excerpt – Mormon Mavericks
The term maverick, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), was coined in the nineteenth-century American West to denote a “calf or yearling found without an owner’s brand.” In the years since, the word has described a person who, in various arenas, operates outside of the mainstream. Again to quote the OED, a maverick is a “masterless person; one who is roving and casual; an independent person; an individualist … unattached.”
Clearly, the individuals discussed in this volume qualify as mavericks. Each in his or her own way proved difficult to master, and each operated independently as an individualist. Running chronologically from the early nineteenth to the early twenty-first centuries, the subjects of these essays stretch to the very beginnings of the history of the LDS church. Many worked side by side with Brothers Joseph and Brigham. Others were part of later currents and modern concerns. Some, through familial ties, breached the two eras. While it can be fairly stated that these individuals constitute a small part of the larger story of Mormonism, to leave them out of the story would be unfortunate because they are the salt in the stew. The right amount flavors the whole.
Whether any individual’s dissent was personal, theological, financial, intellectual, or some combination of the above, every Mormon maverick sought to differentiate his or her view of the Mormon experience from that of the church leaders and from the overwhelming majority of church members as well. This often proves to be disagreeable. The expression of differences brings separation from family and former colleagues, and dissenters are often turned into societal outcasts. Some of these mavericks would come to leave the church; some would not. Some of them would return to the fold; others would remain outside. While each case is obviously different, all of them seem to have been motivated by the desire to promote truth in the face of falsehood. Whether or not they were correct or succeeded in their endeavor is up to each of us to decide in light of our own beliefs and values.
In this regard, Paul Toscano, another Mormon maverick whose own story could well have been included here, has observed:
Responsible dissent possesses the spiritual power to awaken consciousness, raise awareness, create paradigms, alter opinions, heal wounds, and bring wholeness and holiness to our community. But it must be remembered that dissent raises the stakes. It is by nature confrontational. Even when carefully and artfully advanced, truth telling and dissent are usually not well received. One of the recurring mistakes of my life has been my silly belief that I would somehow endear myself to others by telling them what I believed to be the truth. Jesus, however, did not say the truth would make us well liked. He said that “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). What he did not say was that it would first make everybody madder than hell.
As the compilers and editors, we appreciate the willingness of the authors to contribute to this collection. As a group, they represent some of the most talented and astute observers of the Mormon story. All but two of the essays have been previously published in a variety of journals. We have also benefitted from the support and interest of the personnel of Signature books.
To conclude the collection, we have added an essay by the late Esther Peterson who poses the question: how do you decide who is a Mormon? It is a valid and on-going question, one that has been asked from the very beginning.
For us, this anthology represents one more step in our personal friendship and professional association. For more than a quarter century, stretching back to the early days of Sunstone—the magazine, the review and the foundation—we have lived, chronicled, and observed developments within the Mormon intellectual community. These experiences represent essential ingredients in our personal education.
Finally, we hope that the collection will be received in the spirit it is intended: What do the lives and beliefs of these independent spirits tell us about Mormonism, ourselves, and the larger world around us? As Thomas Merton once observed, “There are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence under a state of risk.” It is our conviction that this is a better world because of such people, even though some of them were more cantankerous than one would have wanted to deal with up close. Others have been exemplary in every aspect of their lives: personable, warm, cooperative–even though not compromising their sense of principle—and tireless in their pursuit of understanding on the one hand and social change on the other; in short, role models for us all.
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John E. Page: Apostle of Uncertainty
by John Quist
Mormon historians have neglected John E. Page. This is unfortunate since his positions as apostle under both Joseph Smith and James Strang, leader in at least two other Mormon factions, and the large quantity of his extant writings provide us with an insightful perspective into the uncertainty that many Mormons experienced after the death of the church founder. Although one may address many facets of Page’s career, this study will focus primarily on his changing perceptions of the importance of a prophet in Mormon theology and practice. He genuinely believed that Smith and Strang were both divinely appointed prophets and, especially while associated with Strang, asserted that their callings as direct communicants of God were the central pillars of Mormonism. After parting ways with Strang, Page repudiated these ideas, concluding that Smith was a fallen prophet and that true religion was found in the Book of Mormon and in the heart of the believer rather than within a church
Since few writers have discussed the career of John Edward Page, it will be necessary to integrate his life’s outline into this essay’s body. He was born in Trenton Township, Oneida County, New York, on 25 February 1799, the oldest child of Ebenezer and Rachel Page. John was baptized into the Mormon church by Emer Harris on 18 August 1833 in Brownhelm, Ohio. John’s brother Ebenezer ordained him an elder the following month in Florence, Ohio.1 John’s wife of two years, Betsy Thomson, died six weeks after his baptism. Before the year ended, John, a single parent, married Lorain Stevens. On 24 August 1835, the Kirtland, Ohio, high council called John, along with Lorain’s father and brothers, to “locate their families and then go forth and preach the gospel.”2 He settled his family in Kirtland and evidently left to preach that fall. When the high council, on 13 January 1836, considered Page to fill one of its vacant seats, “his name was dropped” because he was still absent. He had no sooner returned than he embarked in May 1836 on another extended proselyting mission, this time to Ontario. Thirteen months later a local church conference boasted that Page had baptized 305 people in Canada. By May 1838, his Canadian converts numbered over 600.3 The success of this mission caught the attention of the brethren in Kirtland. In January 1838, “John E. Page of 2nd Quorum of Seventy … was chosen to fill the place of Luke Johnson, one of the Twelve … by the nomination of the High Council and vote of the Church.” Six months later Joseph Smith received a revelation formally assigning Page, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Willard Richards to the apostleship.4
John would not leave Canada until 14 May 1838 when he and a company of Mormons headed for Missouri to join the church’s principal gathering. Soon after their arrival in the fall, they were forced to leave the state in the wake of Governor Lilburn Boggs’s “Extermination Order” of 27 October. Page lost his wife, Lorain, and two children at this time and blamed their deaths on a “furious mob.” Shortly afterwards, he asserted to his brother Ebenezer, prior to the latter’s incarceration at Far West, Missouri, “We two share alike: we have buried each a wife in this place, and if we follow them, our trials will be over; if you are shot I will avenge your blood.” Ebenezer’s eventual release meant that John was never required to fulfill this oath. By December, Page had begun to recover from grief as he proposed marriage to Mary Judd, a woman nineteen years his junior. They soon wed and relocated near Warsaw, Illinois.5Shortly after arriving in Illinois, Page returned to Far West to participate in an evening apostolic vigil held in April 1839 before the Twelve departed on their missions to England. It is not clear why Page never went to England himself. Instead, he would leave with Orson Hyde on a mission to Jerusalem6 beginning in April 1840 when the two traveled together to Dayton, Ohio, where they separated. They met later in Cincinnati. From there, Hyde continued eastward, while Page remained until the end of October to strengthen the church