Section 49: The Shakers
In May 1831 a new convert to the Church, fifty-year-old Leman Copley, came to the Prophet Joseph. He had recently been baptized, but he was afraid to accept ordination to preach and wanted to know the will of the Lord on the matter. According to Shaker historical records, Copley, though he had been a member of the Shakers, could not manage to live the celibate lifestyle which was encouraged among the Shakers. He had moved away from the Shakers but still admired their doctrines. He was anxious to see the truth preached to his former associates, for whom he still had great affection and respect. Also, though honest-hearted in his acceptance of the restored gospel, he still retained the idea that the Shakers were right in some particulars of their doctrine. Accordingly, he asked Joseph to send missionaries to the Shakers that they might also have the opportunity to hear and accept the Gospel. He asked for two of the best missionaries in the Church, Sidney Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt. Joseph consented to inquire of the Lord “in order to have a more perfect understanding on the subject.” Section 49 was thus received.
In this section the Lord does extend calls to Sidney, Parley, and to Leman Copley. Joseph had initially been reluctant to send Brother Copley, because he was not adequately prepared to serve as a missionary. Both Sidney and Parley, however, had an extensive background of experience with the Shakers. Sidney had lived in the area for years and was acquainted with their leaders and their doctrine. Parley had relatives that were Shakers and thus was also acquainted with them.
Elders Rigdon, Pratt, and Copley fulfilled the mission appointed to them by this revelation. They visited the settlement of Shakers, preached the gospel to them, and even read section 49 to them in its entirety. They were rejected, as the Shakers “utterly refused to hear or obey the gospel” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 65).
One cannot understand section 49 without knowing what the Shakers were teaching, practicing, and believing. The following is a brief review of this interesting people.
They resided in a communal group in North Union, Ohio, fifteen miles from Kirtland. Today this area is known as Shaker Heights and is near Cleveland.
The Shakers began as a break-off from the Quakers. The Quakers, or Society of Friends, had been founded in England in the 1640s, the founders believing that the scriptures were only a portion of God’s revelation and that new revelation was to be expected.
Two English Quakers, James and Jane Wardley, stated that God’s spirit of revelation was frequently manifest to them in Quaker meetings by means of a violent shaking of their bodies. They broke off from the Quakers, and their group became nicknamed the Shaking Quakers.
The Shaking Quakers or Shakers gave equal place to women and men in church organization and predicted that since Christ had first appeared in the form of a man, his second appearance would be in the form of a woman. When a woman named Ann Lee (married name Ann Stanley) joined their group, the Wardleys became convinced that she fulfilled this prediction. She was a pious woman who had suffered greatly, especially in childbearing, since all four of her children died as infants. She also had suffered as a wife, as her husband eventually deserted her. Because of this suffering, many in this small sect, in addition to the Wardleys, came to believe that Ann Lee was the Messiah whose return they were awaiting.
They actually believed that God was both male and female. The scriptural basis for this belief was Genesis 1:27, “In his own image . . . created he them” (both male and female). God, they believed, first made his appearance in the form of a male, Jesus Christ. In Ann Lee, the female principle of God was made manifest, and in her the promise of the Second Coming was fulfilled. The Shakers also believed that even angels and spirits are both male and female—that is, have dual natures.
They believed that Christ’s kingdom upon the earth began with the establishment of the Shaker Church. From the days of the ancient apostles the Lord had sent no one to preach until the Shakers were raised up to call in the elect in a new dispensation. Thus, they believed that the Millennium had begun with the ministry of Ann Lee.
Mother Ann, as she came to be called, believed that sexual relations were at the root of most all the evils in the world. She therefore advocated celibacy for both men and women, even though she herself had been married and given birth to four children (who had all died at birth).
After severe persecution in England, Mother Ann claimed to have received a revelation directing her to America in 1774 to establish the Church of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing—the Shakers’ official name. By 1831 their membership had peaked at between five and ten thousand. There were about eighteen Shaker communities in the United States, and all were known for their piety, order, and industry. Their numbers remained this strong, due to a few converts and hundreds of civil war orphans whom they claimed, until 1874, and then it began to decline. Today only a handful of very old Shakers remain. The only active community that exists is located at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.
