EP 578 – Adam Jortner, “No Place for Saints”

TWiM_EP578-Adam_Jortner
How can democracy fail religious freedom? Professor Adam Jortner joins us to discuss how 1830s America denied Latter-day Saints their rights.

Mormonism exploded across America in 1830, and America exploded right back. By 1834, the new religion had been mocked, harassed, and finally expelled from its new settlements in Missouri. Why did this religion generate such anger? And what do these early conflicts say about our struggles with religious liberty today? In No Place for Saints, the first stand-alone history of the Mormon expulsion from Jackson County and the genesis of Mormonism, Adam Jortner chronicles how Latter-day Saints emerged and spread their faith—and how anti-Mormons tried to stop them.

Early on, Jortner explains, anti-Mormonism thrived on gossip, conspiracies, and outright fables about what Mormons were up to. Anti-Mormons came to believe Mormons were a threat to democracy, and anyone who claimed revelation from God was an enemy of the people with no rights to citizenship. By 1833, Jackson County’s anti-Mormons demanded all Saints leave the county. When Mormons refused—citing the First Amendment—the anti-Mormons attacked their homes, held their leaders at gunpoint, and performed one of America’s most egregious acts of religious cleansing.

From the beginnings of Mormonism in the 1820s to their expansion and expulsion in 1834, Jortner discusses many of the most prominent issues and events in Mormon history. He touches on the process of revelation, the relationship between magic and LDS practice, the rise of the priesthood, the questions surrounding Mormonism and African Americans, the internal struggles for leadership of the young church, and how American law shaped this American religion. Throughout, No Place for Saints shows how Mormonism—and the violent backlash against it—fundamentally reshaped the American religious and legal landscape. Ultimately, the book is a story of Jacksonian America, of how democracy can fail religious freedom, and a case study in popular politics as America entered a great age of religion and violence.

Adam Jortner is the Goodwin-Philpott Professor of History at Auburn University. He is the author of The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier and the Audible lecture series Faith and the Founding Fathers.

Join Geoff Openshaw and Jared Gillins as they interview Adam about his new book and the complicated relationship between democracy and religious freedom during a singular period in American history.

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Transcript

00:00.00
Geoff Openshaw
Everyone how’s it going welcome to this week and mormons appreciate you tuning in again this week please visit us over at this week at http://mormons.com and subscribe to us where we get podcasts I’m Geoff Openenshaw there he is. We’re happy this week that’s why I’m getting better.

00:10.87
Jared
I’m Jared gillins. Usually I wait for you to introduce me and then I’m disappointed because you forget to introduce me. So so thank you for leaving me that space.

00:19.88
Geoff Openshaw
Getting better. Our guest is not aware of this but often we have guests on and I do a full guest introduction and say oh yeah and Jared’s here too and I forget so so this week excellent interview we have for you very excited about this because we love talking about early church history on this show. We’ve had. Interviewed many interesting people over the years who are experts in this space and so this week we’re speaking with Adam Joner I’m hoping I pronounced your last name correctly Adam I almost died and and ask you before we went on but Adam is the ah Goodwin Phil Pott Professor of history at Auburn University

00:43.45
Adam
You got it? yeah.

00:53.19
Geoff Openshaw
Ah, he’s the author of the gods of prophets town the battle of tippacanue and the holy war for the american frontier and the audible lecture series faith and the founding fathers and this week we’re talking about his new book. No place for saints mobs and mormons in Jacksonian America so we’d like to give a warm welcome to Adam Jordaner and say ah roll tide right.

01:11.65
Adam
That is incorrect. Ah um, what you want to say is what we want to say is War Eagle Um, ah.

01:12.54
Geoff Openshaw
Right? No oh ah, ah I gonna.

01:15.42
Jared
That’s bama even I know that that’s Bama not Auburn.

01:21.48
Geoff Openshaw
I was just trying to needle you a little bit to start off, but it’s good. Good to have you here? Adam thanks for joining us.

01:27.80
Adam
Well, you’re welcome. You’re welcome and that is that is part of being a ah part of being an auburn professor is getting stuff from from tide fans.

01:34.73
Geoff Openshaw
I have to I used to work with an auburn alum and so we would It was just a thing but if it makes you better I’m completely neutral on all of that I I care not.

01:44.25
Adam
I’m sure and I’ll just make to make everybody else feel better. You know when I put in wrong answers for my multiple choice exam sometimes I will choose you know pick the which biblical quote did our author refer to and give 3 ones possibly as any writing one which is like ah David’s heading to the fifty Yard line David’s going to run back the ah they was gonna run back the touchdown Harvard’s good to win the football game as the biblical quote which sometimes people do pick. Um, so I I do appreciate that and for all your listeners who don’t watch football. You can just ignore the last 15 seconds

02:14.64
Geoff Openshaw
Oh come on I mean we’ve got latter day saint listeners so many of them care about Byu and university of utah I assume I’m not among them. But that’s fine I proudly tell everyone I’m one of The Few Byu Alums who never went to a single football game because I’m a nerd and had and have no friends so very cool book no place friends I enjoyed reading this quite a bit. Um I just love to know what’s like what’s your what’s your background in general and academia and what interested you in latter-day saint history and in this period of it in general like what what brought you here.

02:44.88
Adam
Um, well I was my interest has has always been in american religious history and trying to figure out its its texture and and one of the one of the things about american. Religion that I don’t think we notice americans don’t notice this about our own religion is that we’re broken up into all of these denominations. Um I think saints are aware of this. Um, but I think a a lot of american protestants just don’t even notice that. I sort of was trying to figure out this this particular texture of of american religion and how it how it makes us different how it complicates our our politics how it complicates our social life and I got really into I started studying early american religion and I just got really into miracles and monsters. And I started reading all of this stuff and there’s all these interesting accounts of miracles going on in the early republic um, a lot that we have are are from the Lds Church but a lot aren’t and so I ended up writing a dissertation about sort of you know the miracles and churches and and how. Miracles helped make the american world of denominations in mindish that that was ah my book blood from the sky and and mean the short version of that is you know? Basically once you say ah once you’ve got freedom of religion one of the things that makes a church is a miracle and before freedom of religion in in the us speak really broadly if you have a miracle. You know there are ways of institutional churches have to check that miracle. You know nobody it isn’t just that anybody can have a miracle and then the catholics will recognize and presbyterians will recognize it once you’re in the United States and freedom of religion once that first amendment is law if you’ve got a miracle and your church rejects your miracle. You can go make your own church and this is where sort of in in my opinion. This is kind of where ah sort of the the top just comes off. And there are all of these interesting churches which claimed divine miracles or they talked to an angel or they spoke with the dead or they cast out a devil and most of these churches don’t make it um and of course you and I both know that there is 1 church that made those claims and. Survived and indeed thrived into the twenty first century and that’s the the Lds Church um so I originally was sort of looking around for sort of miracles and and what people thought about them and how people argued about them and I wrote a book in which the the Lds played a small role.

05:28.31
Adam
But um, essentially I had so much. There was so much more that the Lds had had collected. You know the there’s a group called the osgoodites. There’s not a whole lot about them. They’re they’re not around anymore. There was ah a group called the free weather the bab caucus. Who ran a free will Baptist Church where they talked to an angel. They’re not around anymore. But the saints kept a lot of their evidence and and a lot of their early accounts they survived and so I had a bunch of stuff on the on the saints and I just I had ah a book’s worth of stuff about them and I just. I said to myself if I don’t write this book right now I’m going to forget all of this amazing stuff that I’ve learned and I wanted to just I wanted more space to tell the stories that I had found out and to sort of think about to think about the early mormons as a church in a world of. Fracturing churches and in a world of of sort of violence because the jacksonian period is 1 of our most violent periods in in history and sort of how does that work and this is the book that and so so I wrote this book this book and then this book happened.

