Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Joseph owned 144 acres in Kirtland

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Joseph owned 144 acres in Kirtland

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims

One Nation under Gods, page 135 (hardback and paperback)

Joseph is said to have owned "one hundred and forty acres of land adjoining the temple besides his four acres of business property."

Author's Sources

Endnote 46-48, page 533 (hardback); page 531 (paperback)

  • Robert Kent Fielding, "The Growth of the Mormon Church in Kirtland, Ohio," Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1957, typed copy, 202-204. 206-208, 211-212. Quoted in Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Mormon Kingdom, vol. 1, 9.
  • Unfortunately, the primary sources used by Fielding and Tanner are not provided.

Question: Did Joseph own 144 acres of land in Kirtland?

Nineteenth-century practice frowned upon churches owning large amounts of wealth, so Joseph held title as an agent for the Church

As the Saints began to gather to Ohio, the amount of property owned and managed by Church leaders in Kirtland significantly increased. In April 1832, Frederick G. Williams purchased 144 acres for $2,000. On May 3, 1834, this property was conveyed without monetary remuneration to Joseph Smith, as agent for the Church. (emphasis added)[1]

Joseph united with others in the United Order, and they managed their own and church properties together

In compliance with a revelation Joseph Smith had received in Missouri during his second trip to that state, a central council, referred to as the order, the United Order, and the United Firm, was created to manage the temporal affairs of the Church. This included the general supervision of the poor, a responsibility that was continued on a local level by the bishops.... In the spring of 1832...[in Kirtland, four leaders were to] direct the activities of the United Firm....(Joseph Smith, Newel K. Whitney, Sidney Rigdon, and Jesse Gause). After one of the leaders, Jesse Gause, apostatized, Frederick G. Williams became a member of the firm, as did John Johnson. After Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris returned to Ohio, they united with the other leaders in Kirtland in directing the economic affairs of the Church in that part of the country. These men functioned as a controlling body (like a board of directors that manages a corporation) and used the financial means at their disposal to finance various Church programs. While sharing the responsibilities of holding properties in trust, directors of the United Firm cared for the poor, supervised the bishop's storehouses, purchased land for those who gathered in Kirtland and Missouri, and assisted in the construction of the Kirtland Temple.[2]

Joseph did not hold this land for his own benefit—rather, he was acting as Church agent, and the use of the land was directed by a board of Church leaders. Poor members would settle on the Church lands:

Until 1832, most of the Saints gathering to Kirtland settled on the Isaac Morley farm. Later they settled on the Frederick G. Williams farm [i.e., the land deeded to Joseph as Church agent] and other land purchased by the Church.[3]

Backman explains:

A high percentage of the Saints were not asked to consecrate their property, and many converts who gathered in Kirtland did not purchase land....Instead of owning their own farms, they lived on Church property near the temple, where they built small frame homes and for several years devoted most of their energies and economic resources to the building of the [Kirtland] temple.[4]


  1. Keith W. Perkins, "Land Ownership in Kirtland," in Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, edited by Donald Q. Cannon, Richard O. Cowan, Arnold K. Garr (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1994).
  2. Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 71. ISBN 0877479739 GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  3. Karl Ricks Anderson, "Joseph Smith's Kirtland: Eyewitness Accounts," (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1989), 14.
  4. Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 77, 79. ISBN 0877479739 GospeLink (requires subscrip.)