Posts Tagged ‘Ogden Kraut’


Walker Lake, Nevada

“It’s easy to cry when you realize that everyone you love will reject you or die.”  –

Chuck Palahniuk

A while back I did a good bit of reading on Wilford Woodruff and the signing of the Manifesto.  I was asked by a good friend, while studying the topic and digging up some of the information, what direction I was going and why.  My immediate response was that, in so many words, I wasn’t sure where it was leading or why it was leading there – let alone my interest, at the time, in studying it.  Then, in thinking what to add to this blog, I realized that perhaps this might be a good place to put some of that information.  In the course of my studies I both hit a wall where additional information became more and more difficult to locate and lost some interest in the nuts and bolts of the conversation.  As a result, the progress stopped and I moved on to other topics of interest.

The genesis for studying this topic was introduced to me following a conversation I had with a friend, wherein he related a conversation he had had with Kevin Kraut.  During the course of this conversation Kraut told my friend about Lorenzo Snow’s vision in the SLC temple, and how there was a very specific reason why the Lord appeared to Snow in the hallway of the temple and not in the Holy of Holies.  Intrigued by the concept, I, one day, called up Kevin Kraut out of the blue to ask him for more details on the conversation.  Kevin graciously accepted my call and we proceeded to talk about a variety of subjects for over an hour. Ogden Kraut[1], in one of his many books, had originally shared this story of Lorenzo Snow’s vision in the temple.

Many know of Snow’s vision, but most only seem to know the “official” story as related in “official” church documents.  The official church story reads this way[2]:

“Lorenzo Snow was still at work in his office in the Salt Lake Temple. It was dark outside, and the stars had come out. He was the fifth President of the Church, but he was also serving as the first president of the Salt Lake Temple at the time. He often stayed late into the evening to finish his work.

President Snow’s granddaughter Allie Young loved to visit him at his office. In those days, family members of the temple president were allowed to visit him there. They were not allowed to go through the entire temple, however, until they were old enough and had been found worthy and ready to make the sacred temple covenants.

This special evening Allie was with her grandfather in his office. The doorkeepers had gone home and the night watchmen had not yet come in, so they were alone. When Allie was ready to leave, President Snow went to a dresser and took a large bunch of keys from the drawer so that he could let her out the main entrance. Together they walked down a large corridor near the celestial room.

President Snow suddenly stopped and said, “Wait a moment, Allie. I want to tell you something.” Allie listened intently as her grandfather told her of an unforgettable experience he had once had at that place in the temple: “It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff [as President of the Church].”

President Snow held out his left hand and said, “He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though he stood on a plate of solid gold.”

Still speaking in hushed, reverent tones, President Snow told Allie that the Savior’s appearance was so glorious and bright that he could hardly look at Him.

President Snow put his right hand on Allie’s head and said, “Now granddaughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the temple, and talked with him face to face.”

Allie listened to every word of this sacred experience and never forgot that precious moment but shared it many times later in her life with her family and friends.

The account I heard from a friend, and then reiterated by Kevin Kraut, differs no small amount from this account.  While some of the details above are indeed accurate, some other parts of the conversation are left out and mostly scrubbed from church history.  The scrubbing assumes that others know about the dream and what happened, and according to Ogden Kraut very few people actually heard the whole story, other than what we find in modern day Church magazines and manuals.  Now, admittedly, we’re starting to creep into a territory that is filled with hearsay, and there are certain, if not many, pitfalls which come from indulging in hearsay.  Such is the nature of what I studied.  According to what Kraut wrote, and was related to him by Lorenzo Snow’s granddaughter, we learn the following:

(a)    At the time of his vision, Lorenzo was fully expecting a manifestation.  He fully expected a vision of sorts as he went through the true order of prayer in the SLC temple.  Some suggest that such visions were common when one went through the true order of prayer back in the day.  That may or may not be true, but Snow most certainly was looking for an answer to his prayers.

