This growing board of managers printed the first collection of Joseph Smith's revelations; planned for the new city of Zion and its temples, as it did for Kirtland; operated the Lord's storehouses; and fostered other commercial interests. (p.5)[[The plural of "storehouses" surprises a bit. RCK]] Perkin believes that the business relationships between the partners have been hitherto insufficiently elucidated, a situation that is not helped by the complex revelation (now D&C 104) that dissolved the partnership.
Perkin raises the delicate question of how to conceptualize Joseph Smith Jr as "an energetic businessman or an assertive entrepreneur" (p.5), which may be surprising for the LDS members [[and awkward for the historians, who have difficulty reconciling his inexperience with the details of the deliberation and pinpointing the function that revelations play in this process, RCK]].
By February 1831 in Kirtland, Ohio, he [i.e. Joseph Smith Jr, RCK] began to inquire about economic matters, and by July, the twenty-five year old Joseph Smith embarked on a path of land acquisition, community planning, and other commercial ventures. He operated his businesses under the principles of consecration and stewardship and coordinated his enterprises through a business management company he named the United Firm. He supervised the firm by revelation, including a final lengthy revelation in April 1834 || that terminated the company. (pp.5-6)The complexities of interpreting the United Firm are compounded by the use of pseudonyms for the D&C edition not found in the manuscripts (p.6) and the use of a "faux" title, United Order for the venture and "Revelation given to Enoch" for the disbanding revelation D&C 104. Furthermore, Brigham Young recycled the name but not the idea with his Utah United Order, engendering interpretative continuities that were not justified (p.6).
The United Firm arose from a revelation in response to deliberations in Independence, Missouri, in 1832, while founding a mercantile business (p.6).
They [i.e. Joseph Smith Jr and other Church leaders gathered at Independence, Missouri, RCK] joined the new branch with an already established business in Kirtland and named the unified enterprise the United Firm. (p.6)
Then, after the firm had experienced two years of lively financial activity, debt encroached, and Joseph Smith received a revelation on April 23, 1834, to retrench and set the firm in order. This lengthy revelation, D&C 104, directed the Prophet to terminate the firm as then organized and redistribute its Kirtland business properties and urban and rural real estate to its officers for their own use or management. While naming the properties, the revelation provides readers with a rich inventory of the company's Kirtland holdings. (p.7)[[The irony of course is that the established business in Kirtland was pretty much just Newel K Whitney's and Gilbert's store. RCK]] The United Firm was segregated into the United Firm at Kirtland and the United Firm at Missouri (p.7). Perkin offers an annotated version of the earliest known manuscript form of the revelation---see (pp.41-57)---below taking from Orson Pratt's manuscript notebook C.
Joseph Smith Jr and his family had been accompanied to Kirtland by Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge and arrived around Feburary first of 1831 (p.8). The main topics of work for Joseph Smith Jr during the first months in Kirtland were, in Perkin's reconstruction, determining the economic plan and the location for Zion, as well as publishing the revelations (p.8). [[Notice that this skips the abolishment of the communitarian approach of the Campellites, mentioned by Poulsen. RCK]]
Joseph Smith Jr designated Edward Partridge, a Plainsville merchant, as the first bishop of the Church on February 4th, 1831 (p.8). On February 9th, 1831, a revelation was received outlining the so-called "Law", which had far-reaching applicability, including moral behavior or the ministry.
