I'm frequently asked by persons who don't know much about Mormons, Are Mormons Christians? With a smile I always give the same answer, "Yes we are, very much so."

Mormons quite often are referred to as Latter-Day Saint Christians due to the official name of the church which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. But it's more than just a name, Latter-Day Saints strive daily to live the life of Christ and study his teachings and those of his apostles to become more like him.

The Bible tells us the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26) The word Christian means “a follower of Christ" but the word disciple means “student” or “pupil.” Hence a true Christian is not someone who simply says they believe in Christ but rather someone who ardently follows and studies the Savior their entire lives. Mormons do exactly that, therefore we are very much Christian in the truest sense of the word.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The story of William Pitt and the Nauvoo Brass Band, who played as the Saints mourned Joseph and Hyrum Smith's deaths

(by Susan McCloud deseretnews.com 6-27-16)

The young convert from England walked off the boat at Nauvoo, Illinois, with his fiddle and flute in his satchel and music in his heart.

William Pitt was a left-handed fiddler, but he could also play the flute and clarinet (see "They Marched Their Way West: The Nauvoo Brass Band," Ensign, July 1980). As Daniel H. Wells commented, “I have thought he had more music in him than any man I have ever known. If there was a musical instrument he could not play, I do not know what it is” (see Journal of Discourses, vol. 15: 44, p. 350).

Pitt was a natural for being selected as leader of Joseph’s City Band, which was formed in 1842, according to "They Marched Their Way West: The Nauvoo Brass Band." The main purpose of this band, in the beginning, was to lend music and spirit to the drills of the Nauvoo Legion on the public parade grounds.

But the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were great lovers of music in all its forms. Indeed, the Prophet Joseph had encouraged the establishment of a singing school as early as the Kirtland, Ohio, years (see josephsmithpapers.org). And it was a common entertainment to sing around a piano — families, neighbors and friends. The Saints had a delightful custom of serenading the prominent men in Nauvoo. On the first New Year’s Eve after the Prophet’s family had moved into the Mansion House, Brother Stephen Goddard’s choir came to serenade. In his journal, the Prophet noted: “At midnight, about fifty musicians and singers sang Phelps’ New Year’s Hymn under my window” (see History of the Church 6:153 and "Early Nauvoo festivities simple: Christmas subdued compared to today," LDS Church News, Dec. 16, 1995). The following evening Joseph hosted a party at his home, which ended with music and dancing until morning, according got "early Nauvoo festivities simple."

So the functions of Joseph’s City Band quite naturally grew into performing concerts, playing for patriotic events, socials and even in theatricals given by Phillip Margetts “Deseret Musical and Dramatic Association,” according to "They Marched Their Way West." These energetic players of fiddles, fifes, drums and horns filled the air as the band welcomed important people upon their arrival in the city — and as they welcomed weary travelers from all parts of the world who had embraced the gospel and worked their long way to Nauvoo, according to "They Marched Their Way West."

What had now become Pitt’s Band contained many interesting members, among them: Horace K. Whitney, William Clayton, Robert Burton and Levi W. Hancock. Hancock, who was made the chief musician in the Legion, and who wrote a 12-verse song for the placing of the cornerstones of the Far West Temple in 1838, as Brigham Young University music professor Michael Hicks included in "Mormonism and Music: A History" (University of Illinois Press, 1989). Hancock also signed the testimony to the truthfulness of the Book of Commandments — in pencil, but added the words: “never to be erased” (see "Lost 'Book of Commandments' witnesses found," Deseret News, Oct. 27, 2009).

Interestingly, Hancock with his drum and Brother Whitney with his fife played for a Fourth of July celebration in Carthage, Illinois, one year, when the citizens were unable to provide a band of their own. (see "They Marched Their Way West").

When Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith rode off to Carthage and did not return, the Saints prayed — in silence — until word came that the brothers had been killed by the mob.

Naturally, reverently, the band members were part of the throng of people who walked out of the city a ways to greet the wagon carrying the bodies of their beloved prophet on June 28, 1844.

And when the heart-broken Saints filed into the Mansion House on June 29, 1844 — one at a time, thousands upon thousands — Pitt’s Band played reverently outside the open doors (see "They Marched Their Way West"). It's comforting to think that its music was like a pillar of strength and a testimony to the stricken men, women and children who entered to take one last view of the prophet they loved.