To this point, Lorenzo Snow once noted:

“It will be recollected that this Gospel message proposed to give us divine manifestations through our doing certain specified acts; we have performed those acts in precisely the manner indicated. None but ourselves have attempted to conform to this arrangement; consequently, no other people are prepared to be witnesses either for or against this system. … That principle imparts the knowledge or the rock of revelation upon which the Savior declared His people should be established; and we constitute the only religious community which dares assume this Scriptural position; and our realization of the Savior’s promise, “that hell shall not prevail against” a people thus established, affords us peace, tranquility, unshaken confidence, and a cheering and happy assurance of security in the midst of all kinds of threatened ruin and overthrow. It is the people, the masses–not exclusively their leaders, who possess this knowledge, and boldly testify to its possession. (Lorenzo Snow, JD 26:378)

(b)   Anthon H. Lund told LeRoi C. Snow, Lorenzo’s son, “a number of times of the Savior’s appearance to [Lorenzo Snow], after he had dressed in his Temple robes, presented himself before the Lord and offered up the signs of the priesthood.” Church News, Apr. 2, 1938.)[3]

(c)    After going through the signs and tokens of the true order of prayer, even though he was fully expecting a manifestation, nothing happened.  This shocked Lorenzo, who thought that the non-response was due to his unworthiness.  He allegedly went and asked for forgiveness from those people he thought he had wronged, or could have wronged, in some way.  He then returned to the temple and performed the signs and tokens a second time, again fully expecting a manifestation (presumably because anciently the signs and tokens were the key words which brought revelation; several journal accounts of others indicate that once they gathered around the altar, prayed and performed the signs and tokens, answers came post haste).  Again, though, nothing happened.  No vision, no revelation, nothing.  Snow waited for some time there in front of the altar hoping for a manifestation but finally got up to leave the altar and left the Holy of Holies, distraught by the lack of an answer and not fully sure what the non-response meant.

(d)   After leaving the Holy of Holies, in this distraught state, he enters a hallway.  There in the hallway he receives an unexpected vision of Christ, the same vision noted in the “official” church account.  The “official” church records suggest that the purpose of the vision was merely to communicate how Lorenzo should direct and set-up the first presidency.  According to Kraut, however, Lorenzo was told – among other things – that the Lord could not (or would not) appear to him there in the Holy of Holies, over the altar.  As Snow was now the presiding High Priest, the common protocol (if we’re even to assume that Christ cares about protocol, and there’s enough evidence to suggest that he doesn’t) would be for Him to appear to Snow in his official capacity.  There, however, in the hallway Christ proceeds to tell Lorenze that the vision was not happening as the result of becoming the presiding High Priest of the Church, with the passing of Wilford Woodruff, rather, this “meeting” had nothing to do with him being in that position.  Lorenzo is then told that the Lord would not appear him in that capacity, and mostly because the church had rejected Him.  Given that the Church had rejected the Savior, the Savior could no longer appear to the Church, or so the “unofficial” story goes.  The Savior appeared to Lorenzo as an individual, and only as an individual.

There are a couple of interesting tidbits to take away from the above story.

Firstly, the issue of the true order of prayer.  If we consider that members are currently prohibited from practicing the “true order of prayer” outside the home, as Snow stated would bring about divine manifestations, can we, as the “masses,” then “boldly testify” that we’ve received such manifestations?  That answer should be self-evident.  Secondly, if the True Order of Prayer was to be performed only by church leaders or only by a temple officiator, then why teach “the people–the masses” how to pray in the True Order, as is taught in the temples?

The true order of prayer was effectively banned from public practice in 1978 by President Kimball.  The official letter stated,

“The Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve has decided that all such prayer circles, whether held in the temples or outside the temples, be discontinued immediately.”

The same letter suggested that the purposes of the true order of prayer could be satisfied by “stake leaders and their wives” attending a temple session, and “stake leaders and their companions” could hold a special meeting to “express … testimony or exhortation.”[4]

So, instead of every member being able to offer up the True Order of Prayer over their family altars in their homes, the practice is axed and replaced with instructions for “stake leaders” and their “wives” and “companions” to substitute the prayer with a broken shell of itself.  It’s no wonder that we don’t expect “divine manifestations” any more.  Not only are we discouraged from practicing the gospel within the privacy of our own home, but we’re then instructed to rely on “leaders” to “recognize the value of [those] prayer circles” in our stead.  Interesting, and telling, switch.  Interestingly, some even state that, “I assume that the second gift you are referring to is to KNOW that Jesus is the Son of God… ie, to have the same testimony that Joseph and Sidney had… to have the heavens opened and to gain a perfect knowledge by SEEING and By HEARING.  I personally don’t believe there is any living mortal on the earth at this time that has that testimony.”

So, not only do we not believe that these manifestations are possible, but also that no other “living mortal on the earth” can or has (at this time) that sort of testimony.