... Joseph Smith received a revelation containing an economic plan of operation based upon frugality, industry, virtuous living, and certain core management principles of consecration and stewardship, percepts he believed would be necessary in building Zion, the millenial New Jerusalem. (p.8)The basic idea was as follows:
The plan directed the faithful who would gather to Zion---soon to be identified as being in western Missouri---to consecrate or grant their property by certificate to Bishop Partridge, the Church agent there over temporal affairs. Then, Bishop Partridge would return to them as stewards their personal property, adding tracts of agricultural land by lease, to provide them stewardships || or inheritances. By this grant and lease transfer system, the gathering Mormon settlers to Missouri, even the poor, were positioned to prosper as farmers, craftsmen and shopkeepers. (pp.8-9)[[As Perkin points out (pp.9f), the Saints already knew in New York that Zion would end up being somewhere near Western Missouri on the border with the Lamanites; thus the phrase "soon to be identified as being in western Missouri" is highly confusing. RCK]]
[[Notice that this enumeration of prosperous positions excludes manufacturing. RCK]]
Perkin notes (p.9 Fn 9) that records of such transfers exist, e.g. in William E. Berrett and Alma P. Burton, Readings in LDS Church History from Original Manuscripts, 3 volumes, Salt Lake City (Deseret Books), 1953-1955, vol 1, p.113-117.
Almost six months later, the Law was applied by revelation to Newel K. Whitney to put his company and store at the disposal of the Church, managing it as bishop; Whitney observed that commandment.
In December 1831, a revelation appointed Newel K. Whitney bishop at Kirtland and directed him to consecrate his properties to the Church. Obediently, he consecrated his two-story, white-frame store, the anchor of his N.K. Whitney & Company, to the service of the Church. After doing so, he continued to operate the store not only for public use but also for use as the Lord's storehouse, which sometimes helped poor Saints, needy missionaries, and later the officers of the United Firm. (p.9)[[This description is muddled because it excludes Gilbert from the description, who was the senior partner in the Kirtland store venture. However, Gilbert had already moved in July of 1831 to Independence, Missouri to head the store there, drawing upon the Whitney store in Kirtland for some of its merchandise; Perkin mentions this move later (p.10). RCK]]
After the United Firm was organized in the Spring of 1832, Whitney kept consecrating more of his property for the use of the United Firm, including:
... a residential lot on the hill near the site of the future temple and properties near his store at the crossroads in the main village center, located a half mile north of the temple lot and in the valley or flats of the east branch of the Chagrin River. The properties near his house compromised a lot for his residence and another house, a commercial lot he owned with a business partner, and a profitable ashery. (p.9)By June 1831, key members of the future United Firm visited Jackson County, Missouri, and determined that Independence would be the future Zion (p.10). Of the Church elders present, Joseph Smith Jr selected a local team to put the economic infrastructure for Zion in place.
At Independence, a revelation [dated July 20th, 1831, RCK] appointed Bishop Partridge to administer the new economic program of consecration and stewardship in Missouri; Algernon Sidney Gilbert, Whitney's mercantile parter in Kirtland, to establish a store at Independence; and William W. Phelps to serve there as "printer unto the Church" with Oliver Cowdery as his assistant. (= D&C 57) Phelps, who had converted to the Church only a month before, was suited to the job, having served as editor or publisher of newspapers in New York. (p.10)After returning from Missouri, Joseph Smith Jr directed his attention to his publication pursuits (p.11), moving to Hiram, Portage County, where his family lived with John and Elsa Johnson, as Smith Jr worked on editing the "New Translation" of the Bible and preparing the revelations for preparation (p.11). The press for these publications was purchased by Phelps in Cincinnati (p.11).
The publication process of the revelations required five conferences with various leading elders, held from November 1st to 13th, 1831 (p.11).
At their final meeting, they organized a "literary firm", an antecedent to the United Firm, to manage Church publications and provide an income for its officers. Named at a meeting with a "claim on the church for recompense" for past publishing services were Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, John Whitmer and Martin Harris. (= D&C 70) (p.11)
Joseph Smith said, "Br. Oliver has labored with me from the beginning in writing &c Br Martin has labored with me from the beginning, brs John and Sidney also for a considerable time, & as these sacred writings are now going to the Church for their benefit, that we may have claim on the Church for recompense." Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cooks (eds), Far West Record, Salt Lake City (Deseret Book), 1983, p.32. (p.11 Fn 20)The only change that the conference made was adding Phelps to the list to help manage the literary firm in Zion (p.11).