Still, the temple needed to be completed and plans made for the Saints to go West. In December 1844, six months after the martyrdom, the Seventies’ Hall was dedicated with the choir on the left, and Pitt’s Brass Band in front. John Taylor in his "Nauvoo Journal" said the contribution of the choir and band had an “excellent melody” (see "John Taylor Nauvoo Journal,” BYU Studies, Vol. 23, 1983)

New challenges arose on every hand. As the began their trek west, the band members generally remained together in the wagon company of Brigham Young, Joseph Smith's successor. The band played to encourage the Saints and performed concerts in the Iowa settlements to raise money for the peoples’ needs. They were well-received. They left a spirit of happiness and hope wherever they went. They worked splitting rails as well as making tunes. They shared with one another. William Clayton, who played the violin, noted in his journal of May 6, 1846: “That he had given other band members some twelve hundred pounds of flour, about four or five hundred pounds of bacon, and other supplies,” according to "They Marched Their Way West."

Once in the Salt Lake Valley the band reorganized with 19 previous members and four new ones, according to "They Marched Their Way West." They repeated the patterns of Nauvoo: meeting new wagon trains of Saints as they entered the Salt Lake Valley, playing for celebrations of the Fourth and now the 24th of July — playing for community and theatrical events.

Pitt's Band was part of the people — part now of their history — part of the sacred memory of all they had been, and of all they, together, had overcome.

What Wells said of Pitt at his funeral in February 1873, could likely be said of the entire membership of this delightful and dedicated organization, who had blessed the Saints with their talents and love: “He was always faithful and cheerful under the most trying circumstances, and no matter what blast blew of difficulty or persecution, brother Pitt was there on hand at a moment’s notice, full of life and music — ready to cheer the hearts of the people” (see Journal of Discourses, vol. 15: 44, p. 350).



'The Assassination of Joseph Smith' shines thought-provoking light on final years of Prophet's life

"THE ASSASSINATION OF JOSEPH SMITH: Innocent Blood on the Banner of Liberty," by Ryan C. Jenkins, Cedar Fort Books, $22.99, 368 pages (nf)

In "The Assassination of Joseph Smith: Innocent Blood on the Banner of Liberty," author Ryan C. Jenkins gives a thought-provoking account of the slain Prophet's life from Oct. 31, 1838, until his martyrdom on June 27, 1844.

Killed by an assassin's bullet at age 38, Joseph Smith led a fascinating yet brief life. He translated the gold plates in 1829, and in 1830 he published the Book of Mormon and organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What followed were years of persecution and strife for Joseph Smith and his followers, who came to number in the thousands.

Jenkins meticulously lays out the scene, opening the day after the Hawn's Mill massacre. Latter-day Saints were about to be forced to surrender their land to the state of Missouri and leave immediately. A flag of truce approached the Mormons in Far West.

Joseph Smith and his associates were then arrested and sentenced to death, though they were ultimately spared and sent to Liberty Jail. Several months later, Joseph escaped and returned to his followers. They proceeded to the small town of Commerce (later named Nauvoo), Illinois.

Other notable events covered in the book include the prophet's trip to Washington, D.C., to seek reparations, his presidential run and the final days leading up to his martyrdom.

Jenkins' decision to write the book in the present tense allows for a more engaging reader experience.
Whether one is a dedicated student of church history or a newcomer, "The Assassination of Joseph Smith" provides an exhaustively detailed and useful overview of some of the most tumultuous years in the Latter-day Saint movement.

The book contains no sexual content but has some generally described violence and mild swearing included in historical quotes.



Conspiracy at Carthage

"CONSPIRACY AT CARTHAGE: The Plot to Murder Joseph Smith," by Mark Goodmansen, Cedar Fort, $19.99, 343 pages (nf)

In “Conspiracy at Carthage: The Plot to Murder Joseph Smith,” author Mark Goodmansen shares information about events surrounding the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum on June 27, 1844, in Carthage, Illinois.

Goodmansen shares the context of historical events in America in general as well as in the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leading up to the deaths of the early church leaders at Carthage Jail. He explores how plans for the Prophet's death were largely politically and economically motivated, and how the mob at Carthage included more than 200 militia members, many of whom had connections to local government. He also ties in historical figures such as William Clark, Robert E. Lee and Francis Scott Key.

Goodmansen lays out the history of the surrounding states to explain the buildup and concerns people had against the Mormons that led to the conspiracy against Joseph Smith. His well-researched nonfiction book includes quotes from publications from those times.

The first couple of chapters are full of historical facts and are a bit slow, but the overall story and intertwining events in the book are compelling and interesting.

The topics in “Conspiracy at Carthage” surround murder conspiracies, but there is no detailed violence.

