Page images

Oliver Cowdery never exhibited the capacity to gather men around him, inspire them with confidence in himself, and at the same time to fire them with a proper conception of the importance of particular projects and draw from them the zeal and energy necessary to accomplish things in the manner which administrative work of high order requires. It cannot be said that he did not have opportunity; for he was listed first on the Council of Seven, and therefore, had he possessed the qualifications of leadership, he could readily have left an indelible impress on the course of events. He was also a member of the General Board, and was in a position to influenee that body along lines connected with the actual work over which he was supposed to have charge. But he was not a natural executive and, therefore, exercised only a very moderate influence over these bodies. Because of such leadership, the Council of Seven appears not to have functioned as a strong body.

But as an individual, Oliver Cowdery was somewhat above the average in intelligence. He possessed an excellent command of English, and could defend a cause to good advantage. He was honorable and reasonably faithful, but was not wholeheartedly converted to the United Order.


Edward Partridge was born on August 27, 1793, in Pittsfield, Birkshire County, Massachusetts, and was of Scotch descent. He spent four years as an apprentice learning the hatter's trade, beginning at the age of seventeen. In 1828, while living at Painesville, Ohio, he became a member of the Church of the Disciples, through the preaching of Sidney Rigdon. In the fall of 1830, he joined the Mormon faith and was soon after called to be the first bishop of the church.

There is a general agreement in writings on early Mormon history, both friendly and unfriendly, that Edward Partridge was a man of remarkable honesty, uprightness and integrity. I quote the following:

"Smith had appointed, as his bishop, one Edward Partridge, a very honest and industrious hatter of Poinsville, Ohio, who had, withal, a comfortable stock of the good things of the world. He was stationed at Independence, and had the sole control of all the temporal and spiritual affairs of the colony-always obedient, however, to the revelations promulgated by Smith, who still sat perched upon his throne in Kirtland, with Rigdon and most of his family connections."1

Joseph Smith says of him :

"It was in December that Elder Sidney, a sketch of whose history I have mentioned, came to enquire of the Lord, and with him came that man, (of whom I will hereafter speak more fully) named Edward Partridge; he was a pattern of piety and one of the Lord's great men, known by his steadfastness and patient endurance to the end."2

At the time of his first visit to Independence, Bishop Partridge was admonished in the revelation of August, 1831, in the following language: "And now as I spoke concerning my servant Edward Partridge; for behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things, for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; verily, I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves; But he that doth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a command with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned


1 J. H. Hunt, Mormonism (St. Louis, 1844), p, 128.
See also Ezra Booth's letter No. 7 in Howe, op.cit., p. 200.

2 Times and Seasons, vol. 4, No. 21, p. 320.

3 Times and Seasons, vol. 5, No. 5, pp. 448-49.

Bishop Partridge more than any other one man directed the actual operations at Independence. He was patient, generous, and strictly honest. He did not succeed in coordinating and welding together those who were engaged in executive work, nor in constructing effective administrative machinery. Rather, a lack of coordination becomes a noticeable characteristic.

During and followingng the exodus the good bishop worked earnestly to make lighter the burdens of his people. Unmindful of the considerable amount of property he had "consecrated" to the enterprise and of the ease with which he could have recouped himself when the crash came, he directed his attention to the welfare of the poor who were scattered on the open prairies with little shelter and less food. Whatever funds were in his possession, or could be gathered were used to assist them. He and his family emerged in very much reduced circumstances.1 Following the later exodus from Missouri, he settled in Nauvoo, Illinois, where he died soon after in comparative poverty on May 27, 1840.

1 At times Bishop Partridge grew a little weary. When Bhigham Young proposed to him in January, 1839, that he help the poor out of the state of Missouri, he said, "The poor may take care of themselves and I will take care of myself." To which Brigham Young replied, "If you will not help them out. I will." and he did in a masterly fashion, but Bishop Partridge also did all he could. See Millennial Star, vol. 16, p. 710.



Although as early as September, 1830, when the church membership consisted of but a handful of people, Joseph Smith had indicated that the gathering place was to be "on the borders of the Lamanites",1 a definite site was not chosen until a rather careful exploration and examination of the western country had been made.

The Lamanite (Indian) mission, after establishing the Kirtland branch in the fall of 1830, continued its journey westward. The primary business of this mission was to place the Book of Mormon in the hands of the Indians. This book purported to be a history of the forefathers of the Indians, called Lamanites, and of their brethren, the Nephites, who were more highly civilized. Just at this time various Indian tribes were being moved to the Indian territory, just west and south of Missouri. It was but natural for the Indians to become somewhat excited over the appearance of such a book. It is easy, also, to see why the Indian agent should, in view of the unsettled conditions of the Indians, feel concern over the efforts of the mission. Finally, he ordered the missionaries. out of the territory and they spent the winter at Independence.* From here letters were sent to Joseph Smith at Kirtland, informing him of the quality of the land and the character of the people. Parley P. Pratt returned in the spring and made a verbal report."

