New Book Traces Nine Defectors from the Original Twelve LDS Apostles
Salt Lake City—Two scholars of early Mormonism will speak at Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 29,2014 at 6:30 p.m., about nine of the original twelve Mormon apostles in 1835 who were expelled from the quorum. Some were excommunicated, six were never reinstated into the quorum, and two of the apostles never returned to the church at all.
Speaking are William Shepard of Wisconsin and H. Michael Marquardt of Utah, co-authors of Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism’s Original Quorum of Twelve.
“Gatherings like these are useful in building informal research networks,” says Michael Homer, local attorney and author of a recent study on Mormons and Freemasons entitled Joseph’s Temples. Director of the Kirtland Temple Visitors Center Ronald Romig, author of a forthcoming biography of a key early church figure, says “Marquardt and Shepard have long contributed important details to the history of the church and are generous with their research.” Romig is a member of the Midwestern branch of Mormonism, the Community of Christ.
Grant Palmer, author of An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, agrees, adding that “Shepard and Marquardt are the Dale Morgan of our times,” referring to respected Fellow of the Utah Historical Society of the 1960s and author of Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West, among other books.
Shepard leads a Mormon faction in Wisconsin, while Marquardt converted to the Utah church as a teenager growing up in San Francisco. Shepard’s ancestors followed James Strang who, like Brigham Young, claimed the right of succession after Joseph Smith’s death. Strang’s followers settled in Wisconsin and Michigan. Together, this pair of independent scholars brings complementary views in their study of the first Mormon Quorum of the Twelve founded in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1835.
The original church apostles were called as missionaries and, by revelation, were not intended as high leaders in overseeing the church at its Ohio headquarters. Despite their fierce commitment to Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Latter-day Saints, nine of the lost apostles were unable, either temporarily or permanently, to reconcile themselves to polygamy, the trouble with the Church Bank in Kirtland, or church-sponsored violence.
Some who temporarily left, such as Orson Pratt, are still known among Mormons simply because they returned. Pratt left after his wife Sarah told him Joseph Smith made advances toward her while Pratt was away serving a mission. Pratt was excommunicated for criticizing the Mormon prophet. Eventually he returned to his position and became a life-long defender of Smith’s system of plural marriage. Unlike Pratt, John F. Boynton, Lyman Johnson, Luke Johnson, William E. McLellin, and Thomas B. Marsh were excommunicated for disagreeing with Smith but would not return to the quorum. William Smith, the prophet’s brother, eventually found his way to the Reorganized LDS Church, while McLellin associated with several factions in succession, not being entirely satisfied with any of them.
The apostles who left, or were dismissed, are cited in Mormon Sunday school manuals as cautionary tales, most notably Thomas Marsh, who was opposed to the violence in Missouri. When he arrived in Utah in 1857 after suffering a stroke, his was denigrated by Brigham Young as unfit to take an additional wife. Marsh took a second wife in spite of Young’s comment.
Luke Johnson traveled to Utah, ending up in desolate Skull Valley where he lived among a rugged company that included outlaws. His brother Lyman Johnson stayed in the Midwest and became a successful attorney. Boynton became a celebrity in Manhattan—a wealthy inventor, speaker, and popular man about town. Embarrassed by his Mormon background, he tried to erase it from his personal history.
William Smith continued to exercise his impressive talents as a speaker, politician, missionary, and editor, but was more-or-less unstable. He was charged with inappropriate sexual encounters with his fifteen wives and other women. He became tangentially connected to a criminal gang in Nauvoo. The Mormon factions he joined in the Midwest initially banished him for his erratic behavior. Eventually he became happy and less impulsive in the RLDS Church.
“As is the case with other historical figures, their lives are not always models of virtue,” the authors explain, “which is not to say their accomplishments are wholly without merit. Some of these men were extraordinary, and the impressive features of their lives are distributed among all of them, not simply among those of a single faction or life direction.”