Urim, Joseph Smith, Book of Abraham, King Follett, part 4.

Howard Coray’s letter to his daughter is in part one of consolation, trying, as fathers do, to help her come to grips with the trials of her faith. Coray rehearses some of his own faith pillars, including the healing of his mother of deafness upon joining Mormonism. He mentions in passing an experience he discusses in his autobiography regarding Joseph Smith and another church clerk, Robert Thompson. Smith wanted Thompson to copy something from the JST, but the passage could not be located. Joseph simply said that Thompson should just write as he dictated. Howard Coray observed:

One morning, I went as usual, into the Office to go to work. I found Joseph sitting on one side of a table and Robert B. Thompson on the opposite side, and the understanding I got was that they were examining or hunting in the manuscript of the new translation of the Bible for something on Priesthood, which Joseph wished to present, or have read to the people the next Conference. Well, they could not find what they wanted and Joseph said to Thompson, “put the manuscript one side and take some paper and I will tell you what to write.” Bro. Thompson took some foolscap paper that was at his elbow and made himself ready for the business. I was seated probably 6 or 8 feet on Joseph’s left side, so that I could look almost squarely into Joseph’s left eye — I mean the side of his eye. Well, the Spirit of God descended upon him, and a measure of it upon me, insomuch that I could fully realize that God, or the Holy Ghost, was talking through him. I never, neither before or since, have felt as I did on that occasion. I felt so small and humble I could have freely kissed his feet.[1]

In the letter Coray also gives his impressions of Joseph Smith’s sermons:

I sat and listened to his preaching at the stand in Nauvoo a great many times when I have been completely carried away with his indescribable eloquence,—power of expression– speaking as I have never heard any other man speak–

Coray was a relatively well-educated man for the times, and had listened to such men as Henry Beecher. He bases his adherence to the current Mormon leadership (Wilford Woodruff, et al.) in large part on his experiences with Joseph Smith, public and private. In a number of ways, Coray is a kind of average Mormon, but he is more. Indeed, he was a “living” King Follett. Follett, another average Mormon, loyal to Smith and sharing a faith that was able to bend/expand with the ups and downs of fortune died in Nauvoo but became a symbol of “everyman” in Mormonism because of Joseph’s theological wedging of the door of eternity in Follett’s funeral address. That address, and others, found expression in Howard Coray’s life. He believed in Joseph Smith’s prophetic status and the consequence of that belief is illustrated by his reconciliation to current policy and practice:

this work and the workings of it, have been made manifest to me by the good spirit, Now, with these and more evidences of the truth of this work would it be wise for me to query in my mind as to the propriety of some of the transactions of those who are legally placed at the head to steady the Ark, as it were? I am satisfied that it would not be best for me.

[1] Coray’s experience would have taken place some time prior to October 5, 1840, when Thompson read the dictated material at the conference meeting that day.

4 Responses to Urim, Joseph Smith, Book of Abraham, King Follett, part 4.

  1. todrobbins says:

    Brilliant. I have never before read his account of the JST process. Very instructive for me.

  2. ricke says:

    Thank you. Howard Coray sounds like a man I would like to know better.

  3. J. Stapley says:

    I think this really highlights Joseph Smith’s approach to revealed text and is quite an important perspective.

  4. W. V. Smith says:

    Agreed, all. I think Coray provides a number of interesting insights.

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