|For six weeks in the summer of 2013, student scholars from all over the United States and from Europe met daily in the Maxwell Institute library to discuss and research the topic “Workings of the Spirit and Works of the Priesthood: Gifts and Ordinances in LDS Thought and Practice.” This seminar was hosted by the Maxwell Institute and directed by Terryl Givens. The Summer Seminar Working Papers 2013 are the result of the research done by the students and were presented at a BYU symposium on July 11, 2013.|
"PERVERTED BY THE MOST FRANTIC ENTHUSIASM": THE EMBRACE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN EARLY MORMONISM
Indeed, if the apostle Paul who has so many fine chapels and churches named after him, should disguise his person, appear and preach the same doctrine, believe in immediate revelation, the administration of angels, exhort the people to contend for the same spiritual gifts, and to earnestly contend for the same faith, in our own times, that he did in his day, he would be denied the privilege of even standing upon their steps, much less in their fine pulpits, to proclaim his sentiments. ---- Benjamin Winchester, 18431
In the summer of 1833, difficulties flared between the inhabitants of the state of Missouri and the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.2 Problems and disagreements existed for a variety of reasons, but the belief system and theology of the LDS Church caused friction with most religious people along the rural towns of the frontier state. As Mormon missionaries spread the message of their faith, they insisted that the true gospel was restored on the earth through their prophet Joseph Smith, and the evidence of the truth revealed itself via the spiritual expression endorsed by their ranks. In a letter written by John Whitmer and W. W. Phelps dated July 29, 1833, they recounted to Joseph Smith the marvels occurring among their church: "Marvellous to tell in the midst of all the rage of persecution God is pouring out his Spirit upon his people so that most all on last thursday at the school received the gift of tongues & spake & prophesied; The next day David [Whitmer] called his branch together and most of them received the gift of tongues many old things are coming to light that had it not been for this gift would have remained in the dark & brought the wrath of God, upon the inhabitants of Zion."3 John Whitmer observed that the spiritual gifts associated with the ancient Christian church and the apostles had returned among the congregations of the LDS Church in the nineteenth century.
The early nineteenth century was characteristic for its outpouring of innovative religious expression among American Christianity. Methodists, Shakers, Millerites, and Spiritualists invoked fresh understandings of the role of spirits and the Holy Spirit as they worshiped the God of Christianity. Charles Grandison Finney, Alexander Campbell, and many others sought to renew the faith and passion of the American people through revivalism and millennialism. Yet during all of this religious commotion, the concept of charismata, or spiritual gifts as found in the New Testament among the early Christian church, received the same treatment and consideration as they had for centuries. New forms of spiritual expression profited nineteenth century Christianity; the old, extraordinary gifts of the spirit did not. Amidst a religious society yearning for greater spirituality while at the same time denying the existence of charismatic gifts, the LDS Church embraced the spiritual gifts of the New Testament as a sign of its authenticity and the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days. As Mormon leaders and missionaries preached incessantly concerning the return of the biblical spiritual gifts, accounts of the gift of tongues, healings, prophecies, visions, and dreams served as a spiritual litmus test for where the true authority of Christ could be found on the earth. I argue that Joseph Smith carved out a unique set of spiritual gifts directly from biblical representations of ancient Christianity in order to differentiate the LDS Church from other contemporary Christian churches. The connection he and others forged between priesthood authority and spiritual gifts exemplified the common beliefs of the LDS Church concerning the true nature of Christianity. Joseph Smith then used that relationship to establish his vision of the ancient Christian church in the modern world.
Christian ministers and theologians debated the significance of spiritual gifts for centuries prior to the nineteenth century. John Owen, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University under Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s, understood the signs of the believers found in Mark 16:17-18, as well as the spiritual gifts listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, as gifts given to the Christian church shortly after the death of Christ. Owen argued that "there was no certain limited time for the cessation of these gifts," but that "those peculiar to the apostles were commensurate to their lives."4 Spiritual gifts existed for the purpose of spreading the gospel anciently, and when the apostles died, the gifts died with them. Owen admitted that God could cause miracles to occur at other times, "but the superstition of ensuing ages, inventing and divulging innumerable miracles, false and foolish, was most injurious to the gospel, and opened the way to impose on Christians endless delusions."5 Spiritual gifts no longer existed, and belief in such things injured the mission of the gospel. Owen's views, expressed in the 1650s, epitomized the common view concerning spiritual gifts from the Reformation to the modern era.