In the meantime, during the winter and spring of 1831, some of the more important features of the United Order plan were set forth in a number of revelations, the most noteworthy of which was dated February, 1831. Characteristically early Mormon in its approach to the problem of private property, and surprisingly thorough-going in its method of attack on the problem of distribution, the plan as it was devised in the spring of 1831, may be outlined as follows:

1. The earth is the Lords.

2. The people are stewards only over their possessions which are to be known as stewardships or inheritances, but

1 Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 28.9.

2 Book of Mormon-Preface.

3 Great Debates in American History, vol. 8, p. 262.

4 Joseph Smith,History of the Church Period I, vol. 1, p. 185, footnote.

5 Ibid., pp. 181-82.

8 Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 38:17-18, 104:55-56.

each steward is to have a deed to his stewardship.1 3. Those who have surplus property, i.e., more than is required to provide a frugal living for the family, are to consecrate it by deed to the church, for the benefit of the poor. Surplus production beyond family needs from each stewardship is to be turned over to the Bishop's Storehouse.2

The bishop is to apportion the inheritances among the people on the following basis:

a. Equal according to their families.

b. Equal according to their circumstances.

c. Equal according to their wants and needs.3

5. Those who are either excommunicated from the church or themselves leave it, keep the inheritances deeded to them, but do not receive back the surplus that has been consecrated to the poor.*

6. In other respects, business relations are to be carried on in· the usual manner under the competitive, capitalistic system. Simplicity, frugality, cleanliness, industry, and honesty are enjoined.5

It is evident that such an arrangement, if fully put into effect, would bring about a redistribution of property according to standards which emphasize a considerable degree of equality. The wage system would also be largely eliminated, for each steward would own enough property (when worked by him) to provide a living for his family. The plan is not communistic, although it has been so designated frequently, even by careful writers. Private property is not merely an element of the plan, but is of basic importance. As already stated, each individual is expected not only to own personal belongings, but also enough income-bearing property to enable him to make a living. Unlimited property getting is thrown overboard, but so also is the great propertyless group who work for others. Both these classes are expected to largely go out of existence.

The month of February, 1831, moreover, is of interest to us because of the installation of Edward Partridge as the first bishop in the church. His business it was to provide, or apportion, the stewardships among the people, as well as to be their spiritual


1 Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 42:32; 45:65; 51:4-5.

2 Ibid.. Sec. 42:32-34; c.f., also 104:67-70.

3 Ibid., Sec. 51:1-3.

4 Ibid., Sec. 51:5.

5 Ibid., Sec. 42:20-54.

6 c.f., Ely, "Economic Aspects of Mormonism" Harper's Magazine, April, 1903. 7 Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 41:9.

8 Ibid., Sec. 51:3.

leader. Unlike the bishops of other Christian faiths, a Mormon bishop is a local, not a general, officer. He, along with his two counsellors, presides over a ward, which usually consists of from two hundred to five hundred people. In a real sense, he is supposed to know his people and to be a father to them. Associated with Edward Partridge in the bishopric of Zion were Isaac Morley and John Corrill. In many respects all three of these men possessed qualifications which fitted them for public responsibility. They were conscientious and honest. Isaac Morley had been formerly connected with Sidney Rigdon's communists at Kirtland, and both of the others had been strongly influenced by him. The conception of sharing alike was therefore not new to them. Such a selection of men appeared from every standpoint to be a wise one.

As the spring of 1831 wore on, further attention was given to the question of location. In June, the Western Mission, composed of approximately thirty elders, left Kirtland for Independence, Missouri. They traveled by two, and each pair took a different route, preaching where opportunity afforded. A small group of six men and one woman accompanied Joseph Smith by boat. At St. Louis the Mormon leader and the more able-bodied members of the party disembarked and walked across the state, a distance of two-hundred-eighty miles, on foot. Arriving in mid-July they were welcomed by the Lamanite Mission and the newly arrived Colville Branch, which numbered about sixty members. Within the next few weeks isolated groups of elders from the Western Mission came in. Appreciating that delay and consequent idleness would breed difficulty, Joseph Smith began vigorously on the work at hand without waiting for the majority of the elders who were laboriously making their way on foot through a new country over a distance of one-thousand miles. The important revelation of July contains the general features of the program which was to be put into operation. It may be outlined, in brief, as follows:3

1. The City of Zion is definitely located at Independence,


2. The whole of the surrounding country, especially that "to the westward," is to be purchased.


Sidney Gilbert is to fill the office of agent, earlier assigned to him, and receive "monies" and "purchase land for the saints.' He is also "to establish a store" and with the profits arising is to assist in "purchasing lands."

1 Joseph Smith, op.cit., pp. 181 et seq.

2 Nine elders only were present at the conference held at Independence, August 2, 1831. c. f. Far West Record, p. 8.

3 Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 57.

« PreviousContinue »