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William E. M'Lellin: Wikis


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William E. M'Lellin
Full name William Earl M'Lellin
Born January 18, 1806(1806-01-18)
Place of birth Smith County, Tennessee
Died April 24, 1883 (aged 71)
Place of death Independence, Missouri
LDS Church Apostle
Called by Three Witnesses
Ordained February 15, 1835 (aged 29)
Ordination reason Initial organization of Quorum of the Twelve
End of term May 11, 1838 (aged 32)
End reason Excommunicated for apostasy
Reorganization at end of term No apostles immediately ordained[1]
LDS Church General Authority
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Called by Three Witnesses
Start of term February 15, 1835 (aged 29)
End of term May 11, 1838 (aged 32)
End reason Excommunicated for apostasy

William Earl M'Lellin (January 18, 1806 – April 24, 1883) (often modernized to McLellin) was an early leader in the Latter Day Saint movement. One of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, M'Lellin later broke with church founder, Joseph Smith, Jr.



M'Lellin was born in Smith County, Tennessee, a son of Charles M'Lellin. He married for the first time on July 30, 1829, but his wife, Cynthia Ann M'Lellin, died young and he was a widower by 1832. He married second Emeline Miller on Aprl 26, 1832 in Hiram, Portage Co, OH. Emeline was born on Sept 4, 1809 in Pomfret, Windsor Co, VT to Martin Miller and Rebecca Jacobs. Emeline died Nov 1, 1907 in Grayson Co, Texas. William and Emeline were the parents of 4 sons and 2 daughters: Charles William, Sarah E., James Martin, Helen Rebecca, Albert Eugene, and Marcus Nelson.


Church service

M'Lellin first had contact with the missionaries of the Latter Day Saint Church of Christ in Paris, Tennessee during 1831. He traveled to Missouri to further investigate the Church, and was baptized and ordained an elder in 1831. During 1831, he also traveled with Hyrum Smith, and preached in Tennessee. He then relocated to Kirtland, Ohio.

In 1832 and 1833, M'Lellin served a mission for the church, traveling with Parley P. Pratt. However, in a revelation to Joseph Smith, Jr. on March 8, 1833, it was said that the Lord was "not pleased with my servant William E. M'Lellin" (Doctrine and Covenants 90:35).

An experienced schoolteacher, and self-proclaimed physician, M'Lellin taught penmanship in the Kirtland School for Temporal Education in 1834. He served as a member of the Church's high council in Clay County, Missouri, also in 1834, and was chosen and ordained to be one of the church's original twelve apostles on February 15, 1835, at age 29.

When the Book of Commandments was about to be published, some Latter Day Saints criticized the wording of some of the revelations. According to Joseph Smith, the Lord issued a challenge to see if the wisest member of the church could write a revelation comparable to the least of Smith's revelations. If they could, then the members of the church would be justified in claiming that the revelations did not come from God.[2] M'Lellin, who was trained as a schoolteacher, was selected by the critics for the challenge. According to Smith's history, M'Lellin failed to produce a credible "revelation", and the controversy died away.[3]

Disassociation with the church

M'Lellin's association with the Latter Day Saint church came to an abrupt halt in 1838, when he declared that he had no confidence in the presidency of the church. This may have been due to the mismanagement of Kirtland's financial institution, the Kirtland Safety Society in 1837. M'Lellin was excommunicated on May 11, 1838 and subsequently actively worked against the Latter Day Saints. According to members of the church, M'Lellin ransacked and robbed Joseph Smith's home and stable while Smith was being held in jail, pending charges on the Safety Society's financial problems. No charges were ever filed against Smith or against M'Lellin.

A contemporary account revealed the following incident:

"While Joseph was in prison at Richmond, Mo., Mr. McLellin, who was a large and active man, went to the sheriff and asked for the privilege of flogging the Prophet; permission was granted, on condition that Joseph would fight. The sheriff made McLellin's earnest request known to Joseph, who consented to fight, if his irons were taken off. McLellin then refused to fight, unless he could have a club, to which Joseph was perfectly willing; but the sheriff would not allow them to fight on such unequal terms."(Jenson, Vol.1:83)

After Smith's assassination in 1844, M'Lellin first accepted the succession claims of Sidney Rigdon and was appointed one of the Twelve Apostles in Rigdon's organization on April 8, 1845. In 1847, at Kirtland, Ohio, he joined with several others to create a reorganization of the church, designated the "The Church of Christ." M'Lellin called on David Whitmer to assume the presidency, claiming that Whitmer had been ordained by Joseph Smith as his successor on July 8, 1834. This organization was short lived. M'Lellin was also briefly associated with the movement led by James J. Strang. He died on April 24, 1883, at Independence Jackson County, Missouri.

Personal writings

M'Lellin kept journals and notebooks during and after his time in the Latter Day Saint church. Because he was such a prominent insider in the early church, these were of great interest to Latter Day Saint historians. In the early 1980s, collector Mark Hofmann claimed to have obtained the M'Lellin collection, which he described as embarrassing to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). This generated interest that allowed Hofmann to sell it to two simultaneous buyers before being exposed as a counterfeiter when he killed two people to cover his crimes.[4]

In the aftermath of these crimes, the LDS Church discovered M'Lellin's writings were already in the church's possession, having been acquired and forgotten in 1908. These were later published in two works, The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836, edited by Jan Shipps and John W. Welch in 1994, and The William E. McLellin Papers, 1854-1880, edited by Stan Larson and Samuel J. Passey in 2007. However, these collections did not contain a certain notebook, which was known from photographs in a 1920s newspaper published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In January 2009, this notebook was located and acquired by Brent Ashworth, one of the original collectors interested in Hofmann's M'Lellin collection.[4]


  1. ^ The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles did not have twelve apostles again until 1841-04-08, when Lyman Wight was ordained. Between M'Lellin's excommunication and then, John E. Page, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and Willard Richards had been ordained and added to the Quorum to replace apostles who had been excommunicated or killed.
  2. ^ D&C 67:6–7.
  3. ^ History of the Church, 1:226.
  4. ^ a b De Groote, Michael (January 22, 2009). "Lost Mormon apostle's notebook found". Mormon Times (Salt Lake City: Deseret News). Retrieved 2009-02-11.  


External links

Religious titles
Preceded by
Orson Hyde
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
February 15, 1835–May 11, 1838
Succeeded by
Parley P. Pratt


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