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CRISIS AT KIRTLAND II.
D. P. Hurlbut and the Mormons, 1832-1834


by Dale R. Broadhurst

---( April 2001 )---


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




CHAPTER TWO



THE MORMON MISSION OF
DR. PHILASTUS HURLBUT
(March-June 1833)





March   |   Mar-Apr   |   May-June   |   June   |   notes
Chapter 2 Timeline


 

Part 1: Events Leading up to the Mission
(March 1833)


Hurlbut is Ordained an Elder and Sent on a Mission

Joseph Smith's journal entry states that Hurlbut "was ordained to the office of an elder in the Church under the hand of Sidney Rigdon on the 18th of March" in 1833. This retrospective entry in Smith's diary agrees with two similar retrospective entries in the Church's "Kirtland Council Minute Book," recording the "Ordination of Doctor Hurlburt by the hand of Sidney Rigdon to be an Elder" at "Kirtland" on "18 March 1833." (27)

Wedged in between the Kirtland Council Minute Book's two records of Hurlbut's ordination is an entry showing that he, Daniel Copley, and other Mormons came to Kirtland on March 19, 1833 "to know the will of the Lord" concerning them. Elder Hurlbut and Priest Copley were then sent "together to the east & proclaim by the way" the Mormon message. (28)

If D. P. did not already know Daniel Copley  (29) by March 1833, the two became well-acquainted. He and Copley were sent only as far away as the rural roads of Erie County, Pennsylvania, where they were able to spend a good deal of their time among the many recent converts already living in that area. But something soon went amiss for missionary Hurlbut and the details of his subsequent troubles have not previously been clearly spelled out in the pages of Mormon history.



Fig. 1. Hurlbut's 1833 LDS Mission White Highlights show the mission field
along with his possible route from Jamestown. The home base for Hurlbut's
1833 LDS missionary work was the Winchester Farm in Elk Creek, PA.
 






HURLBUT'S MORMON MISSION
Part 2: Meetings in the Mission Field
Licit and Illicit (Mar.-Apr. 1833)



On the Road to Jacksonville

D. P. Hurlbut and Daniel Copley left Kirtland during the third week in March 1833. On their way east they ran into Elder John F. Boynton who apparently escorted the two missionaries across the Ohio-Pennsylvania border to Conneaut township in Erie County. All three missionaries were in that locality on or about April 1, 1833. Numerous converts had been made in the western part of Conneaut, in the hamlets and farmsteads surrounding the main village of Jacksonville (now Albion). Hurlbut and Copley could have easily found a hot meal and a bed among any one of the new convert families. Various shreds of evidence indicate that D. P. Hurlbut found just such warmth and comfort in the home of Huldah Barnes (1806-1898). Benjamin Winchester states that Hurlbut "joined the Mormons and became an elder. He seduced a girl named Barns. We as the church, to cover up the matter, urged him to marry her. He refused and then we expelled him..." (30)

Whether or not Elder Hurlbut was meeting the local Mormon girls this early, he must have known most of the LDS converts in southwestern Erie County by the first week in April, simply by attending meetings of the LDS Elk Creek branch. One such meeting began on Friday April 5, 1833, but it was probably not open to most members. Elder Hyrum Smith arrived at Elk Creek on Tuesday April 2, 1833 and spent two days putting the affairs of the branch in order. He was especially interested in rooting out cases of "fornication" among the Saints and it may have been that D. P. Hurlbut's reputation for dalliance with the local ladies first came to Elder Smith's attention at this time. Benjamin Winchester, who knew D. P. during this period, said of the man: "The church ultimately lost their confidence in him, in consequence of... [his] numerous peccadillos, disgraceful to the man... so much so, that he was cast off from the church..." (31)


For the Cause of God

The meeting called by Hyrum Smith at the Winchester farm on April 5th was not a preaching service, but rather a conference called for the purpose of "separating" D. P. Hurlbut and Daniel Copley. The seven High Priests who attended decided that Daniel "should travel with John Boynton" and D. P. should travel with Orson Hyde, "for the cause of God." (32)

Winchester's disclosure that the Elk Creek Saints tried to talk D. P. Hurlbut into marrying Sister Barnes almost certainly confirms that his relationship with her was not limited to an unconsummated seduction. Even so, it is doubtful that he was then "cast off from the church, and his license taken from him by the conference," as Winchester reported. (33)

