Sunday, August 10, 2014

Larry N. Poulson on Newel Kimball Whitney

Poulson's basic purpose is antiquarian and laudatory
The history of any people to be complete will include much on the history of the lives and contributions of its leaders. (p.1)
Whitney did not only enjoy the friendship and trust of the Prophet (p.1)
From November 1830 until his death in Utah in 1850 Whitney devoted his life to the cause of the Church. Moreover, evidence indicates that Newel used his places of business, particularly during the Kirtland period of Church History, and his business talents to support the economy of the Church membership. (p.2)
With Poulson we share an interest in both the intimate acquaintance with the upper echelons of the Mormon hierarchy, esp. Sidney Rigdon, and Whitney's manifold economic contributions.

Chapter II

Newell Kimball Whitney was born in Marlborough, Windham County, Vermont, on February 5th, 1795 (p.5) [[which makes him Joseph Smith Jr's senior by nine years]]. Marlborough is located a few miles south of Sharon, where Smith Jr was born (p.8). At age 19 Whitney was working as a sutler or merchant in Plattsburg, NY, next to Lake Champlain (p.8), participating in the Battle of Plattsburg faught September 1814 (p.9) Though the battle was successful for the American forces, thanks to the intercession of the American Navy (p.10), Poulson speculates that Whitney must have lost his possessions, because we next find him as an Indian Trade on Green Bay, Lake Michigan (p.10).

Poulson speculates that his far-reaching trade-related travels brought Whitney to Kirtland, Ohio, where he met his future wife Elizabeth Ann Smith (p.11). He set up his first residence in Ohio at Painsville, on the shores of Lake Erie (p.11). In Painsville Whitney met his long-time business associate Algernon Sidney Gilbert (p.11), who took in Whitney as a clerk in 1817 and taught him the practices of bookkeeping (p.12). October 20th, 1822, Newel wed Elizabeth Ann, who herself hailed from Connecticut (p.12) and had accompanied a wealthy spinster aunt to Ohio (p.13). Elizabeth Ann and Newell shared the separation from their families (p.14) as a common bond and setup successful business. They joined the Campbellites until Parley Pratt and other Mormon ministers came to Kirtland (p.14; p.16).

Poulson points out that communitarianism was one of the Campellite beliefs (p.17)
The doctrines Rigdon considered necessary to a Christian life were: faith in God, repentance, baptism by immersion, and holiness of life. In these communities [in and around Mentor, Bainbridge and Kirtland, as well as other towns in northern Ohio, RCK] the member's of Rigdon's church had all things in common; living in a cooperative society they believed to be patterned after the order of the early Christian Church. Sidney championed this early Christian communism and encouraged its practice within his congregation. (p.17)
For Rigdon, this appreciation of communitarianism was part and parcel of the restoration of the ancient orders of the Christian church, including the bestowal of the Holy Ghost (p.17). Rigdon's congregation had setup him and his family with a beautiful site, a comfortable home and out buildings (p.18). The congregation had many men that would become famous Mormons, including Edward Partridge, Frederick G. Williams, Parley P. Pratt and of course Newell K. Whitney (p.18). The instrumental transition point was Pratt, who returned from a missionary journey to the East a converted Mormon (p.19), then convinced Rigdon to be baptized by Cowdery on November 14th, 1830---which would mean the loss of his home and setup (p.20). Pratt reports that a thousand members of the former Campbellite movement joined the Mormons during that time (p.22).

Only seven months earlier, the church had consisted of about seventy souls and was centered around Palmyra, New York (p.24). In January 1831 at the conference in Fayette, the revelation was received to move to Ohio (p.25).

Chapter III

In the beginning of February 1831, Joseph Smith Jr and his wife Emma arrived in Kirtland, together with Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge (p.26), meeting Whitney in his store of Gilbert & Whitney (p.27). [[The first meeting of Whitney and Smith Jr is embarrassing in its theological seer implications of the grandchildren of Whitney. RCK]]

Interestingly, among the first things that Joseph Smith Jr implemented was to discontinue the law of all things in common, as a carry-over from the Campbellite days (p.28). Next, Edward Partridge was made Bishop (p.29). During this time also, a long string of revelations were given regarding the building up of Zion---Poulson lists D&C 28, 38, 42, 45, 48, 52, 54 and 55. The exact location was only revealed during the Missouri trip in the summer of 1831 (p.31) in D&C 57.