06:40.50
Geoff Openshaw
And can can you tell us about that the ah I just want to say so the Jacksonian period being violent. That’s something I think we say offhandedly. It’s a major theme in the book that kind of drives. Everything can you tell us more about like why do we say the jacksonian period of America was more violent. What.

06:40.28
Jared
So oh.

06:57.45
Adam
Sure ah in the Jacksonian period one way of putting it is ideas are strong and institutions are weak. Um, you have ah essentially policing powers.

06:57.77
Geoff Openshaw
Tell us about the informus about that.

07:16.10
Adam
Military powers the the strength of the state to be able to police and enforce its own laws is pretty weak. The ability of groups to enforce their will through violence is very very high. Um, so of course we have we have you know really famous incidents of violence and you know indian removal and enslavement are at the top of that list that you just have a world where violence against ah native americans against enslaved people is just par for the course but there are also. Ah, number of cases where violence is enacted against other groups because it can be um and you know in terms of religious violence. There’s the charlestown convent riot in eighteen thirty four mormons expelled from Jackson County 1833 the the shakers for those of you who know about the Shaker Church there’s a number of mobs that go up and attack them and the shakers are pacifists um and practitioners of sort of non-western religions. Ah indian religious native american religions. Also face sort of violence as well and there’s also sort of small episodes of violence. Um, you know where someone ah you know mormons sort of face this kind of depending on the day someone might come and yell at a mormon preacher or throw ink at a mormon preacher or throw a stink bomb into it and sort of minor. Ah you know, not minor, but but sort of things that don’t escalate to the point of of deadly violence. Um, you know, enacted against members of the church and I was a lot of these things happen simply because there isn’t. The the idea of an authority that’s going to keep people in line hasn’t really been developed or to to put in a different way particularly on the frontier. There’s a certain sense that if one can get away with it then it is. Legal. Ah, there’s a sense that whatever you want to do can be done as long as you have enough friends to get away with it which is to say the concept of law isn’t as strong as the concept of popular. Majorities um, ah people particularly if you can claim we are the majority therefore we can do whatever we want everyone else. That’s a lot more powerful than the idea that no every person in this country has rights and you know this is what.

10:08.49
Adam
Gets indians kicked off their land even when they haven’t legally seeded that land plenty of people lose their lands simply because white settlers show up and they say no this is ours and that people try to make the case. Oh well, we didn’t we seeded this land. Not this part forget about it and. This is what happens to the mormons and I as I began to tell the story I realized this was a big piece of what I wanted to talk about which is how the heck does anti-mormonism. Go from you know, being you know, hilarious jokes about the book of mormon in 1830 killing people in 1833 that’s it’s not a big gap. So I was trying to figure that out too.

10:50.55
Jared
So is that distinctive because you you mentioned you just listed off a few like outstanding examples of anti-religious violence that were not necessarily Mormon Mormonism was one of them with the Jackson County expulsion but what what is it that makes is the what like you said the the escalation in 3 years is that what makes this case study distinctive is it how intense it got like why is it that mormons are a standout case among catholics and jews and shakers and whoever else.

11:25.48
Adam
Mormons are a standout case because it happens so so quickly right? because there’s no Lds Church in in 1829 and then four years later not only is there a church There’s you know several efforts ah to expel them from. From from various towns and and areas. So what I I think the Jackson County example and and I think Jackson County is actually understudied in mormon history because it’s not as It’s not as dramatic and it’s not as deadly as the expulsion from far west or from navu or there there are you know the story doesn’t improve after Jackson County ah I don’t know if we need to take that again because my earpiece fell out sorry all right I’ll go back and say it again.

12:10.81
Geoff Openshaw
Very good. Yeah.

12:14.98
Adam
What was I saying something? Um, oh yeah, so um, mean things things don’t improve after Jackson County but why Jackson County is really important is it’s it’s a good case study. Ah with anti-semitic feelings anti-semitism is very very old.

12:15.85
Geoff Openshaw
Everything got worse after Jackson County

12:35.00
Adam
Anti-catholic feelings in Protestant Majority countries very very old but Anti-mormonism. It doesn’t exist and then suddenly it does so it was a good way to sort of really think through what what creates. Hatred in some way what creates anti-religious hatred and and what’s the difference between having a legitimate criticism of a religion which I totally think we can do ah versus having a prejudice against a religion so much so that there is violence against them. Ah, which I think we want to avoid and and and mormonism gives us this kind of perfect example of how did it happen.

13:13.30
Jared
Right.

13:22.10
Jared
So I want to try something and ah and so I want I want to take your 150 page book that you you know spent a lot of time and effort crafting and I want to I want to summarize it kind of what the argument is for so the answer to that question as I understood it.

13:22.12
Geoff Openshaw
They are.

13:25.94
Adam
Sure.

13:41.43
Jared
And then and then please correct me or elaborate on where I skimp too much right.

13:44.20
Adam
It love it. Love was the fifth element all along. That’s the that’s December right? He’ll go ahead.

13:49.88
Jared
Ah I thought it was lilu or whatever. Anyway, um, so so so so so first of all, we have a church and we have like you know like and and you point out there’s all sorts. There’s all diversity of prophets and people doing magical things at this point using Sears Stones divining rods etc etc, this isn’t new but then you get Joseph Smith and somehow his ideas catch on and then there’s so he he starts teaching he starts building a ah ah body of doctrine and some of the things people don’t like and on top of what things people don’t like. Always accompanied with that is then rumor right? So you say well here’s what mormons believe and then as that gets passed down the chain rumors start up and you start getting people passing around and things about the mormons that are even aren’t even relevant to what they believe or just sort of like almost tangential so you add we don’t like their beliefs plus all these rumors. Furor starts to come up and then and you mentioned this that when you were talking about the jacksonian era and the violence associated with it that law and the idea of citizenship particularly are a little slippery and ill-defined in this era of the american experiment and so you start to getting people in Missouri. Ah, you point out particularly starting to view themselves as we are legitimate citizens because we represent the culture the beliefs the practices. Whatever of what a citizen looks like and these guys the mormons they are different from us because of all the rumors we believe etc. Therefore they’re not citizens and so then once you start othering people and especially in you know in America where we have this here’s this constitution. We have this new bill of rights but it doesn’t apply to you because you’re not a citizen and so once you can other a group and and mark them off in whatever way. But in this case as non-citizens suddenly. No holds are barred anymore. You can everything goes out the door civility law discussion. Um, you know all those things and so it’s now like hey now we can be violent now we can do whatever we want and mormons at the same time are are fighting back and say no, we are citizens and we do have rights now I mean it doesn’t matter what we believe. The the bill of rights guarantees a freedom of worship and that we can do whatever you know we want on this on this front. But it’s not a convincing argument when when a group has written you off as non-citizens and that’s how we get from 0 to we’re kicking you out or killing you in 3 years so tell me where what I left out tell me what I explained wrong and enlightened our our listeners.

16:19.21
Adam
No, you did you did a good job. Um, um, but you you, everyone should still read the book because there’s lots of good like jokes in it. Um, ah, you’re exactly right that there are ah. There are so many reasons why violence can happen and I think this this particular case um has a lot of similarities to our own era because anyone who’s been a member of a minority religion I think has experienced and has experienced some kind of discrimination. Yeah, we I don’t know if this is’all’s experience. But you you feel like oh you rack your brains. What did I do? What is it that I believe or that I practice that has so offended them and the thing we often forget is oftentimes discrimination isn’t because of what you. People actually do or actually believe it’s what somebody else says you do or believe um, you know and I I I raised jewish and of course ah someone. I ran into someone you know what I was growing up who thought we still practiced animal sacrifices in the synagogue and she was very upset about this and of course I do this is the misunderstanding rumor is something that drives. Um, it drives misunderstanding it drives fear and it drives hate. Ah, we know this and rumor is is particularly pernicious. Rumor is a hard thing to understand. But um, ah 1 great way somebody else to find it this way is rumor isn’t rumor doesn’t care whether it’s true or not it’s not that rumor is false it’s something that might be true and usually when someone passes along a rumor they’re trying to be helpful. Oh I heard this does this help you but when the rumor isn’t true that doesn’t help at all it just it fans the fire. And in many ways rumors often meet our worst expectations better than reality does because of course a rumor is designed to sort of catch you and pull you in and rumors spread like wildfire on the frontier just as they do today obviously. You know everybody be real careful before you share on social media. Please please please really important. Um, the same thing is true in early mormonism. Of course it’s not spread through electronics but it is spread through newspapers ah newspapers who.

