Question: Is there any evidence for important meetings on September 27, 1886, when President John Taylor reportedly received a revelation and gave men priesthood power to continue polygamy outside of the Church?

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Question: Is there any evidence for important meetings on September 27, 1886, when President John Taylor reportedly received a revelation and gave men priesthood power to continue polygamy outside of the Church?

There is no contemporaneous evidence for such meetings

Journal entries from the three of the men listed as being in attendance, Samuel Bateman, George Q. Cannon, and L. John Nuttall (scribing for President Taylor), have been published and none mention important meetings being held that day or the days before or after. [1]

The meetings were not mentioned by anyone until thirty-five years later in the early 1920s

Thirty-five years later in the early 1920s, Lorin Woolley first mentioned the meetings. Keeping the meeting secret was not required so these decades of silence are puzzling.

In the 1920s Lorin C. Woolley recalled an eight-hour meeting attended by thirteen people where the 1886 revelation was purportedly received followed by a five hour meeting where special priesthood ordinations were performed. According to Woolley, five men along with John Taylor, and a resurrected Joseph Smith attended the second meeting.

In 1929, Daniel Bateman remembered the eight-hour meeting, but never explained why he had never mentioned it before. He plainly stated he was not present for the second meeting and saw no ordinations.

Only Lorin Woolley left a record concerning the ordinations in the second meeting

Only Lorin Woolley left a record concerning the ordinations. The other eleven men and women reportedly in attendance at the first meeting and the five other men listed as being at the second meeting left no records at that time or anytime thereafter. Woolley’s voice is the only voice standing as a witness of these ordinations.

According to Woolley, the revelation was recorded in the first meeting

Lorin Woolley’s 1929 account reports that after writing the original, John Taylor had five additional copies made:

After the meeting referred to, President Taylor had L. John Nuttall write five copies of the revelation. He called five of us together: Samuel Bateman, Charles H. Wilkins, George Q. Cannon, John W. Woolley, and myself. . . . He then gave each of us a copy of the Revelation. [2]

None of the five copies referred to have ever been found

None of the five copies referred to have ever been found. If there were no meetings that day, then when and how was the revelation found? Apostle John W. Taylor testified that he found the revelation on his father’s desk after his death, the following year. John W. Taylor mentioned no special meetings in connection with the revelation. Who were the thirteen people Woolley listed as attending?

Lorin Woolley recalled:

President Taylor, George Q. Cannon, L. John Nuttall, John W. Woolley, Samuel Bateman, Charles H. Wilkins, Charles Birrell, Daniel R. Bateman, Bishop Samuel Sedden, George Earl, my mother, Julia E. Woolley, my sister, Amy Woolley, and myself.[3]

Woolley recalled that during the meeting, John Taylor “put each person under covenant that he or she would defend the principle of Celestial or Plural Marriage"

Woolley recalled that during the meeting, John Taylor “put each person under covenant that he or she would defend the principle of Celestial or Plural Marriage, and that they would consecrate their lives, liberty and property to this end, and that they personally would sustain and uphold that principle.” [4]

The five men who reportedly received a priesthood ordination were reportedly put under an additional covenant to "see to it that no year passed by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage"

According to the account:

He [John Taylor] called five of us together: Samuel Bateman, Charles H. Wilkins, George Q. Cannon, John W. Woolley, and my self. He then set us apart [5] and place us under covenant that while we lived we would see to it that no year passed by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage. We were given authority to ordain others if necessary to carry this work on, they in turn to be given authority to ordain others when necessary, under the direction of the worthy senior (by ordination), so that there should be no cessation in the work. He then gave each of us a copy of the Revelation.

The documented behavior of the thirteen individuals attending the eight hour meeting in 1886 does not seem to support that they sought to keep the two covenants Lorin Woolley described

The documented behavior of the thirteen individuals attending the eight hour meeting in 1886 does not seem to support that they sought to keep the two covenants Lorin Woolley described. Especially surprising are the actions of the five men. See the chart below:

Thirteen individuals listed as attending an eight hour meeting on 27 Sep 1886 Death Sep 1886–Sep 1890
New Plural Wives
Sep 1886–Sep 1890
Children in plural marriage
Sep 1890–Apr 1904
New Plural Wives
Sep 1890–Apr 1904
Children in plural marriage
After Apr 1904
New Plural Wives
After Apr 1904
Children in plural marriage
Left record of a 27 Sep 1886 8-hour meeting?
John Taylor 1887 1 0 n/a n/a n/a n/a No
George Q. Cannon 1901 0 3 0 1 n/a n/a No
John W. Woolley 1928 1[6] 0 0 0 0 0 No
Lorin Woolley 1934 0 0 0 0 1 0 1912[7]–1920s
Samuel Bateman 1911 0 2 0 0 0 0 No
Charles H. Wilkins 1914 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
L. John Nuttall 1905 0 1 0 0 0 0 No
H. Charles Barrell 1908 0 0 1[8] 1 0 0 No
Daniel R. Bateman 1942 0 0 0 0 0 0 1929
Samuel Sedden 1924 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
George Earl[9] 1956 0 0 0 0 0 0 No
Julia E. Woolley 1892 0 0 n/a n/a n/a n/a No
Amy Woolley 1921 0[10] 0 0 0 0 0 No

This chart tabulates the men's involvement with new plural wives and plural children after the 1890 Manifesto.[11]

In addition, Amy Woolley, Lorin’s sister, began her own journal just weeks later, but her entries do not reflect a compulsion to sustain plural marriage.[12] In fact, when Lorin Woolley began fighting church leaders in the 1920s regarding polygamy, Amy distanced herself from her brother, staying with the church.


Notes

  1. See Samuel Bateman Diaries, CHL, for date; George Q. Cannon Journal, September 26, 1886, First Presidency Vault, Salt Lake City; Jedediah S. Rogers, In the President's Office: The Diaries of L. John Nuttall, 1879–1892 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2007), 170; Anderson, Polygamy Story, 34, 45–47. See also Briney, Silencing Mormon Polygamy, 192n2.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. On 27 September 1932, Musser recorded Woolley saying: “Instructions to the Five: You will have the weight of this world upon you, and one of you will have to stand alone. Joseph S[mith] laid his hands upon the heads while J[ohn] T[aylor] set them apart or acted as mouth.” (Musser journals, CHL.)
  6. On 4 October 1886, John W. Woolley wed Ann Everington Roberts for time only. It seems that since this sealing occurred only one week after the reported meeting and was only for time, it was probably planned weeks or months earlier.
  7. Lorin Woolley’s 1912 account does not refer to an eight-hour meeting, but does mention “a meeting that afternoon [September 27th], at which a number there were present and myself.” (Lorin Woolley, “Statement of Facts,” 1912, CHL.)
  8. In 1892, Charles Barrell, of the Salt Lake Stake, entered into a plural marriage—not by approaching any of the five men reportedly ordained in 1886, but through mutual covenants with a woman, by whom he fathered a child. The high council excommunicated him “for desecrating one of the most sacred ordinances or rites of the Holy Priesthood, and for adultery.” Salt Lake Stake High Council Minutes, 22 March 1893, 8 June 1898; Joseph H. Dean, Diary, 16 June 1895.
  9. Born in 1871, George Earl did not marry until 1892 and was never a polygamist.
  10. Amy Woolley remained the monogamous wife of her husband Thomas Cherry after their 1893 wedding.
  11. Data from Hardy, B. Carmon, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), appendix (unnumbered pages after 394) and www.familysearch.com.
  12. See Amy Woolley diaries, 1886–1992, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah.