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James J. Strang, weighed in the balance of truth, and found wanting

Miller, Reuben. James J. Strang, weighed in the balance of truth, and found wanting. His claims as first president of the Melchisedek priesthood refuted. By Reuben Miller, elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Burlington, W. T. September, 1846.
[i-ii][1]-26 pp. 19 cm.

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Born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, September 4, 1811, Reuben Miller converted to Mormonism in January 1843, and in October 1844 was called to be the bishop in Norway, La Salle County, Illinois. In the spring of 1845 he moved his family to Nauvoo, and that October Brigham Young asked him to lead a company west. Miller actually made the overland trek to Utah in 1849. Settling in Mill Creek, he served there as the bishop and as county commissioner for more than thirty years, until his death in 1882.

Miller’s association with James J. Strang was brief and tumultuous. He first met him on January 6, 1846, at St. Charles, while he was traveling about northeastern Illinois organizing his company to go west. The next day, for four hours, he listened to Strang present his position, and he questioned him in detail about his claim that an angel appeared to him on the day of Joseph Smith’s assassination and charged him as Joseph’s successor. Miller then returned to Nauvoo, and after consulting for a week with the Twelve about their authority to lead the Church, he began to publicly lecture on Strang’s behalf. In February, at Keokuk, he published the first Strangite pamphlet, A Defence of the Claims of James J. Strang to the Authority Now Usurped by the Twelve. Two months later, at the Strangite conference in Voree, Wisconsin, he was appointed the president of the Voree stake. But about two weeks after the conference Miller learned that Strang had written an account of his angelic visitation which appeared to differ from the one he had related in January, and at this point he began to doubt the validity of Strang’s claims. In June he withdrew from the Strangite church, and in September he drafted James J. Strang Weighed in the Balance of Truth. The following month he was rebaptized into the Church at Nauvoo.

The first five pages of James J. Strang weighed in the Balance of Truth give Miller’s account of his acceptance and subsequent rejection of Strang’s teachings, followed by a long refutation of Strang’s claim to be Joseph Smith’s successor. It asserts that Strang had secretly begun to organize “the kingdom” with 144 officers including himself as “Imperial Primate, Absolute Sovereign” and John C. Bennett as “Primier, Prime Minister, General-in-chief, and Successor to J.J. Strang.”

James J. Strang Weighed in the Balance of Truth was undoubtedly printed late in September or early in October. The Chicago Democrat, for example, received a copy by October 9, and the Voree Herald took notice of it in its October issue. The pamphlet mentions John C. Bennett a number of times, so it is not surprising that Bennett commented upon it in a letter to the editor in Zion’s Reveille of November 1846. Zion’s Reveille ran a long response in its issues of January 14 and February 4, 1847, and replied to it again and to Miller’s second tract on March 25. The Gospel Herald discussed it yet again on October 14–a measure of the pamphlet’s impact on the Strangite congregations. On January 12, 1847, for instance, Lester Brooks wrote to James M. Adams, “when I got to New york I found the Branch in most stupid condition they have a pamphlet written by Ruben Miller against Brother St[r]ang they are inclined to think there is something quite wrong.

Excerpted and edited from Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. Volume One, 1830-1847. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, [1997]). Item 311, p. 349-51.

Used by permission of the author and the Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University.

Journal of Discourses

The Journal of Discourses. Liverpool, November 1, 1853-May 17, 1886.
26 v. 22 cm.

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This periodical contains stenographic reports of sermons of the LDS Church authorities. It was conceived by George D. Watt, one of the first English converts, who learned the art of stenographic reporting at the behest of Brigham Young and who was the sole reporter for the Journal of Discourses during its first four years. Each number consists of a sixteen-page signature, which was issued twice monthly, twenty-four numbers composing a single volume. The intent was that a subscriber would save the twenty-four numbers and at the end of the year bind them together with a title page and index to form a continuously paged volume.

The discourses range over all aspects of Mormon life, although most are doctrinal in nature. Consequently the twenty-six volumes of the Journal of Discourses are an important record of the concerns of the church leaders during most of the second half of the nineteenth century.

