A brief look at the history of the Mormon church in Kirtland, Ohio.
The Kirtland Bank Failure
The United Order of Enoch
In 1830, Mormon missionaries visited Kirtland Ohio, the home of Sidney Rigdon and his congregation, most of whom subsequently converted to Mormonism, a huge leap forward for the fledgling church. A few months later, Joseph Smith received a revelation that the Church of Christ, as Mormonism was then called, should move to Kirtland.
Rigdon became very influential in shaping Mormonism during this period. Some of his congregation practiced a form of communal living, which was translated into the LDS community under the name the United Order of Enoch. The United Order taught that every member’s land and money belonged to the church, and would be redistributed to families according based on need, or used for church projects.
But although Smith had a revelation stating that it would be an everlasting order, it only lasted a few years, after which the remaining properties were divvied up between church leaders. What took its place was land speculation, buying up cheap land, and selling it at inflated prices to the Mormons just arriving, which even Smith participated in.
Then in 1837, Smith received an audible revelation from God concerning another idea to help alleviate the church’s financial struggles, they would start a bank. And although they could not obtain a legal charter for a bank, they set one up anyway and started printing money as the Kirtland Safety Society Anti Banking Company, with Sidney Rigdon as president and Smith as cashier.
The Mormon people were compelled to use the Kirtland currency, but within only a couple of weeks, there was no longer sufficient capital to back it up. Word quickly spread that the money was just about valueless, and a few months later, the bank failed with $100,000 in debt.
Joseph Smith was sued several times for tens of thousands of dollars and was found guilty of illegal banking. His poverty stricken followers raised $38,000 to pay his bail, then he and Rigdon fled the state to avoid even more charges and physical threats.
The aftermath and loss of money among the Latter Day Saints was catastrophic. Six of the twelve apostles left the church along with many other high and low ranking members. Mormon Apostle Heber C Kimball stated that “there were not twenty persons on earth that would declare that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.”
Soon enough, Smith received another revelation proclaiming him innocent, telling him to quickly move west, and that all those who had deserted him would be damned. Most of his, however, followers stayed faithful and followed Smith to Missouri, where many groups of Mormons had been emigrating throughout the duration of the Kirtland years.
But wherever Smith went, peace did not last long. Not only did his dissenters follow him, but his own community building policies and projects continued to make him very unpopular with the locals. There’s more info on the Kirtland era at www.ldsvideo.org