John Corrill (1794 – 1842)

John Corrill was born in Worcester County, Massachusetts, September 17, 1794. He encountered Oliver Cowdery in Ohio in the fall of 1830 and was baptized into the Church the following January. On June 3, 1831, he was ordained an assistant to Bishop Edward Partridge, a position he held until November 7, 1837. In 1838 he was elected to the Missouri state legislature from Caldwell County. That fall Corrill began to distance himself from the Church leaders, and in November he testified for the state at Joseph Smith’s trial before Austin A. King. The following March he was excommunicated. He died in Quincy, Illinois, September 6, 1843. Yet his book A brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (Commonly Called Mormons) Including an Account of Their Doctrine and Discipline; with the Reasons of the Author for Leaving the Church (St. Louis, 1839) was inoffensive enough for The Prophet to advertise it for much of its run.(Excerpted and edited from Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, vol. 1, 1830-1847, BYU, Religious Studies Center, 1997, no. 10, pp. 42-43.)

  • Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints 1839

The first claimed history of the church was written by John Corrill. He had been a counselor to the first Bishop of the Church, Edward Partridge…Like other early converts, who returned to their homes to avoid the severe persecutions and sufferings of the Saints in Missouri and Illinois, he did not deny the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, concerning which he had made careful investigation. After the death of the Prophet, several groups refused to accept the leadership of Brigham Young, but not one denied the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. (Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America, Attempts to Prove the Book of Mormon Man-Made, Independence, MO: Press of Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1951, Vol. 2, p. 330)

In the course of two or three days, the book of Mormon, (the Golden Bible, as the people then termed it, on account of its having been translated from the Golden plates,) was presented to me for perusal. I looked at it, examined the testimony of the witnesses at the last end of it, read promiscuously a few pages, and made up my mind that it was published for speculation. In my feelings and remarks I branded the “messengers” with the title of impostors, and thought I would not trouble myself any more about them. (Corrill, p. 4. Page numbering follows that of Google books:

The next day, I started home with my heart full of serious reflections. I thought of Solomon’s words, —“that he is a fool who judges a matter before he hears it;” that perhaps it might be well enough to investigate the matter; investigation could certainly do me no harm. The ancients rejected the prophets and apostles through a hasty spirit, and the people of Borea were said to be more noble than the people of Thesalonica, because they “searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed.” — Acts, xvii. Now, it is not impossible, thought I, but that ere I am aware of it, I may be found fighting against God; perhaps I had better stop and reflect on the subject a little; weigh the matter more closely, and compare this new doctrine with the Scriptures; and if it does not agree with the Scriptures, I shall certainly know that it is not of God.Two or three weeks were spent in reading the Book of Mormon, comparing it with the scriptures, and in reflecting and conversing with others upon the subject. Scarcely a day passed but I heard of some evil report against the new sect. These reports I need not relate. Suffice it to say, that every thing bad was reported against them, as I thought, that could be invented by man. I was always careful, however, to inquire after the author, and the truth or ground-work of his statement, and always found these reports to be without foundation. (p. 5)

The Book of Mormon and its origin.

This was the first production of Smith after his call to the prophetic office. As to the origin of the book, I made very diligent inquiry, and from all I could learn, I became satisfied that Smith was the author, and I never have been able to trace it to any other source. As to its being a revelation from God, eleven persons besides Smith bore positive testimony of its truth. After getting acquainted with them, I was unable to impeach their testimony, and consequently thought that it was as consistent to give credit to them as to credit the writings of the New Testament, when I had never seen the authors nor the original copy. As the Bible, (although we see it bound in one volume) was made up of many detached parts of revelation given from time to time, as God saw proper, through the space of four thousand years, for the special benefit of those to whom it was given, I thought it was no more than reasonable that we should also receive additional revelation for our special benefit; for this was according to his promise, to give line upon line, precept upon precept here a little and there a little. — (Isa. xxviii. 9, 10.) (pp. 7-8)

I found that the Book of Mormon taught all the morality, piety, virtue, honesty, righteousness and Godliness that the Bible did, and even condemned the whoredoms of David, Solomon and others, and strictly enjoined family and secret prayer, and too, in great faith, that our prayers may be answered; and, in order to be admitted into the Church a person must manifest faith in Christ, and a hearty repentance of their sins. Baptism, by immersion, they believed was for the remission of sins; and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, they think will be attended with signs following, just in proportion to the faith and righteousness of the believer. (p. 12)

They, therefore, entered into a covenant (Danites), that the word of the Presidency should be obeyed, and none should be suffered to raise his hand or voice against it; for, as they stood at the head of the Church, it was considered no more than reasonable that they knew more of the will of God than any others did; consequently, all things must be in submission to them, and moreover, all tattling, lying, and backbiting must be put down, and he that would not submit willingly should be forced to it, or leave the county. Now this secret combination was directly opposed to the former revelation, and especially the Book of Mormon, which declared that God worketh not in secret, and all such as did should be destroyed. Many were opposed to this society, but such was their determination and also their threatenings against them, that those opposed dare not speak their minds on the subject. (p. 27)

I have left you, not because I disbelieve the Bible, for I believe in God, the Saviour, and religion the same as ever; but when I retrace our track, and view the doings of the Church for six years past, I can see nothing that convinces me that God has been our leader; calculation after calculation has failed, and plan after plan has been overthrown, and our Prophet seemed not to know the event till too late. If he said go up and prosper, still we did not prosper; but have labored and toiled, and waded through trials, difficulties, and temptations, of various kinds, in hope of deliverance. But no deliverance came. The promises failed, and time after time we have been disappointed; and still were commanded, in the most rigid manner, to follow him, which the Church did, until many were led into the commission of crime; have been apprehended and broken down by their opponents, and many have been obliged to abandon their country, their families, and all they possessed, and great affliction has been brought upon the whole Church. What shall we say to these things? Did not your prophet proclaim in your ears that the day was your own, and you should overcome; when in less than a week you were all made prisoners of war, and you would have been exterminated, had it not been for the exertions and influence of a few dissenters, and the humane and manly spirit of a certain officer?

But where now may you look for deliverance? You may say, in God; but I say, in the exercise of common sense and that sound reason with which God has endowed you; and my advice is to follow that, in preference to those pretended visions and revelations which have served no better purpose than to increase your trouble, and which would bind you, soul and body, under the most intolerable yoke. (p. 44)