John Tanner in the Joseph Smith Papers

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The LDS Church is archiving and making available to all, documents, journals, and other church sources contemporary with the prophet Joseph Smith (e.g., his journals, church meeting minutes, revelations, etc.). This is an unprecedented expose of the prophet Joseph Smith and the early days of the Church. His life and actions will be available to all to peruse. There are few other people in the world with more serious scholarly (and pseudoscholarly {generally anti-Mormon}) work devoted to them than Joseph Smith. That’s a bold statement but not without evidence. Joseph Smith wrote relatively little about himself but people took copious notes of meetings with him. Much of what we can read in these documents is about Joseph Smith but really its the history of the early days of the restored Church.

The project is nowhere near completion but what is done is available online. I wanted to see what is available about one of my ancestors – John Tanner. It turns out that there is some, so far.

In the Minute Book 2, a record of the April Conference in 1838 held at Far West, Missouri, we read of some of the troubles the Latter-day Saints were experiencing (to put it mildly). I’ll quote a portion that includes a reference to John Tanner:

In the meantime men were abused, women insulted and ravished by the troops; and all this, while we were kept  prisonors.— Whilst the town was guarded, we were called  together by the order of General Lucas, and a guard placed close around us; and in that situation were compelled, to sign a deed of trust for the purpose of making  our individual property all holden, as they said, to pay  all the debts of every individual belonging to the Church,  and also to pay for all damages, the old inhabitants of  Davis may have sustained, in consequence of the late difficulties in that County.—

Genl [John B.] Clark was now arrived, and the first important  move by him was the collecting our men together on the square and selecting out about 50 of them; whom he immediately marched unto a house and confined close, this  was done, without the aid of the sheriff; or any legal process. The next day 46 of those taken, were driven like a parcel of menial slaves, off to Richmond, not knowing why they  were taken; or what they were taken for. After being confined in Richmond more than 2 weeks, about one half were liberated  the rest after another week’s confinement, were most of  them recognized to appear at Court and have since been let to bail.— Since Genl Clark withdrew his troops from Far-West, parties of armed men have reconoitered the County, driving off horses, sheep, and cattle, and also plundering  houses.— The barbarity of Genl Lucas’ troops ought not  to be passed over in silence, they shot down our [p. 169] cattle and hogs merely for the sake of destroying them, leaving them for the ravens to eat. They took prisoner an aged man by the name of [John]Tanner and without any reason for it, he was struck over the head with a gun, which laid his scull bare.— Another man by the name of Carey, was  also taken prisoner by them, and without any provocation,  had his brains dashed out with a gun; he was laid in  a waggon, and there permitted to remain, for the space of  24 hours, during which time no one was permitted to  administer to him comfort and consolation; and after he  was removed from that situation, he lived but a  few hours.— The destruction of property, at, and about  Far-West, is very great, many, yes a large portion  are stripped bare as it were, and others partially so; indeed  take us as a body, at this time, we are a poor and afflicted  people; and if we are compelled to leave the State in the Spring many; yes a large portion of our Society,  will have to be removed at the expence of the State, as those who otherwise might have helped them,  are now debarred that privilege, in consequence of  the deed of trust we were compelled to sign;  which deed so operates upon our real estate that it  will sell for but little or nothing at this time.” (pp. 171-172; emphasis added)

John survived the hit to the head, which left him very bloody (obviously, since his “scull [sic]” was showing). He later crossed the plains with the Saints and died in Utah.

In the Minute Book 1 (Kirtland High Council Minutes,” Minute Book 1, 3 Dec. 1832–30 Nov. 1837; pp. 28-29), John Tanner was told to move to Kirtland:

Kirtland Sept 28th 1833—

This day a councel of Elders convened for  the purpose of taking into consideration  the case of brother John Tanner who sent his  two sons to Kirtland to assertain the will  of the Lord whither he should go to Zion  or move to this place— Bro Oliver [Cowdery] [p. 24] opened the councel by prayer

After the case was fairly laid before the  councel it was unanimously agreed by all  present that it was the will of the Lord for  all who are able and willing to build up  and strengthen the stake in Kirtland should do so therefore this is our councel  to our beloved brother John that he moove  to Kirtland fro the above named purpose

F[rederick] G Williams

On May 8, 1834, it was recorded that John Tanner gave the Church $170 (that’s worth anywhere from $4000 to $100,000 today, depending on how you measure it). He gave much more than that to the Church, that was just one of the times recorded.

John Tanner was included in a list of men “who were blessed in consequence of  their working on the House of the Lord in Kirtland and those also who consecrated to its upbuilding” (Minutes, 7-8 March, 1835, p. 2): “Gad Yale, John JohnsonJohn Tanner called & Blessed.  Gad Yale being one who went for the relief of their [p. 196] afflicted brethren in Mo. and received a blessing accordingly.” (pp. 5-6)

My ancestor, Sidney Tanner (John’s son), was also at the meeting and blessed for his work.

