Preparation for Building the Kirtland Temple—Trial and Excommunication of “Doctor” Philastus Hurlburt.
The House of the Lord at Kirtland.
June 1. Great preparations were making to commence a house of the Lord; and notwithstanding the Church was poor, yet our unity, harmony and charity abounded to strengthen us to do the commandments of God. The building of the house of the Lord in Kirtland was a matter that continued to increase in its interest in the hearts of the brethren, and the building committee issued the following circular to the different branches of the Church:
Kirtland, June 1, 1833.
To the Church of Christ in—
We feel under obligations to write to you as well as to all the brethren of the different branches; and we do this, that you, with us, may exert yourselves to bring about the fulfilment of the command of the Lord concerning the establishing, or preparing a house, wherein the Elders who have been commanded of the Lord so to do, may gather themselves together, and prepare all things, and call a solemn assembly, and treasure up words of wisdom, that they may go forth to the Gentiles for the last time; and now, in order to accomplish this, we are directed, yea, we are under the necessity, to call upon the whole Church as a body, that they make every possible exertion to aid temporally, as well as spiritually, in this great work that the Lord is beginning, and is about to accomplish. And unless we fulfil this command, viz: establish an house, and prepare all things necessary whereby the elders may gather into a school, called the School of the Prophets, and receive that instruction which the Lord designs they should receive, we may all despair of obtaining the great blessing that God has promised to the faithful of the Church of Christ; therefore it is as important, as our salvation, that we obey this above-mentioned command, as well as all the commandments of the Lord.
Therefore, brethren, we write this epistle to you, to stir up your minds to make that exertion which the Lord requires of you, to lend a temporal aid in these things above written; and in order that you may know how to conduct the business, we will relate what we have done and are doing here.
We have met in conference, and agreed to form a subscription, and circulate it through the churches. The conference also appointed Hyrum Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, and Jared Carter, a committee to superintend this business, viz: that of circulating subscriptions to establish a fund to build a house, and to aid the Elders to attend this school. The subscriptions are now in circulation among us, and our Heavenly Father is opening the hearts of our brethren beyond the expectation of many; and not one brother among us, as yet, refuses to exert himself to do something in a temporal way to bring about the establishing of this house and school; and we say, may our Heavenly Father open your hearts also, that you, with us, may gather together something to aid as a temporal benefit.
Probably you had better call the officers of the Church immediately together, and appoint someone to circulate a subscription that each individual, after signing, may have a sufficient time to make preparations to pay what he subscribes; for it will be necessary, wherever the brethren are at a distance from Kirtland, that they exert themselves to send on their gift or assistance as soon as they can to Kirtland; though they can, if they believe best, wait on those that sign until the first of September, and then collect and send it to Kirtland.
These considerations we have written to you, knowing it to be our duty thus to do, and may the Lord help you to exert yourselves with us, in raising the means to bring about the glorious work of the Lord; and may we all be kept by the grace of God unto eternal life. Amen.
The same day [June 1st] I received the following:
1. Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—
2. Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand rebuked before my face;
3. For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house;
4. For the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time, that I may bring to pass my strange act, that I may pour out my Spirit upon all flesh—
5. But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen.
6. They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noon-day.
7. And for this cause I gave unto you a commandment that you should call your solemn assembly, that your fastings and your mourning might come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, which is by interpretation, the creator of the first day, the beginning and the end.
8. Yea, verily I say unto you, I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high;
9. For this is the promise of the Father unto you; therefore I command you to tarry, even as mine apostles at Jerusalem.
10. Nevertheless, my servants sinned a very grievous sin; and contentions arose in the school of the prophets; which was very grievous unto me, saith your Lord; therefore I sent them forth to be chastened.
11. Verily I say unto you, it is my will that you should build a house. If you keep my commandments you shall have power to build it.
12. If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness.
13. Now here is wisdom, and the mind of the Lord—let the house be built, not after the manner of the world, for I give not unto you that ye shall live after the manner of the world;
14. Therefore, let it be built after the manner which I shall show unto three of you, whom ye shall appoint and ordain unto this power.
