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Abstract: In this article, we examine circumstantial evidence for the claim of Zebedee Coltrin, contained in a secondhand report within a heretofore unpublished letter, that Jesus Christ came personally to the Kirtland Temple over an extended period to give instruction about temple work. After summarizing what Joseph Smith seems to have known about temple ordinances by 1836, we attempt to show when and how the experience reported in the letter might have occurred. We give short biographies of the participants in the story of the letter: Luna Ardell “Dell” Hinckley Paul, Zebedee Coltrin, and “Brother Potter.” We cite Matthew. B. Brown’s observations on the question of why it might have been expedient that the Saints wait several years before receiving the full complement of temple ordinances that were eventually administered in Nauvoo. Both a typescript and a reproduction of the manuscript of the letter are provided, as is an additional letter to family members from co-author K-Lynn Paul describing the circumstances under which his grandmother’s letter was found and donated to the Church. The Dell Paul letter is consistent with arguments that the Prophet learned much about temple ordinances through personal experiences with heavenly beings, translations, and revelations as much as a decade before he got to Nauvoo. If the letter’s claim that Jesus Christ “stood and talked to them just as I am talking to you” is accurately reported, it provides an additional witness of the Savior’s frequent presence in Kirtland in 1836.
[Page 156]Some people dismiss Joseph Smith’s story about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon a priori, having already concluded that “you don’t get books from angels and translate them by miracles.”1 Others find the Prophet’s claim of divine origins for LDS temple ordinances equally incredible — arguing instead, for example, that “the rituals of Masonry” provided the “starting point”2 for the sacred ceremonies that were administered in Nauvoo.3 Individuals who accept premises of this sort sometimes have come to “see the evolution of the temple as very organic, growing out of the mind of Joseph, not God.”4
To anyone who rejects outright the possibility of actual visits from heavenly messengers, the present article will have little interest. But others who are foolish enough to accept “the absurdity of seeing visions in the age of railways”5 may be interested to know something about a recently discovered letter written by Luna Ardell “Dell” Hinckley Paul that attests to extended divine appearances that occurred in the Kirtland Temple in 1836.
In this article, we examine circumstantial evidence for the letter’s specific claim, based on a secondhand report, that Jesus Christ came personally to the Kirtland Temple over a two-week period to give instruction about temple work. We begin by summarizing what Joseph Smith seems to have known about the temple by 1836. Then we provide a historical overview and a discussion of the significance of the claim. Afterward, we discuss alternatives for the dating of the event described in the letter, the provenance of the letter, and give brief biographies of the three individuals important to its story: Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul, Zebedee Coltrin, and “Brother Potter.” Following a conjectural timeline of events, we reproduce a typescript of the letter itself. The article continues with a discussion of some possible reasons argued by Matthew B. Brown for why it might have been expedient to wait until the Saints gathered to Nauvoo to receive the full complement of temple ordinances. A first appendix reproduces a digital scan of the letter made by the Church History Library in 2016, and a second contains excerpts from a letter K-Lynn Paul wrote to family members on 9 June 2015.
What Did Joseph Smith Know About the Temple by 1836?
Latter-day Saints have long known that the most significant features of modern LDS temple-related doctrines and practices were already evident in the translations, revelations, experiences, and teachings of Joseph Smith in the 1830s and earlier.6 In addition, striking resemblances [Page 157]between modern temple work and ancient ritual practices that pre-date Masonry have been well documented.7
Specific knowledge about temple matters that seems to have been known by the Prophet by 1836 includes: 1) the narrative backbone, covenants, and clothing of the modern temple endowment; 2) the sequence of blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood, including additional ordinances; and 3) priesthood keys symbolized in words, signs, and tokens. In this section we provide only a brief summary of what Joseph Smith seems to have learned about the temple early in his ministry. More extensive information and documentation has been published elsewhere.8
Narrative backbone, covenants, and clothing, of the modern temple endowment. Many accounts in scripture relate experiences of heavenly ascent, in which individuals may be transfigured temporarily in order to see God in actuality face to face. The LDS temple endowment depicts a figurative journey that brings the worshipper step-by-step into the presence of God.9 Significantly, the sequence of events described in accounts of heavenly ascent often resembles the same general pattern symbolized in temple ritual, so that reading scriptural accounts of heavenly ascent can help Latter-day Saints make sense of temple ritual, and experiencing temple ritual can help them prepare for an eventual entrance into the presence of God.10 In that sense, heavenly ascent can be understood as the “completion or fulfillment” of the “types and images” of temple ritual.11
By 1830, Joseph Smith would have been familiar with many accounts of those who had actually encountered God face to face. Indeed, while still a boy he had experienced a visit of the Father and the Son as part of his First Vision.12 In translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith learned the stories of other prophets who had seen the Lord, including the detailed account of how the heavenly veil was removed for the brother of Jared so that he could personally come to know the premortal Jesus Christ.13
From the point of view of temple ritual, in contrast to heavenly ascent, the Book of Mormon seems to have provided an important formative influence for Joseph Smith on temple-related doctrines and practices.14 However, the most significant early tutoring that Joseph Smith received[Page 158]
likely came in 1830 and 1831 with his translation of the early chapters of Genesis, canonized in LDS scripture as the book of Moses. The book of Moses makes significant additions to the Bible account that throw additional light on temple doctrines and ordinances. Significantly, these additions, mainly dealing with events that occurred after the Fall, also illustrate the same covenants introduced to the Saints more than a decade later in the Nauvoo temple endowment.15 Following a prologue in chapter 1 of Moses that relates his heavenly ascent, the remainder of the book of Moses provided the central narrative backbone and covenants for the Nauvoo temple endowment — an outline of the way in which the Saints could come into the presence of God ritually.
