Mark Lyman Staker. Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2009. Hardcover, 7.25 x 10.25″, 725 pages.
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 theological, 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.