excerpt – The William E. McLellin Papers

Mattie and John Traughber with childrenGeorge D. Smith

William Earl McLellin’s writings document aspects of a community of believers that coalesced around Joseph Smith in nineteenth-century America, showing the church’s place in its historical context. McLellin’s notebooks and letters portray the Mormons from their inception in the 1830s up to the 1880s when they began to evolve from a mystical Christian offshoot into a modern world church. In the twenty-first century, his perspective provides a marker for comparing that bygone spiritualist movement with a church much less isolated from competing faith ideas and society’s widespread skepticism.

McLellin’s name became prominent in 1983-86 through the forger Mark W. Hofmann. When Hofmann invented a phantom “McLellin Collection” based on historical references, portions of the apostle’s writings were found to reside in LDS archives. Some of these were published by the University of Illinois Press and BYU Studies thirteen years ago. Now other portions of the collection—including additional material at LDS archives and documents housed at the Marriott Library and Community of Christ archives—become available for the first time.

One of the original twelve apostles of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, as Mormons then presented themselves, McLellin advocated the genuine antiquity of the Book of Mormon. However, when questions emerged in 1837 Kirtland, Ohio, about founder Joseph Smith’s connection to a live-in housekeeper, Fanny Alger, then issues of money and control of property, divided church leadership, McLellin criticized his once-beloved leader. Most pointedly, he questioned additions to an 1831 revelation regarding a second priesthood. A year after this dispute, McLellin was tried and excommunicated along with fellow stalwarts

Oliver Cowdery, Apostles Luke and Lyman Johnson, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and in 1839 William W. Phelps and Frederick G. Williams, all of whom had joined in the dissent against Joseph Smith.

Yet even after the prophet’s death in 1844, McLellin remained close to the Smith family. It was McLellin whom the prophet’s primary wife, Emma Smith, had told in Kirtland of seeing her husband, through a barn door, positioned on a hay mow with a young servant girl. McLellin recalls the struggle within the Smith family as Frederick Williams and others encouraged Joseph to offer a public apology. McLellin later related these incidents to the prophet’s son, Joseph Smith III. An apostle at the time Joseph Jr. was offering new revelation to the church, McLellin was able to record early LDS events as an eyewitness, in their cultural context.

His treatises on many aspects of religion offer a fascinating glimpse into his struggle to fit his own religious dogma within the confines of any established religion of his day. Furthermore, his notebooks and letters highlight his own evolving theology. Throughout, he cites flaws he felt were apparent in the various branches of the faith. Because he had left Joseph at an early juncture, his commentaries described Mormonism as he remembered it—as it was taught in the pre-Nauvoo era. His writings therefore offer an important perspective into the thinking of one who was with the church early on as both a leader and critic.


GEORGE D. SMITH is publisher and president of Signature Books, president of the Smith-Pettit Foundation which sponsors research into Mormon history, and a board member of the quarterly-journal, Kenyon Renew. Among his published works, he is the editor of An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton and the anthologies Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History and Religion, Feminism, and Freedom of’ Conscience: A Mormon/Humanist Dialogue.

Editor’s Preface

John Traughber was twenty years old in 1874-75 when he first met former LDS apostle William E. McLellin, who was sixty-eight at the time.1 Traughber had investigated and may have already joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and was intensely drawn to Mormon history.2 McLellin proved to be a trove of information about events that were fading into legend, providing the perspective of someone who, although a believer in early Mormonism, was not connected to any of the various Restoration groups.3 In Traughber’s eyes, the older man’s unique perspective of history and theology was invaluable.

Traughber lived on his family’s farm about fifty miles east of Independence, Missouri—close enough to pay an occasional visit to the McLellins, who lived at the Centerplace of Zion, but far enough away to make communication by mail more practical.4 Thus, some of their surviving correspondence provides a glimpse into the content of their extended conversations. Traughber wrote of McLellin: “I valued him much. He and I were true friends, yet for the last two years of his life we were as far apart in religion as the poles of the earth.”5

Possibly, McLellin was becoming more vocal in his criticism of the RLDS Church, even though his own wife, Emeline, would join the RLDS after William’s death.6 On the other hand, though Traughber may have defended the RLDS to McLellin, he had secretly become a skeptic, questioning not only the Reorganization and the Book of Mormon but also Christianity and the Bible.7 Still, he realized the importance of McLellin’s writing and memory. For a time, he considered editing a collection of McLellin’s papers or writing a biography of his one-time mentor.

McLellin died in 1883.8 The next year, Emeline moved to live with her son in Troy on the extreme eastern side of Missouri. In relocating, she began bequeathing her husband’s papers to Traughber, who had been a good friend of the family. Traughber’s inscription on the bottom of a page in a McLellin notebook reads: “I received this book from the Express Office at Norborne, Mo., Nov. 10, 1884. It was sent to me as a present by Mrs. Emeline McLellan now of Troy, Mo.”9

Traughber may have temporarily moved to the southern part of the state when he married in 1888, perhaps to be near his wife’s parents, as indicated by the fact that their first child was born in Taney County.10 However, the couple was soon back in the Norborne area, where their next three children were born. In late 1897 or early 1898, they embarked on an entirely new adventure, heading west as homesteaders in Texas-taking the McLellin memorabilia with them—first to the Houston area and later to the upstate town of Doucette, about fifty miles west of Louisiana. Coincidentally, a few years later Emeline relocated to Denison, Texas, about sixty miles north of Doucette, where she lived with her daughter. It is not known if the two families remained in contact.11

As time passed and Traughber lost enthusiasm for the documents he had safeguarded so long, he began looking for a buyer of the McLellin papers. He found an eager customer in LDS President Joseph F. Smith, who sent mission president Samuel O. Bennion to Texas in 1908 to meet with Traughber. Acting for the LDS Church, Bennion purchased McLellin’s missionary diaries, four notebooks, and a bound copy of the 1833 Book of Commandments for fifty dollars.12 When the items arrived in Salt Lake City, they were consigned to the First Presidency’s vault and eventually forgotten.

They may have remained so, but for a series of dramatic events eighty years later involving greed, blackmail, forgery, and murder. In the early 1980s, Mark Hofmann—later revealed to be both a forger and murderer–rose to fame for discovering early Mormon documents. Then on the morning of 15 October 1985, Steve Christensen and Kathleen Sheets were killed by pipe bombs in two separate locations. That afternoon Hofmann talked with LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks in his office about a long-lost “McLellin collection” Hofmann said he had found and would sell to the church. Later that month church leaders stated in a press conference that they did not have a McLellin collection. In a surprising development, the Salt Lake Tribune announced on Thanksgiving Day 1985 that McLellin’s papers had been found in Houston, Texas.

In March 1986, Dean C. Jessee, a member of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute at Brigham Young University, remembered seeing McLellin’s name in the church’s Joseph F. Smith collection and reported this information to the LDS Church Archives. A search was made, and finally another McLellin collection was found in the First Presidency’s vault. However, the LDS Church did not make this discovery known to police investigators. It was not until 1992 that the managing director of the LDS Historical Department, Richard Turley, announced that the church had discovered a collection of McLellin papers six years earlier.13

Lynn Packer, a member of the KSL television news team that covered the Hofmann story, pointed out some parallels between the 1908 and 1985 episodes:

Twice Mormon officials arbitrated receiving the McLellin papers, first in 1908 and again in 1985. Twice the church attempted to get the collection ahead of supposed church enemies … Twice a mission president would become involved in the deal. And twice fear of public censure and secrecy played a role in the outcome of the McLellin deals. Had the church, at any time between 1908 and 1985, made the McLellin collection available to even its own historians, Hofmann’s McLellin fraud would have ended before it began.14

McLellin’s early missionary diaries from 1831 to 1836 were published by Jan Shipps and John W. Welch in 1994.15 The editors explained why they decided to publish the diaries but not McLellin’s notebooks, also owned by the LDS Church: “His unfinished essays from the 1870s are held in the LDS Archives. We decided not to include these materials mainly because of their length, because of their late dates, and because some of them are derivative or not even original with McLellin.”16 Larry C. Porter’s biographical essay mentioned the notebooks in a footnote, but their contents were not otherwise utilized.17

In 1995 the University of Utah Marriott Library purchased from Traughber’s son three other McLellin notebooks that had come to light ten years earlier. The library soon decided to publish all the extant notebooks, which cover the period from 1854 to 1880. In the process of preparing a typescript of the six known notebooks—three at the LDS Archives and three at the University of Utah—it was discovered that a seventh notebook fragment was housed in the archives of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now the Community of Christ).

We also made a concerted effort to gather all of McLellin’s letters covering the same period, 1854-80. However, as editors we would be remiss if we did not express suspicion that a number of letters from McLellin to Joseph F. Smith in the late 1870s and early 1880s may still reside in the First Presidency’s vault. There are twelve letters of Smith to McLellin, 1878-83, extant in the LDS archives,18 so presumably the correspondence in the other direction exists but is unavailable to the public. We see in this collection (Letters 2 and 12) how McLellin wrote to Joseph Smith’s oldest son and namesake, speaking politely but forth-rightly about a number of issues such as polygamy. Likewise, it seems probable that in his letters to Joseph F. Smith, a son of Hyrum Smith, McLellin would have written just as frankly about serious topics. What we do not know is whether Joseph F. Smith may have destroyed the McLellin letters. It seems most likely that in purchasing McLellin’s diaries and notebooks in 1908, he would have filed the letters with the rest of the McLellin material in the vault.19


Notebook 1 consists of 140 pages and seven loose fragments. Four of these fragments were identified and attached to the appropriate pages before being encased in protective coverings. The remaining three fragments are together less than 1 cm2. All are in an acid-free folder containing Notebook 1. The inscription on the cover reads: “Chester, Geauga Co. Ohio. April 15. 1854. W. E. McLellin.” The date 1854 appears between the essays “On man, spiritual existences, influences and powers” and “Of Dispensations,” near the end of the notebook. The essay, “The call to the ministry,” is dated 10-11 March 1857. The notebook contains nine other essays, among which “The work of the Holy Spirit among men” contains an update made in 1871. The original is located in the John L. Traughber Collection at the J. Willard Marriott Library (MS 666).

Only a small portion of Notebook 2 is available. The original fragment itself is not extant, so one has to rely on glass-plate negatives of the cover which reads “W. E. McLellan’s Book Jan. 4th 1871” and two partial pages. These images were taken in the 1920s or 1930s by C. Edward Miller of the RLDS Church, evidently from the notebook then in the possession of William O. Robertson of Louisville, Kentucky. In 1929, Paul M. Hanson quoted from pages 166-67 of this particular notebook20 and added that it consisted of 264 pages and bore the date of 15January 1872. In the 1980s the photographs were transferred to safety film, and now paper copies are available at the Community of Christ Archives in Independence, Missouri (Miscellaneous Letters and Papers, P13, fd 2287). The Community of Christ has also donated copies to the Marriott Library (William E. McLellin Collection, Accession 1827).

The cover inscription to Notebook 3 reads: “W. E. McLellan, Jan 1877.” Another indication of the date is McLellin’s response to a sermon delivered in October 1876. There are four essays in this notebook. The original is in the Historical Department archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (William Earl McLellin Collection, MS 13538).21

Notebook 4, with the cover inscription, “The Bible. Queries respecting it In 1877,” is a 140-page document in two signatures, one 124 pages and the other 16 pages, consisting mainly of assorted verbatim quotations on various aspects of the Bible selected and transcribed by McLellin from sources available to him. The notebook is divided into two major parts. The first contains fourteen sections, often focusing on the Old Testament, and is titled “Who wrote the books of the Bible?” The second part contains seven sections having to do with the New Testament, similarly beginning with “Who were the writers of the books of the New Testament?” McLellin’s sources included Adam Clarke’s Commentary and Critical Notes on the Holy Bible, Ephraim Chambers’s Cyclopaedia, and commentaries by Charles Buck, Johann Jahn, John Kitto, and other unnamed authors. Only those portions for which there is a high degree of probability that McLellin himself was the author are included in this volume. We added Traughber’s comments and six-page essay as a concluding footnote. The original notebook is at LDS Archives (MS 13538).