Until the literary firm could generate enough income of its own, however, the officers were allowed to draw from the Lord's storehouses for their needs; once acquired, surplus earnings from the sales of publications were to be turned over to the storehouse for the Church's use. (= D&C 70; D&C 42; D&C 72) (p.12)Whitmer and Cowdery travelled to Independence, Missouri, departing November 20th 1831 and arriving January 5th, 1832, where they began to work on the printer's copy of the revelations. By June 1832, the new publishing company of W. W. Phelps & Co, was publishing The Evening and the Morning Star, "which contained imprints of the revelations awaiting fuller publication in the Book of Commandments" (p.12).
With revelation D&C 78, given March 1st 1832, the Prophet and his team began to tackle the growing economic and financial interests of the Church.
"The time has come," stated a revelation (D&C 78) in March 1832, for Newel K. Whitney, Joseph Smith, and Sidney Rigdon to "sit in council" with the Saints in Missouri. A crucial but unpublished part of the revelation informed the Prophet as to their specific purpose for going to Missouri. There "must needs be ... an organization of the literary and mercantile establishments of my church both in this place and in the land of Zion," it declared. (p.12)
Thus they were directed to operate the Church's mercantile and literary interests as a united enterprise to be governed by a single board of managers. (p.13)Through their partnership in this "everlasting covenant" the managers would be "equal in both heavenly and earthly things" (p.13). On March 8th, 1832, Joseph Smith Jr appointed Jesse Gause to be one of his councilors (Sidney Rigdon being the other), and with Newel K. Whitney the four of them left for Missouri April 1st, 1832, arriving April 24th, 1832 (p.13). Armed with an additional revelation (D&C 82) given on April 26th in Independence, the leaders set out to setup their business structure on April 27th 1832.
The following day, April 27 [1832, RCK], compliant to the March commandment to organize the mercantile establishment in Missouri, they established Gilbert, Whitney and Company, a business that would manage the store in Independence to serve the public and the Saints as the bishop's storehouse in Zion. At the meeting, the leaders joined the new company with the N. K. Whitney and Company of Kirtland and named the newly integrated mercantile establishment the United Firm. (= HC 1:270) (p.13)Perkin notes that Gilbert had already been operating a Church store from his house at that time (p.13 fn 34).
On April 30, the officers of the United Firm met and shaped a guiding policy allowing the firm to expand when "special business" was introduced to it. Nine of the firm's ten members attended this meeting [Martin Harris was absent; see (p.14 Fn 37)]. The ten officers of the firm were Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Newel K. Whitney, Jesse Gause, and Martin Harris of Kirtland, and Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, Edward Partridge, John Whitmer, and Algernon Sidney Gilbert of Independence. Phelps and Gilbert drafted a bond to bind the members of the partnership, and Whitney and Gilbert were appointed as financial agents for their respective branches. (p.14)The only changes in the board membership occurred in December 3, 1832, when Jesse Gause was excommunicated and thus removed from the board (p.14 Fn 37); and in 1833, when Frederick G. Williams, who had been part of the First Presidency for one week, was brought on March 15, 1833 (p.14 Fn 40), and when John Johnson joined in the same year (p.14 Fn 41).
Possessing managerial, financial or publishing skills, members of the United Firm consecrated their time, money, property and energy and pledged their cooperation to advance the business of their new joint stewardship. (p.15)[[Effectively this meant that Whitney and Gilbert were subsidizing Smith, Rigdon, Harris and Whitmer, given that Parkin made no mention of what exactly Partridge, Phelps and Gause had consecrated to the United Firm. RCK]]
While income from the firm's various enterprises was stated to be available for the temporal needs of the officers (= D&C 82), each member was to manage his own stewardship or responsibility within the firm for the benefit of the Church, requiring at times the need to help one another. (p.15)Perkin gives as an example a June 1833 missive from the Presidency to Bishop Partridge in Independence, which instructs Partridge to support the printing of the D&C with the income from the store in Zion (p.15). Newel K Whitney, in a letter to S.F. Whitney (from October 2nd, 1842?) pointed out
that by seeking the interest of one another and effecting the success of their united cause, but without ever holding "any property in common", ..., they could achieve the firm's ultimate fiscal goal of enabling the Church to stand financially "independent of all creatures" (p.15)This meant that the company neither owned what it managed, nor that the ownership was shared among the partners.