During the eighteenth century, views and opinions began to diverge as revivals and new Christian movements increased in significance among Americans. Jonathan Edwards, in 1738, distinguished the difference between ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the spirit. Though not the first to make such a distinction, Edwards embodied American religious thought as it evolved through the 1700s. He labeled spiritual gifts as extraordinary gifts because they are "not given in the ordinary course of God's providence."6 Ordinary gifts included things such as grace and God's redemptive love. Extraordinary gifts served specific purposes. According to Edwards, "since the canon of the Scripture has been completed, and the Christian Church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased."7 With the foundations of Christianity completed by the early apostles and patristic fathers of the Christian church, no further need existed for the charismata, and if people proclaimed the modern existence of such things, "we have no reason to look on such things, when pretended to in these days, as any other than delusion."8 Caught up in a period of revival argued by some historians as the Great Awakening of American Christianity, Edwards felt many of the religious expressions of fainting and shouting more likely derived from uncontrolled religious enthusiasm than the Holy Spirit, though it was not impossible for the Spirit to reveal itself to humans through such expressions.9
The Methodists differed slightly from Jonathan Edwards and the Congregationalists. George Whitefield's dramatic and almost theatrical style of preaching tended to increase the passionate response of his listeners. Thousands flocked to his revivals in order to see and feel the power of his preaching. Despite his stark contrast to Edwards in the style of his sermons, Whitefield agreed with Edwards' views on the Holy Spirit. Summarizing Whitefield's theological beliefs in 1828, a reverend named Joseph Smith reflected "how he [George Whitefield] guarded against the invidious censure of assuming the character of an apostle. He renounced all pretensions to the extraordinary powers and signs of apostleship — gifts of healing, speaking with tongues, the faith of miracles; things peculiar to the age of inspiration, and extinct with them."10 Whitefield preached with extraordinary power but still denied the continual existence of extraordinary gifts. John Wesley, a close friend and colleague of Whitefield, eventually countered this view. Through his experiences preaching, travelling, and organizing congregations of Methodists, he witnessed many miraculous works of the Spirit. These experiences began to broaden Wesley's acceptance of the power of the Holy Spirit among humanity. In 1749 he wrote a long letter to Conyers Middleton reviewing Middleton's recent treatise on spiritual gifts and the apostles. Middleton argued that spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles because "the silence of all the apostolic writers on the subject of these gifts, must dispose us to conclude they were then withdrawn."11 Wesley, exasperated by Middleton's weak premise, replied, "O Sir, mention this no more. I intreat you, never name their silence again. They speak loud enough to shame you as long as you live."12 Wesley believed in the possibility that the spiritual gifts might again adorn communities of faithful Christians. Shortly after his review of Middleton, Wesley wrote in his journal dated August 15, 1750:
By reflecting on an odd book which I had read in this journey, The General Delusion of Christians with regard to Prophecy, I was fully convinced of what I had long suspected: (1) that the Montanists in the second and third centuries were real, scriptural Christians; and (2) that the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn was not only that faith and holiness were wellnigh lost, but that dry, formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture.13
Wesley believed that the extraordinary spiritual gifts of the New Testament vanished because of ridicule and lack of faith, not because their utility had expired. This personal conviction manifested itself in Wesley's permissive attitude toward new varieties of religious expression. Eventually Shouting Methodists became commonplace throughout the United States in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.14
The early nineteenth century religious milieu in America provided a rich array of differing views on religious expression and spiritual gifts. Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley still carried a powerful influence, but the voices of others added to the debate as well. Charles Buck, an English Dissenter, wrote a well-respected theological dictionary in London in 1802, which underwent subsequent editions and printings in America. In the 1831 edition, under the heading of Holy Ghost, he noted that extraordinary gifts no longer existed. Under the heading of Presbyterians he argued that the laying on of hands by the apostles "must have been to communicate those charismata, or miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were then so frequent; but which no modern presbyter or bishop will pretend to give, unless his understanding be clouded by the grossest ignorance, or perverted by the most frantic enthusiasm."15 Rufus Bishop, a Shaker from the 1830s, noted in his journal in 1832 "an unusual outpouring of the gifts of God — tongues, visions, &c."16 From the 1830s to the 1850s, the Shakers experienced intense revivals including religious expressions from tongues and visions to dancing and the gift of laughter. They believed in the spiritual gifts of the New Testament as well as other gifts unspecified by the Bible. The Baptist churches rebuked excessive religious enthusiasm, while Methodists and Presbyteriand held massive camp meetings where the "extraordinary exercises of falling down, rolling, shouting, jerking, dancing, barking &c.," appeared as commonplace.17 Across the Atlantic in England, Edward Irving and the Catholic Apostolic Church believed they received the spiritual gifts of the apostolic age. William W. Pym recounted several miracles attested to by Irvingites, arguing that the cessation of spiritual gifts made no sense: "We have a right to suppose that no limit was designed, and therefore, that the Church was entitled to expect them, whenever it might please God to bestow them during the times of which we speak."18 The Irvingites reported healings, tongues, and other spiritual gifts including spiritual possessions resulting in jerking and shouting. Still others like the Campbellites and the Quakers devised alternative explanations for how the Holy Spirit operated within their congregations. The early nineteenth century witnessed a vast spectrum of opinions on biblical spiritual gifts specifically and Christian religious expression generally.
