by Doris White
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (frequently nicknamed the “Mormon Church”) has recently released a new study manual for teenagers who study the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of modern scripture that records the organization of the Church and its early history.
While the study of the Doctrine and Covenants for teenagers is certainly not new, the significance of this new manual is substantial. Several controversial events of Mormon history are covered in this manual. Whereas before, the focus was mainly the doctrine that is contained in the book and the history that brought about the revelation of those doctrines, the new manual also teaches the background about some potentially divisive episodes. Church leaders have obviously recognized that it is important to be very clear about these episodes and doctrines so that from a younger age members of the Church will know the truth and will not be so easily misled by enemies of The Church of Jesus Christ who present half truths or only portions of past events that, by themselves and out of context, could lead to a loss of faith.
Having an accurate understanding of circumstances, as well as an accurate portrayal of all the facts, gives the reader a fuller understanding of doctrines and events. There are some people who are very antagonistic towards The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of them willingly distort the truth to damage others’ faith. Some have honest misconceptions about the history of the Church and feel they are doing Church members a favor by telling them how it “really” is. By taking a new approach with the youth of today, church leaders are giving them the truth early so they can judge for themselves what is truth and what is not. Read more
by Bruce A. Van Orden
Bruce Van Orden is a retired professor of Church History and Doctrine in Religious Education at Brigham Young University. In addition to volunteer work with needy individuals, he is writing a biography of William W. Phelps.
William W. Phelps is most well-known in Mormon history for his uplifting hymns. Less appreciated is his calling soon after he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be “a printer unto the Church.” It was prophesied that “the world [would] receive his writings” and that he, Phelps, would “obtain whatsoever he can obtain in righteousness, for the good of the saints” (D&C 57:11-12). W. W. Phelps fulfilled this revealed duty as he published the Church’s first periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star; helped publish early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants; served as Joseph Smith’s scribe for the Book of Abraham and many other documents; helped publish the first hymnbook (for which he wrote about half the hymns contained in it); and helped compile the Church’s official history. Next to Joseph Smith, during the Prophet’s lifetime W. W. Phelps did more than any other leader to put forward the doctrines of the Kingdom of God.
Any Latter-day Saint who has had the privilege to attend a temple dedication has sung or heard these words: We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,/Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb! (Hymns, 2). W. W. Phelps composed the anthem “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning” for the first temple dedication in Kirtland in 1836. Often in general conference the Saints have sung or heard: Now let us rejoice in the day of salvation.No longer as strangers on earth need we roam./ Good tidings are sounding to us and each nation,/ And shortly the hour of redemption will come (Hymns, 3). This was the first of the “hymns of the restoration” written by a Latter-day Saint in this dispensation, by Phelps in 1832 in The Evening and the Morning Star in Independence, Missouri. Phelps has more compositions (fifteen) in the Church’s current hymnbook, published in 1985, than any other author. Read more
by Doris White
Continuing misconceptions about the historical practice of polygamy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have beleaguered its members since the institution of the practice. Here we will attempt to answer some of the questions people still have about polygamy today. We will try to accurately portray the historical and religious environment surrounding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is frequently called the “Mormon Church” by mistake) during the period when polygamy was practiced.
Polygamy Is No Longer Practiced Today
First of all, to clear up a common misunderstanding, polygamy is not practiced today by any member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To practice polygamy today will lead to excommunication. Gordon B. Hinckley, fifteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ, said the following in October 1998:
Reasons for the Original Exodus
In a bone-chilling temperature of -12°Fahrenheit, 1,000 people gathered in Nauvoo, Illinois, on February 3, 1996, to remember the original Mormon Exodus from the Saints’ beloved city. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as “Mormons”) had been forced from their homes many times before, but this occasion in 1846 was the last time. Then president of the Church, Brigham Young, said:
We could have remained sheltered in our homes had it not been for the threats and hostile demonstrations of our enemies. Our only means of avoiding a rupture was by starting in midwinter. Our homes, gardens, orchards, farms, streets, bridges, mills, public halls, magnificent Temple . . . we leave as a monument of our patriotism, industry, economy, uprightness of purpose and integrity of heart (History of the Church, 7:603).