Excerpted and edited from Peter Crawley and Chad J. Flake, A Mormon Fifty: an exhibition in the Harold B. Lee Library in conjunction with the annual conference of the Mormon History Association. (Provo, Utah, Friends of the Brigham Young University Library, 1984). Item 42, p. [31].

Used by permission of the authors.

Journal of Heber C. Kimball

Kimball, Heber Chase. Journal of Heber C. Kimball, an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Giving an account of his mission to Great Britain , and the commencement of the work of the Lord in that land. Also the success which has attended the labors of the elders to the present time. By R. B. Thompson. Nauvoo , Ill : Printed by Robinson and Smith, 1840.
viii, [9]-60 pp. 20 cm.

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The first Mormon mission to England in 1837-38 is one of the extraordinary chapters in the history of the Latter-day Saints. Launched when the Church in Kirtland was collapsing, it founded a proselytizing effort which would send a life-giving stream of converts to the Church in America for the next two decades. The Journal was the first of the Mormon “faith promoting” books. It tells the story of this mission from the perspective of Heber C. Kimball, who with Orson Hyde, Joseph Fielding, Willard Richards, John Goodson, Isaac Russell, and John Snyder, first carried the Mormon message across the Atlantic .

The Elders’ Journal of August 1838 reported the return of Kimball and Hyde from England and announced that they intended to publish an account of their mission. But the expulsion of the Mormon’s from Missouri and the subsequent call of the Twleve to a second British mission in the fall of 1839 interrupted any such attempt. Robert B. Thompson came naturally to this project. He was an Englishman, Joseph Fielding’s brother-in-law, and the Church clerk assigned to help Joseph Smith compile his history. The fall of 1840 was also a propitious time to publish the story of the first missionary effort in Britain where eight of the Twelve, including Kimball, were once again laboring in the British Isles , and the first of two companies of British converts, totalling about 250, had just reached Nauvoo.

wo manuscripts in the LDS Church archives bear on this book-a journal which covers the period of the mission, and “Heber C. Kimball Journal, 1840,” which Kimball dictated in the 1850s. This second document includes a transcription of Journal of Heber C. Kimball , preceded by the following explanation:

I here insert a copy of a pamphlet published by Robert B. Thompson while I was on my second mission to England: he and I previously went on a high hill in the woods, near the city of Quincy, Illinois, where we sat down when I gave him a short sketch of my first mission to England, from memory, not having my journal with me, as I had been recently driven from Missouri: I then omitted many dates which I now fill up, and also make many corrections and additions.

Thomas wrote to Kimball in England on November 5, 1840 , and mentioned the delay in publishing his journal, but he added that he expected to start on it soon as Ebenezer Robinson had just returned from Cincinnati with printing supplies. Robinson’s and Don Carlos Smith’s names in the title page indicate that the printing of the Journal of Heber C. Kimball began before they dissolved their partnership on December 14, 1840 . Since the book was advertised in the Times and Seasons of January 1, 1841 , it was likely finished near the end of the year. Beginning in April the Millennial Star advertised it at 1s.

Most of the printed book deals with the first mission to England . It also includes Kimball’s account of the trip home in 1838, his experiences at Far West that fall, and his return to England in the spring of 1840. Thompson added a preface (pp. [iii]-viii), and a concluding statement (pp. 55-59) which summarizes the growth of the British Church up to July 1840. The last page contains a hymn, “With Darkness Long We’ve Been O’erwhelm’d,” by William Clayton, later famous for his hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” and one of the leaders of the second company of British converts.

In 1882 Journal of Heber C. Kimball was reprinted in Salt Lake City , with substantial additions by Helen Mar Whitney, Kimball’s daughter, as the seventh book of the “Faith Promoting Series.” Kimball’s autobiography was published serially in vol. 8 of the Deseret News and in vol. 26 of the Millennial Star .

Excerpted and edited from Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. Volume One, 1830-1847. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, [1997]). Item 93, p. 141-43.

Used by permission of the author and the Religious Studies Center , Brigham Young University.