Strangite Q&A

Mormon Heretichistory, LDS, Leaders, Mormon, prophets, religion, restoration, Restoration Groups, revelation, smith, theology, violence 53 Comments

As I mentioned previously, I really enjoyed the Strangite session of the Mormon History Association meetings a few weeks ago.  Vickie Speek, John Hamer, and Mike Karpowicz gave some fascinating presentations on this little known group.  Following the session, they answered additional questions, and I thought it would be interesting to provide a transcript of the Q&A session.  But before I get into the transcript, I should tell you a brief history of the Strangite Church.

James Strang, prophet of the Strangite Church

James Strang was baptized into the church just a few months before Joseph Smith was killed in 1844.  He said he had a letter from Joseph proclaiming that Strang was to lead the church.  The letter is currently owned by Yale University; in the past few decades, they have declared Joseph Smith’s signature on the letter a forgery.

Evidently Strang was a dynamic leader.  His church (officially known with slightly different punctuation as the Utah church: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [no hyphen, different capitalization]) rivaled the Brigham Young movement in size.  They had some well known converts too:  Martin Harris, William Smith (Joseph’s brother), William Cowdery (Oliver’s father), William Marks (stake president in Nauvoo), William McLellin (former apostle), Hiram Page, and some of the Whitmer brothers.

Strang claimed an angel visited him, appointing him as prophet.  As part of his calling, he translated the Brass Plates into a book of scripture called “The Book of the Law of the Lord” written by Moses, and in Laban’s possession.  Originally against polygamy, Strang translated the book (first published in 1851), which said polygamy was a godly commandment.

Strang originally moved his followers to Voree, Wisconsin, and then received another revelation to move to Beaver Island, Michigan.  He crowned himself king, and was assassinated there by disgruntled followers.  The Strangites still exist today.  The have a few hundred members in Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wisconsin.  Here is a website from a Strangite follower.  (It contains an online version of the Book of the Law of the Lord.)  John Hamer says the official website for the church is found here.

Independent historian Vickie Speek, John Hamer & Mike Karpowicz of John Whitmer Books, and Bill Russell of Graceland University (the CoC version of BYU) answered a few questions following their presentation on the past 160 years of Strangite history.

Newell Bringhurst, “I found it very enlightening too, but the one area I wanted to hear a little bit more about was the core teachings, the liturgy.  Did you get a sense, particularly John and Mike?  [Vickie] You went into the Law of the Lord in your paper and those tenets and teachings, but what core teachings were perpetuated to the make things that give them an identity as far as their Mormonism or moving beyond or in a different direction in terms of their Mormon teachings that we would identify with as Mormons, from a Latter-Day Saint tradition?”

John Hamer, “I identified in my paper that there is a remarkable continuity.  When we first looked into this, we weren’t sure how this church that had been on Beaver Island and in Wisconsin, how did it end up being in New Mexico?  So we wondered, ‘is this a Neo-Strangite Church?  Is this a bunch of people who got converted and started calling themselves Strangites that don’t have any actual continuity?’  But we found in the course of looking through the records–we had incredible access to all the church’s records, we interviewed a dozen of the oldest members of the church, the branch records going all the way back to the 19th century are all kept in the vaults and all maintained—there is a remarkable continuity of practice and teaching that occurs because these Beaver Island members taught this new generation.  The practices remain and all sorts of things remain.

Some of the things we mentioned were sealing—sealing continues to be done, so that is unusual for Midwestern Mormons for example.  Most of the other branches other than the Cutlerites don’t do that.  You don’t have that in the Community of Christ.  It’s not in the Hedrickites.  They’re sealed for time and all eternity.  This idea of adopting into a noble and a princely household, these kingdom powers—that was being done all the way up through the [19]60’s, especially members of the Flanders clan were sealed, adopting into this Ketchum household that they were intermarried with in the 19th century, but essentially had forgotten that they were inter-married with.  This was more or less forgotten.  Some of this history has been recovered from the records, this connection between Joseph Ketchum and Granny Flanders.  Remember that Granny Flanders was this matriarch who had done this.