Two major arguments and two minor arguments existed concerning spiritual gifts, all of them revolving around the writings of the apostles in the New Testament and 1 Corinthians 12. All four of these arguments were familiar in the United States in the 1820s and 1830s because many of the works of earlier Christian thinkers were compiled, published, and distributed in America during that time period. Reflecting back on the period, Philip Schaff and Johann Jakob Herzog explained the two major arguments in this way:
Charismata: The term used by theologians to designate the remarkable signs of the divine favor and power which accompanied the work of the primitive Church, beginning with the gift of tongues on the day of Pentecost. The belief in such signs exists to-day among large numbers of Protestants as well as in the Roman Catholic Church, with the difference that the latter sees in the miracles of the saints the continuation of these miraculous powers, while on the evangelical side they are supposed to have ceased at the latest with the first three centuries, either through the fault of the Church or by God's design. The question of the continuance of the charismata is in many modern treatises connected with that of the continuance of miracles, the writers regarding the gift of supernatural power to effect supernatural operations as a fulfillment of Mark.19
The first argument suggested from a Protestant viewpoint that extraordinary spiritual gifts existed at the time of the apostles and then ceased with the early Church Fathers of the Patristic age. The second argument suggested from a Catholic viewpoint that spiritual gifts continued to operate as miracles through the Saints. The first minor argument included the view that extraordinary spiritual gifts could exist among believing Christians in any age, and the second, that extraordinary spiritual gifts never existed at all. Each of these 4 arguments attracted Christians to them in America in the early 1800s.
The spiritual world in which Joseph Smith introduced the Book of Mormon and his revelation of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, was a world entrenched in rigid spiritual expectations. Of course, the expectations differed based on the disparate Christian denominations, but each Church maintained clearly elaborated tenets of belief depicting how the spirit ought to operate among humans on earth. A few churches believed in no spiritual gifts, others believed in endless varieties of spiritual gifts, and a small handful believed in select spiritual gifts. Mormons would eventually distinguish themselves as strict believers of biblical spiritual gifts. Joseph Smith began his ministry with a vision of God, angelic ministrations, and the revelation of a hidden record. The gift to translate the hidden record quickly followed. By 1830, Smith completed the translation of the Book of Mormon which included in its pages not only a reiteration of the signs of the believers found in Mark and the list of spiritual gifts discussed by Paul, but a warning to the modern age: "Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!"20 The extraordinary spiritual gifts unique to the early Christian Church also found a home within the pages of the Book of Mormon, grounding them definitively within the doctrine of the newly organized LDS Church.
Within months of the formal organization of the Church, the predicted spiritual gifts began manifesting themselves among the members. Sometime around late April to early May of 1830, Joseph recounted the spiritual possession of Newel Knight. Newel requested Joseph to cast out the devil, to which Joseph replied, "if you know that I can, it shall be done."21 Smith rebuked the devil and cast out the evil spirit. In June 1830, at the first conference of the Church held in Fayette, New York, members present received the gift of prophecy and beheld visions, to the point that they "were so overcome that we had to lay them on beds, or other convenient places."22 Members began receiving revelations through seer stones, being directed by the spirit to "act like an Indian," or fall into contortions and cramps.23 By the end of 1831, Joseph Smith and others had performed miraculous healings, both the gifts of known and unknown tongues occurred among Church members, and the gift of interpretation of tongues also accompanied the flood of spiritual outpourings.24 The Painesville Telesgraph printed the words of Parley P. Pratt concerning spiritual gifts in December 1830: "He [Pratt] said he knew . . . there would be as great miracles wrought, as there was at the day of Pentecost."25 And surely enough, the gifts of old appeared to exist among the Mormons.