15. And the size thereof shall be fifty and five feet in width, and let it be sixty-five feet in length, in the inner court thereof.
16. And let the lower part of the inner court be dedicated unto me for your sacrament offering, and for your preaching, and your fasting, and your praying, and the offering up of your most holy desires unto me, saith your Lord.
17. And let the higher part of the inner court be dedicated unto me for the school of mine apostles, saith Son Ahman; or, in other words, Alphus; or, in other words, Omegus; even Jesus Christ your Lord. Amen.
Trial of “Doctor” Hurlburt.
June 3.—A conference of High Priests convened in the translating room in Kirtland. The first case presented was that of “Doctor” Philastus Hurlburt, who was accused of un-Christian conduct with women, while on a mission to the east. On investigation it was decided that his commission be taken from him, and that he be no longer a member of the Church of Christ.
The House of the Lord to be Built at Kirtland.
The next matter before the conference was to ascertain what should be the dimensions or size of the house, that is to be built for a house of worship and for the School of the Prophets. I had received a revelation on the size of the house in which the word of the Lord was that it should be fifty-five feet wide, and sixty-five feet long, in the inner court. The conference appointed Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams to obtain a draft or construction of the inner court of the house.
The French Farm.
June 4.—A similar conference assembled at the same place and took into consideration how the French farm should be disposed of. The conference could not agree who should take charge of it, but all agreed to inquire of the Lord; accordingly we received the following:
Revelation to Enoch [Joseph Smith, Jun.] Showing the Order of the City or Stake of Zion, in Shinehah [Kirtland,] given for a Sample to the Saints in Kirtland, 2
1. Behold, I say unto you, here is wisdom, whereby ye may know how to act concerning this matter, for it is expedient in me that this stake that I have set for the strength of Zion should be made strong.
2. Therefore, let my servant Ahashdah [Newel K. Whitney] take charge of the place which is named among you, upon which I design to build mine holy house.
3. And again, let it be divided into lots, according to wisdom, for the benefit of those who seek inheritances, as it shall be determined in council among you.
4. Therefore, take heed that ye see to this matter, and that portion that is necessary to benefit mine order, for the purpose of bringing forth my word to the children of men.
5. For behold, verily I say unto you, this is the most expedient in me, that my word should go forth unto the children of men, for the purpose of subduing the hearts of the children of men for your good. Even so. Amen.
6. And again, verily I say unto you, it is wisdom and expedient in me, that my servant Zombre [John Johnson] whose offering I have accepted, and whose prayers I have heard, unto whom I give a promise of eternal life inasmuch as he keepeth my commandments from henceforth—
7. For he is a descendant of Seth [Joseph] and a partaker of the blessings of the promise made unto his fathers—
8. Verily I say unto you, it is expedient in me that he should become a member of the order, that he may assist in bringing forth my word unto the children of men.
9. Therefore ye shall ordain him unto this blessing, and he shall seek diligently to take away incumbrances that are upon the house named among you, that he may dwell therein. Even so. Amen.
John Johnson Ordained a High Priest.
Zombre [John Johnson] was ordained by the conference to the High Priesthood, and admitted according to the revelation.
Ground Broken for Kirtland Temple.
June 5.—George A. Smith hauled the first load of stone for the Temple, and Hyrum Smith and Reynolds Cahoon commenced digging the trench for the walls of the Lord’s house, and finished the same with their own hands.
Action of Conference with Reference to the Temple.
June 6.—A conference of High Priests assembled, and chose Orson Hyde a clerk to the Presidency of the High Priesthood. This conference was more especially called to counsel the committee, who had been appointed to take the oversight of the building of the house of the Lord. The conference voted that the committee, (Reynolds Cahoon, Jared Carter, and Hyrum Smith), proceeded immediately to commence building the house; or to obtaining materials, stone, brick, lumber, etc., for the same.