As he translated the Bible in 1830–1833, Joseph Smith would have come across descriptions of temple clothing.16 For instance, he would have been familiar with the story of the fig leaf apron and the coats of skins in the account of Adam and Eve17 and the robes of the temple priests in the book of Exodus,18 which were patterned after the clothing of heavenly beings. The temple clothing of Israelite priests symbolized the heavenly clothing that would someday supersede it.19
It was reported in late retrospection of an 1833 incident that the Prophet had seen Michael the Archangel “several times,” “clothed in white from head to foot,” with a “peculiar cap, … a white robe, underclothing, and moccasins.”20[Page 159]
According to Hugh Nibley, the white undergarment used anciently represents “the proper preexistent glory of the wearer,21 while the [outer garment of the high priest] is the priesthood later added to it.”22 In Israelite temples, the high priest changed his clothing as he moved to areas of the temple that reflected differing degrees of sacredness.23 These changes in clothing mirror details both of the nakedness of Adam and Eve and the garments they wore in different parts of their garden sanctuary.24
Sequence of blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood, including additional ordinances. The temple endowment was only one part of the extended sequence of ordinances of exaltation that were revealed over time to the Prophet. As Joseph Smith continued his translation of the Old Testament beyond the chapters contained in the book of Moses, he learned of righteous individuals whose experiences provided a further tutorial about temple ordinances and the priesthood as they existed anciently. For example, between December 1830 and June 1831, Joseph Smith translated Old Testament chapters that described the plural marriages of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the New Testament account of the Sadducees’ question about marriage in the resurrection.25 By at least 1835, Joseph Smith had begun teaching the principle of eternal marriage to others such as William W. Phelps, who was told that he and his wife were “certain to be one in the Lord throughout eternity” if they continued “faithful to the end.”26 In 1835, William W. Phelps mentioned[Page 160]
new light he had received from the Prophet on the subject of exaltation and eternal marriage, wherein those who would become “the sons of God” would dwell in “a kingdom of glory … where the man is neither without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord.”27
Additional revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith, in conjunction with the ongoing work of Bible translation, elaborated on the accounts of righteous individuals such as Melchizedek and Elijah, explaining how the priesthood authority they held related to additional ordinances and blessings that could be given in the temple after one had already received the endowment and been sealed in eternal marriage covenants.28 For example, he learned that the blessings of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood belong to one who is made a “king and a priest unto God, bearing rule, authority, and dominion under the Father.”29 Correspondingly, he learned that worthy women may receive the blessings of becoming queens and priestesses.30 Fittingly, these blessings were associated with the name of Melchizedek because he was both the great “king of Salem” and “the priest of the most high God,”31 and the one who ordained Abraham to this same priesthood.32 Later kings of Israel as well as Jesus Christ Himself, were declared to be part of the “order of Melchizedek,”33 which was originally called “the Order of the Son of God.”34 Additional revelatory insights of the Prophet relating to these crowning ordinances are especially evident in the changes he made in his translation of the Gospel of John and the Epistle to the Hebrews.35
[Page 161]The orderly sequence of blessings that culminates in the fulness of the priesthood was summarized in D&C 124:39 on January 19, 1841,36 and again in a firsthand description of the events of May 4, 1842,37 the day the Prophet Joseph Smith began to administer temple ordinances in the upper story of the Red Brick Store. Significantly, however, the most complete list of these ordinances and blessings is found in D&C 84:32–44, given in 1832.38
Priesthood keys symbolized in words, signs, and tokens. Though some regard the keys of the priesthood taught in the temple as having “only the most peripheral doctrinal significance,”39 the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young make it clear that they are as essential in the next life as they are in this one.40 For example, D&C 132 teaches that as a requirement for entering into “exaltation and glory” within the heavenly temple, the candidate for eternal life must be able to “pass by the angels, and the gods.”41 Elaborating details of this requirement, Brigham Young taught that in order to do so, the Saints must be “able to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood.”42
“Keywords” have been associated with temples since very early times. In a temple context, the meaning of the term can be taken quite literally: the use of the appropriate key word or words by a qualified worshipper, “unlocks” the gate for access to specific, secured areas of the sacred space.43 Because the ultimate efficacy of temple ordinances depends as much on what worshippers have become as what they know, keywords are always closely associated with names. Indeed, Joseph Smith taught that “The new name is the key word.”44 According to René Guénon, “all ancient traditions agree that the true name of a living thing reflects precisely its nature or its very essence.”45 This idea is consistent with Old Testament examples of figures such as Abraham, Sarah, and Jacob who received new names only after God had tested their integrity.46
The theme of God’s disclosure of His own name to those who approach the final gate to enter His presence is pervasive in the ancient Near East. It is also reminiscent of the explanations of Facsimile 2 from the book of Abraham that date to sometime between 1835 and 1841.47 In Figure 7 of that facsimile, God is pictured as “sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood.” Similarly, to take upon oneself the name of Jesus Christ in actuality is to identify with Him to such a degree that we become one with Him in every aspect of saving knowledge and personal character.48 As Hugh Nibley explained: “The importance of knowing the names of things and giving those names when challenged is more than the mere idea of the [Page 162]password; it is … nothing less than … ‘the law which makes of the name a veritable attribute of the thing named.’”49
In 1829, Joseph Smith would have encountered this principle as he translated the words of King Benjamin,50 who described how, at the last day, God would call by the name of Christ all those who had taken upon themselves the nature of Christ,51 while calling all those who did not thus qualify by a different name that would reflect their different nature.
The use of “signs” and “tokens” as symbols connected with covenants made in temples and used as aids in sacred teaching is an ancient practice.52 For example, the raised hand is a long-recognized sign of oath-taking,53 and the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle contained various tangible “tokens of the covenant”54 relating to the priesthood, including the golden pot that had manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the law.55
By way of analogy to a possible function of the items within the Ark of the Covenant — items that symbolized priesthood56 — consider the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries,57 which endured over a period of nearly two thousand years. These rites were said to consist of legomena (= things recited), deiknymena (= things shown), and dromena (= things performed). A sacred casket contained the tokens of the god, which were used to teach initiates about the meaning of the rites. At the culmination of the process, the initiate was examined about his knowledge of these tokens. “Having passed the tests of the tokens and their passwords, … the initiate would have been admitted to the presence of the god.”58
In addition to a physical representation within sacred containers such as the Ark of the Covenant, tokens could be expressed anciently in the form of a handclasp,59 “a precise image for absolutely unique individuality [Page 163]and perfectly joined unity”60 that could be used both in tests of knowledge and identity as well as in acts of recognition and reunion. In this respect, the two-armed embrace found in some ancient temple rituals can be seen as an intensification and a fulfillment of the handclasp gesture because it signifies not only an unbreakable bond between two individuals but also provides powerful symbol that signifies absolute unity and oneness between them. Matthew L. Bowen argues persuasively that the embrace described in Moses 7:63 is one of several temple motifs that Joseph Smith would have encountered in his translation of the account of Enoch in December 1830.
Both the handclasp and the sacred embrace may represent not only mutual love and trust but also also a transfer of life and power from one individual to another. In what Willard Richards called “the sweetest sermon from Joseph he ever heard in his life,”61 the Prophet described a vision of the resurrection that, like analogous Mandaean rituals symbolizing steps in one’s return to God after death,62 included a handclasp and an embrace:63
So plain was the vision. I actually saw men, before they had ascended from the tomb, as though they were getting up slowly. They took each other by the hand, and it was, “My father and my son, my mother and my daughter, my brother and my sister.” And when the voice calls for the dead to arise, suppose I am laid by the side of my father, what would be the first joy of my heart? Where is my father, my mother, my sister? They are by my side. I embrace them, and they me.
