Talking about the LDS Church's 'Lost Apostles'

Friday , March 20, 2015 - 9:58 AM

Doug Gibson

On Monday, March 23, at 7 p.m. at Weber State University’s Lindquist Alumni Center, in the Garden Room, H. Michael Marquardt, co-author with William Shepard of “Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism’s Original Quorum of the Twelve,” will be doing a question-and-answer session with attendees. I have reviewed “Lost Apostles” in the newspaper. Mr. Marquardt was kind enough to answer some questions I have. The book details those apostles who were original members of the Quorum of the Twelve and later left or were removed from the church.

Me: Of the "Lost Apostles," who do you think was the most influential within the early growth of Mormonism?

Marquardt: Thomas B. Marsh, president of the original Quorum of Twelve Apostles, stands out as trying to maintain unity in the quorum. He did missionary work before and after he was ordained o the apostleship. He was the publisher of the Elders’ Journal of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Kirtland, Ohio. (Sept-Oct. 1837; July-Aug. 1838) [Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, 3 vols. (Provo, Utah Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997-2012), 1:72-74]

Me: I was struck by the fact that with the exception of John Boynton, most of the Lost Apostles still maintained ties to Mormonism, even favorable ties to past colleagues. How strong was the emotional bind between these men even after the separations?

Marquardt: Members of the priesthood quorum, though they disagreed to some extent with the direction of the church, developed a strong brotherhood. The most wayward in their actions were William McLellin and William Smith. When John Boynton visited Salt Lake City in the 1849 and 1872 he was still known as Brother Boynton and Brother John. (268, 271-72)

Me: What was the key incident in early-Mormon history that caused the most serious dysfunction in the church? I would guess Kirtland and Far West. If so, why?

Marquardt: Most of the apostles had serious problems in the overreaching actions of Joseph Smith Jr. and Sidney Rigdon. Though the failure of Kirtland Safety Society Bank was a factor, it was a combination of what was perceived as faults of Smith and Rigdon. In the words of Warren Parrish, a former scribe for Joseph Smith, they “lie by revelation, swindle by revelation, cheat and defraud by revelation, run away by revelation; and if they do not mend their ways, I fear they will at last be damned by revelation.” This was affirmed by Luke Johnson and John Boynton. (160)

Me: Why is Luke Johnson still "lost" despite his return to the church? Why do we hear so little about him? It seems his example would be trumpeted?

Marquardt: Though Luke Johnson was approved to be reordained as an elder he was not reinstated into the Quorum of Twelve. (286) He did not settle in Salt Lake City but in West Jordan and later in Rush Valley. It could be his association with the notorious Bill Hickman. (288-89)

Me: The case of Thomas Marsh fascinates me. Was it his testimony against Mormons in the late 1830s that caused such animosity by Brigham Young toward him when he returned to the church? Is that a reason the false milk strippings story has survived so long?

Marquardt: The October 1838 testimony of Thomas Marsh, in the form of an affidavit, was a leading cause for additional action against the Latter Day Saints. He said that he “heard the prophet say that he should yet tread down his enemies, and walk over their dead bodies.” (188) Since Marsh was separated from the church for fifteen years and did not repudiate his testimony he was looked down upon by many including Brigham Young. The milk stripping story was not the real reason that Thomas Marsh made his affidavit.

Me: William Smith seems to have been two-thirds scoundrel but obviously wanted to remain a part of Mormonism all his life. Was part of his promise crushed by living in the shadow of his brother Joseph?

Marquardt: William Smith thought he had a right to be supported by the church because he was a member of the founding Smith family. Later in his life he settled down.

Me: What individuals have been ignored in Mormon history?

Marquardt: Women have been for the most part ignored. This is for a variety of reasons. I wrote an article a number of years ago titled "Emily Dow Partridge Smith Young on the Witness Stand: Recollections of a Plural Wife" published in the Journal of Mormon History 34, no. 3 (Summer 2008):110-141.

Me: Thanks very much for your time.

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