Providing Context

I came across this interesting paragraph in the current LDS priesthood/Relief Society manual Teachings of Joseph Smith in a lesson about apostasy (I may write more about this lesson later):

As that year [1837] wore on, a spirit of apostasy grew among some of the Saints in Kirtland. Some members became proud, greedy, and disobedient to the commandments. Some blamed Church leaders for economic problems caused by the failure of a Kirtland financial institution established by Church members.

At first glance, if you didn’t know anything about the bank failure, you would wonder why on earth anyone would blame Church leaders for the actions of Church members. Why, anyone who would do such a thing would have to have a spirit of contention and apostasy. But if you know the context, it makes perfect sense.

First, who were the “Church leaders” who were being blamed? Chiefly Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.

And who were the “Church members” who founded the bank? Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.

Thus, the sentence ought to read: “Some blamed Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon for economic problems caused by the failure of a Kirtland financial institution established by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.”

Makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?


8 Responses to Providing Context

  1. SillyNut says:

    Crazy people don’t make sense. Neither do crazy religions.

    ‘Cept they aren’t crazy. They know exactly what they are doing and they orchestrate it so that the ends justify the means.

  2. K*tty says:

    I was given this same manual by my visiting teachers, who I happen to adore. I think they were a little apprehensive giving it to me, but I took it graciously. One of them added that there was nothing about Smith’s plural marriages and I asked, “Why not?” They said there was so much to tell about him, they could not get it all in this manual. Where is that flaming sword when you need it? Actually, I was more offended with them at Christmas when they gave me the leather quad. I can’t even take it back because they had my name engraved on it. My saving grace was that I got to open that in private. I don’t know who I was hurt by most, them for not really hearing me, or my husband who could not see that they had done anything wrong. Okay, it was my husband, hands down.
    The problem, like you said Runtu, is that most take those words at face value. What is the point of other research when it is all neat and tidy in this one special book? When you are given a book to study in church, you and I both know, the thinking has been done and so has the spinning. Bring on the the Brigham Young book. Doesn’t it look like it will be a series?

  3. Adding to the intelligent reasons to blame Smith would be that he promised members that his “anti-banking trust society” (or whatever he called it after being turned down by the government when he tried to start a bank) would never fail. Naturally some of them were upset when it did. It just makes sense to question a “prophet” when he is wrong.

    That whole apostasy lesson is quite a read! My family keeps trying to convince me that the church doesn’t teach things like that about those of us who leave. I don’t know how they overlook the official lesson manual.

  4. Bull says:

    There were other things going on that would give any reasonable person pause. There were the “rumors” of polygamy whose details I suspect were known by more than Oliver Cowdery. There was also the Zion’s Camp fiasco which I’m still amazed the church tries to portray as a pivotal positive episode in church history when in fact it is an example of a failed prophecy and lousy leadership that only the most deluded among the members were able to see past and remain faithful. Joseph had to flee Kirtland because it became increasingly obvious to everyone present that he was a fraud.

  5. Kita Kazoo says:

    Even Brigham Young had his faith shaken by this untrustworthy adventure. But then he prayed about it and returned to a state of denial, in which he could remain enamored. You can read about it in the Journal of Discourses.

  6. Kandy Richards says:

    Actually, one of the key “Church Leaders” being blamed for the bank failure was Runtu’s own ancestor – Frederick Granger Williams I. He was a Second Counselor to Joseph Smith, but he was later excommunicated by Brigham Young for apostasy, then just before he died his membership was reinstated.

  7. Bill says:

    Kandy, Study and get your facts straight before repeating false information. Frederick was reinstated years before he died, and the facts of his apostasy have always been in dispute. He was loved and adored by Joseph Smith and died with his full blessings intact. The implication that “just before he died” is factually misleading and denotes your personal bias and perhaps disdain for a great leader who erred and found forgiveness. His family carried a righteous legacy still influential to this day because of his life and example.

    • runtu says:


      That’s true. F.G. Williams was blamed for not issuing an arrest warrant for W. Parrish, who was blamed for the failure. He was indeed loved very much by Joseph Smith, and IIRC, his membership was reinstated in 1839, though it’s unclear as to why he was excommunicated. There’s really no evidence of “apostasy” on his part. If memory serves, he was simply listed on a slate of “traitors” from the Missouri days who were excommunicated en masse while Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail. I spoke with Larry Porter at BYU a few years ago, and he thought it might have something to do with lingering resentment over the bank failure.

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