I would just say there are an incredible number of practices, there are all kinds of Strangite practices.  The Book of the Law of the Lord is integral as scripture.  It is read.  The Voree Branch are 7th day Sabbath-tarians—that’s Strangite practice.  The Laws of Sacrifice so they would sacrifice first fruits so again a lot of Strangite practice, because they had a second prophet, there’s all sorts of things that they have that other branches don’t have.  So I think the continuity is actually remarkable and the amount of practice and preservation is remarkable.  There are just a few things that fall out, because they don’t have the top priesthood offices.  So some things they don’t feel are valid to do.  One of those is plural marriages for example, they’re not done.

Vickie Speek, “There’s something we didn’t mention is the fact that according to Strangite belief, the lesser cannot ordain the higher. So they’ve lost their prophet, they’ve lost their priesthood, because only God can make a prophet.  Man can’t.  Man can’t make another prophet, so when James Strang died, the prophet died.

John Hamer, “It’s simply invalid for a teacher to ordain a priest.  Likewise, you cannot have an apostle ordain a prophet.  So that’s why Joseph [Smith] III’s ordination is invalid.  William Marks, as great of priesthood or whatever as he had is not a prophet, he cannot ordain a prophet.  Likewise Brigham Young, the other apostles that ordain him—that’s simply invalid in Strangite view, because the lesser cannot ordain the greater.

Newell Bringhurst, “So then the highest priesthood office then is a high priest, is that correct?”

Hamer, “Yes, High Priest.”

Bill Russell, “Since prophets die, and  Joseph was killed, then how are you going to have a successor to Joseph?”

Hamer, “Angelic ordination.”

??? “Just the way Strang was ordained.”

Vickie, “James Strang could have, under the direction of God, laid his hands and ordained somebody before he passed, but he did not.”

Larry Foster, “I also commend the excellent papers.  I had a couple questions more to Vickie, and maybe I missed part of it, or maybe it was answered elsewhere.  On the Book of the Law of the Lord, that’s an extremely impressive book I think.  I looked at it, but the 1856 edition is much bigger than the original book which is only about 50 pages?  A lot of the best stuff in the 1856 edition is these extended explanatory notes, I don’t know if polygamy is in the original text of the edition, or is it part of that explanatory notes stuff that extends the length of the book so much?

The other question I had was an inevitable question about Strang—what does one make of him?  He didn’t ordain a successor even though he was alive for several weeks after he was shot fatally.  Going back, how does polygamy get in there?  How about John C. Bennett?  It seems like John C. Bennett is right there at the heart of Nauvoo polygamy and Strangite polygamy and it seems like he was equally destructive in both contexts.  [audience chuckles]

I also wondered, I read one of Strang’s articles.  Golly, he could sure write.  He almost convinced me that polygamy was a great thing to liberate women.  [audience chuckles]  It gives them all kinds of choices they don’t have and they’re not stuck with a bunch of dodos.  It would appear, and I’ve been criticized by one of the Strangites for saying this, that certainly his letter of appointment was a forgery, that it seems to reflect his own diary.  It is block printed, the name has no relationship to Joseph Smith.”

Bill Russell, “We talked about his appointment at the beginning.”

Foster, “Oh you did.  There’s a pretty clear cut case of forgery, or maybe did you find some other approach?”

Vickie, “The way that I have looked at it.  When I wrote my book about the Strangites, I approached it basically as a newspaper reporter.  I was not going to take a position either way, I was just going to tell the story.  Because to me, it doesn’t matter to me what my opinion of James Strang was, but I was doing the story of the people who believed him, so that’s the way I wrote my book, and that’s the way I still basically look at it.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who followed James Strang, and the Strangites of today, because their [road] is not the main road.  Theirs has been a very hard, hard road with a lot of heartache.

Now I would like to make one comment.  As far as I know, there is only a few copies of the 1851 Book of the Law, and there is somebody here who is familiar with the 1851 Book of the Law, and I’d like to ask him if there is polygamy in it?”

John Hajicek, “Yeah, there is.”

Vickie, “It’s basically the same thing?”

Hamer, “It’s in the main text, right?  In other words, it just lacks the commentary, so it has the text, it just doesn’t explain it, right?”

