the British Missionary phase of his life as it seems to be in the biography. His actions, commitment, and sympathy for the Saints distinguish Brigham as far more than a simple convert capable of exercising the gift of tongues. Turner's depiction of Young as "grudgingly subordinate" and enamored with charismatic spiritual gifts is more than simply inadequate, it is superficial, and is a gross misrepresentation. This problematic caricature is further complicated by the inadequacy of the book's exploration of the theological significance of Joseph's instructions (after being released from prison) to the Apostles prior to their embarking on foreign missions. Professor Turner highlights Joseph's teachings seemingly in a consecutive order straight out of Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, but does not attempt to explain the significance of these teachings in Brigham's life.

It was actually while in Brigham Young's own home that the prophet gave considerable instruction on a number of theological principles and doctrines to some of the Twelve before embarking on their foreign mission. Wilford Woodruff wrote that "Joseph arose & presented some precious things of the kingdom unto us in the power of the Holy Ghost, yea precious principles that ought to be engraven upon our hearts..."11 He taught them concerning pride, repentance and mercy, authoritative teaching, loyalty, apostasy, angelic ministration, keys of detecting false and true spirits, being born again, and also delivered one of his most informative lectures recorded regarding Adam. This is important considering the emphasis that Brigham would later preach of Adam's significance. In this discourse, Joseph taught the following principles relating to Adam:
  • The Priesthood was first given to Adam
  • He obtained the First Presidency
  • He held the keys from generation to generation
  • He obtained the keys in the Creation
  • He had dominion given him over every living creature
  • Adam is Michael, the Archangel
  • Noah stands next in priesthood authority to Adam
  • They held these keys "first on earth, and then in heaven"
  • Priesthood keys have to be brought from heaven by Adam's authority
  • Adam is the Ancient of Days referred to by Daniel the prophet
  • Adam will hold a family council to prepare for the 2nd Advent
  • Adam is the father of the human family
  • He presides over the spirits of all men
  • All who have had keys must stand before Adam in this "grand" council
  • The Son of Man stands before Adam and is given glory and dominion
  • Adam delivers his stewardship up to Christ (the "keys of the universe")
  • Adam will retain his standing as head of the human family
  • The Father called all spirits before Him in the creation and organized them - Adam is the head and was told to multiply
  • Keys were first given to Adam, and by him to others
  • Christ is the Great High Priest; Adam next
  • Adam gave patriarchal blessings in the valley of Adam-Ondi-Ahman with the Lord in their midst
A successful investigation in reconciling Joseph and Brigham's teachings on Adam has yet to receive adequate attention.12 I realize (by looking forward at the index) that the biographer will later address Brigham's teachings on Adam/God, but he doesn't appear, so far as I can yet tell, to demonstrate the significance of Joseph's teachings in Brigham's life. Beyond Joseph's teachings on Adam, his revelations and instructions have yet to receive any biographical consideration in terms of Brigham Young's spiritual growth, testimony, or conviction of Joseph as a prophet. This is an area where room for further exploration is ripe, where theological connections and bridges between Nauvoo teachings and Utah teachings could provide fresh new perspectives, but are unfortunately deficient in the biography thus far.

The remainder of the chapter (the British mission phase) is reasonably well done. Turner does focus on British converts being fringe, charismatic Christians, just as the Reformed Methodists in the United States were previously depicted. He also asserts that Joseph Smith, Sr. struggled with alcoholism, an unsubstantiated claim, but nevertheless a popular criticism by antagonists. Other than these two subjective characterizations, the remainder is recommendable. His attention to the economic disparity between England and the United States is informative, as well as his discussion of the overall mission work. Turner focuses on Brigham Young as a husband and the extant documentary evidence discussed provides insight into Brigham's relationship with his wife. It was also a pleasure to read Turner's inclusion of Brigham's reverent and sacred experience en route to the mission field. While on a boat from Fairport, Ohio to Buffalo, New York, Brigham wrote, "the wind arose about one o clock in the morning I went upon deck and I felt impress in spirit to pray to the Father in [the] name of Jesus for a forgiveness of all my sins and then I fe[l]t to command the winds to sees [cease] and let ous goe safe on our Jorney the winds abated and glory & ouner [honor] & prase be to that God that rules all things" (pg 67).

While much of the content in these chapters are described in ways that many Mormons would probably feel uncomfortable with (assuming I can accurately assess a barometric reading of the "typical" Mormon), there are these occasional gems that allow the reader to see a Brigham Young on the other end of the spectrum from the typical non-Mormon perspective. It also may provide insight into a softer side of Brigham Young that many Mormons might be unfamiliar with. Now that I'm three chapters into this book; however, I will reiterate my previous contention that this book is not definitive, nor has it yet been sufficiently groundbreaking to be recommendable overall, considering that the misrepresentations heavily outweigh any positive contributions. The Brigham Young presented in these pages thus far does not reconcile with the Brigham Young from the historical records in my opinion. I hope my illustrations of some examples above provide sufficient evidence to prove this point, but at a minimum, I hope it provides sufficient evidence to require exploration above and beyond that which Turner has provided.
1 Richard L. Bushman, On the Road with Joseph Smith: An Author's Diary (Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 32
2 "Manifesto of the Mob," in B.H. Roberts, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (7 Vols.; Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News, 1902), 1:374-375
3 Ibid, 1:375
4 Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 83, 92, 163, 183, 307-308, 310, 312.
5 Jeff Walker, "A Change of Venue: Joseph Smith's Escape from Liberty Jail," FAIR Conference 2007; Brother Walker notes that a more appropriate title would have been "Joseph's Release from Liberty" (see pdf online here).
6 Josehp I. Bentley, "Legal Trials of the Prophet: Joseph Smith's Life in Court," FAIR Conference 2006
7 Ronald K. Esplin, The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership (PhD. diss., Brigham Young University, 1981; Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2006), 137-138
8 Esplin, The Emergence of Brigham Young, 139-140
9 Esplin, The Emergence of Brigham Young, 140
10 Esplin, The Emergence of Brigham Young, 141-142
11 Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff's Journal, ed. Scott G. Kenney, (10 Vols.; Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983), 1:236 (entry for July 2, 1839)
12 Rodney Turner's Thesis on the subject, entitled, The Position of Adam in Latter-day Saint Theology (M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1953), was more of an exploration of the "Adam God Doctrine" as taught by Brigham Young than an assessment of Joseph and Brigham's teachings and Adam's overall role in LDS theology. In other words, the title was broad, but the scope of the content was narrow.  Subsequent publications, such as Ogden Kraut's Michael-Adam, Culley K. Christensen's The Adam-God Maze, and Craig Tholson's Adam-God, are generally apologetic in defense of Adam as God, while Elwood G. Norris' Be Not Deceived: A Scriptural Refutation of the Adam-God Theory is an apologetic response against Adam as God. Others have written on the subject, such as Elden Watson, proposing that God the Father's name, like the Ancient of Days, was also Adam. Drew Briney claims to have studied the subject more than anybody else alive in his Understanding Adam God Teachings, which is primarily just a compilation of excised quotations that is heavily reliant upon previous compilations such as Richard Ware's 230+ collected quotations (circulated online). There are a dozen, or so, other booklets and pamphlets on the subject, all of which are geared to explaining the "Adam-God" doctrine, or theory, as it is perceived. The only article on the subject, so far as I am aware, that makes any attempt to make meaning of Joseph's teachings on this subject is Larry E. Dahl's, "Adam in the Premortal Life" and "Adam's Role from the Fall to the End--and Beyond," in The Man Adam, ed. Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, Inc. 1990), 1-10, 113-130 

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