Secondly, we are also confronted with the issue of the church rejecting the Lord.  If what we’re reading and finding out is correct, and given the hearsay I wouldn’t blame you for doubting parts of the story, then sometime prior to 1898 was when the church officially rejected Christ.  I originally believed it to be over the issue of polygamy, though I’m not sure if that was the straw that broke the back, or something else, or everything in unison.[5]

Several of the sources I originally read lead back to meetings Wilford Woodruff had with power brokers and financiers in San Francisco just prior to his death, though the meetings with these power brokers started a decade or so prior to his death.  The meetings were precipitated by the dire financial condition the church was in and due to the issue of statehood.  In his journal, Woodruff notes,

“I am worked altogether to hard.  I don’t sleep nights and am weary by day” (8 Aug 1894).

“It looks as though the Presidency would be ruined unless God opens the way.  Our affairs are in a desperate condition in a temporal point of view” (17 Sept 1896).

“We the Presidency of the Church are so overwhelmed in financial matters it seems as though we should never live to get through with it unless the Lord opens the way in a marvelous manner.  It looks as though we should never pay our debts” (30 Dec. 1896).

Some even go so far as to suggest that Woodruff, as president of the Church, signed an official document (a “covenant of death”) with these same power brokers in order to usher in some financial help to stave off the financial collapse of the church.  And, given the circumstances of his death, I can’t find fault with anyone who chooses to look at things that way.  A conspiracy theory of the best kind.  Certainly, given some of his journal entries, the church was in dire need of financial help.  Would they cave in to the power brokers for an influx of cash, or would they continue to wait on the Lord?  We know how that story turns out, but even then many of the details are missing.

Prior to whatever happened in 1898 when Woodruff visited San Francisco and mysteriously died, he received the following revelation that counseled him on making any promises with the “enemies”:

“Thus saith the Lord … I the Lord hold the destiny of … this nation, and all other nations of the earth in mine own hands … Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise.  Your enemies seek your destruction and the destruction of my people.  If the Saints will hearken unto my voice, and the counsel of my Servants, the wicked shall not prevail.”[6]

Less than a year later, and in spite of the tone of the above revelation, Woodruff wrote the Manifesto and signed it under the guises of acting “I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church.”  Interesting language, if you ask me.  “A more personal register of language captured Wilford’s journal on this day.  He writes of the “History of my life as President” rather than the history of the church.  “I have issued the Proclamation,” he writes, employing the first person pronoun, whereas only a year before it had been “I, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.”  Faced with federal confiscation of church property – including the sacred and secret temples – and no supernatural help in sight, Wilford was forced to act himself “for the Temporal Salvation of the Church.”[7] In fact, Susan Staker argues that, “it is finally Wilford’s capacity for human time not God’s promised world on the other side of human history which moves me.  His talent for waiting made of him the leader who could teach the church to change and compromise and thus to live in the 20th century.  Like Moses, this 19th century prophet did not enter the new land, but he brought the Saints to its border and made possible the conditions which allowed his people to accommodate the daily, the temporal, the natural, and thus to go on waiting for the supernatural, for God’s promises and God’s ends, sometime in the distant latter days.”[8] Truth be told, I don’t agree with Staker’s conclusions, but I do see how she gets there.  Many members see things that way, thinking that “change and compromise” are the way we are to meet and join our modern Babylonian society.

Concerning Woodruff’s death, there are more than a few question marks that rise to the surface. Not only was Woodruff the main speaker at the Bohemian Club a few nights before his death, but several newspaper articles note his relative good health, even at his advanced age.  One such article noted how inexplicably became sick following his speech at the Bohemian Club.  For those unfamiliar with the Bohemian Club (or the better known Bohemian Grove), I’d suggest starting here and here.

The September 2, 1898 edition of the Salt Lake Herald reads:

“President Wilford Woodruff of the Mormon church arrived [in San Francisco] on August 14, the guest of Colonel Isaac Trumbo.  From that time until Thursday he was active and his health was … good.  Last Saturday night [Woodruff] attended an octogenarians dinner given by the Bohemian Club … At night he became seriously ill with a sharp attack of kidney trouble.  Dr. Winslow Anderson, Dr. McNutt and Dr. Buckley were called in consultation at 1 o’clock this morning.  President Woodruff did not think of death, and soon after the medical consultation he fell asleep.  In that sleep he died at 6:40 o’clock.”[9]

While Woodruff was meeting with, and seemingly dying at the hands of the Bohemians, and signing the Manifesto, numerous reports – from the Deseret News to the New York Times – suggest that a “Messiah Craze” was happening in Walker Lake, Nevada, amongst a dozen or more Indian tribes.  The Deseret News noted that it received “wide attention” in the nation’s press.