The message promulgated by LDS missionaries resonated with many Christians in search of the restoration of the ancient church and the signs of the believers. Some of the earliest converts to Mormonism converted from Alexander Campbell's movement and the Shaker movement. Campbell's doctrine sought to rediscover the true manner of building up the Christian church, but did not include the restoration of spiritual gifts. After reading the Book of Mormon, Campbell replied, "they say that spiritual gifts are to be continued to the end of time among the true believers — have they wrought any miracles? They have tried, but their faith failed."26 Several years later, after losing a host of his congregation to the LDS Church, Campbell viciously maligned the LDS Church, charging that they "have labored assiduously to keep up the delusion by claims of miraculous power, and mysterious visions, and the novelty of a splendidly decorated temple."27 Yet it was the logic of restoring spiritual gifts as evidence of the true church which convinced individuals of the Mormon claim to charismata. John Murdock recorded that, "finding their principal leader, Alex Campbell, with many others, denying the gift, and power of the Holy Ghost, I began to think of looking me a new home."28 Leman Copley converted from the Shaker community in 1831, also hoping to become a part of the restoration of the ancient church with its biblical signs of the believers.
In addition to missionaries displaying the spiritual gifts, they spent a great deal of their time focused on the message of the Book of Mormon and the "first principles." George Ellsworth explained that "elders were frequently admonished to teach only 'first principles' and to leave alone the 'mysteries,' the incomprehensibles and the unexplained. 'First principles' meant supporting from the Bible as nearly as possible the Mormon position on faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost and the 'signs' which the New Testament promised would follow those that believed."29 When the newly called Twelve Apostles ventured on their mission to the East in 1835, they recorded their sermon topics 170 times. Of those 170 occasions, they preached on the subject of gifts and the First Principles 61 times, as well as preaching on the restoration, apostasy, and the Book of Mormon 62 times. Almost 75% of their recorded sermons dealt with spiritual gifts as an evidence of the true church, in some degree or another.30 Most early missionaries approached missionary work in a very similar way. Embracing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints required embracing the miraculous evidence of spiritual gifts among its members.
Not every kind of spiritual display, however, warranted a place in LDS belief and practice. As early as 1831, Joseph Smith began a pattern of moderating inappropriate spiritual excesses while promoting correct examples of spiritual gifts. Through this process of encouraging particular gifts and discouraging others, Smith established the culture of spirituality which would permeate the LDS Church for the rest of the nineteenth century. When contortions, shouting, and other wild spiritual displays occurred among several LDS congregations in Ohio in the early spring of 1831, Smith sought answers through revelation concerning the appropriateness of such displays. The documents now known as Doctrine and Covenants sections 46 and 50 served as responses to the questions that Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt, and others invoked. Section 46 listed the same spiritual gifts that Paul listed in 1 Corinthians 12, beginning with the peremptory command to "beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given" (D&C 46:8).
