Tuesday, March 30, 2010


[This article was pointed out to me as being perhaps the earliest written account about Robert Edge, dated so soon after his followers discovered and joined the LDS Church. This would lend itself to considerable credibility and less likely to have the later unsubstantiated embellishments. It is written by Elder Franklin Spencer who was, at the time, President of the Tennessee Conference, making it a second witness, albeit almost identical to Elder Belnap's early versions. Now all I need is President Morgan's version]

[The following letter, the writer of which is a missionary in the Southern States Mission, America, appeared in the Deseret News of May 17th ]

Shady Grove, Hickman Co.,
May 6th, 1880.

Editor Deseret News.

In the month of April, 1878, one Robert Edge, a preacher of the Gospel after the apostolic order, came to and near Lexington, Henderson Co., Tennessee, and commenced warning the people of the judgments of God that will shortly come upon them for their wickedness. Spoke very lengthily upon the fulfillment of prophecy that was uttered by ancient prophets, and thoroughly proving the failing away and apostasy of the primitive Church: the killing of the Saints by Pagan Rome : the rise and progress of the Romish Church, as being mystery, Babylon, and all her daughters and grand-daughters being under direct inspiration of Lucifer, the son of the morning : that Jesus Christ is the head Mason, and that Masonry, as at present, is a base counterfeit, and all secret societies are institutions of men, and are an abomination in the sight of the Lord.

He dwelt very lightly on the principle of baptism, but extensively on the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost; that the apostolic church was again restored on the earth, with prophets and apostles, baptism for the remission of sins, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, with signs following them that believe. By his administration four remarkable cases of healing occurred.

He positively refused money for his preaching. In the meantime the people became very curious to know who he was, and what church he belonged to. Being asked if baptism is essential for salvation, he said it was a true principle, but the people did not understand it. Being asked if he had authority to baptize, said if he had not, there were many on the earth who did have. Being asked if there was an apostolic church on the earth, said there was, with many members. Being asked where it was, said it was in the United States, but avoided giving any further information.

After having delivered a series of sermons, he called upon all to come out of Mystery Babylon, forsake manmade institutions, and follow Christ in accordance with the apostolic order.

Sixty-three then agreed to follow him as he followed Christ. He then proceeded to organize them in a brotherly love order, after the apostolic order, by laying on hands and blessing them, and by requesting them to fast three days, and by instructing them not to marry outside of said order, saluting each other with the holy kiss, and if they would be honest, faithful and prayerful, the Lord would guide them by His Spirit in all things they should do to be saved; that there was more he would like to inform them upon, but persecution was rising, and he would shortly have to leave them; that if persecution arose so they had to leave, for them to go west of the Rocky Mountains for safety.

A lively persecution shortly arose, charging him to be a "Mormon' preacher, which he did not deny nor sanction, but his followers did deny that he or they were "Mormons."

Nineteen of the number fulfilled the requirements of the order of brotherly love, have withstood two years' persecution, more or less, and in the absence of their beloved preacher they have held weekly meetings.

In the fall of 1879, their attention was called to an interview between O. J. Hollister, a United States official, and President John Taylor.

They then wrote to the county clerk of Salt Lake County for information, who kindly forwarded a "Voice of Warning," and a list of Church works, by which they sent for a full list of Church works, Deseret News and MILLENNIAL STAR.

They wrote a letter of enquiry to President Morgan, who forwarded the same to me, which was promptly answered, and in reply to which James H. Scott and S. Reed came to Cane Creek, Lewis County, a distance of fifty miles, and after hearing our views of the Gospel, which coincided with the teaching of Mr. Edge, they were baptized and confirmed by Brother Hyrum Belnap and myself, and returned home rejoicing that they had thus far followed the promptings of the Spirit of the Lord.

Since Brother Argyle left me in charge of this Mission, Dec. 17th, 1879, eleven members have been added to the Church. Elders Carver, Belnap and Hunsaker are active in their mission and enjoying the same.



Amy said...

No mysterious claps of thunder in this version.

The Southern Star (Vol. 1, No. 39) mentions that John Morgan had an unsigned letter which may have been written by Robert Edge. (If I'm reading the account correctly, the attribution is from Hyrum Belnap who saw Edge's handwriting in one of the Bibles belonging to a family who joined the church and a couple of letters written to the members in Tennessee.)

