OliverCowdery.com: The Premier Web-site for Early Mormon History

Preface   |   Sources   |   Episode 1   |   Episode 2   |   Episode 3   |   Episode 4   |   Episode 5

by Dale R. Broadhurst

The Failed Stake of Zion

Late in the year 1830 four "Mormonite" missionaries arrived in Ohio, proclaiming a new divine revelation and a gospel, newly restored to its original purity and power. Although the missionaries made a number of converts in northeastern Ohio, their greatest success came in the Geauga county township of Kirtland. Here they established a branch of their Church of Christ among the followers of the former Campbellite elder, Rev. Sidney Rigdon. The village of Kirtland Mills (or Kirtland Flats), along with the hamlet on the hill overlooking the village, quickly became the center of Mormon influence in the Buckeye state. The "Saints" gathered there to establish a theocratic society under Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, and from 1831 to the end of 1837 Kirtland was essentially the capital of the Mormon movement.

The village's preeminence among the Latter Day Saints did not last for very long. however. As early as 1831 the gathering of the Saints in that place was proclaimed to be little more than a prelude to a much larger and more important gathering, which was scheduled to take place on the far western frontier, at Independence, Missouri. The move west was delayed, however, and for seven years the majority of the Mormons lingered in and around Kirtland. During that time antagonistic social and political relations between the members of the Mormon gathering and their non-LDS neighbors in northeastern Ohio reached crisis proportions -- a situation which contributed greatly to the departure of the top Mormon leadership at the end of those seven years.

Less publicized than the swelling Mormon-Gentile discord in Ohio was a concomitant crisis in Latter Day Saint leadership legitimacy and authority. The exterior and interior crises were interrelated, with disillusioned, departing ex-Mormons feeding the ranks and rhetoric of the Gentile opposition throughout the 1830s. The LDS leadership survived -- only barely -- by implementing policies and procedures that eventually elevated Smith and Rigdon to positions of ecclesiastical despotism, at the expense of the common consent and personal independence previously enjoyed by the less influential members.

Two pinnacle periods in the ongoing crisis can be easily discerned, even in a superficial review of Kirtland era Mormon history. One of these moments came during the winter of 1833-34, when Joseph Smith lost control of most of the Mormon assets in Missouri, as well as the obedience of a significant number of his followers there. The Mormon losses in Missouri were exacerbated by a serious challenge to Smith's moral authority, mounted that same winter by anti-Mormons and ex-Mormon apostates in Ohio. Smith survived these challenges and retained control of the Latter Day Saint movement until the second pinnacle period in the dual crisis -- throughout the year 1837. Then, amid financial failure and massive disillusionment among many of his chief followers, Joseph Smith lost administrative and charismatic control in Kirtland and, with Sidney Rigdon, was forced to abandon the LDS capital for the wilds of Missouri.

This on-line book reviews and explicates the seven year Mormon experience in northern Ohio, focusing on those elements of the experience which constitute the "Crisis at Kirtland." It is not a comprehensive history, nor a dedicated critique of the Latter Day Saint religion, but is simply an investigation of a fascinating and pivotal period in early Mormon history.

Continue reading with:
Episode 1 -- Introduction




  • Adams, Dale W
    (1995) "Judge Not: The Saga of D.P. Hurlbut"  [off-site full text]
    (2000) "Dr. Philastus Hurlbut"  [off-site full text]

  • Adams, George J.
    (1841) Plain Facts... Origin of Spaulding Story  [w/Winchester]
    (1849) True History of the Rise of the Church  [off-site link]

  • Aldernut, W. W.
    (1884 Nov) Hurlbut threatens Smith  [off-site link]

  • Braden, Clark
    (1884) Braden-Kelley Debate
    (1891) Braden-Kelley Debate at Lamoni

  • Brewer, Fanny.
    (1842) Statement re: J. Smith  [off-site link]

  • Briggs, James A.
    (1875) Recollection of D. P. Hurlbut, etc.  [off-site link]
    (1884 Jan) "Western Reserve (D. P. Hurlbut)"  [off-site link]
    (1886 Jan) "The Spalding Romance"  [off-site link]
    (1886 Mar) Open Letter to Joseph Smith III  [pub. 1888]
    (1886 Sep) "The Book of Mormon...?"  [off-site link]
    (1886 Oct) "Who Wrote Book of Mormon?"  [off-site link]
    (1887 Apr) "Book of Mormon"  [off-site link]
    (1888 Mar) "The Mormon Bible"  [off-site link]

  • Cowdery, Oliver
    (1834 Apr) Trial of D. P. Hurlbut  [off-site-link]
    (1834-50) Oliver Cowdery Letters  [off-site-link]
    (1834 Jan) Oliver Cowdery Letter re D. P. Hurlbut, etc.