Ironically, other Christians criticized Mormons because they promoted only those gifts which could be found in the New Testament. For this, Mormons were labeled heathens and blasphemers, who "have not produced any signs superior to those of magic or witchcraft."31 Christians both in America and later in England reviled the Mormons, calling them deluded for believing in the same gifts as the ancient apostles, while at the same time they themselves endorsed spiritual practices bearing no justification from the Bible which they declared to be sacrosanct. On one occasion confused by this juxtaposition of reason and fancy, Elder William Howells mused, "Seeing the Rev. gentlemen and audience present making light of the gifts and blessings promised by God to his Church, made me think of the fox endeavouring to smile and grin at the grapes, and say that they were sour because he could not reach them."32
Moderating spiritual gifts required discipline and discernment. Visions, prophecies, and tongues permitted members of the LDS Church to receive revelations that sometimes predicted the future or altered the direction of the Church as set by Joseph Smith. Therefore, a variety of explanations concerning spiritual gifts aimed at correlating the purpose of gifts within the greater purpose of the Church. In 1831, Section 28 of the Doctrine and Covenants commanded that "no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith," who presided over the Church, explaining that "I [the Lord] have given him [Joseph] the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead" (D&C 28:2, 7). Visions and prophecies could direct the personal life of an individual, but not the entire body of the Church. Joseph Smith encouraged such visions as would increase personal faith in the restoration of the church, such as a vision of Jesus Christ reported by John Murdock in 1833, or the dreams experienced by Luman Andros Shurtliff which convinced him to investigate and eventually join the Church in 1836.33 Similarly Joseph mediated over the gift of unknown tongues and the interpretation thereof. Willing to promote the appropriate use of unknown tongues, Joseph Smith himself exhibited the gift on various occasions, as when he spoke and sang in tongues while presiding over a conference in Kirtland, Ohio on January 22-23, 1833.34 Yet when members of the Church in Missouri inquired about the propriety of tongues, Joseph responded with both a confirmation and admonition. He wrote, "as to the gift of tongues, all we can say is, that in this place we have received it as the ancients did," followed by the warning that "Satan will no doubt trouble you about the Gift of tongues unless you are careful."35 A few months later, when a Sister Whiting living in Nelson interpreted an unknown tongue to state that the Indians were coming to redeem the Saints from the increasing persecutions in Missouri, Joseph chastised her gently, as he again reaffirmed the validity of spiritual gifts: "no prophecy spoken in tongues should be made public for this reason many who pretend to have the gift of interpretation are liable to be mistakened and do not give the true interpretation of what is spoken — but if any speak in tongues a word of exhortation or doctrine on the principles of the Gospel &c &c let it be interpreted for the edification of the church."36 By making minor course corrections in the way spiritual gifts were expressed, Joseph Smith retained leadership and control without having to stifle the supernatural lifeblood of the infant religious movement. In July and September of 1834, clerks recorded disciplinary councils concerning inappropriate manifestations of spiritual gifts, yet neither case condemned the use of spiritual gifts; they refined the specific ways gifts should appropriately operate.
Joseph Smith took such great care in maintaining the power of spiritual gifts because it established the true zenith of God's authority on Earth. He reported on the labors of missionaries in the eastern United States as "pulling down the strongholds of Satan, having sent down the Angel of God to trouble the waters that a few more sick folk may be healed."37 Missionaries wielding the true spiritual gifts could destroy the fortifications of evil built up by Satan over centuries of wickedness. Writing a letter to the American Evangelist newspaper in January 1833, Joseph Smith depicted the state of the world as "solemn and alarming." Countless problems evidenced the total apostasy from the truth. The absence of spiritual gifts highlighted "the apostacy [sic] there has been from the Apostolic platform, and who can look at this, and not exclaim in the language of Isaiah, 'the earth is defiled under the inhabitants thereof because they have transgressed the Laws; changed the ordinances and broken the everlasting covenant.'"38 Apocalyptic language enhanced the need for a restoration of truth and righteousness. Orson Hyde recorded Smith stating that "the time was near when desolation was to cover the Earth," and without Zion and "the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the church . . . we cannot stand, we cannot be saved."39 The earth would soon be overwhelmed by the Second Coming, but before the destruction, the true church of Christ would return. According to The Evening and Morning Star, "the church of Christ, of these last days, is the same it was in the first days, or in any days; it required repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, and the promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost: it required also, an obedience to the commandments of God, in all things."40 The only unique way to identify the church of Christ among so many impostors required evidence of God's power, demonstrated through the biblical spiritual gifts.