Notebook 5, “Some of my thoughts in 1878. Why I am not an L. D. Saint of any click [clique] or party,” as McLellin wrote on the cover, contains two sections. The first, “Some principles and practices of the Church of Christ,” exists in two versions—one in this notebook and the other in the third part of Notebook 7. The original notebook is in LDS Archives (MS 13538).

McLellin’s title for Notebook 6 is “Some of my history and also about peep-stones.” Ironically, there is nothing in it of his personal history or about peep-stones, and we have therefore assigned it a title more indicative of the contents, “On Original Sin.” The notebook is a forty-page document, one signature in length, consisting of eleven essays. One of the eleven essays is untitled and has been assigned the designation “If a Person Exercises Faith,” drawn from the first line of the essay. Apparently “Faith,” located at the back of the notebook on page 40 and covering about three-fourths of the page, was the first essay written into the notebook. On the back of that page (manuscript page 39), an essay, “Aaronic Priesthood,” was begun and continued for only five lines before it was crossed out. Next, three sentences about faith based on Heb. 11:1 were written on manuscript page 11, then crossed out; about the same time a half-page essay, “If a Person Exercises Faith, “was written on manuscript page 10. Then the entire notebook was turned upside down and McLellin transcribed seven essays, using pages 1-10 for the first essay and pages 12-27 for the remaining six. These are all related to the writings of the Methodist Albert Taylor Bledsoe, editor of The Southern Review. There are at least three instances in which McLellin specifically mentions Bledsoe: (1) in reference to the latter’s essay on “Augustinism: Original Sin”; (2) in a note that reads “but A. T. Bledsoe writes” near the beginning of “Knowledge and free Agency”; and (3) in explaining near the end of “The Mind and Will” that “many extracts” of Bledsoe’s works were quoted. While sometimes McLellin quotes Bledsoe verbatim, other times he appears either to paraphrase or summarize or simply makes his own comments on the subject at hand. For this reason, all seven essays are included here. After these essays were written, McLellin added page numbers 1-27, for some reason omitting 19 and 25, then later in a new color of ink wrote an essay entitled “The Holy Ghost,” using pages 28-38. Lastly he wrote “Of Faith,” a revised version of the first essay “Faith,” using pages 38-40. The only date in the notebook is 15 August 1878 for “The Holy Ghost.” The original notebook is located in the Marriott Library (MS 666).

We have assigned the title, “Reasons Why I Am Not a ‘Mormon,'” to Notebook 7 from the first line, “I will here give some of the reasons why I am not (what is called.) a Mormon, or a Latter Day Saint of any of its various parties.” The notebook has three sections. The first, which McLellin left untitled, is devoted to the theme indicated, followed by two essays which McLellin did assign titles to: “Joseph Smith’s errors and wrongs” and “Some principles and practices of the church of Christ”—the latter summarizing much of what preceded it. The approximate date of 1880 is confirmed by McLellin’s reference to a September 1830 revelation to Oliver Cowdery: “Nearly fifty years have passed since that revelation was given.” The original notebook is located in the Marriott Library (MS 666).22


The first letter in this section, the only one from LDS Archives (MS 6237),23 is McLellin’s four-page epistle to LDS Apostle Orson Pratt, sent in April 1854. It is designated as Letter 1 due to the chronological arrangement of the present volume.

Of the twenty-six letters presented, eleven of which survive as holographs, nine reside in the Community of Christ Archives. Of these. Letter 2 from 1861, written to Joseph Smith III, was composed on a single sheet of paper, folded in two to make four pages (P13, fl37). McLellin again wrote to Joseph III in 1872, herein Letter 12, begun in July but not dated until September.24 Letter 4 contains no date but has been placed in the context of May 1869 according to internal evidence (12287).

Several letters are addressed to “dear friends,” including Letter 5, July 1869, composed on a single folded sheet (f 185), and Letter 7, February 1870, written on a smaller sheet, unfolded, for which the original lacks the bottom portion where the autograph would have been (fl91). Other mailings to “friends” include Letter 9 from October 1870 (fl98) and Letter 11 from February 1872 (fl98).

Letter 13 is to “Dear Mary, and all the friends,” August 1872 (f215), and is unsigned but is in McLellin’s handwriting. The letter was longer than the four existing pages; nevertheless, most of it was copied verbatim from the letter to Joseph III which McLellin was composing at the same time. In the top margin of the first page, someone added in pencil the words “McClellands letter to Aunt Mary.”

Letter 10 survives only in portions. It was originally sent to RLDS writer Isaac Sheen, then recopied in October 1871 to Mark H. Forscutt, assistant editor of the Reorganized Church’s True Latter Day Saints’ Herald. The Herald published it in four parts, which makes it possible to reproduce the full text here.25

Some of the letters were addressed to Latter-day Saint publications, or to third parties who submitted them for publication on McLellin’s behalf, and are available only in printed form. Letter 3, for instance, was published in The Truth-Teller, presumably addressed to its editor, Granville Hedrick, sometime in 1864.26 Hedrick prefaced it: “With pleasure we publish the following letter from Br. W. E. McClellan, who came into the Church in 1831, and was ordained one of the quorum of the twelve, by Joseph Smith.”

Similarly, Letter 6 to Davis H. Bays, November 1869, was published in the True Latter Day Saints’ Herald.27 The italics in the published version are assumed to have mirrored McLellin’s underlinings. Letter 8, May 1870, again to Bays, also appeared in the Herald28 and again has italics. Letter 20 to Thomas Fuller was written sometime in 1877. Fuller’s brother-in-law, Charles W. Lamb, extracted a portion of it in a letter to David Whitmer’s publication. The Return.29

No original exists for Letter 25, probably written sometime in 1878 or 1879. However, an extract was included in W. Wyl’s 1886 book. Mormon Portraits.30 Wyl published two other passages from McLellin’s letters,31 since located within the excerpts of letters McLellin sent to Traughber in December 1878 and January 1879. This allows us to make some tentative observations on the reliability of Wyl’s transcriptions. By comparing the two copies, we can see that Wyl was careful but did change punctuation and spelling, added italics for emphasis, and omitted some phrases and sentences without ellipses.

Excerpts of Letters 14-19 and 21-24 to John Traughber, written from 1875 to 1879, reside in the Marriott Library (MS 666, Bx 2, Fd 40). Traughber made partial copies in his thirteen-page summary, prefaced: “The following extracts are taken from letters which I received from the late Dr. William E. McLellan. Between the years 1875 and 1882 I corresponded a great deal with the Doctor, and received from him a great deal of information on the early history of Mormonism and the acts and doings of Joseph Smith and some of his principal men.”

Letter 26 was written to James T. Cobb in August 1880 and is found in the New York Public Library. Larry C. Porter previously printed the text in a historical journal and again in an LDS weekly newspaper insert.32


To better understand this collection, we solicited assistance from six scholars who have expertise in Mormon history and asked them to contribute interpretative essays. Together, the essays span the spectrum of opinion regarding McLellin’s life and writings and the significance of the current compilation.

Introducing readers to the protagonist is Richard P. Howard, Church Historian Emeritus of the Community of Christ. Howard gives a well-researched summary of the one-time apostle’s life. Borrowing a term used by another historian in describing McLellin, Howard titled his essay “Mormonism’s ‘Stormy Petrel.'” It is a slightly revised version of an essay Howard originally wrote in 1994.33 In it, he gives particular attention to how McLellin drifted in and out of almost every existing branch of Mormonism over the course of his life until he concluded that no church on earth represented the purity of the movement he had converted to in 1831.

Dawn House, a veteran reporter, editor, and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune, gives a fascinating autobiographical account in “Discovery of the McLellin Papers” of how she tracked down the real McLellin collection in Texas. She tells how it ended up in private hands and how Hoffmann had come to learn of its existence but not its location. House has been known since her journalism start in Provo for her ability to dig deeply into sources in covering important stories.

Thomas G. Alexander is an award-winning Professor Emeritus of History at Brigham Young University. He chose to explore the tendency to romanticize the past, to remember one’s youth with fondness and imagine great moments in history in idyllic settings. “The Past as Decline from a Golden Age: Early Mormonism’s Restorationist Tendency” cautions readers about this human flaw, the effect on the mind of a nostalgic yearning for a mythologized past.

Continuing this theme, D. Michael Quinn, former Professor of History at Brigham Young University, explores McLellin’s tendency to excise personal involvement in controversial historical events. Quinn suggests that to the degree McLellin’s reporting was incomplete, it should not be considered the last word or the end of the story. For his title’s essay, Quinn draws from McLellin’s own words: “‘My Eyes Were Holden in Those Days’: A Study of Selective Memory.”

John-Charles Duffy is a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He offers a fresh, contemporary perspective in his essay, “Reinventing McLellin: A Historiographical Review.” Duffy demonstrates how Mormons have reframed McLellin’s life and works over the years to portray him alternately as an apostate and traitor, fence-sitter, or a modern version of the Apostle Paul. Today, there are those who herald McLellin’s disclosure of how the story of Mormonism was rewritten in the late 1830s, while others emphasize the fact that McLellin never recanted his belief in the Book of Mormon.

William D. Russell, a Professor Emeritus of Social Studies at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, describes McLellin as a fundamentalist whose beliefs and practices did not change over time and who was incapable of accepting new doctrines, especially if they contradicted earlier teachings. In “Portrait of a “True Believer’ in Original Mormonism,” he empathizes with the apostle’s search for meaning, if not with McLellin’s obsession with perfection. Russell respects McLellin’s honesty, intellectual curiosity, and spirituality. Whatever else, McLellin was not the brooding, taciturn critic some have assumed. From what one can detect from his correspondence and historical incidents, McLellin appears more likely to have been a socially comfortable, engaging individual, although one for whom truth was the ultimate prize and integrity the most important personal trait.


We have retained the original spelling, capitalization, and apparent misspellings of proper names. Occasionally, minor punctuation problems have been silently corrected: “go to!.” is changed to “go to!” It is not always possible to determine if a capital or lowercase letter was intended. To distinguish between “planed” and “planned,” we present the latter as “plan[n]ed.” In some cases, we have printed a bracketed correct letter for an incorrect one—”o[n]” where McLellin wrote “or.” Other explanatory material is placed in square brackets, such as extrapolations of names and places identified by McLellin with initials and abbreviations.

We have inserted raised letters and interlinear words within the running line of text. In cases where it could be of interest to know which words were added at a later time, such information is given in the footnotes. Odd strokes that sometimes appear above or below certain letters are omitted.

Sometimes McLellin emphasized a word by writing it more vertically, with thicker ink strokes, represented in this volume by a bold face type. Elsewhere he emphasized words by underscoring them with a single, double, or triple line or by underscoring every other word, all of which we have standardized as single underlinings. We have also standardized long and short dashes to a constant length.

Crossed-out words are displayed with an overstrike; words written over erasures are given as: “they their.” If the underlying word is undecipherable, it is ignored.

We indicate page breaks in brackets as “[page 5:]” to indicate the break between pages 4 and 5. Absent a manuscript source, we have given the printed source’s pagination. Indented paragraphs were sometimes added to make the text easier to read.

McLellin’s penmanship included a descending ligature for words with a final g or s. He also sometimes added a curved line to indicate something approximating “and so on,” for which we have substituted a tilde (~) as a rough approximation. When McLellin opened but failed to close with quote marks, or vice versa, we have added them within brackets if obvious and otherwise left the text as is with that internal ambiguity. For omissions within long quotations, McLellin used plus signs + + + to function like modern ellipsis dots (…).

We have added the source for scriptural quotations within square brackets. If McLellin provided the source but his quotation was different in some way from the standard text, “[cf.]” alerts the reader to this. Citations of Latter-day Saint scriptures are given with both LDS and RLDS references: “LDS D&C 21:5; RLDS D&C 19:2b.”

Square brackets have been changed to parentheses to differentiate McLellin’s and Traughber’s punctuation from ours. A note explains this in each instance. If a word or words on a page cannot be deciphered, “[illegible]” appears. We have identified alterations and given our own editorial comments in numbered footnotes. We have used daggers for passages McLellin deleted or Traughber added, then placed the deleted or added copy at the bottom of the page with the footnotes, again designated by a dagger rather than an arabic number. Some of these annotations were written in a purple ink which bled through to the other side of the page, which is noted. Traughber’s comments on “McLellin’s ‘Ruins of Central America and Yucatan'” are presented in Appendix B.