19:00.73
Adam
Ah, very often simply cut something out from another newspaper and paste it into their newspaper or who and this was very common in the 1830 s newspapers will say it is said that and then they’ll report whatever it is somebody heard and that kind of goes out ah into the world. Ah, so what you get is rumors about mormons doing things that mormons don’t do ah circulating and most people in the us will have met an anti-mormon rumor before they meet an actual saint. Um, and so this is we have to sort of remember that a lot of what is driving anti-mormonism isn’t the actual practices of the latter day saints. Um, but it’s sort of latter-day saint practices sort of seen through ah a sideshow mirror. Ah, that have been sort of warped you know 1 thing that the saints are always complaining about is the idea that the the church ah is paying for Joseph Smith is paying Joseph Smith this huge amount of money they bought him a house and the church is constantly having to tell people that that’s not the case we’re not, we’re not doing that. Um, but the rumors go on anyway. Um, so I think that’s the sort of trying to get my head around the rumor and it was it was very satisfying sometimes I would see a rumor written down in a letter to someone and then later I would find it in print and then still later I would find it in. A latter-day saint publication saying hey everybody this rumor’s going around. It’s not true. There’s a rumor about the saints are hiding ah rifles in coffins. So everyone be careful because the saints are just a front for the british and the rifles are in the coffins. And the W W Phelps has to write a letter you know in the evening and morning starving like ah that that coffin’s gun thing. That’s not that’s not happening. Um, so that’s part of it and then you also hit so I think the other element which is this question about citizenship and you know. Of course a citizen is part of the nation right? Especially part of a republic you’re part of the citizen comes from the latin kiwis right? right? But the the the city a member so citizens have certain rights. So the way people get around that is to define certain groups as being outside of citizenship and they don’t do this. They sometimes they’ll do this legally? Um, but more often they just do it rhetorically and then hope it has a legal or political effect.

21:43.79
Adam
Ah, they sort of define mormons as being not really american citizens and you know I think your listeners probably know this. There’s zip in american law that says that mormons are not citizens in in one 33 or at least that white mormons are not citizens. Um, ah, ah, they’re born in America and they have citizenship and there there are no religious qualifications for for being an american citizen none. But in Jackson County and in other places too. You know they believe in angels. They believe in miracles they listen to a modern day Prophet and these aren’t qualities that you can trust in a citizen because a citizen is supposed to be neutral. A citizen is supposed to be Christian by which they mean protestutes and much the same way of of. The anti-catholic sentiment. They are following a roman dictator. You can’t be in a church that has a single head because that’s dangerous. It’s not democratic and therefore anyone who believes that is outside the realm of citizenship. Anyone who believes that is outside the realm of citizenship and when you’re outside the realm of citizenship the law doesn’t protect you or put at at the very least there’s a different set of laws. Um, how can we have non-citizens settling here in Jackson County and that’s where those 2 things put together are a pretty deadly mixture.

23:24.74
Geoff Openshaw
So 1 thing I’m curious about is this this argument in general which I I agree with it. But I think there’s a lot of other latter-day saint research that would suggest a lot of the hostility towards the saints was because there were so many of them they started to form a solid voting block. You see a lot of this and a lot of research about. Members of the church in our history. But do you feel like the primary driver towards hostility for them was about the fat was about more of the mystical side of it. The spiritual side of it. The fact that we have angels and visions and that was this off-putting element to the other folks of Jackson County I might have and it might just be a mix of all of them. But do you really think that’s the. The main driving force beyond politics or block voting things like that.

24:07.10
Adam
Um I think I I think I’ll put it this way I think being Mormon didn’t matter until it did. And that is the case that is often the case in cases of religious violence and and sort of of religious distrust is it. It’s everything’s fine and then suddenly everything’s not fined but to sort of answer that there is concern that. The mormons are going to form a voting block but the Mormons haven’t formed a voting block so far as I can Tell. Um.

24:51.87
Jared
Right? That doesn’t really become an issue until na v right? like can na vo that that like that is a thing that you know that Joseph promises votes to 1 candidate and then they vote the other way but in but in the missouri era this isn’t this isn’t happening yet right.

24:53.31
Geoff Openshaw
It comes later in na Boom more right? yeah.

25:02.39
Geoff Openshaw
Oh yeah, you had.

25:06.64
Adam
Yeah, it. It is or to put it a different way. The anti-mormons are saying they will they will form a block and we should act to get rid of them and again pay really close attention to this because 1 thing we should avoid doing. I get a little preachy about this. But 1 thing we have to avoid doing is we can’t take the anti-mormons at face value. Um, because again, ah there there’s an old I mean there was ah a big I mean american history has not always been fair to the latter day saints shocker. Ah, sport spoiler alert american history has not always been fair to the saints and it has there. There has been a tendency and this is a really old tendency to say well because the mormons are odd or different then they probably deserve what was coming to them. So you know, maybe these anti-mormons were were were just carefully delineating their concerns. Um, but of course pay close attention. They’re going to form a voting blockc not that the ah that the older settlers who had been there before. Not that they were forming an anti-mormon block to get rid of the saints. No no, no, it’s the saints who are going to form a block and there isn’t really I didn’t find any strong evidence that the mormons actually were acting that way. They’re certainly, ah you know they’re certainly different and distinct.

26:22.82
Jared
Right.

26:39.14
Adam
Ah, from the other people in independence of the other whites in independence but I have a hard time again. The other thing to remember about the the anti-mormons is they sort of through everything if you read their manifesto that they they they issue a manifesto just before they march in. To independence to sack the mormon ah part of the city and literally everything’s in there. Oh they’re going to upset democracy they’re going to ah ally with enslaved people. They intend to force us out of our homes. So we’re going to act first. It is essentially the same argument that pharaoh uses to enslave the israelites in in the book of exodus right? They may rise up against us. But at ah at a deeper level too. Um, we also have to remember the people who rioted against the mormons. Hadn’t been living in independence or Jackson County all that long Jackson County is only opened to it’s osage territory. It’s only open to white settlement in the eighteen twenty s so this is not people who have lived in the area for generations. These are people who came six years earlier and now the mormons are showing up and now there’s that sense of of resentment. Um I think the key point is they’re trying to justify a riot which means that what they’re what they’re they’re not actively. Giving us real political um concerns as we would understand them in in ah, a functioning democracy if there’s a functioning democracy and you think someone’s forming a voting bloc. Illegally you go to the courts or you try to raise public opinion where you try to get political powers. Ah, legal powers behind you to stop an illegal activity what they are trying to do is gin up enthusiasm for violence to gin up anger and they say all kinds of things. But I think the one constant that they always keep referring to is these guys believe in angels. These guys believe in direct revelation these guys believe in casting out demons and that’s not safe. You can’t trust these people with the ballot box. So we have to kick them out. We have to essentially cleanse this county of them or else. You know if if you don’t do it now. They will destroy us later when and again up to 1833 you know there are of course mormons who say something like yes, one day this will be. You know the seat of god’s own empire and and ungodly country.

29:27.47
Adam
There are mormons who say that but that’s ah um, I have a hard time sort of thinking that that was a legitimate political concern that happened to result in violence I think it was something that Anti-mormons who were afraid of these guys draft. Into their their rhetoric.

29:45.90
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, as I say it kind of reminds me of a modern day version of that when when they were building the temple in Newport Beach and in my native Orange County California there was a time when the design was presented to the city and they had concerns like they do in some like the height lighting things like that you know.

