Church History Matters

The Church History Matters Podcast features in-depth conversations between Scott and Casey where they dive deep into both the challenges and beauty of Latter-day Saint Church History

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7 days ago

It was near midnight on June 24 that Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, and over a dozen members of the Nauvoo City council arrived in Carthage, Illinois to answer, for a third time, the charge of “riot” for their destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor press. Although the case for this charge had already been heard and dismissed by two separate judges, Governor Thomas Ford insisted that they needed to be tried in Carthage specifically in order to prove to the general public that they were willing to be governed by law. And in response to Nauvoo leaders’ resistant fears of being tried in the extremely unsafe environment of Carthage due to the number of their enemies prowling about there, Ford “pledged his faith as Governor and the faith of the State [of Illinois] that [they] should be protected, and that he would guarrantee [their] perfect safety.” And so they had now arrived in Carthage, reluctantly throwing themselves “under the immediate protection of Governor Ford, … to trust … his word and faith for [their] preservation.” Within three days Joseph and Hyrum were dead. 
In this episode of Church History Matters, we carefully walk through a play by play from the historical record of what happened from the time Joseph, Hyrum, and the city council arrived at Carthage on June 24 under the supposed protection of Governor Ford to the time of the Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum on June 27. 

Tuesday Jun 11, 2024

In the wake of Joseph Smith and the Nauvoo City Council’s fateful decision to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor press several things unfolded in rapid succession. Charges were pressed against them for riot, brazen calls to violence against them were published in Tom Sharp’s Warsaw Signal, and Missourians began eagerly gathering to Illinois with a vow to exterminate the “Mormons;” meanwhile, Joseph wrote urgent letters to Illinois Governor Thomas Ford and US President John Tyler outlining what was unfolding and asking for their aid. Joseph had very good reason to fear for his safety and that of the saints. In an effort to diffuse the danger of the situation for all involved he and Hyrum and a few others secretly slipped away across the river intending to go either to Washington DC, the West among the native americans, or both. However,he and they ultimately decided to return to Nauvoo and to voluntarily go to Carthage—the hotbed of their enemies—to be tried for the charge of riot. 
In this episode of Church History Matters, we dive headlong into the drama that unfolded between June 10 and June 24, 1844. In particularly, we try to answer the question: Why did Joseph and Hyrum choose to go to Carthage, when it seemed that certain danger awaited them there?
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Jun 04, 2024

The first and only publication of the Nauvoo Expositor was issued on June 7, 1844. It was an expose sheet published by seven recently excommunicated dissenters of the church in which they lay bare their grievances against Joseph Smith as a prophet and politician in the most blistering, malignant, exaggerated, and provocative ways they could invent. This move was a calculated trap set to force the hand of Joseph and those close to him to take action against the Expositor’s printing press, which would open them up to legal charges that could get him to the county seat of Carthage where he could be killed.
On this episode of Church History Matters, we take a close look at the details of that single published edition of the Nauvoo Expositor to understand just what was so inflammatory and untenable in it that Joseph and the city council determined to take action against it despite the clear risks of doing so. We also look at questions about the legality (and wisdom) of their actions.   
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

"A Judas In Our Midst"

Tuesday May 28, 2024

Tuesday May 28, 2024

Six months before his death the prophet Joseph said to a group of trusted friends, “I am exposed to far greater danger from traitors among ourselves than from enemies without, … and if I can escape from the ungrateful treachery of assassins I can live as Caesar might have lived were it not for a right hand Brutus…. All the enemies upon the face of the earth may roar and exert all their power to bring about my death; but they can accomplish nothing, unless some who are among us, enjoying our society, [who] have been with us in our Councils, participated in our confidence, taken us by the hand, called us brother, [and] saluted us with a kiss, join with our enemies, turn our virtues into faults, and by falsehood and deceit, stir up their wrath and ​in​dignation against us, and bring their united vengeance upon our heads.” And then he said, “Judas was one of the Twelve Apostles … and thro​ugh his treachery, the crucifixion [of Christ] was brought about, and we have a Judas in our midst.” (source)
In this episode of Church History Matters, we discuss what we know about those trusted Church members who treacherously turned on Joseph Smith and conspired to bring about his death—one of whom, like Judas of old, was an apostle and counselor to the prophet.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday May 21, 2024

The martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith was among the most tragic and defining moments in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it continues to reverberate deeply in the hearts and minds of Latter-day Saints around the world. Hyrum was 44 years old and Joseph was 38 and a half when they were murdered in cold-blood in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. Many have read the brief account of the events of that day outlined in section 135 of the Doctrine and Covenants and wondered what more there was to know about this poignant event in our history. Like, how did they come to be incarcerated in Carthage Jail in the first place? What were the charges against them? Who had the motivations to kill Joseph Smith and why? Was Joseph betrayed by insiders or was this entirely an outside job? Who were those in the mob who actually pulled the trigger, and were they ever brought to justice? 
On this episode of Church History Matters, we begin a new series where we seek to begin pinning down answers to these and other related questions about this highly significant event. Specifically we will take a close look today at what we know about some of the external factors—especially political ones—that led to the martyrdom. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday May 14, 2024