The deed titles to its [i.e. the United Firm, RCK] businesses remained in the names of individual Latter-day Saint landowners or business proprietors. Various officers of the United Firm owned and managed the following properties: N.K.Whitney and Company; Gilbert, Whitney and Company; W.W.Phelps and Company (entities previously identified); F.G. Williams and Company; Whitney's Kirtland ashery the firm's real estate---including a commercial lot owned jointly by Whitney and Gilbert; the farm of Frederick G. Williams; the former Peter French || farm at Kirtland; and Bishop Partridge's stewardship lands in Missouri---and other properties. (pp.15-16)Frederick G. Williams had made his 144 acre farm available to the arriving Saints in February of 1831 (p.16); Joseph Smith Jr had settled his aging parents thereupon. Parkin sees an example of consecration and stewardship in Lucy's comment that any surplus became available "for the comfort of strangers" (p.16). The Smith Srs stayed there until December 1835, when Joseph Jr took them into his own house (p.17; p.17 Fn 52).
By January 5th, 1833, however, a revelation directory Frederick G. Williams to sell the farm altogether, possibly to fund the printing of the revelations in Zion (p.17). Together with the Peter French farmland and the breaking of ground for the Kirtland Temple in June 5, 1833, the Williams farm became part and parcel of a "much larger vision of Kirtland municipal planning, in which both the Williams farm and the French farm would play a major role" (p.17).
This planning found expression in a plat map (p.18 Fig 4) of Kirtland from 1833 for the "foundation of the city of the stake of Zion" (= D&C 94).
The Williams farm would provide most of the southwest quarter of the proposed city and the French farm would provide most of the northwest quarter. (p.18)
The plat map || showed the city divided into forty-nine ten-acre blocks and blocks subdivided into twenty half-acre building lots. The temple lot on the southeast edge of the French farm was combined with a similar, adjacent temple lot on the northeast edge of the Williams farm; together they formed the easter third of the city's new center block. (p.18)The lot would not just house a temple, but also offices for the Presidency and a large Church publishing house (p.19). This part fell to Joseph when the United Firm disbanded.
Two weeks after Joseph received the April revelation [i.e. April 1834, D&C 104, involving the dissolution of the United Firm, RCK], Frederick G. Williams transferred title of his farm to Joseph Smith in two separate deeds, one for the temple lot on his farm, and the other for the rest of his farm, which then was just over 142 acres. (p.19)The Peter French farm, 103 acre "located on the flats of the Chagrin River and southward up the hill to the Williams farm" (p.19), had been purchased by "short-term Church land agent" (p.19) Joseph Coe, with $2,000 down and "the remaining balance of $3,000 [to be paid, RCK] in two equal payments in April 1834 and 1835" (p.19). On June 4th, 1833, a revelation moved the Peter French farm into the possession of N.K. Whitney as the holding company (p.19), which acquired the debt (p.21) and managed it (the deed dated June 17th, 1833; cf. (p.21 Fn 58)).
D&C 96 wanted the lots of the combined French and Williams farms to be sold off to benefit the Revelation publication project (p.21).
Williams, possibly in recognition of his consecration, was added to the United Firm board in March of 1833 (p.21); he had already replaced Gause as counselor in the First Presidency earlier (p.21). [[On Gause, see Michael Quinn, Jesse Gause: Joseph Smith's Little Known Counselor, BYU Studies 23, no 4 (1983), p.487; Robert J. Woodford, Jesse Gause--Counselor to the Prophet, BYU Studies 15, no 3 (1975), p.362-364; (p.14 Fn 27). RCK]]
John Johnson followed in June of 1833 (p.21). Johnson was hoped to bring the sales of his Portage County, Ohio, farm, into the United Firm (p.21). As Johnson moved from Hiram to Kirtland, the two-and-a-half story brick house on Peter French's farm, the former French Inn, became his "stewardship and residency" (p.21). The ownership of the French farm was transferred from Whitney & Co to Johnson in 1836 (p.22).