June 21.—”Doctor” Hurlburt being dissatisfied with the decision of the council on his case presented the following appeal:
I, Doctor Philastus Hurlburt, having been tried before the Bishop’s council of High Priests on a charge of unChristian-like conduct with the female sex, and myself being absent at the time, and considering that strict justice was not done me, I do, by these presents, most solemnly enter my appeal unto the President’s council of high priests for a re-hearing, according to the privilege guaranteed to me in the laws of the Church, which council is now assembled in the school room, in Kirtland, this 21st day of June, 1833.
It was voted by the council present, when this was received, that Brother Hurlburt be granted a re-hearing; and after prayer (which was customary at the opening of all councils of the Church), the council proceeded to ordain two High Priests, to make out the number, (twelve) that the council, or Church court, might be organized. By the choice of the council Brothers John and William Smith were ordained under the hands of Elder Rigdon.
Brother Hurlburt’s case was then laid before the court, and the testimony against him given by Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith, and duly investigated. The decision of the court was, that Brother Hurlburt should be forgiven, because of the liberal confession which he made. This court also decided that the Bishop’s council decided correctly on the case, and that Brother Hurlburt’s crime was sufficient to cut him off from the Church; but on his confession he was restored.
The President’s court also took Brother Daniel Copley’s Priest’s license and membership from him, because he refused to fulfil his mission according to the council of the High Priesthood of the holy order of God.
Excommunication of “Doctor” Hurlburt.
June 23.—”Doctor” Philastus Hurlburt was again called in question, by a general council; and Brother Gee, of Thompson, testified that Brother Hurlburt said that he deceived Joseph Smith’s God, or the spirit by which he is actuated. There was also corroborating testimony brought against him by Brother Hodges. The council cut him off from the Church. 3
Case of James Higby.
A council of the Elders of the Church was held at Westfield, New York, the same day. Elder Gladden Bishop was president, and Brother Chester L. Heath clerk. Brother Paul entered a complaint against Brother James Higby, an Elder, for circulating false and slanderous reports, and not observing the order of the Gospel, and presented evidence unimpeachable, to substantiate the same to the satisfaction of the council; upon which evidence—and from Brother Higby’s own mouth, and the spirit he manifested—he was declared guilty by the council, and he was cut off from the Church. The council then demanded his license and the Church record, which he utterly refused to give up; therefore, resolved that the proceedings of the council be sent to Kirtland, that it may be known among the different branches of the Church. 4
Chapter 25 – Notes
1. D&C 95.
2. D&C 96.
3. Owing to the subsequent prominence of this man, “Doctor” Philastus Hurlburt, as a bitter anti-“Mormon,” more should be said of him than is given in the Prophet’s narrative. He was not a physician, as the title “Doctor” would seem to indicate; but being the seventh son in his father’s family according to the old folklore superstition that the seventh son would possess supernatural qualities that would make him a physician, he was called “Doc,” or “Doctor,” “This said ‘Doctor,'” wrote Sidney Rigdon in 1839, to the Boston Journal, “was never a physician at any time, nor anything else but a base ruffian. He was the seventh son and his parents called him ‘Doctor;’ it was his name, and not the title of his profession. He once belonged to the Methodist church, and was excluded for immoralities. He afterwards imposed himself on the Church of Latter-day Saints, and was excluded for using obscene language to a young lady, a member of the said Church, who resented his insult with indignation which became both her character and profession.” Joseph E. Johnson, in a communication to the Deseret Evening News, under date of December 28, 1880, says of “Doctor” Hurlburt: “In the year A. D. 1833, then living in Kirtland, Ohio, I became acquainted with a man subsequently known as Dr. Hurlburt, who came to investigate the truth of ‘Mormonism.’ Claiming to be satisfied, he was baptized and became a member in full fellowship. He was a man of fine physique, very pompous, good looking, and very ambitious, with some energy, though of poor education. Soon after his arrival he came to my mother’s house to board, where he remained for nearly a year, while he made an effort to get into a good practice of medicine, sought position in the Church and was ever striving to make marital connection with any of the first families. Finally * * * he was charged with illicit intercourse with the sex, was tried and cut off from the Church. He denied, expostulated, threatened, but to no use, the facts were too apparent, and he at once avowed himself the enemy of the Church.”