As the Latter-day Saints were forced to flee Jackson County, Missouri and the Second Coming seemed slightly more distant, a shift occurred in how spiritual gifts identified the true authority of God on the earth. Richard Bennett and Amber Seidel noted how "in the very formative years of the church, from 1830 until the expulsion of the Saints from Independence, Missouri in late 1833 and their resultant sufferings in exile in Clay County, Missouri, in 1834, the literature — both printed and unpublished — emphasized the 'gathering' to Zion and the earnest expectation of the second coming and millennial return of the Son of God."41 With the revealed gathering place for the kingdom of God stolen from the Church, spiritual gifts became a more systematic proof of authority. The language of priesthood authority cropped up around the capacity to access the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Edward Partridge wrote in 1835, "I assure you that the signs do follow in this, the church of Christ," and "strange as they may appear, they are the gift of the Holy Ghost: many of the world even receive the Holy Ghost in a greater or less degree, but few in comparison receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, the gifts being peculiar to the true church."42 A person could not receive the spiritual gifts without first receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the gift of the Holy Ghost could only be received through the administration of the true priesthood of God. Erastus Snow and Benjamin Winchester explained that "in consequence of the apostacy [sic], men have lost the necessary authority to administer ordinances; hence the spiritual gifts have not been enjoyed; for the Lord will not sanction the administrations of men who assume their authority."43 Parley P. Pratt elaborated on the relationship of the priesthood and spiritual gifts as well, pointing out the necessity of baptism followed by the laying on of hands. Only by receiving "the gift of the Holy Ghost according to the ancient pattern" could people become "saints, or members of the Church of Christ, in full fellowship and communion. They are then taught to observe all things which are required or commanded by Christ and his apostles — such as meeting together often to sing, to pray, to exhort, to testify, to prophesy, to speak with tongues, to interpret, to relate their visions, revelations, and in short, to deify and perfect each other, be a free exercise of all the gifts of God as set in order among the ancient churches."44 Benjamin Winchester summarized the relationship succinctly: the priesthood is "the principle by which the Lord works among men, and is the channel through which all the spiritual gifts, such as miracles, revelations, visions, &c., flow or are obtained."45
The linkage between the priesthood and spiritual gifts did not prevent women from participating in the reception of spiritual gifts. Both men and women manifested spiritual gifts as their right, having received the gift of the Holy Ghost through baptism and the laying on of hands by priesthood authority. When members of the women's Relief Society in Nauvoo began circulating the opinion that perhaps women should not be operating the spiritual gift of healing, Smith replied that the signs "follow all that believe, whether male or female."46 He then instructed the women concerning spiritual gifts and warned them to "not indulge too much in the gift of tongues, or the devil will take advantage of the innocent. You may speak in tongues for your comfort but I lay this down for a rule that if any thing is taught by the gift of tongues, it is not to be received for doctrine."47 Ever the opportunist, Joseph Smith carefully reiterated the value of exhibiting spiritual gifts within the bounds set by the proper authority.
By the 1840s, the pattern of authority in the LDS Church was grounded in priesthood authority, which authority was validated by the existence of the same spiritual gifts that existed with the ancient church. Thousands of Mormons attested to either receiving or witnessing miraculous gifts of the spirit in their homes and worship meetings. Countless journals, diaries, newspaper articles, and testimonials captured the near constant flow of spiritual phenomena emanating from the Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith and other church leaders continued moderating the reception of those gifts, which further corroborated their position of prominence as the witness of the restoration of the true priesthood. The priesthood authority not only made the gifts of the spirit possible, but also discerned who expressed spiritual gifts correctly. In order to illuminate the world's understanding of spirits, Joseph Smith wrote:
One great evil is that men are ignorant of the nature of Spirits; their power, laws, government, intelligence &c., and imagine that when there is any thing like power, revelation, or vision manifested that it must be of God: hence the Methodists, Presbyterians, and others frequently possess a spirit that will cause them to lay down, and during its operation, animation is frequently entirely suspended; they consider it to be the power of God, and a glorious manifestation from God — a manifestation of what? Is there any intelligence communicated? Are the curtains of heaven withdrawn, or the purposes of God developed? Have they seen or conversed with an angel; or have the glories of futurity burst upon their view? No!48
After exposing a plethora of false spiritual gifts among the competing churches of the time, from Quakers, Shakers, and Irvingites, to Presbyterians, Methodists, and even Latter-day Saints, Smith declared, "we answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood, and having a knowledge of the laws by which Spirits are governed."49
Many years earlier, the Mormons had been reviled by mainstream Christians because they had been "perverted by the most frantic enthusiasm." Yet the kinds of religious enthusiasm endorsed by Joseph Smith and the LDS Church leadership in the 1840s appeared in some ways quite mild compared to the hooping and hollering, jerking and fainting, and screaming and shouting prevalent among many of the leading Christian denominations of the period. In an era of rampant spirituality, Joseph Smith had tapped into the unique nature of biblical spiritual gifts and channeled them through the claim of a restored priesthood, in order to reestablish the validity and authority of the ancient Christian church in the modern world. Such logical coherency in an age of spiritual cacophony provided the vital foundation for the newest, future world religion.