The Saints were, this time, leaving not only their homes and city behind, but (as they thought), their country. Heading for the unsettled West, they intended to leave the United States, where they had endured so much persecution. However, the Utah Territory, where they settled, soon became part of the United States after the war with Mexico. Read more
Extraordinary Mormon Women
Women belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have always done remarkable things. Emma Smith, first president of the Latter-day Saint women’s organization, told the women working with her, “We are going to do something extraordinary” (Relief Society Minute Book, Nauvoo, Illinois, March 17, 1842, Church History Library, 12), and they haven’t stopped doing extraordinary things since their organization on March 17, 1842.
Austin Hammer was born May 6, 1804, in South Carolina to John and Nancy Hammer. He married Nancy Elston on September 7, 1826, in Wayne County, Indiana. Nancy Elston was born February 2, 1806, in Lexington (now Fayette) County, Kentucky, to Josiah Elston and Rebecca Lewis. Soon after their wedding they moved to Ohio, where they lived for three years, and then moved to Henry County, Indiana. Here they embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ and were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—in 1835. They then moved to Shoal Creek, Caldwell County, Missouri, where they had title to 180 acres of land. Austin and 16 other men were killed October 30, 1838, while guarding Haun’s Grist Mill, in eastern Caldwell County, Missouri, from mobs trying to burn it down. The Hammers had 6 young children at the time. A few weeks after the massacre at Haun’s Mill, the young widow took her 6 children to Pike County and then to Indiana to live with her husband’s family. Nancy Hammer was anxious to return to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, so a friend provided them the resources to go—and then supported them until they could take care of themselves. The family eventually made the trek across the plains to the great Rocky Mountains. Nancy Elston Hammer died October 10, 1871, in Smithfield, Cache County, Utah, faithful to her God to the end.
A Mob Attacks
In the fall of 1838, mobs in the area were threatening to burn down the mill because it ground corn for members of The Church of Jesus Christ. “All the mills in that part of the country refused to grind for them as they were owned by the mob parties, hoping to starve them out.” Because of the threats, a few of the brethren volunteered to guard the mill. This they did for several days and nights as the mob kept repeatedly threatening violence. Finally the mob leaders agreed to meet with some of the Mormons to see if they could work out a compromise. On the day appointed, a fixed number of brethren were at the mill, hoping to work out a settlement and anxious to restore peace. Read more
Lorena Washburn Larsen, Daughter of Mormon Pioneers
Lorena Washburn (1860-1945) was born in Manti, Utah, five years before the Black Hawk War. Her family belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church). Her parents Abraham and Flora Gleason Washburn were Mormon pioneers and emigrated from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1848. Brigham Young, president of The Church of Jesus Christ, called the Washburns to settle Manti in 1849 after Ute chiefs Wakara and Sowiette visited him asking for permanent settlers in the area. In 1865, the Chiefs became uneasy as settlements expanded. Because of starvation among the Utes, a few of them began stealing the Mormons’cattle. On April 9, 1865, in Manti, at a meeting between the Mormons and the Utes discussing the cattle thefts, an altercation ignited the violence. Black Hawk, an Indian brave, successfully united neighboring tribes against the Mormons.
My Memories of the Black Hawk War
I was just a small child when the Black Hawk War with the Ute Indians began in April, 1865. We lived in Manti, Utah. All the people living in the east part of town were told to move onto our street or into houses not farther east than the second row of blocks east of Main Street. That would make it easier to defend the town against the Indians.
In our home there was one large living room, a bedroom, and a kitchen. Under the living room was a large cellar with a trap door in the living room. During the war, we were in danger of Indian attacks at any time of day or night. Mother told us and the neighborhood children to be on the lookout in the daytime. If we saw a group of horsemen coming at any time, we were to all run to our house and she would hide us in the cellar. We had one such scare. A large group of horsemen came riding around Temple Hill and came galloping up our street. We all ran and were quickly hidden in the cellar. Then Mother discovered that it was a scouting party who had been out looking for Indians. Read more
The history of the early pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—which church is sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—is teeming with inspiring stories of courage, sacrifice, industry, and a willingness to give everything to build the Kingdom of God on the earth. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is donating a commemorative historical marker to tell the story of one such group of early pioneers: the Wisconsin loggers whose sacrifice and labor helped to build Nauvoo, Illinois.