Of course, the keywords, names, signs, and tokens would be of no importance as symbols of authentication unless deception were a real possibility. Documenting such deception, the Apostle Paul, drawing on early Jewish tradition,64 spoke of Satan transforming himself “into an angel of light.”65 With similar language, Joseph Smith also spoke of the devil having appeared deceptively to him “as an angel of light.”66
When did Joseph Smith first learn about the keys by which he could detect true messengers from false ones? Arguably, on May 15, 1829, when John the Baptist restored the “keys of the ministering of angels”67 to him and Oliver Cowdery.68 If this experience was the same as the one reported in D&C 128:20 as having taken place “on the banks of the Susquehanna,”69 it seems that Satan appeared in order to deceive the Prophet and thwart the restoration of priesthood authority. As the Prophet later recorded, Michael (or Adam) then came to his aid, “detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light!”70 “Thus,” according to Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig Ostler, “the right to receive the ministrations of angels and the ability to discern true messengers of God from counterfeits came before the Church was organized.”71 Significantly, an account of how [Page 164]Moses recognized and successfully commanded Satan to depart by virtue of his authority while invoking the name of “the Only Begotten” was received by Joseph Smith in 1830, about one year after this experience.72
Historical Context and Significance
of the Claim in the Dell Paul Letter
Although it is clear that Joseph Smith knew much about the specifics of temple-related matters early in his ministry, his understandable reluctance to share details of sacred events publicly73 has resulted in our possessing only very general descriptions of how these things were revealed to him. And, of particular relevance as we try to picture the kind of instruction about temple work that is described in the Dell Paul letter, we know even less about how the Prophet gained the knowledge necessary for teaching these things to others. While Joseph Smith’s exposure to Masonic ritual no doubt led him to seek further revelation as he prepared to introduce the ordinances of temple worship in Nauvoo,74 there is evidence that he received crucial knowledge about the pedagogical aspects of temple work by divine means well prior to that time. For instance, Matthew B. Brown has summarized some of the accounts that speak in broad terms about heavenly visions and visits from one or more heavenly messengers:75
Elder Parley P. Pratt stated in early 1845 that Joseph Smith had given the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “a pattern in all things pertaining to the sanctuary and the endowment therein” and explained to them that this pattern had been shown to him in a “heavenly vision.”76 On another occasion Elder Pratt asked: “Who instructed [Joseph Smith] in the mysteries of the Kingdom, and in all things pertaining to Priesthood, law, philosophy, sacred architecture, ordinances, sealings, anointings, baptisms for the dead, and in the mysteries of the first, second, and third heavens, many of which are unlawful to utter? Angels and spirits from the eternal worlds.”77 Elizabeth A. Whitney likewise stated her understanding, in a Church periodical, that an angel of God committed the temple rituals to Joseph Smith.78
One plausible occasion for further revelation concerning temple ordinances was the set of events surrounding the dedication of the Kirtland Temple during the five-day period of 27–31 March 1836. The dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, given by revelation, highlighted its preparatory function, including ordinances such as washing and anointing that were associated anciently with the Aaronic Priesthood.79
[Page 165]Within the Kirtland Temple were given initiatory ordinances and an endowment focused on time — principally having to do with the immediate needs and duties of missionaries and others of the Saints80 — while ordinances for both time and eternity — promising supernal blessings in both earth and heaven through continued faithfulness to the end, including the commencement of selected ordinances for both the living and the dead — would be performed later in Nauvoo.81 In the words of the dedicatory prayer, the Kirtland Temple was built “that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people,”82 and so that the Saints “may grow up in thee [i.e., Jesus Christ], and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and be organized according to thy laws, and be prepared to obtain every needful thing.”83
The dedication of the Kirtland Temple would have provided a long-awaited place fit for additional, extensive personal instruction by the Lord Himself on details of the temple ordinances. At long last, the Savior had a place where He could “lay his head.”84 Hence, the circumstances seem favorable for the report in the Dell Paul letter that “Jesus the Christ came … and drilled them in the temple work. … He was there day after day and far in the night … for two weeks.85 [He] took them through the ceremonies time and again.”86 The lengthy instruction on temple work as reported in the letter could not have been centered primarily on the preparatory Kirtland Temple rituals, which, after all, were relatively simple and few.87 Rather, it seems more reasonable, if the gist of the report is accurate, that any such instruction would have almost certainly focused on the additional ordinances that would be shared later, in their mature form, with the Saints in Nauvoo. A second possibility is that the account has its basis in the many visionary experiences reported by Joseph Smith, Zebedee Coltrin, and others prior to the temple dedication. We outline the arguments for both possibilities in the following section.[Page 166]
Dating the Experience Reported by Zebedee Coltrin
One plausible time frame for the experience reported by Zebedee Coltrin is the period of 17 January to 6 February 1836, about two months prior to the temple dedication.88 Mark L. Staker summarizes the spiritual manifestations that took place in the Kirtland Temple during this period:89
When the temple neared completion, the upstairs garret was finished and Joseph Smith moved immediately to prepare the priesthood quorums in their use of the temple space. He organized a series of meetings in the last weeks of January 1836. Each of the quorums met in the upper rooms of the temple with Zebedee Coltrin as a member of one of these. He met with his quorum in the third-floor garret in one of the western rooms. They washed, anointed each other with oil, and experienced marvelous things. Joseph Smith described receiving an “endowment of power.” Oliver Cowdery wrote that “the glorious scene is too great to be described. … I only say, that the heavens were opened to many, and great and marvelous things were shown.” Bishop Edward Partridge affirmed that some of the brethren “saw visions & others were blessed with the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.” Joseph Smith’s vision of the Celestial Kingdom that laid the foundation for his later understanding of baptism for the dead (D&C 137) was part of these experiences.
The length of this period fits the two-week interval reported in the Dell Paul letter. Moreover, among the experiences reported were visions of the Savior, some of which were experienced by Joseph Smith and others by Zebedee Coltrin himself. These visions were part of the “endowment” spoken of in D&C 110:9. The Prophet was attended by sacred dreams on two occasions during that period,90 which lasted, in the words of Dell Paul letter, “far into the night.” The reference to “them” in the letter could be seen as including others of the brethren, not simply Coltrin and Joseph Smith. If the experience of Zebedee Coltrin occurred prior to the temple dedication, it must have taken place during this period.
However, while keeping in mind that the Dell Paul letter is a late, third-hand account of the event it describes, it seems to provide reasons to consider a second possible time frame, one that falls sometime after the vision of the Savior received by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on 3 April 1836.
Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a summary of that vision, is one of the most significant accounts we possess about the meaning and significance of temple-related knowledge and keys that were restored to [Page 167]the Prophet Joseph Smith. Shortly after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery “retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped,” and knelt “in solemn and silent prayer.”91 “After rising from prayer,” a vision was opened to them, in which Jesus Christ, Moses, Elias, and Elijah successively appeared. Although we are told that Moses, Elias, and Elijah came in order to commit specific keys at that time, section 110 tells us relatively little about the specific purpose of the visit of Jesus Christ. The heart of His relatively brief message to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, as reported in section 110, is His personal testimony of Himself and His Atonement, and His formal declaration of acceptance of the temple built to His name.92
Did the Savior Himself restore any keys during this visit? Matthew B. Brown concluded that he did, although it should be clarified that these were probably keys of knowledge rather than what we typically think of as keys of the priesthood.93 Brown writes:94
Even though one does not get the impression from reading the contents of D&C 110 that the Savior delivered any particular keys during this visitation, as did the angelic messengers who appeared after Him, Elder Orson Pratt testified that the Lord did indeed bestow “keys of instruction and counsel and authority” on this occasion.95 Elder Franklin D. Richards adds that the Lord “conversed with the Prophet Joseph and Oliver, and revealed to them their duties, and informed them that the gospel should go [forth] from there and be preached throughout the nations of the earth.”96 It is apparent from these comments that D&C 110 does not record everything that occurred during this manifestation.97
In addition to questions raised by the fact of the surprising brevity of the report of this singular vision, its position as the last journal entry made by the Prophet for a period of years is striking. Expressing subdued perplexity, the editors of Joseph Smith’s diary for this period note that the vision of 3 April 1836 “closes the journal. After more than six months of almost daily recording of developments in Kirtland ceased. For nearly two years, there were no more entries written in this or in any other [Joseph Smith] journal.”98 It is, of course, understandable that during the later Kirtland period in 1837–38 — when discord among the Saints prevailed, when persecution of the Prophet himself reached its apogee, and when Joseph Smith’s scribe, Warren Cowdery (along with his brother, Oliver) had begun to take firm steps down the road of apostasy — the keeping of a regular journal became a challenge. But why were additional journal entries not made during the spring and early summer of 1836?