While the preparations for Zion were beginning, Whitney was instructed to keep his store in Kirtland running---cf. D&C 63 and D&C 64---, but to send all the money he could spare to Zion (p.30). In addition, Whitney together with Oliver Cowdery visited other Church branches to gather money (p.30) and send that to Zion (p.31). It was only the later revelation of D&C 68 that instructed Gilbert and Whitney to sell their store in preparation of the exodus, an exodus that was delayed when Joseph Smith Jr returned to Kirtland (p.32).

In December of 1831, with DC 72, Whitney became the second Bishop of the Church and enumerated his responsibilities (p.33); this was partially made necessary by Bishop Partridge being sent to Zion in July of 1831 (p.35). With the storehouse and fund management that was assigned to Bishop Whitney---all with the goal of eventually handing this off to Bishop Partridge (p.36)---Whitney had to issue certificates to indicate to Bishop Partridge that the certificate holder had been a good stewart of what had been given to them (p.36). In December 1831 the law of consecration was revealed (p.38).

With March of 1832, the revelation underpinning the "United Order" or the "Order of Enoch" was received (p.41); Rigdon and Smith Jr were working on the revisions of the Scriptures during that time (p.41). However, by this time resistance was beginning to develop in Kirtland, Ohio, and in the night of March 24th, 1832, the tarring and feathering of Rigdon and Smith took place (p.42). The Prophet then took Whitney and several others to Missouri on a trip, starting April 1st, 1832.

At a meeting on May 1st, 1842, it was decided to make the Gilbert & Whitney store be part of two stores, one in Zion and one in Kirtland, under a common bond. The stores were to be called "Gilbert, Whitney & Co" in Zion and "Newel K. Whitney & Co" in Kirtland, Ohio. The shared bond was to be drafted by W.W. Phelps and A.S. Gilbert (p.47) (cf. HC 1:270).

This economic reorganization of the Church, under the Law of Consecration and using the Whitney store as the economic foundation (p.47), was mostly implemented informally---members pledged their lands but retained their titles (p.48). The exception was Whitney's store (p.48). Poulson quotes Kent Fielding, writing about The Mormons in Kirtland in the Utah Historical Quarterly (XXVII), p.333-336.
The properties of Newel K. Whitney were formally appropriated to the church use in March, 1832, through an organization called the United Firm or the United Order. The organization was known in county records as Newel K. Whitney & Company. It was created, according to the church account, to care for the poor, to manage the storehouse, and to regulate affairs of the church both in Zion and in Kirtland. Effectively it was the governing body of the church and its members included the highest church leaders. It was also the only visible means of support of these leaders. (p.48)
When first founded in March 1832, it included Whitney, Rigdon and Smith; in April 1832, Cowdery and Martin Harris joined the United Order (p.48). Though Whitney's store was the economic seed asset, this changed over time.
... as consecrations and donations flowed in, new business enterprises were commenced and additional purchases of property were made. From time to time, as need arose, the group expanded to include some new figure vital to an emerging plan. Such an addition was made in 1833 when Smith saw that his Missouri Zion was not likely to be realized soon and expressed the need to build and grow by transferring projects originally intended for Zion to the Ohio city. The church needed property upon which to lay the foundations for a city and a house of worship. Accordingly, Frederick G. Williams was admitted to the United Firm and with him came his farm of 142 acres situated on the heights overlooking the valley of the East Chagrin River and the old village of Kirtland. (p.48)
Poulson suggests that Whitney may have used his own store as the storehouse for the Church (p.49), as a letter by Frederick G. Williams to Zion on October 3rd, 1833 (= HC 1:418) suggests, where the funding of Whitney's store is set in one with God providing for his Saints (p.49).

On the journey from Zion to Kirtland, beginning on May 6th, 1832, Whitney and the Prophet had a carriage accident, caused by scared horses, and when Whitney and Smith Jr leaped from the coach, Whitney got caught in the wheel spokes and broke his leg (p.50). Smith Jr attended to Whitney for four weeks, while the leg healed (p.50) (= HC 1:271).

