Monday, January 15, 2018

Memo to 'High Priests': the 1950s were not better

“Boy, I wish we lived in the 1950s.” “We are definitely in the last days.” “The amount of sin and unrighteousness has tripled since I was a young man in the 1950s.” “I’d prefer to live in the 1950s.” Those are popular sentiments I often hear in my church -- High Priest -- meetings. (I kid my fellow High Priests, these sentiments are not exclusive to my elder graybeards -- some of whom have less gray than me.)
I’d kind of like to visit the 1950s for a couple of days. It’d be cool to take in a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds, or Ebbetts Field, watch the Hollywood Stars play baseball, catch a fight card at The Olympic Auditorium, or St. Nicks in NYC. But I couldn’t live in any era where I couldn’t travel 15 minutes and enjoy Schezwan chicken. Try that in the 1950s. (Actually, since I've gone gluten-, soy- and dairy-free I don't eat Schezwan chicken anymore).
I just read an interesting book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 to 2010,” by Charles Murray, and it’s got me thinking about life then and life today. I jotted down a few positives and negatives about the 1950s to early ‘60s, I jotted down a few positives and negatives about the 1950s, whether secular, political, cultural, religious … In the 1950s, most of the professions were off limits to women. My LDS Church was 20-plus years away from allowing blacks the priesthood and temple privileges. There were very few LDS temples. Many Mormons had no access to the faith’s General Conference. (In fact, when I was a missionary in Peru 29 years ago, there was no access to LDS General Conference as well). Members didn’t have the access to church materials, or interests such as genealogy, that are available via our Internet or TVs.
In the 1950s, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder; Salt Lake City was a long way from being regarded a gay-friendly city. People smoked liked chimneys and as a result, lots of us lived shorter lives. Medicine didn’t have near the ability it has now to relieve chronic pain and more from cancer and other illness.
May children may have played outdoors more in the 1950s, but I’d want them to be exposed to the tolerance of today’s culture and benefit from the advances in science, technology, engineering, and other areas that we have experienced the past 40 years due to an increased egalitarianism within the universities, the culture, and workplace.
On the plus side, the food had fewer preservatives in the 1950s. On the bad side, there wasn’t much variety. Whether Indian, Chinese, or many other specialties, there are so many more culinary offerings today. Consider the Internet: We can reach just about anywhere in the world in a split second, face to face; we can watch — in real time — events scores of thousands of miles away.
We have the potential to buy virtually anything we need or just want. TV: We have the ability to watch hundreds of channels, either via our digital TV or on the Internet. ( I was flipping channels Saturday and discovered the Aussie cricket on in the early AM, live; that’s crazy) There are hundreds, if not thousands, of more events, contests, sports offerings today than what was available 50-plus years ago.
Vehicles were inferior to those today. Gas wasn’t as cheap as we remember. Based on today’s prices, a gallon of gas in the early 1960s, for example, was above $2 a gallon.
The level of sports was not as strong as today. No offense boxing purists, but Deontay Wilder would easily KO Rocky Marciano. The movies may have been cleaner, but there weren’t nearly as many available. If you missed a film for a couple of weeks, you needed to hope that it would be on TV in a couple of years.
And even with our LDS religion, how can we live sans instant access to even videos of past General Conferences, many, many books, even from the 1900s and all the lessons, songs, history, etc. we want.
We remember our past fondly. We romanticize it and we devour books and film that details the past, usually in its most alluring forms. But seriously, you gotta be crazy to want to swap 2017 for the 1950s.
-- Doug Gibson
Originally published at StandardBlogs