As with the letters, we numbered the notebooks according to their relative chronological dates. If an essay lacked a title, we gave it a bracketed derivative title. For instance, a section of Notebook 5 begins: “I will tell some of the reasons why I do not believe in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.'” For this, we gave the tide as “Reasons Why I Do Not Believe in the Reorganized Church” and placed it in brackets so the reader knows it was our addition.


Mormons generally remember McLellin as a fair-weather Saint—one who was loyal until faced with hardship.34 The documents tell a different story of a stalwart who, on his many proselytizing missions, persevered through severe weather, sickness, and other obstacles in tattered clothes and worn boots needing repair.35 He and his companions begged free food and lodging because they traveled without purse or scrip.36 On one occasion he cut a hole in the ice to perform two baptisms, suffering a prolonged bout of diarrhea and lung congestion as a result.37 The next week, “Brother Joseph [Smith] came to my bed side and laid his hands upon me and prayed for me and I was healed.” Thereupon, McLellin arose, went out, and preached for an hour.38

He was called on his first mission in August 1831, a week after his baptism into the Church of Christ (later renamed the Church of the Latter Day Saints), only a month after hearing the Mormon missionaries.39 At first he held back, watching and learning from his companion, but when given the opportunity he surprised himself by his ability to speak and quickly became known as one of the new church’s most powerful orators.40 In his preaching, he conveyed an urgency and single-minded commitment to finding the pure in heart to “prepare to meet the Lord at his second coming which was nigh at hand.”41 This was typical for the period—the same message was repeatedly rehearsed in other Mormon sources.42 The Book of Mormon had been published the previous year. It was itself evidence of the approaching end of time,43 as were such gifts of the spirit as miracle healings and speaking in tongues.44

The world of Kirtland, Ohio, in the 1830s was far removed from anything Latter-day Saints today might find familiar. It would be another two decades before the core narratives of the church’s founding, basic theological teachings, and behavioral admonitions would be completed. In Kirtland, the membership was taught that God is “a personage of spirit,” not a deity with a physical body, as would become the doctrine in the 1840s.45 According to all available documentary evidence, no one in Kirtland had heard of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, and they would not know of it until it was publicly disclosed in 1840; in fact, the First Vision would not be incorporated into standard LDS teaching and discourse until the twentieth century.46 Even late in life, McLellin seems unaware of this vision narrative.47 For instance, he came to think it was wrong for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to have called themselves apostles because they were “witnesses of the true translation from the plates—the Book of Mormon; but not of Jesus Christ in any sense. … They could not be apostles of Jesus unless they had seen him.”48 McLellin added that “the Apostles of Christ at Jerusalem, and all his Disciples in America saw, heard, and felt, hence they could bear a firm witness and testimony that they most positively knew what they declared.

Did Smith & Cowdery thus know? They did not. They never in the early days of the church so professed or declared.”49

An interesting aspect of McLellin’s writings through 1880 is how closely they reflected the common beliefs of the LDS Church in the 1830s. The church moved on in a theological sense while he remained stationary, as if stuck in time. He professed that he had always been Trinitarian.50 He remained a believer in peep-stones and defended them as a biblicallv mandated means of revelation.51 He believed he had a “ministering angel” that would “occasionally speak to my mind and to my heart.”52 He continued to believe in prophetic dreams, that the windows of heaven remained open for each individual to receive personal revelation, as taught by the Book of Mormon, and not that one person alone held sole authority to communicate God’s will to His people.53 In his earliest notebook, McLellin discussed Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, writing: “We maintain that believers in the Lord can obey those precepts now, can obtain the gifts of the Spirit of God now, can rise as high in the knowledge of God now, as at any former period of time in this world’s history.” If people exercised these gifts, “then we would see more primitive order & saint-like holiness.”54

Further observations by McLellin may leave some contemporary Latter-day Saints bewildered. For instance, McLellin wrote: “I heard Joseph tell his experience of his ordination and the organization of the church, probably, more than twenty times, to persons who, near the rise of the church, wished to know and hear about it. I never heard of Moroni, John [the Baptist], or Peter, James, and John.”55 In fact, according to existing documentation, priesthood restoration by Jesus’ mentor and apostles was not known until 1835. In Kirtland it was generally assumed that angels were a different species from humans and unrelated to anything earthly. No one imagined that a human being could return to earth as an angel. Not only had McLellin never heard of such a thing, he found it distressing, first because there was no biblical precedent, and second because spirits were assumed to be naked, presenting an unseemly scene to his mind.56 It was an unnamed “holy angel” of glory that had directed Joseph Smith to the gold plates, McLellin maintained to his dying day, not a resurrected being.57 McLellin accepted the restoration of priesthood but not the accounts involving John the Baptist and three biblical apostles.58 It is interesting that in his early missionary diaries, McLellin’s choice of pronoun for an angel is “it,” not “he.”59

The goal of the present compilation is not to resolve questions surrounding the institutionalized founding narratives but to try to understand the Kirtland environment and the context in which McLellin wrote. Repeatedly, McLellin’s theological statements point to potential areas for additional research into the Kirtland religious environment. The under-explored question is what it may have meant to be a Mormon in the 1830s without a knowledge of the First Vision, the Angel Moroni, or priesthood restoration by angelic messengers.60

For Latter-day Saints today, the most visible image of Kirtland remains the House of the Lord, or temple. Just knowing that the edifice served a different function than modern LDS temples reminds one of a past age, and with neither cross nor angel atop the spire, it shows that the church had not yet settled on a symbol to communicate a break with the past and the expectation of Christ’s imminent return. To continue a metaphor, the LDS Church was like a train moving toward an undetermined destination; McLellin had disembarked, the train continued on, and McLellin found the progression disconcerting. He criticized the introduction of new material into the revelations that had been previously published, for instance.61 For future generations, these revisions would alter what it would mean to be Mormon.62 Just how far the LDS churches had moved from their origins over a half century is evident in McLellin’s correspondence with former colleagues such as Orson Pratt, with whom he struggled to find common ground.63

McLellin’s memories present an interesting challenge for researchers. He was ordained an apostle in 1835 and must have accepted that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had authority to give him such a commission. Where did he believe that authority came from? On what basis did McLellin accept this, given his later criticism of the church’s priesthood? He did not believe that John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John had conveyed authority to Smith and Cowdery, and he rejected the notion of two different priesthoods on the earth at the same time.64 Having denounced Smith’s and Cowdery’s self-designation as apostles, would this not imply a repudiation of McLellin’s previous ordination? He does not say. There is much he is silent on.

This does not materially change the reliability of McLellin’s central claims, which were that the church had revised its doctrines and history, making the current orthodoxy the result of theological development and the “traditional story” a revised version. These issues ought to be carefully scrutinized by future researchers to determine more precisely the nature of the Mormon experience of the 1830s. McLellin points the way to topics that might add much to our understanding of how Mormon history and theology seemed to evolve together.

Was McLellin a fanatic or simple seeker? The writers in this volume differ in answering this, most assuming that McLellin fell somewhere between sainthood and villainy. In spite of the variation, all agree that McLellin’s recollections are of historical value. Where McLellin does not give as much information as we would like, his omissions, particularly to avoid self-incrimination, seem to be due to pride rather than an intent to distort or exaggerate. His focus is on principles, as he understood them, not personalities. We encourage readers to make his writings a starting point in examining and comparing other eyewitness accounts of events in LDS history. Interpretation is always a matter of judgment. However, in terms of the evidence upon which our interpretations are based, McLellin’s contribution is an important part of the mix.


We extend our appreciation to George Smith for his encouragement throughout the course of this project and for his foreword, in which he deftly alerts readers to the significance of the McLellin collection and its miraculous discovery. Our appreciation also to Dick Howard, Dawn House, Tom Alexander, Mike Quinn, John-Charles Duffy, and Bill Russell for the background and context for understanding McLellin. Dorothy Mortensen proofread the notebooks, and her sharp eyes many times transformed a notation of “[illegible]” into McLellin’s intended word. H. Michael Marquardt shared his research on McLellin and donated photocopies of the Gospel Herald, New Hampshire Gazette, Voree Herald, and Zion’s Reveille to the McLellin Collection (Accn 1827) in the Marriott Library.

The New York Public Library gave permission to print McLellin’s 1880 letter to James T. Cobb. Ronald E. Romig of the Community of Christ Archives generously provided access to letters and a fragmentary notebook. Randall Dixon of the LDS Archives allowed us to examine the three original McLellin notebooks and the original of McLellin’s 1854 letter to Orson Pratt. Russell Taylor of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University provided a copy of Alvin Knisley’s Biographical Dictionary of the Latter Day Saints Ministry. Gregory C. Thompson, associate director of Special Collections at the Marriott Library, provided constant support, and Susan Brusik of the Marriott Library’s Interlibrary Loan Department acquired numerous books not available in Utah. James Tharp of the Mid-Continent Public Library of Independence, Missouri, provided us with biographical information on several historical figures, and Kirk Watson helped us compile the Biographical Notes. Larry W. Conrad supplied early sources on the RLDS belief in the plurality of Gods. Ed Voorhees gathered information on Elijah Banta. Steve Walters shared information on William Kinkade. Our greatest debt is to the direct descendants of William McLellin who kindly gave permission to publish his notebooks and letters–Kenneth L. Clark Jr. of Longview, Texas, and Betty dark Heller of Memphis, Tennessee. And lastly Patty Larson and Samantha Passey for their long-suffering patience throughout this project.



1. McLellin was born 18 January 1806 about fifty miles east of Nashville, Tennessee. For a short biography, see Richard P. Howard, “Mormonism’s ‘Stormy Petrel,'” in this volume. Traughber was born 23 November 1854 near Norbome, Missouri (John Logan Traughber Jr., “Records and Genealogies,” on-line at Carroll County Missouri Genealogy (www.rootsweb.com/ mocarrol/pioneers/traughberfamily.htm). Their correspondence began in March 1875 (see Letter 14, p. 500). Readers should know that although McLellin spelled his name variously as McClellan, McClellin, McLelin, McLellin, M’Lelin, M’Lellin, and McLellan, for consistency sake we give it as McLellin: see Letter 24, p. 518n.

2. Richard E. Turley Jr., “The Provenance of William E. McLellin’s Journals,” in The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836, eds. Jan Shipps and John W. Welch (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 257.

3. McLellin is presumed to have been excommunicated by a bishop’s court on 11 May 1838. Curiously, the record does not specify what action was taken (Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992], 2:240-41). Afterward, McLellin wandered from one Mormon sect to another, affiliating with Latter Day Saints who followed George M. Hinkle, William Law, Sidney Rigdon, James Strang, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Granville Hedrick before going his own way as an independent Mormon (Howard, “Stormy Petrel”; also Notebook 5, p. 323; Notebook 7, p. 379).

4. See Letter 4, p. 449; Letter 5, pp. 450-51; Letter 6, p. 455; Letter 24, p. 518n; Traughber, “Records and Genealogies,” Notebook 7, p. 422n.

5. Notebook 1, p. 189n.

6. See William D. Russell, “Portrait of a True Believer’ in Original Mormonism,” in this volume; also Turley, “Provenance,” 257.

7. In a short journal Traughber kept in 1885, he mentions attending the local Protestant church, adding that he “almost wept” when the minister “spoke from a humanitarian standpoint of the brotherhood of man; but his God and his Christ I cared nothing about.” Throughout the journal, Traughber invokes the angels’ protection; places some confidence in premonitions and dreams; and mentions correspondence with various RLDS members (]. L. Traughber, Jr., “A Journal Commencing May 3rd, 1885,” on-line at Carroll County Missouri Genealogy (www.rootsweb.com/~mocarrol/ pioneers/traughberjournal. him). See also “Dr. McLellan’s Change of Views” (Notebook l,p. 189n) and “On Inspired Books” (Notebook 4, pp. 320-22n), wherein Traughber confesses disbelief in both Christianity and Mormonism.

8. Larry C. Porter, “The Odyssey of William Earl McLellin: Man of Diversity, 1806-83,” in Shipps and Welch, Journals of McLellin, 355-57.