N.K. Whitney had originally purchased the lot for his ashery from Peter French in 1822, when newly wed (p.22). [[See also Benjamin C. Pykles, An Introduction to the Kirtland Flats Ashery, BYU Studies 41, no. 1 (2002), pp.164-66. (p.22 Fn 66)]]
During that period, asheries often provided a profitable cash product for mercantile institutions, and a number of stores in northeastern Ohio did business with asheries or owned them outright as did Whitney. (p.22)
Whitney's Kirtland ashery produced potash and the more refined pearlash, both of which had robust markets in New York and England as ingredients in the production of soap, glass, gunpowder and other products. After he consecrated his ashery, Whitney continued to operate it profitably for the United Firm. (p.22)The ashery may be one of the more well-known business, but the United Firm operated other business as well.
Other industries used or operated at Kirland by Latter-day Saints included a brickyard, a stone quarry, a saw mill, and a tannery, some of which were supervised by the United Firm. (p.22)The brickyard, for example, was supervised by Frederick G. Williams, and had been purchased by Joseph Coe as part of the French farm (p.22). The tannery had been setup by Arnold Mason, a non-Mormon, who had bought the lot from French as well (p.23), and on April 2nd, 1833, Ezra Thanner was authorized by the council of high priests to buy the tannery for the church (p.23). It was only purchased after the dissolution of the United Firm, on May 3rd 1834, but included in the property list of the firm.
The revelation awarded the tannery to Sidney Rigdon, who afterwards managed it as a successful personal stewardship and business. (p.23)As far as properties in Missouri were concerned, Joseph Smith Jr had emphasized buying land there as early as 1831 (p.23).
Buy "every tract lying westward" to the Indian border and southward "every tract bordering by the prairies" pronounced a revelation (= D&C 57) in Independence that July [i.e. July 1831]. The Prophet Joseph and others immediately scouted much of the area in Kaw township from the Blue River west of town to the Indian line, ten miles west of the Jackson County courthouse. (p.23)
That same month [i.e. July 26th, 1831, cf. (p.24 Fn 74), RCK], Bishop Edward Partridge purchased 356 acres in four tracts in Kaw township. (p.23)
On August 8, ..., Partridge ought two adjacent town lots, one for Phelp's printing house, a half block south of the courthouse [in Independence, Missouri, RCK]. (p.24)
As funds became available, Bishop Partridge acquired a total of 2,136 acres in Jackson County, most of which he distributed to the Latter-day Saints as stewardships of about twenty acres each. (p.24)Other than in Ohio, where 100+ acres of developed land could run several thousand dollars (p.19), Bishop Partridge was able to snap up the 63 acres for the temple lot, a half-mile west of the courthouse, for $130 on December 19th, 1831 (p.24).
Partridge was not the only one buying land in Jackson County (p.25). Sidney Gilbert had bought a town lot with a log building on Lynn Street, a block southeast from the courthouse, for his own residency and initial Church store (p.25). In November 1832, six months after the organization of the United Firm, Gilbert bought a lot "facing the courthouse on the northwest corner of the intersection of Lexington and Liberty streets" for the mercantile firm Gilbert, Whitney and Company (p.25). On December 29th, 1832, Phelps & Co in the persons of Phelps, Cowdery and Whitmer, purchased four lots on Liberty Street at $160 (p.25 Fn 82). Gilbert, Whitney & Co added four more lots on Liberty Street, a block south of the courthouse and across from the Phelps & Co lots, paying $50 for more than an acre on August 14th, 1833 (p.25 Fn 81). Finally, Gilbert, Whitney & Co bought 154 acres on the Missouri River (p.25), immediately west of the Blue Mills landing, the principle freight landing, and give miles northeast of Independence (p.26). Most likely they "considered it valuable in developing a landing for their use in the mercantile business and for Mormon immigration to the county" (p.26), Perkin speculates.