John Hajicek, “Are you guys asking me?”  [audience chuckles]  “Yeah, I have an 1851 Book of the Law and it’s an 80 page preliminary version.  It was published as a pamphlet with colored, printed wrappers on it.  It doesn’t have the explanatory notes.  It has 95% of the sections.  He continued to translate some additional sections.  There are some interesting differences.  For example, the first edition doesn’t have a chapter on baptism for the dead, and Strang includes his earlier 1849 revelation on baptism for the dead instead, and then has a footnote that says baptism for the dead evidently didn’t exist in the Old Testament.  Later he translates a chapter after on baptism from this Mosaic period, allegedly Mosaic period record.  So his own views changed.  But on polygamy he didn’t change.  The laws on the number of wives a king could have and things like that are all in that first edition.”

Bill Russell, “That 1851 edition does have that you say?”

John Hajicek, “Right.

Mike, “Bill, is my assumption correct that with the assassination of Strang, that the tensions between the Strangites and the state and federal government kind of dissipated at that point.  It is interesting to me that whereas the army had a relationship with the Utah church for quite a while, Strang was shot virtually under the guns of the USS Michigan, a naval vessel on the Great Lakes.  I don’t know what the reports that were filed by the state of Michagan were, and how they were considered when they got back to Washington to the Navy Department in the Pierce administration, but were the tensions with the state governments of in Michigan and Wisconsin and federal government dissipated after the assassination?”

Hamer, “Yeah, because they also got expelled.  They picked up all the members.  They spoiled them of all their property.  They put them on rented boats and they dropped them off all along the coast line destitute in little tiny groups.  So it was the worst kind of persecution results than any other Mormons faced.”

Mike, “Did the navy play a part in that or was it all surveyance from Mackinaw City?”

Vickie, “There is no positive evidence.  However, you take all the circumstantial evidence together, and I say yes.”

Hamer, “Not in the dropping off of the people.”

Vickie, “Not in the dropping off of people, no.”

Hamer, “But like Mike said, the warship is there in the murder.”

Mike, “Does the USS Michigan ferry people from Mackinaw City to St. James as part of the mob?”

Hamer, “Yes.”

Vickie, “As part of the Mob?”

Mike, “Yes”

Vickie, “I don’t believe it was the Michigan.  There were 2 ships in Michigan.  There was a steamer and there was a warship.”

Mike, “I’m asking about the USS Michigan, the warship.”

Vickie, “I don’t know.”

Hamer, “Right, The warship left the dock though.”

Vickie, “Right, it left the dock when Strang was murdered and the murderers jumped on the ship and then left.”

Mike, “2 guys jumped on the ship.”

Vickie and Hamer, “Right.”

Mike, “They left on the USS Michigan?”

Vickie and Hamer, “Yes”.

Mike, “It’s an interesting parallel with the 2 churches: one with the army involved, and the other with the navy.” [audience chuckles]

Vickie, “I think the conflict was gone, because the Strangites were gone, they were scattered.”

Mike, “and the polygamy issue kind of faded away, then?”

Vickie, “Right.”

William Russell, “Here’s a question right here, and then our time is expired so maybe this should be our last one.”

Woman, “Why did they kill James Strang?”

Vickie, “That’s a good question.  Basically, people had become disillusioned with Strang.  Strang was caught trying to follow the Book of the Law and one of the tenets of the church is no alcohol, and basically the Strangites didn’t allow alcohol and they did not support the sale of alcohol to the Native Americans and there was a lot of conflict with the gentiles, and so forth who wanted to sell alcohol.  Strangites became thirsty and they left the fold for other reasons, and those are the ones that basically were in the conspiracy to kill Strang.”

Hamer, “That’s one of them.  That’s on ongoing conflict.  Whenever Mormons gather together in big numbers and took political control and things like that, they would have conflict with their neighbors.  There are all kinds of problems that result from that including the 2 groups don’t trust each other, they don’t feel they can get justice from each other.  The other Americans see Mormons gathering under one prophet as being un-American.  There’s a lot of tendency to go and kill that prophet.”

Bill Russell, “One other thing though, he did serve 1 term in the Michigan legislature.”

Hamer, “Two terms.”

Russell, “Well 2 years I think is all.  But anyway, he was considered very effective according to the Detroit Free Press.  It’s interesting that a prophet and king could be elected to the Michigan legislature and get along well.” [audience chuckles]  He was also a member of the farms.  Well thank you very much, this was an excellent session.”

Like I said, it was a fascinating question.  I’ve invited John Hamer and a few others to entertain questions if you have any.  Do you have any questions for them?

