The Savior in Kirtland
By Karl Anderson
Book Review and Critique by OWIW
OneWhoIsWatching [at] gmail.com
Many years ago after having acquired an insatiable interest in studying the gospel and visiting many of the LDS Church historical sites, Mrs. Watcher and I obtained a copy of “Joseph Smith’s Kirtland” by Karl Anderson.
We absolutely loved it and we resonated with Karl’s contagious passion about Kirtland’s foundational role in the later day restoration movement.
While visiting Kirtland during one of our pilgrimages one year, we got a little chummy with some kindred spirits that were serving missions at one of the historical sites and they shared with us a fascinating paper that told briefly about the special conference held in 1831 at the Morley Farm where the Melchizedek priesthood had been restored for the first time.
Despite the many years we had spent studying the history of the LDS church up to that point in time, the events that took place at the special conference of the church in 1831 at the Morley Farm and the significance thereof had not even made a blip on our radars.
The mysterious paper identified who the 23 High Priests were that were ordained at the special conference and graded each one of them as to their loyalty to the calling they had received.
Although the people who shared it with us were apparently sworn to secrecy and would not reveal who had written the paper, I have my reasons for believing that it was probably written by Karl Anderson.
Regardless of who did write it. I am very appreciate their efforts and I acknowledge that this paper has made a huge impact on my personal study because it directed my focus and the information that I began to dig up as a result of it, is astounding to me.
As I began constructing the major events that took place during this special conference by studying the journal entries that I could find from about 8 or 9 elders who took part in the incredible events, I began to have a lot of the questions answered that I had accumulated over the years. It motivated me to do a series of blog posts about my findings. I called it “Searching for the Holy Order and the 23 High Priests”.
Although I only intended to do a few posts on the topic, the more I wrote, studied and pondered the significance of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the events that took place at the conference, the more I learned and the more compelled I felt to write about it. Eventually the series took on a life of it’s own and ended up being 10 rather lengthy installments.
Some of the different sub-topics relating to the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood that I wrote about are listed below:
Although I interpret many of the events during the Kirtland period much differently than Karl does, I have immense respect for the years of painstaking research that he has done in digging up lots of the history having to do with that time period and the religious history related to Kirtland. I feel as if I am indebted to him for bringing lots of historical documentation to my attention. In that respect I consider his efforts to be very inspired.
When I heard that he would be coming out with another book that documents every single known visitation of the Savior in Kirtland I was quite anxious to read it to see what other historical events he had dug up for me to digest.
Having now read his new book titled “The Savior in Kirtland“, I now realize that my search for the Holy Order and the 23 High Priests has resumed with a vengeance.
In Karl’s book, he unwittingly provides the rest of the story regarding the Lords CALLING of high priests. The bottom-line is that only a portion of the 23 high priests that were called at the Morley Farm ended up becoming “CALLED, CHOSEN AND FAITHFUL”.
The official ‘CHOOSING’ of many of the high priests that are to help usher in the Fulness of times took place on June 23 1834 and the official anointing of these brethren took place on January 21st 1836. The details of this amazing story are really quite incredible.
If I get the time to do it, I will do a follow up series called “Resuming My Search for the Holy Order and the 23 High Priests”.
For now, I feel compelled to prepare a short synopsis and critique of Karl’s new book by sharing the major observations that I had while reading it. The idea is to highlight some of his fascinating findings and give another perspective of the Kirtland era of LDS church history.
Before doing so, I want to say that in my humble opinion, every student of LDS church doctrine and history should have both of the books that Karl has written. Both of them would be on my list of the top 25 supplemental reading books that are extremely helpful in studying the LDS restoration movement and also the gospel.
As much as I love and appreciate Karl’s efforts, I have come to view him not only as a religious historian, but also as a religious apologist that is very selective about which events he chooses to include in his book.
I personally think the best policy for authors and historians to have is to simply just tell the cold hard facts and let the chips fall where they may, allowing each reader to form their own opinions about what it all means.
We simply disagree on some of these issues.