It was in the context of the United Firm that the June 25th, 1833 package with the plat for Zion (p.26), a mile square block with two fifteen acre center lots for the 24 buildings for worship & education; and the corrections from August 6, 1833, for a two-mile square block, with five more tiers of blocks and two ten acre blocks in the middle for the temple buildings, plus a pattern for larger buildings (p.27). Oliver Cowdery had helped prepare the second package, having just returned to Kirtland (p.27). Because of the great need for a meeting house and school, the first of the twenty four temple buildings was supposed to be that (= D&C 97). Unfortunately, the Missouri Saints could not implement these suggestions, as the situation in Jackson County escalated dramatically:
Severe conflict flared up on July 20, 1833, when the local citizens demonstrated against the Mormons [in Independence, Missouri, RCK] by tarring and feathering Edward Partridge and Charles Allen on the courthouse square. That same day, the brawling citizens next attacked the store, which Gilbert quickly closed to save it, and tore down the nearby two-story brick house and printing shop of W. W. Phelps and Company. They threw the type and unfinished papers of the Book of Commandments and The Evening and the Morning Star into the street, demolished the building to its foundation and gave the Saints an ultimatum that required them to leave the county beginning at the end of the year. (p.29)When the Mormons decided to stand ground, the situation grew worse, and in October and November of 1833 the citizens of Jackson County attacked the Mormon settlements and institutions (p.30), damaging the Gilbert & Whitney store as well as its goods and leaving accounts receivable unpaid (p.30). With the majority of Mormons run out into Clay County, the majority of assets of the United Firm in Missouri were "either destroyed or unavailable" (p.30). Obtaining legal redress dragged on, with judgement from the Circuit Court only handed down in 1836, opposing the mob defendants, but merely awarding 1 cent to Bishop Partridge and $750 to Phelps for trespassing charges (p.31). In short,
The Missouri officers of the United Firm received little recompense from the Missouri courts of law. (p.31)Smith Jr decided immediately to get the Literary Firm up and running in Kirtland, until the Missouri situation was sorted out, writing on August 18th, 1833.
We shall get a press immediately in this place and print the Star until you can obtain deliverence and git up again. (p.31)By September 11th, 1833, Oliver Cowdery had arrived from Missouri to represent that branch of the United Firm, and together with Smith Jr, Rigdon, Whitney and Williams, the new Kirtland publishing firm of F. G. Williams & Co., with Williams as publisher, was established. The publisher was authorized to re-issue and print the Evening and Morning Star, while beginning work on the replacement Latter-day Saints Messenger and Advocate, both papers edited by Oliver Cowdery (p.32). The press was bought in December 1833 from New York; the first printing setup in the upper room of the Johnson Inn (formerly the French Inn) (p.32) and soon the first issue of the Evening and Morning Star was published (p.32). Sometime between August and October 1834, they moved into the top floor of the school building next to the temple lot (p.32), and the first issue of the Messenger & Advocate appeared there (p.32). Phelps and Whitmer were brought back to Kirtland to help with the publication of the revelations; they arrived May 17th, 1835 and Whitmer became editor of the Messenger & Advocate in June 1835. [[Is it just me or are these publishing guys amazingly slow? RCK]]
In February 1834, Joseph Smith Jr undertook a reorganization of the Church hierarchy. A new "standing high council of the Church in Kirtland" was convened, sporting "fifteen high priests, three presidents and a body of twelve counselors" with "legislative and ecclesiastical authority" (p.33). Joseph Smith Jr, Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, Oliver Cowdery, John Johnson, and Martin Harris were part of the high council; Bishops Partridge and Whitney, Gilbert, Whitmer and Phelps were not members (p.33). Other than the revelation D&C 84 had suggested, the new High Council took over the roles of the separated United Firm of the City of Kirtland, and by September 1834 the council was managing things the United Firm had handled before---here authorizing Smith, Rigdon, Williams and Cowdery, to handle a project for the literary firm (p.33). This was not the only example of the High Council taking over from the United Firm; they "advised Bishop Whitney on the operation of his store, directed the payment of debt, and counseled Church members on their land purchases in Missouri" (p.34)
Similarly, while in Missouri with Zion's Camp, Smith on July 7th, 1834, organized a High Council for Zion, with David Whitmer W,W, Phelps and John Whitmer as presidents, and a group of twelve high counselors to assist them (p.34). Thus, "the High Council and Bishop of Zion" were appointed "to do business for Zion" (p.34).