9. Notebook 4, p. 320n.

10. Traughber married Mattie E. Felkins on 1 January 1888. Their first child was born in the same place on April 24, but no year is given; their next child was born in Carroll County in March 1891 (Traughber, “Records and Genealogies”). See also Traughber’s inscription in Notebook 1, p. 189n, dated “Taney Co., Mo., Feb. 27 1889.” Of course, the Traughbers may have been visiting on these occasions.

11. Traughber, “Records and Genealogies”; compare Turley, “Provenance,” 257;Porter, “Odyssey of McLellin,” 358.

12. Samuel O. Bennion to Pres. Joseph F. Smith and Counselors, 12 Feb. 1908, in Central States Mission Historical Record, LR 1562/11, 1:224-29, Archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

13. Richard E. Turley Jr., Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 248-49. Three other books on Hofmann are Linda Sillitoe and Alien D. Roberts, Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988); Robert Lindsey, A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of Money, Murder, and Deceit (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988); and Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, The Mormon Murders: A True Story of Greed, Forgery, Deceit, and Death (New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988).

14. Lynn Packer, “Lost and Found,” Utah Holiday, Nov. 1992, 37.

15. Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds. The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836 (Provo and Urbana: BYU Studies and University of Illinois Press, 1994).

16. Ibid., xviii, xx.

17. Porter, “Odyssey of McLellin,” in Shipps and Welch, Journals of McLellin, 353, 376n324: “Although they are late-in-life reflections, the notes usually address topics that attracted McLellin’s attention almost half a century earlier. These materials sometimes advance views that differ from or contradict his earlier positions, but McLellin never acknowledges those differences.”

18. Ibid., 354.

19. On 24 September 2007, we asked Richard Turley for permission—not to see the contents of the First Presidency vault, but to consult an inventory of its contents. We have yet to receive a reply.

20. Hanson, “Unwavering Testimony,” Saints’ Herald, 9 Jan. 1929, 34-35.

21. At the end of Notebook 3, McLellin inserted ten pages of his manuscript copies of four revelations of Joseph Smith (D&C 22, 45, 65, 66: RLDS 20, 45, 65, 66), as well as the printed Maudslev engraving of Joseph Smith with Smith’s signature. The McLellin text of D&C 65 is printed in John W. Welch and Trevor Packer, “The Newly Found Manuscript of Doctrine and Covenants Section 65,” BYU Studies 33/2 (1993); 331-36, and a discussion of all four revelations is in Shipps and Welch, Journals of McLellin, 233-54. The McLellin texts provide more specific and more correct information. For instance, Section 22 (RLDS 20) was given on 16 April 1830, not just April 1830; D&C 65 was given on 30 October 1831, not just October 1831, and explained a verse of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10); D&C 66 was given on 29 October 1831 in Hiram, Ohio, not 25 October 1831 at Orange, Ohio.

22. There is an eighth McLellin notebook on the “Ruins of Central America and Yucatan,” located in LDS Archives, but since it is comprised entirely of extracted quotations from John L. Stephens’s book. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Capes, and Yucatan, it is not reproduced here. Traughber’s comments on it are given in Appendix B.

23. For McLellin’s published articles and letters from 1832 to 1849, see Appendix A.

24. In addition to the original at the Community of Christ Archives, a typescript is available in the Scott G. Kenney Collection, Ms 587, Bx 8, Ed 15, Marriott Library.

25. The True Latter Day Saints’ Herald, 1 Mar., l June, 15 July, 1 Aug. 1872, 153-55, 341-42, 435-37, 472-74.

26. The Truth Teller [Bloomington, 111.], Oct. 1864, 57-58.

27. True Saints’ Herald, 15 May 1870, 290-91.

28. Ibid., 15 Sept. 1870, 553-57.

29. The Return, Nov. 1890, 364.

30. W. Wyl, Mormon Portraits; or. The Truth about the Mormon Leaders/row 1830 to 1886 (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing, 1886), 295. “W. Wyl” was a pseudonym for Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal.

31. Ibid., 308-09.

32. Larry C. Porter, “William E. McLellan’s Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” Brigham Young University Studies 10 (Summer 1970): 485-87; “McLellin Expresses Feelings in Letter,” Church News insert, Deseret News, S Dec. 1985, 6, 10.

33. “William E. McLellin: ‘Mormonism’s Stormy Petrel,'” in Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History, ed. Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 76-101.

34. For a discussion of this view of McLellin, see John-Charles Duff)’, “Reinventing McLellin,” in this volume.

35. Shipps and Welch Journals of McLellin, 37, 44, 67, 112, 114, 123,140-41, 145-46, 149, 178, 184-85, 190, 193-95, 216, 219, 224-25.

36. Ibid., 63, 89-91, 98, 102, 122, 133, 183, 191-92.

37. Ibid., 66-67. McLellin adds that it was snowing during the baptism. Afterward, they repaired to a friendly non-member’s house where McLellin preached for an hour on the gift of the Holy Ghost.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid., 34; Porter, “Odyssey of McLellin,” 295-97.

40. Shipps and Welch, Journals of McLellin, 36, 41.

41. Ibid., 39, 42, 111. McLellin advised people to “flee to Zion [Independence, Missouri] and save their souls” (94) and regretted when “none proposed or offered themselves as candidates for Zion” (113). One entry reads: “I ex[h]orted them to obedience and unfolded the glories of heaven and of Zion until the Lord poured out his spirit in my heart till I ceased to ex[h]ort and I just shouted and praised the Lord and offered my hand to all to go with me to Zion” (65).

42. Grant Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 24-31.

43. Jan Shipps detects in McLellin’s diaries “the importance of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as a signal that the end was near”: “LDS preachers seem to have pointed … to [the Book of Mormon’s] coming forth as the opening event in the dispensation that was serving as the ‘winding-up scene’ before the curtain rose on the eschaton. The Book of Mormon was therefore presented as the ultimate sign of the times, indicating the Saints’ conviction that people in the United States in the 1830s were living at the end of time” (Shipps and Welch, Journals of McLellin, 3, 6).

44. McLellin recorded three episodes of speaking in tongues and several faith healings in a two-week period, 17-31 August 1834 (ibid., 134-38; see also 157, 176, 179, 191-92, 217, 219). For an 1877 reference, see Notebook 3, p. 272.

45. Doctrine and Covenants, 1835, 52-54. When the Doctrine and Covenants was first published, it was organized with the doctrine first and the covenants second. The first part was a catechism of official teachings in seven lectures, popularly known as the “Lectures on Faith.” The second part contained 102 revelations.

46. Of the ten known references to the First Vision in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, the earliest is from an 1832 ledger book in which Joseph wrote that in his “sixteenth year” he prayed for mercy, upon which a pillar of light rested upon him and he saw’ a vision of Jesus: “the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw’ the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee.” This brief account, which was not published, lacked the theological import of seeing t\\ o personages in bodily form. In any case, the first public disclosure of the vision was in Orson Pratt’s 1840 tract, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (Dean C. Jessee, “The Earliest Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” and James B. Alien and John W. Welch, “The Appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith in 1820,” in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844, eds. John W. Welch, with Erick B. Carlson [Provo and Salt Lake City: BYU” Press and Deseret Book, 2005], 1-75; compare R. Scott Lloyd, “A Genuine Vision: Scholars Have Rebutted Arguments from Naysayers, Church News, 26 May 2007, 7, 10). Summarizing the evidence, Jessee speculated that “should the foregoing historical sources pertaining to Joseph Smith’s First Vision seem sparse in some respects, those gaps are primarily the result of inadequate record keeping of his many conversations and discourses on the subject or related topics” (26). For the incorporation of the First Vision into LDS consciousness in the twentieth century, see Kathleen Flake’s chapter, “Re-Placing Memory,” in The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating a/Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 109-37, esp. 118.

47. However, McLellin does know of the new teaching that God has a physical body (Notebook 6, p. 367).

48. Notebook 7, p. 404.

49. Ibid., p. 424.

50. Notebook 6, pp. 369-73. His Trinitarianism was docetic rather than orthodox since he believed that Jesus became the Christ at his baptism (Notebook 1, pp. 179, 198). This could suggest a midpoint in the drift in LDS theology from the 1835 Lectures on Faith, which taught that “these three [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] are one,” to the 1843 “Items of instruction given by Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Ramus, Illinois”: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also” (LDS D&C 130).

51. Notebook 4, pp. 299-303.

52. Shipps and Welch, Journals of McLellin, 364n95: compare 92, 101-02.

53. McLellin wrote that “man has an interior sight, and when this inmost being becomes quickened and the mind and eyes opened to see, natural objects being lost to view, the man is said to be in a trance, or to see a vision,” adding that “almost all the prophets had visions from God” (Notebook 1, p. 208). “A vision is a supernatural representation of an object to a person when awake. It is seeing with the eyes of the mind. It is interior or spiritual sight. It is looking at things by the inner man” (Notebook 4, p. 299). These visions are nevertheless “as real… as if seen with the natural eyes” (Notebook 1, ms. p. 209).

54. Notebook 1, p. 165.

55. Letter 8, p. 462.

56. Notebook 5, p. 332; Notebook 7, pp. 386, 403-04, 413.

57. See Appendix D. It also seems significant that in Joseph Smith’s 1832 account, the angel refers to Moroni in third person: “… and it came to pass when I was seventeen years of age I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and… he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers” (in Dean C. Jessee, ed.. The Papers of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 8).

58. Shipps and Welch, Journals of McLellin, 29, 92; Letter 8, p. 462.

59. Shipps and Welch, Journals of McLellin, 79-80.

60. “The word priesthood is not found in the Book of Commandments, as far as printed in this city in 1833,” McLellin wrote (Letter 8, p. 473). Brian Q. Cannon speculates that “details regarding the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, including John the Baptist’s role in that event, however, were seldom if ever shared prior to 1832 ‘owing to a spirit of persecution,’ as Joseph Smith indicated in 1838.” Cannon’s date of 1832 embraces Joseph Smith’s 1832 reference to “reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministring of Aangels to adminster the letter of the Gospel” and Oliver Cowdery’s 1834 account, which nevertheless fail to mention John the Baptist or the three biblical apostles, the Aaronic priesthood or Melchizedek priesthood (“Seventy Contemporaneous Priesthood Restoration Documents,” in Welch and Carlson, eds., Opening the Heavens, 215-63).

61. Perhaps the most controversial change was the addition of more than 400 words in the middle of a sentence in Section 28 of the Book of Commandments. The original 1833 version read: “… for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you, on the earth, and with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.” The 1835 version (LDS D&C 27, RLDS D&C 26) read: “… for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with vou, on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto vou to reveal the Book of Mormon,.. .and also with Elias,… and also John the son of Zacharias, …which John I have sent unto you, my sen ants, Joseph Smith, jr. and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto this first priesthood which you have received, … and also Elijah, … and also, with Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham your fathers; … And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained vou and confirmed you to be apostles and especial witnesses of my name,… and also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world” (H. Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentate [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999], 72-73). The information about Peter, James, and John ordaining Smith and Cowderv to be apostles was new; a connection to the Melchizedek priesthood was still not explicit and would not be until Joseph Smith wrote in 1838-39 that John the Baptist had “acted under the direction of Peter, James, and John who held the keyes of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood he said would in due time be conferred on us,” published in the Times and. Seasons, Aug. 1842, 866.

62. McLellin wrote about the church publication committee assigned to revise the revelations, saying they “changed them so much that a man would scarcely know them to meet them in a brush-heap!” (Letter 22, pp. 510-11).

63. McLellin struggles in his response to Pratt, who had sent him a call to repentance. “Yours, bearing the Baltimore post-mark, of the 21st inst., lies before me,” McLellin wrote, “and I feel gratified at the earnest spirit, and warm manner in which your letter was written. It called to my mind afresh reminisances both pleasing and painful.” McLellin sends his love to Pratt’s first wife, Sarah, adding: “I well remember the night you immersed her in Lake Ontario” (Letter 1, pp. 433, 439). McLellin retains a polite tone of mannered civility, which is characteristic of all his letters.