Comments 53

  1. In the book “King of Beaver Island”, there is mentioned an Order of the Illumanti that was set up, with grandiose names for those involved. Strang was “Imperial Primate”, John C Bennett, “General in Chief”, others were Chevaliers, Marshals, Sirs, Earls, and Cardinals.

    A question for Mr. Hajicek–any known surviving artifacts, papers, or books that were part of this bizarre “Order”?

  2. I read one interview some time ago with some of them folks, they basically said that the church doesn’t exist anymore as a coherent organization. They didn’t explicitly say that a prophet was necessary to have the church, or that they are waiting for another prophet, but I inferred that the church kind of dwindled because there was no prophet. They said that maybe one day there will be some kind of gathering of the believers and reestablish the church again, but they didn’t give a timeline, or an indication as to what events would predicate it. I remember seeing a website of the guy who kinda sorta leads this group, or something. He has some kind of Scandinavian heritage name, says he has a whole collection of Joseph Smith items and books, a line of authority, and really emphasizes healthy eating.

  3. Stephen, the audio was very garbled–I was guessing what was said: “He was also a member of the farms.” I doubt Bill Russell remembers what he said.

    Holden–I wish I could answer your question–perhaps John Hamer of Vickie Speek will stop by to answer your question about this “Order.”

    Arnster, In the MHA session, John Hamer and Mike Karpowicz reviewed the past 150 years of the Strangite movement. There have been several schisms. Following the death of Strang, one of the early Strangite apostles actually tried to persuade Joseph Smith III to become the leader of the Strangite church. I don’t remember the apostle’s name, but he actually joined the RLDS church in an attempt to convert Joseph III. Of course, we all know what happened. This apostle soon left the RLDS church, and many of the Strangites have rejected his line of authority, considering him an apostate.

    Vickie Speek explained in the session that “The lesser priesthood cannot ordain the greater–that’s why the church has no prophet or apostles anymore. The apostles could not ordain a new president–only God could. Unfortunately, the last Strangite apostle died without ordaining any new apostles. That means the highest priesthood in the church is high priest, and the presiding high priest (the leader of the modern church) is elected.”

    Strangites believe that only an angel can ordain a new prophet. They are awaiting such an ordination.

    There are a few Strangite groups in existence–all of them small. There is a formal organization, legally organized in 1961. The website is listed above. John Hajicek has a collection of many Strangite documents, and he is not affiliated with this group. He believes that the Strangites should have no formal organization.

  4. (1) Stephen: I can’t think what Bill Russell might have said there — obviously it wasn’t “of the farms,” but I don’t know what is meant.

    (2) Holden: The Order of Illuminati, despite the grandiose titles, wasn’t particularly unusual. Confraternities like the masons were very common at the time and the Illuminati and some of the associated Kingdom rites that Strang introduced were relatively similar to things going on in Nauvoo — from Masonry, to the endowment, to the anointed quorum, to the Council of Fifty. Many documents have survived from the Illuminati, including the oath, a copy of the record book; the whole main rite is reproduced in Vickie Speek’s book, God Has Made Us a Kingdom.

    (3) Arnster: The Strangite church does continue to exist. As MH mentions, it was incorporated (not “organized”) in 1961 in order to hold property. (Like many Restoration groups, the church considers itself to have been “organized” in 1830.) The existing church has a chain of institutional connections going back to Strang. The LDS Church had a couple periods of “apostolic interregnum,” i.e., moments without a First Presidency, when the Twelve acted as the First Presidency. For the Strangites,”apostolic interregnum” lasted from 1856-1897. However, the difference is that in Strangite Mormonism, apostles lack the authority to organize a new First Presidency, so functionally the highest authority in the church became the General Conference. The current church organization is the successor to the conferences that the scattered members held in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and its main authority remains the General Conference of the membership. Beginning in 1897 there has also been a High Priest (the highest surviving office), called to preside over the church. This Presiding High Priest is elected by the General Conference is functionally the president of the church.

    In addition to the church organization, there are independent Strangites who don’t believe that the church organization is valid and who have church organizations of their own because they believe that authority is lacking for such organizations.

    (4) MH: The apostle was Lorenzo Dow Hickey.

  5. Yeah, John Hajicek, yeah, that’s the guy. OK, reading what he said is probably what made me think there was no formal organization.

