Mormonism: “The Big Con?” (pt 3: Marching to Zion & Fancying Fanny’s Fanny)

If you’ve been reading this series, you’ve probably noticed that I’m writing it around a sequential timeline. This post is going to be just a touch modified. There are so many mostly non-related events happening, that to keep it from being too confusing, I will do a little time bouncing here and there and clump the stories a bit.

 Mormon ChronologyCONTINUED

Elijah Abel

Elijah Abel (1808-1884)

In 1832, an African-American (Elijah Abel) is ordained into the Mormon priesthood. In fact, African-Americans hold the priesthood and church offices until Brigham (The Bigot) Young takes over and states “The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood.”   In the meantime, Mormonites welcome blacks into the congregation. (Hmmm….so B.D. & Joe have no problem with race, but B.D. & Brigham do? What’s up with that?  And all “black” people are being punished for some mythological murder about 300 generations ago and Big D just forgot about that little detail for 20 years? And how come it’s turned around again in 1978? Seems to me, there’s a hot steaming load of bovine bowel movement somewhere in the vicinity!)  

One major problem: Zion is in a “slave state” thanks to the Missouri Compromise. The church’s position doesn’t set too well with a lot of “nigger hatin'” Missouri red necks around Independence.  There are several raids throughout 1833. The church’s press is destroyed as are a number of homes. Finally, Zion has to be abandoned.

(11/7/1833) The saints “cross over Jordan” (Known locally as the Missouri River.) from Jackson Co. to Clay Co.

(5/6/1833) While the above was going on, Joe reports that B.D.’s been by to chat and has given him some building instructions: “And let the first lot on the south be consecrated unto me for the building of a house for the presidency, for the work of the presidency, in obtaining revelations; and for the work of the ministry of the presidency, in all things pertaining to the church and kingdom.” Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) 94:3 Kirtland TempleThus is born the Kirtland Temple. Construction takes about three years.


The Word of Wisdom

In The Religious Wrong (pt 3: The Great(?) Awakening), I explained that the 19th century religious revival was a major impetus behind the Temperance/Prohibition Movement. Here’s the Mormonite version:

As the story goes, Mrs Joe #1(*) gets tired of cleaning up the tobacco spit on the floor after Joe has the guys over for a confab, so she bitches (Now, there’s a sexist term.) about it to Joe. (*) I gave Emma a number, because by this time, according to several sources, there is a #2. Either that, or there’s some out-of-wedlock “ride the pony” goin’ on!  I’ll save the juicy details till the end of the episode. It’s kind of complicated, (sexual sagas usually are) and we’ve got a lot goin’ on this post.

(2/27/1833) The next time Big D drops by, Joe asks him about tobacco. B.D. tells Joe he doesn’t like people using his tobacco, and while he’s thinking about it, quit turning plants into booze, lay off the coffee beans and tea leaves and cut out meat-eating unless it’s cold or you’re starving. At least that’s Joe’s interpretation of what he said.

That kind of blows away Genesis 1:29-30:

29    And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30    And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I have given] every green herb  for meat: and it was so. 

(12/1833) Joe gets around to publishing what he calls the “Word of Wisdom” as a broadside 10 months later and in 1835 makes it an official section of the Doctrine & Covenants (D&C 89)

A loophole

A loophole

On the surface it seems like a healthier lifestyle. All-in-all, I don’t have a problem with it. What I do have a problem with is hypocrisy.

For instance, it’s used as an excuse to excommunicate David Whitmer. (More on that when we get to 1838.) However, it seems Joe is exempt from its observance.  (Prophets usually are.)

On one occasion, Joe finishes preaching a sermon on the WoW and then rides through town smoking a cigar. Gary Dean Guthrie, Joseph Smith As An Administrator p.161  Joe drinks beer Millennial Star, vol. 23, no. 45 p. 720 and wine History of the Church (January 1836), vol. 2, 369 In fact, Joe is reprimanded in 1838 for owning a saloon in Far West, MO Donald Q. Cannon, Lyndon W. Cook. Far West Record: Minutes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844, p. 191

In fairness to Joe, he’s not the only high authority that doesn’t think the rules apply to him. There’s way too many to list here, but suffice it to say that the “exemption” seems to continue for quite a spell. George Albert Smith, the “Prophet, Seer & Revelator” from May 1945 until April 1951, is known to imbibe brandy. (For medicinal purposes, don’t you know? cough, cough)


 We’re Marching to Zion

Meanwhile, back in MO, things aren’t going so well. Not satisfied with kicking the Mormonites out of “Zion”, the red necks want the “nigger lovers” out of the state.