  • Crary, Christopher G.
    (1890) "Pioneer Reminiscences"  [off-site: excerpts/review]
    (1893)  Pioneer and Personal Reminiscences

  • Cross, Whitney R.
    (1950) The Burned-Over District  [off-site excerpt] 

  • Davison, Matilda Spalding (with Austin & Storrs)
    (1839 Apr) "Origin of the Book of Mormon"  [off-site-link]
    (1842) statement to Rev. Gaston  [off-site-link]
    (1842?) undated statement  [published in 1851]
    (1842?) undated statement  [published in 1854]

  • Deming, Arthur B.
    (1888) Naked Truths About Mormonism  [off-site link]  [review #1]  [review #2]
    (1988) Naked Truths About Mormonism II  [off-site link]

  • Derby, Rachael Miller
    (1885) Reminiscence of D. P. Hurlbut  [off-site link]

  • Dickinson, Ellen E.
    (1880) Scribners Monthly article #1  [off-site link]  [2nd copy]
    (1881) Scribners Monthly article #2  [off-site link]  [2nd copy]
    (1885) New Light on Mormonism  [off-site link]
    (1886) "Solomon Spalding's MS Found"  [off-site link]

  • Dowen, John C.
    (1885) 1833 exhibition of "MS Found"  [off-site full text]

  • Fielding, Robert K.
    (1957) "Growth of Mormon Church"  [excerpts]

  • Gould, Lorin
    (1880 Dec) re: Conneaut witnesses  [off-site link]

  • Grover, Charles
    (1885) Hurlbut exhibits "MS Found"  [off-site full text]

  • Harmon, Reuben P.
    (1884) D. P. Hurlbut's 1833 meetings  [off-site link]

  • Hine, William R.
    (1884) 1833 exhibition of "MS Found"  [off-site full text]

  • Howard, Nahum
    (1833) Statement re: Solomon. Spalding  [off-site link]

  • Howe, Eber Dudley
    (1829-44)  Painesville Telegraph  [off-site link]  [2nd link]
    (1834 Feb) Letter to Isaac Hale  [off-site link]
    (1834 Nov) Mormonism Unvailed  [off-site link: full text]
    (1840) History of Mormonism  [title-page]
    (1878) Autobiography & Recollections  [excerpts]
    (1880 Aug) Letter to D. P. Hurlbut  [off-site full text]
    (1880) Interview with E. E. Dickinson  [off-site full text]
    (1881) Statement to T. W. Smith  [off-site full text]
    (1885) Statement to A. B. Deming  [off-site full text]

  • Hurlbut, D. P.
    (no date)  D. P. Hurlbut Chronology  [under const.]
    (1832 Sep)  Notice in NY newspaper  [off-site full text]
    (1833 Dec)  Press release on Spalding authorship  [off-site full text]
    (1833 Dec)  certification of Spalding's handwriting  [off-site enlarged image]
    (1833 Dec)  certification of Spalding's handwriting  [image in context]
    (1833 Dec)  letter in his handwriting  [off-site full text]
    (1834)  Painesville & Chardon trials
    (1844-52)  letters and articles  [off-site full text]
    (1879) Statement on Spalding MS  [off-site full text]
    (1880) Interview with E. E. Dickinson  [off-site full text]
    (1881) Statement on Spalding MS  [off-site full text]

  • Hurlbut, Maria
    (1884)  statement to E. L. Kelley  [off-site full text]
    (1885)  statement to A. B. Deming  [off-site full text]

  • Hyde, Orson
    (1832) 1832 Missionary Journal  [excerpts]
    (1834) Letter re D. P. Hurlbut, etc.
    (1836) A Prophetic Warning
    (1841) Reminiscence of D. P. Hurlbut

  • Johnson, Benjamin F.
    (1903) "Letter to George S. Gibbs"  [off-site link]
    (1905) My Life's Review  [off-site link]

  • Johnson, Joseph E..
    (1881) "Reminiscences of D. P. Hurlbut"  [off-site link]
    (1882) "Autobiography"  [off-site link]

  • Jones, Josiah
    (1831, 41) "History of the Mormonites"  [off-site link]   [2nd copy]  
    (1833 Nov) letter to D. P. Hurlbut  [off-site link]

  • Kennedy, James H.
    (1888) Early Days of Mormonism  [off-site link: excerpts]

  • Lake, Henry
    (1811) Agreement with Solomon. Spalding  [off-site full text]
    (1833) Statement re: Solomon. Spalding  [off-site link]

  • Lake, Henry & Zaphna
    (1800s) Lake Family Bible  [genealogy extracts]

  • Lake, Hiram
    (1880 Dec) Henry Lake & Solomon. Spalding  [more testimony]

  • McKinstry, Matilda Spalding
    (1839 Oct?) Intrviewed by Jesse Haven  [off-site full text]
    (1880 Jan) Letter to E. E. Dickinson  [excerpts only]
    (1880 Apr) Statement on her father's writings  [off-site full text]
    (1880 Aug) Letter to James T. Cobb  [off-site full text]
    (1882) Statement to E. L. Kelley  [off-site full text]
    (1882) Redick McKee Interview 1  [off-site full text]
    (1885) Redick McKee Interview 2  [off-site full text]
    (1886) Statement on Honolulu MS  [off-site full text]
    (1887) Statement on Honolulu MS  [off-site full text]

  • Miller, John N.
    (1833) Statement re: Solomon. Spalding  [off-site link]

  • Morse, C.
    (1884 Oct) Hurlbut displays Ms Found  [off-site link]

  • Newell Grandison
    (1837 May) "Letter to Sidney Rigdon #1"  [off-site link]
    (1837 May) "Letter to Sidney Rigdon #2"  [off-site link]

  • Norris, Benjamin F.
    (1834 Jan) letter re D. P. Hurlbut, etc.