  6. MH-
    Thanks so much for the post. I think, however, it critical to point out that you left out, what I think, is a major part of the Strangite history – the Voree plates. The story surrounding the discovery of those plates, coupled with witnesses and everything, closely mimics Joseph’s experience and will likely resonate with LDS Mormons. Perhaps you purposely overlooked that, but on a Mormon themed blog it seems pertinent to the discussion.

    My question for the bigwigs (Hamer et al.) is what you make of the revelations, translations, etc. from Strang in relation to Joseph’s similar experiences, and writings? My impression is that Strang, and his followers thought he was the real deal (like Joseph). But on LDS apologist sites, the tactic appears to be to discredit Strang because of his mimicry of Joseph. Did Strang try too hard to be like Joseph and does this reduce his credibility? It appears that at least for his followers it did not.

  7. JMB (8): I don’t have a sense that this worried contemporary Mormons over much. The Kinderhook Plates had been just been found in 1843 — Mormons had been witnesses to their excavation — and they were still accepted as genuine by Mormons. Joseph Smith had recently been publishing the Book of Abraham translation, so early Mormons lived in a world where ancient records were regularly being brought forth. In terms of finding Book of Mormonesque artifacts in hills, there was also the Zelph mound, the Nephitish altar and other sites that had been found, so I think that the Voree Plates would have fit into that world-view nicely and would not have necessarily been seen as merely an imitation of Joseph’s earliest Mormon exploits.

    BTW, I wrote about the Voree Plates here:

  8. john, thanks for the link. that was awesome. I am reading on my phone, but it sounded like there were 2 sets of plates: voree and plates of laban. is this correct?

  9. Yes. The Voree Plates are different from the Plates of Laban. The Voree Plates tell a bit about the story of a people who are no more who once lived in the Wisconsin region before Europeans got there. The Plates of Laban were supposed to be from Jerusalem and they contained the source material for the Book of the Law, the forth book of Strangite Mormon Scripture (after the Bible, Book of Mormon, and D&C).

  10. wow, I thought these 2 sets of plates were the same thing. (thanks jmb- I did overlook that.) so, as I understand it, the voree plates are very small, like the size of your palm. do strangites believe these voree plates are scripture as well?

    how did strang obtain the plates of laban?

  11. According to the Chronicles of Voree (7 Jan. 1845), in a revelation given to James J. Strang, the Lord promised that he would give his servant James the plates if the people were faithful in building up the church and kingdom (p. 17). I don’t know the story of how the Lord fulfilled that promise, but Strang had possession of them by 1849 when the translation process was begun in earnest. Printed testimony of the plates is provided by 7 witnesses and I think we are probably again dealing with an artifact that could be seen and handled (just like the Voree plates but unlike the “golden plates” which were only to be physically handled and seen in vision). I’ve been concentrating my research on late-19th/early-20th century, so I haven’t focused on the Plates of Laban; I was told there may be a facsimile as well (if so, it would be very interesting to see), but I haven’t looked for it or seen it yet. The text itself (which I do have), along with Strang’s commentary, is pretty impressive.

  12. They don’t indicate that they are Nephite (or Jaredite for that matter). I think they presume an additional migration that isn’t chronicled in the Book of Mormon as we have it, but that’s just my reading of them.

  13. Yes, there were two sets of brass plates. The first set of three, the Brass Plates of Voree, were written on both sides and were found in a stone box under an oak tree on the Hill of Promise in Voree (Burlington, Wisconsin). Small enough to fit in a man’s pocket, they allegedly contained the last words of the Raja Manchou of Vorito, who’s people died on the plain below as they battled to the death with another group. The plates were seen and handled by many people, including a newspaper reporter from Racine or Kenosha, WI. The plates were in the possession of Strang’s widow Betsy McNutt until about 1890.

    No one knows where the Brass Plates of Laban came from, Strang never said. But they were an important part in the establishment of Strang’s church. The eighteen plates were translated into the Strangite book of scriptures, the Book of the Law of the Lord (which the current church still uses). The plates were apparently another copy(or possibly the same ones) of the brass plates in the possession of Laban (the guy in the Book of Mormon that Nephi beheaded)in Jerusalem. The plates, in Old Testament days, were originally kept in the Ark of the Covenant.

  14. thank you vickie. I had no idea there were 2 sets of plates. are there any web references to these newspaper articles you speak of? do strangites have their own version of the d&c? if so, do they have any sections in common with lds or rlds?

