In 1888, Joseph Smith Black accompanied Andrew Jensen and Edward Stevenson “on a tour through the eastern states.” The trio arrived in Kansas City, Missouri on September 9 and immediately set out to visit important sites in Latter-day Saint history. “We arrived in Independence about 11 o’clock,” Black wrote in his journal, “and went directly to a Josephite meeting.” The RLDS “presiding officer” kindly “hitched up his team and buggy” and took the visitors “around Independence and vicinity and followed the old road which we could trace in places where the Saints had traveled in 1833, where they were expelled from the county.”
During their time in Independence, Jensen, Stevenson, and Black also visited the Temple Lot, and while there, “received and accepted an invitation to preach in the Hedrickite meeting.” Black noted in passing that “the Hedrickites [are] a small faction numbering about 25 presided over by Elder R. Hill. They do not believe in the Old Testament of the Bible. They do not believe in a high priesthood, nor in any revelation since 1838.” The next day, the Brighamite missionaries fulfilled their promise to preach to their Hedrickite cousins. Below is an abbreviated version of Elder Black’s description of the meeting.
At evening we assembled in the Hedrickite meeting house which was a frame building 18′ x 20′, nothing but the frame and weather boarding. . . . The meeting was well attended and many were outside. The meeting was addressed by Elders Stevenson, Black and Jensen, occupying about one and one half hours. At the close they appeared to be pleased as several flocked around us and shook hands with us and invited us home with them.
Elder Black records that he accepted an invitation from one family to join them for breakfast the next morning. During the course of breakfast, the family asked Black “to read a passage in the Bible to them.”
I asked them if they had any particular choice. They said no. I said, “I will read the first I happen to open to,” and I opened to Isaiah 2nd chapter and read, “and it shall come to pass in the last days the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops of the mountains and shall be exalted in the tops of the hills and all nations shall flow unto it, etc.” After prayer and breakfast they shook hands very warmly with me, and said, “We believe the true church is in the mountains,” which I assured them was the fact. We then repared to the temple lot and kneeled in the tall grass which obscured us from view, and each in turn poured out our hearts in prayer to God and thanked him for the privilege which we are now enjoying. In the evening we returned to Kansas City well satisfied with our visit to Independence, Missouri.
I am intrigued not only with the relatively harmonious reception of these Mormon elders by both RLDS and Church of Christ—Temple Lot (Hedrickite) leaders, but also with Elder Black’s use of Old Testament prophecies concerning “the mountain of the Lord’s house” being established in the “tops of the mountains” as proof of the Brighamites’ truth claims. I remember hearing the Salt Lake Temple as a fulfillment of this biblical prophecy during my years as a youth and missionary, but I was not aware that 19th century Saints used it as a means to establishing their own identity as the rightful successors of Joseph Smith’s Latter Day Saint church.
I am interested in knowing whether anyone is aware of other examples like this, in which geographical location and biblical prophecy is used by one Latter Day Saints group to contrast its truth claims with that of a competing Mormon group. Did the Reorganized Church, for example, ever note their location in the midwest (and more particularly in “Zion”) in attempts to demonstrate that the Utah Saints were incorrect in their claims?
*All quotations are taken from Joseph Smith Black, “Diary of Joseph Smith Black, 1836-1910,” typescript, 49-53. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.