[Page 168]It is apparent from other historical evidence that this period was an unsurpassed moment of spiritual glory for the Church in Kirtland. Members such as Heber C. Kimball, John Corrill, and William W. Phelps recorded at the time that divine manifestations continued or perhaps even increased following the temple dedication.99 “Others later remembered an intensity of spirit associated with the temple for weeks, even months. Eliza R. Snow wrote of ‘an abiding holy heavenly influence’ following the dedication and declared that ‘many extraordinary manifestations’ of God’s power were experienced after the events recorded in [Joseph Smith’s] journal.”100 Despite the fact that we do not possess a personal record of the Prophet’s activities, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that he also may have enjoyed supernal spiritual manifestations sometime following the 3 April 1836 vision, during the brief halcyon days of the Church in Kirtland.
What reasons might lead one to consider the alternate possibility of a date following rather than preceding the vision of 3 April 1836? For one thing, the restoration of the keys Joseph and Oliver received from Moses, Elias, and Elijah seem integral to the additional, extensive instruction on the temple ordinances that Coltrin is said to have experienced. Besides, the accounts of the visions reported during January and February do not describe a lengthy period of pedagogy wherein selected brethren were “drilled” in the specifics of temple ceremonies so much as they relate personal experiences designed to fortify faith and strengthen testimony. Indeed, apart from Joseph Smith’s revelation on the celestial kingdom on 21 January, there are no accounts of the Lord’s voice being heard.
Moreover, it is significant that the 3 April 1836 vision contained a promise, given by the Savior Himself, of further personal instruction that was to be given in the Kirtland Temple: “I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice.”101 We have located no other account of the fulfillment of this promise besides the report in the Dell Paul letter, where it is written that “Jesus Christ stood and talked to them just as I am talking to you.”102
In considering the plausibility of the later alternative for dating Coltrin’s experience, an additional question comes to mind: Why might Zebedee Coltrin have been selected to accompany Joseph Smith during this divine instruction rather than the seemingly more logical choice of Oliver Cowdery? Although Joseph Smith’s journal is silent on the matter, the historical record indicates that Oliver Cowdery became aware of the Prophet’s plural marriage to Fanny Alger not long after D&C 110 was received. This ultimately led to sharp disagreements on the matter with the Prophet and was a factor in Cowdery’s eventual excommunication on 12 April 1838.103
[Page 169]More precisely, Brian C. Hales concludes that “the most plausible timing for the Alger-Smith relationship to have become known with its explosive repercussions appears to be … early in the summer — shortly after the Kirtland Temple dedication in late March 1836.”104 He also argues that “Oliver Cowdery may have been a primary source of the rumors of Joseph Smith’s alleged adultery.”105
In contrast to the periodic vacillations of Oliver Cowdery (which concluded, happily, with repentance, rebaptism, and a complete reconciliation with Church leaders before his death in 1850106), Zebedee Coltrin remained solidly anchored to the Church and its leaders throughout his life. From the time of his baptism, he had received many heavenly visions.107 For example, he is reported to have seen personal visions of the Savior on two occasions, in 1833 and 1836.108 In the spring of 1836, he was serving faithfully as one of the presidents of the Seventy.109 Given Oliver Cowdery’s spiritual struggles in the period that followed the 3 April 1836 vision and the possible need for essential, extensive temple-related instruction during the relatively short time the Kirtland Temple remained fit for personal visitations by Jesus Christ, Zebedee Coltrin may have been a more suitable candidate than Oliver to serve as a companion to Joseph Smith for these events at the time.
Although Zebedee Coltrin’s suitability for such an experience could be argued on the basis of his faithful service as one of the presidents of the Seventy in Kirtland, his personal gifts rather than his office may be a more relevant factor. Calvin R. Stephens, Coltrin’s biographer and a long-time student of church history during the Kirtland years, observes: “Zebedee Coltrin’s experience with the Prophet concerning the revelation on the endowment and the temple ordinances is plausible because of his sensitivity to the things of the Spirit. This was a gift … that he was blessed with.”110 Because there is a lack of precedent, since the organization of the Church, for anyone other than the apostles and prophets who lead it to be the recipient of an initial heavenly restoration of truth (see, e.g., D&C 28), one reviewer suggests that, assuming the gist of the experience happened as reported, it might be best to regard Coltrin as witness to the events described in the letter rather than as a co-recipient with Joseph Smith of the revelation and an equivalent of Cowdery.[Page 170]
Background of the Dell Paul Letter
Provenance and Physical Description
The letter from Dell Paul was found by K-Lynn Paul (b. 14 June 1937, Fergus Falls, Otter Tail County, Minnesota) in the spring of 2015, among the effects of his deceased parents, Lynn Paul (b. 29 June 1898, Victor, Teton County, Idaho; d. 28 November 1984, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma) and Lettie Annie Ririe Paul (b. 1 February 1901, Eden, Weber County, Utah; d. 23 April 1985, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma). Lynn Paul was the eighth child of Luna Ardell “Dell” Hinckley Paul (b. 18 March 1868, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah; d. February 19, 1945, Ogden, Weber County, Utah) and John Robert “Jack” Paul (2 December 1863, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah; d. 15 January 1940, Ogden, Weber, Utah).
The letter consists of a manuscript of four pages in the handwriting of Dell Paul. The original is preserved at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.111 A black-and-white version of the letter, based on a digital scan made by the Library that has been enhanced for readability, is reproduced in Appendix 1. A typescript of the letter appears in a later section of the present article.
Biographies of Selected Individuals
In this section, we give short biographies of Luna Ardell “Dell” Hinckley Paul (the author of the letter), Zebedee Coltrin (who was reported in the letter as having participated in a heavenly manifestion in the Kirtland Temple), and Ezra Potter (presumed to be the “Brother Potter” referred to in the letter who had heard Coltrin relate the story and had later passed it on to Dell Paul).
Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul.112 Luna Ardell “Dell” Hinckley Paul was the fourth child of Utah pioneer Arza Erastus Hinckley (b. 15 August 1826, Bastard, Leeds, Upper Canada [now Ontario, Canada]; d. 18 February 1901, Rexburg, Madison County, Idaho) and Mary Christine (originally Maria Christina) Heiner (b. 20 July 1839, Wasungen, Sachsen-Meiningen, Thüringen, Germany; d. 11 October 1879, St. George, Washington County, Utah).