  15. Very interesting post. The Voree plates are lost but had witnesses. Did the Laban plates also have witnesses, and are they lost?

  16. The reporter was Christopher Latham Sholes, inventor of the modern QWERTY keyboard. He was a reporter for the Southport Telegraph. Southport later was renamed Kenosha, Wisconsin. He reported, “we were cordially received, the plates were shown to us, and we examined the spot from which they were purported to have been taken.” Although he withheld judgment about the antiquity of the plates, Sholes was one of dozens and dozens of witnesses who affirm that with the Voree Plates we are dealing with an actual artifact. Many of these witnesses were hostile and felt that the plates were a fraud and that Strang had made them; but for historians, the point is that they existed and were viewed with people’s natural eyes.

    James Strang gave many additional revelations in his lifetime, but he never published his own D&C with additional sections. The Strangites recognize (and have republished) the 1846 D&C, not the Community of Christ or LDS D&Cs. Both the LDS Church and the Community of Christ have significantly altered the D&C since 1846, both removing and especially adding many sections.

  17. so john, it sounds like your bcc post was providing info about the voree plates and their unknown alphabet, which you called vorite. is this correct? do we have any idea what language the plates of laban might have been written in?

  18. Martin (18): The Book of the Law had seven Mormon (Strangite) witnesses: Samuel Graham, Samuel Bacon, Warren Post, Phineas Wright, Albert Hosmer, Ebenezer Page, and Jehiel Savage. I don’t know of any non-Mormon witnesses, the way the Voree Plates were witnessed by non-Mormons.

    Their testimony statement reads: “Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, to whom this Book of the Law of the Lord shall come, that James J. Strang has the plates of the ancient Book of the Law of the Lord given to Moses, from which he translated this law, and has shown them to us. We examined them with our eyes, and handled them with our hands. The engravings are beautiful antique workmanship, bearing a striking resemblance to the ancient oriental languages; and those from which the laws in this book were translated are eighteen in number, about seven inches and three-eights wide, by nine inches long, occasionally embellished with beautiful pictures.

    “And we testify unto you all that the everlasting kingdom of God is established, in which this law shall be kept, till it brings in rest and everlasting righteousness to all the faithful.”

  19. MH (20): As I say, I haven’t seen a facsimile, if there is one. That the witnesses felt the engravings bore “a striking resemblance to the ancient oriental languages” is hardly more meaningful than the testimony of the Eight Book of Mormon witnesses who assure us that the “caracters” that we see on the Anthon transcript “have the appearance of ancient work.” These guys weren’t particularly familiar with actual ancient scripts. As far as I know, there’s no further indication what writing system was used to engrave the Plates of Laban.

  20. so does the strangite church treat the voree plates as an apocryphal book of scripture like the rlds does with the book of abraham?

  21. No. The Strangite Church considers the translation of the Voree Plates to be a canonized passage of scripture. The Strangite Church believes that all revelations and writings published in the lifetimes of the prophets (Joseph and James) are effectively canonical. As a result, in addition to the standard works (including the Book of the Law), they pay serious attention to the Evening & Morning Star, the Messenger and Advocate, the Elder’s Journal, the Times & Seasons, the Voree Herald, Zion’s Reveille, the Gospel Herald, and the Northern Islander.

  22. wow, I thought our standard works were a lot to carry to church. 🙂 I know vickie explained that polygamy and baptism for the dead are in the book of the law. do you or vickie know what principles are in the voree plates?

  23. There are no principles in the Voree Plates. I quote the entire text in the blog post I referenced above (9). The Voree Plates predict the ministry of Joseph Smith and his martyrdom and the ministry of his successor James Strang, the same way the Book of Mormon predicts Joseph Smith Jr. (2 Nephi 6-7) and Oliver Cowdery (2 Nephi 17-19).

  24. Thank you for the very interesting information. This is more information I have found on my own. You did a wonderful work.

  25. Yes — there’s a Michigan state historical marker on Beaver Island at the Mormon Print Shop, which was built in 1850, and now houses the Beaver Island Historical Society’s museum.

  26. Additionally, (since I live in Ann Arbor) there is, from time to time, little stories in the media telling about the Strangite history. Most people here are fairly familiar with Beaver Island history at some level, and hence are aware of Strangites.

