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Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite)

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite)
1856 daguerreotype of James Strang, taken on Beaver Island, Lake Michigan.
Classification Latter Day Saint movement
Orientation Latter Day Saints
Polity Church conference
Moderator None, after Strang's death
Region Worldwide
Founder Joseph Smith Jr, 1830; James J. Strang, 1844
Origin April 6, 1830 (officially given); June 27, 1844 (claimed angelic ordination of Strang)[1]
Voree, Wisconsin
Separated from None, claims to be the sole legitimate continuation of the Church of Christ (Latter Day Saints)
Separations Church of the Messiah, Holy Church of Jesus Christ, others
Congregations 6[2]
Members 300 (as of 1998)[3]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (usually distinguished with a parenthetical (Strangite)) is a denomination of the Joseph Smith, on April 6, 1830. The Strangite church is headquartered in Voree, Wisconsin, just outside Burlington, and accepts the claims of James Strang as successor to Smith, as opposed to those of Brigham Young, Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith III, or any other Mormon[note 1] leader.

Contents

  • History 1
    • Before Strang 1.1
    • James Strang and the Voree plates 1.2
    • Early successes and losses 1.3
    • Establishing a kingdom on Beaver Island 1.4
    • After Strang 1.5
  • Scriptures 2
  • Doctrines 3
    • Monarchy and priesthood 3.1
    • The Decalogue 3.2
    • Ordination of women 3.3
    • Animal sacrifice 3.4
    • Monotheism and the vocation of Jesus Christ 3.5
    • Free agency 3.6
    • Sabbatarianism 3.7
    • Baptism for the dead 3.8
    • Eternal marriage 3.9
    • Conservation of resources 3.10
    • Polygamy 3.11
    • Temples 3.12
    • African Americans 3.13
  • See also 4
  • Footnotes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7
    • Websites 7.1
    • Publications 7.2

History

Before Strang

Strangites share the same history with other Latter Day Saint denominations up until the The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite),[note 2] which is not recognized as legitimate by Strangites.

Brigham Young initially argued that Smith could have no immediate successor,[4] but rather that the

  • The Voree Plates A detailed description of the "Voree Plates" and the story behind them, from a Strangite point of view.
  • Book of the Law of the Lord, Edition of 1851 First Edition, without Strang's commentary. Contains photos of the text and the extremely rare first edition of this work.
  • Book of the Law of the Lord, Edition of 1856 Second Edition of this work; contains Strang's commentary and notes, also considered to be scripture by Strangites.
  • The Revelations of James J. Strang contains text of "Letter of Appointment", together with translation of the "Voree Plates" and other revelations given by Strang. Includes a facsimile of the "plates".

These publications are believed in by all Strangites, regardless of faction:

Publications

  • ChurchOfJesusChristOfLatterDaySaintsStrangite.com, incorporated Strangites.
  • ChurchOfJesusChristOfLatterDaySaints.org, also available at Strangite.org, unincorporated Strangites based in Independence, Missouri.
  • Mormon Beliefs, unincorporated Strangites based in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Three different websites exist for various branches of the Strangite church:

Websites

External links

  1. ^ a b Strang, James J., The Revelations of James J. Strang, Section 4:1–11.
  2. ^ Adherents.com Retrieved 2009-08-14
  3. ^ Adherents.com, Entry: "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite)". Membership figure from 1998.
  4. ^ http://www.ils.unc.edu/~unsworth/mormon/jssuccessor.html.
  5. ^ Strang's own son, Charles Strang, took this position. See Smith, Heman, History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,] vol. 3, chapter 2, pp. 52–53.
  6. ^ Fitzpatrick, Doyle C. (1970). The King Strang Story: A Vindication of James J, Strang, the Beaver Island Mormon King. National Heritage., p. 151.
  7. ^ (August 12, 1847). Voree Herald as quoted in Fitzpatrick, pp. 74–75. See also apostle John E. Page at this same source, on his conversations with Strang on the subject.
  8. ^ "History and Succession". Strangite.org. Retrieved on 2007-10-28.
  9. ^ Church Educational System, "Chapter 28: Utah in Isolation", Church History In The Fulness Of Times Student Manual (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2003).
  10. ^ Erekson, Keith and Newell, Lloyd: A Gathering Place for the Scandinavian People: Conversion, Retention and Gathering in Norway, Illinois (1842–1849), pp. 28–29.
  11. ^ Strang, James J. (1856) Book of the Law of the Lord, Being a Translation From the Egyptian of the Law Given to Moses in Sinai. St. James: Royal Press, p. 293.
  12. ^ Fitzpatrick, Doyle C. (1970) The King Strang Story: A Vindication of James J. Strang, the Beaver Island Mormon King. National Heritage, p. 199.
  13. ^ Fitzpatrick, p. 208.
  14. ^ Dale L. Morgan, Bibliography, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite).
  15. ^ "Kingdom with a Dominion". MormonBeliefs.com. Retrieved on 2007-10-28.
  16. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 163–66.
  17. ^ "The 1961 Strangite Split". MormonBeliefs.com.
  18. ^ "Mormonism: time of the Gentiles ended". MormonBeliefs.com. Retrieved on 2007-10-28.
  19. ^ "43,941 adherent statistic citations: membership and geography data for 4,300+ religions, churches, tribes, etc." Adherents.com. Retrieved on 2007-10-28.
  20. ^ Deuteronomy 29:21, Joshua 1:8; II Kings 22:8; II Chronicles 17:9; Nehemiah 8:3.
  21. ^ "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Mormons – Scriptures". Strangite.org. Retrieved on 2009-02-03.
  22. ^ "Zion's Reveille: Dedicated to the Gospel of Christ as Restored by Joseph Smith, Jr. and James J. Strang". Strangite.net. Retrieved on 2009-02-04.
  23. ^ a b Book of the Law, p. 214.
  24. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 168–180, 214–219.
  25. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 181–182; 219–220. See especially the notes on p. 182.
  26. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 191–192. Capitalization as in original.
  27. ^ Book of the Law, p. 195.
  28. ^ Book of the Law, p. 224.
  29. ^ Book of the Law, p.224.
  30. ^ a b Book of the Law, p. 193.
  31. ^ Book of the Law, p. 145.
  32. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 224–225, 194–197.
  33. ^ Book of the Law, p. 225.
  34. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 225–227, 198–199.
  35. ^ a b c d Book of the Law, p. 199.
  36. ^ a b c d Book of the Law, p. 227.
  37. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 200–201.
  38. ^ Book of the Law, p. 201.
  39. ^ Book of the Law, p. 202.
  40. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 183–184.
  41. ^ See Doctrine & Covenants 102:1–3,5–6,8,12,24–30. All references to the D&C are to the LDS edition.
  42. ^ Book of the Law, p. 185.
  43. ^ Zion's Reveille, January 14, 1847. http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu//IA/JStrang1.htm#011447.
  44. ^ Priesthood. Retrieved on 2009-08-09.
  45. ^ Exodus 20:2–17; Deuteronomy 5:6–21.
  46. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 24–25. This commandment is number four in Strang's version of the Decalogue.
  47. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 38–46.
  48. ^ Hajicek, John, Intolerance toward Great Lakes Mormons. http://www.mormonism.com/out-2.htm.
  49. ^ Community of Christ Doctrine and Covenants 156:9. http://www.centerplace.org/library/study/dc/rdc-156.htm All offices were opened, not just Priest and Teacher.
  50. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 106–109.
  51. ^ Book of Mormon.
  52. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 293–297. See also http://www.strangite.org/Offering.htm.
  53. ^ Book of the Law, p. 293.
  54. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 293–294.
  55. ^ Book of the Law, p. 199, note 2.
  56. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 295–297.
  57. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 147–158, "Note on the Sacrifice of Christ". This was an essay written by Strang himself, not a translation from the Plates of Laban. It does not appear in the 1851 edition, but is considered an integral part of the 1856 edition and is fully accepted as Scripture by the Strangites.
  58. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 47–86, "The True God". This section was "written by the prophet James, by inspiration of God." Book of the Law, page x.
  59. ^ King Follett Sermon, http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/sermons_talks_interviews/kingfolletsermon.htm.
  60. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 47–63.
  61. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 157–158, note 9.
  62. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 165–166.
  63. ^ Book of the law, pp. 155–158.
  64. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 152–153.
  65. ^ Book of the Law, p. 155.
  66. ^ Book of the Law, pp.22–23.
  67. ^ Book of the Law, page 137.
  68. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 136–141. See also http://www.strangite.org/BaptismDead.htm.
  69. ^ Book of the Law, p. 159. See also http://www.strangite.org/Women.htm.
  70. ^ Book of the Law, p. 159.
  71. ^ Marriage, Sex, Adultery. Retrieved on 2009-08-09.
  72. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 286–287.
  73. ^ Book of the Law, p. 287.
  74. ^ a b Book of the Law, p. 314.
  75. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 326–327.
  76. ^ Book of the Law, pp. 312–328.
  77. ^ http://www.strangite.org/Women.htm For the LDS ban, see http://lds.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fscriptures.lds.org%2F.
  78. ^ a b c d http://www.strangite.org/Women.htm.
  79. ^ Fitzpatrick, p. 117.
  80. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 58:21.
  81. ^ About.com: http://scriptures.lds.org/
  82. ^ "Temple Locations". Strangite.org. Retrieved on 2007-10-28.
  83. ^ "Women/Marriage". Strangite.org. Retrieved on 2007-10-28.
  84. ^ "African-Americans". Strangite.org. Retrieved on 2007-10-18.