On December 9, 1835, Joseph Smith wrote: “To day Elder Tanner brought me the half of a fat[te]ned hog for the be[ne] fit of my family. And a few days since Elder S[hadrach] Roundy brought me a quarter of beef  and may all the blessings, that are  named above, be poured upon their  heads, for their kindness toward me” (Journal, 1835-1836, p. 61; emphasis added).

The whole project is fascinating. I’m looking forward to reviewing more sources as the project is completed over the coming years.

The Organization of the LDS Church – Part 2

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Under the apostles is the 1st Quorum of the Seventy. All members of this quorum are called and set apart by the apostles. Like the callings of apostle, all members of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy serve until the end of their lives. However, members of the 1st Quorum of Seventy have traditionally been placed on emeritus status around the age of 70. They are especial witnesses of the Savior Jesus Christ – especial differing from special by an e meaning that they bear the responsibility to witness to the earth of the divinity of the Savior. The responsibilities of missionary work and church administration are the same as the apostles. The Seventy are not apostles or prophets, seers, or revelators though. They typically serve throughout the world, directing the church and teaching the gospel. As a whole, the 1st Quorum of the Seventy hold all the rights and keys to the priesthood [I had a brief conversation with someone with authority for the matter and he said that individual Seventies hold no keys – they act under the keys of the Apostles; however, in the case that all the 1st Presidency and Quorum of the 12 all died at the same time – hypothetically – then the 1st Quorum of the 70 should collectively be able to exercise all the keys. This means that collectively they at least have access to the keys of the kingdom should it ever be necessary for them to have to exercise those keys such as if all the 15 apostles {1st Presidency and the Twelve} died simultaneously or in a short enough succession that a new prophet and new apostles could not be called].

Members of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy are called to serve for 5 years. Their role is the same as those in the 1st quorum, the main difference is the length of calls (1st quorum is for life and 2nd quorum is for 5 years). Members of the 2nd quorum, like those in the 1st quorum can serve throughout the world to call and direct the church in those areas. Each quorum of Seventy can contain up to 70 members. As with the apostles, the most important role of the Seventy is as witnesses of Jesus Christ. They also spend a lot of time training new church leaders, meeting with church members, teaching, and doing administrative tasks. The quorums of Seventy are headed by a presidency of seven men, who traditionally have been called from the 1st Quorum, although members can be called from both 1st and 2nd quorums. These seven presidents of the Seventy hold priesthood keys, unlike the rest of the Seventy.

There are general officers of the church I’ll address later and other authorities but only the apostles (including First Presidency) and those in the first two quorums of the Seventy are General Authorities.

Currently there are 6 more quorums of Seventy. All those in these quorums are ordained as area authority seventies (now just called area seventies). They are not referred to as general authorities because their stewardship lies within the area in which they live and not to the whole church and world. The church organizes its members into a number of geographical areas – some are large and some are small (e.g., ones in Utah). Each area is presided over by an area presidency, comprised of three men who typically are members of the 1st or 2nd quorums of seventy. I’ll copy from Wikipedia:

“The Third Quorum members live and serve in the Africa Southeast, Africa West, Europe Central, Europe East, and Europe West Areas of the Church. The Fourth Quorum members live and serve in the Mexico North, Mexico South, Central America, Caribbean, South America North, and South America West Areas of the Church. The Fifth Quorum members live and serve in the North America Northwest, North America West, Idaho, Utah North, Utah Salt Lake City, and Utah South Areas of the Church. The Sixth Quorum members live and serve in the North America Central, North America East, North America Northeast, North America Southeast, and North America Southwest Areas of the Church. Members of the Seventh Quorum live and serve in the Brazil North, Brazil South, Chile, and South America South Areas of the Church. The Eighth Quorum of the Seventy live and serve in the Asia, Asia North, Australia, New Zealand/Pacific islands, and Philippines areas of the Church.”

Area seventies provide training and teaching to the members within the areas in which they live. They support the apostles and other seventy in their roles. They can call and set apart local church leaders under the direction of the apostles through the area presidency. Similarly to the general authorities, area seventies have a responsibility for missionary work. Until the mid-1980s, the LDS Church had quorums of seventies at the stake level. Men were set apart as seventies with the predominant role as stake missionaries. The role and responsibility of these seventies was markedly different than that of any of the Seventy today. The stake seventies were purely missionary focused. The Seventy today have larger administrative responsibilities.

Each of the six general areas of the church that the area seventies are called to serve in are broken down into smaller areas (the areas were mentioned above – Mexico North or Asia North, for example). Within each of these areas are a number of stakes. Stakes are the largest local unit within the church. Stakes are called stakes in reference to Isaiah 54:2, which reads, “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes” (emphasis added). In each of the stakes within the church, there are a number of wards. Each ward typically has between 100 and 500 members but some can be a little smaller or larger. There are typically 7-9 wards in each stake. There are a couple caveats to this (i.e., districts and branches) but I’ll address those later.