Skip to comments.From LDS apostle to spiritualist — the strange journey of Amasa Mason Lyman
Posted on 04/25/2011 1:20:10 PM PDT by Colofornian
To see Cal Grondahls cartoon that goes with this post, click here In the spring 1983 edition of Dialogue, author Loretta L. Hefner recounts a sermon Mormon prophet Brigham Young delivered in 1867. Young said that doctrinal deviancy was not limited to the church rank and file. In fact, Young continued, among the present 12 apostles, one did not believe in the existence of a personage called God, another believes that infants have the spirits of some who have formerly lived on earth, and the third has been preaching on the sly that the Savior was nothing more than a good man, and that his death had nothing to with your salvation or mine.
Young was a sometimes caustic, even sarcastic LDS president, who once said that he kept the apostles in his pocket to take out when needed. He was not shy of public denunciations. The first two apostles mentioned by Young were Orson Pratt and Orson Hyde. Although Young used his influence late in his life to make sure both would not be in a position to lead the LDS Church, Pratt and Hyde remained apostles. The third apostle Young mentioned, Amasa Mason Lyman, would not survive his heresy. Lyman, baptized by Orson Pratt at age 18, served 16 missions, spent months in a filthy Missouri jail cell with Mormon founder Joseph Smith, and attained the rank of apostle, only to lose it all in the final decade of his life.
As Hefner relates in the Dialogue article, From Apostle to Apostate: The Personal Struggle of Amasa Mason Lyman, the LDS apostle Lyman proved his commitment to Mormonism countless times, but never seemed to shake an eccentric interest in spiritualism. In the 1850s, while establishing the LDS church in San Bernadino, Calif., Lyman participated in seances.
The apostles interest in spiritualism might have remained a tolerated hobby and of no danger to his church standing had he not embraced what later historians have termed the golden age of liberal theology, writes Hefner. During this time, Lyman seems to have embraced universalism, or a belief that man, being derived from God, was inherently good and did not need Christs sacrifice to attain salvation. In separate speeches in 1862 in Dundee, Scotland, and 1863, in Beaver, Utah, Lyman preached that Christ was only a moral reformer, and that man could redeem himself by correcting his errors. In short, Lyman denied the need for a savior.
If this happened today in the LDS Church, the news would get out in minutes. Its doubtful an LDS general authority would survive past the 6 p.m. Utah news. But 159 years ago, information trickled back to President Brigham Young disguised more as rumor than evidence. Later, preaching in Parowan, Utah, Young turned to Lyman and before the audience, asked him if he had ever preached that Christ was not our Savior or that the atonement was unnecessary.
Lyman looked the prophet in the eye, and told him no. Relieved by the news, Young continued his discourse.
Unfortunately for Lyman, his heretical positions had captured the attention of the 19th century media. The American Phrenological Journal, a liberal highbrow magazine of the time, praised Lyman and the Mormon Church for tolerating the apostles universalist, liberal views on God, Jesus, man and salvation. In fact, Lyman was called the Mormon Theodore Parker, after a noted liberal of that era.
At about the same time, Young got his hands on a copy of Lymans Dundee, Scotland, speech and learned that indeed his apostle had denied Christs divinity and the need for atonement. That news, coupled with the magazine article, sparked Lymans downfall as an apostle. Young chastised Lyman, assuring him that Joseph Smith would have cast him out. He warned Lyman he was heading to Perdition, the Mormon hell. Chastised for a while, in 1867 Lyman wrote a groveling apology that was published in the Deseret News.
However, within a few weeks, Lyman repudiated his confession and preached sermons on the irrelevance of Christs atonement. By early May, 1867, Lyman was cut off from the Quorum, deprived of his priesthood, and disfellowshipped. That he was not excommunicated underscores the patience Young and church leaders had with the former apostle, who had lied to them and repeatedly preached what the church regarded as false doctrine. His courageous past as an early LDS convert probably was the reason for the patience.
For almost two years, Lyman lived a quiet life with his several wives, working at his orchards and sawmill, repairing his homes and spending most of his time in Fillmore, Utah. He made an effort to return to church activity and seemed on his way to priesthood restoration. Young and the apostles encouraged him, and he even spoke in an LDS sacrament service.
However, in the summer of 1869, Lyman renewed his relationship with an old friend, William Godbe. Godbe, an LDS convert from Great Britain, was a wealthy Salt Lake City businessman. By the mid-1860s, Godbe and allies were slowly apostasizing from the Mormon Church and leading a dissident faction. Godbe and others would eventually emerge as leading Mormon opponents in Utah over the next generation.
The Godbeites, as they were called, also supported spiritualism, and that appealed to Lyman. Within weeks, Lyman had abandoned his quiet life in Fillmore and become an enthusiastic missionary of spiritualism. Lyman became a missionary of the New Movement theological fad, which included atonement without salvation and participated regularly in seances.
The inevitable occurred on May 12, 1870 Amasa Mason Lyman was excommunicated from the Mormon Church.
Although Lymans hope of a nationwide spiritualism New Movement fizzled out by 1873, by all accounts he was a happy peaceful apostate. He died of natural causes in 1877 at age 63. His actions caused tremendous strife within his family, however. Only one of his wives stayed loyal to his choices, and several left him. The apostasy split his children; a handful supported him, and at least one marriage dissolved over his apostasy. Three of his children asked to have their records removed from the church.