What do we know about the purposes and function of the Holy of Holies? And do all temples have one? The word “seal” or “sealing” seems to have multiple meanings. What are those meanings? Also, has the Church’s teachings on wearing garments changed over time? And is there anything doctrinal about the length of garments? Since the garment length has changed in the past to accommodate changes in modern clothing styles, could we expect them to change again as styles continue to change? Furthermore, how do we reconcile examples of clear covenental changes in the endowment ceremony with the common narrative that the covenants don’t change?
Today on Church History Matters we sit down with Dr. Richard Bennett, one of the world’s foremost scholars on LDS temple development during the 19th century, to discuss these and other great questions. And, by the way, we apologize in advance for some difficulties with the audio recording of Dr. Bennett. For whatever reason, several times during this interview his audio didn’t record properly and so it was sadly unusable. But we hope you’ll enjoy what we were able to capture from the responses of this great Latter-day Saint scholar. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday May 07, 2024

1904 marked the beginning of what would become a grueling 4-year-long senate hearing of US sentator and apostle Reed Smoot. It is intriguing—and important—to learn how this crucible of intensive government examination into every aspect of the Church led to a posture of much greater openness about the temple to outsiders. In fact those hearings, followed by a backfired blackmail attempt by a man who threatened to release illicit pictures he had taken of the interior of the Salt Lake Temple, led Church leaders—really for the first time—to go on the offensive and proactively tell our own story about LDS temple beliefs and practices. 
In this episode of Church History Matters we’ll talk about the Smoot hearings and the blackmail attempt; as well as dig into the origin of temple garments, their symbolism, and changes made to their design over the years. We’ll also discuss major innovations in how the temple endowment was presented (which included some help from Walt Disney studios), a cool floating temple boat idea that never happened, as well as how President Gordon B. Hinckley’s temple innovations and prolific temple-building ministry became an inflection point which set the Church on a trajectory to build thousands of temples in the years to come.
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Temple Work Without Temples

Tuesday Apr 30, 2024

Tuesday Apr 30, 2024

Beginning in 1846, thousands of Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo, Illinois and trekked over one thousand miles west to the Salt Lake Valley.  Having, of necessity, abandoned the Nauvoo Temple for which they had worked so hard and sacrificed so much, they were now a temple-centered people without a temple. Now they certainly would go on to build more temples—the first of which was the Saint George Temple, completed in 1877—but how would the saints do temple related work in the meantime?
In this episode of Church History Matters, Casey and Scott walk through the unique story of how temple work continued during that 30-year season of no temples, where Church leaders used Ensign Peak, a multi-purpose building called the Council House, a one-of-a-kind building called the Endowment House, and administrative offices for these purposes. We’ll also highlight some important take-aways from Church leaders’ response to the crushing government legislation they faced in the late 1880s forcing the decision between losing all temples or ending the practice of plural marriage.  
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Tuesday Apr 23, 2024

During the last years of his life, the prophet Joseph Smith gave multiple public sermons dealing with 2 Peter 1, wherein the apostle Peter encourages his readers to “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (vs. 10). Commenting on this phrase the prophet explained that to have one’s “calling and election” made sure meant to “obtain a promise from God for yourselves that you shall have eternal life.” And he explained that such a promise could be mediated through the keys restored by Elijah. By “this power of Elijah,” he said on one occasion, “we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. [And] to obtain this sealing is to make our calling and election sure.” In another sermon he confirmed, “the power of Elijah is sufficient to make our calling and election sure.” 
In 2 Peter 1, Peter also speaks of obtaining the “more sure word of prophecy” (vs. 19), a phrase the prophet Joseph similarly interpreted to mean “a man’s knowing that he was sealed up unto eternal life … through the power of the Holy priesthood.”  
This was the theology—the possibility of being sealed up unto eternal life under the keys restored by Elijah. 
Then came the practice. 
Beginning in 1843 in Nauvoo, the prophet introduced a sacred ordinance to his most trusted associates wherein, using the keys of Elijah which he held, husbands and wives were sealed up unto eternal life. This was not the marriage ordinance. This was more, given to those already married. It was an ordinance sometimes referred to in the historical record as “the second anointing.” 
In this episode of Church History Matters, Casey and Scott discuss what they know about the theology and early practice of the second anointing. We also discuss the early—and now discontinued—sealing practice called “the law of adoption” wherein men and women were sealed into the families of Church leaders as their children. They also briefly touch on the now extinct practice of temple-like prayer circles that were conducted outside of the temple for many years in our history. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

Monday Apr 15, 2024

The prophet Joseph Smith’s final years in Nauvoo, IL constituted a season of rich theological and ritual convergence. It was a time when various threads of biblical and revealed theology gave birth to the Latter-day temple rituals that would enable us to enact that very theology. It was in Nauvoo that the picture became clear. Every revealed ordinance builds with deep meaning to the next, until finally reaching the pinnacle ordinance of sealing wife and husband together for eternity. All theological and ritual threads come together at this point. 
In this episode of Church History Matters, we dig into when and where the ritual of marriage sealings first began in the Church and explore the tight weave between this ordinance and the theological threads of God’s true nature, the existence of Heavenly Mother, and mankind’s created purpose and destiny. 
For show notes and transcript for this and other episodes go to   

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