D.P.'s second missionary companion, Orson Hyde, departed for Kirtland at the end of May, leaving Hurlbut with the realization that his hopes for an elevated position in Kirtland's Mormon society were in serious jeopardy. He soon "professed penitence and humility" and then "left for Kirtland, to appeal to the general conference." (34)


 



HURLBUT'S MORMON MISSION
Part 3: Hulrbut's Return to Kirtland
(May-June 1833)


Avoiding the Bishop

D. P. Hurlbut no doubt followed close upon Orson Hyde's tracks and was back in Ohio by the first week in June. All available testimony indicates that Hurlbut returned to the Kirtland area willingly, in answer to a summons, but he apparently traveled on his own and did not arrive in town soon enough to effectively defend himself. (35) D. P. did not to attend the Bishop's Council called together on June 3, 1833 in Kirtland to consider his case. Had he gone directly to the top leadership of the Church and demanded to be heard during the Council's proceedings, he probably could have attended the trial and defended himself. It is possible that the returned missionary hoped that the Bishop's Council would exonerate him in consideration of somebody else speaking in his favor during the proceedings. Or, perhaps he was busy attempting to apply some kind of covert pressure upon members of the Mormon hierarchy to dismiss the case against him. Given Hurlbut's subsequent disposition to criticize the Church and its leaders, it is likely that even while serving his mission he had been gathering bits of evidence potentially harmful to the Mormon movement. Hurlbut may have been is a position to speak knowingly of secret polygamy then being practiced at Kirtland. Or, he could have perhaps spoken from personal experience as to the Mormons' exaggerated claims to spiritual gifts, such as speaking in revelatory tongues, curing deadly diseases, or even raising the dead. Also, he may well have heard of the locally-circulating Solomon Spalding authorship claims for the Book of Mormon and felt they constituted a potential embarrassment to the founders of the Church.

If Winchester is correct in his memory of Hurlbut having repented of his questionable activities in Erie County, before he ever left that place, then he certainly would have not journeyed all the way to the Mormon headquarters and then made no appearance at all, knowingly demonstrating contempt for the very court which could have declared him innocent. After seemingly repenting in Elk Creek and then responding to the summons to return to Kirtland for his trial, D. P. Hurlbut inexplicably disappeared for nearly three weeks. (36)


His First Church Court Trial: June 3, 1833

It was Orson Hyde who brought charges against Hurlbut during that trial in Kirtland. Hyde himself later stated:

While the said Mr. Hurlbert was a member in our church, and an elder also, it fell to my lot to travel with him to preach the gospel; and it was at my instance that a charge was preferred against him before the Council of the Church for an attempt at seduction and crime. (37)
Hyde may have been somewhat uncertain of all the facts in Hurlbut's case, for he reportedly only accused the man of "an attempt" at seduction. Perhaps Hyde did not have enough evidence on hand to prove that missionary Hurlbut had succeeded in the alleged seduction. (38)

"The Kirtland Council Minute Book" (p. 12) contains this unhappy notice:

Kirtland 3 June 1833 A Conference of high Priests convened in Kirtland at the Translating room -- Bro. Sidney opened the conference by prayer first [case] before the conference was that of Doctor Hurlbut who was accused of unchristian conduct with the female sex while on a mission to the east -- it was decided that his commission be taken from him and that he be no longer a member of the Church of Christ...


 



HURLBUT'S MORMON MISSION
Part 4: "Smoke and Mirrors"
(June 1833)



Public Confession and Private Confusion

In one way or another the message reached D. P. Hurlbut informing him that he could be reinstated in the Church if he would only make a public confession and repentance. Given the fact that nearly all reports agree that he was an arrogant, self-centered fellow who played upon his unique name and pleasant appearance to promote himself at others' expense, it seems highly atypical of such a man that he conceded to submit himself to this public humiliation and reconciliation. While Mormon accounts of this event may be exaggerated and may leave out some essential information, they can still be trusted in their relation of Hurlbut's showmanship in acceding to the Saints' requirements for re-admission to the Church. According to George A. Smith:

He confessed his wickedness to the Council. I was present, and heard him. He promised before God, angels, and men that he would from that time forth live his religion and preserve his integrity, if they would only forgive him. He wept like a child, and prayed and begged to be forgiven. The Council forgave him; but Joseph told him, 'You are not honest in this confession.' (39)
The Church records for this period contain an entry attributed to D. P. Hurlbut himself. It reads:

I, Doct P. Hurlbert, having been tried before the Bishops Council of High Priests in a charge of unchristian like conduct with the female sex, and myself being absent at the time and considering that strict justice was not done me, I do by [these presents] most solemly enter my appeal unto the Presidents council of high priests for a rehearing according to the privilege garranteed to me in the laws of the Church[,] which council is now assembled in the School room in Kirtland the 21st June 1833. (40)
The Hurlbut appeal statement is a bit odd in that it was atypically penned by Joseph Smith, Jr. himself. It begins abruptly, without the usual date and heading for a council meeting. The ostensible reason for Smith's personal involvement was that Hurlbut had appealed "the Presidents council of high priests," and Smith was that President. Given the disorder in the Minute Book's entries at this location among its pages, along with the odd concentration of disparate records concerning Hurlbut recorded there, these entries must have been written (and perhaps even re-written in edited format) after his second excommunication on June 23, 1833. It also appears that Hurlbut's full appeal testimony was not retained in the LDS Church records. For these reasons "The Minute Book" entries at this point should not be viewed as an assuredly accurate or strictly contemporary collection of documents.

Benjamin Winchester summed up the outcome of the June 21 hearing by saying: "when his case was reheard, and, in consequence of confession and acknowledgment, his license was restored. (41) The LDS biographer of D. P. Hurlbut, Dale W. Adams, adds a significant observation concerning the outcome of the re-hearing when he says: "I conclude that if Hurlbut had gone public with the Spalding Myth before this trial that his membership would not have been restored." (42)


Hurlbut's Second Fall From Grace: June 23, 1833

The one Mormon commentor who seems to have left a knowledgeable account of this hazy period in Hurlbut's story is Benjamin Winchester. He simply says that "in consequence of confession and acknowledgment, his license was restored. In returning into Pennsylvania, he stopped at Thompson, Geauga county, Ohio, and immediately commenced his old practices..." (43)

Whatever methods of repentance or coercion Hurlbut may have exercised in getting his name back on the Church membership rolls, it is unlikely that Joseph Smith, Jr. was well pleased in the man's self-promoting machinations. Under such circumstances it would come as no surprise to find that Smith ordered a trusted disciple to follow D. P. back into the mission field and to return any further reports of Hurlbut's "unchristian" activities. And, as Winchester relates, there were reports of just such "practices" to be relayed to the leadership back in Kirtland almost imemdiately after D. P. left town: "… he stopped at Thompson, Geauga county, Ohio, and immediately commenced his old practices, in attempting to seduce a young female, but Providence interposing, frustrated his diabolical designs." (44)

There is a second, rather different account of Hurlbut's alleged misdeed at Thompson. George A. Smith, speaking many years later, recalled:

The Council forgave him; but Joseph told him, 'You are not honest in this confession.' A few days afterwards he published his renunciation of the work, assigning as a reason, that he deceived that Council, and made them believe his was an honest confession, when he only confessed to see whether the Council had power to discern his spirit. Joseph, however, told him at the time that he was not honest in his confession. (45)
In order for word of Hurlbut's new offense to have reached Kirtland so quickly that message must have been conveyed by a trustworthy disciple prepared to rush back to Kirtland at a moment's notice. It is doubtful that D. P. Hurlbut ever delivered a self-condemning "lecture" to the faithful Mormons at Thompson. More than likely he delivered his boasting in private, to persons he thought he could trust not to repeat his words, persons like his excommunicated former missionary companion, Daniel Copley, or even the apostate Lemon Copley, who also lived at Thompson. One or more of these persons must have leaked D. P.'s disclosures to some faithful LDS member. (46)

June 21st 1833
Bro. Daniel Copley's priest licence and membership were taken from him [by the President's court] because he refused to fulfil his mission according to the council of the High Priesthood of the holy order of God. (47)