Some additional practices and beliefs of this unique group were:
- The ruling authority of the Shakers was vested in a committee—usually four persons, two females and two males.
- Private ownership of property was eliminated, and several communal groups (called united orders) were established throughout the United States. They believed in separation from the world and group ownership of possessions. Ostentation, luxury, and private ownership of property were regarded as sinful and un-Christian.
- Confession was all that was necessary for forgiveness of sins. Thus the outward ordinances, baptism and the laying on of hands, were unnecessary and had ceased with the apostolic age. Their confessions were given openly.
- It was possible for people to live without sin.
- Although the Shakers did not forbid marriage, they believed that those who lived a celibate life abided a higher law. They referred to celibacy as “the cross,” probably having metaphorical reference to the cross some chose to bear.
- Pork was forbidden in their diet, and many ate no meat.
- The resurrection consisted of the restoration or raising of the spirit but not the physical body.
- Their dress and manners remained similar to those of the Society of Friends, the Quakers. They were also hard working farmers reminiscent of the Amish. They made beautiful furniture which is highly prized even today. In general they believed in a strong work ethic. They invented many useful industrial tools.
- They were called Shakers because of their ceremonies. They would sing, dance, clap their hands in regular time, hold hands, embrace, form circles, shake, and shout peculiar things. The women would spin around for minutes without stopping. Men would touch only other men, and women would touch only other women.
- They lived in dormitories and ate in a dining hall. Men were kept strictly separate from the women, however.
- They were pacifists.
- They believed that the need for physical ordinances such as baptism had ceased with the ancient apostles.
- Sickness and disease were regarded as sins against God.
- There are some interesting parallels between the Shakers’ beliefs and Mormonism: They believed in continuous revelation, and they had a Book of Moses. They denied the doctrine of the trinity. Ann Lee had spiritual spectacles that she put on so she could read documents. They had holy anointings, a united order, Melchizedek priesthood, and Aaronic priesthood. Important men in U.S. history allegedly appeared to Ann Lee including John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. They believed in a mother in heaven. They believed that the time had come for the New Jerusalem to be built, and they laid out the ground where the temple would stand. They collected and printed their own hymns. They were temperance people and avoided tobacco, alcohol, tea and coffee. They had a roll of parchment of John the Revelator.
At one point a member of the Shakers, a man named Joseph B. Dylk decided that he, not Ann Lee, was the millennial Lord Jesus Christ, and he broke with the main body of the Shakers.
The three missionaries arrived at North Union on a Saturday evening and were allowed to give to the group a long discussion of the gospel. They spent the night, and the next morning they spoke in the regular Sunday meeting. After Sidney Rigdon read section 49 to the Shakers in their meeting as part of his comments, they were rather abruptly rejected and dismissed. Parley P. Pratt, unwisely it seems, would not let the meeting come to a close without a witness against the Shakers. He arose and shook his coattails: “He shook the dust from his garments as a testimony against us, that we had rejected the word of the Lord Jesus” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 13). This greatly angered the Shakers’ leader, Ashbel Kitchell, and he severely rebuked Parley. Not only did Kitchell vent his anger on Elder Pratt, but also upon Leman Copley.
This experience was so upsetting to Brother Copley that it caused him to reevaluate his membership in the restored Church. To make matters worse, when he arrived back at his farm in Thompson, Ohio, where the Colesville branch of the Church had settled after arriving from New York, he found them upset with him for getting the missionaries involved in this misadventure (see the Historical Setting for section 51 below). Thus, rejected by the saints, he ejected them from his farm and returned to North Union and begged for membership again with the Shakers. His betrayal forced the saints to abandon the improvements they had made to his farm and move on to Missouri immediately. This mission, intended originally to bring people to Christ, resulted in problems for the saints.
With this background, then, section 49 is more easily understood.
D&C 49 The Shakers
D&C 49:7 The hour and the day no man knoweth, nor shall they know until he come.