As a small child, she moved with her family from Salt Lake City to Cove Creek (Cove Fort) in southern Utah. Her father’s brother, Ira Hinckley, had been called by Brigham Young to build a fort there for the protection of Mormon emigrants who passed through the area on [Page 171]their way to other settlements further south and west. Having had no opportunity for formal schooling, Dell received the equivalent of a “third-grade educa-
When Dell’s mother, Mary, became critically ill in 1879, they took her on an arduous wagon ride of 150 miles to St. George, Utah, for treatment. Tragically, Mary died there on 11 October 1879. After the death of their mother, Dell and her sister Martha, received their endowments at the St. George Temple on 7 January 1880. At the time, Dell was not yet twelve years old. The family stayed in St. George six weeks longer to perform temple work for deceased family members before the young girls went to live with their mother’s parents, Johann Martin and Adelgunda Dietzel Heiner, in Morgan, Utah. While living in Morgan with her grandparents, Dell attended the dedication of the Logan Temple on 17 May 1884.114
In 1885, Dell went once more to live with her immediate family, who had since moved to Rexburg, Idaho. The family consisted of her father; a new stepmother, Temperance Ricks; four boys; and two girls. In Rexburg, she met John Robert Paul and was sealed to him in marriage in the Logan Temple on 20 May 1886.
[Page 172]After financially challenging years in St. Anthony, Cedron, and Rexburg, Idaho, and a sojourn in Nevada, Dell and Jack moved with nine surviving children to Ogden in 1914. (One son died at age six of diphtheria in Idaho.) Though continually busy with caring for a large family, Dell served extensively in the Church, community projects, and in the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. After three happy decades in Ogden, Dell passed away on 19 February 1945.
Although it is always possible that Dell could have met Ezra Potter by chance and heard the story of Zebedee Coltrin’s experience in her earlier life, it seems more likely that he told her of the experience while they both lived in Ogden, sometime between 1917 (when Ezra Potter moved there from West Weber) and 15 May 1922 (when Dell Paul wrote the letter). According to family sources, Dell Paul was living at 1223 26th Street in Ogden in October 1918.115 Both at the time of the 1920 census116 and also at his passing in 1926,117 Ezra Potter was living at 2215 Lincoln Avenue in Ogden. These addresses are approximately two miles apart.
Zebedee Coltrin. Zebedee Coltrin was one of sixty residents of Strongsville, Ohio, who joined the Church in 1830–1831. From the time of his conversion, he had many visionary experiences. On 8 January 1831, the night before his baptism, he reported that “the room became lighted up with a brilliant light, and I saw a number of men dressed in white robes, like unto what we call temple clothes.”118 He was called on a mission on 7 June 1831.119 In the spring of 1833, he experienced spiritual manifestations in connection with meetings of the School of the Prophets, including the gift of tongues120 and a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ.121 On 19 April 1834, he, along with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, saw Adam and Eve in vision.122 On 28 January
[Page 173]1836, Zebedee saw a vision of Jesus Christ on the cross in the Kirtland Temple. He also saw a vision of “the Lord’s host” on 7 February, and testified of seeing “the power of God as it was in the day of Pentecost and cloven tongues of fire [resting] on the brethren” and other spiritual manifestations during the March temple dedication.123
On 28 February 1835, Joseph Smith organized the First Quorum of Seventy, with members selected from those who had gone to Missouri in Zion’s Camp. Zebedee was selected as one of the seven presidents of this quorum and was ordained on 1 March 1835, receiving the promise: “You shall have heavenly visions and the ministry of Angels shall be your lot.”124 For the next two years, Zebedee “fulfilled his duties and obligations honorably.”125 However, on 6 April 1837, it was discovered that, along with four others who were serving as presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy, he had been ordained previously as a high priest. As a result, all five of them were invited by Joseph Smith to unite themselves with the high priests quorum.126 Unfortunately, we have no details from Zebedee’s biographer of his activities during 1836–1838 that would help date the manifestation reported in the Dell Paul letter.
Coltrin came to Nauvoo in 1839 but soon returned to Kirtland. A stake was reorganized for a short time in Kirtland, and he served as a counselor in the stake presidency.127 When the stake was dissolved [Page 174]in 1841, he returned to Nauvoo with his family. In Nauvoo, he became a merchant, but according to Stephens, “how successful he was in this enterprise is not known. He was involved in missionary work and he probably had little time to devote to being a successful merchant during this period.”128 Zebedee was called as a full-time missionary to Virginia in 1843129 and in 1844 campaigned for Joseph Smith as a candidate for the presidency of the United States until the death of the Prophet.130 He was endowed on 22 December 1845 and sealed in marriage in the Nauvoo temple on 20 January 1846.131
Zebedee came to Utah with the first pioneer group in 1847.132 Soon afterward, he was called by Brigham Young to help settle the Spanish Fork area.133 He served faithfully within his high priests quorum in Spanish Fork134 and was reputed to be a “staunch supporter” of the United Order that was organized there.135 On 31 May 1873, he was ordained a patriarch by President Brigham Young.136 He served in this calling until his death in 1887, giving more than one thousand patriarchal blessings.137
Later in life, Zebedee Coltrin began sharing some of his visionary experiences in Kirtland publicly. For example, in at least one occasion in 1878, he related some of these events to his high priests quorum.138 Then, in 1883, President John Taylor reorganized the School of the Prophets, an institution that had met previously at different periods during the administrations of Presidents Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. In order “that the School might be properly organized,” John Taylor asked Elders George Q. Cannon and George Reynolds to “get together all papers and information that they could obtain relating to the former Schools of the Prophets.”139 Zebedee Coltrin, as “the only surviving member of the School of the Prophets organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland,”140 was invited to answer questions about the School on 3 and 11 October 1883.141 Elder Wilford Woodruff recorded the following in his journal entry for 12 October 1883:142
This was a day of fasting and Prayer with the leaders of the Church. I took a Bath and wash in the Morning and went to [Page 175]the Endowment House at 9 oclok to receive the washing of feet as it was done in Kirtland 47 years ago By the Prophet Joseph Smith as an Initiatory ordinance into the school of the Prophets. Remarks were made By the Presidency & others. President John Taylor washed the feet of Zebedee Coltrin as He was the ownly man living that was in the first school of the Prophets organized by Joseph Smith in Kirtland /in 1833/. Then Zebedee Coultrin washed the feet of Presidet Taylor. Then Presidet Taylor washed the feet of his two Councillors & all the Twelve Apostles except C. C. Rich who was sick & John Henry Smith in England. He washed the feet of 38 in all. At the Close of this Ceremony we partook of Bread & wine as a sacrament as they did in the Temple in Kirtland which Closed the labor of the day.
Because of his participation in many of the sacred events that took place in Kirtland, including the temple dedication, Coltrin was a natural choice to assist with preparation for the Logan Temple dedication. L. John Nuttall, secretary to President John Taylor, recorded that Zebedee Coltrin boarded a train in Ogden as a member of the group accompanying President Taylor to the Logan Temple twice: once on 2 February143 and another time on 14 May 1884.144 He also noted that Coltrin was accompanied by his son when he boarded the train on the second trip.145 According to Nuttall, the overall purpose of the February trip was to inspect the temple “to determine firsthand how near [it] was to completion.”146 The trip in May was on the occasion of the temple dedication itself, held on 17 May 1884. Zebedee had been asked to give a prayer on that occasion.147
Dell Paul’s letter describes the reason for Zebedee Coltrin’s passage through Ogden on his way to Logan in general terms, saying that he “was called by President Taylor to go and help start the work in the Logan Temple.”148 Similarly, Margaret McNeil Ballard, in whose home Zebedee was a house guest during the Logan Temple dedication, understood that he had come at that time “to assist in the ordinance work of the temple.”149 Dell Paul’s description could fit either the February 1884 or May 1884 time frame. Because Coltrin would have traveled from his home in Spanish Fork prior to boarding the train, it seems likely that he would have stayed in the Ogden area for one or more previous nights on each occasion.150 Such a stay would have afforded the circumstances in which Coltrin’s conversations “in Ogden” with “Brother Potter and two other men” could have taken place while he was “on his way” to “help start the work in the Logan Temple.”151
[Page 176]According to Coltrin’s biographer, “the last two years of Zebedee’s life were spent in doing ordinance work in the Logan Temple.”152 He died on 21 July 1887.