Bro D. P. Hurlberts case was called in question this day before a general council and upon the testimony of Bro Gee of Thompson, who testified that Bro D.P.H. said that he had deceived Joseph Smith['s] God, or the Spirit by which he is actuated &c &c The council proceeded to cut him off from the Church. There was also corroborating testimony brought against him by Bro. Hodges
23 June 1833. (48)
Only hours after Copley's anathema, Hurlbut was already headed back down this old path, getting himself into hot water once again by speaking candidly to some informant in Thompson. The "general council" which met in Kirtland to look into the matter excommunicated him a second time without even soliciting a defence from the twice dishonored apostate. The ex-missionary must have been yet congratulating himself in Thompson for regaining his position in the Church when the devestating news of this second expulsion reached him.


Continue Reading:
Episode 2 -- Chapter 3



 




NOTES
CHAPTER TWO


  (27) "Kirtland Council Minute Book," p. 12, cf. p. 16, from microfilm of original document, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Historian's Archives).

  (28) Ibid. p. 14. (entry for March 18, 1833). A partial extract from this entry reads:

Doctor Hurlbut
Joseph Wood
George Gee
Daniel Copley
William Pratt
Isaac H. Bishop   These brethren having come to Kirtland and on the 19th day of March a conference was called to inquire into their motives in coming to Kirtland &c.... arose Bro. Daniel and said he came to know the will of the Lord concerning him... Brother Hurlburt also said he came to obtain information... it was agreed that Bro. Hurlburt and Bro. Daniel should journey together to the east & proclaim by the way...
Joseph Wood, George Gee and Daniel Copley all came from Thompson township in Geauga county. The fact that Hurlbut's name appears along with theirs in this entry may indicate that he had visited Thompson and had returned to Kirtland with these men. D. P. Hurlbut may have been a relative of Seth Hurlbut, who was then living in Thompson township.

  (29) Daniel (whose name is listed in Thompson township records of the 1830s) was likely a close relative of ex-Mormon Lemon Copley of Thompson and the missionaries' path probably took the two past Daniel's home in Thompson township. The only known record of Hurlbut and Copley at this time places them a few miles east of Thompson at Austinburg, where they met fellow missionaries Evan M. Green and John F. Boynton on March 29th at "Sister Welton's." Elder Green then went to Kirtland, while Elder Boynton apparently escorted Hurlbut and Copley across the Ohio-Pennsylvania border to Conneaut township in Erie County. See the misisonary journals of Elders Evan M. Green and Zebedee Coltrin in the LDS Historian's Archives for information on the first days of missionary service performed by Hurlbut and Copley.

  (30) Benjamin Winchester "1900 Testimony..." Huldah was probably baptized in April 1833, perhaps by Hurlbut himself. Her older sister, Anna Barnes Harmon (1798-1847) was baptized in Erie County on May 29, 1833 by Orson Hyde, Hurlbut's second missionary companion. Huldah may have been the "Mormon woman of very bad character, who lived alone" and who subsequently played hostess to D. P. Hurlbut during the late summer of 1833 (Rachel Miller Derby Statement, Naked Truths About Mormonism I:1, Jan. 1888).

  (31) For Hyrum Smith's activities in Erie County, PA in early 1833 see his missionary "Diary" in the Special Collections of the H. B. Lee Library at BYU. For details on Hurlbut's alleged " peccadillos" see Winchester, Origin..., p. 6.

  (32) Hyrum Smith, 1833 Diary. Entries for Apr. 5-6, 1833. Spalding Enigma writers Cowdrey et al. have offered these thoughts regarding the reason for this separation of the two missionaries:

...the conference decided 'that D. Copley Should travel with John Boynton [and] D HurlBurt travel With O[rson] Hyde,' hence putting each one under the watchful eye of a brother less susceptible to heretical persuasions. Under the circumstances, this must be taken as a clear indication of Hurlbut's having begun to uncover the Spalding-Book of Mormon connection a relatively short time prior to these conferences, and that Daniel Copley had been with him at the time and was thus privy to the situation. Any other argument would be completely out of context." (Cowdrey, Wayne, et al., The Spalding Enigma... Manhatten Beach, CA: The Digital Voice, 2000, review copy on CD-ROM, p. 96 n. 41).
Although this suggestion is an intriguing one, it requires that the missionary couple encountered and were at least marginally impacted by the Spalding authorship claims during their very first days in Erie County. If those unsettling claims were already so well developed and so easily discovered by the LDS proselytizers in that region of the country, it seems strange that only these two Mormons were susceptible to their debilitating influence. It is certainly possible that as early as April 6, 1833 D. P. Hurlbut was aware of the Spalding claims then circulating through Erie County, but his separation from Copley probably resulted more from his "peccadillos" than from his inquiry into Mormon origins.