Monday, January 8, 2018

'The Mormoness' gets a reprint 163 years after its publication

Greg Kofford Books, as part of its The Mormon Image in Literature series, is re-publishing “The Mormoness: or, the Trials of Mary Maverick, a Narrative of Real Events." That’s quite a mouthful for an 1853 novella of about 25,000 words.
Written by a minister/educator/journalist of some note named Professor John Russell, it’s 1853 publication, in serial form, is significant because it’s virtually the only work of Mormon fiction derived from non-church sources that is sympathetic to Mormonism. But sympathetic is not intended to mean that Russell had any warm feelings toward the doctrines of the Latter-day Saints, and its founder. Indeed, Russell was contemptious of its doctrines, its leaders, its scriptures and lamented individuals who were ”ensnared“ by it.
But Russell was unique in that he vociferously condemned persecution of the young faith, primarily for two reasons. The first was that it violated the constitutional rights of Mormons. The second reason, more personal, was Russell’s fear — probably accurate — that outrage over Mormons being persecuted incited public sympathy for their plight, and improved the faith’s missionary efforts. In ”The Mormoness“ he writes: ”Employ Force and violence to put down the wildest delusion that fanaticism ever invented, and you inevitably insure its success. ... It is strikingly verified in the case of the Mormons. Hundreds who ridiculed the absurdities of that creed when its followers were unmolested, fell directly into the snare of Mormonism when their sympathies were awakened by seeing them calmly enduring persecution and death for their cause.“
In fact, Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall, who edit and annotate this volume, include a letter Russell wrote in 1841 to Thomas Gregg, the editor of the extremely anti-Mormon Warsaw Signal, chiding his friends for the newspaper’s tone. Russell was prescient when he wrote, ”I have not a doubt but that the Signal will destroy the settlement and town of the Mormons. I am fearful that on opening the next number I shall see the event announced in starring capitals.“ But he added, “the excitement will soon fade away and the deepest feelings of sympathy be awakened for that people. Their errors will all be forgotten in their suffering.
Gregg was not as murderous a foe of Mormons as another Signal editor, Thomas Sharp, and the editors note that under Gregg’s guidence, the paper took a less harsh tone with Mormons and Nauvoo.
As for “The Mormoness,” Russell based the main characters, very loosely, on a father and son who were killed at The Hauns Mill Massacre in Missouri, leaving a widow. The Maverick family, James, Mary, and son Eddy, live in Sixteen Mile Prairie, a small settlement. They are happy, pious and very content, Mary such a wonderful housekeeper and mother that she inspires envious gossip from peers. James, once a vociferous opponent of Mormonism, is converted. Forced through pressure to give it up, he fears for his soul and nearly dies. To bring him back to health, Mary decides to convert to the faith. The family falls from esteem and eventually moves.
In Russell’s tale, the family grows in the faith, all are converted. On the night of the Hauns Mill-type  massacre, both James and Eddy are killed. Deeply depressed, Mary, the heroine, gathers her faith and courage and dedicates her life to Christ-like behavior. Russell shares passages in which Mary, a veritable saint, teaches children, is proposed to, unsuccessfully, by a rich man, goes among native Americans, nursing them through cholera, and gains the respect of everyone she meets, despite suffering discrimination due to her religion. The theme is clear — anything evil or bad that is thrown at Mary Maverick is returned with an excess of love, thereby increasing her esteem, and by extension Mormonism.
The climax of the novella involves Mary’s crisis when she discovers she is nursing back to health the man who killed her husband and son. A conflict arises when the man, enamored of her, insists they be married. 
As literature, this melodramatic tale will cause no sleepless nights to defenders of Charles Dickens. But it is readable, and I found myself eager to finish it in a sitting. Russell is progressive enough, for a faithful mainstream Christian of that time, to describe Mary Maverick as an example of a Christian, despite her religion. With his text, he shows how great suffering and humility moves the protagonist deeper into her faith, and a Christlike existence.
He writes, “These unmerited and cruel wrongs, inflicted upon that sect, and especially upon her own husband, made a deep impression upon the feelings of Mary, They enlisted her sympathies in the cause of the injured, and had a thousand fold greater effect than all the arguments of the prophet himself could have had, to change her opinions. Insensibly to herself, the daily abuse unjustly heaped upon her husband wrought an entire change in her views of Mormonism, and she now joined heart and hand with that sect, and willingly united her destiny with theirs. Such is ever the effect of persecution, even of those most deeply in error.”
Other portions of the book include a biographical sketch of Russell, the aforementioned letter to the Signal’s editor, and a chapter from another book Russell penned, an attack on Universalism.
-- Doug Gibson
-- Previously published at StandardNET