1. Benjamin Winchester, A History of the Priesthood: From the Beginning of the World to the Present Time (Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking & Guilbert, 1843), 135.
2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also known as the LDS Church, or the Mormons. For the scope of this paper, all instances of the "LDS Church" will be used in place of the full title of the LDS Church.
3. John Whitmer and W. W. Phelps, "Letter from John Whitmer and William W. Phelps, 29 July 1833," accessed on the JosephSmithPapers.org at http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/letter-from-john-whitmer-and-william-w-phelps-29-july-1833?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=5&s=undefined&sm=none.
4. John Owen, "On the Works of the Holy Spirit," reprinted in Pneumatologia: or, A Discourse Concerning The Holy Spirit, abridged and edited by the Rev. George Burder (Philadelphia: Towar & Hogan, 1827), 347.
5. John Owen, 347-348.
6. Jonathan Edwards, "Charity, or Love, More excellent than the Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit," in Charity and its Fruits: Christian love as manifested in the heart and life, edited by Tryon Edwards (London: First Banner of Truth Trust, 1969), 29.
7. Jonathan Edwards, 29.
8. Jonathan Edwards, 44.
9. For a more detailed analysis, see Ann Taves, Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 34-41.
10. Joseph Smith, "A Dissertation of his Character, Preaching, &c.," in Sermons on Important Subjects by George Whitefield, edited by Samuel Drew (London: Henry Fisher, Son, and P. Jackson, 1828), 794.
11. Conyers Middleton, as cited by John Wesley, "Letter to Dr. Conyers Middleton," London, January 4, 1749. The letter is available at the Wesley Center Online, Jerry James ed., Wesley Center for Applied Theology of Northwest Nazarene College, Nampa, Idaho, 1998. http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/wesleys-letters-1749/
12. John Wesley, "Letter to Dr. Conyers Middleton.."
13. John Wesley, "Journals and Diaries III (1743-54)," vol. 20 in The Works of John Wesley, edited by W. Reginald Ward, Richard P. Heitzenrater general editor (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991), 356-357.
14. For a more detailed analysis of Shouting Methodists and John Wesley, see Ann Taves, Fits, Trances, and Visions, 72-117.
15. Charles Buck, A Theological Dictionary, Woodward's New Edition (Philadelphia: Published by Joseph J. Woodward, 1831), 484.
16. Stephen J. Stein, The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 167.
17. David Benedict, writing in 1811, as cited by William H. Brackney, ed., Baptist Life and Thought:1600-1980, A Source Book (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1983), 153.
18. William W. Pym, , An Inquiry Concerning Spiritual Gifts (London: James Nisbet, 1832), 61.
19. Philip Schaff and Johann Jakob Herzog, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1954), 11. Accessed online at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc03/Page_11.html.
20. The above is found in 3 Nephi 29:6. The following references in the Book of Mormon also highlight the role and function of spiritual gifts, as well as their similarity with the biblical gifts: Alma 9:21, Mormon 9:7-25, Moroni 10:8-19. Compare with Mark 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 12.
21. Joseph Smith, "History, 1838-1856, volume A-1," 40. Available at JosephSmithPapers.org, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-1838-1856-volume-a-1?p=46.
22. Joseph Smith, "History, 1838-1856, volume A-1," 41. Available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-1838-1856-volume-a-1?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=47&s=undefined&sm=none.
23. For accounts of seer stones, see Joseph Smith, "History, 1838-1856, volume A-1," 53-54. Available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-1838-1856-volume-a-1?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=59&s=undefined&sm=none, and Edward Partridge, "The Journal of Bishop Edward Partridge," MSS SC 544, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. For "act like an Indian," see John Whitmer, "The Book of John Whitmer," chapter 6, JosephSmithPapers project, Histories, vol. 2. For contortions and cramps, see Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, chapter 8.
24. For healings, see Newel Knight, as cited by Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 4, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 65, and Jared Carter, Jared Carter Journal, MSS SC547, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 3. For the gift of known tongues, see Alexander Campbell, "Delusions," in the Millennial Harbinger, vol. 2, February 10, 1831, 15. For the gift of unknown tongues, see V. Alan Curtis, "Missionary Activities and Church Organizations in Pennsylvania, 1830-1840" (Master of Arts thesis: Brigham Young University, 1976), 78. For interpretation of tongues, see Heber C. Kimball, "The History of Brigham Young," in The Millennial Star, August 6, 1864, 504.