References

  1. ^ "Mormon," as used in this article, refers to adherents of the Latter Day Saint movement as a whole, and not just those of its largest branch, the LDS Church (as is usual among smaller Latter Day Saint sects, many of which dislike this term). Its use here is only for convenience, not in any derogatory sense.
  2. ^ The "Bickertonites," as they are commonly called, obtained their historical and priesthood lineage from Rigdon's organization, but their beliefs are not identical to Rigdon's sect in every respect.
  3. ^ Though construction on a temple was started at this site, it was never completed, due to the poverty and divisions among Strang's followers.
  4. ^ The first group has one website: http://www.churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaintsstrangite.com the second has two: http://www.strangite.org and http://www.mormonbeliefs.com.

Footnotes

See also

Strangites welcomed African Americans into their church during a time when some other factions (such as the LDS Church, until 1978) denied them the priesthood, or certain other benefits of membership. Strang ordained at least two African Americans to the eldership during his lifetime.[84]

African Americans

Strang attempted to construct a temple in Voree, but was prevented from completing it due to the poverty and lack of cooperation of his followers.[82] No "endowment" rituals comparable to those in the LDS Church appear to have existed among his followers,[83] and no Strangite temples exist today or are contemplated.

Temples

Strangites reject Section 132 of the LDS Church's Doctrine and Covenants,[81] regarding it as a forgery from 1852 that was never received or approved by Smith.[78]

[78] Polygamy was apparently practiced by a few Strangites up to 1880 or so, to include

The practice of plural marriage has never been officially proscribed in the Strangite church, unlike in the LDS Church.[77] Only twenty-two men entered into polygamy, and most of them only took one additional wife.[78] Strang took four additional wives,[79] the most of any member in his church.

Strang's defense of polygamy was rather woman-centered. He claimed that far from enslaving or demeaning women, it liberated and "elevated" them by allowing them to choose the best possible mate based upon any factors deemed important to them—even if that mate were already married to someone else.[75] Rather than being forced to wed "corrupt and degraded sires" due to the scarcity of more suitable men, a woman could wed the one she saw as the most compatible to herself, the best candidate to father her children and the man who could give her the best possible life, no matter how many other wives he might have.[76]

Plural marriage is sanctioned, though not expressly commanded, in the Book of the Law. The applicable text reads: "Thou shalt not take unto thee a multitude of wives disproportioned to thy inheritance, and thy substance: nor shalt thou take wives to vex those thou hast; neither shalt thou put away one to take another."[74] Any wife already married to the prospective polygamist was given the right to express her opinion, and even to object, but not to veto the marriage.[74] This passage seems to offer any aggrieved wife an appeal to the "Judges," but how this was to be carried out is not made clear.