1- The Heavens During were Closing towards the end of the Kirtland Era of the Church
In the book Karl makes the statement that “people wonder why the Savior appeared so frequently in Kirtland…” ( I am paraphrasing the statement Karl made. I apologize for not making note of the page number and the exact quote. It was not until later in the book that I decided to make this critique and begin writing exact quotes and page numbers. When I find that quote I’ll come back and update this post)
I was shocked when I read that statement. Why would people wonder why the Savior appeared to so many people, so many times in Kirtland?
I had never wondered that!
I had never known anyone that wondered that.
The church teaches us to believe in continuous revelation, hence why find multiple, continuous appearances so curious? I thought it was very natural and appropriate for the Savior to make lots of visits to people.
That is exactly what he did in Jerusalem after the crucifixion. He appeared to Mary, Saul, Stephen, the 12 apostles and others. He appeared to several people multiple times. He finally walked around for 40 days, seen by hundreds of people. Even after the 40 days he continued to appear to people.
As I pondered this strange statement from Karl it occurred to me that perhaps he was making that statement from the perspective that the Savior quit making known appearances after the Kirtland Era and he wanted to diffuse the issue.
In my opinion, the real question that myself and many people wonder about that study church history is “Why did the Savior appear to lots of people repeatedly in Kirtland and then NEVER ONCE APPEAR TO ANYONE DURING THE NAUVOO PERIOD?”
I believe that is the real question that inquisitive gospel scholars and researchers wonder about.
After proposing his question, Karl then suggested why the Savior needed to make multiple appearances.
According to Karl, the Savior usually only appears for special events having to do with special ordinances, temple dedications, dispensations, spiritual endowments and the organizing of priesthood quorums.
According to Karl, since much of these types of things happened in the early stages of the Church in Kirtland, that is why the Savior appeared many times in Kirtland.
The problem with that line of thinking, in my opinion, is that similar things also supposedly happened in Nauvoo such as
- The introduction of the ordinance of baptisms for the dead
- The organization of the Holy Order of the Priesthood with the Council of 50
- Temple dedications
- A New and drastically different Temple Endowment
- A Completely Different Doctrine and associated ritual pertaining to polygamous marriage that contradicted the previous one having to do with monogamous marriage
Virtually all of the events listed above would have been accompanied by appearances of Christ and angels had they happened in Kirtland. It seems to me that the Savior had many reasons to make appearances in Nauvoo if the official storyline is true and the events were authentic.
It seems to me that one of the lessons learned from the history of Kirtland is that the Lord was closing the heavens and no longer endowing any of the leaders with spiritual manifestations by the time the saints fled Kirtland and eventually arrived in Nauvoo.
As mentioned in countless posts, I have documented that fact that the Lord was quite upset with the saints during the Kirtland era. The saints were condemned for taking lightly the Book of Mormon and the revelations. This led to God withdrawing his spirit.
Encouraged by Neal Maxwell
In the book, Karl speaks of when Neal Maxwell encouraged him to write about Kirtland about 18 years ago, but cautioned him to “not be too quick to publish it..”
I believe it is because of many of the controversial events and the blatantly obvious fact that the heavens closed after Kirtland that Maxwell suggested that he take his time publishing it and that he limit it the content to the “Christ-centered teachings and evidences of the Savior in Kirtland and write about them”.
Nevertheless, it is difficult for someone to highlight the many continuous appearances of Christ in Kirtland without inadvertently bringing to light the categorical lack of appearances that took place in Nauvoo. Those who do a serious study of Nauvoo will notice a total void of Pentecostal experiences that the apostate church experienced in Nauvoo.
On a related topic, it is interesting how the New Testament church and the restored New Testament Church of the LDS restoration movement have the multiple visits of Christ in common and yet, the Book of Mormon seems to have a disproportionate abundance of appearances by angels compared to very few appearances by the Savior, other than in 3rd Nephi when Christ physically returned to the earth in North America. This seems to be a distinguishing factor between the gentile saints and the Book of Mormon saints and this distinction is actually mentioned in the Book of Mormon:
” And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel which should be preached among the Jews, and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief. And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.” 1 Nephi 10:11
It would appear as if the literal manifestation of Christ via the power of the Holy Ghost is something specifically pertaining to the way God deals with the Gentile portion of his saints as opposed to the House of Israel portion of his saints.
2- The Scourge in Kirtland is a Future Event!