in Ohio. Having a large quantity of pamphlets to sell (Sidney Rigdon’s An Appeal to the American People) and believing that Hyde had “suplyed the market” east of Cincinnati, Page returned to Dayton to find an audience. While in Dayton, winter came early. “The river [became] closed by the frost,” which complicated any attempt to procure transportation out of the area. Believing that Hyde had no intention of leaving for Jerusalem until they had raised $1,000 each to cover their round trip, and supposing that this might take another year or two, Page made no effort to reach the east coast to meet his companion.7 But Joseph Smith had intended that the duo make swifter progress. On 15 January 1841, he placed the following notice in the Times and Seasons: “Elders Orson Hyde and John E. Page are informed, that the Lord is not well pleased with them in consequence of delaying their mission (Elder John E. Page in particular,) and they are requested by the First Presidency to hasten their journey towards their destination.”8 This reproval caught both elders by surprise. Hyde, who had not heard from Page and had thus previously considered leaving without him, departed for England one month later on 13 February.9Frustrated because he was left behind, Page wrote to Smith and explained this misunderstanding from his point of view: “[B]efore navigation opened in the spring for me to return to Cinti and thus precede to NY—Elder Hyde left in Feb. for Europe taking all [the money] with him for he had visited every church in his way and raised in all the Branches a very very liberal donations in the name of us both.” Consequently, Page lost confidence in Hyde: “[A]nyman that would treat me with the neglect that Elder Hyde has me he would betray me in a more criticle hour if by so doing he could save his own life.”10Page visited several branches on the East Coast, soliciting funds for his voyage. Philadelphia Mormons generously received Page, where they had him postpone a 25 July departure so that they could raise more funds for his mission. But before he could leave, Joseph Smith requested that Page return to Nauvoo, Illinois. After spending the winter of 1841-42 in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Page reported to Nauvoo for the April 1842 conference. There leaders planned to discuss his failure to serve his mission to Palestine. Recognizing that his separation from Hyde may have lost him the confidence of others, Page prepared for the worst: “If I have erred, I still have the truth which is this church and its doctrines. Where I have erred, I hope to find mercy, where I have done right I hope to be justified.” Having mellowed in his resentment toward Hyde, Page “accused himself of not using better economy in proceeding on his journey.” Rumor in Nauvoo had it that Page had apostatized. Consequently, some Saints had objected to his being sustained as an apostle at an 1841 conference. After reviewing the matter, Smith announced that “Elder Page showed a little grannyism” and that he “should have stuck by Orson Hyde, … [however] there is nothing very bad in it, but by the experience, let us profit.” Page maintained fellowship in the church and returned to Pittsburgh via Hannibal, Missouri, and Alton, Illinois.11Page resided in Pittsburgh until 8 June 1843. While there, he published a newspaper, The Gospel Light, and two pamphlets, Slander Refuted and The Spaulding Story. Upon leaving Pittsburgh, he spent time in Cincinnati, New York, and Boston before being called by Smith and Brigham Young to Washington, D.C. While in the nation’s capital, he published another pamphlet, An Address to the Inhabitants and Sojourners of Washington, and commuted to Philadelphia where, in February 1844, he published another issue of The Gospel Light. By the following April, Page returned to Pittsburgh to be with his ill wife.12Although Page had differences with others in the church hierarchy,13 his correspondence and published writings from this period reveal that he was a zealous advocate of Mormonism and that he highly respected his prophet and the two chief apostles. In later years Page would condemn his Nauvoo-era brethren for perverting the gospel. But in the early 1840s, they were involved in a common cause and Page deferred to them: “It becomes you [Smith] and brothers [Brigham] young and [Heber C.] kimball to show yourselves men of the God of Israel this once to put down the slanders of [John C.] Bennett and Martha Brotherton.”14 The possibility that Smith could be a fallen prophet had not yet occurred to Page in 1843: “I know that you [Smith] and the Church Authorities will do right and require nothing unreasonable or not right and in all cases are competent to give rightous Council in all matters that concern the temporal and spiritual intrest of the kingdom of God.” Others regarded Page as “unusually zealous in advocating the divine mission of Brother Joseph Smith.”15Following Smith’s murder in June 1844, Nauvoo officials suggested that Page return to Illinois after “spend[ing] a little time in publishing the news in the eastern cities, and getting as many in the Church as possible.” Meanwhile, Brigham Young, as president of the twelve apostles, secured the helm of leadership at Nauvoo church conferences held in August and October.16 Soon after his December arrival in Nauvoo, Page reported on his mission during the Seventy’s Hall dedication. He affirmed his allegiance by “assuring the Saints that he was one with them, and gave his testimony of the present organization of the church in the most solemn manner.” In the early part of 1845, he met frequently with the Twelve, was initiated into the Council of Fifty, received the temple endowment, and with his wife, Mary, was admitted into the exclusive Quorum of the Anointed.17 Evidence suggests that John—with Mary’s consent—was also briefly a polygamist and that two of his plural wives were Mary’s sisters.18 Among his secular responsibilities was his position as president of the Nauvoo Water Power Company, an association that aspired to construct a dam to harness the Mississippi River at Nauvoo. For the latter part of 1845, however, Page is conspicuously absent from existing church records. Despite this nonattendance at church councils, on 10 December John and Mary were among the first to pass through the partially completed Nauvoo temple to be re-endowed; the following morning, John offered the vocal prayer at an 8:00 assembly in the temple.19Shortly afterwards John began to doubt openly the legitimacy of his quorum’s governing role and to consider James J. Strang’s claim to be Smith’s true successor. Strang, who asserted a divine calling that Brigham Young did not claim, rose rapidly from obscurity to become a leadership threat to the Twelve. He based his right to the prophetic mantle on a “letter of appointment” allegedly written by Smith, angelic ordination, and the discovery and translation of additional ancient scripture.20 On 13 January 1846, Strang issued a summons to the twelve apostles in Nauvoo and demanded that they come before him at his newly founded gathering place, Voree, Walworth County, Wisconsin. Here they were to “make satisfaction” for evils that Strang charged them with, foremost of which were the usurpation of power, immorality, and teaching false doctrine. Page was the first of two apostles to respond to Strang’s requests.21 Although initially reserved, Page acknowledged to Strang his personal belief that the Twelve had no right to officiate in lieu of a First Presidency and that only Smith had the authority to designate his successor: “That such an appointment is necessary has been settled with me for more than three months past, consequently I have taken little or no interest in the councils of the Church. In the absence of the first presidency, I have looked upon the church as being like a clock without weights, or a watch without a mainspring. … These reflections … have thrown my mind into a state that is almost indescribable. Suffice it to say, that my bosom has heaved with pain and anxiety day and night, my mind more or less enveloped in a gloom to which I was an entire stranger while President Smith lived.”22These recent changes in church administration had left Page unsettled. For many Mormons, the centrality of their religion had been the charismatic prophet-figure Joseph Smith.23 Young was not Smith, nor did he attempt to imitate him. Instead, he depicted himself as a disciple charged with carrying out the prophet’s designs.24 Consistent with this portrayal, Young admitted to the church: “You are now without a prophet present with you in the flesh to guide you” and told them not to “presume for a moment that his place will be filled by another.”25 Mormons who felt repulsed by the policies, teachings, or personality of Young, or who felt a genuine longing for another prophet with credentials similar to those of Smith, believed that Strang offered the old gospel under a familiar label.
