Memorabilia collector Brent Ashworth announced last week the rediscovery
of a notebook of William E. McLellin, a Mormon apostle who was excommunicated
for apostasy in 1838.
Make no mistake about
it. William E. McLellin had no love for The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints after his excommunication in 1838. But the former apostle's
testimony of the Book of Mormon survived and forms a significant part of his
recently rediscovered 1871 notebook.
McLellin's widow, who
had joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now
the Community of Christ), gave or sold the notebook to W.O. Robertson,
who sold it to John Resch in 1919. Resch then sold it to RLDS apostle Paul M.
Hanson, who put excerpts into a newspaper in 1929. Photographs exist from the
1920s or '30s of a few pages of the notebook. The notebook remained in Hanson's
family until Brent Ashworth acquired it this summer at his store, B. Ashworth's,
in Provo, Utah.
The following excerpts are presented with the original spelling and punctuation as
they appear in the notebook. Deletions are crossed out and insertions are in
. Editorial insertions are in (parenthesis). Ashworth hopes to
have the full notebook published soon.
WICKED PEOPLE(What is arguably the angriest comment in the notebook by
the former member of the church was crossed out with a large "x" —
apparently by McClellin's own hand. It probably refers to plural marriage as
practiced by the LDS Church until 1890:)
I do not endorse many
of the acts of Joseph Smith. And the older he grew, the wider of the mark his
course until finally he died at the hands of his enemies, as "a fool
dieth." In his afterlife he introduced great wickedness, and even
abominations the "church of Latter Day Saints." And to day that
people at the great Salt Lake valley are carrying out the measures introduced
by him in Nauvoo. I firmly believe that the people called Latter Day Saints are
the wickedest people of any that now live on this wide earth. But here I will
stop, but could say more.
HOW SHALL WE KNOW?
(This extended excerpt covers several pages in McLellin's
notebook. In it he explores several testimonies of the Book of Mormon. The
numbering of the sections is in the original. The excerpt mentions the last of the eight witnesses of the Book of
Mormon — this was was John Whitmer who died in 1878. Also, notice how McLellin spells his name as "McLellan"
in this notebook. There are several different spellings of his name in various
The Testimony of
11. In open day light,
in an open wood lot, with their sensitive powers all calm and serene, Joseph
Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris testify that an angel
of glorified appearance and countenance came down from heaven, and stood before
them, and took The plates which Joseph Smith had possessed, from which he
translated the translation of the book>
the Book, and held them in his hand, and showed as many of leaves
or plates as Joseph Smith had
translated , to them. So
that they saw and looked upon them until they were entirely satisfied. And
he spoke to David Whitmer and said, "David,
blessed is the Lord, and he that keepeth his commandments." These men saw
his form, saw his glorified appearance, heard his words, saw all that he showed
them, and then saw him ascend to heaven again. This was no collusion. These men
could not be mistaken. They either told the truth, or they wilfully lied. How
shall we tell which, how shall we know?
This vision was in
1829. More than forty years ago, and what has been the conduct of those men
since that day? Two of them are dead — two living. Those
who are dead testified to the last hour of their lives
of to the truth
of this vision. Those who are still living are firm in their testimony. I
visited David Whitmer after he was more than 65 years of age, and
solemnly declared to me "I saw the Angel of God, I heard his
voice, hence I know of a truth! Martin Harris is some over 89 years of age, and
still he carries the book of Mormon under his arm, and testifies to all great
and small, "I am Martin Harris in all the world, and I know the book of
Mormon to be verily true. And although all men should deny the truth of that
book, I can not do it. My heart is fixed! I could not know more truly or
certainly than I do."
12. In 1833, when
mobbing reigned triumphant in Jackson Co. Mo. I and O. Cowdery fled from our
homes, for fear of personal violence on Saturday the 20th day of July. The mob
dispersed, agreeing to meet again on the next Tuesday. They offered eighty
dollars reward for any one who would deliver Cowdery or McLellan in
Independence on Tuesday. On Monday I slipped down into the Whitmer's
settlement, and there in the lonely woods I met with David Whitmer and Oliver
Cowdery. I said to them, "brethren I never have seen an open vision in my
life but you men say you have, and therefore you positively know. Now you know that
our lives are in danger every hour, if the mob can only
us. Tell me in the fear of God is that
book of Mormon true"? Cowdery looked at me with solemnity depicted in his
face, and said, 'Brother William, God sent his holy Angel to declare the truth
of the translation of it to us, and therefore we know. And though the mob kill us, yet we must die
declaring its truth". David said, 'Oliver has told you the solemn truth,
for we could not be deceived. I most truly declare
declare to you its
truth"!! Said I, boys, I believe you. I can see no object for you to tell
me false now, when our lives are endangered. Eight men testify also
to handling that sacred pile of plates, from which Joseph Smith the> translat
ed that heavenly Book.