Polygamy

Conservation of forests and resources is mandated by the Strangite church.[72] Within Strang's Beaver Island kingdom and other places where Strangites were numerous, groves of trees were to be maintained upon each farm, village and town. Farms and cities without trees were required to plant them, and to establish parklands so that "the aged and the young may go there to rest and to play."[73] Although Strang's kingdom has disappeared, his followers still endeavor to practice basic conservation measures.

Conservation of resources

[71]

Eternal marriage is taught in the Strangite church, though it is not required to be performed in a temple, as in the LDS Church.[69] Strangite Priests, Elders, High Priests or Apostles (of all four degrees) may perform this ceremony.[70] Eternal marriages are still contracted among the Strangites today.

Eternal marriage

Strangites believe in baptism for the dead; the Strangite church practiced this to a limited extent in Voree and on Beaver Island. However, rather than simply baptizing for anyone whose name can be located (as in the LDS Church), Strang required a revelation for those seeking to have a baptism done for someone outside of a close relative "within the fourth degree of consanguinity".[67] This could come through dreams, angelic appearances, or other means listed within Strang's revelation on the subject. While still believed in, baptisms for the dead are not currently performed in the Strangite church due to the lack of a temple and prophetic leadership.[68]

Baptism for the dead

The Strangite church observes the seventh-day Sabbath, as the Book of the Law commanded it in lieu of Sunday.[66]

Sabbatarianism

Musing at length on the nature of sin and evil, Strang wrote that of all things that God could give to man, he could never give him experience.[64] Thus, if "free agency" were to be real, said Strang, humanity must be given the opportunity to fail and to learn from its own mistakes. The ultimate goal for each human being, according to Strangites, is to willingly conform oneself to the revealed character of God in every way, preferring good to evil not out of any fear of punishment or desire for reward, but rather "on account of the innate loveliness of undefiled goodness; of pure unalloyed holiness."[65]

Free agency

Jesus Christ, Strangites believe, was the natural-born son of Mary and Joseph, who was chosen from before all time to be the Savior of mankind, but who had to be born as an ordinary mortal of two human parents (rather than being begotten by the Father or the Holy Spirit) to be able to truly fulfill his Messianic role.[61] Strang claimed that the earthly Christ was in essence "adopted" as God's son at birth, and fully revealed as such during the transfiguration.[62] After proving himself to God by living a perfectly sinless life, he was thus enabled to provide an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of men, prior to his resurrection and ascension.[63]

Strangites reject[57][58] both the traditional Christian doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and the Mormon doctrine of plurality of gods. They insist that there is but one eternal God, the Father, and that alleged progression to godhood (a doctrine supposedly taught by Smith; Strangites reject that assertion)[59] is impossible. God has always been God, say they, and he is one Person (not three, as in the traditional Christian Trinity).[60]

Monotheism and the vocation of Jesus Christ

Animal sacrifices are no longer practiced by the Strangites, though belief in their correctness is still required.

The killing of sacrifices was a prerogative of Strangite Priests,[55] but female Priests were specifically barred from participating in this aspect of the priestly office.[35] "Firstfruits" offerings were also demanded from all Strangite agricultural harvests.[56]

Animal sacrifice was instituted in the Strangite church under Strang's leadership,[50] primarily as a part of Strangite celebration rituals. Though the chapter on "Sacrifices" in Strang's Book of the Law of the Lord speaks of them as being offered for sins, the prohibition on such sacrifices contained in 3 Nephi 9:19–20,[51] meant that Strang focused instead on sacrifice as an element of religious festivities,[52] especially the commemoration of his own coronation as king (July 8, 1850).[53] The head of every house, from the king to his lowest subject, was to offer "a heifer, or a lamb, or a dove. Every man a clean beast, or a clean fowl, according to his household."[54]

