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Inside the lost McLellin notebook

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.


(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

historical documents.)

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

had 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 only catch

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> translated 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

same things.


(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 translator

of the book, for five years near the beginning of his

ministry. He attended my High school during the winter of 1834. He attended my

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 which

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(.)


(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

the Lord.

" 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

or Satan.

" 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

of Mormon.

" 176. The "church

of Christ".

" 188. Of


" 197. The

restitution of the ancient order of things.

" 208. B.W.

Stone's views.

" 212.

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

about Zion.

140. Zion as a place

of gathering.

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

language restored.

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.