  (33) Winchester, Origin..., p. 6. A more likely scenario would have the local "conference" in Erie County disfellowshipping Hurlbut and confiscating his Elder's license, pending review by a visiting High Priest or other prominent Mormon visitor from Kirtland. Evidence indicates that this local "conference" could not have occurred after the end of May 1833. By June 3, 1833 Hurlbut's new missionary companion, Orson Hyde, was already testifying against his former preaching partner in a Kirtland Bishop's Council. Hyde's last recorded activity as a missionary in Erie County was his baptism there of Anna Barnes Harmon on May 29, 1833. He must have left for Kirtland almost immediately after performing that ordinance.

  (34) Ibid. Whatever device Hurlbut expected to use in order to maintain his missionary position in Pennsylvania, it was a stratagem which ceased to provide him any support once Hyde had departed. The logical conclusion is that Hurlbut had attempted to exercise some kind of leverage against Hyde whereby his senior companion might be persuaded not to press charges against him. Perhaps Hurlbut had come into possession of some scandalous reports on Hyde's own private life or some information which could have compromised Hyde's position as a rising leader in the LDS Church.

  (35) Ibid. Perhaps D. P. stopped along the way to refresh himself and gather some statements of personal support in his own behalf. He may have even made it as far as Thompson by the time Orson Hyde was bringing charges against him in Kirtland; that must have occured about the first of June 1833. According to some reports, Hurlbut had been summoned to the Mormon headquarters and was in the Kirtland area when his June 3 church trial was held. Benjamin F. Johnson says that Hurlbut "labored for a time near Jacksonville, Erie County, Pennsylvania, but was soon for illicit association called back to Kirtland..." (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review, pp. 24-26). Benjamin Winchester states that Hurlbut "soon left for Kirtland, to appeal to the general conference..." (Winchester, Origin…, p. 6).

  (36) Where D. P. was and what he was then doing during this period nobody has ever said. At least one early writer was certain that he was in or near Kirtland at this time (see ). Having missed the opportunity to testify in his own behalf on June 3rd, he was likely holed up somewhere in the Kirtland area, licking the wounds to his ego and making plans for his future.

  (37) Hyde Orson. "Letter of June 7, 1841," in George J. Adams, Plain Facts Shewing the Origin of the Spaulding Story..., Bedford: 1841, p. 26).

  (38) In fact, the actual charges brought by Orson Hyde in his complaint against D. P. Hurlbut may have been rather different than what that Mormon leader recalled when writing his 1841 letter. Kirtland resident Samuel F. Whitney (1806-1886) later remembered that "Orson Hyde came into the [N. K. Whitney] store right after excluding Hurlbut and accidently dropped the charges on the floor... they were not as he testified." (Samuel F. Whitney Statement, Naked Truths About Mormonism I:1 Jan. 1888).

  (39) Smith, George A. "Divine Origin of 'Mormonism,'" Journal of Discourses Vol. VII, London & Liverpool, 1860, p.113. In another remembrance of this same event, George A. Smith says much the same thing:

The first Council I ever attended where the Prophet was present was at the trial of Doctor P. Hurlburt. This occurred in June, 1833. He had been cut off from the Church by the Bishop's Council, and a Council of twelve High Priests was organized to try the case on appeal. Hurlburt did not deny the charge, but begged to be forgiven, made every promise that a man could make that he would from that day live a virtuous life. Finally the Council accepted of his confession, and agreed that he might on public confession be restored to the Church again.... As soon as this Council had made this decision upon Hurlburt, Joseph arose, and said to the Council, he is not honest, and what he has promised he will not fulfil; what he has confessed are not the thoughts and intents of his heart, and time will prove it. (George A. Smith, "Historical Discourse" Journal of Discourses Vol. XI, Liverpool, 1867, p. 8).
  (40) "The Kirtland Council Minute Book," p. 21. This appeal bears no marks of being a confession and is peculiar for two possibly interrelated reasons. First of all, there are no minutes entries recorded for any dates between June 6 and June 21, 1833. Nearly all the entries in this section of the Minutes Book relate in one way or another to D. P. Hurlbut, as though other entries from that period have been deleted from the record. The short entry for April 6th says that "Orson Hyde" was "nominated a Clerk for the presidency of the High Priesthood... and duly chosen." It also reveals that Hyrum Smith was appointed to the "oversight" of a committee selected to carry out the building of the Kirtland Temple. Although Hyrum's probable testimony in Hurlbut's June 3, 1833 trial remains unlocated, he did testify in subsequent proceedings against the hapless missionary. It looks very much as if both Orson and Hyrum were rewarded, at least in part, for their having removed D. P. Hurlbut from the fold. If that were the case, even the June 6th entry in the Minutes Book is indirectly concerned with D. P. Hurlbut.

  (41) Winchester, Origin..., p. 6. The fact that the case was "reheard" and that Orson Hyde's original testimony was overridden may indicate that Hurlbut's re-admission was a result of something more than just the emotional public confession he gave that day. Joseph Smith, Jr. presided over the hearing and Hurlbut would not have been reinstated without a nod from the Mormon prophet. It can be reasonably suspected that D. P. Hurlbut brought some kind of pressure to bear upon the Mormon leadership between June 3 and June 21, 1833. If Hurlbut extended Smith some kind of secret compensation or threat, that might help explain Smith's partial recalcitrance in extending Hurlbut the unconditional hand of fellowship on June 21st.

  (42) Adams, "Judge Not...", p. 8. Adams consistently terms the Solomon Spalding authorship claims for the Book of Mormon "the Spalding Myth."

A final thread remained to be tied up at this point, and that was the case of Hurlbut's former preaching companion, Daniel Copley. When last accounted for in Mormon accounts, Priest Copley had been assigned to be the missionary companion of Elder John F. Boynton. Subsequently Daniel was turned over to the Church for disciplinary action. As George A. Smith recalled, " it was at the same Council that Daniel Copley, a timid young man, who had been ordained a Priest, and required to go and preach the Gospel, was called to an account for not going on his mission. The young man said he was too weak to attempt to preach, and the Council cut him off the Church... under the immediate supervision of the Prophet." (George A. Smith, "Historical Discourse" Journal of Discourses Vol. XI, Liverpool, 1867, p. 8). See note 47 below for more on Copley's excommunication.

  (43) Winchester, Origin..., p. 6. The LDS leadership ordered Hurlbut out of Kirtland and back to his mission in Erie County, Pennsylvania. He must have left town almost immediately after his public confession, re-baptism, and re-ordination as an Elder in the Church. It is likely that all of these events occurred on June 21st and that the reclaimed missionary left Kirtland that very day.

  (44) Winchester, Origin..., p. 6. The story that Hurlbut proceeded directly to Thompson after his reinstatement in the Church is no doubt correct. So also may be the allegation that he there attempted to "seduce a young female." Other previously considered avowals of the man's motives and methods suggest that he hoped to make a martial alliance with a prominent Mormon family. There is no reason to doubt that this was still his intention when he passed through Thompson on 22, 1833. It is entirely possible that D. P. did express his conjugal intentions among the Thompson Saints, but probably in private and to just one girl who then relayed that proposal back to the other members in the branch. Such an explanation better fits the case of a newly re-baptized Hurlbut who was once again trying to elevate his position among the Mormons. It is marginally possible that Electa Sherman was the target of his vulgarly expressed proposition at this time, though there is no evidence placing her at Thompson in the summer of 1833. A more likely reconstruction of events would have Hurlbut attempting to make a marriage alliance during his stay at Kirtland in the first three weeks of June, 1833. However, as he was not a member in good standing, loyal LDS like Lovina S. Williams and Electa Sherman would have naturaly spurned his advances.