Animal sacrifice

As noted above, the Strangite organization opens two priesthood offices to women: Priest and Teacher. While only the "course" of "Singer" in the office of Priest (as opposed to "Sacrificator") is permitted to females,[35] all five "degrees" in the office of Teacher are available.[36] Women may serve as "leaders" of the Singers.[36] Strang ordained women to these ministries as early as 1851, and allowed them to lecture in his School of the Prophets by 1856.[48] Another denomination, the Community of Christ, began ordaining women to the priesthood in 1984,[49] while most other Latter Day Saint churches do not ordain women to the priesthood.

Ordination of women

Another unique feature of Strangite doctrine is its singular version of the Ten Commandments.[45] The Strangite Decalogue differs from any other Jewish, Catholic, Islamic or Protestant version, by including the commandment: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."[46] In his "Note on the Decalogue,"[47] Strang asserts that other versions of the Decalogue contain only nine commandments and speculates that his fourth commandment was lost perhaps as early as Josephus's time (circa 37–100 AD).

The Decalogue

No Apostles (of any degree) exist within the Strangite organization today, as all must be appointed by a Strangite prophet, while the prophet himself must be appointed by God through the direct ministry of angels. The "incorporated" group of Strangites has high priests, but the "non-incorporated" group does not, insisting that the first body does not currently possess authority to ordain any.[44] Both factions enjoy the ministry of Elders and Aaronic Priesthood offices.

Although Strang briefly retained the services of apostle William Smith as "Chief Patriarch" of his church,[43] he makes no mention of this office anywhere in his book.

In addition, a "King's Council" and a "King's Court" are established, though none function within the Strangite church today.[40] While no direct link is made between the King's Court and the "High Council" established in the Doctrine and Covenants,[41] certain parallels exist, such as requiring all members to hold the High Priesthood, and limiting their number to twelve.[42]

  • Priests are subdivided into two "courses": Sacrificators and Singers. The course of Singers is opened to women. Each temple is to have a Chief Priest, assisted by a first and second High Priest.[34] Strangite "Sacrificators" are to kill sacrifices in accordance with appropriate provisions of the Book of the Law. Female priests are specifically barred from killing sacrifices.[35] The Doctrine and Covenants functions of preaching and baptizing are retained as well.[35]
  • Teachers are subdivided into five "degrees": Rabboni, Rabbi, Doctor, Ruler, and Teacher.[36] This office, like that of Priest, is open to women. Teachers are not merely to instruct in spiritual matters, but in secular ones as well.[37] They are to staff schools throughout the kingdom.[38]
  • Deacons are subdivided into three "degrees": Marshals, Stewards and Ministers.[36] They are to serve as "Stewards and keepers of the King's prisons, and Stewards of the King's Courts."[39]

In the Aaronic priesthood, Strang enumerates three "orders":[33]

  • High Priests are to include "all inferiour Kings, Patriarchs, or heads of tribes, and Nobles, or heads of clans." [29] Furthermore, Strang continued, "They who hold it are called Sons of God."[30] From this group, said the Book of the Law, the king is to select "counsellors, judges and rulers."[30] Furthermore, the Book of the Law limits consecration of the Eucharist to High Priests and Apostles,[31] as opposed to other Latter Day Saint sects, who follow the Doctrine and Covenants in permitting Elders and Priests also to do so.
  • The "degree" of Elder includes both the offices of Seventy and Elder as generally constituted in Smith's church.[32]

Priests are subdivided into two "degrees":

  • The Prophet/President of the Strangite church is openly referred to throughout the book as a "King," rather than as a "President".[24]
  • The President's Counselors are designated as "Viceroys." Viceroys are referred to as "kings," too, though this does not indicate a share in the unique royal dignity accorded to the President/King.[25]
  • Strang's Twelve Apostles are named as "Princes in his Kingdom forever."[26] The leader of Strang's Apostles is designated as "Prince and Grand Master of the Seventies."[27]
  • A quorum of "Evangelists" (not to be confused with the office of [28] (and nor did Strang organize one). This is a unique priesthood office in the Latter Day Saint movement.