D&C 49:20 It is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.
1 Hearken unto my word, my servants Sidney, and Parley, and Leman; for behold, verily I say unto you, that I give unto you a commandment that you shall go and preach my gospel which ye have received, even as ye have received it, unto the Shakers.
2 Behold, I say unto you, that they desire to know the truth in part, but not all, for they are not right before me and must needs repent.
verse 2 “they are not right before me” In spite of their industry, there were obviously several things that were “not right” among the Shakers. Their rejection of the sacred nature of marriage, sexuality, and the family could alone account for the Lord’s statement here.
3 Wherefore, I send you, my servants Sidney and Parley, to preach the gospel unto them.
4 And my servant Leman shall be ordained unto this work, that he may reason with them, not according to that which he has received of them, but according to that which shall be taught him by you my servants; and by so doing I will bless him, otherwise he shall not prosper.
verse 4 “Leman shall be ordained unto this work” As already mentioned, Copley had been concerned about being ordained to the priesthood, which the Lord here commands be done.
“not according to that which he has received of them” There is a tendency to preach to those of another faith by assuming their point of view and trying to persuade them that the restored gospel must be true. Such an approach avoids any confrontation between the old and the new and is not how the Lord wanted this mission to be undertaken. The Shakers were to be confronted with the simple truth.
“otherwise he shall not prosper” The Lord asked a lot of Leman Copley. He still had a high regard for the Shakers and for their religion, but he had to choose. He could teach the restored gospel with the courage of his testimony to his former friends, or he could lose his conviction of the truth and come under condemnation.
5 Thus saith the Lord; for I am God, and have sent mine Only Begotten Son into the world for the redemption of the world, and have decreed that he that receiveth him shall be saved, and he that receiveth him not shall be damned—
verse 5 “I am God, and have sent mine Only Begotten Son into the world” Keep in mind that it is Jesus Christ who speaks in the Doctrine and Covenants, though here, as elsewhere he speaks the words of the Father, whom Christ represents as though he were the Father. He speaks by “the divine investiture of authority.”
6 And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory, and now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign till he descends on the earth to put all enemies under his feet, which time is nigh at hand—
verse 6 “they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed” To list is to desire. This phrase means that the Shakers did not look forward to Christ’s second coming. Rather they looked for the return of the “Christ spirit,” a spirit that would infuse their leader and render him or her spiritual and not carnal. They believed four persons had been given this spirit in its fulness: Adam, Abraham, Christ, and Ann Lee.
“the right hand of his glory” This expression refers to the light and power of the Lord and implies that he possesses all power. Indeed, the Lord was given all power in heaven and on earth. He reigns supreme in heaven. On this Earth His supremacy has not yet been fully recognized, but it will be: for all enemies will be put under His feet, and the will of God will be done as it is done in heaven.
“which time is nigh at hand” This contradicts the Shaker teaching that Christ had already come to earth a second time in the form of Ann Lee.
7 I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes.
verse 7 The deliberate suspense that is generated by anticipation and uncertainty in the hearts of the saints serves an important function in the Lord’s training of his people (see also Matthew 24:36). While we wait, not knowing the day of his coming, we prepare ourselves. If we knew the time of his coming, some would find occasion to procrastinate their repentance. But keeping the uncertainty of the future in focus enables and motivates us to prepare continually—not just individually, but as a Church as well.
8 Wherefore, I will that all men shall repent, for all are under sin, except those which I have reserved unto myself, holy men that ye know not of.
verse 8 “all are under sin” All men are guilty of sin (Romans 3:23). While we remain in mortality, our only hope of perfection is the perfection “in Christ” promised by the Lord’s servant Moroni (Moroni 10:32-33). As long as we are sincerely striving to obey his commandments, the Lord extends the blessings of his atonement to us, and he consequently considers us perfect.
“except those which I have reserved unto myself, holy men that ye know not of” There are men who have been made “perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32-33), who have been taken by God for his own purposes and whose carnal natures have been erased or otherwise overcome. We are taught by Joseph Fielding Smith that these are “translated persons such as John the Revelator and the three Nephites” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:209).