Ezra Potter.153 Although it is unlikely that we will ever be able to establish definitively the identity of the “Brother Potter” referred to in Dell Paul’s letter, the figure of Ezra Potter has emerged as a prominent candidate in our search through newspapers, census records, burial records, and genealogical databases. Potter was a faithful member of the LDS Church throughout his life, was living in the Ogden area (West Weber) when Zebedee Coltrin passed through there on his way to the Logan Temple (1883), and his residence was about two miles away from Dell Paul for five of the eight years that Dell Paul lived in Ogden prior to writing the letter (1917–1922).
Ezra Potter was born in Leicester, England, on 16 May 1851, the only son of Richard (1820–1902) and Mary Newman Grain Potter (1814 1891). He joined the Church with his family and immigrated to Utah as an 11-year-old in 1862. His early life was spent in Logan, Utah, and Malad, Idaho. His only known journal dates from 22 July 1877 to 15 March 1879, shortly after his marriage and sealing to Mary Jane Douglass (1863–1909) on 26 February 1879.154 Just prior to his marriage he bought land on the Douglass homestead in West Weber, Utah. There they made their home and became the parents of eight children. From 1904–1906, [Page 177]Ezra served as a missionary in the Western States Mission. In 1917, eight years after Mary Jane passed away, he married Louisa Festersen Rohwer (1868–1940) and moved to Ogden, Utah. He passed away on 23 May 1926 in Ogden, Utah.
Conjectural Timeline of Events
1 March 1835155
Zebedee Coltrin was ordained as one of the seven presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
17 January-6 February 1836156
A pentecostal season opens in Kirtland. Experiences reported by many individuals included the gift of tongues; the sound of a mighty wind; visions and appearances of the Father, the Son, and other heavenly beings; and prophesying. D&C 137, a vision of the celestial kingdom, was received on 21 January. If the experience of Zebedee Coltrin reported in the Dell Paul letter occurred prior to the temple dedication, it must have taken place during this period.
27–31 March 1836157
The Kirtland Temple was dedicated over a five-day period, accompanied by glorious heavenly manifestations.
3 April 1836
Following morning meetings in the temple, Joseph Smith administered the sacrament to those assembled in the afternoon. After the veils were dropped, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the vision of Jesus Christ, Moses, Elias, and Elijah published in D&C 110. A promise was given in D&C 110:8 that Jesus Christ would later “appear unto [His] servants, and speak unto them with [His] own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.” Following the record of this vision, no further entries were made in Joseph Smith’s journal for nearly two years.
Spiritual outpourings among the Saints continued in Kirtland.[Page 178]
After 3 April 1836 and Before 12 January 1838
If the experience of Zebedee Coltrin reported in the Dell Paul letter took place after the temple dedication, it must have occurred sometime following the vision of 3 April 1836 (D&C 110), after Oliver Cowdery had fallen out of harmony with Joseph Smith. Brian C. Hales dates the disclosure of Joseph Smith’s marriage to Fanny Alger, which was a signficant factor in Cowdery’s disaffection during that period, to “early in the summer — shortly after the Kirtland Temple dedication in late March 1836.”158 Eventually, after several attempts at reconciliation and much vacillation, Cowdery was excommunicated on 12 April 1838.159
Because Joseph Smith’s journal entries ended after 3 April 1836, we have relatively few records of his activities in the late spring and early summer of 1836. Apart from a short trip to escort his grandmother Mary Duty Smith to Kirtland on 17 May 1836, there is no report of Joseph Smith being away from Kirtland until his departure for New York City and Salem, Massachusetts on 25 June 1836 (see D&C 111). Frederick Granger Williams Smith was born to Emma on 20 June 1836. On 29 June 1836, Clay County Missouri citizens demanded an end to Mormon immigration and the eventual departure of all the Saints. During the last half of 1836, the Prophet’s attention turned largely to practical matters: raising money for Missouri land, his journey to the east (which lasted into September), and preparing for the opening of Kirtland Safety Society on 9 January 1837.
From all this we conclude that if the experience reported in the Dell Paul letter did not happen in January-February 1836, the most likely alternative time frame would have been in April-June 1836. It could have occurred no later than 12 January 1838, when the Prophet left Kirtland definitively.160
6 April 1837
Zebedee Coltrin was released as a president of the First Quorum of the Seventy, along with four others, after it was discovered that they had been previously ordained high priests.
31 May 1873
Zebedee Coltrin was ordained a patriarch by President Brigham Young.161[Page 179]
5 February 1878
Zebedee Coltrin is recorded as having related some of his visionary experiences in Kirtland to his high priests quorum in Spanish Fork, Utah.162
Ezra Potter moved to West Weber, a few miles west of Ogden, Utah.163
3 and 11 October 1883
Zebedee Coltrin as “the only surviving member of the School of the Prophets organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland,”164 was invited by President John Taylor to answer questions about how the school was organized and to share some of his visionary experiences.165
2 February166or 14 May 1884:167
On one of these dates, Zebedee Coltrin may have related the experience in the Kirtland Temple reported in the Dell Paul letter to “Brother Potter” and two others in the Ogden area before joining a group led by President John Taylor bound for the Logan Temple.
21 July 1887
Zebedee Coltrin passed away.
Dell Paul moved to Ogden.
Ezra Potter moved to Ogden from West Weber.
Assuming that Ezra Potter is the “Brother Potter” referred to in Dell Paul’s letter, this is the most plausible time period for him to have related what he had heard from Zebedee Coltrin to Dell Paul.
15 May 1922
Dell Paul wrote her remembrance of what she was told by “Brother Potter” in a letter to her son, Lynn Paul.[Page 180]
28 November 1984
Lynn Paul passed away.
K-Lynn Paul, son of Lynn Paul, came across the 15 May 1922 letter of Dell Hinckley Paul among the effects of his parents. He donated the letter to the Church History Library for safekeeping, scanning, and access by researchers.[Page 181]
Letter of Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul to Lynn Paul, 15 May 1922
Ogden May 15 1922
Mr Lynn Paul
Dear boy your Mother letter came today thanks
many times for your love. I have been going to
whrite you for some time but have not been in the
umer [humor, i.e., mood]. a number of things about the church, now I have
a lot more to tell you so hold your breath for
you will have the task of reading a lot.