Sitting Bull, in an article dated November 8, 1890, stated:

“The Messiah said He had come to save the White Man, but they had persecuted Him, and now He had come to deliver the long tormented Indians. All day Christ instructed them and gave them evidence of His powers.  He, Sitting Bull, told his people His story, and asked that Porcupine (one of the Twelve) be sent for to verify it.  He (Porcupine) returned with the same tale and presumably all were convinced.”

A New York Times article from November 20, 1890 reports:

“…the present widespread delusion is that a so-called Messiah of the red men is now somewhere in the mountains of Nevada … the idea, which seems to have originated about a year ago, and to have attracted the attention of army officers … has been steadily spreading, until now it has taken possession of tribes hundreds of miles apart. … it is true that those who have seen the Indian Messiah say that he expressly commands not only industry and sobriety, but living at peace with the whites.  … Kicking Horse, having heard about visiting the Messiah in the woods, improves on the story, and makes his pilgrimage through a hole in the sky.”[10]

The U.S. Army published this official letter, through the United States Indian Service, in a letter dated June 25, 1890:

“Then I went to the agency at Walker Lake and they told us Christ would be there in two days.  At the end of two days, on the third morning, hundreds of people gathered at this place.  They cleared off a place near the agency in the form of a circus ring and we all gathered there. … We waited there till late in the evening anxious to see Christ.  Just before sundown I saw a great many people, mostly Indians, coming dressed in white men’s clothes.  The Christ was with them.  They all formed in this ring around it.  … I looked for him, and finally saw him sitting on one side of the ring.  They all started toward him to see him.  They made a big fire to throw light on him. I never looked around, but went forward, and when I saw him I bent my head I had always thought the Great Father was a white man, but this man looked like an Indian.  … He sat with his head bowed all the time.”[11]

About the only official Mormon reaction comes from one Susa Young Gates, editor of the “Young Women’s Journal”[12]:

“Few, if any, of our leading Brethren doubt the probability, of a certain, if exaggerated, foundation for these stories. Our Lord is evidently setting His hand to prepare the scattered remnants of Israel for the great events about to take place.’

The Millenial Star also reported on what happened, noting:

“Eye-witness account of F.K. Upham “It tells how a very righteous young Indian by the name of Porcupine from the Cheyennes was, like certain wise men of the East, inspired to make this long pilgrimage to Walker Lake, Nevada, to see their Messiah.  He was accompanied by his wife and two other Indians, and, like the wise men of the East, they were very content with the high reward of their journey, for they had seen the Christ! … At sundown the Indians collected in large numbers, and after it became dark He appeared to them, – a large fire being built to throw the light on him.  He was not as dark as an Indian nor as light as a white man, and his dress was partly like each. He sat for a long time in perfect silence, with his head bowed, during which time the Indians never moved nor spoke.  They were told that if they even whispered, the Christ would know it and be displeased.  After a time He raised His head, and then Porcupine saw that he was fair to look upon, that His face had no beard, and was youthful, and that His bright hair extended to His waist.  Porcupine had heard that the Christ of the white man had been nailed to the cross, and looking he was able to see the scars of the nails in the hands of the Indian’s Christ when he raised them.  In His feet he could not see the marks of the nails by reason of the moccasins, but he was told they were there, and that in His side were spear marks which were concealed by the shirt He wore.”[13]

There are other sources to information on this alleged appearance by Christ at Walker Lake, Nevada.  Whether or not they are true is left to you, the reader, to decide.  What I find interesting is the date of all of this.  The summer and fall of the year 1890 was an active time.  The Mormon church was off signing and publishing the Manifesto, and presenting it for a vote (sustained).  The Indian tribes, meanwhile, were off visiting with the “Indian Messiah” who allegedly proclaimed that the “white man” had “rejected” Him.

Joseph Smith, incidentally, was born in the year 1805.  According to D&C section 130, Joseph Smith was promised that had he lived to be 85 years old, He would see the “face of the Son of Man.”

“I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the acoming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following: Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore alet this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter. I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.”[14]

Had he lived to be 85, he would have been alive in the year 1890.  Does this reference in D&C 130 allude to this “Messiah Craze” that was sweeping the nation in 1890?  Perhaps, and certainly it’s an interesting nugget to chew on.