Lymans oldest son, Francis Marion, who became an apostle, suffered torment worrying about his fathers salvation. Apostle Abraham Cannon, in his journal entry of April 18, 1890, recounts Francis telling the other apostles of his efforts to bring the apostates from his family back to the gospel and his anguish over his fathers death and subsequent eternal judgment. The apostles, Cannon recounts, consoled Francis, saying that after paying a penalty, Amasa would be restored and rewarded for his good deeds.
Indeed, those good deeds eventually earned at least LDS salvation for Amasa Mason Lyman. In 1909, when Joseph F. Smith was prophet and church leader, Amasa was vicariously reinstated to the priesthood and church membership. In the decades following his ouster from the church, a persistent beliefs that Lymans forays into universalism and spiritualism were caused by mental illness had become generally accepted. There is no record as to whether Lyman objected to the churchs forgiveness in a seance. Perhaps he was grateful; perhaps he was merely amused. Time will tell for all of us.
Those interested in reading more about Amasa Mason Lyman are advised to read Amasa Mason Lyman, Mormon Apostle and Apostate: A Study in Dedication, authored by Edward Leo Lyman, Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press, 2008.
(And here we thought the Mormons' "living prophet" would have discernment enough to know if an "apostle" of his was lying to his face...no...I guess he had to read about it in the newspaper...hence...why today's Lds general authorities need newspaper columns like this one -- and forums like FR -- so, they, too can become enlightened).
From the column: ...Lyman had abandoned his quiet life in Fillmore and become an enthusiastic missionary of spiritualism. Lyman became a missionary of the New Movement theological fad, which included atonement without salvation and participated regularly in seances. The inevitable occurred on May 12, 1870 Amasa Mason Lyman was excommunicated from the Mormon Church. Although Lymans hope of a nationwide spiritualism New Movement fizzled out by 1873, by all accounts he was a happy peaceful apostate.
That's where you'd think Lyman's spiritual life ended..dying four years later. But, no. One of his sons became a Mormon apostle...and given, Mormon authorities' notorious abilities to claim post-death spiritual shenanigans, they manipulated post-death this apostate from that status to a "faithful apostle":
From the column: Lymans oldest son, Francis Marion, who became an apostle, suffered torment worrying about his fathers salvation. Apostle Abraham Cannon, in his journal entry of April 18, 1890, recounts Francis telling the other apostles of his efforts to bring the apostates from his family back to the gospel and his anguish over his fathers death and subsequent eternal judgment. The apostles, Cannon recounts, consoled Francis, saying that after paying a penalty, Amasa would be restored and rewarded for his good deeds. Indeed, those good deeds eventually earned at least LDS salvation for Amasa Mason Lyman. In 1909, when Joseph F. Smith was prophet and church leader, Amasa was vicariously reinstated to the priesthood and church membership.
Ah. The Mormon false gospel. That after-death destinations are primarily focused on a man's "good deeds" vs. mere trust in the grace of Christ's substitutionary atonement. (And, that all of this can be "awarded" post-humously by a man pretending to be a "prophet" on earth).
The columnist, a Mormon, Doug Gibson, had a curious end to the column: There is no record as to whether Lyman objected to the churchs forgiveness in a seance.
Say what? Is Gibson saying the Mormon church held an early 20th-century seance to communicated with the dead?
Is Gibson saying the Mormon church held an early 20th-century seance to communicated with the dead?
No, he's saying there is no record that they did. And being a bit snarky about it.
The link page of the cartoon is not found. Got a backup link handy?
I was researching a relative who lived with and were friends with some Mormons. My gr gr uncle, I never knew what happened to him. I was doing a search and found a collection of letters in a library of Indiana written by the Mormon to the folks back home from CA where they had gone together in the 1849 gold rush.
The library would only let me have half, but I found in one of the Mormon's letters that he had heard of the death of my gr gr uncle, so I had a date within months but could never find where he died or had been buried.
Anyway, the Mormon it seems was a member of a breakaway sect called the Brewsterites. He describes having a visit from Lyman where they talked things over. So I looked up Lyman and saw that he was high in the Mormon SLC church and is credited with being one of or the founder of Santa Barbara, CA IIRC.
The visit took place in San Jose in about 1850.
Oh yeah, Lyman earned his salvation.
Yep IE after all we can do.
I am grateful for the Grace of the Biblical Jesus who is sufficient to Save. I am saddened that the lds jesus is not sufficient, I can not fathom never living in assurance of Salvation.
I love history!
Especially the little known facets of it!!!
Let’s go RIDING at Amasa Back!
Amasa got it in the Back!
This Grondahl stuff is good to keep in your gee whiz file.
You know, sometimes things don't change with Mormon apostles...here's an Lds "apostle" giving an address at BYU just over a century after this ex-communicated "apostle" died.
Lds "apostle" Jeffrey Holland, 1982: Pray earnestly and fast with purpose and devotion. Some difficulties, like devils, come not out save by fasting and by prayer. (See Matt. 17:21). Serve others. The heavenly paradox is that only in serving others can you SAVE YOURSELF.
Source: Lds publication Liahona Magazine, Jan. 1982 For times of trouble
More works-righteousness for Mormons. Mormons preaching you can save yourselves.
BTW, the apostle Paul told the churches:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11)
Contrast that to what Lds "apostle" Holland says:
If you labor with faith in God and in yourself and in your future, you will have built upon a rock...
What? Holland says..."If you labor with faith...in yourself..." -- THAT is a "rock"????? Blasphemy! More Mormon idolatry!!!!
What a resource, indeed!
OMG! I knew this but the picture is really interesting.