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Cal Grondahl's Standard Works cartoons -- a sample

For the holiday week, here's a sample of Cal Grondahl's Standard Works cartoons, done over a several-year period, roughly about 2009 to 2015. A website change ended the site (except for Wayback), but these were saved at Flickr and we occasionally use them on the Culture of Mormonism blog. Enjoy!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The first anti-Mormon book gets a reprint with commentary

More than 180 years after its publication, “Mormonism Unvailed,” generally considered the very first anti-Mormon book, remains of interest to historians and students of Mormonism and 19th century religious history. The book, published in 1834 by newspaper editor Eber D. Howe, promised an expose of the new religion founded by “Joe Smith.” Howe had a personal reason for his animus; persons very close to him in his family had converted to the new church. “Mormonism Unvailed” is considered the first book critical of Mormonism to address The Book of Mormon. Howe also included many affidavits from individuals who criticized Joseph Smith and Mormonism. 
Signature Books has published “Mormonism Unvailed” (here) with critical commentary from scholar Dan Vogel, author of a biography of Joseph Smith. I had the opportunity to ask Vogel some questions about the new edition of “Mormonism Unvailed.” Our discussion follows:
Why did you and Signature Books reprint Mormonism Unvailed?
Vogel: “We felt that it deserved a scholarly edition because it was the first book-length response to Joseph Smith and still has significance to historians largely because it contains the affidavits of Smith’s former neighbors and acquaintances in New York and Pennsylvania as well as his father-in-law and other relatives.”
What is with the misspelling in the title of Howe's book?
Vogel: “Unvailed” was the preferred spelling in that day.“
What did Howe do for a living?
Vogel: ”Howe was the editor of the “Painesville Telegraph,” located about ten miles east of Kirtland, Ohio.“
Who did Howe know who joined the Mormon Church?
Vogel: ”The conversion of hundreds in the area made Mormonism an unavoidable subject for newspaperman Howe, but it became quite personal when his wife and sister joined.“
What is the Spaulding theory talked about in ”Mormonism Unvailed?“
Vogel”Howe included affidavits that accused Joseph Smith of plagiarizing the Book of Mormon from a manuscript written by Solomon Spalding before his death in 1816. This theory is not regarded as credible by most scholars.“
E D Howe sounds angry in the books. Was this book personal?
Vogel: ”The tone of Howe’s prose was present before the conversion of his wife and sister. It was his general style with most other topics as well. He was also similarly opposed Andrew Jackson and Freemasons.“
Are Howe’s arguments about the Book of Mormon convincing?
Vogel: ”Howe’s critique of the Book of Mormon was influenced by Alexander Campbell’s 1831 review, which argued that Joseph Smith was the author and that it tried to resolve the leading political and religious issues of the day. This is the favored view of non-Mormon scholars today.
Who is this Doctor Hurlburt, who is mentioned in the book?
Vogel: ”Doctor Philastus Hurlbut (Doctor was his given name), a former Mormon, was hired by interested parties in the Kirtland area to collect affidavits in Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania. He turned over the results of his researches to Howe to publish.
How reliable are the affidavits?
Vogel: ”Much of what was reported by Smith’s New York neighbors and Pennsylvania relatives regarding his money digging, practice of folk magic, and use of seer stones is corroborated by others, including by some of his early followers.“
How much legitimacy today does "Mormonism Unvailed" have as a critique of Mormonism? Do its arguments carry weight? Or is it only of historical interest?
Vogel”We are still debating many of the subjects Howe brought up in his book — issues surrounding Joseph Smith’s character and the true origin of the Book of Mormon. What is the significance of Joseph Smith’s early money digging, particularly his use of folk magic and seer stones? Was the Book of Mormon plagiarized from Solomon Spaulding’s manuscript or merely a reflection of nineteenth-century theology and American politics? It began with Howe.
What is the chief benefit of reading the book today, particularly for a church member? Does it provide additional insight on the church's history, or more knowledge of Joseph Smith's life, or more insight into LDS Church doctrine?
Vogel”Perhaps they might be curious to see how Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon were viewed by non-believers at an early date. Howe provides many insights into Joseph Smith’s character, both before and after he became the Mormon prophet, that helps fill out and balance the usual saintly prophet image held by believers — his excessive drinking and swearing in early life, his hot and sometimes violent temper, his sometimes demanding and dictatorial leadership style, among others. Howe’s affidavits make clear that Joseph Smith’s early involvement in treasure seeking was much more extensive than he wanted to admit in his official history. Howe helps fill that gap.“
-- Doug Gibson
-- Originally published at StandardNET

