Looking at Strang’s Letter of AppointmentBy: Mormon Heretic
Just 9 days prior to his death, Joseph Smith sent a letter to James Strang. Strang and his followers refer to this letter as the “Letter of Appointment”, believing that Joseph anointed Strang as a successor. I have always wanted to read the actual letter, and I received an email from Tim Hansen, a high priest in the Strangite church with a copy of the letter. He graciously said I could re-print it on my website, and also noted that it is available as a PDF on their website, along with the rest of an early church pamphlet called “The Diamond”, which outlines Strang’s call to prophetic office.
You may or may not have heard of Strangites. The official name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) (no hyphen, capitalism different than the LDS church’s name.) The church is still in existence. I’ve blogged about the Strangites in the past, and there was quite a heated discussion about which website was the “official” church website (this or this). In brief, Strang had an angelic visit ordaining him as prophet, and translated the Voree Plates and the Brass Plates. Strang initially converted quite an impressive list of converts, though they all left him, including:
Book of Mormon witnesses
- Smith’s sisters
- William Smith (already mentioned above),
- and Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith.
As you can imagine, there have always been questions about the authenticity of the letter. While most experts agree that the postmark on the letter is genuine, Dale Morgan (as well as many other historians) believe the letter is a forgery. (The actual document is housed at Yale University.) However, I want to set aside these questions of authenticity and focus on the letter itself. Assuming the letter is genuine, it seems to me that Joseph was merely establishing a stake in Voree. In the beginning of the letter, Joseph refers to Strang’s previous epistle “proposing the planting a Stake of Zion in Wisconsin.” Later in the letter Joseph says Strang “shall plant a stake of Zion in Wisconsin”.
It seems to me that Strang is reading more into this letter than it actually says. I’m having a hard time reading this and assuming Joseph is appointing Strang as the head of the church. In my mind, the story of and angel visiting Strang and appointing him as prophet, and his translations of the Voree plates and the Brass Plates are much more persuasive pieces of evidence than this letter. What do you make of the Letter of Appointment?