Christ’s appearance to these Indians (again, if true) happened at precisely the same time that Woodruff was acting for the “temporal salvation of the church” (notably, as opposed to the “spiritual salvation” of the church).  Whether or not this act by Woodruff signaled the “official” rejection of the Lord, or something else, these reports of an “Indian Messiah” leave little doubt that the “white man” had rejected Him.

Now, if we return to Lorenzo Snow’s vision and the supposed statement by the Lord that the church had “rejected” Him, and join that with these Indian statements of the Christ saying that the “white man” had rejected Him, then some rather dubious points of rejection seem to line up.    This vision to Snow, in both the timing and content of the vision, coincides with the changes in “apostolic charges” – the official apostolic charges given new apostles.  Up until 1900, when Reed Smoot was called to be an apostle, the original charge given the apostles in 1835 by Oliver Cowdery stated:

“Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face.  Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God.  Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you.  We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same.  If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days?” (DHC 2:195-196. 1835.)

This charge continued until 1890 (funny/odd how these dates all match up) when Lorenzo Snow stated that the apostles, “should, if we sought it, live to see the Savior in the flesh.” This charge changed in 1900 (less than 2 years after Snow’s vision of the Savior) with Smoot and has continued ever since.  No longer are apostles charged with striving until they see God “face to face”, but rather their witness now is much, much less.

D. Michael Quinn discussed the chronology of these changes in one of his books:

“The change in apostolic “charge” apparently began with the appointment of Reed Smoot as an apostle in 1900.  General church authorities had long regarded him as “reliable in business, but [he] has little or no faith.” (Francis M. Lyman to Joseph F. Smith, 17 Apr. 1888, fd 7, box 6, Scott G. Kenny papers, Marriott Library).  President Lorenzo Snow blessed him to receive “the light of the Holy Ghost” so that he could bear testimony of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.  That was an extraordinary departure from the apostolic charge as given since 1835.

“The lessening of charismatic obligation continued during Joseph F. Smith’s administration.  In 1902 the “charge” to new apostle George Albert Smith spoke of his obligations to attend quorum meetings, to sustain the First Presidency and Twelve’s leadership, to express his views “boldly” in quorum meetings, and to lead an exemplary life.  There was no mention of visions.  In 1907 Francis M. Lyman instructed newly ordained Anthony W. Ivins:  “The Twelve are the Special witnesses of Jesus Christ and should be able to testify that he lives even as if he had been seen by them” (emphasis original in text).”

From a charge to strive until you see God face-to-face, to a charge and counsel to receive “the light of the Holy Ghost”, this change in apostolic charges coincides almost perfectly with the dates of the Manifesto and Lorenzo Snow’s vision of the Savior and certainly verify – if only through the de-emphasizing of seeking face-to-face meetings with the Savior – what Snow was told during his vision, namely that the church had rejected Him and that we are still rejecting Him, all the while claiming to be His “only true church.”  Funny how that is.

From these dates and events I see evidence where truth and light is slowly given away, both as a body and as individuals, all the while we maintain our claim to superiority over others.  The church, through Woodruff and others, sought an easier way to “temporal salvation,” while individuals no longer wanted to live under the obligation of seeking the Lord’s face.  We wanted good business men (Smoot), good “images” to present to the public, even if they were someone of “little or no faith.”

Today, I wonder if that’s not what we still want.  Do we want to maintain a good “image,” a good “figure face,” in spite of all that it means, or do we want something more?  Are we content to think that no one on this earth can or does commune with the divine, or do we yearn for that contact ourselves?  Seems as though we’re dealing with personal rejections now.

“Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.” – 2 Ne. 32:6



[1] See www.ogdenkraut.com for more information on the books Ogden Kraut wrote and some more information on some of the stories he shared throughout his life.  This website is operated and run by, if I’m not mistaken, Kevin Kraut, one of his sons.

[2] Madsen, Susan Arrington.  Lorenzo Snow and the Sacred VisionFriend, August 1993, 14.

[3] See Church News, Apr. 2, 1938.

[4] Letter from the First Presidency, dated May 3, 1978.

[5] See this:  http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-im-abandoning-polygamy.html for an interesting discussion on the issue of polygamy in general.

[6] See Wilford Woodruff’s journal entry 24 November 1889.