Sunday, December 10, 2017

'American Crucifixion' a recap of murder of Joseph Smith

Alex Beam, Boston Globe columnist, has penned a new Mormon-themed history, “American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church,” 2014, PublicAffairs Books. This relatively slim volume, 334 pages, is not a scholarly book, and its exteriors -- including characterizations of major characters, including Smith and newspaper publisher Thomas Sharp -- lack depth. However, the events in Carthage, Illinois, where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed by a Warsaw, Ill. mob, goaded in part by Sharp and others, is covered well by the author. Also, the sham trial that exonerated “suspects” who were not among the chief murderers is also well-recapped by Beam.
Beam accurately describes how the enemies of the Mormon Church, once they had Hyrum and Joseph Smith in Carthage, deliberately and patiently lay in wait for the proper opportunity to strike. The courts were on their side; a faux charge was approved by a hostile judge to make sure the Smiths stayed in jail, avoiding a bond release. Thomas Ford, the weak, impotent, self-important governor of Illinois, accurately described by Beam as “pusillanimous,” was easily played by the mob. Ford, a truly ridiculous figure, was traveling to Nauvoo to make a pompous speech to the Latter-day Saints when the Smiths were murdered.
The Carthage Greys, a militia hostile to Mormons, were “guarding” the Carthage jail. One June 27, 1844, the Greys were uncharacteristically slow to defend an attack on the jail by two Warsaw militias. As Beam recounts, the Smith brothers were not in a secure cell, but in a guest room. While companions John Taylor and Willard Richards helped try to keep the mob out, Hyrum Smith was killed by shots through the door. Joseph Smith, who had a small firearm, wounded some of the attackers but was overwhelmed and shot by attackers in the jail and outside firing through a window. Smith, mortally wounded, fell from a second-floor window and was later riddled with bullets. Taylor was badly wounded but survived; Richards suffered only a scratch.
As Beam notes, the murders occurred in minutes, and Carthage was soon emptied of mob participants, now worried that thousands of Mormons would hunt them to avenge the Smiths’ deaths. However, church members were in shock after the violent deaths, and exhortations from Richards not to avenge the murders were overwhelmingly accepted. The Mormons instead focused on a long series of discussions and disputes over who would succeed Smith as church leader. After the murder trial which exonerated Sharp and other Mormon-haters, the anti-Mormon persecution resumed until the majority of Mormons left Nauvoo to go west with Brigham Young.
I have problems with Beam’s portrayal of Joseph Smith and the Mormons of Nauvoo. I’m not looking for a hagiography, and I’m as tired as anyone of the Mormon-themed films that portray Smith as if he has a halo. But Beam casts Joseph Smith as an extreme narcissist, a one-dimensional mixture of lechery, deceit and megalomania. I’m sure many see him that way but one should be allowed a better depiction of an historical figure as complex and gifted as the Mormon Church’s founder. To Beam, Smith appears no better than scoundrels such as Dr. John Bennett, or ill-fated “successor” James J. Strang. They are appropriately historical footnotes, Smith’s legacy includes a church of 14 million.
Smith had faults, and he merits a complex overview. The man who created a city of 10,000 and a church of 20,000, and whose death did not destroy his church, or heartfelt devotion among members to the controversial doctrine of polygamy, needs a deeper study than Beam allows. One tactic used by the author is the “freak show” depiction, in which visitors to Nauvoo who were repelled by Smith are provided as sources; one is a future mayor of Boston, one the son of a U.S. president. This tactic was used often against Utah Mormons in the 19th century, with condescending visitors to Salt Lake City later trashing Young, Parley P. Pratt, or others in articles or books.
Beam does a good explaining the destruction of an anti-Mormon newspaper, started by Mormon leader turned dissident William Law. Smith’s approval of this unwise act served as the prelude to the murders. Nevertheless, the term “rabid anti-Mormons” is not enough to wonder why the antipathy was so deadly. Much of the blame falls to the yellow journalist Sharp, but his character is never explored in sufficient detail. Beam, in an effort to set the scenario prior to the deaths, includes Nauvoo-strife anecdotes, but they are curiously lifeless, with the characters seeming to play roles rather than acting spontaneously.
Despite my concerns, I recommend “American Crucifixion” to readers. Like the Joseph Smith biography, “Rough Stone Rolling,” it does in part convey the isolation of Illinois, as well as the savage bloodlust that was allowed to flourish. The recap of the murders are terrifying. It captures the deliberate killings, as well as the temporary satiation of deadly impulses that the deaths accomplished.
Beam has included a couple of odd footnotes. On page 98, the author claims that Mormon apologists hid polygamy for decades after Nauvoo. But if the author had merely read easily accessible church publications, he would learn that the Mormons were advocating polygamy openly by 1852. Beam’s source for this claim is from “Elder” Ebenezer Robinson, long after Nauvoo. But he was no longer a Utah Mormon. In short, this source is in no position to support Beam’s claim of a long polygamy cover up.
Also, a key source of Beam’s, one Isaac Scott, is listed as a Mormon missionary in 1844 Nauvoo. Besides other quotes, Scott is used by the author to refute historical accounts that Joseph Smith thought he would not survive his jailing in Carthage. Smith is reputed by stronger sources than Scott as believing both he and Hyrum would be murdered. Also, Scott was a critic of Mormonism by early 1844 and subsequently emerged as an enemy as harsh of Smith as Law or Francis Higbee, former members turned apostates. Scott, who eventually became a follower of Strang, seems a poor choice to comment on Smith’s emotions as his death neared. He would not have had access to such information.
Nevertheless, as mentioned, the book’s account of the murders and the ensuing trial makes it worth a read.
-- Doug Gibson
-- Originally published at StandardNet

