Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Overview of Hearken

The book Hearken is a history of Mormonism in Ohio that focuses primarily on the decade from 1829-1839 but includes elements from the larger Mormon experience. It examines the theolological, social, economic, and histrical context in which Joseph Smith, leader of the movement, received revelation. The book is divided into four parts with each part seeking to explore the historical roots of a specific aspect of the Ohio experience in depth. Hearken begins with a Forward written by Lachlan Mackay, Community of Christ Historic Sites Coordinator, and a Prologue that introduces Kirtland, Ohio through the perspective of those who were forced to leave their religious community. It ends with an Appendix that includes nine sermons addressing elements of Ohio's Latter-day Saint experience as recalled by George A. Smith and Brigham Young in November 1864. LaJean Carruth, an expert in Pitman shorthand, has transcribed these sermons.

The book's four sections are:

Part One: Ohio's "Mormonites"
This is an examination of the Morley Family religious community in Kirtland, Ohio and its transition to the "Mormonite Family" organizations that developed between November 1830 and February 1831 in northeastern Ohio. "Mormonite" was a term first applied by newspaperman Eber D. Howe to the nascent religious community that grew out of the original Morley Family commune. This section looks at the early revelations dealing with religious enthusiasm and the gifts of the Spirit through the eyes of Black Pete, an early member of the Morley Family who became part of the movement.

Part Two: Consecration
Newel K. Whitney, an early merchant active in Michigan and Ohio exemplifies the concept of consecration as it developed in Kirtland. This section examines the development of the concept of consecration as exhibited by N. K. Whitney. Whitney became an Overseer or Bishop of the Kirtland community where he helped distribute offerings consecrated by others and consecrated his own businesses to help build Mormonism in Ohio.

Part Three: "It Came from God": The Johnson Family, Joseph Smith, and Mormonism in Hiram, Ohio
The Johnson family played a pivotal role in Mormonism during the Ohio experience. This section explores their influence on Joseph Smith. It examines the "Plan of Salvation" as understood and preached by Reformed Baptists in the community and how The Vision, an experience had by both Joseph Smith and his scribe Sidney Rigdon, responded to current doctrine by reshaping and refining it in significant ways. This experience led to a violent attack on the two men that culminated in their attempted murder.

Part Four: Kirtland's Economy and the Rise and Fall of the Kirtland Safety Society
This section explores the beginnings of Kirtland's economy that eventually led to the organization of a quasi-banking, money-lending institution known as the Kirtland Safety Society. The institution encountered severe and sustained opposition from both within the religious community and without. Those involved in the community recalled that virtually the entire membership refused to follow Joseph's direction in financial matters as he sought to create a "Zion" community in Kirtland. It eventually led to the "excommunication" of Joseph Smith by a renegade part of the Mormon community and the mass defection of large numbers of members. Understanding the major issues of this economic battle helps place the widespread collapse of the Kirtland community within its historical context.


  1. These are the comments of the three individuals asked to review the book before publication. Please feel free to share your own comments.

    I am not aware of a more deeply researched and richly contextualized study of any period of Mormon church history than Mark Staker’s study of Mormons in Ohio. We learn about everything from the details of Alexander Campbell’s views on priesthood authority to the road conditions and weather on the four Lamanite missionaries’ journey from New York to Ohio. All the Ohio revelations and even the First Vision are made to pulse with new meaning. This book sets a new standard of in-depth research in Latter-day Saint history.

    Richard Bushman
    Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor of Mormon Studies, Claremont Graduate University
    Author, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
    General Editor, Joseph Smith Papers

    An uncommonly thorough and illuminating look at one of the most overlooked periods in Latter Day Saint history. One closes the book with a deepened understanding of not only the Saints and their struggles, but also the contextual and colorful world they encountered everyday. Staker's bold and refreshing new approach to our shared history breathes life into the courage and conflict of Kirtland's past.

    Barbara B. Walden
    President John Whitmer Historical Association (2007-2008)
    Author with Lachlan Mackay, House of the Lord: the Story of the Kirtland Temple

    I am impressed by the scope, detail and quality of Mark Staker’s work on the Mormon period in Ohio. I am confident that it will set the standard and be the definitive work on this fascinating and complicated period in Mormon history for many years to come. His knowledge of and access to important but scarcely used documents can only be admired and envied by any of us who have worked in that period. Just when we begin to wonder how much more there is to say about the Kirtland Safety Society (Bank), Mark gives us not just facts, but important detail on participants, relationships, sequence of events and consequences that go beyond anything that has been done before.

    Larry T. Wimmer
    Professor (Emeritus) Brigham Young University
    Author, The Kirtland Economy Revisited: A Market Critique of Sectarian Economics

  2. This looks well worth the wait, Mark. Any news as to when it will be available?

  3. The book does not have a set shelf date yet but I'm told it will be out the last weeks of December or the first week or two in January.

  4. Splendid, though it looks like it may not be in time for Christmas.

  5. It may not be in time for Christmas, but it does look wonderful.

  6. This looks to be an absolutely wonderful addition to my library. I can't wait to get a copy. Thank you for all of the work you have put into it Mark.

  7. This book looks like it really offers something new on the Kirtland period. It should become an essential work on understanding Mormon beginnings.

  8. Although I have only read a tiny excerpt
    from the text, I am greatly encouraged --
    by looking over the table of contents.

    My own thoughts are that, in the past,
    popular writers and serious historians
    have allowed far too much saintly myth
    (as well as "anti" rhetoric, to stand in
    the place of boots-on-the-ground research
    & documentation. Mark's book offers the
    real possibility of change in past,
    half-hearted attempts at reporting &
    reconstructing the Kirtland era.

    Such a small matter as the Hudson "Western
    Intelligencer" reporting on July 21, 1829,
    that Dr. Richard A. Dennison had recently
    been admitted to the regional medical
    society, may seem like a very small,
    insignificant item, amongst the clutter of
    hundreds of such entries in a researcher's
    notebook. But when a Connecticut history
    takes the trouble to note that the same
    doctor had strangely moved out of town, his
    name next appears in the 1830 Portage Co.
    Ohio, census, and in an 1837 issue of the
    "Elyria Republican," a careful observer
    would just naturally ask whether or not
    this might be the same, mysterious "Dr.
    Dennison" one-time Apostle Luke Johnson
    recalled having a close encounter with
    Joseph Smith at Hiram, in March, 1832 --
    at least I would hope that such questions
    occasionally arise in the minds of modern
    students of Mormon history. Mark's book
    will demonstrate how much we have missed
    seeing, when we thought we already knew it
    all. I can hardly wait to read the entire volume of "Hearken, O Ye People."

    As of today Amazon is still only offering
    "notices upon publication." I had hoped to
    at least make a pre-payment there. Perhaps
    March will be the magic month for this
    much-needed historical contribution.

    Dale Broadhurst