[7] Staker, Susan.  Waiting the World’s End:  The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, pages viii-xxi.  1993.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Church Leader Passes Away.  The Salt Lake Herald.  2 September 1898.

[10] The Indian Messiah Delusion.  New York Times.  November 20, 1890.  November 1890 NY Times PDF File.

[11] S.C. Robertson, 1 Lieut. 1st Calvary.  Statement of the Cheyenne “Porcupine” of Meeting with the New “Christ.” June 15, 1890.  Here is a link to the actual file.  Walker Lake – Porcupine Report

[12] Gates, Susa Young.  Young Women’s Journal, Vol. 1:477.

[13] See Millenial Star, August 18, 1890.  Volume 52:532-535.

[14] See D&C 130:14-16.

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“We believe that the first principles and aordinances of the Gospel are: first, bFaith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, cRepentance; third, dBaptism by eimmersion for the fremission of sins; fourth, Laying on of ghands for the hgift of the Holy Ghost.”

Article of Faith #4

Re-Baptism

Baptism, that act that most of us are at least cursorily familiar with, is one of the seminal acts we are allowed to perform here on earth.  In the LDS faith members are baptized at 8 years of age, an age which is viewed as an age of “accountability,” or the age at which humans become accountable to God for their actions.  Note the wording in that previous sentence because it is important – we are accountable to God for our actions, especially those actions dealing with our spiritual salvation.  We are not in any sense accountable to man for these same actions.

I sat in on the youth program yesterday in church, invited by a good friend who was presenting the lesson.  Prior to his lesson I was mourning the prayers which had been audibilized throughout the day on how thankful everyone was for our freedom, and for our soldiers who were fighting to defend freedom throughout the world and how great and blessed we are to live in a land of freedom that is so admirably “defended” by troops throughout the worldWhat they view as freedom, I view as oppressionWhat they view as freedom, I view as idolatry. What they view as a “blessed nation,” I view as a cursed nation which will soon (and already is) being visited with numerous scourges as a result of both her and her citizen’s idolatrous ways.

The lesson was on moral agency and our ability to choose while in the flesh.  It was a good lesson, and a topic which generally produces thoughts and insights into life.  In this discussion, the teacher made an astute comment about how we come to this earth as a way to prove to ourselves what we want to believe and follow in this life.  We don’t come here prove ourselves to God (He is God, after all, and can see the beginning from the end), we don’t come here to prove ourselves to our friends, relatives, acquaintances or any other person (including church authorities).  The only reason we come here is to prove ourselves to ourselves.

With that in mind, I had made it a point to print off and read a 20-someodd page write-up on the topic of re-baptism and its history throughout the years as a way to pass the time at church.  I read it here and there during my lapses into boredom during sacrament meeting and elsewhere.  This write-up comes from Ogden Kraut and what I admire most about it, in hindsight, is the legwork that this man must have gone to in order to research the topic.  I’m not sure when it was first written, but I do know it was completed long before the advent of the internet and the ability to research the Journal of Discourses or other diaries online, at the touch of the button.  The legwork and research that would have gone into this write-up is beyond my abilities and I thank both the author and his son (Kevin Kraut) for making this information available on the internet for others to read at their leisure.

And so it is with that in mind that I broach this subject, at least initially.  My first introduction with the topic of re-baptism occurred sometime last year (2009) in some discussions I had with another good friend, which likely occurred shortly after a post on re-baptism (go here for that discussion) or at least that’s where I think this information initially came from.  Though I have read the scriptures which discuss this information on more than one occasion, I have evidently done so without the requisite understanding or insight I needed to grasp what it was that I was reading.  I was, and still largely am, the epitome of ignorance in this and may other regards.  Much of what I write will be a re-hash of Kraut’s beautiful work, but written from my viewpoint and opinion.  The benefit I see in these write-ups is that (a) I gain a better understanding of the idea through the mental give and take and (b) it may, peradventure, reach the screen of some other wanderer on this journey for truth who may need and yearn for the information.  Such was my case several months back.  I guess this is a form of “pay it forward,” if you will.

Scriptural Examples

The best place to start, with any discussion, is in the scriptures.  This topic of re-baptism is discussed in the Book of Mormon, the New Testament and through the annals of Church History up until the late 1890s and early 1900s.  Only then did this idea and doctrine become entirely lost to later generations and that because of, in my opinion, a misinterpretation of one statement.

In the Book of Mormon we read of elders, priests and teachers being baptized.  Though the scripture doesn’t explicitly state that these people were re-baptized, one is left to interpret the scripture as an example of re-baptism.  Else, how could these people already be “elders, priests, and teachers”?  Likewise, Alma, upon leaving his perch in the chief seats of King Noah’s court, was re-baptized along with 200+ others.  Additionally, there are examples in 3 Nephi which evidence such a practice.

In the New Testament, the book of Revelations contains an account of the saints at Ephesus.  The saints at Ephesus were known for their diligence at keeping the word pure, at being able to recognize false teachers and apostles from miles away.  In chapter 2 of Revelations, we read of these saints being reprimanded for leaving their first love (Christ) because of their diligence and attention to the law.  They were so preoccupied with pointing out falsities, that they lost their love of Christ.  In so doing, they were called to repentance and admonished to “repent, and do the first works… .”  What are the first works, if not faith, repentance and baptism, as shown in the 4th Article of Faith?

Doctrine of the Restoration

The examples of re-baptism in the early annals of church history are nearly limitless.  It would be impossible, to lay them all out in this short write-up.  As such, I will focus on only a few.  Returning to the New Testament, there is an account in the Millenial Star of some of the early saints using Revelations 2 to advocate the practice of re-baptism.  Martin Harris, once upon a time, was taught the doctrine and upon hearing it, stated that it was “new doctrine” to him.  The full account reads:

“Brother Harris was taught the necessity of being re-baptized. He said that was new doctrine to him. Revelations 2nd Chapter was explained, that those who had lost their first love and had fallen into evils and snares, were called on to “repent and do their first works,” and that re-baptism was a part of the gospel. He claimed that he had not been cut off from the Church, but said if that was required of him it would be manifest to him by the Spirit. Soon after his arrival in Utah he applied for baptism, saying that the Spirit had made known to him that it was his duty to renew his covenant before the Lord.” (Life of Martin Harris, Millenial Star 44:87)

In May 1829 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by John the Baptist.  Joseph Smith wrote that the following happened during that visit:

…he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. Accordingly we went and were baptized. I abaptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.* (JS-H 1:70-71)

Later, in 1830, the church was officially organized and those first members were baptized.  Among these people (nine in all) was Joseph Smith.  The Desert News states:

…Joseph Smith and those who had been baptized prior to April 6, 1830, were again baptized on the day of the organization of the Church. (Deseret News, March 30, 1935, page 6.)

Funny, don’t you think, that in spite of already having been baptized at the request/commandment of John the Baptist, Joseph goes ahead and gets baptized a 2nd time in less than a year without much statement or fanfare.  He had been baptized at the request of John the Baptist – the same who was described in Luke as “there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” – of all people.  And there he was, getting re-baptized 11 months later.  It just happened.  And yet, as a speaker in church mentioned that the practice of getting re-baptized “twice” was just something that happen.  As history overwhelmingly presents, this was a practice that is much more than something that just happened “twice,” or was restricted to fringe groups.  It was as mainstream as the young men or women program is today in the LDS church.

Indeed, with the example of Joseph Smith getting rebaptized from the get-go, so began a history of re-baptism that lasted for nearly 70 years.  During these 70 years, rebaptisms were completed as a way to renew covenants, to heal the sick, to initiate the “Reformation” of 1856-57, to enter into the United Order, to get married, to accept church leadership positions (i.e. bishops, stake presidents, apostles, etc.), to obtain a remission of sins and several other ways.  Indeed, the reasons for re-baptism were many and certainly not limited.  That is until 1897.

Curtailment by Default

By the late 1890s, no doubt re-baptism was a “mainstream” doctrine and practice among most of the church.  As our “mainstream” beliefs and practices evidence, these beliefs and practices can and do lack the “power” they once had.  People take advantage of the practice, forget its intended meaning and over time the practice loses it’s meaning in the “mainstream.”  Today, this can be seen in many ways.  Then, there is no better example than the doctrine of re-baptism.