  27. Yes, like jmb275 points out, the story of the “king of Beaver Island,” is part of local Michigan lore, like the story of the “boy governor” and the “Toledo War.”

  28. The people on Beaver Island used to be very antagonistic towards Mormons, but are now (for the most part)very receptive and interested in their Strangite history. I will be on Beaver Island next week speaking about the Strangites as part of a panel discussion about religions on Beaver Island. The presentation takes place on Friday, July 22, and is free, if anyone would like to come.

  29. jmb, I would like to volunteer you to go to the session at beaver island. I would like to go, but we have a family reunion that I must attend. if you or vickie could record the panel discussion, I would happily transcribe the session as I did above, and blog about it. I find the subject of mormon schismatic groups extremely interesting. feel free to email me at mormon heretic at gmail dot com. I love this type of info.

  30. Vickie, is it possible to send an email with a transcript attached? I would love to read it as I am in California and can’t make it.

  31. I will record the session and send it to mh as an mp3 or wave file. I am very slow at transcribing, even using voice recognition software. If you are able to accept one of these file forms by email, I will send it to you as well.

  32. Here’s a few more questions:

    (1) Do Strangites consider the Book of Abraham as scripture?

    (2) I know that Strang initially denounced polygamy (attracting many Mormons who had discomfort with the practice of polygamy.) Then Strang either had a revelation and/or translated the Plates of Laban and discovered polygamy was a celestial principle. So, given this idea that almost anything written by Joseph was scripture, was LDS section 132 ever considered scripture by Strangites, or since it wasn’t publicly announced until 1852 by Brigham Young, did Strangites view section 132 with suspicion? (I believe the Plates of Laban were translated in 1851, but I am not sure if the polygamy section had been translated at that time.)

    (3) The LDS are all familiar with the First Vision account in the Pearl of Great Price. I know that Strang was ordained prophet by an angel. Is there a “First Vision” account of this incident anywhere?

    (4) How do Strangites feel about the “Inspired Translation” (CoC term) or Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (LDS Term)?

  33. MH (40): In the Strangite Church today there is a regular admonition to put trust in the scriptures and the writings of the prophets only as they were published in the prophets’ lifetimes. The attitude is really almost like the “sola scriptura” theory of authority, except that the canon of teachings is extended beyond the standard works of scripture (the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the 1840s D&C, and the Book of the Law) to include teachings found in the Evening and Morning Star, the Messenger and Advocate, the Elder’s Journal, the Times & Seasons, the Voree Herald, Zion’s Reveille, the Gospel Herald, the Northern Islander, and various contemporary tracts and pamphlets.

    In other words, if you want to know truth, you need to find what the law or scripture has to say, and then you can supplement that with teachings found in official church publications published in the lifetimes of the prophets Joseph and James. Contrary to LDS practice, Strangite Mormons don’t find truth by pondering a question, praying about it, and getting a feeling of spiritual confirmation. They may get a feeling of spiritual confirmation, but what matters is the law. With that preface, I can give some general answers.

    (1) Although the Pearl of Great Price itself is a Utah compilation, the Book of Abraham portion was published in the Times & Season in the lifetime of the prophet Joseph. Therefore, while it is not one of the standard works, it should definitely be a valid teaching, since it was published by the prophet in his lifetime.

    (2) Utah D&C 132, by contrast, was not published in the lifetime of the prophet Joseph. James Strang was already practicing polygamy on Beaver Island by the time Mormons in Utah began to announce the practice publicly. In the Northern Islander, Strang argued that Utah Mormons should be allowed to practice their version of polygamy unmolested, even though he felt they were doing it wrong in a religious sense. (For example, Strang condemned the Utah belief that practicing polygamy was essential to exaltation.) None of the Strangites practice polygamy today in any form.

