A Mission to the Hedrickites, 1888

By October 29, 2008

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.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Nice post, Chris. I know that the Hedrickites argue that they were the first group to return to Missouri, and that therefore they are the true church. I seem to remember RLDS sources making similar claims, in terms of being in Zion as opposed to the Rocky Mountains.

    Also, I, along with Steve, see the “Rocky Mountain Prophecy” as a later justification for the Brighamite move to the West. I suspect that it “invented,” so to speak, not only as a means to reassure the Brighamite Saints that JS foresaw the move, but also as a boundary maintenance strategy to distinguish themselves from those that did not move west.

    Comment by David G. — October 29, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

  2. Very interesting. I didn’t know there existed such an open door policy between the sects. Thanks for the write-up Chris.

    Comment by Tod Robbins — October 29, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  3. The prophesied-geography trump meme is new to me in the 19C.

    James Duffin, a mission president near Independence from 1900-1906 recorded multiple friendly interactions with the Hedrickites in his diary. The Brighamites often visited the temple site, especially with visiting dignitaries (like President Smith) and seemed to receive cordial to friendly welcomes from the Hedrickites. There were also instances of negotiation to purchase portions of the temple lot and for the Brighamites to provide money so that the Hedrickites could pay their debts. The only negative that I have thus far found from President Duffin’s perspective is that the Hedrickites didn’t let the Brighamites use a building on the temple lot for a mission conference in 1902.

    Comment by Edje — October 29, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  4. David, your and Steve’s argument seems right.

    Tod, I wasn’t aware of the “open door policy” either. It would be an interesting topic to pursue further.

    Thanks for the additional info, Edje.

    Comment by Christopher — October 29, 2008 @ 5:14 pm

  5. Very interesting Chris. I’m also intrigued by the harmonious relations that seem to have existed between the Utah Saints and the Hedrickites. I haven’t looked too deeply into the matter, but I don’t recall the Utah Saints having cordial relations with any of the other groups prior to the 1970s. I wonder what made the difference with the Hedrickites? Were they too small to notice, or was there a sense of their having possession of what many Utah saints would have considered the most coveted possession of early Mormon history, and good relations might make securing the Temple lot more possible?

    Comment by Brett D. — October 29, 2008 @ 5:40 pm

  6. I remember reading something about the church donating to the Hedrickites for the fight against the RLDS over some church property. (I think it was in the last Journal of Mormon History I read. I believe it was over the possession of the Kirtland temple but I could be wrong on that one.

    Comment by Jon W. — October 29, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  7. Yeah, the Hedrickites and the Brighamites had very close relations during these years. In the Temple Lot case, the Brighamites provided funding for attorney fees as well as many of the witnesses (including Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, and other luminaries). The judge concluded that the Brighamites were really the “power behind the throne,” and the Hedrickites argued that their church had, for legal purposes, swallowed up the Brighamite church. There are a couple of articles on the case in the JWHA journal, and John Hamer tells me that John Whitmer Books is working on a transcription of the trial record.

    Also, the Presiding Elder of the Hedrickites converted to Brighamism soon after the trial, if I recall correctly.

    I think that Brett is right that the desire to gain access to the temple lot, and to keep it out of RLDS hands, was the primary motivating factor in maintaining the close relations.

    Comment by David G. — October 29, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  8. As a side note, In 1991 the Hendrikite building was substantially damaged by fire set by arson. While I can’t document it, it’s said that the LDS church provided a healthy donation in rebuilding it.
    Does anybody know any more information about such a donation?

    Comment by PJD — October 29, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

  9. 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?

    James Strang frequently quoted Jeremiah 17:5-6 to indicate that the Brighamite settlement of Utah was evidence of a Latter-day Apostasy:

    Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited.

    (Cf. The Gospel Herald, [Voree (Burlington), Wisconsin Territory] III no. 7, pp. 26-27 [338-39]):

    The only conclusion to which anyone can arrive who believes in Joseph [Smith Jr.], is that they [the Brighamites] have not followed the leaders whom God appointed, but only such as are appointed by men. Brethren, will you run the same race? Will you drag the same curses on your heads which have fallen so heavily on them? Will you expose not only yourself but wives and children to all the perils of wicked men in a waste, desolate wilderness a thousand miles from the utmost verge of civilization, for the sake of having your trust in an arm of flesh or in a man-made priesthood, departing from the Lord and dwelling in the heart of the desert, and inhabiting the parched places of the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited? (Jer., 17:5, 6.) Rather see good for it has come, and flee from the evil while there is refuge.

