Book Review: Witness to the Martyrdom by Mark H. Taylor

Witness to the Martyrdom, by Mark H. Taylor (2nd Edition). Published  by Deseret Book.

Taylor, a great grandson of President John Taylor, shares the background to this book. He notes that a portion of John Taylor’s account of Joseph Smith’s murder floated around the family for generations. When a young family member was ready, a copy would be made for that person. Unfortunately, no one he knew had the complete version of the story of the martyrdom.

Taylor searched for years, and finally found a full version of his ancestor’s account. John Taylor wrote about the martyrdom in the mid 1850s while working for the Church in the Northeast United States. Willard Richards, the only other eye witness, had recently died. The Church Historian requested John Taylor to provide the account for the official record, which he complied with the help of others who were at Carthage at the time.

Fast forward a few years, John Taylor is back in Utah. The great British explorer and author, Sir Richard F. Burton, traveled to Utah in 1860 to get material to write his 1862 book, “City of the Saints.” He was eager to meet with John Taylor, knowing he was with Joseph Smith at the time of his death. On arriving at Salt Lake City, Burton spoke with some gentlemen about the Church and its history. Only after several minutes of discussion did Burton realize he was speaking with John Taylor.  Taylor spoke frequently with Burton during his stay, and offered to him a copy of his account of the martyrdom. Burton readily accepted this gift, and put it in the appendix of his finished book.

Mark H. Taylor was able to use this information to extract the full account and share it with his readers.

It is a very interesting account from John Taylor’s viewpoint. He begins by describing the political landscape of Illinois:

The political party were those who were of opposite politics to us. There were always two parties, the whigs and democrats, and we could not vote for one without offending the other, and it not unfrequently happened that candidates for office would place the issue of their election upon opposition to the “Mormons”, in order to gain political influence from religious prejudice.” (pg 26)

In some areas, anti-Mormons were so ubiquitous that Taylor quotes Governor Ford’s history of Illinois, noting, “In the county of Ogle they (anti-Mormons) were so numerous, strong, and well organized, that they could not be convicted for their crimes.”

John Taylor frequently referenced Ford’s writings to support his claims for the Mormons in Nauvoo and against those who opposed them. Still, Taylor exposes Governor Ford as either an idiot, who could not see the dangers awaiting Joseph Smith in Carthage, or as a willing shill for the enemies of the Church.

Taylor was involved as an intermediary between Governor Ford and the prisoners Joseph and Hyrum Smith. He notes the various vile people that frequented the meetings, including several excommunicated members, such as William Law. As one case was dismissed, Joseph and Hyrum were brought up immediately on charges of treason. Taylor notes that Ford promised to protect the Prophet and take him to Nauvoo with him, but let him anyway.

Two issues brought up that I was not aware of is that of the three companies of state militia in Carthage, Governor Ford took two with him to Nauvoo, leaving the murderous Carthage Greys behind to “protect” Joseph and Hyrum.  Second, after the murders were completed, a cannon was fired to notify the people in the area that the murders were completed. When Ford heard the cannon fire, he immediately left Nauvoo and returned to the  capitol. Either he knew what was going to happen, or one of his aides did.

Taylor writes with an indignant style towards those who were involved in the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, yet supports many of his statements from other sources, primarily Ford.

Living just a few hours away from Nauvoo and Carthage, I have the opportunity to visit frequently. To sit in the upstairs room of Carthage jail, see the door where John Taylor used a cane to bat down guns being shoved through the doorway, the floor upon which Hyrum fell silent, the bed that Taylor hid underneath when he was seriously wounded, and the window that Joseph fell out, are all made alive by reading John Taylor’s account.

Some may argue with John Taylor’s views regarding the rightness of destroying the printing press or other actions of Joseph Smith. But it is all semantics, when one considers a mob of hundreds, with the quiet support of a governor, had murder in their hearts and blood on their hands.

This volume makes the Martyrdom alive again. It is real. It is a story of heroes and villains, and we are blessed with an eye witness account of it. If you struggle with your testimony of modern prophets, this book will help you regain that burning in your bosom. You will find a friend in the apostle John Taylor, and pause again at the great work that was sealed with the blood of prophets.

 

 

Deadly Motherhood?

Today NPR reported that many more women die in the US from childbirth (percentage-wise) than in other developed nations.

That’s an interesting story to run right before Mother’s Day. Their intent appears to have been an emotional appeal for increased spending and training rigor for those who care for women during pregnancy and delivery. Sad stories of women who died were featured.

But what is the source of the statistic? Years ago during online discussions of abortion, I became aware that any death of a woman who has been pregnant is attributed as being caused by childbirth. So all abortion-related deaths are binned as deaths due to childbirth.

Is it really much more dangerous to give birth in America? Or is the use of questionable abortion practices (e.g. use of abortion rather than contraception to avoid children) artificially inflating the “death in childbirth” statistic?

If the statistics commingle deaths associated with abortion and deaths associated with full-term delivery, then it would be ironic if a pregnant woman conflicted about her future chose to have a dangerous abortion because she incorrectly perceives giving birth as the dangerous act.

P.S. – the image shows a child whose mother suffered from pre-eclampsia, which would have been fatal if the mother had not received proper medical attention.

Young men will no longer participate in most Boy Scout programs

The Church announced today that starting Jan. 1, 2018, the Young Men would no longer participate in the Boy Scouts for ages 14-18.   Ages 8-13 will still participate in the scouts, and boys who want to get an Eagle can get their merit badges separately.  Please see the below from the Church for more information:

What exactly is changing?

  • Beginning January 1, 2018, young men from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will no longer participate in the Varsity and Venturing programs offered by the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Instead, Young Men activities will focus on spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the Church. These activities are designed to be fun and meaningful and provide opportunities for personal growth and development.