I would be curious to know if the letter still exists in the University of Utah collection or in other papers held by Morgan descendants. I haven't seen either collection.

There's nothing in the John Morgan biography (Richardson) about Edge. But most of what is in the bio about the missionary work in the mission and specific converts is about the Heywood Valley Branch, since John Morgan was particularly close to the Saints of Heywood Valley.

I've also wondered if the story that is told about John Morgan preaching and baptizing in Heywood Valley, Georgia, a place he was led by a dream he had before he joined the church, has not been accidentally merged with this story about Robert Edge in Tennessee. Heber J. Grant's is the earliest version I've seen of the story as currently told, and the Bryant Hinckley and Richardson versions probably trace back to Grant's version.

Or was Robert Edge in Heywood Valley as well? Or could there have been a second preacher? Belnap mentions that Edge worked with another preacher named "Cob."

Oh my. That was a long comment! Can you tell I'm enjoying your posts on The Mysterious Preacher? :)

BruceCrow said...

I agree you are reading the Southern Star account correctly. Hyrum Belnap claimed to have compared the handwriting and found it to be the same.

I don't see anything that obviously appears to be the letter in question from the index of his papers at U of U, but it could be misidentified. If it does still exist, it is likely in someone's personal collection, like you said.

Is the story told by Heber J Grant to which you refer posted at your website? I'd love to read it.

Ardis said...

I still don't know what to think of your mysterious preacher. It seems clear to me that whether they state it clearly or not, those reporting on his missions believe that he is one of the three Nephites or else John, and I think that may color how they report him. There always seems to be a little bit of eerie green light glowing from the printed accounts, doesn't there?

BruceCrow said...

There is! But I'm sure no one is expecting the reports written by LDS missionaries to be unbiased. But why can't I find an account written by a non LDS source?

Amy said...

I wrote about the letter in a post:


(look who commented!) but didn't include it on the blog. I'll send you a copy separately.

BruceCrow said...

I thought I read about it at you site, but when I went back to look for it, I couldn't find it. You have so many posts about John Morgan. :)

Anonymous said...

Robert Edge did indeed exist. He established Haileys Creek Church which stood until 1916. After the Scotts & other families returned to Tennessee from Colorado they aligned themselves with the RLDS Church instead of the LDS. None from Henderson County accepted the plural marriage issue and their Temple was in Independence Mo.. After Haileys Creek came Liberty Hill RLDS, where my own Scott, Thomas, Bailey & Beecham grandparents were baptized. Liberty Hill was blown away in a tornado in late 1930's so the Church scattered to several meeting places around the County including brush arbors & under a big oak tree in the Stegall community, then to my Gr-Grandpa's worker house near Jacks Creek. Then a permanent building was built in the 1940's on hwy 100 near the Henderson/Chester County line. In 1973 my gr Aunt Minnie Bailey Beecham donated land for construction of a new building and the church moved to its present location near Jacks Creek. The cemetery there had already been established in 1958 wwhen Nancy Mae Scott Bailey was buried there. It was she & husband Albert Milton & extended family who established the Jacks Creek Branch. Since then Bailey Cemetery has became a large cemetery and in the late 1980's the Church became part of the "Community In Christ" congregation dropping the RLDS name entirely. At that point Winnie Bailey Pollock, another Daughter of Nancy Mae Scott Bailey donated land for a new RLDS Church in Henderson County. This newest Church is located on hwy 22A just South of Lexington. RLDS now stands for "Restored" where before it stood for "Reorganized". Thanks to the Nephite Robert Edge a Latter Day Saint Church has stood in Henderson or Chester Counties since he was here. My family are those he converted. Even today they are DEVOUT whether it be RLDS or Community of Christ, the Prophet Joseph Smiths picture is displayed at both along with the BOOK OF MORMON. I am a MORMON I attend a local LDS Church in the Franklin Tn Stake but I know the history of my families Church near Lexington and occasionally visit both Churches. For you doubters, some went into the Court House & swore out affidavids that they witnessed miracles the Nephite Robert Edge performed in the name of Christ. The Nephite delighted in performing sermons on the court house steps so men of all classes would hear him and many saw his healings.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks for commenting. You have shared some great stuff and some useful pieces of history to be sure. Do you know if anyone has ever written up a history of this?

While I have no doubt Robert Edge was real, sorting out which stories about him were real and which were embellished after the fact is key. Do you know where some of those affidavits might be?