Dissent and tensions in the United Firm had a long history, going back to the disappointing initial conversion results in Independence, Missouri, which had led Ezra Booth to leave the church (p.35). Partridge had shared Booth's doubt in the face of Smith's optimism, and Rigdon continued to bring this up until they reconciled in Independence in April 1832 (p.35).
As the United Firm was established, its leaders made a covenant of solidarity. Sometimes, however, they had trouble fulfilling their ideal. Distance, differing views on administrative policy, misunderstandings and perhaps personality variances sometimes got in their way. (p.35)Bishop Partridge was briefly threatened with replacement in November 1832 (= D&C 85) (p.35), but the crisis passed (p.36). There were problems with Bishop Whitney as well (p.35 Fn 129). Even during the crisis in Independence, Zion and Kirtland exchanged sharp reprimands (p.36).
By March 1834, it was clear that the United Firm was heavily in debt. Whitney had been authorized to acquire a $5,000 loan for the firm back in 1832, with which funds they had stocked the stores in Zion and Kirtland and bought the paper for Phelps' printing work (p.37). Smith had accompanied Whitney to New York in October 1832 on one of these re-stocking trips and found the task "tedious" (p.37). Another press required another loan, and in Spring of 1834, both the French loan and some of the New York loans came due (p.38).
There was internal debt as well.
Partners of the firm in Kirtland accrued debt as they drew from the Whitney store either as paying customers or as beneficiaries of the Lord's storehouse. Nevertheless, Whitney kept a record of accounts receivable on members of the firm. In spring 1834, Joseph sought to have these internal debts canceled. (p.38)An internal revelation required that "every one of which were then called the firm to give up all notes and demands that they had against each other ... and all be equal" (p.38). Whitney's accounts showed the following situation of debt (as of April 23, 1834):
- Joseph Smith: $1,151.31
- Sidney Rigdon: $777.98
- John Johnson: $567.68
- G. Williams & Co: $584.14
- F. G. Williams (personally): $485.67
- Oliver Cowdery: $68.57
Whitney lost $3,635.35 and Williams never received any payment for his large farm (p.38). Attempts to raise the missing money in the East failed to bring the estimated $2,000 the Prophet had been hoping for (p.39). On April 23, 1834, the United Firm was dissolved by revelation (= D&C 104).
Parkin provides a heavily annotated version of the Orson Pratt Copy of the Revelation in Book of Commandments Law and Covenants (which became D&C 104) (pp.41-57).
When it was time to publish Section 104 of the D&C, the Prophet and his Church leaders made adjustments such as pseudonym use to obfuscate the intention of the revelation from their creditors (p.58).
They [i.e. the Church leaders, RCK] made fifty-four changes to the names of officers, business properties and places in the April 1834 revelation, with perhaps the most significant change being the pseudonym "Order" for "Firm" (p.58).Already in 1852, Orson Pratt contextualized this change for Brigham Young in order to get it reversed.
In a letter to Brigham Young in 1852, he [i.e. Orson Pratt, RCK] wrote that "fictitious names" were put in the revelations so that "their creditors in Cainhannoch (New York) should not take advantage of this Church firm". (p.59)In the 1876 edition, Pratt put the original names back in brackets, but it was not until 1981 that the names were restored, though the code words "order" and "United Order" persisted (p.59).
With the dissolution of the United Firm, there was still fiscal and economic policy to be made for settling Zion and Kirtland. Smith passed the titles of the Williams Farm on to William Marks, "a recent arrival in Kirtland" (p.60), with the hope of selling lots. But little development took place (p.60). Marks bought the north temple lot from Joseph Smith on April 10, 1837 (p.60) and mortgaged the temple to the New York City firm of Mead, Stafford and Company (p.61; p.61 Fn 243). Johnson and Whitney continued to sell lots on the French farm. The remaining 80 acres, Johnson sold to his son John Jr for $5,000 (p.61 Fn 244), and on September 18, 1848 the note for Peter French was finally cancelled as "paid in full" (p.61).
The Literary Firm of Kirtland did well in 1835, publishing not only the Messenger & Advocate and D&C, but also A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of the Latter Day Saints and a political newspaper, the Northern Times (p.61). In June 1836 Phelps and Whitmer returned to Missouri, and Cowdery used the opportunity to buy out Williams to become sole editor and proprietor (p.61). Whiteny's ashery burned down in 1835---"an economic disaster for the Church" (p.63)---and he had to sell it (p.63)
Other members of the United Firm continued to dabble in mercantile ventures (p.62). Joseph Smith Jr added a variety store on Chillicothe Road across from the temple; Reynolds Cahoon, Jared Carter & Co. operated a store for the temple committee to raise funds for the temple construction; and John F. Boynton and Lyman E. Johnson operated a store close to Joseph's (p.62 Fn 252). The additional merchandise purchased in New York increased the debt (p.62). They established a banking company in 1836 that failed (p.62). And they sold town lots at sometimes inflated prices (p.62).
These conditions, coupled with other local problems and a national financial panic in 1837, caused Kirtland's economy to fail, which induced a failure of faith among many Saints. Some members || withdrew from the Church, and several leaders in Missouri and Ohio became dissenters or were sympathetic to them, including some former members of the United Firm. (pp.62-63)[[Parkin suggests Marvin S. Hill, Cultural Crsis in the Mormon Kingdom: A Reconsideration of the Causes of Kirtland Dissent, in: Church History 44 (September 1980), 286-297. as well as Backman's The Heavens Resound, pp.310-341.]]
The list of dissent was impressive indeed:
Frederick G. Williams, William W. Phelps, Oliver Cowdery John Johnson, Martin Harris, and John Whitmer all left the Church. Frederick G. Williams followed the Saints to Illinois and was restored to fellowship in April 1840, dying in full faith at Quincy in 1842. Bishop Partridge died at Nauvoo as a faithful member just a month after Williams returned to the Church [i.e. May 1840, RCK], and Phelps returned to the faith two months later [i.e. July 1840, RCK]. Years passed before Cowdery and Harris returned.With mounting legal and financial difficulties, Joseph Smith designated Oliver Granger as his agent (p.62), and Smith and Rigdon left Kirtland for Far West, Missouri, on January 12, 1838. After a forced sale of the printing office, it was torched (p.62).
Whitney was troubled by the economic situation and the "disaffection of his brethren" (p.64). He left his Kirtland properties in the hands of his brother Samuel F. Whitney and followed the Saints to Far West, then to Navuoo, and finally to Utah, dying in Salt Lake City in 1850 (p.64). Samuel had to sell off the properties in 1857, when designate executor of his brother's estate, to pay off the debts in Kirtland, including the $1000 Newel still owed Samuel (p.64). Land prices in general had dropped in Kirtland with the departure of the Mormons, making recouping the loss more difficult (p.64; p.64 Fn 262).
Max H. Perkin, Joseph Smith and the United Firm: The Growth and Decline of the Church's First Master Plan of Business and Finance, Ohio and Missouri, 1832-1834, in: BYU Studies, vol. 46, no. 3 (2007), pp.5-66.