29:46.10
Jared
So.

30:04.87
Geoff Openshaw
Some of the modern day I don’t know if it’s anti-mormonism but some of the excuses and they say you can’t build this even though like the other megachurch up the road did the exact same thing and nobody cared but um, but the church when submitmaing the initial plans because the temple as built is not what was originally submitted. It’s smaller. It’s a little bit. What’s shorter really and it works just fine, but the. Church’s reps actually presented to the city and said this is like what god wants it to be and then that didn’t fly and so just when you were saying that it kind of it’s made me think of what if they were saying that back in Jackson County and you could see back then it engendered a lot of violent hostility. But even in our modern era. Even if it is god’s will. But if you explain that to a civic audience. They might just be like what like you you’re just trying to build a building that I’m not going to go into. Dont care about so a little bit of a I said I’d have digressions for you before we started Adam him and that’s one of things. But.

30:52.80
Adam
no no I mean and we we we do have it’s that’s exactly it I mean I think you’re exactly right? Um I think the modern to me one of the modern parallels was ah the hubbub over the so-called ground 0 mosque. Ah, where muslims in the city of New York wanted to build a community center on Fifteenth street ah, which is you know, ah more than a mile away from from ground 0 local people didn’t want that to be built and lo and behold. They start calling it. The mosque at ground 0 implying that the city of New York wanted to build an islamic worship center right? where the worst terrorist attack in american history had been and of course everyone that that got everyone ginned up and it got everyone angry. Um, and again the goal was to prevent the mosque being built um farther uptown. Um, and that’s it’s that kind of attitude of well we’re going to make sure that this particular group. This particular group has to pass a higher level. Of criticism and investigation. Then if you’re going to build you know a Catholic Church or or a presbyterian meeting house or or whatever. Um, they’re citizens but where it’s okay for us. It’s okay to sort of rake them over the coals.

32:26.10
Jared
Right? And there’s no shortage of rumors and you know ah hearsay and things that we like to pass along about muslims and you know groups like that especially in the wake of nine eleven and those terrorist attacks. But you know us 1 of the things I thought about is I was reading the book. They know you’re talking about the rumor mill about mormons and how.

32:27.29
Adam
Um.

32:45.96
Jared
How you know you can make you know you look at these aspects of the things we believe about them and therefore we can argue they wouldn’t make good citizens and I’m like hearing echoes of people complaining about Sharia law and things like that. Ah, here’s the reasons why we can’t trust muslims to be good Americans and therefore it’s okay for us to. You know curtail their rights you know or not prevent them the exact same civil liberties that I enjoy because they’re a different group that doesn’t share my American Republican values.

33:10.40
Adam
Right? And you know, ah um, slightly different version I heard it in in in 2012 when Mitt Romney was was running for president. Um, the the best moment probably the best moment in the 2012 election was when someone tried to explain to me that.

33:18.58
Jared
Right.

33:27.88
Adam
Mitt Romney wasn’t trustworthy because he was born mormon but Harry Reid who was the democrat. He was okay because he had converted to mormonism and yeah, honestly I don’t really remember the logic there because I think I was going like.

33:34.92
Geoff Openshaw
And make tracks. Yeah, that makes so.

33:43.26
Adam
How can I get out of this conversation. I mean I think I made some effort to sort of be like well I don’t think that’s true and here’s why but mostly I was at that point I was like think think I’m done here. Um, but that’s you know that is it is. Precise I mean I think things are are better now than they were in the in the 1830 s but that is how rumor works. It’s um, it dresses itself up like it’s factual, but it’s not and it it. It sort of wants to push you in in an extreme ah direction and i. Deliberately say rumor does that because rumor is isn’t you know there are people who there are rumor mongers. You know there are there are bots out there that spread disinformation. There are actors who spread disinformation and misinformation. But rumor also sort of the reason that works is that rumor can take on a life of its own and it can. You don’t you don’t know what direction it’s going to go in.

34:44.36
Geoff Openshaw
Are rumors like do you feel like they’re I don’t want to say uniquely american but when you look at what happened in what we study in this book and even in our modern era like we’re talking about today. It almost seems like we haven’t learned anything and we and when we find new ways to be susceptible to the same stuff and I think it’s easy to say like well you could pick apart all the million reasons.

34:44.40
Jared
Yeah.

35:03.71
Geoff Openshaw
Why like are we not educated enough are we not discerning enough on any number of things but um, like do you feel like we have gotten any better from the 1830 s until now and actually being a little bit bad. You talked earlier and I’ll be very careful on social media. I just I find it fascinating how many parallels there are to two hundred years ago and today and you would think we would have evolved more as a society and I wonder if that’s an american thing or if that’s just ah, a humanity thing which it very well might be right.

35:33.61
Adam
Well I’ll say this about and um americans we love our freedoms and feel rightly rightly so. We love our freedoms and it’s very hard for us to accept the idea that freedoms come with with a cost. That there is a certain we we have a very we like to talk about personal responsibility but we’re not so into personal responsibility because oh no, we’re supposed to be free. So why would we be restricting ourselves but you know I I think part of the thing about being free. Is that it comes with all of these responsibilities that americans don’t always wanted to do that 1 thing ah that crisscrossed the country in the early nineteenth century is drinking and drinking to excess and I promise I’m going to tie this back I swear to it.

36:27.40
Geoff Openshaw
Or we’re latter day saints. We know lot about that all about. Okay we’re good. We’ve got a cover too.

36:29.70
Adam
But yeah, well, you’re yeah, right? I mean people are Drunk. You know I mean college professors are drunk teaching class that always gets a good laugh when I talk about it in class but and part of the reason as the great Historian Ah W J Rohrboss said is you know. Drinking and drinking to excess is a way to show that nobody’s in charge of you so to be drunk was to be free. Um, and that attitude is is part of our heritage too. Um, so that I think people don’t want to the rumors. Because they’re part of free speech are something we might be particularly susceptible to and you know all the more reason why we need. Um you know good voices to tell us to sort of how to how to be responsible and and to remind us about being responsible and the fact that you know just go ahead and. I’ll I’ll say this because I’ll preach it you know before you pass on that piece of information just go ahead and and verify it. Maybe maybe just check whether the link you know ah is connected to worthy news sources or whether it’s you know. The Arizona Times Picayune Dot Pizza something like that. Um, because we do want us We we do think information should be free and and and I I agree I I Love that fact about it’s one of the things I love about being an american. Getting us to be responsible is a chore but it’s it’s one we you know it’s one we should should undertake Um I don’t know if that was a great answer or not but that’s just that.

38:15.42
Jared
I think it is and and actually this this whole? no no no no I think that was really good and in fact, like this whole the question and the answer reminded me a lot of last year on the show.

38:18.42
Adam
I got about halfway through and then I felt like I was running an E Steam poo.

38:27.75
Jared
Um, Geoff and I interviewed Keith Erickson who’s the head of the church history library and he had just come out with a book called real versus rumor and it was all like the whole premise of this book was that like here’s how you can take these rumors and these fabulous stories and these like pseudo-historical things that get passed around. You know in you know Sunday school elder corn blue society but also on the internet and you know just word of mouth and and he’s specifically aiming at mormons right? about current latter day members of the church of Jesus Christ latter-day saints but you know and I mean but his book was like sort of a microcosm of what we’re talking about right now and that you know no matter. If. It’s before the information age when people are just passing things word of mouth and you know, ah a newspaper is just cutting and pacing from a newspaper without checking their sources whether it’s then or whether it’s now when you can just click and forward a meme. Or whatever or you know here’s something that somebody said offhand in Sunday school and then pass it on in the next award that you visit like we we continue to do this and I remember you know Geoff you know because part of your question was like shouldn’t we be better at this and I I asked a very similar question to Keith ericks and and I said you know I said you know again, we’re talking about you know a book that’s specifically aimed at latter-day saints I said. Hey we’re supposed to be good at discerning truth from error right? like that’s a promise made to latter-day saints and that we’re supposed to have the holy ghost and have all this ability to discern truth from things that are not true and then his answer I loved and I think about this often and he says yeah the key word there is. We’re supposed to be good at it. But often we’re not and and and he talked a lot about what you just said that a lot of times to be good at discerning between truth and error or you know understanding what’s real and what’s rumor etc. You have to put in some work you have to take responsibility and say I’m going to check that url I’m going to look at the about page on the website and. Find out whether or not it’s actually like you know, a lot of times you just click about and it’s like this page is a hoax you know they tell you. But if you don’t but if you don’t click on it if you don’t do the the hard work of like moving the mouse up and clicking on that about button. You don’t you don’t find that out and so I don’t know yeah I think like you know.