  • Page, John E.
    (1842) "Mormonism, Alias Truth"  [off-site series of 13 articles]
    (1843) The Spaulding Story  [off-site link]
    (1844 Feb) "Spaulding Story" adv.  [off-site link]
    (1844 June) "Elder Sidney Rigdon Arrived"  [off-site link]
    (1858) "History of John E. page"  [Millennial Star article]
    (1866) The Spaulding Story  [off-site: 1866 RLDS reprint]

  • Pancoast, Eva L.
    (1929) "Mormons at Kirtland"  [off-site link]

  • Parrish, Warren
    (1838 Feb) Letter re. Joseph Smith, etc.  [off-site link]
    (1838 Aug) Letter re. Joseph Smith, etc.  [off-site link]
    (1842 Jul) Letter re. Joseph Smith, etc.  [off-site link]

  • Patterson, Robert, Sr.
    (1842) Statement re. Solomon Spalding  [off-site link]

  • Patterson, Robert, Jr.
    (1882) Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?  [off-site link]
    (1882 Dec) "Letter to Joseph Smith III"  [off-site link]
    (1885 Sep) "Spalding's 'Manuscript Found'"  [off-site link]
    (1880s) letters to James T. Cobb  [forthcoming]

  • Pickdew ?, V. I.
    (1884 Sep) Hurlbut displays Ms Found  [off-site link]

  • Pratt, Orson
    (1811-1838) Orson Pratt Journal

  • Pratt, Parley P.
    (1835) Short Account of Shameful Outrage  [off-site link: full text]
    (1838) Mormonism Unveiled  [off-site link: full text]  [BYU version]
    (1830s) Autobiography  [pub. 1874, off-site link]  [2nd off-site link]
    (1839) Letter to New York Era on Rigdon, etc.  [off-site link]
    (1840) Plain Facts Showing Falsehood...  [off-site full text]
    (1844) Angel of the Prairies  [published in 1880]

  • Randall, Pheobe T.
    (1884) re: Hurlbut's 1833 interviews  [full text]

  • Rathbun, Hyram
    (1884) recollections of D. P. Hurlbut  [full text]

  • Reynolds, George
    (1882-83) Articles in Juvenile Instructor  [off-site link]
    (1883) Myth of the Manuscript Found  [off-site link]

  • Sherman, Jacob
    (1885) 1833 exhibition of "MS Found"  [off-site full text]

  • Smalling, Cyrus
    (1841) Letter re Kirtland Bank  [off-site link]

  • Smith, George A.
    (1858 Jan) Speech #1 on Hurlbut, etc.  [off-site-link]
    (1864 Nov) Speech #2 on Hurlbut, etc.  [off-site-link]

  • Smith, Joseph, Jr.
    (1833-34) Private Journal  [excerpts]
    (1834) Note to N. K. Whitney re Hurlbut

  • Smith, Joseph III
    (1883) Spaulding Story Re-examined  [off-site link]   [original text]

  • Smith, Joseph F.
    (1900) "The Manuscript Found"  [3 articles from Improvement Era]

  • Smith, Oliver
    (1833) Statement re: Solomon. Spalding  [off-site link]

  • Spalding, John
    (1833) statement to D. P. Hurlbut  [off-site link]
    (1842?) undated statement  [published in 1851]

  • Spalding, Martha
    (1833) statement to D. P. Hurlbut  [off-site link]

  • Taking [Tapping?], Anna H.
    (1891) re. father, Oliver Smith  [off-site full text]

  • Thomas, Mr. ?
    (1884 Oct) Hurlbut displays Ms Found  [off-site link]

  • Winchester, Benjamin
    (1840) Origin of the Spaulding Story  [off-site link]   [BYU page images]
    (1841) Plain Facts Shewing Origin of Spaulding Story [w/ Adams]
    (1843) History of the Priesthood  [off-site link]  [2nd copy]
    (1889) Primitive Mormonism  [off-site link]
    (1900) Last Testimony  [off-site link]

  • Wright, Aaron
    (1833 Sep) Statement to D. P. Hurlbut  [off-site link]
    (1833 Dec) Draft letter on Spalding MS  [off-site full text]

  • Young, Almoran
    (1884 Oct) Hurlbut displays Ms Found  [off-site link]

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    last revised: Aug. 20, 2006