Nauvoo, sometimes called the city of Joseph, was central to the heritage of The Church of Jesus Christ. The historical marker will be built at the Trail of Honor Park in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. It will sit near the mills where Latter-day Saints harvested more than one and a half million board-feet of lumber and then floated it down the Black River to Nauvoo some 400 miles away. The Choir will dedicate the site June 19, 2013. Ron Jarrett, president of the Choir, said:
The sacrifices of these logging pioneers are not well known, even among Church members. We wanted to honor these unsung heroes by singing their praises. 
Settling in Nauvoo
At the beginning of 1839, the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ were being forcefully evicted from their homes in Missouri under threat of violence. They found refuge in Illinois and were able to purchase land along the banks of the Mississippi, including a small town called Commerce. There were only a handful of dwellings at the time, and the land was swampy. The Prophet Joseph Smith, the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ, renamed the town Nauvoo, a Hebrew word meaning “beautiful.” The pioneers drained the swamp, platted the land, and began building up the towns. The state Legislature granted the Nauvoo Charter, which gave the Latter-day Saints the right to establish the local government as well as a local militia, a municipal court, and a university. The Prophet Joseph extended a call to members of the Church to gather to the area, and they came by the thousands.  Read more
Don Carlos Smith was the youngest brother of Joseph Smith, the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of this church are sometimes nicknamed Mormons.
Don Carlos was born March 25, 1816, in Norwich, Windsor, Vermont to Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. On June 9, 1830, the Mormons held a conference in Fayette, which was followed by a baptismal service. Don Carlos was among those baptized that day. He received the priesthood at age fourteen.
Don Carlos Smith married Agnes Moulton Coolbrith on July 30,1835, at Kirtland. He became a high priest on January 15, 1836. That same year he became the president of the high priests quorum. He also oversaw the Elders’ Journal. Read more
Ephraim K. Hanks is the subject of a 2013 feature film released at the end of May. He was among the first to arrive to give aid to starving, snow-bound survivors of the Martin and Willey handcart companies, Mormon pioneers making their way to Salt Lake City. These two companies had departed for the trek too late in the summer, and too ill equipped for the journey. Anxious to join the Latter-day Saints in Utah Territory who had already arrived and settled, and unwelcome in the cities where they could have wintered, they ventured out on the 1,000 mile journey from the Midwest. Once word was received in Salt Lake that they were stranded and perishing, Brigham Young adjourned a Sunday general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church) to send rescuers out to save them. Elder Hanks, however, had already been called by the Lord to do the same, so was ready days ahead of the first relief party.
Ephraim Knowlton Hanks was born on 21 March 1826 in Madison, Lake County, Ohio. He left home at age 16, worked for a while on the Erie Canal, served in the Navy for three years (seeing France, Spain, Gibraltar, Italy, Brazil and other countries), and upon returning home, found that his brother Sidney had joined The Church of Jesus Christ. Ephraim himself was baptized in 1845. He migrated with the Latter-day Saints to Nauvoo, Illinois, and then, when the Saints were driven out, headed west to Utah Territory with Brigham Young. He was among those men, however, who separated from the group in order to answer the call to serve in the Mormon Battalion. His service to the Martin Handcart Company was performed in 1856. Hanks had four wives and 26 children.   Elder Hanks became a patriarch in The Church of Jesus Christ. A patriarch gives a once-in-a-lifetime blessing to worthy members that reveals to them their lineage in Israel and pronounces a prophetic blessing of guidance that is a beacon throughout their lives. Ephraim Hanks, during his church service, worked on temples, developed land, founded colonies, dealt with Indians, and all things he was requested to do by the prophets and the Lord. He died on June 9, 1896. Read more