40:22.29
Geoff Openshaw
I.

40:35.60
Jared
Again. So I’m just I guess all that is to say I agree with you. We bear a responsibility but we also also begrudge that responsibility often like no, we’re in the information age I shouldn’t have to check if the source is good.

40:44.89
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, they’ve done the work for me, you know? yeah.

40:45.24
Adam
I mean and I always I always want my work as a historian I want it to I want it to do something? Um, yeah I wanted to sort of have you know, have ah a lesson to to sort of apply to our our own time. But I also I like to do without just you know. Basically. Saying people two hundred years ago were us in funny suits. That’s not true. There history does matter if I if if I wanted to just talk at you about information literacy I would but I mean I think this story that thinking about the saints in in 1833 and thinking about us now and and.

41:07.92
Jared
Ah, true. No right.

41:24.38
Adam
About rumor and and what it can do you know I also think it’s helpful to say it is difficult and to remind ourselves that that it is it actually is challenging in the information age to distinguish truth from fiction and Ericson’s completely right? we are. We’re. Supposed to be good at it. But it’s not simple. It’s hard. It was hard then it is hard now because we want so there are certain things that we want to be true and you know the rumor preys on that and and the ministers of misinformation and disinformation. Ah, actual bad actors prey on that as well and and you know they just because you’re right wing or left wing. Ah they they design it for both of us. Um, everybody’s equally ah can be equally a victim and.

42:11.90
Jared
Right.

42:18.62
Adam
There were people like that in in the 1830 s as well. There are certain ministers in particular in Jackson County who we can actually detail are going around spreading anti-mormon rumors on purpose. So if we don’t want to be something that always works for me and encourage me me to try harder is is to sort of do I want to be like that person. Do I want to be someone who is caring water for for discrimination I don’t want to be that person so that can help encourage me to to be more attentive. Um, and again you know to to talk about our um, a modern parallel that’s hard to do but you don’t have to have a perfect record just anything you do to be careful about this stuff is is really helpful and can be part of the solution.

43:04.85
Jared
So I have another question and maybe I mean I it’s maybe tangentially relevant because we are kind of talking about Parallels and you know applying the history to ourselves. Um, so obviously this is change I mean okay obviously. Religious violence has not ceased to be a thing right? We still do it. We still see it. It turns up in the news you you know every couple months somebody has shot up a mosque or a synagogue or or a church or whatever but it’s not as prevalent right? I mean and so you talked a little bit about what made the jacksonian era distinctive. Um. As far as an era of violence but I’m just curious like why? Why aren’t we seeing similar things like what changes in America like is it Fourteenth amendment now makes it much more clear about who’s a citizen and who’s not what what is it that ah progresses us beyond the era of I don’t like your religion. Therefore I’m going to form a mob and and throw it out of town.

44:02.31
Adam
I think we are in an interesting period and this is this is the moment on the podcast where ah, you know we’re talking about serious things and someone says well it’s an interesting period and someone you know starts to seize up. Oh no, what? what are they gonna talk about. Um they’re gonna talk about scary stuff. You know we have just lived through. Um you know 2020 and and 2021 there was an awful lot of violence out there in american democracy. Um. I don’t want to make a direct parallel to the 1830 s because there was there was there was more trouble back then but 1 of the things we see is that part of what causes rioting is when emotions are raised to a fever pitch. And political solutions. Don’t appear to be available. Um either because they they you know because they don’t exist or because they keep not churning out any sort of reasonable compromise or any sort of victories. So when those 2 things go together. Then there is then there’s this is when we sort of get politically minded or religiously minded violence. Um, and I mean I think that part of our challenge in in a modern democracy um is finding workable. Solutions. Um, wherever we possibly can again I don’t want to sound like an old fuddy-duddy um, ah, but there comes I mean the the end of anti- mormon violence really doesn’t happen until Utah’s becomes a state and then there’s this remarkable period from from 1890 s to to the 1970 s where ah mormonism becomes stereotyped from being anti-american to being stereotypically american it’s supposed to be the american.

46:08.98
Jared
The quintessentially right? yeah.

46:09.41
Geoff Openshaw
We we were. We worked very that was a very hard and deliberate effort to get there. So oh yeah.

46:12.16
Adam
Yeah, quintessentially American Yes I know right? It didn’t does happen. Um, you know, ah hey what? what’s more American than then then fleeing jerusalem to to get to the rocky mountains that’s very American um a little.

46:30.84
Geoff Openshaw
There It is.

46:31.10
Adam
Little book of mormon joke for the for anyway. Um, what was I saying something interesting. Oh right? Um, when idea when sort of feelings are raised to a fever pitch and there aren’t political solutions available and 1 more thing and violence. Is touted as an acceptable response then religious violence does happen and fortunately in the United States that kind of religious violence is often happens on a small scale which is to say individuals. Begin to feel that way and then commit acts of violence now that is very very tragic but widespread religions violence we really haven’t faced in the twenty first century here. Um, among american citizens but sort of thinking about rioting more generally and and sort of the rise of of political violence. Part of the solution to that is to have a moment where um, we keeping emotions in check and reasonable and and appropriate to the moment finding ways to forge compromises and assessing whether or not violence is a legitimate answer. Um. And I I have to say you know we we have a lot of we have a lot of the first 2 um I do think that. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of democratic Ukraine has opened a lot of eyes as to whether or not violence can be legitimate as an answer. Um, and again I don’t want to be a pundit but at least in the last few weeks since the invasion of Ukraine which is ah a terrible tragedy and i’m. Sorry to drag it in here but I get the feeling that a lot of people who had been sort of playing footsie with the idea of political violence have dropped that and have pulled back because we see where this leads. Um, and um, you know I don’t want to be a.

48:27.61
Jared
Right.

48:34.23
Adam
And want to be jumping up and down as a cheerleader here, but let’s take it after have we’ve we’ve we made it through 2020 2021 let’s take a victory where we where we can get 1 if there’s a silver lining to the the tragedy that’s unfolding in Ukraine. It’s that americans are realizing? Oh yeah. When you go to violence to solve a problem that is not a good answer. Um, and ultimately when you back your threats when you back your political threats with the threat of violence. You’re not playing. You’re not playing our game ah by which I mean you’re not playing sort of the american game. And I think we’ve had ah ah an an important visceral reminder um that in the end violence really isn’t the answer and again I’m I’m a fairly patriotic guy so this is the patriotic part of the show. You know that is something that I think americans aspire to. Ah, is that we stand up for democracy and against violent means to achieve political objectives. We don’t always succeed in standing up for it. But I think we want to and that’s our that’s our best angel. Yeah.