In the first place they are going to divide the stake.
and it is rumered a number of wards. They have
called a specal [special] Priesthood meeting. next saturday.
and a special conference sunday to devide the Weber
stake. there is some talk of the devision being [illegible, perhaps Washington?] Ave. but [I] do not know. I went to mother day program.
it was grand the best I ever atended. also last week
a program in the Junior Hy [High]. abot [about] 5 hundred girls
all dressed in cotsem [costume] took part. you can amagen [imagine]the buty [beauty] and grace they sure done well.
to day there is a big perade [parade] with all the boys in
the city. this is boy week in the state. you speak of
hot weathr well we have not had it warm an
uf [enough] not to make fires to be cumfertabel [comfortable] hear
this spring the trees are covered with blom [bloom].
it may be good that the weath [weather] has stayed
cool as the weather counts so much with
the hay water
Lynn you speak of cycole [cyclones] and the feer of them168
you can expect them, as this is the time the Profits
of old fortold about the desasters of this time
in Weaber Colege, they had a testamoniyal meeting
and one of the visiting Ladies spoke in tong [tongues]and another interperted it and this is the intent
taken as it was reported to me. that this is the
day the profits told abot in the last days and
[Page 182]that we could look for the changes in the earth, but
the promes if the Laterday sants would live their
religon that they would ascape and if not they
would sufer with the disobedent. your Fathe[r’s]helth is better, but he has not his teath as his
goms [gums] do not heal as fast as they should.
you speak of art. they seem to have a specal
awaking down their. the quire [choir] down have been
invited to sing in a number of large
halls. England or her people are having a time
percuting [persecuting] the sants. the worst they ever have
had. I wanted to tell you about Zdbide Colter [Zebedee Coltrin].
this man was called by Present Talor [President Taylor] to go and
help start the work in the Logon Temple. And
on his way he vised [visited] a brother hear in Ogden
while hear he talked to Brother Potter and two
other men and he told them he wanted them
can remember as Broth[er] Potter told me. he said
that he was with the Profit Joeph [Prophet Joseph] in the curtland [Kirtland]temple. and he said that Joeph had called him
to help with this work and he said that
Gesios the Crist [Jesus the Christ]. came their and drilled them
in the temple work and he was their day
after day and for [far] in the night every day
for two weeks.169 and took them thrue the
sarmones [ceremonies] time and again. he said he stood
and talked to them just as I am talking
to you. and then Zebide Colter described
him his hight wate culer of eys [height weight color of eyes] and hair
but I canot remember only he was tall. And
I think blue eys. but am not shure. I
was going to whrite this at the time but put
it off. he said that what he told them was
true and then he explained a lot of things
that Joeph and oth[ers] of the L.D.S. had
[Page 183]done and said that he was the only one
living that was thair at that time and
he has since died. How thankful we [page 4]
should be to know the truth with love I must
write some other letters mother.
Why Might It Have Been Expedient That the Saints Wait Before Receiving the Full Complement of Temple Ordinances?
In considering what Joseph Smith seems to have known about the temple by 1836, an additional question merits attention: Why might it have been expedient that the Saints wait several years before they received the full complement of temple ordinances that were eventually administered in Nauvoo? In response to this question, we can do no better than to cite Matthew B. Brown:170
First of all, it must be remembered that Kirtland, Ohio, was only a temporary gathering place for the Saints. In May of 1831 the Lord indicated that the Saints would only remain in Ohio “for a little season” until he should “provide for them otherwise, and command them to go hence.”171 On 11 September 1831 the Lord was even more specific when He announced that the Saints would only remain in Kirtland, Ohio, for the space of five years,172 during which time they would lay the foundation for a great work which was yet to come.173 It was not until near the very end of this time frame that the Kirtland Temple was dedicated and the angels of D&C 110 came to commit their keys. According to Joseph Fielding Smith, the house of the Lord in Kirtland “was only a preparatory temple” that “was built primarily for the restoration of keys of authority.”174
Elder George A. Smith indicated that there were other reasons why the Lord only bestowed a portion of his full temple rites upon the Saints during the Kirtland period. He said that during those years the Saints had among them “a great many traditions which they borrowed from their fathers,” and some of them were so unstable in the gospel that they apostatized over very trivial matters. Even when the Lord restored the basic temple rituals of the Kirtland period, some of the Saints [Page 184]“apostatized because there was not more of it, and others because there was too much.” Elder Smith continues:175
If the Lord had on that occasion revealed one single sentiment more, or went one step further to reveal more fully the law of redemption, I believe he would have upset the whole of us. The fact was, he dare not, on that very account, reveal to us a single principle further than he had done, for he had tried, over and over again, to do it. He tried at Jerusalem; He tried away back before the flood; He tried in the days of Moses; and he had tried, from time to time, to find a people to whom he could reveal the law of salvation, and he never could fully accomplish it; and he was determined this time to be so careful, and advance the idea so slowly, to communicate them to the children of men with such great caution that, at all hazards, a few of them might be able to understand and obey.
All of this raises an interesting question. Since Joseph Smith had the necessary keys, could he have restored and administered the Nauvoo-style temple rites during the Kirtland period? Brigham Young seems to have thought so. After giving a basic outline of the Nauvoo-era temple rites, President Young said that176 “before these endowments could be given at Kirtland, the Saints had to flee before mobocracy.” The Saints then settled in Far West, Missouri, and laid the cornerstones of a temple there but eventually “had to retreat to [Nauvoo,] Illinois to save the lives of those who could get away alive from Missouri.” President Young lamented that the Kirtland Temple then fell “into the hands of wicked men, and by them [it was] polluted, like the temple at Jerusalem, and consequently it was disowned by the Father and the Son.”
And what about the Far West Temple? Did the Lord plan to restore the full temple ordinances to the Saints in His house at Far West, Missouri? This seems to be a definite possibility. The “pattern” that the Lord revealed for the Kirtland Temple would not have lent itself very well to the administration of the type of ordinances that were practiced during the Nauvoo period. But notice that the Lord was going to “show” the First Presidency the “pattern” for the Far West Temple just as He [Page 185]had for the Kirtland Temple.177 Why would this have been necessary unless the “pattern” for the Far West Temple was going to be different than the “pattern” for the Kirtland Temple? As noted above in Brigham Young’s statement, persecution and mobocracy prevented the building of the Far West Temple and the Saints did not get another chance to build a House of God until they had settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. Before the Prophet even set foot in Nauvoo, he wrote a member of the Church saying: “I never have had [an] opportunity to give [the Saints] the plan that God has revealed to me.”178
The Dell Paul letter is consistent with arguments that the Prophet learned much about temple ordinances through personal experiences with heavenly beings, translations, and revelations as much as a decade before he administered them in Nauvoo.179 A careful study of this question will reveal that many unmistakable references to significant components of priesthood and temple doctrines, authority, and ordinances date to the 1830s or earlier. These components include: 1) the narrative backbone, clothing, and covenants of the modern temple endowment; 2) the sequence of blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood, including additional ordinances; and 3) priesthood keys symbolized in words, signs, and tokens.180
Because the Dell Paul letter is a late, third-hand account of the event it describes, the accuracy of the report in all its details cannot be known with any certainty. We have described what circumstantial evidence is available for the heavenly manifestation and have outlined two major possibilities for its setting: 1. As a part of the many visionary experiences reported by Joseph Smith, Zebedee Coltrin, and others prior to the temple dedication in January-February 1836; and 2. As a separarate heavenly manifestation that took place after the temple dedication in April-June 1836 that would have provided a fitting capstone to all that Joseph Smith had learned about temple matters up to that time. In either case, if the letter’s claim that Jesus Christ “stood and talked to them just as I am talking to you” is accurately reported, it provides an additional witness of the Savior’s frequent presence in Kirtland in 1836.