Why is this change occurring?

  • In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14–18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the Church. This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.

Does this mean the Church is completely separating from the BSA?

  • The Church continues to look for ways to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual needs of young men around the world. The current decision is consistent with those efforts. The Church will continue to use the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.

Previous statements have indicated that the Church wants a program that serves all young men around the world. Is this it?

  • No, this is not the global program, but an important step that addresses an immediate need. Varsity and Venturing programs have been difficult to run effectively on a local level. The Church continues to work toward developing a program for young men and young women globally.

Why is the Church remaining with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout program?

  • These programs currently meet the development program needs of boys from ages 8 through 13.

Why is this change only for the United States and Canada?

  • Varsity and Venturing programs are used only in Church congregations in the United States and Canada.

What has been the reaction of the BSA leadership to this decision?

  • In every discussion with the Boy Scouts of America, they have expressed a shared desire to do what is best for young men. We are grateful for their continued support with this new change and look forward to continuing our strong relationship in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.

How does this impact the financial and property connections of the Church to the BSA?

  • Though important, financial and property obligations are not the primary concern. Instead, we are driven by our desire to serve the spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual needs of young men.
  • Most of these legal associations are in connection with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.
  • The Church will continue to make the same payment to the BSA for registration of its young men through 2018, so there should be a minimal financial impact to Scouting.

What is the schedule for this announcement and rollout?

  • The announcement was shared on May 11, 2017. However, the discontinuation of the Varsity and Venturing programs will not occur until January 1, 2018. We encourage local units to continue with their planned activities as they review and determine how they will implement the new activity guidelines.

Can young men in these age groups continue to earn the Eagle Scout award?

  • Yes. Young men who desire to continue toward the rank of Eagle will be registered, supported and encouraged. It is important to remember that only those young men who are properly registered are eligible to be awarded merit badges and rank advancements.

What would you say to Church members about participation in the Friends of Scouting fundraising drive?

  • The Church will continue to be involved in Friends of Scouting as part of its relationship with the BSA and the Scouting programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.

Is this due to changes in Scout policy in the past few years to allow gay and transgender Scouts and leaders?

  • The BSA has always allowed the Church to operate its programs in ways that are consistent with our standards and beliefs, and they have been very supportive. This change is to address the needs of young men ages 14 to 18. The Church is always evaluating what is best for our youth and families, and will continue to do so.
  • The activities referenced on lds.org/youth/activities and ymactivities.lds.org have been in place since 2013 as a resource for youth and their leaders around the world. When followed, these activities can provide better opportunities for spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual growth.

Is the guideline that Young Men aren’t required to meet weekly a new directive?

  • No. This guideline (for both Young Men and Young Women) has existed in the Church’s handbook for many years.

Will the disparity of funding and activities that exists between the Church’s Young Men and Young Women programs be addressed as part of this change?

  • Church leaders have long been aware of this concern. This new program brings the spending into balance for youth ages 14 through 18. This will continue to be a factor in the ongoing exploration and creation of a worldwide youth program.
  • In each congregation, the ward council is encouraged to consider equally the needs of Young Women and Young Men and their families when planning activities and determining budgets.

Is this a reaction to the news that the Boy Scouts of America is considering the inclusion of girls and young women in its programs?

  • Church leaders learned just recently about the BSA’s intent to consider including girls and young women in Scouting. Our decision to end our participation in the Varsity and Venturing programs was made independent of this possibility and before that time. We anticipate our Cub Scout and Boy Scout units will continue as they are at present.

 

 

Podcast: A Heavenly Mother

Last summer Russell Stevenson sat down with Rachel Steenblik and Caitlin Connolly, two women who have studied the concept of a divine feminine–or Heavenly Mother.

Rachel was the primary researcher on a BYU Studies article that identified known references to a Heavenly Mother in the Mormon historical record. Caitlin was commission to paint Heavenly Mother by Deseret Book. 

Though it is assumed that we have a Heavenly Mother, she is rarely mentionioned in LDS Church discourse, with a preference to referring to Heavenly Father or Heavenly Parents. 

Steenblick notes that most members are aware of the reference to a Heavenly Mother by Eliza R. Snow in “O My Father.” However, her song was not the first reference. W. W. Phelps wrote two pieces–one a few months before the Prophet Joseph Smith’s death and one a few months after. And in the nineteenth-century Church, a Heavenly Mother was not unfrequently referenced. 

Three prophets of the twentieth century, Spencer W. Kimball, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Harold B. Lee, stated that women were created in Heavenly Mother’s image.

Contemporary Old Testament scholars see the divine feminine, or a Heavenly Mother, in scripture, though it is difficult for the lay person to identify those references.

Both women feel discussions of a divine feminine are important because they help to answer the question for women: “Where do I belong in the eternities?

The Church’s gospel topic essay “Mother in Heaven,” the BYU Studies article, and a new book published by Deseret Book can help encourage dialogue on this important topic.

Check out to the resources referenced in the podcast at LDS Perspectives

Text of executive order on religious liberty

President Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty today.  I would challenge readers to read the actual text before paying attention to the hand-wringing from various pressure groups.  I cannot find anything catastrophic here, and there are a lot of good things in this executive order.

Here is the source of the text.

 

EXECUTIVE ORDER

– – – – – – –

PROMOTING FREE SPEECH AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to guide the executive branch in formulating and implementing policies with implications for the religious liberty of persons and organizations in America, and to further compliance with the Constitution and with applicable statutes and Presidential Directives, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom. The Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government. For that reason, the United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental right to religious liberty as Americans’ first freedom. Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government. The executive branch will honor and enforce those protections. Continue reading