13. One circumstance I'll
relate of one of these eight witnesses. While the mob was raging in Jackson Co.
Mo. In 1833 some young men ran down Hiram Page one of the
eight and commenced beating and pounding him with whips and
clubs. He begged, but there was no mercy. They said he was damned
Mormon, and they meant to beat him to death! But finally one of them said to
him, if you will deny that damned book, we will let you go. Said he, how can I
deny what I know to be true? Then they pounded him again. When they
thought he was about to breathe his last, they said to him, Now what do you
think of your God, when he don't save you? Well, said he, I believe in God —
Well, said one of the most intelligent among them, I believe the damned fool
will stick to it though we kill him. Let us let him go. But his life was nearly
run out. He was confined to his bed for a length of time. So much for a man who
knows for himself. Knowledge is beyond faith or doubt. It is positive
14. I in company with
friend, visited one of the eight witnesses — The
only one who is now alive, and he bore a very lucid and rational testimony, and
gave us many interesting particulars. He was a young man when he had those
testimonies. He is
now sixty eight years old, and still
he is firm in his faith. Now I would ask what will I do with such a cloud of
faithful witnesses, bearing such a rational and yet solemn testimony? These men
while in the prime of life, saw the vision of the Angel, and bore this
testimony to all people. And eight men saw the plates, and handled
them. Hence these men all know the things they declared to be positively
true. And that too while they were young, and now when old they declare the
JOSEPH SMITH'S MIND
(This short extract has McLellin looking at Joseph Smith's
mind. McLellin had started a church in 1847 that he called, like the name of
the church in 1830, "The Church of Christ.")
33. I have read the Book many, many times through; and am
well acquainted with the manner of its coming to light, and the circumstances
of the organization of the "church of Christ", as probably any man
who (is) now living. I was personally and intimately acquainted with Joseph
Smith, the> the
of the book, for five years near the beginning of his
ministry. He attended my High school during the winter of 1834. He attended
school and learned science all winter. I learned the strength of his mind
as the study and principles of science. Hence I think I knew him.
And I here say that he had one of strongest, well balanced,
penetrating, and retentive minds of any with
I ever formed an acquaintance, among the thousands of my
observation. Although when I took him into my school, he was without scientific
knowledge or attainments. And I
know that I do know the truth of
this great work of the Last Days. And I would advise all people, kindreds, and
tongues to believe and embrace the Book, and the doctrine, and the principles,
and government and practice of the true "church of Christ." For
the time of Christ's second coming is soon at hand(.)
MAKING A BOOK
(Ashworth believes that this notebook was McLellin's attempt to write a book.
An index at the front of the notebook seems to back up that interpretation:)
1 Page — Treatise on faith.
" 10. On
" 13. On
" 20. On the
work of the Holy Spirit among men.
" 39. The
Kingdom of heaven.
" 51. A Seer of
" 59. On the two
" 77. The manner
of giving and receiving revelations.
" 92. The call
to the ministry.
" 99. On man,
spiritual existences, influences, & powers.
" 113. On the
ministry of the church of Christ.
" 121. Of
" 125. Of the
" 129. The Devil
" 134. The
performance of miracles.
" 138. The
personality of the Holy Spirit.
" 146. Of
Communion with heaven.
" 156. The unity
of the Godhead.
" 161. The book
" 176. The "church
" 188. Of
" 197. The
restitution of the ancient order of things.
" 208. B.W.
Quotations from history on gifts.
" 223. The
Millennium, embracing: 126. The second
coming of Christ.
132. The gathering of Israel.
137. Zion and
Jerusalem as places of deliverance
139. A few words
140. Zion as a place
141. trust to the
people of God.
143. Satan bound.
144. But what of the
reign of righteousness.
148. The laws of the
149. The resurrection
at Christ's coming.
152. The pure
154. The scenes
before the Millennium.
160. The resurrection
of the wicked.
161. The general judgment. 162. The new heavens
and new earth.
LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter issued a statement on the McLellin notebook after Ashworth's
announcement last week: "In recent years, a number of historical documents have been
found that have added to our understanding of Joseph Smith, the time in which
he lived and the challenges he faced. The church has welcomed and encouraged
this process. While the church is not pursuing the acquisition of the McLellin
manuscript, we are pleased the long-lost document has been found. "
Although he had left The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints and was highly critical of its leaders, practices and
doctrines, McLellin has left a record of value to those who believe
in the Book of Mormon and in the prophet Joseph Smith.