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William E. McLellin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William E. McLellin
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
February 15, 1835 (1835-02-15) – May 11, 1838 (1838-05-11)
End reasonExcommunicated for apostasy
Latter Day Saint Apostle
February 15, 1835 (1835-02-15) – May 11, 1838 (1838-05-11)
ReasonInitial organization of Quorum of the Twelve
End reasonExcommunicated for apostasy
at end of term
No apostles immediately ordained[1]
Personal details
BornWilliam Earl McLellin
(1806-01-18)January 18, 1806
Smith County, Tennessee, United States
DiedApril 24, 1883(1883-04-24) (aged 77)
Independence, Missouri, United States
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery
39°05′10″N 94°24′40″W / 39.086°N 94.411°W / 39.086; -94.411 (Woodlawn Cemetery)

William Earl McLellin (January 18, 1806 – April 24, 1883) was an early leader in the Latter Day Saint movement. One of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, McLellin later broke with church founder Joseph Smith.


McLellin was born in Smith County, Tennessee, a son of Charles McLellin. He married for the first time on July 30, 1829, but his wife, Cynthia Ann McLellin, died young and he was a widower by 1832. McLellin married Emeline Miller on April 26, 1832 in Hiram, Ohio. Emeline was born September 4, 1809, in Pomfret, Vermont, to Martin Miller and Rebecca Jacobs. Emeline died November 1, 1907, in Grayson County, Texas. McLellin and Emeline were the parents of four sons and two daughters: Charles William, Sarah E., James Martin, Helen Rebecca, Albert Eugene, and Marcus Nelson.

Church service

McLellin first had contact with the missionaries of the Latter Day Saint Church of Christ in Paris, Tennessee, during 1831. He traveled to Missouri to further investigate the church, and was baptized on Aug 20, 1831[2]and ordained an elder. During 1831, he also traveled with Hyrum Smith, and the two of them preached in Tennessee. McLellin then relocated to Kirtland, Ohio.[citation needed]

In 1832 and 1833, McLellin served a mission for the church, traveling with Parley P. Pratt. However, in a revelation to Joseph Smith on March 8, 1833, it was said that the Lord was "not pleased with my servant William E. McLellin".[3]

An experienced schoolteacher and a self-proclaimed physician, McLellin taught penmanship in the Kirtland School for Temporal Education in 1834. He served as a member of the church's high council in Clay County, Missouri, also in 1834, and was chosen and ordained to be one of the church's original twelve apostles on February 15, 1835, at age 29.[4]

When the Book of Commandments was about to be published, some Latter Day Saints criticized the wording of some of the revelations received by Smith. According to Smith, the Lord issued a challenge to see if the wisest member of the church could write a revelation comparable to the least of Smith's revelations. If they could, then the members of the church would be justified in claiming that the revelations did not come from God.[5] McLellin, who was trained as a schoolteacher, was selected by the critics for the challenge. According to Smith's history, McLellin failed to produce a credible text, and the controversy died away.[6]

Disassociation with the church

McLellin's association with the Latter Day Saint church came to an abrupt halt in 1838, when he declared that he had no confidence in the presidency of the church. This may have been due to the mismanagement of the church's financial institution, the Kirtland Safety Society. McLellin was excommunicated on May 11, 1838, and subsequently actively worked against the Latter Day Saints. According to members of the church, McLellin ransacked and robbed Smith's home and stable while Smith was being held in jail, pending charges on the Safety Society's financial problems. No charges were ever filed against Smith or against McLellin.[citation needed]

A history published in the Latter Day Saint periodical Millennial Star in 1864 related the incident:

While Joseph was in prison at Richmond, Mo., Mr. McLellin, who was a large and active man, went to the sheriff and asked for the privilege of flogging the Prophet; permission was granted, on condition that Joseph would fight. The sheriff made McLellin's earnest request known to Joseph, who consented to fight, if his irons were taken off. McLellin then refused to fight, unless he could have a club, to which Joseph was perfectly willing; but the sheriff would not allow them to fight on such unequal terms.[7]

Previous to that incident, Smith authored a letter to the church from Liberty Jail on December 16, 1838, in which he made allusions to actions by McLellin that he vilified as sins.[8] In that letter, Smith likens McLellin to the biblical magician Balaam whose ass refused to help Balaam curse the leadership of the ancient Israelite church, in the era of Moses. The letter may have been what provoked McLellin to attempt to fist-fight Smith.

After Smith's assassination in 1844, McLellin first accepted the succession claims of Sidney Rigdon and was appointed one of the Twelve Apostles in Rigdon's organization on April 8, 1845. In 1847, at Kirtland, Ohio, he joined with several others to create a reorganization of the church, designated the Church of Christ. McLellin called on David Whitmer to assume the presidency, claiming that Whitmer had been ordained by Smith as his successor on July 8, 1834. This organization was short lived.

McLellin was also briefly associated with the movement led by James J. Strang, but more closely associated in the last two decades of his life with the movement led by Granville Hedrick. Although he was only briefly a member of Hedrick's organization in 1869,[9][unreliable source?] media reports from the 1870s describe McLellin as an enthusiastic but unofficial "tour guide" for the Temple Lot property, which the Hedrickites purchased from 1867 to 1877.[citation needed] McLellin died in Independence, Missouri.

Personal writings

McLellin kept journals and notebooks during and after his time in the Latter Day Saint church. Because he was a prominent insider in the early church, these were of great interest to Latter Day Saint historians. In the early 1980s, collector Mark Hofmann claimed to have obtained the McLellin collection, which he described as embarrassing to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). This generated interest that allowed Hofmann to sell it to two simultaneous buyers before being exposed as a counterfeiter when he killed two people to cover his crimes.[10]

In the aftermath of these crimes, the LDS Church discovered McLellin's writings were already in the church's possession, having been acquired and forgotten in 1908. These were later published in two works, The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836, edited by Jan Shipps and John W. Welch in 1994, and The William E. McLellin Papers, 1854–1880, edited by Stan Larson and Samuel J. Passey in 2007. However, these collections did not contain a certain notebook, which was known from photographs in a 1920s newspaper published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In January 2009, this notebook was located and acquired by Brent Ashworth, one of the original collectors interested in Hofmann's supposed McLellin collection.[10]


  1. ^ The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles did not have twelve apostles again until April 8, 1841, when Lyman Wight was ordained. Between McLellin's excommunication and then, John E. Page, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and Willard Richards had been ordained and added to the Quorum to replace apostles who had been excommunicated or killed.
  2. ^ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  3. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 90:35 (LDS Church ed).
  4. ^ B. H. Roberts (ed.) History of the Church, 2:187.
  5. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 67:6–7 (LDS Church ed).
  6. ^ B. H. Roberts (ed.) History of the Church, 1:226.
  7. ^ Brigham Young, "History of Brigham Young", Millennial Star, 1864, vol. 26, p. 808.
  8. ^ B. H. Roberts (ed.) History of the Church 3:224–33.
  9. ^ Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages: William E. McLellin: "He joined the Hedrickites on June 5, 1869 .... He left the Hedrickites November 3, 1869."
  10. ^ a b De Groote, Michael (January 22, 2009). "Lost Mormon apostle's notebook found". Mormon Times. Salt Lake City: Deseret News. Retrieved 3 December 2020.


External links

Church of the Latter Day Saints titles
Later renamed: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (1838)
Preceded by
Orson Hyde
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
February 15, 1835–May 11, 1838
Succeeded by
Parley P. Pratt
This page was last edited on 21 January 2021, at 06:32
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