Sunday, December 3, 2017

B.H. Roberts spent most of his life defending 'The Book of Mormon'

I ran across an interesting article in the Summer 1979 issue of Brigham Young University Studies. It’s “B.H. Roberts and The Book of Mormon,” and was written by Truman Madsen. Roberts was a remarkable man. Born in England, his birth father, and later a stepfather, both abandoned him and his family. He migrated to Utah early in his life and settled through a few rocky years struggling with the Word of Wisdom before straightening out, and eventually became a general authority at the age of 31.
He remained one for the rest of his life, dying in 1933 at 76. He served in World War I as a chaplain and was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1898, although that body refused to seat him because he was a polygamist. He married three wives and had 15 children.
Roberts was unique within the LDS hierarchy for his reasoning that evolution and Gospel doctrines did not conflict. He wrote a book, “The Truth, The Way, The Life,” that was not published due to the objections of creationist Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith. It eventually was published in 1994.
In the mid-1890s Roberts almost left the church over a disagreement on whether church authorities could be active in politics. He eventually apologized for the near apostasy.
Despite his maverick views, Roberts was respected by his colleagues in the church hierarchy. He was fascinated by “The Book of Mormon,” at one point calling it the “fifth Gospel.” He spent much of the second half of his life defending the book. According to Madsen’s piece, the unique doctrines of “The Book of Mormon” — so different from traditional christianity — and the biblical and historical knowledge within “The Book of Mormon” made it impossible for any man as unlearned as Joseph Smith to create it from scratch. “It imposes what Roberts called ‘a greater tax on human credulity’ to say Joseph Smith, or anyone in the nineteenth century, created it,” writes Madsen.
Roberts, explains Madsen, has a different viewpoint of what the book’s translation was like than perhaps the typical Latter-day Saint. Roberts did not regard it as “magical,” or in other words, just viewing the Urim and Thummim, seeing words, and writing them down. “On the contrary, ‘brain sweat’ was required, and preparation, and labor,” writes Madsen.
Besides, word-for-word translation is impossible, Roberts maintained. Smith had to use, in instances, what he had available to translate. That explains near copies of biblical chapters, biblical-like phrases, and even the inclusion of terms such as horses in “The Book of Mormon.”
Madsen lists 10 “attributes that define Roberts’ devotion to “The Book of Mormon.” One bit of information that surprised me was that Roberts enjoyed writing creative fiction based on “The Book of Mormon.” I hope it was better than most of the kitsch published today.
He wrote stories about Moroni, the Nephite nation and even a novel about Alma’s son, Corianton, which is described as “a tale of sneaking indulgence, and remorse and renewal.” I have read it and it’s a kitschy, fun read available for free on the Internet or via Kindle. Madsen adds that Roberts desperately wanted to see a major film based on “The Book of Mormon” produced. A movie was made of the Corianton novel, BYU has the only remaining copy and it was shown several years ago.
One category Madsen describes Roberts in regards to “The Book of Mormon” is the role of “devil’s advocate.” As mentioned earlier, Roberts intellect brought him much respect among general authorities. He spent many of the final years of his life providing church leaders with hypothetical attacks on the legitimacy of “The Book of Mormon.” These efforts, which Madsen compares to a skilled lawyer preparing to better understand a courtroom adversary, have led to claims that Roberts lost or questioned his testimony regarding “The Book of Mormon.”
Madsen doubts these assertions. Roberts told colleagues that these reports were never intended to be balanced. They were intended as tools to increase learning about “The Book of Mormon.”
Roberts’ greatest influence as a church leader is that his example reminds us that our beliefs need to be tested for them to grow. If they remain unchallenged, they stay weak and susceptible to failure in times of stress.
Yet Roberts remained in awe of the personal power “The Book of Mormon” gave him. Madsen writes, “Though renowned for his gifts as a speaker, B.H. Roberts agonized over the fact that he could never communicate the intensity, the power, the consuming white light that seemed to him to shine through the book.”
-- Doug Gibson
-- Originally published at StandardNET