64. Writing for his own Mormon separatist publication, Ensign of Liberty, in 1847, McLellin referred approvingly to Joseph Smith’s ordination by “the angel John, the Baptist,” and by “Peter and James and John” (quoted in Brian Q. Cannon, “Seventy Contemporaneous Priesthood Restoration Documents,” in Welch and Carlson, Opening the Heavens, 255-56; see also Shipps and Welch Journals of McLellin, 141, 181, 299, 335, 343). Perhaps this was the kind of imprecision McLellin had in mind when he admitted in 1875: “I wrote several letters that were published in the Herald … I admitted more then than I could conscientiously do now, after my own mature deliberations and investigations” (Letter 15, p. 501).

* * * * *

Chapter 5
Reinventing McLellin
A Historiographical Review

John-Charles Duffy

Historical literature on Mormon apostle William E. McLellin has been sparse, and much of what exists has been written only recently. The monumental bibliography Studies in Mormon History lists twenty relevant sources—a relatively small number—and the online update to the bibliography adds only two more entries after 1997. A little over half of this material was published after 1993; indeed half a dozen of the entries come from the 1994 volume in which BYU Studies and University of Illinois Press co-published McLellin’s missionary journals. Of the ten entries predating 1993, only a handful are centrally about McLellin; in the others, he plays a minor role.1

In short: Mormon historians have had little to say about William McLellin until recently. In the early 1990s, there was a minor surge of interest, a hefty portion of it connected with his missionary journals. The present volume, containing the apostle’s notebooks and letters, rides the same wave. Why this sudden interest in a formerly obscure figure from Mormonism’s early history? The answer: a confluence of developments affecting the LDS Church during the 1980s and 1990s that unexpectedly made McLellin’s life and writings useful for supporting various agendas of LDS officials, scholars, and intellectuals. Those developments include the Hofmann forgery/murder scandal of the mid-1980s, during which Hofmann claimed to have found McLellin’s long-lost journals; the serendipitous discovery of the real McLellin journals in the First Presidency vault the following year; the rise of a new form of LDS religiosity centered on Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon as a witness of Christ; concern on the part of Latter-day Saints to clarify that theirs is a Christian religion; the appearance of revisionist histories that placed occult practices at the center of Mormon origins; and much-publicized conflicts between some LDS scholars or “intellectuals” and the leadership of their church.

What relevance does this have to what we know about William McLellin? In fact, as Latter-day Saints promoted a more self-consciously Christian message, wrote critical reviews of histories of the occult in early Mormonism, and debated the place of intellectualism and dissent in the church, they found McLellin’s writings to be a convenient source for evidence of precedent for their positions. In the process, McLellin was reinvented—again and again. Before the 1990s, he had been a bit player in Mormon historiography, usually typecast in the role of an arrogant, vicious apostate. The surge of writing about him during the 1990s produced different versions of his life. For the publication of his missionary journals in 1994, he was reclaimed as an apostle whose ministry revealed the Christ-centered nature of Mormonism. Controversies over intellectualism and dissent in the church produced at least three more biographical versions, all corresponding to idealized or stereotypical portraits of intellectuals circulating through LDS discourse in the early 1990s: McLellin as an unfairly maligned intellectual who had used his scholastic gifts in the service of the church; as a brave dissenter who was committed to truth and opposed unjust ecclesiastical power; and as a tragically willful individual who embraced ambiguity to rationalize his unwillingness to obey God’s commandments. It remains to be seen whether future studies will break out of these three molds—McLellin as apostate, McLellin as Christian witness, and McLellin as intellectual—to pursue new directions in Mormon history.

“To Act the Part of Judas”: McLellin as Apostate

McLellin was a minor but vilified character in the historiography of early Mormonism until recent years. Although he was among the original Quorum of the Twelve, ordained in 1835, he was excommunicated three years later during the Missouri-Mormon war, one of the casualties in the purge of high-ranking, disaffected leaders that included Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. Because McLellin never returned to the church, he passed out of the sacred history as far as the Utah-based Saints were concerned. Following Joseph Smith’s death, McLellin briefly associated with movements led by Sidney Rigdon and David Whitmer, and he spent his final years in Independence, Missouri, suggesting that he retained some sense of connection to a Mormon community; but he died unaffiliated with any Mormon body.2

Two events dominated the standard narrative of McLellin’s life in early LDS literature. First, he played a role in events surrounding the revelation canonized as section 67 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In that revelation, received in response to a discussion of the language used in the revelations about to be published as the Book of Commandments, the Lord challenged church elders to write a revelation equal to Joseph Smith’s. McLellin, a schoolteacher by profession, accepted the challenge and failed. For a century and a half, this was the most oft-repeated story involving McLellin; it may still be today. McLellin’s second most-cited role in the foundational narrative, prior to the historiographical developments of the 1990s, was his participation in mob violence against the Saints during the Missouri-Mormon war. LDS histories reported that McLellin gloated over Joseph Smith and other leaders who had been arrested by Missouri troops and that McLellin requested the privilege of flogging Smith, then allegedly looted Smith’s home while the latter was incarcerated.

These representations of McLellin became enshrined in Mormon historiography during the latter half of the nineteenth century thanks to biographical sketches written by Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and Andrew Jenson.3 Repeated in church manuals and other publications over the years, this way of narrating McLellin’s life has been replicated as recently as 2001 in the brief biography that appeared in a BYU Religious Studies Center publication, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation.4 These biographies cast McLellin as an apostate, a stock role in Mormon imagination since Joseph Smith’s day. The apostate is characterized by arrogance, violence, and vice (often sexual)—the same qualities assigned to Mormons in nineteenth-century anti-Mormon polemics. In the Mormon imagination, apostasy is always a consequence of personal failing. Andrew Jenson, echoing Wilford Woodruff, explained McLellin’s excommunication in 1838 as a result of his having “quit praying and keeping the commandments of the Lord, and indulged himself in his sinful lusts.”5 George Q. Cannon attributed the apostasy of McLellin, Thomas B. Marsh, and others to their being “unable to bear the pressure and to face the terrors of the time,” which is to say the horrors of the Missouri war.6 Useful for slighting McLellin’s character was a passage in the Doctrine of Covenants instructing him to “commit not adultery—a temptation with which thou hast been troubled” (66:10). Also useful was an episode in which McLellin reportedly asked permission to fight Joseph Smith on condition that Smith be shackled or that McLellin be allowed to wield a club. Retellings of this incident served to depict McLellin as unscrupulous and cowardly.7

When McLellin is made to play the apostate, as in Cannon’s Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, his motivations in the episode involving the manufacture of a revelation are assumed to be “vanity and self-conceit.” Elder Cannon understood that section 67 was received because McLellin had presumed to “criticize” the language of the prophet’s revelations.8 (As we will see, this understanding was challenged by Professor Mark Grandstaff at the end of the twentieth century.) Understood in these terms, the imitation of divine revelation became a drama not unlike biblical confrontations between Moses and the priests of Pharaoh (Exod. 7-8) or Elijah and the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18). In those stories, God’s true prophets were challenged by competitors who tried unsuccessfully to work identical wonders. Likewise, McLellin “sacrilegiously essayed to write a commandment in rivalry of those [revelations] bestowed direct from God upon the church. But [McLellin] failed miserably in his audacious effort.”9 The revelation episode showed McLellin was “an apostate ‘from the beginning,’” arrogant in his learning, and a man “who allowed flaws in his personality and not in the church or its leaders to eventually lead him astray.”10 A Church News article asserted in 1992 that McLellin had exhibited “a proud and rebellious nature.”11

Narratives of McLellin-as-apostate contain echoes of additional scriptural stories. Grandstaff proposes that “the story of McLellin is typical of a genre which correlates dissent with biblical figures such as Satan, Cain, or Judas or with Book of Mormon characters such as Nehor and Korihor.”12 Elder Cannon, in fact, explicitly described McLellin as having conspired “to act the part of Judas against the prophet.” According to Cannon’s account, after Smith and other leaders had been arrested, McLellin “taunted them with their impending fate, declaring that there was no hope for them.” Possibly there is an echo here of the chief priests and soldiers who taunted Jesus before and during his crucifixion.13

A gentler variation on McLellin-as-apostate appeared in 1970 when Larry C. Porter wrote a short piece about the former apostle for the BYU Studies feature, “The Historian’s Corner.” Porter reproduced a letter McLellin had written in 1880 to James Cobb, a detractor who hoped McLellin would help him debunk the Book of Mormon. In this Cobb was disappointed: while McLellin had lost faith in Joseph Smith and all existing churches, he remained passionate in his conviction the Book of Mormon was divine.14 Porter thus invoked McLellin as a witness who retained his testimony of the Book of Mormon despite having parted ways over other issues. Latter-day Saints were already accustomed to citing to similar effect the testimonies of the Three Witnesses—Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer—all of whom had been excommunicated. McLellin’s apostasy was central to Porter’s representation of him. However, rather than condemn him, Porter used McLellin’s apostate status to lend greater force to the renegade’s unflagging testimony of the Book of Mormon.15 This partial rehabilitation of McLellin foreshadowed a more enthusiastic reclaiming of the lapsed apostle by LDS scholars in the early 1990s.

Judas Becomes Paul: McLellin as Christian Witness

In 1985, McLellin’s name was propelled from obscurity into the center of tragedy and scandal when Mark Hofmann claimed to have located boxes of materials McLellin had collected before his death.16 Among the items in the collection, the document dealer said, were the papyrus fragment containing Facsimile 2 from the Book of Abraham, an Emma Smith affidavit attesting that Joseph Smith’s First Vision had occurred in the context of discovering the Book of Mormon rather than in the sacred grove, and the only known copy of an unpublished revelation instructing Smith he could make a substantial amount of money by selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon in Canada, an expectation that proved untrue.

Like other fraudulent finds by Hofmann, the McLellin collection was reputed to contain documents that undermined canonical versions of LDS tradition. Several years before Hofmann’s supposed discovery of the McLellin material, Egyptologist Edward Ashment had theorized that Facsimile 2 was a typical funerary text imaginatively doctored by Smith; the alleged discovery of the original papyrus threatened to confirm Ashment’s theory.17 The Emma Smith affidavit promised to lend further credence to an argument already current among detractors and historical revisionists: that the canonical account of Joseph Smith’s First Vision was a self-serving elaboration of what had actually been a commonplace conversion experience. And the discovery of the Canadian copyright revelation was bound to throw the spotlight on an embarrassing failure in church history, inviting skepticism about whether Smith was actually directed by God. In addition, Hofmann reported that the collection contained journals written by McLellin during the early years of the church. Coming hard on the heels of Hofmann’s discovery of the so-called “salamander letter” and other documents tying the origins of Mormonism to Smith’s magical treasure-hunting practices, the discovery of the journals raised the specter of further uncomfortable revelations about early church history.

Steve Christensen, the businessman who had purchased the salamander letter from Hofmann, recognized the “potential damage which this material [the McLellin collection] would cause the Church,” according to his journal.18 Lacking funds to purchase the new material, Christensen brokered a meeting between Hofmann and LDS general authority Hugh Pinnock. Elder Pinnock in turn, after unsuccessfully petitioning Dallin H. Oaks for church funds to purchase the collection,19 facilitated a nearly $200,000 loan from Zions First National Bank. With the loan, Hofmann could purchase the collection and donate it to the church, just as Christensen had done with the salamander letter. According to the plan Pinnock helped put together, Hofmann would pay the bank loan with funds obtained from the sale of a rare piece of Americana to the Library of Congress. The plan unraveled when the Library of Congress realized the document Hofmann was pitching to them was a forgery. In a desperate bid to evade financial ruin or detection, Hofmann planted the pipe bombs that killed Christensen and Kathleen Sheets, wife of one of Christensen’s business associates. Hofmann himself was wounded by a third pipe bomb, a turn of events that led eventually to his exposure as a forger. Hofmann’s McLellin collection apparently never existed, not even as a forgery.