49:45.47
Jared
That was one of the that was one of the really interesting things and this was it was really early hang on I’ve made a note about this. Oh So this this is one the introduction even it was and it was so Interesting. It caught my eye and it you. Quote it it was ah they met peacefully and voted On. Um I Mistyped the quote never mind but you’re basically talking about these missourians before they go out and enact mob violence they get together and they have like this orderly civil meeting where they vote on what you know how are they’re going to at how and when they’re going to do the violence. As like it’s an and I made a note in the margin is like it’s an orderly democratic process resolving to enact unlawful violence on fellow citizens who of course they don’t recognize as citizens but still, It’s like how do you?? How do you? It feels like such an oxymoron that you would meet in a civil you know Fashion. And have like you know that I don’t know if they have they could a little rule. You know the rules of order book or whatever. But you know you imagine like I move that we attacked the bormons at midnights and pulled their leader into the street in portar on him I suck into the motion you know like it I mean I’m and I guess I’m going and moving into parody at this point but still, it’s just what. How? how does such a weird dichotomy exist that like we have an orderly democratic process in order to go out and act undemocratically and violently.

51:06.97
Adam
Yeah here how I started the book I said a group of american citizens met in orderly fashion on July Twentieth eighteen thirty three and decided to attack their neighbors right? They have this meeting where they put together this this manifesto and they they actually vote on you know this group of 40500 they they vote to do it. So what’s important there is that they have already decided that violence is acceptable that was where that’s where the riot starts it starts when they say if they don’t agree to what we we’re gonna make a demand if they don’t meet it. Well. Will smash up their their their part of the town will throw them out. That’s when the riot occurs and I think something I discovered in the course of my research is this wasn’t spontaneous. This wasn’t like the gentiles all the gentiles of independence got together and were like I guess we’ll have a meeting. This is the third time there’s a core group of anti-mormons who you know tries again and again to try to get together a group to agree to attack the lds and what’s interesting is there’s not a whole lot of evidence about those first 2 meetings but we know that. Somebody stood up during them and said this is ridiculous. What are you guys talking about they they were able to sort of talk down. Ah the the violence and then this third time third time was was the charm. Um, the third time they get away with it. And it’s that decision to say again. It has to do with. Okay, what are we meeting here to do. We’re meeting here to decide how we’re going to sack our fellow the the saints across the road from us. It’s not a decision as to whether it was a decision as to how and when and I think that’s again I sort of want to sort of point out how important it is that they had sort of already made that decision and also that this isn’t. Sort of ah a spontaneous uprising of every gentile in the county. There are a lot of the gentiles in the county but it’s not all of them and you know there’s this interesting sense after the violence occurs after the expulsion has taken place. There are some gentiles who are like this is not good. We shouldn’t probably do this but on the other hand that faction that kicked out the mormons is now in charge in Jackson County so to put the mormons back we would have to expel them.

53:46.84
Adam
And again so you’re sort of caught in this in in in this loop and of course because the mormons are sort of a ah despised religious minority because they’re seen as weird or bizarre. It’s much easier to let them suffer than to let other protestants christians. Suffer in instead. but but I think it’s very to me. It was very telling because there’s I think there is some idea given the the politics of the last several years something I’ve witnessed is. Some people saying well you know? Ah, if other people are losing their rights and I had that concern maybe not everybody did I had that concern that some people’s rights were were sort of on on the chopping block. Some people would say to me. Well you know Adam your but your rights are are pretty sacred. You know you’re um, I’m a pretty affluent guy. Um, you know Caucasian so your rights are not on the chomppping block and I’m not sure that that is true because what the mormon example shows us is you’re not necessarily safe because if someone just the the day may come in just 3 years where someone decides you’ve. Done something you are something and it’s no longer. Okay for you to be a citizen that kind of sort of calculus is one of the things that makes you know adherence to rights adherence to rule of law and sort of an abhorrence of political violence. Really critical. Ah, ah to to the proper functioning of of a democracy um because in the end it’s never and it’s never just 1 group and I think a lot of folks sort of know that but being reminded that you know even the overwhelmingly white Mormon Church can get kicked out for the belief that people can talk to angels which is ah pretty common these days you know in in our own twenty first century many people believe that and yet here it was used as a reason to kick people out of their homes and shoot at them and. And round him up ah is sort of unbelievable. It’s it’s shocking enough that I wanted to remind everybody I wanted to remind myself.

56:08.72
Geoff Openshaw
The the curious thing in all of this is of course the saints both in Jackson County and then you know Caldwell County navi continuously sought redress from government officials or intervention. But it. Rarely went anywhere in their favor whether it was state government local government state government or the federal government even whether it was Jackson or president Van Buren later on but specifically in and what we’re talking about here Jackson in America why were those in power not able or willing to step in and. Change the situation for the saints and and and and they be the ones to treat them as citizens right.

56:51.77
Adam
That’s a tough question to answer I mean there’s one very simple answer which is you know the saints were on the outside and no one felt particularly needful to lift a finger for them. That’s sort of ah a cynical way to look at it. Um, again, something interesting that I that I found is that there’s you know the the leadership of the Lds Church is really trying very hard to to try to do everything they can. Um. To to reassure people that everything is going to be okay and we’re we really justice demands. We get this back and don’t worry I’m sure we will get this back and then they they don’t get it back. Um I think part of what happens is that every time. The the few times that the saints are actually to get able to get into a courtroom in Missouri ah, and they’re they’re never able to get into a courtroom in Jackson County which is again part of the issue right? The law says it took place in Jackson County your trial has to be in Jackson County well the anti-mormons have been sure to. Have very solid control on all the judgeships in that County. So the mormons say we can’t get justice. There. We can’t even bring they’re worried about bringing witnesses into Jackson County because they’ve been threatened with violence. So again, there’s that threat of violence that prevents the trial from taking place there. When they do get trials in other counties again. The anti-mormon faction sends people to those trials to shout them down ah to to make a scene ah to claim that these people should not be in courtrooms. Um. And then of course um, there’s ah, there’s a terrible accident where several of the anti-mormons are in a ferry and the fairy sinks. Ah, and of course the rumor goes out the saints did this. We have no evidence that any saint ah destroyed that ferry. Ferry worked fine all day until this very last run but the rumor goes out some anti-mormons got killed so what does rumors say of course it was the saints that did it and sort of once that happens shows over. Um, essentially the the door is is closed and that happens very close on when the sort of the sort of March the March of Zions Camp where Joseph Smith brings down a hundred mormons.

59:36.84
Adam
With the idea of okay, we’re going to provide some kind of armed escort for our people. Um that you know sort of dissolves in in an outbreak of cholera and the saints retreat essentially some stay in Missouri they. And try to figure things out a lot of them. Go back to to Kurtland and sort of curtland is is the main center for the next couple of years. Um I don’t want to say that the saints sort of gave up on on redress they don’t they they continue to petition for it. But I think. By eighteen thirty four a year after it’s happened I think most of the saints and particularly the leadership of the church was aware that this isn’t going to come to anything. We’re going to have to getting. We’re not goingnna be able to get redress from this unless it comes from the the federal government.

01:00:28.58
Geoff Openshaw
And 1 thing you noted is um that even redress from the federal government could have been a thornier thing in pre or an antebellum america because the fourteenth amendment wasn’t in effect yet and that was a kind of a quick as saw a quick little note in the book but that was something i. Rarely think about when I when I read about church history in the sense. You know I think well very clearly petition. The federal government they can swoop in but it’s a good reminder that the power of the federal government was a very different thing before the civil war and and my understanding of course is that under the presidency of Andrew Jackson he viewed it more as a state’s issue and was all and even on top. Aside from the fourteenth amendment was just less inclined to intervene and viewed it as this is a Missouri problem Missouri needs to sort it out and then on top of that there was the whole concept of um I’m probably not explaining it exactly as I should but basically how the fourteenth amendment also or the lack of the fourteenth amendment. Weakened the federal government’s position in some ways of guaranteeing the rights to the same would that be an appropriate way to say it? yeah.

01:01:22.39
Adam
Yeah I mean ah so to just to remind everyone. The fourteenth amendment says that all citizens in America have the same access to the rights. Essentially it makes the bill of rights applicable, not just to the federal government but to the states as well. The fourteenth amendment does a lot of other things. It’s a really cool amendment. Um, but yeah, prior to the fourteenth amendment eighteen sixty seven um the right to freedom of religion cannot be abridged by congress but states can feel free to to set up. Whatever they want. Um, so you know for example, that’s how Massachusetts actually has a state church until until 18 34 um, and it’s the Congregationist Church if you’re interested. Um, but yeah, and and so the.