    (3) James Strang talked about this experience more than once, but most often I hear Strangites quote the description that was found in an important Strangite tract called “The Diamond: Being the Law of Prophetic Succession and a Defense of the Calling of James J. Strang as Successor to Joseph Smith, etc.” (printed 1848 in Voree, WI, reprinted 1950 in Voree, WI). Chapter 2 records a blessing that the angel gave to James Strang. Here’s a little of it:

    1. On the twenty-seventh day of June, 1844, at five and a half o’clock in the afternoon, James J. Strang was in the Spirit, and the Angel of God came unto him and saluted him, saying:
    2. Fear God and be strengthened and obey him, for great is the work which he hath required at thy hand. Go on in hope and strength, and falter not, and he will sustain thee, and thou shalt triumph, for the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of Joseph, will be fulfilled.
    3. And the Angel of the Lord stretched forth his hand unto him and touched his head, and put oil upon him and said, Grace is poured upon thy lips, and God blesseth thee with the greatness of the Everlasting Priesthood. He putteth might, and glory, and majesty upon thee, and in meekness, and truth, and righteousness will he prosper thee.

    (4) On the Inspired Version or JST, there seems to be more than one opinion. For Strangites who insist on the “published in the lifetime of the prophet” rule, the Inspired Version should clearly be suspect because it was published by the RLDS Church in 1867. However, as late as 1907, a prolific Strangite pamphleteer named Edward T. Couch published a tract called “The Two Bibles or Scholarship and Inspiration Compared,” which was vigorous defense of the Inspired Version. The Strangites still have copies of this tract, but I’ll have to ask around individual members to see if they stick to lifetime of the prophets rule or if they agree with Couch.

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    That’s really interesting. I’m curious about Strangite practices of polygamy. If polygamy isn’t essential to exaltation, why was Strang commanded to participate in polygamy?

  35. Polygamy was never as proportionally widespread among Strangites as it was among Brighamites. The main article on the subject is John Quist, “Polygamy among James Strang and His Followers,” in vol. 9 (1989) of the JWHA Journal. John says that Strang himself didn’t provide a lot of information about his change of policy regarding polygamy. The story about Strang finding out about the change while translating the Book of the Law is late, coming from the testimony of Apostle L.D. Hickey after Strang’s death. The Book of the Law itself doesn’t command polygamy to be practiced — it directs rules for how it should be practiced and how it should not be practiced. We might speculate that after the translation of the Book of the Law, it was felt that polygamy needed to be practiced by a few families on Beaver Island in order that there be a “restoration of all things” in the latter day dispensation.

  36. Post

    As I understand it, Strangites believe in the Sealing Power, and I think Strangites followed something similar to the Law of Adoption for their Sealing practices. (Is this correct?) Is this sealing practice an important part of Strangite belief, or since they have lost their prophet and apostles, has this sealing ordinance vanished?

  37. Strangites continue to perform marriage sealings and also to seal adopted children to parents.

    The “law of adoption” style practice of sealing people into noble and princely households of the Kingdom of God has been practiced in the lifetimes of many of the current members — several of them have been sealed into a household in that way. However, no such sealing into a household has taken place in a long time and it isn’t clear if the practice will be revived.

  38. Post

    So apparently, this sealing power can be passed from High Priest to High Priest? I always thought the Sealing Power was invested in the Prophet, who could designate it to certain people for sealings. But since they have no prophet any more, I would have thought this sealing power would have died with Strang.

  39. That idea of one man with sealing power comes from LDS D&C 132:7 — which was published by Brighamites after Joseph’s death and is not scripture for the Strangites.

    According to the Book of the Law, “an Apostle, a High Priest, or the Chief of the Elders where thou dwellest, or the Priest who administers in the Temple or the Synagogue” has the power to seal people together in marriage in life, in the resurrection, and in life everlasting (15:1) and to seal children to parents for eternity (19:1-2). Thus, far from making the “sealing power” exclusive, the power is spread pretty wide within the Strangite priesthood.

  40. No — The Book of the Law requires that Baptism for the Dead be performed in a temple, unless there is a special dispensation. There was a special dispensation in Nauvoo in 1842, in Voree in 1849, and on Beaver Island in 1855. The Strangites would need a prophet to get another dispensation. Meanwhile, the Voree Temple was never finished (and the excavation and foundation work are all gone), so the temple alternative is out at this point.

  41. They don’t have any plans. However, if the commandment to build the Voree Temple is still on the books (not rescinded like the Nauvoo Temple due to the missed time limit), I think it would be possible to finish it without receiving any new commandments through a new prophet.

  42. I was never on the panel, I was exonerated from that 1830 accusation when a police offer confessed to framing me and was convicted, I was never accused by the so-called Strangite church, and I was never banned from the Community of Christ archives. You are correct, though, I have never been a Strangite.

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