Sunday, November 26, 2017

John Corrill an example of the older Christian primitivist converts to Mormonism

The early years of the Mormon Church are distinct for its young converts, with 20-something apostles embracing the progressive, radical-for-its-time distinctions between Joseph Smith’s Mormonism and the traditional Protestant Christianity. However, there was another type of early LDS convert; an older generation who embraced Christian primitivism, which encompassed a desire to return to strict Biblical principles, disdained “priestcraft,” and had a libertarian streak, mixed with republican ideals, that opposed a centralized church leadership dictating to local church groups. Most importantly, this type of convert would never place a prophet’s opinion over his own personal beliefs.
Given the direction the Mormon Church took over its 14-plus years with Smith solely at its helm, it’s not surprising that a substantial number of the older-generation converts did not stick with Mormonism. Perhaps the best example of this type of early Mormon convert who enjoyed prominence in the young church but later abandoned it is John Corrill, who is mentioned a couple of times in the Doctrine of Covenants. In the book “Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History,” University of Illinois Press, 1994, historian Kenneth H. Winn provides an interesting recap of Corrill’s life and tenure in Mormonism. A Christian primitivist, Corrill, who turned 36 in 1831, initially investigated Mormonism with a determination to expose its follies. However, Corrill, who admired the primitivist teachings of Alexander Campbell, was shocked when he heard Sidney Rigdon, a former Campbell advocate he admired, pitching Mormonism enthusiastically.
As Winn notes, Corrill, a Massachusetts native, read The Book of Mormon and decided he could not declare it a fraud. Also, Mormonism appealed to specific primitivists such as Corrill in that it contained a certainty of belief that they sought, whether with the Book of Mormon or a yearning for “a prophet who could speak for God.” He, as well as his wife and family, joined the church in 1831 in Ohio.
Soon after his baptism, Corrill, after serving a mission, was sent to Missouri to help develop the church’s growth there. He served under Bishop Edward Partridge. It was here that Corrill first clashed with Smith’s leadership. Both he and Partridge favored a more local control than Smith wanted, and both were criticized by the Mormon prophet. Also, Corrill foresaw the problems that would develop with mass migration of poor Mormon converts to land long dominated by non-Mormon Missourians. The combination of religious bigotry among Missourians as well as unwise boasting by saints of establishing a religious and political kingdom led to violence and conflicts that the Mormons would always lose over the years.
Despite the conflict with church leadership, Corrill mended his problems with Smith and according to Winn, had a very strong ecclesiastical relationship with the young prophet through the mid-1830s. In 1836, Winn notes, Corrill was appointed by Joseph Smith to head the completion of the Kirtland Temple. Corrill also developed a reputation of being the Mormon leader who was best able to negotiate with anti-Mormon elements in Missouri. By 1837, Corrill was a leading Mormon settler in Far West, Missouri, ”selected ... as the church’s agent and as the ‘Keeper of the Lord’s Storehouse,’” writes Winn.