Every Latter-day Saint who cherishes the temple blessings restored through the Prophet and his successors will resonate with the grateful exclamation of Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul: “How thankful we should be to know the truth!”[Page 186]
Our appreciation to Richard Lynn Paul for having brought the letter from Dell Paul to the attention of the first author, and to William B. Paul for additional assistance. Thanks to Karl Ricks Anderson, Richard L. Anderson, Don Bradley, Brian C. Hales, Glenn Kartchner, Jennifer Mackley, Calvin R. Stephens, Mark L. Staker, and John S. Thompson for suggestions that have greatly improved this article. While we have made a diligent effort to represent each of these suggestions fully and accurately, the final form of the historical positions expressed in this article, including any lingering errors, remain the responsibility of the authors. We also thank Allen Wyatt, Tanya Spackman, and Timothy Guymon for their expert assistance with reviews and production.[Page 188]
Appendix 1: Digital Scan of a Letter from Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul to Lynn Paul, 15 May 1922181
Appendix 2: Letter of K-Lynn Paul to Family Members
June 9, 2015
I discovered a letter in my parent’s things that Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul wrote to my father, Lynn Paul, in 1922 which contained some very interesting information if accurate. Here is what I wrote to the Church Historian:
[The Church Historian] indicated that they would love to have a copy (since that is what I said I could provide.) I decided that the Church History Department should have the original for safe keeping, but I am sending a copy to you for your interest. Below is the information I sent to Elder Steven E. Snow, the Church Historian.
I recently came across a letter that my grandmother, Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul, wrote to my father Lynn Paul dated May 15, 1922. In that letter she reports that a Brother Zebedee Colter (did she mean Coltrin) was passing through Ogden on his way to Logan, having been called by President Taylor to help start the work in the Logan Temple. According to the letter he talked to a Brother Potter and two other men and told them that he wanted them to remember what he said. He said that he was with the Prophet Joseph in the Kirtland Temple and that Joseph had called him to help with the work. Then he said that Jesus the Christ came there and “drilled” them in the temple work and he was there day after day and far in the night for two weeks and took them through the ceremonies time and again. He then described the Savior. He also told them that he was the only one living (when he spoke with Brother Potter) that was there at that time. Brother Potter told the story to my grandmother Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul. She said that she was going to write this at the time (she was told it) but put it off (until she wrote it to my father.)
I had never heard any of this information before, but not living in Utah, I don’t always hear things that are common knowledge among Church members in Utah. However, in case this information is useful I could provide a copy of my grandmother’s letter. …182
Enclosed is the letter my grandmother, Luna Ardell Hinckley Paul, wrote to my father May 15, 1922. She had just a third [Page 193]grade education so her spelling is not good. Therefore I have typed out the letter with corrected spelling which is enclosed with the original.
When she wrote ‘Colter’ she well could have meant Coltrin as he is the only person that would fit the story. Zebedee Coltrin died in 1887, so if the story is accurate he must have spoken to Brother Potter in Ogden prior to that time. When Brother Potter spoke to my grandmother is unknown, but she says she did not write it down at the time but later on May 15, 1922. So 35-plus years had to have elapsed since the story was told to Brother Potter, and the story is dependent upon the memories of three people — Brother Coltrin, Brother Potter and my grandmother. Nevertheless, my grandmother had a knack for ferreting out historical information as she did in finding out the role of her father, Arza Erastus Hinckley, in the rescue of the handcart pioneers.
Brother Coltrin, who is mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants apparently often told accounts of miraculous events, according to what I was able to learn about him from the Internet.
In her letter my grandmother refers to a fear of cyclone(s) that my father had mentioned to her (presumably in a prior letter.) My father had moved to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where a tornado (called a cyclone back then) had destroyed much of the town in 1919, so the people there would still have had a considerable fear in 1922.
I hope you find this account interesting — I certainly did. Please feel free to pass the information on to your descendants or other family members as you see fit.
- Arnold Friberg (1913-2010): The brother of Jared Sees the Finger of God, 1951. http://www.deseretnews.com/top/704/1/The-Brother-of-Jared-Sees-the-Finger-of-the-Lord-Arnold-Fribergs-religious-paintings.html (accessed 21 June 2016).
- Walter Rane (1949-): The Desires of My Heart, 2004. http://www.walterraneprints.com/prints/the-desires-of-my-heart. By permission of the artist, with special thanks to Linda Rane.
- Unknown. God Dressing Adam and Eve. Detail of the Creation Cupola, Cathedral of San Marco, Venice, thirteenth century. With permssion of PM Russion Icon. http://www.ruicon.ru/arts-new/mosaics/1×1-dtl/italiya_venetciya_san-marko/11bog_odevaet_adama_i_evu_v_kozhanye_rizy_byt_3_23-24/?page_19=411&1=&p_f_15_66=1&ref-cat= (accessed 30 December 2015).
- J. James Tissot (1836-1902): The Offerings of Melchizedek, ca. 1896-1902. Scanned from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s personal copy of J. J. Tissot, Old Testament, 1:47. The Jewish Museum, No. 52-94. In the public domain. See Genesis 14:18-20
- Unknown. Impression Seal of Gudea, Tello, Iraq, ca. 2150 bce. Published in J. V. Canby, Ur-Nammu, Plate 14a.
- Glen S. Hopkinson (1946-): Like a Fire is Burning, 2005. With permission and thanks to Glen S. Hopkinson. Original published in G. S. Hopkinson, Faithful Life, p. 45.
- Oliver Cowdery. Daguerreotype taken in the 1840s by James Presley Ball. Public Domain. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Olivercowdery-sm.jpg (accessed May 12, 2016).
- Dell Hinckley at the age of 16, about the time she attended the Logan Temple dedication in 1884. https://familysearch.org/photos/images/125627?p=527749 (accessed March 27, 2016).
- Dell Paul and John Robert Paul at about the time of their marriage in 1886. https://familysearch.org/photos/images/125590 (accessed March 27, 2016).
- The John Robert and Luna Ardell Paul family at their homestead at Cedron, Idaho, about 1899. Two additional girls were born after this picture was taken. Lynn Paul is the small child wearing dark clothes in the right arm of his father. https://familysearch.org/photos/images/759364 (accessed March 27, 2016).
- Jack and Dell Paul, probably in 1926 at the time of their Golden Wedding Anniversary. https://familysearch.org/photos/images/509645 (accessed March 27, 2016).
- Zebedee Coltrin, ca. 1865. http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/zebedee-coltrin (accessed May 12, 2016). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zebedee_Coltrin.jpg (May 12, 2016). http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/RelEd/id/277 (May 12, 2016).
- Ezra and Mary Jane Potter Family, ca 1903. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=27916790 (accessed March 27, 2016). Photo contributed by Barbara Anne (Brownell) Potter. With permission of Glenn Kartchner.
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