9 Wherefore, I say unto you that I have sent unto you mine everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.
verse 9 “mine everlasting covenant” This phrase refers to the gospel. The central purpose of the gospel is to enable us to be forgiven of our sins through the atonement of Jesus Christ and then to return to celestial glory.
10 And that which I have promised I have so fulfilled, and the nations of the earth shall bow to it; and, if not of themselves, they shall come down, for that which is now exalted of itself shall be laid low of power.
verse 10 “that which I have promised I have so fulfilled” The promises made to the fathers—Abraham (Genesis 17:17-21; 22:16-18; Abraham 2:6-11), Isaac (Genesis 26:3-5), and Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15), as well as to Lehi, Nephi, and Moroni—about the fulness of the gospel coming once again to their posterity have been fulfilled in the restoration of the gospel in this latter day. The Gentile nations will either repent and bow before Jesus Christ, and thus become the seed of Abraham by adoption, or they will not repent and will be laid in the dust by the power of God.
“if not of themselves, they shall come down” If the people of the nations do not accept the gospel, they shall be brought down into the dust.
“for that which is now exalted of itself” This phrase refers to those whose natural self dictates that they are fully self sufficient in all things.
11 Wherefore, I give unto you a commandment that ye go among this people, and say unto them, like unto mine apostle of old, whose name was Peter:
verse 11 “this people” The Shakers.
“like unto mine apostle of old, whose name was Peter” Peter is mentioned in this verse because the message in verses 11-14 is essentially Peter’s message to the Jews on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:38. Moreover, Peter’s clear teaching in this New Testament passage corrects a major doctrinal error of the Shakers—baptism is necessary to salvation.
verses 12-28 These verses are addressed directly to the Shakers by the Lord and correct many of their false doctrines.
12 Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus, who was on the earth, and is to come, the beginning and the end;
verse 12 Note the “was” and “is to come.” The Lord again reminds the Shakers that the Lord’s second coming is yet in the future.
13 Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, according to the holy commandment, for the remission of sins;
verse 13 Because the Shakers did not believe in the necessity of baptism—they believed that one could live without sin—this verse was obviously meant to correct that view. They were guilty of sin and needed to repent. The “holy commandment” mentioned here likely refers to Peter’s great charge to the Jews found in Acts 2:38 to “repent, and be baptized.”
14 And whoso doeth this shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of the hands of the elders of the church.
verses 14 The Shakers rejected baptism but believed in the gifts of the Spirit. Hence, the Lord teaches them that the gift of the Holy Ghost is received only after one has entered the gate of repentance and baptism (2 Nephi 31:17). The prophet Joseph Smith maintained that the true gifts of the Spirit are enjoyed only by those who have the gift of the Holy Ghost (HC, 5:27; see also Acts 2:37-38).
15 And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.
verse 15 This corrects another major doctrinal error of the Shakers. While they technically did not forbid marriage, the social pressure against it was enough to drive people like Leman Copley out of their community if they could not be celibate.
Because marriage, sexuality, and family are important parts of God’s eternal plan, Satan will always try to destroy them or turn men’s minds away from their proper uses. Throughout the history of Christianity, one may detect the workings of the adversary in those branches of the historic Christian church that forbade marriage or, like the Shakers, insisted that a higher reward is available in heaven for the celibate.
It is wrong to encourage celibacy (see Genesis 2:24; 1 Timothy 4:3; Hebrews 13:4). President Spencer W. Kimball bore testimony about the importance of marriage:
In magazines we frequently see articles on this anti-marriage revolution. . . . Let me say again, marriage is honorable. It is a plan of God. It is not a whim, a choice, a preference only; it’s a must (“Marriage Is Honorable,” in Speeches of the Year, 1973, 261).
16 Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
verse 16 “it is lawful that he should have one wife” This phrase doesn’t seem intended to teach the necessity of one wife, as contrasted with more than one wife. Rather, it teaches the necessity of having a wife and that marriage is endorsed by God and is part of his plan for the human family.