01:02:07.67
Jared
Right.

01:02:13.56
Adam
The saints have a federal right to practice their religion but Missouri is not bound to recognize that right and sort of Jackson. Of course we could say he thought it was a state’s rights issue but for Jamine that’s another way of saying when. White americans rose up and demanded something with violence Jackson almost never bothers to intervene Jackson sees this as part of Democracy Jackson’s not above this He’s he’s part of this when people rise up to Expel Indians he’s in favor of it. Ah, you know when people rise up ah to smash the charleston con convent in in outside Boston he’s not in favor of it but he doesn’t send in troops. He doesn’t doesn’t do anything about it. He takes a very laid back approach because this is how democracy works.

01:03:06.48
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah I mean he he duled a man to death at 1 point right? Like what there you.

01:03:09.97
Adam
He more more than one. Ah, um, you know and again this is how when we talk about violence being acceptable. Um, you know I’m not it. The problem isn’t just the the person of Andrew Jackson like okay Andrew Jackson not one of the greatest guys in history but also not the cause again he is he is a um, he is a symptom rather than a cause but is that the the guy in the federal ah mansion the guy running the government is a guy who really feels that like hey. If people if you offend the majority if the majority doesn’t like you they can enact violence to get rid of you and that that is perfectly consistent with his ideals of democracy and 1 more thing to notice about sort of protection of freedom of religion. It depends on your definition of religion and of course the way from the very beginning mormons characterize their faith as christianity right? again. No big surprise and anti mormons characterize the faith as either foolishness or credulity. Or a joke or a secret dictatorship. Um by Joseph Smith Jr They ‘d they’d say this religion isn’t really a religion and we see this in our own day too. How do you justify violence against a particular region or or laws that target a particular religion. You define it as you say well, that’s not a religion. It’s a cover for something else or you say that’s not a religion that’s superstition or it’s a cult right? Um, um, ah, you know and and yeah you say it’s not a religion. It’s a cult. Why do I always get questions in my religious history classes.

01:04:50.73
Jared
Ah, or it’s a cult or yeah, yeah.

01:05:03.40
Adam
Why do people join cults and I always try to say for the same reason they join religions and people are very unsatisfied with their answer. They they really want to know that. Well if you join a small religious group. You must have some wild out there reason whereas if you join you know a really big Church. You’re just you’re just. Join in the crowd I guess but you know it it doesn’t I think we we know it doesn’t work that way every religious decision requires. Ah you know it requires something. Um and I’m not sure the size of the religion you join.

01:05:24.84
Jared
That’s right.

01:05:39.14
Adam
And don’t think that makes a ah real change in thinking.

01:05:41.33
Geoff Openshaw
Well, it’s is funny to think about that I mean for christians Jesus was still the small out there religion in the beginning right? like everything everything starts at a certain level and can grow into something else, right? and and I think latter day saints were no exception. Obviously there was a at the time of Joseph Smith you know in Upstate new york there was that. Burned over district as they say a great sense of spirituality lots going on. Um, and I think you kind of you kind of feel like do you feel like Joseph Smith was ah like distinctive in that time in that regard or is he one of many people with similar views and supernatural and spiritual and. All of that during that period of history because it seems like a very interesting part of american history and it’s curious as latterday saints we we zero in on it on Joe Smith but I also don’t know if he was like the only actor of that of that ilk during that time. So.

01:06:27.47
Adam
Um, I mean it. It’s both and um, which is this super non answerwer. But ah, you know I think Joseph Smith Junior has is is he’s soaked. In a lot of these ideas he grows up in them and lot of you know there are a fair number of other people who say similar things who engage in similar practices now when this sort of you know when when this eventually sort of comes to light in in the 1940 s and then through the you know to our own day pointing out that there are people like Joseph Smith in the early republic in Antebellum america is is sometimes used as a reason to back the claim that Joseph Smith made it all up. Ah. And and I don’t want to suggest that in in any way you know, just the fact that Smith has contemporaries actually doesn’t say anything about whether or not his religion is is true or not and I really I want to hammer that home. Um, because in one sense. No there isn’t anyone like Joseph Smith Junior no one else makes the claim that they have dug up golden plates from the hill kimorrah with the guidance of an angel translated them spiritually published that and then recreated the original church of Christ on earth no one actually has that exact claim other people make. Similar claims or engage in other sort of um mystical activity. Other people are known to dig for treasure which is an activity that has a fair amount of christian connotations in the eighteen twenty s other people claim that they are restored jews um. And of course the the denominational problem the problem where everybody’s forming their own church. Not only are other people doing that. But that’s part of why Smith feels compelled to become a religious seeker in in the first place and of course you know latter-day saints know very much how he talks about it’s it’s the cry of low here and low there. And all of the churches are competing against each other this is part of how Smith described his own spiritual journey. Um, so Smith is not one of a kind I think um, um, but of course he is 1 of a kind. Ah, you know that nobody else founds the latter day saints. So I think his we might say his experiences and the religious world he lived in was not unique to Joseph Smith Jr but of course you know obviously.

01:09:15.00
Adam
The church that he founded is quite distinct I mean sort of it’s almost ah a point you want to be like well duh. Um, but I think the bigger point is Smith doesn’t need to be a completely original thinker in all ways shapes and forms for his church to be. Either theologically true or unique. Um and nor is it true that um, you know Smith is as I think John Butler once described Smith as being all the way out way out there on the edge of the diving board I don’t think that’s true either. Um, you know we we I think that’s looking at the latter day saints from a modern perspective where there is so much distinct about the the mormon faith tradition and saying well it must have always been like that. No it I think early mormonism looks a lot more like other american denominations of the time but a lot of those denominations didn’t make it. We don’t we don’t have shakers anymore. We don’t have osgodites anymore. We don’t have wilkinsonians anymore. Um. We. We don’t there was a church called the screaming children that didn’t last super long. You know these groups don’t really make it out of the antebellum period and the ones that do disciples of Christ do churches of Christ. Do. They’ve become a lot more like. Ah, standard issue of protestants so seventh day adventists spiritual 17 hours are still around spiritualists by and large are are they not? they’re they’re still around There’s not too too many of them. Um unitarians and universalists today are quite different from what they were like in.

01:10:46.63
Jared
Seventh day adventists

01:11:03.58
Adam
The Nineteenth century. Um, so you know there’s there’s an extent to which the lds is sort of still has retained a lot of those characteristics. Um and and some people look at the lds and they see how distinct it is and they say well it must have always been They’re they’re basically the way I describe it in the book here’s how I describe it in the book in our modern world. We really have two choices there there of course we have a lot of different forms of christianity and belief in America and that’s what I study but in the popular imagination. There’s sort of evangelicalism and then there’s. The mainline protestants slash secular approaches right? We have sort of 2 options. Joseph Smith Junior has dozens and dozens of options. It’s the antebellum spiritual hothouse. There’s a lot of people. Making really radically different claims from 1 another? Um, so he says everyone’s crying low here and low there and I sort of make one of my funny jokes is that today we just have low here right? you say? Well there’s going to be evangelical protestant christianity and there’s everything else but protestantism in in Smith. Day has all kinds of permutations. Even judaism is starting to get divisions around the time that Smith ah sort of discovers. The Gospel I think that sense of frenetic competition. That creates the church or or say gives rise to the church is why people originally joined. Um I think that feeling is still there in in the modern latter-day saints and that’s why it can sort of appear confusing because there’s been. Its competitors have sort of boiled down to just there’s there’s a lot lot fewer competitors these days.