Apostles are subdivided into four "degrees":

In the Melchizedek priesthood, Strang enumerates two "orders," that of "Apostles," and that of "Priests."[23]

One distinctive difference between Strangites and other Latter Day Saints concerns the singular subdivisions Strang makes within the Melchizedek priesthood—which his Book of the Law refers to as "The Priesthood of an endless life"—and the Aaronic priesthood, referred to as "the Priesthood of life."[23]

Monarchy and priesthood

Doctrines

The Strangites also hold as scripture several prophecies, visions, revelations, and translations printed by Strang, and published in the Revelations of James J. Strang. This text contains his purported "letter of appointment" from Smith and his translation of the Voree plates. The Book of Jasher was consistently used by both Smith and Strang, but as with other Latter Day Saint denominations, there is no official stance on its authenticity and it is not considered canonical.[22]

Strang's Book of the Law of the Lord is accepted as scripture in its expanded 1856 form; it is believed to be the same "Book of the Law of the Lord" mentioned in the Bible,[20] and Strang claimed to have translated it from the Plates of Laban mentioned in the Book of Mormon.[21]

Strangites hold the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible to be inspired, but do not believe modern publications of the text are accurate, so they "cautiously use the publication of his earliest corrections published as the 'Inspired Version' or 'Joseph Smith Translation' by the sons of Joseph Smith in Plano, Ill., 1867." Strangites do not have any official stance on the Book of Abraham.

The Strangites "believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; [and] also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God," just as do most other Latter Day Saint denominations. They consider editions of the Doctrine and Covenants published prior to Smith's death (which contained the Lectures on Faith) to be scripture.

Scriptures

There are two groups among the second. One group has a website based in Independence, Missouri. The second group has a website based in Shreveport, Louisiana. Both conduct missionary work on the Internet.

The first group no longer emphasizes missionary work, as they tend to believe that after three murdered prophets (Smith, Hyrum Smith, and Strang), God closed his dispensation to the "gentiles" of the West.[18] Consequently, this group's congregation remains small. Current membership figures vary between 50 and 300 persons, depending upon the source consulted.[19]

[17][note 4] A few congregations of Strangites, however, remained loyal to their prophet's memory.

, becoming the second-largest body in the Latter Day Saint movement. Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day SaintsStrang's death and the loss of his Beaver Island settlement were twin catastrophes for his church. Despondent and spiritually adrift after the Strangite organization failed to provide a successor for Strang, most Strangites eventually chose to join what was then known as the "New Organization" of Latter Day Saints. This group had chosen not to follow Young and would eventually accept the leadership of

Strangite church building in Voree, Wisconsin. (2005)

After Strang

Tensions finally came to a head on June 20, 1856, when two Strangite malcontents shot Strang in the back, leading to his death three weeks later. Since Strang refused to appoint a successor,[15] and insisted that the next Strangite prophet must be chosen and ordained by angels just as he and Smith had been,[16] Strang's church was left leaderless and vulnerable. One day before his death, vigilantes from Mackinac Island and other Lake Michigan communities converged on Beaver Island. The Strangites were rounded up, forced onto hastily-commandeered steamships, and removed from the island. Most were simply dumped onto docks in Chicago and Green Bay, destitute and deprived of all their property.

In 1854, Strang published Ancient and modern Michilimackinac, including an account of the controversy between Mackinac and the Mormons. [14]

In addition to printing religious materials, the Strangite printing press on Beaver Island became the source of a new periodical, the Northern Islander, which was the first real newspaper in all of northern Michigan.[13] As St. James became an entrepôt for Great Lakes shipping, the Strangites began to compete with more established commercial lake ports such as Mackinac Island. Tensions grew between Mormons on Beaver Island and their non-Mormon neighbors, which frequently exploded into violence. Accusations of thuggery and thievery were leveled by both parties against each other, compounded by ever-increasing dissension among some of Strang's own disciples, who chafed at what they saw as his increasingly tyrannical rule.