For some reason that I have not yet been able to hammer down, the church leadership began to debate the efficacy of the practice and the continued “approval” from the hierarchy.  In 1897, during the October general conference, George Q. Cannon stated, “We hear a good deal of talk about re-baptism, and the First Presidency and Twelve have felt that so much re-baptism ought to be stopped.”  Why such a decision was reached is unknown to me.  Nevertheless, because of a feeling (“have felt”), the hierarchy ends the practice of a sublime doctrine.  Perhaps the intention was not to curtail the practice entirely, as evidenced by the wording, “so much re-baptism ought to be stopped,” but rather to slow the practice and re-focus on the meaning of the doctrine.  Temple records of 1896 allegedly show “thousands of rebaptisms for renewal of covenants and for health reasons.” Whatever the reason for slowing the process, the effect was one of a total curtailment.  And here we stand, some 110 years later, with little to no knowledge or understanding of the subject.  It is amazing how so much insight can be lost in the span of less than 4 generations.

Mystery and History

Much as resurrection was a mystery to Alma, rebaptism (and, no doubt, many other “lost” doctrines) is a mystery to us in the year 2010.  With that very brief history in mind, I want to go back and share some of the more “precious” insights into this doctrine, as shared by early church members.

Though the following statements have been rewritten in history – which is eerily similar to George Orwell’s statements in his book, 1984, on the re-writing of history to reflect the view you want others to have – Brigham Young once shared an interesting insight into rebaptism:

“In the first place, if you were re-baptized for the remission of sins, peradventure you may receive again the Spirit of the Gospel in its glory, light and beauty; but if your hearts are so engrossed in the things of this world, that you do not know whether you want to be re-baptized or not, you had better shut yourselves up in some canyon or closet, to repent of your sins, and call upon the name of the Lord, until you get His spirit.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 1:324)

And, later:

“I know that in my traveling and preaching, many a time I have stopped by beautiful streams of clear, pure water, and have said to myself, “How delightful it would be to me to go into this, to be baptized for the remission of my sins.” When I got home, Joseph told me it was my privilege. At this time, came a revelation, that the Saints could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose, and then that we could be baptized for our dear friends.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 18:241)

It’s amusing, if not saddening, to note the contrast in language between what Young stated and what Cannon professed in the 1897 general conference.  Whereas Cannon and the first presidency “felt” that so much re-baptism should be stopped, Young claimed “revelation” that members of the church “could be baptized and re-baptized when they chose.”  A revelation versus a feeling?  Tough choice.  Perhaps it’s mere differences in lexicon and they mean the same thing, or, perhaps, one group of people were too caught up in curtailing a practice which was being abused by some.  No matter the result, the main question is how does this affect me, or you, or us, today?

In a day that desperately needs another Reformation, no doubt much more than the change that was needed during the Reformation of 1856-57 (a mere 25 years after 1830), this practice and doctrine of re-baptism is one way to bring about the needed change.  Indeed, with this thought in mind, perhaps it is best to again turn to Brigham Young’s words on the subject:

“I have heard some of you cursing and swearing, even some of the Elders of Israel. I would be baptized seven times, were I in your place; I would not stop teasing some good Elder to baptize me again and again, until I could think my sins forgiven. I would not live over another night until I was baptized enough to satisfy me that my sins were forgiven. Then go and be confirmed, as you were when you first embraced the religion of Jesus. That is my counsel.” (Brigham Young, J.D. 2:8-9, emphasis added.)

Think long and hard on that statement.  There is light and truth contained therein.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I was reminded of a conversation I had with another friend on this subject.  In it, this friend was discussing the “false doctrine” that states how when we partake of the sacrament we’re “renewing” our baptismal covenants.  Turns out this is false.  We don’t renew our baptismal covenants when we partake of the Sacrament.

In reality, what we’re doing in partaking of the Sacrament is its own covenant separate and apart from baptism.  To further study this idea, research the covenants the people make in both Mosiah 18 and Alma 7.  In those examples, the act of re-baptism is a witness on behalf the person getting re-baptized that they’re making a covenant.  The baptism itself isn’t the covenant, but a simple witness of a separate covenant.  This simply means that instead of placating yourself by professing to change and follow a new course in life (words/intentions only), in this instance you also do an act, a physical act which demonstrates in deed those words you’re intending to live by. With the act, the words are not empty (as so many of our words tend to be).  The baptismal (and re-baptismal) covenants we make, therefore, are to (a) keep the commandments and (b) serve God.  The covenant occurs when we turn around and repent.  We then prove our willingness to actually give more than lip service by walking down in the water and re-entering the waters of baptism.

It is June 1st, 2010.  The weather is generally warm across America and in many other places.  Read Kraut’s work on this topic, and take advantage of the good weather to seek a remission of sins and utilize the beautiful simplicities of the gospel that are in front of us.