Before long, other members of the quorum interpreted Page’s increasing aloofness as apostasy. On 9 February 1846, a statement issued by the Twelve informed “the Saints of God” that Page no longer enjoyed their fellowship: “In consequence of his murmuring disposition, and choosing to absent himself from our Councils, and then saying that he is made a servant and slave of by his quorum, and has had no privileges in the Temple, when the plain truth is, he has chosen to stand aside from us, and because we would let him do it, he has murmured about it. He has been in the background and in the shade ever since he failed to fulfill his mission to Jerusalem in company with Elder Hyde.”26By March, Page had publicly repudiated the Twelve and was advocating Strang in Nauvoo. On 12 March he wrote to inform the Voree prophet of his conversion: “I therefore say in true sincerity of heart … that I am fully persuaded by the word of the Lord, and the spirit of truth, that you are the man to fill the place of Joseph Smith, as prophet—Revelator—Seer—and Translator to the Church, and discharge all, and several the duties that involved on Pres Smith.” Three days later, believing “that my life is sought for,” Page left Nauvoo with Reuben Miller, another defector to Strangism.27 On 6 April, Page reported to Strang’s conference in Voree and surrendered “all claim in favor of all the [Brighamite] Twelve as first Presidency of the Church, placed himself under the direction of the [Strangite] Presidency, [and] exhonerated himself… of the [Brighamite] Twelve in their usurpation.” As a result, Strang “decided to receive and sustain him in his place as one of the [Strangite] Twelve.”28While in Voree, Page served as a witness when Strang brought charges against the unrepentant apostles. Page himself expressed administrative and doctrinal frustrations with the Twelve: “H. C. Kimball built a large pine house and paid the working men out of the tithing office and a large amount of indebtiness stands against him on the books.” He revealed the greatest displeasure with the new temple ceremonies: “The keys of the priesthood in the endowment begin in the baptismal font and then the endowment should begin and go on upwards to the attick. They took the opposite course and began where they should end.” The covenant of the temple, he added, was to give unqualified obedience to the Twelve, “to obey to give up all to the last farthing. The covenant with uplifted hand was required to obey counsel whatever it should be.”29Page voiced these objections on other occasions as well. He reportedly preached from the Nauvoo temple steps that the endowment was corrupt and that speedy destruction was certain for those willing to tolerate such wickedness. The endowment was equally disagreeable to John’s wife, Mary, who referred to the anointing as a “greasing.”30 In his first letter to Strang, John also complained of not having received a proportionate share of compensation for his church labors:
The last day of May next will be ten years since I first left my family, and my little all, to preach the everlasting gospel. From that time until about one year since, I have been incessantly employed in the vinyard, and have baptized more than one thousand souls. I began my work in extreme poverty and have suffered every privation imaginable. My family have gone through untold sufferings in my absence, and I am yet as poor and destitute as when I first entered this ministry. I have served this people in all diligence … thinking most implicitly, that whenever I should return to any of the stakes of Zion to settle, my labors would be appreciated by the Church and its authorities, & I be sustained in my capacity equal with my brethren of the same calling. … [M]y brethren of the same quorum appear to enjoy a resonable plenty to sustain them in their capacity. I do not say they have too much, but I do say, that I do not have enough.31
After Strang accepted Page into his fold, the two journeyed with Reuben Miller to a local church conference in Norway, LaSalle County, Illinois. There Page unequivocally expressed the necessity of a prophet and argued in favor of Strang’s divine calling. Using a dialectic that he employed frequently thereafter, he began his argument with the premise that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. He demonstrated how one of Smith’s revelations had provided for him to appoint a successor in the event of his death or apostasy. Strang, as he noted, was the only contender for Smith’s mantle who “hath presented a claim … according to the Doctrine and Covenants, and hath presented the proper works of a Seer, Revelator, and Translator.” With this knowledge, it was the responsibility of the Saints to “sustain and uphold him as a duly appointed successor of our beloved prophet, Joseph Smith.”32 According to Page, his new-found leader presented “an indisputable ‘appointment’ and ‘ordination’ in the form that fills the letter of the word of God … to a minutia.” Strang’s calling was a pillar of Mormonism, for without “the appointment of Joseph’s successor, Mormonism is dead and damned long ago.” Page felt that his prophet extolled the finest of virtues: “There is not his equal on this earth for patience, faith, prudence, wisdom, aptness to teach and indefatigable perseverance.”33 Page emphasized the rhetorical strength of Strang’s position and, with vigor and zeal, underlined how Strang’s prophetic call was quintessential to the faith.
To his disappointment, Page was unable to gather his family to Voree immediately due to poor health and lack of finances. Instead, he located them in Elgin, Illinois, for a year. While there, he took little part in ecclesiastical matters. In November 1846 the Strangite paper noted that he had been sick but was recovering, adding that a “little assistance would bring him again into a rich field of usefulness, where his talents eminently qualify him for success.” By the spring of 1847, Page had moved to Voree and begun to attain prominence in the church. In June he assumed editorship of Zion’s Reveille, and his name became increasingly conspicuous in the paper as the author of bulletins and doctrinal treatises.34 As president of the twelve apostles, he often had his name attached to Strang’s on important notices, implying that he was second only to the prophet. The rank-and-file membership esteemed him as well. On a number of occasions, members wrote letters requesting that Page visit them. One devoted member, eager to come to Voree, offered to build houses for Strang and Page.35Despite this overture, the apostle remained in dire financial straits and claimed that he was unable to leave Voree to preach the gospel: “In point of strength we are about 33 1/3 per cent, when compared with most men who engage in common labor for a living. … When, by this scanty income, I can supply my wife and children with daily bread and can lay up in store enough for them to subsist upon a few weeks … we shall then go out and tell the church and the world to repent.”36 Consistent with his earlier complaints of economic neglect, he believed that it was each member’s responsibility to support the ministers of God’s flock: “If there were no ministers in temporal things, the ministers of spiritual things would not be sustained.” On another occasion he wrote, “Ministers cannot suck the wind and chew their breath and live more than others can.”37Page’s financial condition eventually improved for he was able to serve several missions. But these were local affairs as he never ventured beyond parts of Illinois and Wisconsin. It is not known how much financial assistance he obtained from church members, but in late 1848 he was at least given enough to travel to Cincinnati—a mission he nevertheless would not complete.38By April 1849 Page’s position in the church had weakened. A conference resolution to sustain him as president of the twelve apostles passed a day after it was introduced and only after “much discussion.” Though Page thereupon “expressed his faith and confidence in the church and in all her administrations, and his determination to sustain the work to the extent of his talent and understanding,” within months he was voicing doubts about Strang’s leadership. At a civil court trial in late June 1849, Page served as a witness for a defector from Strang’s communitarian Order of Enoch.39 Soon afterward, the Gospel Herald announced Page’s “suspension of all jurisdiction and authority of his priesthood” until the next church conference convened. A significant portion of this conference, held at Beaver Island, Michigan, in July 1849, examined the charges against him. Among those testifying was Page’s brother and fellow apostle, Ebenezer. After talking things over with John, Ebenezer reported that he could obtain “no assurance from him that he at this time had any confidence in the authority of James J. Strang’s administration.” Following considerable deliberation, the conference voted to eliminate Page from its ranks and to “deliver him over to the bufferings of Satan until he repents.”40 A month and a half later, Page wrote several of his objections to Strang’s rule and offered to debate these issues publicly:
1st Strang says, he, “as a prophet is not accountable to any tribunal of the Church for what he may say or do.”