On September 22, 1832, in D&C 84, Whitney was sent off to New York, Albany and Boston to do missionary work (p.53). Joseph Smith accompanied him (p.54). During the journey the attempted to make converts, raise funds for a temple in Kirtland and to purchase lands in Missouri. Whitney also prophesied "desolation by fire, storms, pestilence and eathquakes" to the New Yorkers (p.54). [[There was a destructive fire in Albany in August of 1848, as reported here, which Poulson also cites (pp.55f). RCK]] They returned in November 1832.

In Winter 1832-1833 (p.56), Whitney participated in the School of the Prophets (p.57) in Kirtland, which was held in the house of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr, which Newel Whitney had provided the Prophet with (p.57). During the sessions, people smoked and chewed tobacco, mucking up the room, and prompting Joseph Smith Jr to give the Word of Wisdom (as told by Brigham Young) (p.58). For reasons not made clear by Poulson, a rebuking of the church leadership was issued at this time, as D&C 90 (pp.58f). But the purchase of land in Kirtland, for the construction of a temple (p.60), continued in March of 1833---cf. D&C 96. Not only was Whitney busy with these preparations, assigning lots and preparing them for building (p.60), but he also got a press established in Kirtland, to continue the publication of the Evening and Morning Star that had fled Missouri (p.61).

When a large group of Saints joined as Zion's Camp and went off to Missouri to assist their beleaguered brethren, Whitney stayed in Kirtland and worried about the financial situation of the United Firm (p.61). By 1834 the operations of the United Order had to be discontinued (p.62), because the fiction of the Church owning the property had never been resolved. Poulson cites Fielding, Mormons in Kirtland, p.338, in explanation:
The United Firm acquired some additional property, mostly for purposes connected with the needs of temple building during 1833; but early in 1834 it was decided to terminate the organization. According to the Law of Consecration, all of these properties belonged to the church and the only thing that could properly be done was to assign definite stewardships to each member of the firm. Since this was not done, the fiction of a Law of Consecration becomes evident. For an indicated value received, titles to each of the properties evidently owned by the firm were made over to the private ownership of the individual partners. Sidney Rigdon received his place of residence and a tannery; Martin Harris was given the right to operate the French farm provided he allowed Joseph Smith to direct the use of the proceeds; John Johnson received his place of residence and the right to subdivide the farm which had been purchased with his money, though for the present the title was retained by Newell K. Whitney and Company; title to the Williams farm passed to Joseph Smith Jr, and its operation as left to the Smith Family; Williams received the property on which he was living and shared the printing establishment with Oliver Cowdery; Newell K. Whitney got his store back and an ashery as well. By 1834, then, the church owned no property in Kirtland. Legally, even the temple, whose walls were now rearing upward, was located on property purchased by Johnson and was owned by the Newell K. Whitney Company. (p.62)
Alternatively, Joseph Fielding Smith suggested post-facto (p.63) that the United Firm was separated into a Zion and Kirtland branch, because the communication was just too difficult. However Smith adds that "This separation and dissolving of the former order came about also because of transgression and covetousness on the part of some." (p.63)

In spite of all these financial goings on, in 1836 Bishop Whitney gave a "sumptuous feast" for all the poor Saints in Kirtland (p.66), which lasted three days and invited all the lame, the halt and the blind (cf. HC 2:363). Whitney participated in the ordinances of the temple upon its completion (p.67) and the temple dedication. Whitney also participated in the conference of the Church authorities from Dec 22nd, 1836 (p.68), where the Church branches from the East were rebuked for sending their poor without any support to Kirtland, thus offloading all charity on the Kirtland branch (= HC II:468f).

Bishop Whitney must have been involved in the Kirtland Safety Society (p.68), because his signature is on the $3 bills issued by that bank (p.69). Whitney was also sued by the Rounds for illegal banking, just as Smith, Rigdon and Warren Parrish had been (p.69). The breakdown of the safety society sparked a round of turmoil in the church, that left the Church by the end of 1837 at half its size, the remainder having apostasized or been excommunicated (p.69). By September 1837 Whitney was organizing eight companies of Elders, numbering 109 altogether, to journey to the various branches and (p.69) rescue the finances of the Church (p.70), via full tithe and other financial obligations(= HC 2:514-518). The results were insufficient, though, and Rigdon and Smith Jr and Brigham Young had to flee from Kirtland to Missouri to save their lives (p.70).

