We are susceptible to the exact same mistakes as faced by the early saints at the time of Joseph Smith, who claimed seeking to establish Zion. If your opinion is that we wait for a prophet to make the Zion announcement from our Bi-Annual General Conference, while wiggling his ears, than none of this matters, and you can surf the internet elsewhere. However, if your opinion is that Zion is our responsibility, then we ought to understand the events surrounding the creation of the Joseph Smith History, recorded in the Pearl of Great Price. Spoiler alert: The source of the attacks on Joseph Smith was from within the Mormon church.
Our efforts to have Zion, among us, will find internal conflict among us as our source of destruction too, if we fail to lay hold upon the words of Christ given by Joseph Smith. As we consider the events leading up to the re-writing of the Joseph Smith History, it is important to recognize that there was a cause to the effect of the persecution of the saints. We tend to paint the history, to justify where we currently stand. History is written by the victors. However, failure to understand the history is a curse looming over us to repeat it.
- 1820- First Vision
- 1829- Book of Mormon Translated, baptism is restored
- 1830- Church of Christ (the original name) is established as a congregational church (as opposed to the hierarchical) and the Book of Mormon is published. Sidney Rigdon is baptized, and brings his congregation of Campbellites (a group of Christians seeking a New Testament restored church).
- 1831- Joseph moves from Palmyra, New York, to Kirtland, Ohio
- 1832-Revelation to build a temple. The Kirtland temple construction begins (taking 4 years to complete)
- 1833- Mormons gather too quickly into Missouri to establish Zion. They force themselves upon residence of Missouri, and antagonized them. Threatened by the new Mormon settlers, the Missourians chase the saints out.
- 1834- Zion’s camp was a militia, to reclaim, by force, Missouri land, but failed without incident. Displaced Mormons were unable to recover their Missouri property.
- 1835- The Church of Christ was reorganized as a hierarchy
- 1836- Kirtland temple complete, and school of the prophets were held in it, teaching the lectures on faith. A bank was established by Joseph called the “Kirtland Safety Society”
- 1837- The Kirtland Safety Society printed money, distributed their currency, and went belly-up in that same year. Members not only lost their money, but they lost their faith in Joseph Smith as well. A group try to take over leadership of the church from Joseph, by vote, and drove him from Kirtland.
- 1838- Joseph Smith is charged with a number of charges by the saints, but is found innocent. Many are excommunicated, others leave, and some dissenters write letters that are instrumental in the deaths of the saints. One of those who left took with him the church history. Joseph is required to re-write it.
The history of the church has been marketed to the saints, to paint a picture of the innocence of the saints, suffering the persecution of the world. The institution tells a history, identifying themselves as the good guys. However, the world’s attack on Mormon’s took a backseat to the Mormon’s attack on Mormons.
The History goes unnoticed by the modern saints, because they put their trust in the arm of flesh, rather than knocking, seeking, and asking for themselves. Study of the history reveals that the saints wouldn’t follow instructions. They rushed into Missouri too quickly, when they were told not to. They misunderstood that Zion is not to be established by force, but by persuasion, and Zion’s camp was not permitted to succeed. Joseph Smith was the scapegoat, and was blamed for all the loss that the saints experienced. Their foundations were weak.
The loss of their properties in Missouri, and the loss of their money when the Kirtland Safety Society failed, combined against themselves, generating jarrings, contention, envyings, strifes, etc. tipping the early church into a self-destruct mode. From 1838, until 1844, Joseph was under fire. The mobs that killed him were fueled by, and made up of, the disgruntled Mormons in an attempt to seek power.
Conclusion: We have an opportunity to learn from the past and avoid the mistakes in Kirtland and Nauvoo. The separation of the wheat from the tares requires a people to be tested! The early saints failed that test, and were unable to establish Zion. They were unprepared for the loss of all their land, money, and stature. They were void of the words of Christ. They sought after the things of this world, and they aspired to the honors of men. And they failed to recognize the inseparable powers of heaven being offered in the rights of the priesthood (D&C 121:35-36).
The property we are working on is a perfect test of the condition of our faith, as all will be extended to a point of risk, just as the early saints were. While we might avoid having meetings on Sunday, it is insufficient to replace the necessity to be founded upon the words of Christ. Our experience need not be the same as the early saints.