2d Strang has introduced a covenant confirmed by the most sollem secret oath confined to the members of the church excluding all other persons who are not members of the church.
3d Strang has organized a common stock community confined entirely to the church, which he calls “the Order of Enoch” according to the Book of D.C.
4th Strang says in the “Gospel Herald” “that there is no merit in a faith that believes with a reason[,] only in that it believes with a mandate.”41
After rejecting Strangism, Page would become a central figure among Strangite opposition, which increased when many correctly suspected that Strang’s personal secretary, Charles J. Douglass, was a disguised plural wife. Gilbert Watson wrote to Strang: “I am informed that J. E. had a letter from Philadelphia stating that your clerk was in the habit of wearing petticoats untill very recently, and also that he had another from Baltimore confirming the same thing.”42 Meanwhile, E. J. Moore complained that Page was frightening immigrants from coming to Beaver Island. A “down hearted” Ebenezer told Strang that his brother John was “trying to destroy me as well as you.”43It may be more than coincidental that Page deserted both Strang and Young when each was in the process of removing their followers to distant and remote places. On the other hand, one should also note the similarity in complaints that Page voiced. In both cases, his grievances involved authoritarianism, secret ordinances, and restrictive communitarianism. This continuity implies that he sincerely objected to such practices and doctrines.44 Perhaps more importantly, his emphasis on Strang’s calling as the foundation of the true faith placed Page in a corner. As he had stressed, Strang based his claims on precedent and scripture; unquestionably, no other contender for Mormon souls presented himself in such a confident and assertive manner. In light of these facts, Page believed that Strang had to be a prophet. If Strang was not what he claimed, then the religion of Joseph Smith was somehow imperfect. Page may have been captivated by Strang’s rhetoric as much as by his prophetic charisma, and perhaps Page’s polemics were, in part, an attempt to convince himself that he was in the true path of salvation.
Page did not search for another visionary claiming Smith’s mantle after he renounced Strang. Instead, he began to question seriously the further necessity of a prophet. This doubt did not cause him to spurn Mormonism altogether. In a letter dated 19 October 1849, he encouraged “all my Friends and Acquaintances” to “lay aside all prejudices” and read the Olive Branch, a newspaper of James Colin Brewster’s faction of Mormonism.45 Brewster, born in 1826, claimed, at the age of ten, to have been visited by the angel Moroni. In 1842 he published The Words of Righteousness to All Men, which he asserted was ancient scripture written by the prophet Esdras. God had chosen him to present it to the world. Apostle John Taylor immediately denounced Brewster in the Times and Seasons, arguing that he was unauthorized to speak for God, and church officials in Springfield, Illinois, where Brewster lived, agreed with Taylor and promptly excommunicated the young prophet. For the next few years, Brewster advanced his claims by publishing a few pamphlets and then emerged as a serious factional leader in 1848 when he organized a church and began publishing the Olive Branch which contained the writings of Esdras and other material.46One of Brewster’s appeals to factionally unaffiliated Mormons was his rejection of such Nauvoo doctrinal innovations as “secret orders” and the “temporal kingdom.” His main emphasis was on the Book of Mormon, “the standard by which the saints are to prove all doctrines, and determine whether they are right or wrong.”47 He pointed out that the revelations of Joseph Smith originally published in the Book of Commandments in 1833 had been substantially revised, and maintained that they were superior to those printed in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835. Unlike many other contenders for Mormon souls, Brewster never claimed that Smith specially designated him to lead. He was also unconcerned about Page’s earlier defenses of Strang’s appointment:
It is a matter of no importance to us who Joseph Smith appointed to be his successor. … We never ask those who offer themselves as candidates for admission into our organization, what they believe about Joseph’s successor. … If they believe the Book of Mormon … it is evident to them that none of those professed leaders are now right, although they may believe one of them was once actually appointed to lead the church. … Since Mr. J. E. Page united with us, the Gospel Herald has said much about his former belief…. We were well aware that Mr. Page was formerly a strong advocate of Mr. Strang’s claims; but when he became convinced that the writings of Esdras were true, and that the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the Gospel, he united with us as a private member. He did not inform us—neither did we inquire—whether he had changed his opinion respecting Mr. Strang’s appointment or not.48
Brewster provided an alternative for Mormons who had grown tired of contending claims of authority. Unlike Strang, he presented a very loose organization that did not demand strict doctrinal orthodoxy as a criterion for membership. He also differed from Strang in that he was too busy dabbling in the spiritual realm to burden himself with administrative concerns, and he left the tasks of presidency to Hazen Aldrich. Brewster’s emphasis on scripture appealed to dissatisfied Mormons. In 1850 John Gaylord wrote to Brewster from Voree expressing his pleasure in seeing the change in the former Strangite bastion: “It would do your soul good to see old Pseudos and new Pseudos [Strangite apostates], McLellinites and Strangites all transformed into a Church of Christ; worshiping one God; believing in one standard.”49Brewster’s teachings resonated with Page. Instead of emphasizing the necessity of a prophet, Page now stressed the Book of Mormon, advocating that since it contained “the fullness of the gospel of our salvation, there is no more to be revealed, as far as our spiritual salvation is concerned.” The Book of Mormon provided spiritual security against the encroachments of false worship since any “ordinance, command or duty … that is not known in the Book of Mormon … we are to shun it as we would a deadly poison” regardless of who was to impose it, “be [he] a prophet, priest or king.” Page explained that he had been mired in false doctrine because of his failure to rely upon the Book of Mormon: “I have been heretofore so extremely humbugged in doctrines and principles that I verily thought was the truth, that I now know to be false, (compared with the standard [the Book of Mormon]). … I now see the folly and danger of believing the doctrine, that a prophet, because he is a prophet, is always right and cannot be wrong.”