(4/1834) B.D. tells Joe to “pull a Moses” and organize Zion’s Campand redeem Zion “by power, and with a stretched-out arm.” D&C 103:15-18 (He’s a bit embarrassed about being kicked out of Zion, I guess.)

Joe puts together 200 men, women and children (Children? Why are children going into battle?)and leads them on a 1000 mile trek to re-capture Zion.

Zions Camp March

As they get closer to their destination, word of their approach reaches Missouri. Upon hearing Joe and the ZC boys are coming, the red necks form their own militia. (And, their sword is bigger than Joe’s.) Fortunately, just in the nick of time(*) Big Daddy shows up to tell Joe that he’s decided that the church is unworthy to redeem Zion because of its lack of commitment to the United Order (Law of Consecration). (I guess small “c” was big “BS” to more than a few LDS.) However, this “revelation” has the desired effect of saving Joe’s Bacon. (*)A nick was a mark on a stick which was used to measure time back before Big D invented the Rolex. {Another public service announcement brought to you by the fine folks at Idioms-R-Us.}

But, why does B.D. tell them to go in the first place, and then wait until they’ve traveled 1000 miles to change his mind? And then, just when they are exhausted from the trek, he sends them a cholera epidemic to thank them for their efforts. (So, in the end, B.D. kills more saints (14) then the red neck militia.)

Caldwell County Missouri

Caldwell County Missouri

Despite the setback, Mormonites continue to flock to Missouri, mostly in Clay County.

(12/29/1836) To try to calm things down, the state splits Clay County into several smaller counties and creates Caldwell County for Mormonite settlement.

Giving them their own county, gives them a safe haven. On the state’s side of the bargain, it keeps Mormonites and their nigger loving attitudes confined while also keeping them out of the financial and political affairs of the rest of the state. However, as with “prophets”, “true believers” tend to think that rules and compromises don’t have anything to do with them. (Seems to be a common thread running through evangelicals and baggers as well.) This will come back to do some ass biting in a couple of years. (FORESHADOW #179463, or something like that.)

In the power play activity during the year:

(7/7/1834) Joe appoints David Whitmer (Dave) “Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and Translator” and says that Dave should succeed him if he does “not live to see God himself.” (I think that means if Joe kicks the proverbial bucket, since he claims he’s already seen Big D. Or, maybe it’s a Freudian slip.)

(12/5/1834) Joe makes Ollie an Assistant President, and tells the Church that when he’s gone, Ollie’s in charge.

(5/3/1834) One last 1834 item: In all that Zion excitement, I forgot to mention that the name of the church was changed from “The Church of Jesus Christ” to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints”. (Sayyy, maybe Big D’s pissed because they kicked J.C. out of the church. See last post.)

An Elvis interlude.

The Book of Abraham (Not really)

1835 gets rolling at a special conference (2/14/1835) in which Ollie, Marty & Dave appoint the 12 Apostles. (Hey, J.C. had’em, why can’t J.S.?)

Of the 12, one (Brother Brigham) eventually becomes church President and 8 are excommunicated. (Power play casualties.) Of course, Ollie and Davy are excommunicated as well and Marty splits to support another faction for a while. (The usual “details coming up” disclaimer.)

Later in the year (8/17/1835) they hold another conference and canonize a bunch of Joe’s lectures (Doctrine) and his “chats” with Big Daddy (Covenants) into holy (Or should that be holey?) scripture. Now the Mormonites have three (count’em: 3) holy texts, the Bible, the BoM, & the D&C, with another on the horizon.

Which brings us to “The Saga of the Book of Abraham”. (Go grab some popcorn, this one’s fun to watch.) First a bit of a back-story to bring you up to speed:

The ability to read and understand Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics had been lost for centuries. Then in 1799, the Rosetta Stone is discovered. On the stone there’s a message written in three languages: Egyptian hieroglyphics, Demotic and Ancient Greek. 23 years later Francois Champollion cracks the hieroglyphics using the other two languages that are decipherable. However, it isn’t until the 1850’s that the ability to read Egyptian is very wide-spread among Egyptologists.

About the same time as Champollion is cracking the language, 11 mummies along with papyrus rolls and fragments are discovered. By 1835 they’ve made their way to the U.S. and Joe and a couple of buds buy four of the mummies, some scrolls and some fragments for $2,400. (Over $51,000 in 2013’s inflated funds.)

Joe, aided by Ollie and Willy Wine Phelps, “translates” the hieroglyphics off and on until November. He touches them up a bit in ’42, but by-and-large, it’s all wrapped up. The scribes will spend the next couple of years trying to figure out the Egyptian alphabet. They FAIL! (But the magic “hat stone” was still around. Why didn’t Joe use that?)