    I’m pretty sure I remember early RLDS writers borrowing that same quote from Jeremiah.

    Comment by John Hamer — October 30, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  10. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    PJD, I remember reading about that fire somewhere recently, but I don’t know anything about the LDS Church helping finance the new building.

    John, I was hoping you would comment on this post. Thanks for contributing.

    Comment by Christopher — October 30, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  11. This is an interesting report you’ve uncovered, Christopher. Black, Jensen, and Stevenson arrived at an interesting moment, soon after the beginning of the Temple Lot Case. A year earlier, in 1887, the RLDS Church had filed a Notice to Quit Possession, attempting to expel the Hedrickite Church of Christ from the Temple Lot. In response, the Church of Christ built their first church on the temple lot in 1889, so this rickety frame building Black describes in 1888 must be some previous structure elsewhere. (The case lasted until 1896, when the Church of Christ’s possession of their 2.5 acres of the original Edward Partridge purchase was confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.)

    This 1888 visit came seven years after Granville Hedrick’s death. It wasn’t until 1889 that Charles A. Hall became President of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). He’s the one David G. remembers who later resigned, converted to the LDS Church, and ultimately left Mormonism altogether. In between the president of the church may have been David Judy.

    On the rolls, at least by 1896, the Hedrickites had a few more members than Black observed. The official total was 55 souls. That year the RLDS Church claimed to have 34,814 members and the LDS Church claimed to have 241,427 members. The size of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) would later increase massively in the 1920s when about 3,000 RLDS dissenters transferred their membership and became Hedrickites.

    Comment by John Hamer — October 31, 2008 @ 8:03 am

  12. Ditto on what John said about RLDS using the Jeremiah 17:5-6 quote. Growing up, I knew this verse well. One of my friends claimed it as his favorite verse at one point in his life (he was only half joking).

    You can find this verse quoted in an early RLDS apologetical treatise, Salt Land Heresies. This book is online now on a Restorationist-RLDS apologetics site, so it still has some cache; Salt Land Heresies’s publication date was sometime in the late 19th century. My parents have a copy of it, but I’m a few hundred miles from them right now.

    David Howlett

    Comment by David Howlett — October 31, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  13. John, thanks for the additional information. I suspected that the membership figures Black suggests were a little low. Forgive my ignorance on the subject, but what prompted the dissent in the 1920s RLDS, and why did they decide to unite with the Hedrickites?

    David, thanks for stopping by and adding your input. Do you have a link to the Salt Land Heresies available online?

    Comment by Christopher — October 31, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  14. There’s always an underlying tension in the Restoration between a faith founded upon personal revelation and one headed by a prophet. In the 1920s, Joseph Smith Jr.’s grandson, Frederick M. Smith, was the prophet and president of the RLDS Church. Fred M. was from a different era than his father Joseph Smith III and his method of leadership was also very different. For many members who had only known Joseph III’s leadership — he had been prophet for 54 years — Fred M’s changes were alien and unwelcome. His attempts to concentrate certain powers within the First Presidency were viewed by a dissenting minority as tyrannical.

    Meanwhile, despite the Temple Lot case, relations between the RLDS Church and the Church of Christ had improved. The two churches recognized each other’s priesthood and baptisms and an agreement allowed members to freely transfer their membership between either organization. The RLDS dissenters transferred their memberships in a mass protest. Once in the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), the former RLDS members overwhelmed the handful of existing Hedrickite members. Massive changes resulted. For example, the Hedrickites reestablished a Council of Twelve Apostles for the first time since the 19th century. At least 11 of the 12 new apostles were former RLDS members.

    Comment by John Hamer — November 1, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

  15. Fascinating. Thanks for filling in those details, John.

    Comment by Christopher — November 1, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

  16. Hi Chris,

    Yes, Salt Land Heresies can be found online at http://www.restored.org/lds/salthrsy.htm

    Unfortunately, the person who put this up online did not include page numbers.

    Comment by David Howlett — November 3, 2008 @ 9:40 am


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