OliverCowdery.com: The Premier Web-site for Early Mormon History

Kirtland Temple (under construction) and Kirtland Methodist Meeting-House (c. 1833).

Preface   |   Episode 1   |   Episode 2   |   Episode 3   |   Episode 4   |   Episode 5


Episode Two:
D. P. Hurlbut and the Mormons: 1832-1834

Dale R. Broadhurst

Chap. 1   |   Chap. 2   |   Chap. 3   |   Chap. 4   |   Chap. 5   |   Chap. 6




In his seminal treatise on early Mormon conflicts at Kirtland, Ohio, LDS historian Max H. Parkin made this interesting observation:

The winter of 1833 and 1834 was a particularly threatening period of time for the Saints in Kirtland.... It is unfortunate that more details of the threats [made against the Saints by Kirtland non-Mormons] were not preserved, but according to Cowdery much of the animosity was stirred up by Hurlbut... (Max H. Parkin "The Nature and Cause of Internal and External Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio Between 1830 and 1838" Masters thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966, p. 258).

I am indebted to Mr. H. Michael Marquardt for suggesting "Crisis at Kirtland" as a title for this multi-part web presentation. I had originally applied that name only to this current episode on D. P. Hurlbut and the Mormons of Kirtland and that, in turn, was adapted from the published version of Parkin's 1966 thesis: Conflict at Kirtland. The original episode name also echoed a title the late RLDS historian F. Mark McKiernan applied to a chapter in his biography of Sidney Rigdon: "Crisis at Kirtland."

As Parkin concluded, and as McKiernan implied, certain events transpired during the Mormon stay in the Ohio Western Reserve during the early 1830s which brought about a major crisis in the Mormon Church -- a crisis which has sometimes been perceived and discussed in part by students of early Latter Day Saint history, but one which has not previously been revealed in detail. This episode reports the events of the period which I perceive to be the definitive turning point in the ongoing crisis at Kirtland: the winter of 1833-34. Intertwined with the happenings of that critical winter is the shadowy story of D. Philastus Hurlbut, the first "anti-Mormon" missionary.

Parkin lamented that "details" relating to the events of this little-studied period in Mormon history have not been well "preserved." He was justified in his complaint. While the story of the Latter Day Saints in Missouri during this same time frame has been told and re-told in punctilious elaborations, compilations accounts of the Mormon activities at Kirtland during the winter of 1833-1834 offer little explication and even less explanation of what was happening there. There is perhaps a good reason for the scarcity of detail which Parkin so deplored. It may well be that the Church officials responsible for recording and preserving documentation of truly important incidents purposefully obscured many things in the course of their meeting and overcoming an especially threatening challenge to the Mormon leadership, and indeed to the very continuance of the Church.

In presenting this episode I make available a selective summary of my own research and compilation of information concerning the person, motives, and activities of LDS convert, missionary and eventually, apostate anti-Mormon, "Doctor" Philastus Hurlbut. As Parkin suggested, (after citing a contemporary account penned by Oliver Cowdery) Hurlbut's interaction with the Kirtland Mormons was a key element of the "crisis at Kirtland." In fact, It is my surmise that Hurlbut's activities and the little-understood response they provoked among the LDS hierarchy contributed significantly to both the basis and the turning point of that crisis.

This second episode of my on-line presentation is in no way intended to serve as a conclusive biography of D. P. Hurlbut the man. The view presented here of Mr. Hurlbut is in several places little more than educated speculation upon his unrecorded experiences in relation to the early Latter Day Saints. This admitted mixture of straightforward reporting and occasional touches of informed guesswork I present as merely a first step in defining and explaining a particularly critical period in the early history of the Church. Much of my source material I have drawn from obscure or rarely consulted papers and publications, including previously uncited or unpublished sources uncovered during my many years of research into primary documentation of the Solomon Spalding claims for Book of Mormon authorship.

The content of this second episode in several places overlaps the ongoing studies of LDS researcher Dale W Adams. An epitome of Mr. Adams' research is conveniently available in his paper, "Doctor Philastus Hurlbut: Originator of Derogatory Statements about Joseph Smith, Jr." published in The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 20 (2000), pp. 76-93. His published version is derived from a lengthier unpublished paper: "Judge Not: The Saga of D. P. Hurlbut," April 1985, (copy in Dale R. Broadhurst Papers, Marriott Library, University of Utah). Rather than simply duplicating or paralleling Mr. Adams' work, my own presentation breaks new ground and explores many topics left unaddressed or little developed in his otherwise valuable reporting.

In summary, I wish to say that I feel Parkin was correct in concluding that "the winter of 1833 and 1834 was a particularly threatening period of time for the Saints." My hope is that a candid exploration of that topic may shed new light upon a sorely neglected period in Latter Day Saint history.

Dale R. Broadhurst
April 2001

Navigating Through Episode 2 of This On-line Paper

This episode of "Conflict at Kirtland" is comprised of five separate chapters. Links between the chapter files and this Introduction appear near the top of each sub-page for Episode 2. Each chapter is supplemented with a timeline derived from my on-line Mormon Chronology. Both the chapter files and the chronology files have their own linked endnotes. Links at the bottoms of the various sub-pages allow the viewer to switch back and forth between episodes introductions, episode chapter files and their corresponding chronology files.

As of this most recent posting, not all of my notational material been moved from the main body of the text over to the endnotes section for each respective chapter. This formatting annoyance I expect to correct in due time. Also, in this presentation's current format, some of the links I have provided herein may not work correctly and some pages may appear to be incomplete. The information provided in the timelines for each chapter remains incomplete (or even erroneous). These discrepancies between information provided in the main text and unedited information still in the timelines will be corrected as soon as possible.

The Text-Only Version of Episode 2

This second episode of "Crisis at Kirtland" is accompanied by two text-only files, suitable for print-out as stand-alone papers. The abridged text version of these two files is essentially the same paper I presented in a session of the Fall 2000 Meeting of the John Whitmer Historical Association at Independence, Missouri. The expanded version (when completed) will closely match the web-document, but without graphics, special formatting, links, etc.

I have not copyrighted the text and graphics for "Crisis at Kirtland;" nor have I provided citations for public domain graphics used in this on-line presentation. Information on these and other points of detail may be obtained by contacting me directly
Dale R. Broadhurst.

Continue reading:
Episode 2 -- Chapter 1

return to top of this page

Return to: Preface to Crisis at Kirtland
OliverCowdery.com   |   SidneyRigdon.com   |   SolomonSpalding.com

last revised: Apr. 15, 2005