Thursday, September 11, 2014

John Corrill on the first Eight Years of Mormon History and his Departure

John Corrill, who was nominated to be Third Bishop in Missouri in Joseph Smith Jr's,
Letter to Church Leaders in Jackson County, Missouri, 25 June 1833, wrote A brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints, Richmond, MS, 1839. In this pamphlet, Corrill detailed his own conversion process. Corrill was struck by the continuous calling of prophets within the Biblical narratives, which made him wonder why that charisma had ceased (p.10). Corrill met the eleven witnesses personally, and felt there was no reason to demand more of them then he had of the Bible, whose authors he trusted though he had never met them (p.11). Corrill also discovered the same books as missing and thus felt that the canon was not as closed as he had assumed (p.13). Corrill also noted that in the prophetic and apocalyptic literature, the act of shutting a book indicated that new books would be a sign of the coming fulness of time (p.13); so if he was waiting for the fulness of time, the unveiling of such a book would be expected. Habakkuk 2,2 even predicted the use of tables in the KJV (ibid).
Hab 2,2: And the Lord answered me and said, write the vision, and make it plaine vpon tables, that he may runne that readeth it. 
Corrill also pointed to Ezekiel 37,15-21, which prophesied that there would be two records [though the text speaks just of sticks, RCK], one for the house of Judah, and one for the house of Jacob, and that the gathering of the records would gather Israel back together (p.13).
Ezek 37,15-21: The word of the Lord came againe vnto me, saying; Moreouer thou sonne of man, take thee one sticke, and write vpon it, For Iudah and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another sticke, and write vpon it; For Ioseph the sticke of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions. And ioyne them one to another into one sticke, and they shall become one in thine hand. And when the children of thy people shall speake vnto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew vs what thou meanest by these? Say vnto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the sticke of Ioseph which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellowes, and will put them with him, euen with the sticke of Iudah, and make them one sticke, and they shall be one in mine hand. And the stickes whereon thou writest, shalbe in thine hand before their eyes. And say vnto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen whither they be gone, and will gather them on euery side, and bring them into their owne land. 
Corrill can rightly say that, under these presuppositions, the Book of Mormon hardly struck one as a strange idea.

This [i.e. the Book of Mormon, RCK] looked to me very much like the record of Joseph in the hand of Ephadins (kept by his seed) that should be joined to the record of Judah (our Bible) for the restoration of the house of Israel, according to the prophecy of Ezekiel [cf. Ezekiel 37,15-21, RCK], as quoted above. ( p.13) 
Corrill also points to some of the stranger places of the Patriarchal blessing of Jacob for his sons in Genesis, esp. the bough that reaches across the wall (Gen 49,22;26) and the promise to Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen 8,11;20) [probably Gen 48,16 & 19 RCK] that they should be a plurality of nations in the middle of the Earth (p.14). (For a near-contemporary rebuttal of this interpretation, see Prof. Turner's Mormonism in all ages, New York 1842, pp.185-190.)
On this subject [i.e. the doctrines of the Gospel, RCK] the Mormons believe in the same Go, and in the same Saviour, and the same Gospel that other professors do; and they believe as firmly in the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments as any other people. They look upon their new revelations only as bringing about the fulfillment of the Bible. (p.14) 
The main difference between them [i.e. the Mormons, RCK] and other professors on the Gospel is, that they believe rather more firmly in the promises of God, especially those that require great faith for their fulfillment, than others do. Where the Scriptures hold out fair promises to the believers, they believe those promises will be fulfilled, just in proportion to their faith. (p.14) 
These promises [e.g. Mark 16,15-18; John 14,12-14; James 5,13f; RCK], the Mormons believe, are plain and sure, and the only reason why Christians do not enjoy them is, because they are wanting in faith. (p.15) 
Corrill then turns to an enumeration of the scriptural references of a gathering in the last days, such as in Ezekiel 37; Isaiah 2 and 11; Micha 4; Jeremiah 16; or Ephesians 1 (p.15), and found the expectation convincing.

In terms of the morality of it, Corrill was struck by the condemnation of the whoredoms of David and Solomon [though this sounds suspiciously like a retro-projection given the polygamy of later times, but the book was published in 1839, RCK] (p.16).

Corrill claims that the old inhabitants of Jackson County were willing to sell when the number of the Mormons increased, but that the Mormons were poor and had no ability to buy the offered lands (p.19).

The people of Clay [county, RCK] gave the Mormons employment, and paid them good wages; and by their industry they made themselves comfortable, with the exception of some families that found it difficult to get shelter. The number driven out was about twelve hundred. (p.20)

Corrill gives a detailed description of the cost of effort and the size of the temple in Kirtland, and descriptions of the interior, before admitting that he was in charge of finishing the construction during the summer of 1835 (pp.21-22).

After sketching the various organizing bodies of the church (p.24) and hoping that they would check and balance each other (p.25), Corrill notes that the New Testament was somewhat unclear on the priesthood other than the one of Melchizedek and Jesus in the letter to the Hebrews, and that thus ``every man is left to judge for himself'' (p.25).