After the bombings brought McLellin into the news, but before Hofmann was known to be a forger, the church tried to limit the potential for damage. An LDS Church News headline within two weeks of the bombings informed readers bluntly that “McLellin Became Enemy of Church.” By implication, McLellin was such an unreliable witness—one with an axe to grind—that whatever challenges to church history his collection might raise should be viewed skeptically.20

Within a few years, however, Mormon scholars promoted an about-face regarding McLellin’s reliability as a historical witness. This reversal was the result of a dramatic and bona fide new documents discovery. In March 1986, employees of the church’s historical department, in the course of seeking information about McLellin in response to the Hofmann scandal, discovered that McLellin’s real journals were already in the First Presidency’s vault. Joseph F. Smith had authorized their purchase in 1908 from a former Mormon who had obtained them from McLellin’s widow. President Smith’s desire was to keep the journals out of “unfriendly hands”—the same concern Hofmann exploited eighty years later. Once in hand, the journals were locked away in the First Presidency vault and forgotten for three quarters of a century until researchers happened onto correspondence regarding the purchase.21

Although the journals were plainly relevant to the Hofmann prosecution, the church chose not to announce their existence for six years. In 1991 a course of action was agreed upon whereby the documents were released to LDS historian Richard Bushman at Columbia University and to friendly non-LDS historian Jan Shipps at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis. Shipps later explained that this was done to funnel media inquiries “to historians not connected with the LDS Church Historical Department.”22 Finally in October 1992, the Church News broke the story of the journals’ discovery.23 By then, Bushman and Shipps had confirmed the journals contained nothing startling. Moreover, Shipps had received permission from church leaders to publish a scholarly edition, which appeared in 1994, co-edited by Shipps and John Welch, founder of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and recently appointed editor of BYU Studies. The journals were jointly published by BYU Studies and the University of Illinois Press, the church retaining copyright.

The circumstances invite one to interpret publication of the journals as an attempt to save face after the Hofmann scandals—to show the church had nothing to hide and nothing to fear from its history. Shipps’s editorial introduction acknowledged frankly that when Hofmann claimed to have discovered McLellin’s journals, “many … expected—and some feared—that any contemporaneous documents in a collection of McLellin’s papers would … add to a perception of early Mormonism as a hotbed of occultism and hermetic hocus-pocus.”24

The real journals, felicitously, presented nothing of the kind. On the contrary, McLellin’s journals depicted Mormonism in a way Latter-day Saints at the end of the twentieth century would be inclined to find especially congenial. Shipps explained:

Instead, what these narratives from the 1830s depict is a struggling missionary band preaching not only a millennialist message that, to be sure, reflected the importance of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as a signal that the end was near, but also a message whose true anchor was nonetheless the Christian scriptures.… [The journals] are not significant because they either extend knowledge about or challenge early Mormonism’s radical and esoteric aspect; they do not speak to this side of the story at all. They are important because they point to an often overlooked (or summarily dismissed) part of the story of early Mormonism, i.e., the movement’s rootedness in Christianity and the extent to which its representatives preached the Mormon gospel within that familiar framework.25

In a word, the McLellin journals attested that Mormons were Christian. Contrary to widespread perceptions in the present, Mormonism fell within the “familiar” American Christian framework, its “true anchor” the Christian Bible. The Mormon religion was not, in its essence, “radical” or “esoteric.” To use an expression of Gordon B. Hinckley made famous by Newsweek, Mormons were not “weird.”26 John Welch made the point more directly than Shipps in his introductory essay: “These documents confirm that the early Mormon experience was not eccentric or aberrational, but was deeply rooted in the Bible, in the gospel of Jesus Christ …”27

The McLellin journals’ portrayal of early Mormonism as Christian was welcomed by twentieth-century Latter-day Saints because it coincided with their self-conscious emphasis on Christ-centeredness since the late 1970s. This emphasis was partly in reaction to an increase in anti-Mormon polemics by Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists who were alarmed by Mormonism’s increasing public profile outside the Intermountain West and concerned to clarify the boundaries between themselves and a people whose political and cultural values resembled their own but whose religious beliefs they deemed heretical. The film The God Makers was the premier example of this anti-Mormon revival.28

The rise in Christ-centered Mormon discourse after the 1970s was also connected to the popularity of a new form of LDS piety during the presidency of Ezra Taft Benson, a piety centered on the Book of Mormon as a witness of Jesus Christ and an invitation to experience his grace. Landmarks in the promotion of this piety included the addition of the subtitle “Another Witness of Jesus Christ” to the Book of Mormon; the summation of the church’s threefold mission as inviting all to come to Christ; Benson’s call to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon; the release of a new set of missionary discussions that emphasized Christian themes before teaching the LDS view of a general Christian apostasy; and the rehabilitation of the concept of grace for LDS audiences by BYU religious professor Stephen Robinson in his popular book, Believing Christ.29 When Shipps announced the McLellin journals revealed Mormonism, though built on faith in the Book of Mormon, was “nonetheless” Christian, she was in effect providing the Saints with historical precedent for the Christ-centered, Book of Mormon-focused piety that had emerged in the 1980s. She confirmed that this piety was a return to the movement’s roots rather than an innovation.

As a witness for the Christian essence of Mormonism, the McLellin journals were therefore useful to late twentieth-century LDS scholars who aimed to rebut histories that “exoticized” Mormonism by tracing its origins to occult traditions: magic, alchemy, hermeticism.30 During the 1980s the need to make sense of the salamander letter and related Hofmann forgeries had forced Mormon historians to investigate seriously for the first time Joseph Smith’s involvement in folk magic and treasure-digging. Even after Hofmann’s discoveries proved forgeries, historians had accumulated enough independent evidence of Smith’s magical activities such as seeking treasure with a peep stone that some accommodation had to be made for these non-canonical aspects of Smith’s early life.31 Still, Smith’s involvement with occult traditions remained uncomfortable for many Latter-day Saints. LDS scholars severely criticized two books published following the Hofmann scandal that emphasized the occult in early Mormonism to the point of making it central to the story: D. Michael Quinn’s Early Mormonism and the Magic World View and John L. Brooke’s The Refiner’s Fire.32 Brooke’s book was especially obnoxious to LDS critics because it bore the imprint of Cambridge University Press and won the prestigious Bancroft Prize for history. Reflecting on the controversy later, Shipps observed that “many LDS scholars seem to think the positive responses to Brooke’s work are latter-day expressions of prejudice against Mormonism, the academic equivalent of the accusation that Mormonism is a cult.”33 Quinn’s book appeared before the McLellin journals, but LDS reviewers of The Refiner’s Fire, including Richard Bushman and Philip Barlow, were able to cite the journals to argue that the faith of early Mormons was a variation on common primitivist or millenarian themes, not hermetic ones. These LDS scholars held up McLellin’s eyewitness account of Mormonism to show that Brooke’s reconstruction was a distortion.34

If McLellin’s journals were to be used to demonstrate the Christian, not esoteric, essence of Mormonism, then McLellin himself had to be rehabilitated. Remember that in 1985, to preempt the potentially embarrassing claims of Hofmann’s McLellin collection, the LDS Church News had cast doubt on McLellin’s reliability as a historical witness. Publication of the journals required LDS scholars to reverse that strategy: McLellin had to be reliable, at least during the period covered by the diaries (1831-36). Furthermore, McLellin’s preaching had to be taken as representative. This meant he had to be presented as a consummate insider to the faith community, not “an apostate ‘from the beginning,’” as the historiography up to this point had tended to cast him.35 McLellin’s status as apostate had to be downplayed in favor of his ministry as apostle.

John Welch undertook the task of reinventing McLellin in his introductory essay. The re-invention was dramatic: where Elder Cannon had compared McLellin to Judas, Welch hinted at a comparison to the apostle Paul. By titling his essay “The Acts of the Apostle William E. McLellin,” Welch linked the journals to the account of Paul’s missionary journeys in the New Testament. He drew enthusiastic parallels between the book of Acts and the Mormon communities and missionary activities described in McLellin’s writings. “Whatever implications or conclusions one may choose to draw from these points,” Welch wrote, “the parallels between the experiences reported in Acts and in the McLellin journals are extensive, pervasive, and illuminating.”36 The parallels he cited included a focus on faith, repentance, baptism, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost; the expectation of Christ’s imminent return; missionaries’ use of scriptural quotations to support their message; dramatic spiritual outpourings such as tongues, visions, and prophecy; and recurring experiences of persecution and adversity. Welch also underscored McLellin’s insistence that the Book of Mormon was an indispensable source text for preaching. Although Welch acknowledged that McLellin may have been unusual among Mormon missionaries in that regard, the apostle’s reliance on the Book of Mormon was noteworthy because it offered precedent for the centrality of the book during the Benson presidency.37

Jan Shipps, in her introductory essay, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in her guest foreword, described the journals as important because they offered a window into the religious environment of early nineteenth-century America.38 But this would not be the principal use LDS scholars would make of the journals. For most, McLellin’s journals were used to support efforts in the late twentieth century to assert that the Latter-day Saint movement was Christian. Impressed as Welch and others were by McLellin’s mission journeys, the more intriguing journey may be the historiographical one that had brought McLellin, by way of the Hofmann scandal, from perfidious apostate to a model for Mormonism’s Christian witness.

“Alternative Voices” and “Differing Visions”: McLellin as Intellectual

Around the same time Welch and other scholars were rehabilitating McLellin for the sake of attesting to the Christian essence of Mormonism, other authors were attempting to refurbish the former apostle’s reputation as an arrogant, dissenting intellectual. In a Dialogue article published in late 1993, Mark Grandstaff, a professor of history at BYU, argued that McLellin’s role in the revelation episode had been consistently misunderstood by LDS writers beginning with Wilford Woodruff in 1858. According to the telling made standard by Woodruff, Cannon, and Jenson, McLellin and other elders had criticized the language of the early revelations, leading the Lord to challenge them to do better. McLellin vainly accepted the challenge, the story went, but exposed his folly by his humiliating failure. Grandstaff argued that the historical evidence for this version of events was weak. Returning to the sources, he reconstructed the events surrounding section 67 of the Doctrine and Covenants and found the challenge to write a better revelation had not been prompted by criticism of Joseph Smith. Rather, it had been a response to uncertainty about what testimony could be affixed to the published revelations given that some of the elders, although not all, had received a specific spiritual witness that the revelations were divine. The challenge to produce an imitation came directly from the Lord as an offer of another form of witness: an empirical confirmation the revelations were produced by superhuman means. McLellin was presumed to be the most intellectually equipped of those present and was “duly appointed” to undertake the challenge—then duly failed, as the test required him to do.39

Grandstaff cited a number of general conference addresses and church teaching materials that over the years had used the revelation imitation as a cautionary tale against intellectualism and criticism of church leaders. A 1954 manual, Teachings of the Doctrine and Covenants, drew the moral that “the intellectual who discovers … mistakes in grammar must beware lest the finding leads him to undermine the sure word of God and result in a loss of his own faith.” A 1978 lesson incorporated the revelation episode under the subheading “The Critic’s Failure.” In the same year Grandstaff published his article, the adult Sunday school (Gospel Doctrine) class manual “cited D&C 67 and McLellin’s challenge of the revelations as proof” of Joseph Smith’s 1839 statement that “those who found fault with church leaders were on the ‘high road to apostasy.’ Moreover,” Grandstaff reported, “the text inferred that those ‘who question’ like McLellin could lose their ‘crown of eternal life.’”40

Grandstaff objected that this misrepresented McLellin’s actual role. McLellin was not a puffed up critic deflated by the Lord, as church literature depicted him. Rather, McLellin had used his intellectual gifts by church request to provide what was supposed to be empirical evidence of the authenticity of Smith’s revelations. “Those who desired to make McLellin into an example of criticism, irreverence, and apostasy may have done their history a great disservice,” Grandstaff complained. But there was more at stake here than historical accuracy. Painting McLellin as a dissident intellectual had deleterious consequences for intellectuals in the present-day church. “The McLellin story establishes a paradigm from which an intellectual’s dissatisfaction with the church or church leadership can be understood and rationalized by Mormon membership”—the paradigm being that the “one who questions … is a potential candidate for apostasy.” Grandstaff voiced protest over this stigmatizing of intellectuals: “It is time to stop fearing intellectual inquiry … Ultimately, only truth will set us free.”41

The BYU professor’s revision of the revelation episode appeared at a time of public conflict between general authorities, aligned with orthodox LDS scholars such as those associated with FARMS, and Mormon “intellectuals,” as they were typically called, who questioned received LDS doctrines and history or challenged church leadership on matters such as women and the priesthood, devotion to Mother in Heaven, homosexuality, ecclesiastical authority, and academic freedom at BYU. Specific points of contest included:

• Addresses by Elder Oaks during the late 1980s warning against “alternative voices” and forbidding criticism of church leaders, even if the criticism was true.42

• A public feud between Signature Books and writers associated with FARMS who accused Signature of producing apostate or anti-Mormon literature.43

• The questioning or disciplining of members who commented to the media on changes to the temple ceremonies in 1990.44

• A 1991 First Presidency statement urging members not to participate in symposia that injured the church; the Sunstone Symposium appeared to be the statement’s chief target.45

• The disfellowshipment or excommunication of six controversial LDS writers in the month of September 1993: Lavina Fielding Anderson, Avraham Gileadi, Maxine Hanks, D. Michael Quinn, Paul Toscano, and Lynne Kanavel Whitesides.46

• The firing of two BYU professors, Cecilia Konchar Farr and David Knowlton, whose writings or public statements on sensitive topics such as abortion, feminism, and the assassination of LDS missionaries in Latin America had angered some church leaders.47

This context lends urgency to Grandstaff’s plea that Latter-day Saints “stop fearing intellectual inquiry.” By challenging the long history of criticism of McLellin’s alleged dissent and intellectualism, Grandstaff was indirectly responding to attacks on Mormon intellectuals of the early 1990s. His article appeared in print, in fact, within months of the September 1993 excommunications.