  (45) George A. Smith, "Divine Origin of 'Mormonism,'" Journal of Discourses Vol. VII, Liverpool, 1860, p.113). Some years later Smith later expanded upon this intriguing account:

As soon as this Council had made this decision upon Hurlburt, Joseph arose, and said to the Council, he is not honest, and what he has promised he will not fulfil; what he has confessed are not the thoughts and intents of his heart, and time will prove it. Hurlburt stated to the Branch in Thompson, Ohio, that he had deceived Joseph Smith's God or the spirit by which he is actuated, I have proved that Council has no wisdom, I told them I was sorry I confessed and they believed it to be an honest confession, I deceived the whole of them and made them restore me to the Church. (George A. Smith, "Historical Discourse" Journal of Discourses Vol. XI, Liverpool, 1867, p. 8).
George A. Smith's recollection bears all the marks of a "faith-promoting" endorsement of his older cousin, the Mormon prophet; his unique depiction of a cheeky D. P. Hurlbut addressing the members of the Thomas LDS branch with such an address is simply beyond belief. Dale W. Adams attempted to combine Smith's report with that of Winchester and ran into immediate chronological problems. Adam's consideration of the matter is worth quoting in whole:

It is difficult to imagine that Hurlbut could travel to Thompson, attempt to seduce a women there, give a lecture to the Thompson Branch, and then have the word get back, with witnesses, to Kirtland in only two days -- Thompson is about 20 miles east of Kirtland. The events reported by Gee and Hodges may have happened in a different time sequence than is generally supposed, some of it occurring before Hurlbut returned to Kirtland to ask for reinstatement of his church membership. Something untoward must have occurred in Thompson because of the testimony given, but the sexually related incident may have happened before Hurlbut returned to Kirtland to appeal his excommunication. It may have been that Gee and Hodges were slower than Hurlbut in going to Kirtland with their testimonies about events that may have occurred prior to his reinstatement on June 21st. Hurlbut's boasting must have occurred after Hurlbut's retrial and may have been the primary reason the council cut Hurlbut off from the Church a second time on June 23rd. Hurlbut most likely set a record for the least time between reinstatement of membership and being excommunicated a second time (Adams, "Judge Not..." p. 9; cf. "Dr. Philastus Hurlbut," p. 91, n. 24).
  (46) If my reconstruction of events is a correct one, D. P. Hurlbut's ties to ex-Mormons or anti-Mormons in the Thompson area were already known to Smith and the LDS prophet likely gave specific orders for Hurlbut to be watched as he passed through that township. Daniel Copley was residing there at about that same time and he may have been watched just as closely as Elder Hurlbut presumably was watched. Perhaps Elk Creek Branch member Amos Hodges who was given this covert assignment when he was detailed to accompany Hurlbut back to Elk Creek.

  (47) "Kirtland Council Minute Book," p. 21. Copley was likely in Kirtland because he had been called as a witness in Hurlbut's re-hearing of June 21st. If Copley had good reason not to accompany Elder Hurlbut back to Erie County after the Elder's reinstatement, he apparently did not express his excuses convincingly and was summarily cut off. Could it be that Copley expressed an honest disinclination to serve as a Mormon missionary, while D. P. Hurlbut voiced a hypocritical willingness to bend to that same calling? Spalding Enigma writers Cowdrey, et al. assume that Daniel Copley was cut off from the Church at this time for another reason:

George A. Smith's comments... [assert] that Copley was cut off for saying he was too weak to preach -- a statement which literally reeks of trumpery in that it completely fails to explain why, under such circumstances, Copley could not simply have been absolved of his mission and allowed to continue as an ordinary church member. Unless, of course, one interprets the weakness spoken of here as a weakness of faith resulting from his encounter with the Spalding Enigma... (Cowdrey, et al., pp. 96-97 n. 41).
It is possible that young Copley had by this time been exposed to some minimal version of the Spalding authorship claims; however, his "weakness of faith" could have arisen just as easily from conversations he previously held with backsliding missionaries like D. P. Hurlbut and William H. Sagers in Erie County, Pennsylvania. By the spring of 1833 Hurlbut had no doubt already accumulated a budget of anecdotes relating Mormon foibles and chicanery which were in no way faith-promoting. These would shortly become his stock-in-trade as he trod the anti-Mormon lecture circuit back in Erie. There is no reason to doubt that he had already been sharing such apostate banter with Daniel, while the two were still missionary companions.

  (48) "Kirtland Council Minute Book," p. 22.

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