The Savior in Kirtland- Part One

The Savior in Kirtland
By Karl Anderson

Book Review and Critique by OWIW
OneWhoIsWatching [at]
Part One

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:

1 Joseph, Lyman and Harvey saw the Father and the Son and were transfigured to avoid being destroyed by the brightness of the Father

2 The Man of Sin Is Revealed in fulfillment of the Prophecy in 2 Thessalonians

3 The Melchizedek Priesthood Is Required to Establish Zion in Power

4 The Highest Order of the Priesthood Makes You Possessor of All Things

5 The Patriarchal Priesthood of Abraham that Administers Gospel Ordinances was Delivered by Peter James and John

6 Salvation is to Triumph Over Evil Spirits

7 The Oath & Covenant of the Priesthood Is Entered Into Through Baptism

8 The Gospel of the Dispensation of Abraham was ushered in instead of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times- Patriarchal Law is Instituted

9 Three Orders of Priesthood

10 Three Different Churches Representing Three Different Priesthoods

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.

Keep Watching

6 Responses to The Savior in Kirtland- Part One

  1. Ty says:

    I look forward to reading the rest of this series – I’ve always had a love for Kirtland and the events that transpired there. My love of the area came as a result from being fortunate enough to being called on a mission to the upper third of Ohio. During this time I was able to visit many of the historical areas in and surrounding Kirtland. I would love to go back someday having learned much more about its significance.
    Anyways, a couple weeks ago you made a comment to me regarding those high priests that had been called and chosen and a day of sanctification had been appointed for them (Jan. 21 1836 in the Kirtland Temple). Then you said, “but that is another story for another time.” I was going to encourage you to do a post on it, but I didn’t want to come across as pushy. I can’t imagine the time and energy it takes in bringing these things forward. “Resuming My Search for the Holy Order and the 23 High Priests” does have a good ring to it though. I hope you have the time.

    May God bless you

  2. McKay Platt says:

    I have learned a great deal from your posts. I haven’t read everything so there are holes in my understanding, BUT I bristle at two conclusions.
    1- Sidney, Lyman Wight, Joseph and others re coming back. How? As resurrected beings like Moroni, Moses, Elijiah etc. for brief visits to teach, confer authority, etc? Or as reincarnations or what Joseph called transmogrification, second lives?
    2- Joseph fell in Nauvoo, and the doctrines he brought forth in Nauvoo are corrupt. If so why is he getting revelations (D&C 124-1842 and the revelation on the kingdom of God. 1843)? Where is there a type for an exalted man (D&C 132 I seal upon you your exaltation) promoting adultery and abominations?

    These are serious questions asked by one who wants to know. I have no interest in sparring. You may have a good answer to both questions and may have already addressed these but, like I said, I haven’t read everything.


    • Great questions McKay

      I can certainly understand why you would bristle.

      There was a time in my life when I would have not responded very well to many of the suppositions presented in this blog.

      The scriptures are not clear if Joseph and the other elders will be translated, resurrected or returned to mortality.. my best guess is they will be returned to mortality.

      Not through transmigration, starting all over from the womb like Elijah did as John the Baptist, but rather being literally raised from the earth and shaking off the dust as Isaiah so poetically describes.

      Their visit will not be temporary or just to transfer keys, they are coming back to direct the work of the fulness of times. You can read about their ministries and what they will be responsible for in section 90.

      With regard to your second question, you really should read all of the numbered three watches posts and many of the posts on this site to really get a good foundation, before the answer to the question will make a lot of sense.

      Nevertheless, time is short, if you want to take a shortcut and risk being overwhelmed with information that contradicts everything you have been taught about prophets, read the post on the link below

      If there needed to be a “type” of something before it could happen, then none of the first time events in the OT or NT could have ever taken place.

      There does not need to by a previous type for God to do whatever He wants..

      ..nevertheless, there are several types at play.

      Moses sinned after obviously having his salvation sealed.
      David sinned but will be delivered from the grave if in fact it did not happen already.
      Adam sinned but was restored to good standing before God, etc.


      God can give revelations to those who have strayed. Saul prophesied all day long, while en-route to kill David.

      • McKay says:

        OWIW I have new found respect for you. Those were good answers. I will read further with an open mind. I have an angle on a second birth. If the person being returned to earth were exalted based on his first probation then the second life would not be a second probation. There are at times reports of “angels unawares” who reside or visit this earth carrying out missions. Some are translated. Some are resurrected. (See parable 10 Ten Parables-Denver Snuffer). S we don’t need to propose a new doctrine second births in one probation/in one eternity cycle to make your interpretation work.

        Thanks for the reply

      • Yes McKay

        I agree that the return of these shepherds is not a second probation.

        The prophecy in 1 Sam and other ref in modern revelation indicate that Joseph had his calling and election made sure before he left Kirtland.

        He had accomplished everything he needed for his own salvation. His atonement offering and return, has to do with the unconditional promises God gave to him and others about their callings pertaining to the gathering the elect and preparing them to meet the Lord.

        Section 88 indicates that several of the first elders had their names enrolled in the book of the sanctified back at that time.

        Section 84:8 reveals that the covenant these folks entered into was not just for their own salvation but for the salvation of the whole world…

        The reason for their return is to finish the callings they received in sections 29, 84 and other sections.

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