01:13:04.98
Jared
It’s true and even like you know you watch a movie from you know, even like fifty sixty years ago and you know some methodists will be talking about and like oh and they it turned out that he was a presbyterian and you know and and and and and the audience of sixty seventy years ago is going to laugh really hard at that and I’m watching himm going like.

01:13:13.51
Adam
But.

01:13:21.23
Jared
Is there a difference between a methodist and a presbyterian and I know that comes out of my own ignorance. But also I think it you know, kind of illustrates What you’re talking about that like yeah, they they have different tenets and different things that they emphasize or believe in but by and large they’re just part of what we now Call Mainstream American christianity And so yeah, it is It is.

01:13:38.79
Adam
Right? when in in the Muppet movie when Kermit and Fozzy meet electric mayhem in the church and fozzy says they don’t look like presbyterians to me that is a gut buster from the 1970 s and it doesn’t really play as well today.

01:13:39.74
Jared
Bit of a different world isn’t it.

01:13:56.45
Geoff Openshaw
Hasflated it.

01:13:58.49
Adam
Ah, um, yeah I mean there there there has been and and these are these are things that are you know didn’t involve the lds at all. But you know the sort of rise of mega churchches nondenominational protestant christianity or evangelicalism. Whatever you want to call it ah has made. Ah, sort of ah a subculture that that sort of transcends presbyterianism methodism baptism et cetera et cetera and and so that the differences really today are not between in in american prostantism. It’s not between a baptist methodists ah seventh day adventists. It is between sort of. Um, churches that consider themselves evangelical versus churches who consider themselves mainline and presbyterians are on both sides of that methodists are on both sides of that even and I can testify this living in Alabama even baptists are are on both sides of that. Um, and we. So we look at that living in the twenty first century and there’s a tendency to say well it must have always been this struggle of evangelicalism versus secularism which it was not and and also that’s not a. Not a super nice way to treat the main lines to be like well you guys are really have a secular outlook. No, it’s it’s just a different way of experiencing christianity. Um, but we read that struggle of ah fervent heart religion versus the mainlines back into our past. When that’s really not just a twentieth century development. It’s really, ah, a late twentieth century development not that that makes it untrue but it’s just that that was not the main divide in american christianity really until about thirty forty years ago

01:15:45.40
Geoff Openshaw
Interesting all right? Well I’ve got as we wind down here. What do you hope latter day saints today in 2022 what do you hope they will get out of reading your book. No place for saints that they might not know already or think about already.

01:16:01.24
Adam
Well, Ah, that’s a good. No now now is where I have to not sound like I’m a I’m a jerk and like I’m gonna tell the saints. What to think I Okay, ah um.

01:16:09.91
Geoff Openshaw
To just tell us what to think we love it. We love Sometimes we want the revelation to be done for us so you know if you can just.

01:16:13.26
Jared
Ah, we love it.

01:16:19.60
Adam
I Think no if I if there’s something I wanted. Um I wrote the book both for for saints and for for gentiles. Um, and certainly for gentiles I wanted to introduce them to you know, write a sort of and short introduction to sort of the origins of mormonism.

01:16:28.22
Geoff Openshaw
Sure sure yeah.

01:16:39.40
Adam
And then also to sort of think about religion violence discrimination and citizenship in a way that doesn’t that that’s we’re going to sort of talk about it in very different context from from Twenty first century for saints I want. I think my goal was to talk to them about the origins of the church in a way that um I hope sort of puts the world of the early states in conversation with. The world of early America in a way that sort of tells the story of the saints from the but yeah I think a lot of histories of the saints are written with the knowledge that the saints are going to get to Utah and they’re going to establish desret and they’re going to fight with the government eventually, they’re going to become a state. And everything’s going to work out. Okay, the saints at the beginning didn’t know that was going to happen I wanted to write a sort of ah a history of the early saints with the danger back in it with the mystery back in it with the fact that one of the absolute. Most common things for a saint between eighteen thirty and eighteen thirty five is somebody who was a saint today is not going to be a saint tomorrow saints people come in. They go out sometimes they come in. They go out. They come back in. They have arguments with Joseph Smith about are you are you really? the prophet of god or. I think I’ve got my own revelation which I also found with the seaar stone and that this sort of um so I think what I kind of want the saints to get out of this is that the you know the church doesn’t emerge full grown in 1830.

01:18:15.96
Geoff Openshaw
I Ira page. Yeah.

01:18:29.70
Adam
Ah, and you know I think that’s ah I think saints know that the doctrine and covenants are barely begun. They’re putting together the church god is revealing to them how the church is to be put together over time and no one knows how it’s going to look. And when the violence comes they don’t have the safety of knowing everything’s going to be okay and yet many of them choose to sort of to sort of fight on I wanted to write and I hope I have what I was trying to write is is I wanted to write a history of. How the saints believed themselves. Um, and and how they how they became kind of a faith community which is why most I spent a lot of time talking about Joseph Smith here but um he’s not he’s in the book. Can’t write about the lds founding without him. But I tried as much as possible to to write with sources from folks who were not smith to sort of see mormonism at the believer’s eye view and and to sort of think about all the different voices that came together in this church and how they had to negotiate with one another. And figure out what they were um and then how they had to face the fact that people hated them for that. Um, it’s not a tidy community that necessarily loved each other when push came to shove. It was a tidy community that had arguments with each other and when push came to shove. They still had arguments with each other and and you know what was why it’s such an honor to to be able to write about the history of the saints is that you know their their story is really remark. They’re remarkable people and they. They followed their hearts. Even the people who eventually leave the church. They were not afraid to make bold decisions and I kind of wanted to write about what that was like I think that was more typical for America than we think it was I I wanted to get at that experience. Um. So I hope they learn that and I you know I hope they learned something about um how rumor and how discrimination has worked in the history of the church and and take that as as a cautionary tale ah that this is ah protecting citizenship and protecting religious freedom is is something. We can all get behind um, because again sometimes being different doesn’t matter until it does.

01:21:06.59
Geoff Openshaw
Well said, um well Adam Jordanner thank you very much for joining us this week on this weekend. Mormons I’ve enjoyed very much discussing your book. No place for saints. We’ll have a link to it on the website at this week at http://mormons.com everybody you can pick it up. Highly recommend you do. It’s a good read and as Jared said earlier hundred and fifty pages thorough but not overwhelming. You know you’re you’re not, you’re not committing to rough stone rolling here people you’re in.

01:21:25.99
Jared
And right and like Adam said there’s also jokes like there’s a lot of good like things that made me stop and it wait what and I did reread it and I’d like have a good chuckle out of it. There’s there’s oh yeah, no.

01:21:28.70
Adam
No nope.

01:21:37.99
Geoff Openshaw
You mean like treasure like treasures disappearing magically on their own and ah there we go there. We go.

01:21:44.39
Jared
Yeah I don’t even want to get into it because I don’t want to I don’t want to spoil all the good things like there’s got to be people gotta have something to look forward to so.

01:21:48.40
Adam
Yeah, there’s there’s cool stuff in there about how how treasure works and ah it’s It’s more yeah and how to find it and it’s ah it’s more religious than you think.

01:21:53.54
Jared
And how to find it.

01:22:02.30
Geoff Openshaw
It’s really good. Well love the book. Everyone please go and pick this up and of course if you haven’t subscribed to the show already, please take the time to do that leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts and join us on social media and I haven’t done a Patreon plug so support us on http://patreonpatreon.com/thisweek and mormons help keep the lights on That’s how we bring you this program largely without commercials or other intrusions. Once again Adam thank you so much for your time. It was really nice of you to sit with us and talk to us tonight. Glad you did Jared. Thanks for being here too buddy all right. Everybody.

01:22:23.90
Adam
Thanks Geoff. Thanks Jared I I enjoyed it.

01:22:28.84
Jared
Oh yeah, thank you both I Really enjoyed this.

01:22:33.88
Geoff Openshaw
And until the next time everyone this has been this week in mormons we’ll talk to you again next week bute bye thanks

 

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