Besides denouncing Strang, Page began to believe that Joseph Smith had led Mormons astray. Contrary to previous assertions, he now concluded that since there was no precedent in the Bible or Book of Mormon that “one law-giver should appoint another,” the citation in the Doctrine and Covenants authorizing Joseph Smith to assign a successor was “false, vain, foolish, and uncalled for.” Page reversed himself theologically in other ways. Prior to his departure from Strang, he had taught that God and Jesus were separate and corporeal; eventually, he endorsed the trinitarian God favored by mainstream Christians. Although he formerly advocated baptism for the dead, he now regarded it as unscriptural since it was not taught in the Book of Mormon, and he accused Smith of presenting the doctrine by means of a “pretended revelation.” He also claimed that the “Book of D. C.” should be “rejected altogether except those parts which are collateral to or borrowed from the Book of Mormon.”50As his belief diverged from the authoritarian prophet-based church that he had frequently emphasized in the past, Page placed additional stress on individual religious experience. In the last issue of the Olive Branch, his article “I believe in Mormonism, But Where Is It?”maintained that the search for the right organization was not the best way to find true Mormonism. “If the principles of Mormonism do not exist in your own heart,” he wrote, “and if you do not know them to exist, then it is not probable you can see them in any other individual or organization on the earth. … As Mormonism is the pure gospel of Christ, it becomes each one to believe it, to enquire of his own heart, if it exists there.” Thus the answer to his question, “Where is Mormonism fled to?” was simple: “Reader, if it is not in your heart, it is nowhere, as far as you are concerned.”51The disintegration of Brewster’s church commenced in 1850 following his and eighty-nine devotees’ overland departure to California. Though Page and a few others remained in the East, the final collapse must have occurred shortly after January 1852 when the Olive Branch ceased publication.52 How Brewsterism’s demise affected Page is unknown. Page probably continued preaching to Mormons near his home in De Kalb, Illinois, as much as his health would permit. His youngest son, Justin, recalled: “I only knew my father as a sick man, or at best broken in health, and have heard him preach to an audience but little, but he was always at it, generally in village stores and shops, where groups would gather to hear him, some times in discussion with other Ministers and much in private conversation.”53Following his sojourn as a Brewsterite, Page waited a few years before affiliating with any other Mormon group. In 1855 William Marks wrote that he, along with Page, had concluded “to reject all organizations, and teach the first principles of the gospel, and baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit.”54 W. W. Blair similarly remembered the mid-1850s as a period when “my meditations and convictions were of such a range and force as to finally lead me to resolve that, whatever others might do, it was my duty to seek to live in harmony with the light I had received of him.” At this time, Blair met with Page, Marks, John Gaylord, and others for religious services. Blair recalled that their “efforts in this direction did not meet with desired success, for it seemed the needed favor of God through the Holy Spirit was sadly lacking.”55This informal gathering was short-lived since, by 1859, both Marks and Blair had united with the New Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the nucleus of the Reorganized Church. Page did not drift in that direction; the New Organization petitioned him in its early years for advice, but he had refused to give it.56 He began meeting with a small association of branches that had declined to affiliate with any of the existing organizations. This group, presided over by Granville Hedrick, attempted to maintain the principles of faith as found in “the Bible, Book of Mormon and the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, which were given for the foundation and standard of faith and doctrine to the Church of Christ.” Later Hedrick’s church identified the following specific doctrines as being false and forming “no part of the church of Jesus Christ in her primitive order”: “baptism for the dead[;] … the plurality of Gods, and that God himself was once a man[;] … also that men become to be Gods by a system of exaltation; the doctrine of tithing as given in Sec. 107, July 8th, 1838, in D. C.; … the Book of Abraham; the doctrine of lineal right to office in the high Priesthood; … and the doctrine of polygamy.”57 Like Brewster’s faction, the Hedrickites de-emphasized the position of the church president: “It was not required at the commencement of the rise of the Church of Christ, of those who applied for membership that they should believe any particular person should be the President of the Church, they were only required to confess Christ.”58Along with W. W. Blair, Page first met with the Hedrickites in June 1857. Blair later recalled that Page’s differences with them at the time were substantial: “Mr. John E. Page denied the book of Doctrine and Covenants totally. He, Page, argued this publicly at this time. I argued and insisted upon taking all of them [the revelations]. The Hedrickites would take but part of them. John E. Page would have none of them.” Nevertheless, in November 1862 Page united with this group, though it is unclear whether he changed his views. The following May, he spoke at a church conference on the “importance of having the primitive order of Apostles and Elders as necessary offices in the church.” Due to Page’s ordination as an apostle in 1838, he was considered to be the member holding the highest priesthood office and was asked to ordain four others “to the office of Apostles,” one of whom was Granville Hedrick. At a conference the following July, Page nominated Hedrick to “preside over the High Priesthood.” After the conference gave its approval. Page ordained him to that position.59Although he accepted Hedrick as a spiritual leader. Page did not extend to him the deference he had previously offered to Smith and Strang. Despite publicly endorsing one of Hedrick’s revelations as divine, Page also opined that Hedrick could fall from grace “if he becomes as corrupt as his predecessor [Smith] did the latter part of his life: but we hope and pray for better things.” Nevertheless, Page concurred with Hedrick’s historical and theological framework concerning changes that had occurred in Mormonism since the time of Smith’s fall from grace. He wrote in the Truth Teller. “As far as Bro. Hedrick’s arguments are concerned, in reference to the revelations of Joseph Smith (the fallen prophet), they are irrefutable and conclusive. However grievous it is to bear, the church had too much confidence in their prophet, in believing that he could not fall, not noticing his ‘walk,’ whether or not he ‘walked in all holiness before the lord.'” In another issue, Page further explained why he felt that Smith lost the inspiration of heaven: “[H]e fell into corruption and was distracted with revenge on the Missourians, and became eagerly thirsty for civil and military power to execute that revenge; that he tolerated and humored men in anything and everything that was wicked and corrupt that would assist him to gain that power.”60 These passages illustrate Page’s animosity towards Joseph Smith by this time.61 Although he still considered the Book of Mormon and the fruits of Smith’s early career to be fundamental to his perception of religious truth, Page nonetheless maintained that the founding prophet he had once revered and followed was the culprit responsible for spoiling much of what was good in Mormonism.