“and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation” The earth was created to be a home and testing ground for billions of mortal beings. Without marriage and procreation upon the earth to create future generations of mortals, the purpose (or end) for which the earth was created, would be thwarted. Celibacy is, hence, an apostate doctrine, one in which Satan obviously delights.
Another of the “end[s] of [the earth’s] creation” is the formation of an eternal celestial family—each member of which is sealed into the family by a “welding link” of the gospel covenants. This future family, members of which will only be those who inherit celestial glory, will obviously have a vital function in the lives of celestial beings for all eternity.
17 And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.
verse 17 This is the first scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants to deal with the topic of premortal existence. The “measure of man” is the number of human beings created to live upon the earth, and this number is fixed (see Talmage, Articles of Faith, 194; Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 94; and Brigham Young, in JD, 8:352). The word “his” refers back to “man.” The earth was created to be filled with the measure or number of spirit children who were begotten with the intent that they should live here. And when were these spirits begotten or created? “Before the world was made.”
A certain number of spirits will be born into mortality during the Millennium when the earth is in its terrestrial or paradisiacal state, but these persons will also be part of the “measure of man,” the number of those designated to experience their mortality upon this earth. For an interesting discussion of just who it is that qualifies to be born during the Millennium, See the subtitle, “Generational trials” under the heading “Purpose of the Millennium” in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 30, The Millennium.
18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;
verse 18 This corrects yet another doctrinal error among the Shakers. It is wrong to forbid the eating of meat.
Note the obvious error in this verse created by the double negative. The verse says that whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats . . . is not ordained of God. If a person forbids to abstain from meats, then he encourages the eating of meat. The intent is that whoso commandeth to abstain from meat . . . is not ordained of God.
19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.
verse 19 “ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment” Contrary to some current thinking in the world around us, animals are meant (“ordained”) to be used by human beings for food, for leather, for fur, and so forth. These are purposes for which they were created. There is no sin in killing animals for human use. The sin is in wasting what is killed (see verse 21). Humans do have an obligation to justify the death of an animal by using it for the benefit of humanity, which is the purpose of its creation, whether for food, clothing, or income. Abraham, the friend of God and father of the faithful, was, after all, a shepherd, and Peter was a commercial fisherman. They made their living from the wholesome use of animals.
20 But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.
verse 20 It was never intended by God that one human being should have more of the earth’s bounty than another. The celestial law is equality through consecration and stewardship. Division into rich and poor upon the earth is the result of the natural man and the design and workings of Satan. This unnatural division destroys the rich by the pride of their riches and by giving rise to the feeling that they are superior to the poor and deserve better treatment simply because they are rich. It also destroys the poor with the trials of poverty, starvation, exposure, disease, and by suggesting the feeling that the poor are inferior simply because they are poor. One reason why the “world lieth in sin” is that we generally prefer and sustain Babylon’s economic systems based on competition motivated by self-interest rather than Zion’s economic system based on cooperation motivated by compassion. This is the spirit of the law of consecration.
But what of the inevitable consequence that those who labor diligently in this life tend to accumulate more material riches than those who lack the same industry? Do those who work hard and accumulate more commit sin? Should they give away all of their “extra” accumulations? It seems likely that among a people not given to live the law of consecration, this inevitable disparity will be tolerated by the Lord.
21 And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.
verse 21 President Spencer W. Kimball quoted from President Joseph F. Smith in general conference:
I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood (CR, October 1978, 64).
22 And again, verily I say unto you, that the Son of Man cometh not in the form of a woman, neither of a man traveling on the earth.
verse 22 “the Son of Man cometh not in the form of a woman” Neither Ann Lee nor Joseph Dylk is Jesus Christ. The Shakers believed that God was both male and female and was therefore adequately represented by both male and female forms, that Christ had already come as a male in the meridian of time, and that “she” therefore had returned at the second coming in the female form of “Mother Ann” Lee. Once again, this verse corrected the Shaker belief.