Another work from the same period that aimed to redeem McLellin from the label “dissenter”—or at least to infuse that label with positive value—was the anthology Differing Visions, edited by Roger Launius and Linda Thatcher in 1994, a collection of essays on prominent Mormons who had reputations for dissent. The roll call of dissenters ran the whole span of Mormon history, from David Whitmer to Sonia Johnson.48 RLDS historian Richard P. Howard provided the anthology’s essay on McLellin (reprinted in this volume). In certain respects, Howard’s representation of McLellin followed patterns that Grandstaff had challenged.49 Like Mormon historians before him, Howard treated the revelation incident as a sign of McLellin’s arrogance and portrayed the apostle as someone whose character flaws had sowed the seeds of his apostasy from the beginning of his encounter with Mormonism. McLellin was “impulsive, opinionated, irritable, and controlling,” as well as “moody, blustery, self-absorbed beyond words to tell.” His first meetings with Joseph Smith “revealed a distance portending McLellin’s eventual separation from the church.” By the end of his life, McLellin’s “dissenting voice, although strident and at times boringly repetitious, had lost whatever appeal it might have had to open-minded investigators. He had become a crank.”50

Where Howard was not shy about portraying McLellin in a less flattering light, the editors of Differing Visions leaned toward hagiography in their views of dissenters. In their introduction, Launius and Thatcher cast dissent as a noble profession in the tradition of Anne Hutchinson. Indeed, Mormonism itself, they wrote, originated as a radical form of religious dissent. Mormons were therefore wrong to portray dissidents as “apostates, charlatans, or even psychopaths.” Many of the dissidents had been “honest seekers for religious truth” as well as “pluralists” who “decried what they perceived as an omnipresent pressure to conform.” They had protested “tyranny” and called on leaders “to function more democratically.”51 Launius and Thatcher named McLellin specifically as one of those whom historians had “characterized as misbegotten, woeful malcontents” with arguments that were “without foundation.” Vague aspersions cast on the character of the dissenters, according to the editors, avoided questions about the competency of “the church or its leadership.”52 The historiography on McLellin-as-apostate indeed matched this characterization, as we have seen. To a surprising extent, so did Howard’s essay for Differing Visions. Granted it was not as harsh as earlier polemical histories, still it followed the pattern the editors identified: interpreting apostasy as a consequence of McLellin’s character rather than as a just protest against unjust authority. Launius and Thatcher seemed to favor the latter interpretation.

A paper read at a 2001 symposium of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History indicated that at least one observer recognized—and objected to—Launius and Thatcher’s attempt to celebrate McLellin an intellectual. In his paper, Steven Harper, an editorial assistant for BYU Studies who helped prepare the McLellin journals for publication, recounted how, while working on the journals, he became preoccupied with understanding why McLellin was briefly excommunicated at the end of 1832, four years before his final break with the church. The quandary, Harper explained, was that McLellin’s behavior did not differ substantially from that of “many other Latter-day Saints for whom Joseph voiced no contempt and whose membership in the church was not questioned. What was going on?” The answer came to Harper in what he described as a sudden flash of insight as he was lying awake one night in 1993-94.53

Explaining his insight, Harper presented McLellin as someone who had relied on reason to an extent unusual among his coreligionists. Reliance on reason is not necessarily a fault: Harper noted the Lord himself had instructed McLellin to use reasoned evidence in his missionary preaching (D&C 66:7). But McLellin was also prone to “willfulness,” and that trait combined with his intellectualism proved a spiritual danger.54 When his mission became difficult, McLellin “rationalized” disobedience—abandoning his mission, taking a wife, moving to Independence on his own initiative and buying property there. McLellin “construct[ed] a rational case” for these actions despite having been specifically prohibited from doing so and despite his spiritual and empirical witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet.55 To resolve the “cognitive dissonance,” caused by having an undeniable testimony yet being unwilling to follow the prophet’s instructions, McLellin embraced “an ambiguous conviction” which let him “construct a conception of Joseph Smith ‘as a true prophet …’ yet allow for liberty to disregard such parts of the revelations as McLellin found unduly intrusive.”56 To support this, McLellin gathered evidence of Smith’s fallibility, such as the Canadian copyright revelation, and made counter-accusations of wrongdoing. It was these rationalizations, Harper concluded, for which McLellin merited excommunication.

Harper’s portrayal of McLellin reproduced stock images of intellectuals deployed by church leaders during the final decades of the twentieth century. During the general conference immediately following the high-profile excommunications of September 1993, Elder James E. Faust decried the “arrogance in thinking that any of us may be more spiritually intelligent, more learned, or more righteous than the Councils called to preside over us.”57 A few years earlier, in a much-discussed 1989 address, Elder Oaks had warned the Saints against “alternate voices” who rely on reason to criticize the church.58 In the same general confession in which Oaks delivered his “alternate voices” address, Glenn L. Pace warned against “inappropriate intellectualism” that “leads one to testify that he knows the gospel is true but believes the Brethren are just a little out of touch” to justify “selective obedience.”59 Two decades before that, Elder Boyd K. Packer had opined in his famous sermon, “The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect,” that a scholar who drew attention to the foibles of church leaders did so to “justify his own weaknesses.”60 The notion that critics of the church are in reality rationalizing their own faults has been a recurring theme in LDS discourse.61 Harper attributed to McLellin the same attributes or motives church leaders attributed to intellectuals and other critics: arrogance, a need to rationalize disobedience, and a selective testimony that professes to accept some teachings of church leaders while rejecting others.

The image of McLellin as dissenting intellectual was a variation on the image of McLellin as apostate; but in Harper’s hands, McLellin was treated less harshly than in the classic apostasy narratives of Woodruff, Cannon, and Jenson. Harper’s McLellin was more tragic than treasonous. Nor did Harper betray any hint of satisfaction at seeing a haughty intellectual brought low—there are no accusations of perfidy or seething about sacrilege. Harper aimed for a more balanced approach: McLellin, he wrote, “was both an apostle and an apostate and deserving at times of both descriptions.”62

Still, his account remained a cautionary tale against the dangers of intellectualism, written to counter Launius’s and Thatcher’s depiction of dissent as noble.63 Harper did not respond to Launius and Thatcher directly, but twice in the essay he took up the key phrase from their anthology—“differing visions”—in a way that subverted Launius’s and Thatcher’s positive valorization of the term. In Harper’s usage, “differing vision” became a synonym for rationalization, as when he wrote of McLellin: “His ‘differing vision’ had to justify chosen behaviors … while accommodating an ironclad conviction that the Book of Mormon was an authentic ancient scripture … No matter what the revelation said, McLellin was going to Zion, thinking of property, and choosing to marry.”64 At the level of subtext, Harper’s essay warned intellectuals along the same lines general authorities had during the period Harper was working on the McLellin journals. If Professor Welch turned McLellin from Judas into Paul, we could say Harper made McLellin over in the image of Paul Toscano. Or rather, Harper made McLellin over into a sympathetic but disapproving stereotype of Paul Toscano and other dissenters of the 1990s: the image of the wayward intellectual, a tragic figure brought down by pride and disobedience.

Conclusion: New Directions for McLellin Scholarship?

Until the 1980s-90s, Mormon histories relied on the stock image of the apostate in representations of William McLellin. He was presented as a Judas-like figure who had joined the Missouri mobs to wage war against the Saints. He had reveled in the prospect of Joseph Smith’s death at the hands of the Missouri militia, had pillaged Smith’s home, and was so base he sought permission to assault the prophet in an unfair fight. McLellin had also vaunted his intellectual capacities over Smith’s prophetic calling, leading him to criticize the language of the prophet’s revelations and imagine he could do better. As rendered in this historiographical strain, the revelation episode made McLellin an archetype of all presumptuous critics who exalt their education over the authority of church leaders and who, as surely as McLellin, would reap the shame they deserve.

During the 1990s, two new historiographical strains emerged, offering different renderings of McLellin for the Saints’ consideration. The discovery of the real McLellin journals in the aftermath of the Hofmann scandal prompted scholars to extend a posthumous hand of fellowship to McLellin, reclaiming him as an apostle, not just an apostate—as someone whose views, at least from 1831-36, represented the mainstream of Mormon religiosity. Latter-day Saints became interested in reclaiming the apostle once it became clear his journals could be employed to demonstrate (a) the church had nothing to fear from its history and (b) the occult elements of early Mormonism, which had received so much press following the Hofmann forgeries, were marginal to what was, in its essence, a Christian religion along familiar lines. The need to use McLellin for these purposes produced a spate of friendly portrayals, representing a marked departure from the polemics that had characterized previous LDS treatments of McLellin-as-apostate.

At the same time, those troubled by the church’s stigmatizing of intellectuals tried to rehabilitate McLellin’s reputation as an honest critic, especially in connection with the revelation episode. This reclaiming was part of a larger project in which Grandstaff, Launius, and Thatcher, among others, positively re-valorized intellectualism or dissent. An orthodox rejoinder by Steven Harper, published by BYU’s Smith Institute, interpreted McLellin’s character and motives in a way that reinforced official church rhetoric, reminding readers that intellectuals are people who rationalize their own disobedience. Harper’s McLellin was a softer variation on the image of McLellin as apostate.

Both strains of the new McLellin historiography of the 1990s—McLellin as witness to the Christian content of Mormonism and McLellin as an intellectual critic—were fused to questions about how to interpret Mormonism today. The journals were published to exorcize the sensationalism attached to the Mormon founding as a result of the Hofmann scandal. McLellin’s account of early Mormonism mattered to LDS scholars not only, or even primarily, for the light it cast on the past but for the support it lent in the present, to the Saints’ protests against being tarred as non-Christian cultists. Meanwhile, competing representations of McLellin-as-intellectual reflected late twentieth-century conflicts over intellectualism in the church. In short, McLellin’s life and writings have served the Saints not so much as a window on the past but as a mirror for present-day concerns. To shift metaphors: the historiography has been a fertile field where LDS writers can work out present-day issues and advance current agendas in the community of faith.

What alternative directions might there be for McLellin scholarship, especially now that a corpus of McLellin’s writings beyond his 1831-36 missionary journals is available in published form? McLellin studies of the 1990s focused on three questions, all familiar from other contexts: “Are Mormons Christian?” “Is there a place for critical questioning in the church?” and “What are the spiritual pitfalls of intellectualism?” There are other questions that can be posed, other historical projects to pursue. William G. Hartley, in an essay written to accompany the published journals, offered a catalogue of insights into early Mormon organization and practice he had gleaned from those documents.65 Shipps recognized the journals as a resource for studying LDS communities removed from the centers at Kirtland and Missouri where most historians have fixed their attention.66 I have already mentioned Shipps’s and Ulrich’s promotion of the religious marketplace of the early Republic. Students of American religious history often use the autobiography of Methodist circuit rider Peter Cartwright as a window onto the nineteenth-century religious landscape.67 In not so many words, Shipps and Ulrich proposed McLellin’s journals for the same purpose. Yet McLellin’s journals have not been used for that purpose, and the avenues for further historical inquiry signaled by Hartley, Shipps, and Ulrich have remained unexplored. The problem is that scholars of Mormonism—most of whom are still Mormons themselves—seem more interested in McLellin’s life and writings for addressing contemporary controversies affecting the LDS Church than in expanding knowledge of the Mormon or general American religious past.