Page’s religious life was a journey through several permutations of Mormonism. He ardently supported Joseph Smith, the twelve apostles led by Brigham Young, and James Strang; he endorsed James Colin Brewster and Granville Hedrick as God’s mouthpieces but with less enthusiasm. What is the basis for his shifting affiliations? If we accept the statement of the majority of the Nauvoo apostles, it is evident that Page was uncooperative and wallowed in self-pity. If we believe Page, we find a man who felt neglected and spiritually lost following the death of his spiritual mentor. After Smith was killed, Page spent the rest of his life trying to understand his commitment to Mormonism. Was having that spiritual mentor, the prophet, essential to Mormonism’s meaning? Or was the religion best understood by embracing an inner-directed faith? Upon becoming disillusioned with Strang, Page abandoned the idea of a prophet. In one respect, his own logic forced him into this position since he had previously supposed that Mormonism without Strang would be nothing. But it released Page from having to rely on others for his spiritual guidance. He would remain nominally affiliated with a few Mormon factions, but his spiritual compass henceforth pointed inward rather than outward.
One writer has argued that many who rejected the leadership of Brigham Young accepted his authority and parted ways because of “personal discouragement, disagreement with the specific actions of individuals or concerns over direction,” the difficulty and uncertainty of the westward trek, and serious misgivings concerning the doctrinal and temporal developments that Smith initiated in Nauvoo.62 While this analysis may assist us in partially understanding the plight of John E. Page and others, it does not fully account for the quandary that some of the Saints experienced as their prophet-centered religion seemed uncomfortably different. For those such as Page, Strang temporarily resolved these perplexities. When Page repudiated Strang, he became skeptical of anyone claiming to speak for God. Undoubtedly influenced by James Colin Brewster, Page came to endorse a simpler gospel that stressed adherence to the Book of Mormon as the central pillar of his faith.
1. Millennial Star 27 (18 Feb. 1865): 103; Joseph Smith [III] and Heman C. Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Lamoni, IA: Board of Publication of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1920), 2:780. The only other study of Page is William Shepard, “John E. Page: The Strang Years,” paper presented 26 Sept. 1998 to the annual meeting of the John Whitmer Historical Association, Lamoni, Iowa.
2. Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 24 Aug. 1835, microfilm, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; hereafter cited as Journal History.
3. Joseph Smith Jr., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols., 2d ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Published by the Church, 1951), 2:366, 491, hereafter cited as History of the Church; Samuel George Ellsworth, “A History of Mormon Missions in the United States and Canada, 1830-1860,” Ph.D. diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1951, 220-21; Millennial Star 27 (18 Feb. 1865): 103; Autumn Leaves 3 (Apr. 1890): 198; Larry C. Porter, “Beginnings of the Restoration: Canada, An ‘Effectual Door’ to the British Isles,” in V. Ben Bloxham et al., eds., Truth Will Prevail: The Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles, 1837-1987 (Salt Lake City: Published by the Church, 1987), 16-18; Richard E. Bennett, ‘”Plucking Not Planting’: Mormonism in Eastern Canada, 1830-1850,” in Brigham Y. Card et al., eds., The Mormon Presence in Canada (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1990), 23-24.
4. Journal History, 19, 23 Jan. 1838, 6 Feb. 1838; The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Published by the Church, 1977), sec. 118.
5. Millennial Star 27 (18 Feb. 1865): 103-104; Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), 235; Zion’s Reveille 2 (15 Apr. 1847): 55; John E. Page to Dear Sister in the Lord, 8 Dec. 1838, Archives and Manuscripts, Lee Library.
6. Elden J. Watson, ed.. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801-1844 (Salt Lake City: Smith Secretarial Service, 1968), 34-38; John E. Page to Joseph Smith, 1 Sept. 1841, Joseph Smith Papers, microfilm, Special Collections, Lee Library; Marvin Hill, “An Historical Study of the Life of Orson Hyde, Early Mormon Missionary and Apostle from 1805-1852,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1955, 43-52. Since Page is primarily known among Utah Mormons for not completing this mission, it is briefly recounted here.
7. Page to Smith, 1 Sept. 184:1; History of the Church, 4:583-85. Spelling and grammar in all of this essay’s quotations follow the original sources.
8. Times and Seasons 2 (15 Jan. 1841): 287.
9. Hill, “Orson Hyde,” 51.
10. Page to Smith, 1 Sept. 1841. This spite resurfaced in 1850 when Page reportedly spread rumors that Orson Hyde did not complete his mission to Jerusalem (Frontier Guardian, 1 May 1850. See also n27).
11. Journal History, 29 Nov. 1841, 30 Jan. 1842; David J. Whittaker, “Early Mormon Pamphleteering,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1982, 162-64; History of the Church, 4:341, 583-5; Joseph Smith to John E. Page, 9 Apr. 184, microfilm. Lee Library, original at New York Public Library. Although Page believed he had insufficient funds to take him overseas, George A. Smith and Benjamin Winchester disagreed (History of the Church, 4:372; Benjamin Winchester to Joseph Smith, 18 Sept. 1841, Joseph Smith Papers).
12. The Gospel Light 1 (Feb. 1844): 8; History of the Church, 5:392, 6:81-82, 369; Journal History, 17 Aug. 1843, 30 Oct. 1843; Willard Richards to Mary Page, 25 Nov. 1843, archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, hereafter referred to as LDS archives.
13. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps. and eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), 116; Millennial Star 27 (18 Feb. 1865): 104.
14. John E. Page to Joseph Smith, 8 Aug. 1842, Joseph Smith Papers. When Strang later accepted John C. Bennett into his church, Page expressed serious misgivings and questioned Bennett’s penitence (John E. Page to James J. Strang, 6 July 1846, microfilm, James J. Strang Manuscripts, Beinecke Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut).
15. John E. Page to Joseph Smith, 2 Mar. or 2 May 1843, Joseph Smith Papers; George T. Wallace to Joseph Smith, 30 Oct. 1843, cited in Journal History under this date.
16. History of the Church, 7:148; D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 143-263.
17. Dean C. Jesse, ed., “The John Taylor Nauvoo Journal,” BYU Studies 23 (Summer 1983): 15, 35n; D. Michael Quinn, “The Council of Fifty and Its Members, 1844-1945,” BYU Studies 20 (Winter 1980): 195; Quinn, Origins of Power, 567; Journal History, 29 Dec. 1844 to 12 July 1845, passim.
18. Justin E. Page to P. A. Watts, 16 Mar. 1936; Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, 20 Mar. 1936, 12 Sept. 1936, Wilford Poulson Papers, Archives and Manuscripts, Lee Library; Joseph F. Smith, Jr., Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage (Salt Lake City: The Deseret News, 1905), 59; Quinn, Origins of Power, 567.
19. Jesse, “John Taylor Nauvoo Journal,” n40; History of the Church, 7:541-44; Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, 27 Oct. 1934, Poulson Papers; Robert B. Flanders, Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965), 151-53; Journal History, 15 Sept. 1845 to 9 Feb. 1846, passim.
20. Roger Van Noord, King of Beaver Island: The Life and Assassination of James Jesse Strong (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 4-10, 33-37; Joseph Smith to James J. Strang, 18 June 1844, Strang Manuscripts. Dale Morgan, in his “Summary Description of the Strang Manuscripts,” also located in the Strang Manuscripts at Yale, discusses the authenticity of this “letter of appointment” and concludes that Smith neither wrote nor signed it.