But that was the peak that preceded the fall of Corrill’s tenure in the church. As tranquil as events in Far West were, an ill-fated banking endeavor in Kirtland by Smith and other church leaders was leading to apostasy and tense disputes between church leaders and native Missourians. Corrill, Winn writes, regarded the Kirtland monetary failure with “revulsion.” He saw the lust for wealth, and the subsequent fall, as evidence of “suffered pride.” Yet he was as critical of Smith’s dissenters as he was of the banking effort. Also, Corrill still believed that the overall church, with auxiliaries serving as checks and balances, could reform itself and maintain the better relations between Mormons and non-Mormons that still existed in Far West.
That was not to be. The turmoil of Kirtland followed the church to Far West. To cut to the chase, a speech by Rigdon, called the “Salt Sermon,” appalled Corrill. In it, Ridgon, comparing apostates to salt having lost its savor, argued that they could be “trodden under the foot of men.” In short, Rigdon said that the dissenters “deserved ill treatment.”
Corrill warned the dissenters that their safety was in danger. Later, the Danites, a Mormon vigilante group, was organized. The militant group frightened Corrill, who began to work against it in secret. As Winn explains, “The crisis that began in Kirtland and eventually swept Corrill up in Missouri marked a major turning point in early Mormon history, pitting the theocratically minded devotees of the prophet, who regarded opposition to the church leadership as opposition to God, against more libertarian minded dissenters, who rejected the First Presidency’s claim over their temporal affairs and the authoritarian demand for blind obedience.”
Corrill saw the Danites and Ridgon’s call for conflict in direct opposition to the Biblical belief that God is responsible for divine retribution. From this point on, 1838, Corrill was basically in wait to be excommunicated, no longer trusted by the Smith/Ridgon leadership of the church. Nevertheless, church leaders acknowledged Corrill’s reputation for honesty by electing him — with the Danites’ support — to the Missouri legislature. The final break between Smith and Corrill was over the church leadership’s call for a communal structure, which included church leaders being paid for work other than preaching. The communal structure was, Winn notes, allegedly voluntary, although pressure was exercised on members to contribute. “In any event,” Winn writes, “Corrill deeply disapproved of the revelation and readily shared his opinion with others.”
Despite his church status, Corrill worked without success in the Missouri legislature to push Mormon interests and even donated $2,000 of his own money to help the beleaguered saints. By the time his term ended, most of his constituency had fled the area. Ridgon’s rhetoric, and the Danites’ actions, had led to militias overwhelming the church and Smith, Rigdon and others being jailed. Corrill, now without a church and due to be excommunicated in early 1839, left his religion. He wrote a book, “A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” in late 1839. It is an interesting read for its historical value. (here ) At the time though, it sold poorly and Corrill spent the last few years of his life in poverty. He died in 1842, leaving an estate of only $265.86. As Winn writes, “His integrity and basic decency were overshadowed by charges that he had betrayed the prophet and the church.” 
Corrill did offer testimony against Smith to Missouri court hostile to the Mormons. Richard Lyman Bushman, in his 2005 biography of Joseph Smith,also describes Corrill as a “the steady, clear-headed Missouri leader” who conflicted over how much free will he had to surrender to stay a faithful Mormon, and witnessing defeat after defeat, finally decided he had been deceived..
-- Doug Gibson
Originally published at StandardNet