Goodmansen, a South Jordan resident, graduated cum laude from the University of Utah in accounting and has a passion for history, according to biographical information in the books.



Joseph Smith or the sword?

(by Daniel Peterson deseretnews.com 6-15-16)

In 1838, Thomas B. Marsh, a onetime senior apostle who became a bitter apostate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, swore out an affidavit claiming to have heard the Prophet Joseph Smith say that “he would yet tread down his enemies, and walk over their dead bodies; and if he was not let alone, he would be a second Mohammed to this generation, and that he would make it one gore of blood from the Rocky mountains to the Atlantic ocean; that like Mohammed, whose motto in treating for peace was, ‘the Alcoran or the Sword.’ So should it be eventually with us, ‘Joseph Smith or the Sword’” (see “History of the Church” 3:167).

Critics often use this alleged statement (and its misrepresentation of Muhammad) to malign Joseph’s character, to portray the man who was the first president of what is now the LDS Church as an unprincipled would-be tyrant.

But is it authentic?

Maybe. The so-called “1838 Mormon War” was on. Many LDS Church leaders were falling away, including the Book of Mormon witnesses Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer and apostles such as Marsh and Orson Hyde. The Hawn’s Mill Massacre, which left 17 members of the church dead, occurred on Oct. 30. Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith, along with others, would be condemned to death on Nov. 1, and then, when Alexander Doniphan refused to obey that order, they were cast into Liberty Jail, where they remained from Dec. 1 until April 6, 1839. Meanwhile, led by Brigham Young, Latter-day Saints fled the state through winter snows, seeking asylum in Illinois.

It’s conceivable that, under such stress, hoping to intimidate Missouri’s anti-Mormons and to persuade them to leave the Saints alone, Joseph Smith might have engaged in exaggerated rhetoric.

It’s much more likely, though, that the statement is false, wholly or in part. Arnold Green and Lawrence Goldrup remarked in 1971 that “this threat was quite probably a mere fabrication by the disgruntled Marsh” (see their “‘Joseph Smith, an American Muhammad?’ An Essay on the Perils of Historical Analogy,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 6/1, Page 47.) “Orson Hyde,” they observe, “who seconded Marsh's allegations in 1838, had a change of heart the following year and confessed that unspecified portions of the affidavit had been invented by Marsh.”

Joseph Smith’s own journal reports of the period that “some excitement was raised in the adjoining Counties … against us, in consequence of the (sudden) departure … of the apostates from this Church, into that vicinity reporting false stories, and statements, but when (the Missourians) come to hear the other side of the question their feeling(s) were all allayed upon that subject” (“The Papers of Joseph Smith,” Vol. 2:255-256, edited by Dean C. Jessee).

“I became jealous of the Prophet,” Marsh himself remarked around the time of his 1857 Utah rebaptism (a rebaptism that’s difficult to explain if he really considered Joseph Smith a bloodthirsty aspiring dictator), “and then I saw double, and overlooked everything that was right, and spent all my time in looking for the evil. … I felt angry and wrathful; and the Spirit of the Lord being gone, as the Scriptures say, I was blinded, and I thought I saw a beam in brother Joseph's eye, but it was nothing but a mote, and my own eye was filled with the beam; but I thought I saw a beam in his, and I wanted to get it out; and, as brother Heber says, I got mad, and I wanted everybody else to be mad” (see “Journal of Discourses,” Vol. 5:207).

The fact is that Joseph Smith didn’t actually behave in the belligerent manner suggested by this dubious “quotation.” The Mormons couldn’t have conquered Missouri, let alone everything from the Atlantic to the Rockies, and Joseph never showed any inclination to try it. After all, he sued for peace in Missouri (and, as a consequence, was arrested and nearly executed). And during the last month of his life, even after his arrest and imprisonment at Carthage Jail — where he was, in fact, murdered by government militia — he ordered the Nauvoo Legion to stand down (see "Church History In The Fulness Of Times," Chapter 22).

Joseph probably made a comment about Muhammad in Missouri that Marsh misheard, misunderstood or (consciously or not) angrily distorted. David Grua provides seeming corroboration for some such statement in his 2007 essay “Joseph Smith or the Sword!?” published on juvenileinstructor.org.

However, we don’t know whether that seeming corroboration represents genuinely independent testimony. And the precise wording of Joseph’s alleged statement is crucial — but we cannot know it. A secondhand allegation by a hostile witness is an awfully slender thread upon which to base a serious accusation against Joseph Smith and his character.