Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Mormon Banter Accepted

Jonesborough , Tennessee is a city in the north east end of the State. It sits near the shared border with Virginia. In the Jonesborough Whig I found the following….

September 14, 1842
A Mormon Banter Accepted

A certain villainous Mormon Priest, one Jeddidiah (sic) Grant, the leader of this vile sect, in Western Virginia, has been denouncing us, for some time past, and recently has given us notice, through a friend, that he expects shortly to visit Jonesborough, and to take us off in a public discourse. Come on Jeddidiah (sic)! We are ready for you. We will have cirtificates (sic), by then, of the propositions you have made to divers females in Virginia! We will meet you, too, with the characters of your leader, from the Holy Joe, down to your infamous self. – Come on! We accept the challenge, and the people are anxious to hear, and above all to see a Mormon! No backing out – if your cause is good, as you alledge (sic), come up to the the (sic) scratch like a man.
And then a follow up article on…

October 5, 1842
Jedidiah Grant, the Mormon preacher, who [William G.] Brownlow invites to Jonesborough, has left the country – Wyeth Journal
We are sorry he did not give us a call, as we are now prepared to exhibit his character. We would like to get him before a crowd, [unreadable] we would relate some of his holy deeds!

This was actually the first time I had ever heard of Jedediah Grant. Jedediah Morgan Grant was born on 21 February 1816 in New York to Joshua and Athalia Grant. He was baptized in New York on 21 March 1833 and immediately went to Kirtland to join the Saints there. He proved his faith early by participating in Zion’s Camp. He served a mission in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey, though not crossing over the border into Tennessee. He was well known for his powerful, unrehearsed sermons.

From 1842 to 1844 he presided over the Church in Philadelphia. Shortly afterwards, he was called to the Presidency of the Seventy. He was the first Mayor of Salt Lake City, serving until his death (his successor was Abraham O. Smoot from Tennessee). In 1854 he was ordained an apostle and served in the First Presidency. He was a key figure in the “reformation” in 1856, gaining the nickname “Brighams Sledgehammer” for his emphatic style.

He died of pneumonia in 1856 just a few days after the birth of his son Heber J Grant.

William Gannaway Brownlow began his career as a Methodist minister, riding a circuit in Virginia, and then later in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. In 1839 he started a newspaper in Elizabethtown which he moved to Jonesborough in 1840 calling it the Jonesborough Whig. Brownlow's style was to attack all opposing views; the Mormons were not the sole recipients of his rhetoric.

He was an outspoke opponent of Tennessee seceding from the Union, though not of slavery. When that failed he was critical of the Confederate government. So critical that he was eventually arrested. Though he spent a while in jail he was released to the Union in March 1862.

Following the Civil War he was elected Governor of Tennessee, a position he held through Tennessee's readmitance to the Union. He mobilized State guards to supress the KKK. After his term was over he was selected as one of the State's Senators from 1869 to 1875. At the end of his time in DC he returned to Knoxville and took up newsapaper work again until his death in 1877.


Ardis E. Parshall said...

That first clipping sounds like a taunting schoolyard bully calling out an opponent: "Yeah, see, jest you dare an' cross this line! I'll knock yer block off! Plus, your mama's ugly!" What an undignified way for the press or clergy to behave. How wonderful that he turns out to have been calling out someone like Jedediah Grant! I don't know that I would have looked to see who WGBrownlow was, or became.

It would be nice if there were a detailed report of some preaching duel between them, to see two such prominent men facing each other at the very beginning of their careers.

Another fine article, Bruce. Thanks.

BruceCrow said...

From all the accounts I read Jeddediah Grant never made it to Tennessee. And none of the stories I have since read about him list Brownlow as one of his opponents.

And Brownlow was indeed just picking a fight. He was known for building up his circulation by taking on various causes in his paper, and not by being nice about it. He was a polarizing figure. Either you loved him or hated him; kind of like some radio talk show hosts today.

You can read more about his opinion of Mormons in "A Survey of William Brownlow's Criticisms of the Mormons 1841-1857" by R. B. Lattimore in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly (1968) pages 249-256.

Christopher said...

Ah yes. Methodists were among Mormonism's most vocal critics in the early years. Though it's difficultto prove, I personally think this may be in part a result of so many of Mormonism's first converts coming from Methodist backgrounds.

BruceCrow said...

And for some reason Methodist in the US South more so than Methodist in the north. I wonder if it has something to do with the Methodist practice of having circuits in the south.

Christopher said...

Methodists in the North utilized the circuit system, too, Bruce. And some of the earliest and harshest critiques of Mormonism by Methodists came from northern Methodists. Anti-Mormonism in general might have been more widespread in the South because of the distinct mix of white patriarchical culture combined with evangelical religion that persisted there.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks for the clarification. I guess my misunderstanding comes from my focusing on Mormon history in the South.

Amy said...

Very interesting. The Latter Day Saints Southern Star reported that when Frank Benson and Matthias Cowley visited Tazewell County, Virginia, as missionaries in 1879-80, they found a number of people who could remember hearing Jedediah Grant preaching forty years earlier. This is rather a lengthy quote, but very interesting in light of your post:

"Elder Jedediah M. Grant introduced the gospel into that place in 1839 or 1840 and performed a most wonderful work. His sermons and even the texts from which he preached were remembered by many people during the remainder of their lives ... with great clearness, so deep and lasting was the impression of truth made upon their minds.

"One aged man, Col. Peter Lits, told Elders Benson and Cowley that he well remembered that Elder Grant read to them in manuscript the prophecy of Joseph Smith respecting the war of the rebellion which took place over twenty years after Elder Grant read the revelation to the people of Tazewell county, Virginia. They derided the prophecy, but lived to see its verification written in letters of blood and tears. This aged veteran, Peter Litz, [sic; the Southern Star just spelled his name differently!] also testified that he received the evidence of the truth of the Book of Mormon by the appearance of a Heavenly messenger who commanded him to “Doubt No More.”

"Elders Benson and Cowley labored in Tazewell, Bland and Smythe counties, in each of which they held many meetings in public places and private houses: made many friends and baptized a goodly number of people, most of whom were the children or grandchildren of those who heard the gospel preached first by Elder J.M. Grant."

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 7. Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, January 14, 1899.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks Amy. While researching J. Grant for this post I found several references to how long people remembered his discourses, and how he was so good that the local ministers could not believe he had no formal ministerial education. One story said he accepted a challenge to speak on any topic they chose on the spot. When the event finally arrived he was given a blank piece of paper. Ever quick thinking, he spoke on the "blankness" of protestant doctrine.

Mike said...

Very interesting. This brings to mind the numerous Grant families I met when we lived in West Valley City, Utah. In our ward, we found out that many families were related to each other - and - that the Grant name was used as a middle name in various parts of the family. The Jensens, the Moores, the Bangerters, were connected with the Grants. On a very unfortunate Sunday when I stayed home ill, Norman Grant Bangerter came to sacrament meeting and spoke. My wife told me afterward how interesting it was, if you are not aware, Norm Bangerter was once governor of the State of Utah.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks Mike. As I was reading your comment I was thinking I would have to point out who he was to other readers if you didn't.