Corrill gives an indication of the desperate economic situation in Kirtland after the temple had been completed.

Notwithstanding they [i.e. the church, RCK] was deeply in debt, they had so managed to keep up their credit, so they concluded to try mercantile business. [This is puzzling, because the United Firm was doing mercantile business back in 1834 already. RCK] Accordingly, they ran in debt in New York and elsewhere, some thirty thousand dollars, for || goods, and shortly after, some fifty or sixty thousand more, as I was informed; but they did not fully understand the mercantile business, and withal, they suffered pride to arise in their hearts, and became desirous of fine houses, and fine clothes, and indulged too mcuh in these things, supposing for a few months that they were very rich. They also spent some thousands of dollars in building a steam mill [never heard that before, RCK], which never profited them anything. They also bought many farms at extravagant prices, and made part payments, which they afterwards lost, by not being able to meet the remaining payments. They also got up a bank, for which they could get no charter, so they issued their paper without a charter, and, of course, they could not collect their pay on notes received for loans, and, after struggling with it awhile, they broke down. (Corrill 1834, pp.26-27) 

Eventually, Smith and Rigdon had to escape their obligations to Missouri, and moved to Far West in March or April of 1838.

Corrill then gives a rough overview of the Missouri War, and the eventual expulsion of the Mormons. Corrill puts some of the blame for the escalation on the arrival of Smith and Rigdon from Kirtland (p.29), who now began to move against dissenters directly or indirectly, on the one hand through claiming God's support against their enemies (p.29), and through Rigdon's ``salt sermon'' (p.30), and indirectly through supporting the formation of what would eventually become known as the Danites (pp.30-32), a situation Corrill compared to a monarchy (p.32).

By July 4th, Rigdon was preaching a war of extermination as the response to vexations (p.32), and by election time, the Danites and their gentile neighbors were at each others' throats (p.33). In the context of the lack of support from the governor regarding the expulsion of the Mormons from Dewitt (p.35) and Carroll county (p.36), the Mormons were ready to turn against the internal dissenters as well.
Now they meant to do it [i.e. take care of themselves, RCK], for they found that they could get help from no other quarter. Moreover, they said, that they had out that several members of the church had dissented in feeling, and were operating against them by carrying evil reports to their enemies, thereby increasing the excitement, and endangering their lives; and now, they were determined to clear them out or spill their blood in the streets; moreover they meant to make clean work now, and expel the mob from Davies and then from Caldwell county. (p.34) 
After a public meeting on Monday, following a Sunday sermon by Joseph Smith Jr on sentiments as quoted above, on Tuesday armed Mormons went into Gallatin and Grindstone Fork, among other places, to carry of property, burn a store and plunder (p.37).
I heard nothing from the leaders, but in the camp it was said that they meant not only to scatter the mob, but also to destroy those places that harbored them; that Gallatin and Millport were of that number; that the time had arrived for the riches of the gentiles to be consecrated to the house of Israel, but they mean to confine themselves to the mob characters in their plundering. They conjectured that mob after mob, as they termed it, would arise against them, which they would have to subdue, one after another, even till they should reach St Louis, where Wight said he meant to winter. (p.38) 
By Friday of the same week, the Mormons were plundering and cabin burning in Davies county (p.38).
It appeared to me also that the love of pillage grew upon them very fast, for they plundered every kind of property they could get hold of, and burnt many cabins in Davies, some say eighty, and some say one hundred and fifty. (p.38) 
A group of arsons called the ``Destructionists'', under the leader, the ``Destroying Angel'', were gathered, to set Buncum on fire when the militias left it behind (p.38).

After briefly sketching how Far West was surrounded (40), where the extermination order from Boggs (p.41) was ignored and the leaders thrown in jail (p.42), Corrill mentions a few more religious details (pp.45-48), before closing his pamphlet and taking his leave from the church.
I have left you, not because I disbelieve the bible, for I believe in God, the Saviour, and religion the same as ever; but when I retrace our track, and view the doings of the church for six years past, I can see nothing that convinces me that God has been our leader; calculation after calculation has failed, and plan after plan has been overthrown, and our prophet, seemed not to know the event till too late. If he said go up and prosper, still we did not prosper; but have labored and toiled, and waded through trials, difficulties, and temptations, of various kinds, in hope of deliverance. But no deliverance came. The promises failed, and time after time we have been disappointed; and still were commanded, in the most rigid manner, to follow him, which the church did, until many were led into the commission of crime; have been apprehended and broken down by their opponents, and many have been obliged to abandon their country, their families, and all they possessed, and great affliction has been brought upon the whole church. What shall we say to these things? Did not your prophet proclaim in your ears that the day was your own, and you should overcome; when in less than a week you were all made prisoners of war, and you would have been exterminated, had it not been for the exertions and influence of a few dissenters, and the humane and manly spirit of a certain officer [i.e. General Lucas, cf. p.42, RCK]? (p.48) 

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