Abraham_Facsimile_1 copy

1st facsimile

Joe claims that the scrolls were written by Abraham when he was down Egypt way. Not only that, but the hieroglyphics are in Abe’s own hand. The book purports to be the story of Abe’s road trip to Canaan and Egypt along with a “vision” (hashpipe dream?) of the creation of the world. But, best of all, it tells us where B.D. resides. (Pssst, it’s the planet Kolob.) There are three facsimiles included in the scrolls and Joe “translates” them as well.

Are there problems with this? Oh, Lawdy, let me count the ways:

  1. It’s not the Saga of Abe’s trek or his pipe dream. It’s an Egyptian funerary text! It contains parts of “The Book of the Dead” and “The Book of Breathings“. FAIL!
  2. It’s not written by Abraham (hand or otherwise). For instance the 2nd facsimile is a hypocephalus from the 22nd Dynasty (943-716 BCE). Abe was supposed to be born around 2001 BCE! FAIL!
    2nd facsimile

    2nd facsimile

    420px-Abraham_Facsimile_2 copy

    2nd facsimile as filled in by Joe

    (Btw, see that figure in the center (#1)? Joe says that represents Kolob. However, Egyptologists who can actually understand this, say it represents the spirit of the four elements.)

  3. Joe’s “translation” shows a distinct lack of knowledge of Egyptian culture, language or religion. (And, this is supposed to be on-the-spot reporting.)FAIL!
  4. According to the BoA, Egyptus, daughter of Ham, son of Noah, discovers Egypt while “it was still underwater” BoA 1:23. (It’s a hot day, she’s bored on the ark and decides to go diving, I guess.) Since she finds it, they name it after her. Egyptus places her eldest son, Pharaoh, son of Egyptus, daughter of Ham, son of Noah, on the throne as Pharaoh, the first king of Egypt in BoA 1:25. There are so many things wrong with this, I almost don’t know where to begin. “The Flood”, according to Jewish scholars, happened around 2150 BCE. Some Christians set it in 2294 BCE. (Since there is absolutely no proof of a worldwide flood, they can say it happened last Tuesday, for all I care.)  However, there have been settlers in Egypt since at least 6000 BCE. The first pyramid is built around 2700 BCE, long before either of those dates. Oh, and one last thing: Egypt is not named after Noah’s granddaughter. In Abe’s day, Egyptians call their country “Kemet” or “Kmt”. (They weren’t big on vowels.) The Greeks name the country Egypt long after Abe (and Egyptus) are dust. In fact, Homer’s “Odyssey” (circa 9th century BCE) seems to be the 1st reference by that name. FAIL!
3rd facsimile

3rd facsimile

Times & SeasonsFor several years, Joe displays the mummies. (For a fee of course. He’s charging the equivalent of $5.00 today.)

In 1842, he serializes the BoA in the Times and Seasons newspaper he owns. (Great little circulation builder.)

Then in 1880, the church canonizes it as a part of the “Pearl of Great Price“.

Supposedly, one of the scrolls contains “The Record of Joseph” (The biblical one, not our Joe.) However, our Joe never gets around to “translating” that, so it’s largely ignored.


(With thanks to Bart Pascal) Click to enlarge.

(With thanks to Bart Pascal) Click to enlarge.

(Thx to Bart Pascal

That’s the short of it. For the medium of it, including the real translation of the facsimiles, check out this Wikipedia post. Or, for a longer winded (but very complete) version of the whole situation, check out this vid:

Fancying Fanny’s Fanny

If you’ve slogged through to this point, you deserve a reward. So, I’ll finish off this episode with “The Fanny Alger Affair“.

To quickly review, in 1835, polygamy is still officially frowned upon: “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” Jacob 2:24

In 1861, Brother Brigham claims that Willie Wine Phelps told him that Joe told him that Big Daddy told him that it was cool back in ’31. However, that was the year Joe wrote that Big D said “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.” D&C 42:22 (2/9/1831)

Also, Joe neglected to tell another soul about it. (If he even told Willie Wine.) So I’d look around for a large lump of sodium cloride before swallowing that. The “Official Polygamy Revelation” doesn’t happen until July, 1843. (It’s a bit more complicated than that, but I’ll try to feel my way through the bushes when we get to ’43.)