On page two of his book, Karl repeats the contention made in his first book that the scourge that the Lord warned he had prepared for the city of Kirtland has now been lifted.
Apparently this prophetic announcement was uttered by Ezra Benson in 1979. I have written posts explaining why I believe the scriptures teach that the scourge is yet to take place. Since I think it is important for people to unwittingly inhabit the city of Kirtland before the scourge takes place, I will not provide the reasons for my contention in this review. I would simply encourage those who are interested in this topic to research this topic for themselves in the scriptures.
3- Sidney Rigdon Is One of the Great Prophets in the History of the World
I was impressed when I read Joseph Smith’s Kirtland that Karl was unusually complimentary towards Sidney Rigdon compared to most LDS historians and apologists. Additionally, in some interviews that followed the publishing of that book, Karl said that people needed to be more understanding and forgiving of Sidney.
I really appreciated Karl taking a compassionate look at Sidney back in the day. I noticed that Karl did the same thing in this new book.
In the midst of the niceties that Karl made regarding Rigdon, he then made the following declaration:
“Sidney’s phenomenal work for the Savior is recorded in many journals of those who joined the Church when it came to Kirtland, thus showing a successful fulfillment of his divine work” (pg 18)
Karl also concludes that “Sidney was one of the great leaders of hte Church, without whom the Church could not have been firmly established”
While I appreciate Karl’s acknowledgement and sentiment, I feel very frustrated that he opted to continue keeping the “many journal” entries containing the testimonies of Sidney’s “phenomenal” work closed up and hidden from the general public.
I have known for a long time that the church has a lot of valuable and positive historical documentation about Sidney locked up and suppressed from the general public but it had not occurred to me that Karl also has accumulated much of this documentation. If that is the case, why wouldn’t Karl want to publish these faith promoting testimonies of Sidney’s contribution to the world?
I think the obvious answer to that question is that Karl and the church leaders don’t really want people to know the whole story about Sidney’s incredible and prophetic involvement. It is too controversial. It would bring to light just how wrong things went during the succession crisis.
Of course Sidney’s ultimate fulfillment of his work has to do with the 3rd watch.
As I have pointed out in other posts, the Lord had told Joseph that he and Oliver would bring to light an existing ministry. It was to be a separate ministry than Joseph’s. Clearly Joseph did bring this ministry to light and Sidney was one the primary minister of the separate ministry.
Section 90 provides clarity in differentiating Joseph’s ministry from Sidney’s. It clarifies that the ministries that Joseph and Sidney will have during the 3rd watch will be closely inter-related but separate and distinct
Notice in that section how both ministries are clearly referred to as distinct and separate ministries even though they are interrelated.
“through your administration [Joseph] the keys of the school of the prophets, which I have commanded to be organized; That thereby they[Sidney and Frederick] may be perfected in their ministry for the salvation of Zion, and of the nations of Israel, and of the Gentiles, as many as will believe”
The fact that Sidney has been marginalized by most LDS historians and authorities will not change the fact that he is going to return and complete his ministry.
It has been said that “history is written by the winners..” When the church voted Sidney out of the first presidency and Brigham Young and the Twelve into it, it gave Brigham control of the official dairy and histories of the church. Significant alterations took place after that. The sanitized history of the church has been revised by the winners that wrested the kingdom, along with the contemporary historians who continue to write about these issues.
Sidney did do an incredible preparatory work during that time but was eventually, largely written out of the history of the church.
It is extremely unfortunate that many contemporary LDS writers continue to keep the truth of Sidney’s involvement obscured. I give Karl credit for generally having a positive spin about Sidney, nevertheless, it would have been so edifying and revealing if Karl had devoted at least one full chapter to bringing to light the many suppressed journal entries about Sidney’s true involvement that have been kept hidden for four generations.
It would be fun to read about the miracles and sermons and the faith promoting debates with critics that Sidney was involved with and the hand he had in watching over Joseph and guiding the church, etc.
In the next installment of this series, we will discuss why Karl believes it is not necessarily wise to distinguish between visions and personal appearances of Christ and why I passionately disagree. We will also discuss the fact that Karl has documented at least 22 people that personally saw Christ in Kirtland and that 11 of them can be specifically identified.