Contrary to popular belief, Strang never claimed to be king over Beaver Island, or any other geographical entity. Rather, he asserted that he was king over his church, which he saw as the one, true "Kingdom of God" prophesied in scripture and destined to spread over all the earth.[12] The constitution of this kingdom was contained within the Book of the Law of the Lord, which Strang claimed to have translated from the Plates of Laban mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Originally published in 1851, this new book of Strangite scripture would be republished in a greatly expanded edition in 1856, just after Strang's murder. The book is still revered by Strangites today, remaining a vital part of their canon of scripture.

Because the high price of land in the Voree area made it difficult for Latter Day Saints to "gather" there, Strang moved his church headquarters to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. Here his disciples founded a town known as St. James (now St. James Township), and in 1850, openly established an ecclesiastical monarchy with Strang as the spiritual "king" of his church. The date of his coronation, July 8, is still mandated as one of the two most important days in the Strangite church calendar (the other is April 6, the anniversary of the founding of Smith's church).[11]

Establishing a kingdom on Beaver Island

. Harris proved a poor spokesman, however, and the English missions sided with the LDS Church led by Young. Three Witnesses and one of its Book of Mormon, the financier of the Martin Harris. Strang's church also fielded a mission to England, one of the primary sources of converts to Mormonism. This mission was led by Voree Herald While in Voree, the Strangites published a periodical known as the [10], he converted the entire branch.Norway, Illinois After Strang won a debate at a conference in [9] at a time when Young's group had just over 50,000.[8]Strang found his greatest support among the scattered outlying branches of Mormonism, which he frequently toured. His followers may have numbered as many as 12,000,
Martin Harris circa 1870, age 87.

All of these persons—with the exception of Miller who would remain loyal to Strang until death—left the Strangite church by 1850. Many of these defections were due to Strang's seemingly abrupt "about-face" on the turbulent subject of polygamy. Vehemently opposed to the practice at first,[7] Strang reversed course in 1849 to become one of plural marriage's strongest advocates. Since many of his early disciples had looked to him as a monogamous counterweight to Young's polygamous version of Mormonism, Strang's decision to embrace plural marriage proved costly to him and his church.

Another adherent was John C. Bennett, former mayor of Nauvoo and a former member of the First Presidency. Bennett had been in Smith's innermost circle but had broken with the founding prophet and had written an anti-Mormon exposé. Bennett founded a secretive Strangite fraternal society known as the "Order of Illuminati", but his presence disrupted Strang's church and ultimately led to his excommunication.[6] Bennett's "order" fell by the wayside and no longer exists among the Strangites.

Many prominent Latter Day Saints believed in Strang's "letter of appointment" and accepted him as Mormonism's second "John E. Page; former apostle William E. McLellin; Smith's mother Lucy Mack Smith; and other members of the Smith family.

Engraving of John C. Bennett as a General of the Nauvoo Legion.

Early successes and losses

Strang's assertion appealed to many Latter Day Saints who were attracted to Mormonism's doctrine of continuing revelation through a living prophet. In the face of protracted Mormon anguish at Smith's death, Strang insisted that there still was, indeed, a Mormon seer who communed with God and conversed with angels. Strang's claim was bolstered by his discovery of the Voree plates, purporting to contain the last testament of an ancient Native American, one "Rajah Manchou of Vorito". These plates were found in the Hill of Promise, which would become the temple site in the new Strangite town of Voree.[note 3] This event was reminiscent of Smith's translations of the golden plates (the Book of Mormon) and the Book of Abraham, and may have encouraged some Latter Day Saints to accept Strang over any of his competitors, who had not produced any such "records".

Monument at old Voree townsite.

Although he was a relatively recent convert at the time of Smith's death, James Strang posed a formidable—and initially quite successful—challenge to the claims of Young and Rigdon. Strang was a Mormon [1]

Page one of Strang's Letter of Appointment.
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