21. Soon afterward, Joseph Smith’s brother William temporarily submitted to Strang’s leadership. See Voree Herald, Apr. 1846.
23. Robert B. Flanders, “The Mormons Who Did Not Go West: A Study of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” M.A. thesis, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1954, 21.
24. Ronald K. Esplin, “Joseph, Brigham, and the Twelve: A Succession of Continuity,” BYU Studies 21 (Summer 1981): 337.
25. History of the Church, 7:250. These statements were later used by Page and other dissenters to prove that the Brighamites lacked a prophet; e.g., Gospel Herald 3 (17 Aug. 1848): 92-93.
26. Elden Jay Watson, ed., Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1846-1847 (Salt Lake City: the editor, 1971), 31. Page was excommunicated from the LDS church on 27 June 1846; see Journal History under this date. Ezra T. Benson was chosen to fill his vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve.
27. Ibid., 62-63; John E. Page to James J. Strang, 12 Mar. 1846, Library Archives, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, Missouri, hereafter referred to as RLDS archives; Quinn, Origins of Power, 181. Within weeks of his Nauvoo departure, Page restated to the Voree High Council that he left Illinois in fear of his life. Almost ninety years later, Page’s son recounted his father’s frightful decampment and reiterated verbatim John’s testimony to the Voree council: “The order was given to ‘Box up the Sundial [Page’s well-known sobriquet] and send it down the river.'” The vaguely worded Voree council minutes suggest that Page believed Brigham Young and Orson Hyde authorized the threats. Hyde acknowledged that Page departed Nauvoo fearfully. Attached to a revelation of Hyde’s denouncing Strangism (published as a broadside, He That Hath Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear What the Spirit Saith unto the Churches [Nauvoo, 14 Mar. 1846]), Hyde noted to Young that he expected Page’s journey to Voree would circuitously avoid Nauvoo: “I send you the production which I have given to the Saints here. The contest here has been a hard one. Page and William Smith have been silenced, and last night, Page left the city with R. Miller on a flat boat for Keokuk. They will probably go to St. Louis and then up the Ill’s River, for Page dare not cross the country for fear of [two words illegible].” “Testimony Concerning Charges against the 12” (undated, probably early April 1846), Strang Manuscripts; Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, l July 1935, Poulson Papers; Orson Hyde to Brigham Young, 16 Mar. 1846, LDS archives.
28. “Chronicles of Voree,” microfilm, 64, Lee Library.
29. “Testimony Concerning Charges against the 12.”
30. Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, l July 1935, 6 May 1936, Poulson Papers; Joseph Smith [III] and Heman C. Smith, History of the Church, 2:781.
31. Voree Herald, Apr. 1846; Richard P. Howard, ed., The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1979), 30. These complaints were not unfounded. Some of the Twelve were among the wealthiest individuals in Nauvoo, while Page’s wealth was below the average for those not holding a general church office. However, the circumstances of William Smith, Lyman Wight, George A. Smith, and Orson Hyde were comparable to Page’s (D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy 1832-1932: An American Elite,” Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1976, 90-91). Regarding Page’s presumably unsuccessful efforts to have Nauvoo Mormons build him “a comfortable dwelling house,” see Nauvoo Neighbor, 16 July 1845.
Neither John nor Mary appear to have been enthusiastic polygamists, and their distaste for plural marriage may have influenced their decision to leave the Twelve. Well before his polygamous marriages, John, in his Slander Refuted (Pittsburgh, 1842, 16), republished the portion of the “Article on Marriage” from the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (sec. 101) that condemned polygamy. Though Page’s sister-in-law—possibly a plural wife—lived in his household as late as 1 February 1846, within two months Page testified against his former brethren regarding their “spiritual wifery”: “The rest of the Twelve then had good houses pleanty of means nurishment & maid servants” (“Testimony Concerning Charges against the 12”). Later he was decidedly opposed to plural marriage (Zion’s Reveille 2 [5 Aug. 1847]; 46-47; 2 [12 Aug. 1847]: 51; Gospel Herald 3 [7 Sept. 1848]: 115; Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, 11 June 1936, Poulson Papers), as was Mary, who blamed Brigham Young for its inauguration (Saints’ Herald 35 [13 Oct. 1888]: 655; Mary Page Eaton to Joseph F. Smith, May 1903, RLDS archives; Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, 21 Feb. 1935, 16 Mar, 1936, Poulson Papers; Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Life of Joseph F. Smith, Sixth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: The Deseret News Press, 1938], 238). Despite Page’s later disenchantment with Joseph Smith, he never publicly accused him of being a polygamist. See n50.
32. “Chronicles of Voree,” 76-77; Doctrine and Covenants (1977), sec. 43.
33. Zion’s Reveille 2 (15July 1847): 72; Gospel Herald 3 (31 Aug. 1848): 106.
34. Zion’s Reveille, Nov. 1846; 2 (22 Apr. 1847): 60.
35. Ibid. 2 (l June 1847): 63; 2 (8 July 1847): 66; 2 (7 Oct. 1847): 119.
36. Gospel Herald 2 (2 Dec. 1847): 167. Later, when Page was a Brewsterite, notices of his financial difficulties continued to find their way into print: The Olive Branch, or, Herald of Peace and Truth to All Saints 2 (Jan. 1850): 104; 2 (June 1850): 186; The Olive Branch, or Messenger of Good Tidings to the Meek 3 (Apr. 1851): 133; 3 (June 1851): 175; 4 (Sept. 1851): 31; 4 (Oct. 1851): 40. Both titles hereafter cited as Olive Branch.37. Zion’s Reveille 2 (15July 1847): 71; Gospel Herald 3 (10 Aug. 1848): 83.
38. Gospel Herald 4 (5 July 1849): 73; 2 (17 Feb. 1848): 233; 3 (24 Aug. 1848): 103; 2 (25 Nov. 1847): 153; 3 (19 Oct. 1848): 155; 3 (20 Apr. 1848): 325. At his church membership trial, Page was charged with failing to complete missions “when means had frequently been given him to defray his expenses” (Ibid. 4 [2 Aug. 1849]: 99). See also Shepard, “Page: The Strang Years.”
39. “Chronicles of Voree,” 189, 191; John W. Archer vs. James J. Strang and John Cole, Walworth County, Wisconsin, Justice of the Peace Court (1849), manuscript at Lee Library.
40. “Chronicles of Voree,” 189; Gospel Herald 4 (5 July 1849): 75; 4 (2 Aug. 1849): 99.
41. “Objections to points of doctrine taught by J. J. Strang,” signed by John E. Page, dated 26 Aug. 1849, Strang Manuscripts. The following appears on this document in different handwriting: “Despite Page’s 3d objection, in Voree Herald of June 29, 1848, he has a long letter of praise for the Order of Enoch and its perpetuity.”