Publication of McLellin’s letters and notebooks invites the sobering question: How will Mormon scholars and intellectuals use these new resources? If discussions continue to revolve around the themes that have dominated the historiography since the 1990s—intellectualism, dissent, Mormonism’s Christian content—then opportunities to open new channels for scholarship will be lost. So too if these documents do not advance beyond supporting what have become familiar, if still controversial, challenges to canonical LDS church history: for instance, regarding whether or not Joseph Smith invented the priesthood-restoration narratives to bolster his own authority during the Kirtland period.68

The current publication offers an opportunity to ask new questions that place the McLellin documents into larger contexts. McLellin’s persistent commitment, after separating from the church, to certain Book of Mormon teachings such as the necessity of spiritual gifts or the absurdity of infant damnation, makes his writings a useful source for thinking about: What doctrinal concepts most appealed to the first Mormon converts? How did Mormon teachings on those topics compare to teachings of other religious movements—that is, to what extent did these doctrines set Mormonism apart from its competitors in the religious marketplace? If we were to read McLellin’s doctrinal writings alongside treatises by writers in the various Mormon churches (LDS, RLDS, and so on), could we identify themes or concepts that constitute a Mormon tradition defined more broadly than by membership in a particular institution, just as certain themes or emphases constitute Wesleyan, Baptist, or Adventist traditions, each encompassing more than a single denomination?

As noted above, Jan Shipps proposed McLellin’s journals be used to develop a history of Mormonism beyond the gatherings at Kirtland and Independence to include communities on the periphery. Analogously, McLellin’s interactions with individuals in a number of different churches after Smith’s death, or with seekers waiting for a sign that the church ought to be re-instituted, invite us to construct a history that is more expansive than the history of one church. This would be an account of continuous interaction between different organizations descended from Joseph Smith, organizations whose histories are usually recounted separately, as well as interaction among Mormon-sympathetic seekers outside the rival churches. Such a history would accord with a turn among American religious historians away from institutional histories in favor of charting religious practices or “lived religion.” It would accord with contemporary historians’ interests in themes of contact, exchange, and boundary crossing. These recent trends have been slow to gain ground in the field of Mormon history.

Implicit in such historical projects would be yet another re-invention: McLellin as representing a kind of Mormon identity separate from institutional affiliation. Reinventing McLellin in this way would mean reinventing the way we do Mormon history, which itself would be a timely project at the beginning of the twenty-first century as Mormon studies has begun to find a home outside Mormon organizations. The publication of McLellin’s notebooks and letters can therefore be an occasion to imagine a new kind of Mormon historiography, one guided more by the research agendas of American religious historians than by controversies within and around the present-day LDS Church.


John-Charles Duffy is a William N. Reynolds Fellow pursuing doctoral work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is currently helping coordinate the American Religions Timeline Project. He has published on Mormon topics in the American Transcendental Quarterly, John Whitmer Historical Journal, Sunstone, and elsewhere and received honors from the Mormon History Association (Lester E. Bush Award for Best Thesis) and Dialogue Foundation (New Voices Award for New Writers). In addition, he has presented and critiqued papers related to Mormon History at meetings of the American Academy of Religion and American Society of Church History.


1. James B. Allen, Ronald W. Walker, and David J. Whittaker, Studies in Mormon History, 1830-1997: An Indexed Bibliography (Urbana and Provo: University of Illinois Press and BYU Smith Institute for LDS History, 2000); Studies in Mormon History, online at http://mormonhistory.byu.edu.

2. The most substantial McLellin biography to date is Larry C. Porter, “The Odyssey of William Earl McLellin: Man of Diversity, 1806-83,” in The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836, eds. Jan Shipps and John W. Welch (Provo and Urbana: BYU Studies and University of Illinois Press, 1994), 291-378.

3. Wilford Woodruff, “History of William McLellin,” Deseret News, May 12, 1858; George Q. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet (1888; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 127, 265, 271; Andrew Jenson, Historical Record 5 (Mar. 1886), 38-39. As Professor Grandstaff points out in his review of the revelation episode, Jenson’s sketch in the Historical Record largely copied Woodruff’s account, who in turn took his information from the manuscript copy of the yet unpublished History of the Church (Mark R. Grandstaff, “Having More Learning than Sense: William E. McLellin and the Book of Commandments Revisited,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26 [Winter 1993], 25-28). It may be apropos that Woodruff was called to the Twelve to fill a vacancy left by the excommunication of the group that included McLellin.

4. Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 2001), 355-57. Lawrence cites two sources for his information: the edition of McLellin’s journals edited by Shipps and Welch and an LDS Church News story published shortly after the Hofmann bombings headlined “McLellin Became Enemy of Church.”

5. Jenson, Historical Record, 39.

6. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, 265.

7. Jenson, Historical Record, 39.

8. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, 127.

9. Ibid.

10. Grandstaff, “More Learning than Sense,” 24, 26.

11. “Writings Shed Light on Church History,” LDS Church News, Oct. 24, 1992.

12. Grandstaff, “More Learning than Sense,” 45.

13. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, 265, 271.

14. McLellin’s letter to Cobb appears in this volume as Letter 26.

15. Larry C. Porter, “William E. McLellin’s Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10 (Summer 1970), 485-87; see also Porter, “Odyssey of McLellin,” 292.

16. My summary of these events is synthesized from Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts, Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), esp. ch. 14; Richard E. Turley, Jr., Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), esp. ch. 6.

17. Edward H. Ashment, “The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham: A Reappraisal,” Sunstone, Dec. 1979, 33-48.

18. Sillitoe and Roberts, Salamander, 326.

19. On Pinnock asking Oaks for church funds to purchase the collection and Oaks’s negative response, see Turley, Victims, 192.

20. “McLellin Became Enemy of Church,” LDS Church News, Oct. 27, 1985.

21. Richard E. Turley, Jr., “The Provenance of William E. McLellin’s Journals,” in Shipps and Welch, eds., Journals of McLellin, 257-61; Turley, Victims, 248-50.

22. Jan Shipps, “Another Side of Early Mormonism,” in Shipps and Welch, eds., Journals of McLellin, xiii.

23. “Writings Shed Light on Church History,” LDS Church News, Oct. 24, 1992.

24. Shipps, “Another Side,” 3.

25. Ibid., 3-4.

26. Kenneth L. Woodward, “A Mormon Moment,” Newsweek, Sept. 10, 2001, 48.

27. John W. Welch, “The Acts of the Apostle William E. McLellin,” in Shipps and Welch, ed., Journals of McLellin, 14.

28. Jan Shipps, Sojourner in the Promised Land (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 350-51.

29. See Boyd K. Packer, “Scriptures,” Ensign, Nov. 1982; “June Videoconference: ‘Accomplishing the Mission of the Church,’” Ensign, Sept. 1987; Ezra Taft Benson, “Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Nov. 1988; Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992). All Ensign articles were accessed online at www.lds.org. See John-Charles Duffy, “The New Missionary Discussions and the Future of Correlation,” Sunstone, Sept. 2005, 32-34.

30. John-Charles Duffy, “Clyde Forsberg’s Equal Rites and the Exoticizing of Mormonism,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 39 (Spring 2006): 4-34. My use of “occult” is consistent with Howard Kerr and Charles L. Crow, eds., The Occult in America: New Historical Perspectives (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983). Though eluding precise definition, “occult” encompasses hermetic traditions, magic, astrology, mesmerism, spiritism, and in the twentieth century parapsychology and UFOs. Not unexpectedly, LDS historians have preferred to use less negatively freighted terms such as “folk magic.” I use “occult” precisely to drive home the discomfort this subject causes many Latter-day Saints.

31. For examples of different ways LDS scholars try to absorb evidence of Smith’s occult activities with minimum disruption to the canonical narrative, see Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching,” Ronald W. Walker, “Joseph Smith: The Palmyra Seer,” BYU Studies 24 (Fall 1984, publication delayed until 1986): 489-560; 461-72; Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 69-76.

32. D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987); John L. Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994). For harsh comments from LDS critics, see Stephen E. Robinson in BYU Studies 27 (Fall 1987): 88-95; William A. Wilson in ibid., 96-104; William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton in BYU Studies 34 (Winter 1994): 167-81; Davis Bitton in ibid., 182-92; Hamblin, Peterson, and Mitton, “Mormon in the Fiery Furnace: Or Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge,” FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3-58.

33. Shipps, Sojourner in Promised Land, 205-06.

34. Richard Bushman, “The Mysteries of Mormonism,” Journal of the Early Republic 15 (1995): 501-08; Philip L. Barlow, “Decoding Mormonism,” Christian Century, 17 Jan. 1996, 52-55.

35. Grandstaff, “More Learning than Sense,” 24.

36. John W. Welch, “The Acts of the Apostle William E. McLellin,” in Shipps and Welch, eds., Journals of McLellin, 18.

37. Welch, “Acts of McLellin,” 19-22.

38. Shipps, “Another Side,” 4-5; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, foreword to Shipps and Welch, eds., Journals of McLellin, x-xi.

39. Grandstaff, “More Learning than Sense,” 23-48. The apt expression “duly appointed” comes from Professor Porter’s paraphrase of Grandstaff’s revisionist account, which Porter seems to find plausible. Porter, “Odyssey of McLellin,” 299-300.

40. Grandstaff, “More Learning than Sense,” 30-31.

41. Ibid., 45.

42. Dallin H. Oaks, “Criticism,” Ensign, Feb. 1987; Oaks, “Alternate Voices,” Ensign, May 1989.

43. Eugene England, “Healing and Making Peace in the World and the Church,” Sunstone, Dec. 1991, 38; Daniel C. Peterson, “Editor’s Introduction: Questions to Legal Answers,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 4 (1992): vii-lxxvi.

44. “Comments on Temple Changes Elicit Church Discipline,” Sunstone, June 1990, 59-61.

45. “Church Issues Statement on ‘Symposia,’” Sunstone, Oct. 1991, 58-59.

46. “Six Intellectuals Disciplined for Apostasy,” Sunstone, Nov. 1993, 65-73.

47. Bryan Waterman and Brian Kagel, The Lord’s University: Freedom and Authority at BYU (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), ch. 6.

48. Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher, eds., Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

49. In part, this may be due to Howard’s essay having been prepared before Grandstaff’s work was published: Howard’s notes cited neither Grandstaff’s 1993 Dialogue article nor the newly published McLellin journals.

50. Richard P. Howard, “William E. McLellin: ‘Mormonism’s Stormy Petrel,’” in Launius and Thatcher, eds., Differing Visions, 76, 78, 97.

51. Launius and Thatcher, eds., Differing Visions, 3, 7, 9-10.

52. Ibid., 13.

53. Steven C. Harper, “Drawing Lessons from a Life: William E. McLellin, 1831-1832,” Lives of the Saints: Writing Mormon Biography and Autobiography, ed. Jill Mulvay Derr (Provo: BYU Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, 2002), 77.

54. Ibid., 78-79.

55. Ibid., 81.

56. Ibid., 82.

57. James E. Faust, “Keeping Covenants and Honoring the Priesthood,” Ensign, Nov. 1993.

58. Oaks, “Alternate Voices.”

59. Glenn L. Pace, “Follow the Prophet,” Ensign, May 1989.

60. Boyd K. Packer, “The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” BYU Studies 21 (Summer 1981): 264-66.

61. For examples that bookend the period from the 1970s to the 2000s, see N. Eldon Tanner, “Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged,” Ensign, July 1972; Neal A. Maxwell, “Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been,” Ensign, May 2004.

62. Harper, “Drawing Lessons,” 77.

63. The didactic purpose of Harper’s essay is evident from the title: “Drawing Lessons from a Life.”

64. Ibid., 82.

65. William G. Hartley, “The McLellin Journals and Early Mormon History,” in Shipps and Welch, eds., Journals of McLellin, 263-289.

66. Shipps, “Another Side,” 7-9.

67. W. P. Strickland, ed., Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, the Backwoods Preacher (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1857).

68. See Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 224-25, for McLellin’s journals and correspondence cited to this end