“neither of a man traveling on the earth” The Lord adds that the Son of Man will not come disguised as any mortal living on the earth, male or female. He will come as the scriptures explicitly describe him as coming: “in clouds of heaven” with power and great glory (Matthew 26:64). He will be universally acknowledged and hailed as the Messiah.
23 Wherefore, be not deceived, but continue in steadfastness, looking forth for the heavens to be shaken, and the earth to tremble and to reel to and fro as a drunken man, and for the valleys to be exalted, and for the mountains to be made low, and for the rough places to become smooth—and all this when the angel shall sound his trumpet.
verse 23 “be not deceived” The second coming has not occurred, and the Millennium has not begun. Continue your watchful waiting and be aware of the signs of his coming. If the reader desires to review a comprehensive discussion of these signs, see three chapters in volume 3 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine: chapter 24, Sign’s of the Lord’s Second Coming—Introduction, chapter 25, Sign’s of the Lord’s Second Coming—Those that Warn, and chapter 26, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming— Those that Punish and Cleanse.
24 But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose.
verse 24 Here the Lord lists two of the things that must yet happen before the day of his appearance in glory.
“Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness” This statement is a remarkable prophecy that modern Israel, the restored Church, will be driven into the wilderness where they will prosper and grow. Of this verse Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “The physical gathering here alluded to is the assembling of the Latter-day Saints in the tops of the mountains in western America. It is there that Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains. The wilderness referred to is the then-uninhabited areas that were colonized by Brigham Young less than a score of years later” (Millennial Messiah, 210-11).
“the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose” Part of the gathering of Israel in the latter days is the gathering of the Lamanites and their coming to a knowledge of their ancestral heritage and of the gospel. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “And as to the day when the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose, it has scarcely commenced. They are not yet, except in a beginning degree, the pure and delightsome people of whom the scriptures speak” (Ibid., 211). Before the Savior comes again, the descendants of the Book of Mormon peoples will join the Church in increasing numbers and will have claimed their rights as children of Israel. As a people, they will then have “blossom[ed] as the rose.”
25 Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed.
verses 25 Before the second coming of Christ the saints will have established a flourishing Zion upon the earth. Which definition of Zion might we apply here (see the commentary for D&C 42:9)?
verses 26-28 It is difficult to know where the message to the Shakers, which began in verse 12, ends. Are verses 26-28 addressed to the Shakers or to Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt, and Leman Copley? Notice that “shall not be confounded” (verse 27) is a phrase from the writings of Peter (see 1 Peter 2:6), in whose style the message to the Shakers was to be delivered (see verse 11). Nevertheless, the command to “go forth as I have commanded you,” in verse 26 makes it likely that at least these last three verses are directed to the missionaries.
26 Behold, I say unto you, go forth as I have commanded you; repent of all your sins; ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you.
27 Behold, I will go before you and be your rearward; and I will be in your midst, and you shall not be confounded.
verse 27 “I will go before you and be your rearward” God will be both their scout and their rear guard.
28 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, and I come quickly. Even so. Amen.
Did the appointed missionaries fulfill the Lord’s command to go among the Shakers and preach the gospel? John Whitmer wrote that Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and Leman Copley “went and proclaimed [the gospel] according to the revelation given them, but the Shakers hearkened not to their words and received not the gospel at that time, for they are bound in tradition and priestcraft; and thus they are led away with foolish and vain imaginations” (HC, 1:169n.).
We must not leave this episode without commenting on what became of Leman Copley. For his betrayal of the saints, in evicting them from his lands, he was disfellowshipped, but he was back in full fellowship again by October 1832. In 1834 he took a stand against the Church by testifying in a court case against the prophet Joseph Smith brought by another apostate, Philastus Hurlbut, and for this he was excommunicated. On April 1, 1836, he asked for forgiveness and was re-baptized! We then lose track of him and only know that he did not gather with the saints in Missouri or illinois, and he did not go west with the saints. He died in Ohio in 1860 and is buried in Thompson, Ohio.
- Michael J. Preece