With the majority of the Church leadership in Missouri, William Marks and Bishop Whitney remained just long enough in Ohio to shut down the operation (p.70), though D&C 117 was urging them to be quick about it and get going. Whitney left Kirtland in the fall of 1838, heading for Adam-ondi-Ahman, but the break-out of the Missouri War prevent this (p.72). So Whitney went to St Louis with his family instead, and waited at Coarrollton, Greene County, IL, heading back to Kirtland one last time to finish up the Church business; upon his return in spring 1839 they had to flee across the Mississippi to Quincy, IL (p.73).

At a conference in May 6th, 1839, it was decided that Whitney would visit Commerce and help get the Saints settled there (p.74). However, the Whitneys quickly attracted the local Malaria fevers and were so sick they could not help themselves; the Prophet came to visit and make tea for them (p.75), and then moved them into a cottage on his own premises (p.76).

By October 1839, the Saints were ready to organize their new stake, with William Marks as president, Partridge taking the Upper, Whitney the Middle and Vinson Knight the Lower Ward as bishops (p.76). They also organized a branch at Zarahemla, a tract of land in which purchase Whitney had been involved. In February 1841 [[with the new Nauvoo Charter in hand RCK]], the city government was organized Newel K Whitney made an alderman (p.77). Poulson reports that the City council members were sworn in on the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Illinois (p.77). When the new city began to organize a university, the University of the City of Nauvoo, Whitney was elected to the Board of Trustees (p.79) and assisted in select a site and plan its structure (p.79).
While the buildings of the school were never built, classes were conducted in which were taught such subjects as French, German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, mathematic, chemistry, geology, literature, and history. ... Tuition was $5 per quarter for each student registering. (p.79)
Bishop Whitney was involved in the Red Brick Store as well [[Poulson erroneously designates it "a small store", which is not born out by the facts RCK]] (p.80), but purchased $5000 worth of goods for it (=HC 4:447), who also assisted in stocking the shelves (p.81) and bringing "five teams loaded with provisions and grain, as a present to me" from Ramus (p.81).

When the 2nd floor of the store was used to organize the Female Relief Society on March 17, 1842, it was Emma Smith and Elizabeth Ann Whitney who served as president and counselor (p.81). Just the same, in April 1841, Whitney as Bishop had participated in the cornerstone laying ceremony for the new temple (p.82). As the population in Nauvoo increased, and the initial three wards had to be expanded; a 4th ward was organized in january of 1841, and an additional six wards added n August 1842 (p.83). In October 1844, after Joseph Smith Jr's death, Whitney was made First Bishop of the Church (p.83).

During the persecutions of Joseph Smith Jr by the Missourians, Joseph Smith Jr at one time passed through the corn in his garden to the house of Bishop Whitney, suggesting that they lived very proximate to each other (p.84). Their continued good relationship is attested to be the fact that Whitney's daughter Sarah Ann was the first plural wife given to Joseph Smith Jr with parental consent [[probably July 1842, RCK]]; Bishop Whitney himself officiated the ceremony (p.85). Whitney had been prepared for the idea of plural marriage in Kirtland already, where Joseph had taught him the principle (p.85) and had taught it to Elizabeth Ann as well (p.86). In April 29th, 1843, a mock-marriage ceremony took place between Sarah Ann and Joseph C. Kingsbury, "apparently to conceal it [i.e. the celestial marriage, RCK] from the enemies of Joseph" (p.86).

And finally, in August of 1844, Whitney together with George Miller was given the responsibilities of trustee-in-trust to settle the affairs of the martyred Joseph Smith Jr (p.88).

Poulson also notes that Whitney was instrumental in cutting off Sidney Rigdon from taking leadership of the Church during the days after Joseph Smith Jr's dead (pp.89-90).

Biographical Record

Larry N. Poulson, The Life and Contributions of Newell Kimball Whitney, unpublished Master Thesis, BYU 1966.

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