42. Gilbert Watson to James J. Strang, 11 Feb. 1850, Strang Manuscripts; John Quist, “Polygamy among James Strang and His Followers,” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 9 (1989): 31-48; Van Noord, King of Beaver Island, 79-91. Strang secretly married Elvira Field on 13 July 1849, and she accompanied him to the east the following winter in her disguise as Charles J. Douglass, a male secretary. There is no evidence to suggest that Page left Strang because of polygamy since Page apostatized before Strang’s polygamous marriage.
43. E. J. Moore to Samuel Graham, 6 Oct. 1849; Ebenezer Page to James J. Strang, 7 Mar. 1850, Strang Manuscripts. See also Shepard, “Page: The Strang Years.”
44. Page did not entirely reject communitarianism; he later explained that the members of the church in Joseph Smith’s time had fallen into transgression by their selfishness, lust after worldly pursuits, and because their economic affairs had “neither system, order, or regulation about it, but all was left to do as they listed, right or wrong.” He felt that Mormons would ideally be “fully willing in heart (not by constraint) to be equal with their brethren in temporal things” (Olive Branch 3 June 1851]: 169-71; 4 [Oct. 1851]: 39-40; Saints’ Herald 3 [July 1862]: 20-21; Truth Teller 1 [Nov. 1864]: 80).
45. Olive Branch 2 (Nov. 1849): 79.
46. Dale L. Morgan, “A Bibliography of the Churches of the Dispersion,” Western Humanities Review 7 (Summer 1953): 113-14, 141-44; Dan Vogel, “James Colin Brewster: The Boy Prophet Who Challenged Mormon Authority,” in Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher, eds., Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 120-39.
47. Olive Branch 2 (Dec. 1849): 89-93; 2 (Apr. 1850): 151. Brewster was not the first Mormon to declare Smith to be a “fallen prophet.” There were some who held to variations of this view in Kirtland in the 1830s and, with the publication of the Nauvoo Expositor, in Nauvoo in the 1840s. The most renowned work expressing this outlook is David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO, 1887). In connection with the Kirtland episode, see Marvin S. Hill, “Cultural Crisis in the Mormon Kingdom: A Reconsideration of the Causes of Kirtland Dissent,” Church History 49 (Sept. 1980): 286-97. The Kirtland apostasies did not significantly affect Page since he was serving a mission in Canada at the time.
48. Olive Branch 2 (Apr. 1850): 151.
49. Ibid., 155.
50. Ibid. 2 (Feb. 1850): 113-14; 3 (Feb. 1851): 96; 3 (Nov. 1850): 60; 3 (May 1851): 155; “Chronicles of Voree,” 172-73; Zion’s Reveille 2 (15 July 1847): 69; Gospel Light I (May 1843): 1-4, 1 (Feb. 1844): 5-8, 1 (May 1844): 9-10; Truth Teller I (Nov. 1864): 80. While a Strangite, Page believed that Joseph Smith was killed because he had fallen into error. Instead of disclosing what Smith’s errors were. Page declared that the prophet fulfilled his stewardship by appointing Strang as his successor (Gospel Herald 3 [17 Aug. 1848]: 92).
51. Olive Branch 4 (Jan. 1852): 88-90.
52. Morgan, “A Bibliography of the Churches of the Dispersion,” 113-14; Vogel, “James Colin Brewster,” 131-33.
53. Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, 3 Sept. 1934, Poulson Papers.
54. William Marks to James M. Adams, 11 June 1855, cited in Journal of History (Lamoni, IA) 1 (Jan. 1908): 26. Marks had likewise become disillusioned with the prophetic pretensions of Strang and Charles B. Thompson, and during the mid-1850s, he concluded that prophets were no longer an essential facet of Mormonism: “I can see no more that can have any favorable claims to come out to be a prophet. … Don’t believe in any church organization. Teach the pure principles of the gospel, and every man stand or fall. Be his own master” (Marks to James M. Adams, 20 May 1855, as published in Inez Smith Davis, The Story of the Church, 3rd ed. [Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1943], 376; Roger D. Launius, “William Marks and the Restoration,” Saints’ Herald 126 June 1979]: 226-27. Cf. Zenas Gurley in Saints’ Herald 1 [Jan. I860]: 23, and Noah Young in Olive Branch 3 [Oct. 1850]: 38-9).
55. Frederick B. Blair, ed., The Memoirs of President W. W. Blair (Lamoni, IA: Herald Publishing House, 1908), 6-7. Page may have also been associated with the Zadock Brooks movement in the late 1850s; see Howard, Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III, 152, 191; Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, 6 Jan. 1935, Poulson Papers.
56. Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, 1 Dec. 1934, Poulson Papers. In 1864 Page remembered that he had been asked to be “president … of a certain organization … ‘until the lineal heir should come forward and claim that position!’ … [I]t caused a flush of disgust to cover me. … [S]hall we submit to a principle … that will bind us … to an eternal despotism liable to be more cruel than any of the monarchs of Europe?” Truth Teller 1 (Nov. 1864): 80. For other instances of Page’s disbelief in “lineal priesthood,” see Saints’ Herald 1 (Apr. I860): 81-85 and Gospel Herald 3 (31 Aug. 1848): 106.
57. “Crow Creek Record,” typescript located at Church of Christ (Temple Lot), Independence, Missouri; B. C. Flint, An Outline History of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) (Independence, MO: The Board of Publications, The Church of Christ), 98-103; Truth Teller 1 (July 1864): 14. Hedrick was baptized a Mormon in 1843 at Crow Creek, Illinois.
58. Truth Teller 1 (Oct. 1864): 62-63.
59. “Crow Creek Record,” 2, 6, 7; Complainant’s Abstract of Pleading and Evidence … The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Complainant, vs. the Church of Christ at Independence, Missouri … (Lamoni, IA, 1893), 137. Mary Page remembers that her husband was in Bloomington, Illinois, for four months in 1863 while he was helping to organize the Hedrickite church (Joseph Smith [III] and Heman C. Smith, History of the Church, 2:782).
60. Truth Teller 1 (Sept. 1864): 41; 1 (July 1864): 6; 1 (Nov. 1864): 80.
61. According to Mary Page, her husband became dissatisfied with the Hedrickites shortly before his death on 14 October 1867, and he asked John Landers, a convert from his 1830s mission to Canada and a member of the Reorganization, to preach his funeral sermon. Whether Page was actually unhappy with the Hedrickites may be questioned since Mary was never in full accord with that body and leaned toward the Reorganization before John’s death. After his death, she remarried another Hedrickite, William Eaton, and they moved to Independence, Missouri. She eventually united with the Reorganized Church (Joseph Smith [III] and Heman Smith, History of the Church, 2:782; Justin E. Page to Wilford Poulson, 1 Dec. 1934, Poulson Papers).
62. Esplin, “Joseph, Brigham and the Twelve,” 337.