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What's new: Lost manuscript of apostle turned apostate, William E. McLellin

By Kurt Manwaring

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, March 21 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

"William E. McLellin's Lost Manuscript"

Provided by the publisher

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"WILLIAM E. MCLELLIN's LOST MANUSCRIPT," edited by Mitchell K. Schaefer, Eborn Books, $59.95, 304 pages (nf)

William Earl McLellin was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints soon after the publication of the Book of Mormon. He quickly gained a testimony and went on to associate closely with Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and other figures associated with the origins of the restored gospel.

Over time, this ever-evolving figure from Mormon history was excommunicated, accepted back into fellowship, ordained an apostle, and apparently excommunicated for good in 1838. He lived out the remainder of his life as a “professional apostate,” drifting from one offshoot of Mormonism to the next.

McLellin “conscientiously kept detailed diaries of his early days as a Mormon and then wrote and rewrote his understanding of Mormonism as the decades came and went.” The discoveries and publications of his writings comprise a history of their own, not the least of which are their connection with the plots of murderer and forger Mark Hoffmann.

“William E. McLellin’s Lost Manuscript” represents more than 260 pages of writings by McLellin that were once thought to no longer exist.

In this volume of writings rediscovered by Brent Ashworth and edited by Mitchell K. Schaefer, readers will find McLellin’s often-changing views of his experiences with the Mormon faith carefully crafted into various treatises. McLellin covers topics ranging from baptism and the Book of Mormon to the Second Coming and the establishment of Zion. “Many of McLellin’s ideas are distinctly Mormon,” writes Steven C. Harper, author of the volume’s introduction, “though with his unique interpretations.”

There seems to have raged within McLellin a constant battle between who he thought others wanted him to be, who he thought he should be and who he actually was. Harper continues, “McLellin’s life was highlighted by alternating episodes of self-discovery and confusion; he struggled to align the roles assigned him by his culture, society, and faith with what he actually was, and also with his ideal for himself.”

Kurt Manwaring is pursuing a graduate degree in public administration at the University of Utah. He is a consultant with Manwaring Consulting, LLC and maintains a personal blog at www.kurtsperspective.blogspot.com.

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