In the last episode, I introduced you to 16-year-old Marinda Johnson. This episode’s youthful flavor is Fanny Alger. Fanny, “a very nice and comely young woman”,  comes to live with Joe & Emma as a housemaid in 1833 at the age of 16. It isn’t too long before she claims Joe is making “improper proposals” to her. Evidently, they work as Joe & Fanny are caught “in flagrante delicto”. (For you non-Latin lovers, they were doing “the nasty”.) There are a number of Mormon apologists that claim this was all perfectly ok because Fanny is “married” to Joe as his 1st “plural wife”. (I guess Marinda was just a practice run.) Others (including Mrs. Joe #1) have a more “earthy” view of the matter.Vh-booty+call.+saw+this+on+facebook+its+funny+cuz+it+s_a0866c_3857435Matters evidently come to a head one day when Mrs. Joe (#1) goes looking for Joe. When she looks in the barn, she finds Joe and Fanny rolling in the hay. J. H. Beadle, “Jackson County”, Salt Lake Tribune, vol. IX, no. 147 (October 6, 1875), page 4 Seriously! They are up in the hay loft, rolling around playing “hide the pickle”. (Probably a gherkin.)

I guess Joe forgot to tell Mrs Joe about the whole plural marriage thingy because by all accounts, she goes off the deep end. Joe has to call in Sid & Ollie to try to minister to her and “cast the devil out of sister Emma.”  However, it appears that Ollie takes Emma’s side. (I guess he didn’t know about the “plural marriage thingy” either.)

According to a letter Ollie writes to his brother, he speaks to Joe about the “dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s…in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself.” Oliver Cowdery to Warren A. Cowdery, January 21, 1838

Btw, one of the “reasons” given at Ollie’s upcoming excommunication proceedings is that he accused Joe of adultery. (Once again, the usual “more later”.)

So, is Joe committing adultery or is he enjoying his marital prerogative? This gets a bit confusing to say the least (Or actually, it doesn’t!)

To confuse matters, there are several schools of thought as to when the “marriage” occurred:

  • There is speculation that they are “married” in 1833 based on a conversation that Joe has with Fanny’s uncle, Levi Hancock: “Brother Levi I want to make a bargain with you—If you will get Fanny Alger for me for a wife you may have Clarissa Reed.” Mosiah Hancock, “Autobiography of Levi Ward Hancock (with additions by his son Mosiah Hancock),” CHL,   Ms 570, microfilm, 62-63.Levi and Clarissa were married that year.
  • Fanny’s mother claims Fanny is “sealed” to Joe in 1835, or is that 1836?
  • According to William McLellin, one of the original 12 Apostles, Joe is simply “sealing” the marriage when Emma catches them humpin’ in the hay. J. H. Beadle, “Jackson County”, Salt Lake Tribune, vol. IX, no. 147 (October 6, 1875), page 4 (By the time I was Mormon, “sealing” had a different meaning. At least that’s what the church told me.)

As to the (“Or actually, it doesn’t!”) comment I made: There is no legal record anywhere of Joe ever marrying Fanny!

Even if they are, it isn’t a legal marriage, it’s bigamy and the U.S. considers bigamy a crime. Plus, if Joe and Fanny are married and it’s all ok with the Big Guy, why does Emma throw Fanny out of the house? And if they aren’t married, than Joe’s committing adultery.

There are allegations that Fanny is pregnant. Todd Compton, “In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith” p. 35, Signature Books, (1997) If this is true than Fanny either miscarriages or the baby is raised with a different family. There are no legal records of her giving birth until later in her life. Plus, we are still about four years away from the time Joe is supposed to have his own personal abortionist (Dr. John C. Bennett).

In any case, Emma kicks Fanny’s fanny out of the house. Fanny moves in with the Webb family for a while and then leaves Kirtland with her parents. (Which begs a question: Why doesn’t Fanny just move back in with her parents in the first place? What’s going on?)

They stop for a while in Dublin, Indiana where Fanny meets and marries non-Mormonite Solomon Custer after a six-week relationship. It’s evidently a successful marriage, she has 9 children. Fanny splits from the church and never comes back. She joins the Universalist church in 1874 and passes away in 1889.

When asked about the episode, Fanny replies “That is a matter of my own, and I have nothing to communicate.”

And, I’m out of things to communicate this episode. Next time around, I hope to finish up on the Kirtland years, including the REAL reason Joe & the gang had to split. Also, it wouldn’t surprise me if we run across at least one of Joe’s sexual escapades. (I swear that man has his brains in his balls.)

 Goodnight Mrs Calabash, wherever (and whoever) you are.


p.s.: If my ramblings don’t revolt you, check out my FaceBook page (“Grouchy’s Grumbles”) you might just enjoy it. Better yet, you might “like” it.  I’d love it if you did.It’s free (and worth every cent) and almost completely painless (other than the usual bad jokes).

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