25. Anonymous letter to the Painesville Telegraph, December 14, 1830.
26. Alexander Campbell, "Delusions," in the Millennial Harbinger, vol. 2, February 10, 1831, 15.
27. Alexander Campbell, "Inspiration of the Scriptures," The Millennial Harbinger, vol. 7, no. 8, August 1836, 347.
28. John Murdock, "an Abriged Record of the life of John Murdock, taken from his Journal by himself," MSS 928, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 5.
29. George Ellsworth, "A History of Mormon Missions in the United States and Canada, 1830-1860" (doctor of philosophy: University of California, 1951), 50.
30. For these and other details, see Maclane Heward, "The First Mission of the Twelve Apostles: 1835" (Master of Arts: Brigham Young University, 2013), 127.
31. "Mormonism Unmasked, showed to be an Impious Imposture, and Mr. Bennett's Reply answered and refuted, by a Philanthropist of Chster County." Pamphlet printed in Philadelphia, 1840.
32. William Howells, cited in "Three nights' public discussion between the Revds. C. W. Cleeve, James Robertson, and Philip Cater, and Elder John Taylor, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France. Chairman, Rev. K. Groves, M.A., assisted by Charles Townley, LL.D., and Mr. Luddy. Also a reply to the Rev. K. Groves, M.A., & Charles Townley, LL.D.," published in Liverpool by John Taylor, 1850, 33.
33. John Murdock, "an Abriged Record of the life of John Murdock, taken from his Journal by himself," MSS 928, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 13, Luman Andros Shurtliff, ""Biographical Sketch from the life of Luman Andros Shurtliff," MSS SC 88, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 32-39.
34. "Minutes, 22-23 January 1833," available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/minutes-22-23-january-1833?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=1&s=undefined&sm=none.
35. Joseph Smith, "Letter to Brethren in Zion, 2 July 1833," available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/letter-to-brethren-in-zion-2-july-1833?p=2.
36. Joseph Smith, "Letterbook 1, 1832-1835," October 10, 1833, 59. Available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/letterbook-1-1832-1835?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=71&s=undefined&sm=none.
37. Joseph Smith, "Letter William W. Phelps, 31 July 1832," available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/letter-to-william-w-phelps-31-july-1832?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=6&s=undefined&sm=none.
38. Joseph Smith, "Letter to N. C. Saxton, 4 January 1833," available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/letter-to-n-c-saxton-4-january-1833?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=2&s=undefined&sm=none.
39. Orson Hyde, "Minutes, 21 April 1834," available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/minutes-21-april-1834?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=2&s=undefined&sm=none.
40. "The Church of Christ," Evening and Morning Star vol.1, March 1833, 146.
41. Richard E. Bennett and Amber J. Seidel, "'A World in Darkness': Early Latter-day Saint Understanding of the Apostasy, 1830-1834," in Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2005): 83.
42. Edward Partridge, Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, no. 4, January 1835, 60.
43. Erastus Snow and Benjamin Winchester, "An Address to the Citizens of Salem (Mass.) and Vicinity," Times and Seasons, November 15, 1841, 580.
44. Parley P. Pratt, "An Address," Times and Seasons, March 1840, 67-68.
45. Benjamin Winchester, A History of the Priesthood: From the Beginning of the World to the Present Time (Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking & Guilbert, 1843), iii.
46. Joseph Smith, "Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book," April 28, 1842, 36. Available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/nauvoo-relief-society-minute-book?dm=image-and-text&zm=zoom-inner&tm=expanded&p=33&s=undefined&sm=none. The language almost seems to indicate that women were criticizing other women for their participation in healing — not men criticizing women. Women were circulating the concern, and Joseph Smith later reproved "those that were dispos'd to find fault with the management of concerns," giving the impression that he was reproving those women present who disagreed with him. This, of course, remains inconclusive.
47. Joseph Smith, "Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book," April 28, 1842, 40-41.
48. Joseph Smith, "Try the Spirits," April 1, 1842, in "History, 1838-1856, volume C-1", 477-478. Available at JosephSmithPapers.org. http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1?p=476.
49. Joseph Smith, "Try the Spirits," 478.