James Colin Brewster Faction

(RLDS History of the Church 3:62–73)

James Colin Brewster was born about the year 1827, and hence was but about seventeen years old at the death of President Joseph Smith. He claimed that at some time (date we have not learned) Joseph Smith and others ordained him and pronounced upon him the blessing of being a prophet, seer, revelator, and translator. Mr. Brewster’s account of this, as quoted by Elder Hazen Aldrich, in Olive Branch, volume 1, page 94, is as follows:—

I and my father were requested by J. Smith, Sen., and Elder Beaman to come to the house of the Lord. We went in and the door was locked. After some conversation with Messrs. Smith, Beaman, and Holman, Elder Beaman called upon the Lord. They then proceeded to lay their hands upon my head and pronounced a blessing upon me in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and sealed it upon me by the power of the holy priesthood which they held, J. Smith then acting as First President of the Church in Kirtland. The prophetic blessing was, that I should be a prophet, a seer, a revelator, and translator, and that I should have power given me of God to discover and obtain the treasures which are hid in the earth.—Olive Branch, vol. 1, p. 94.

He claimed to have translated the writings of Esdras in which instruction was given regarding organization, gathering, and other important matters. The account of his translating these writings and the events preceding can best be related in his own words:—


SPRINGFIELD, Ill., August 30, 1848.

The question being often asked, "How are those writings of Esdras obtained," I have thought proper to write a short article on this subject.

In the Apochrypha we find the books called first and second Esdras. In the fourteenth chapter of the latter, we read that the prophet’s prayer to the Almighty was this: "But if I have found grace before thee, send the Holy Ghost into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning, which were written in thy law, that men may find thy path, and that they which will live in the latter day may live;" and according to his faith it was done, his request was granted, and he was commanded to prepare for the task he had taken upon him. It is recorded that during the next forty days, the five ready writers he was commanded to take with him, wrote from his mouth two hundred and four books, or as the marginal reading has it, nine hundred and four books. Those books, it appears, were written for the express purpose of being a guide to the people in the last days, that those who desired to live might live. But the question at once arises, Where are those books? where are those writings that in those latter times were to be a guide unto life, for those that sought it? I answer, those pamphlets that have been published at Springfield, Illinois: the first in 1842, entitled, "The Words of Righteousness to all Men;" the second in July, 1845, "A Warning to the Latter Day Saints;" and the third in March, 1848, "The Word of the Lord to his People," contain a part of those ancient Writings of Esdras, which I have written since 1838.

The manner in which I obtained them is as follows: When in Kirtland, Ohio, in the year 1837, being at that time ten years of age, I saw a vision in which I was shown a large round table and on it a vast quantity of writing, etc. I inquired what was the interpretation, and was told "The round table denotes equality, and the writings are ancient records that are to be written." The vision passed away, and I did not then know anything about the books of Esdras, and I had not the least idea what those records were.

Time passed on, and in August of the following year, (1838,) when near Dayton, Ohio, I saw in another vision a large number of books in the English language, and was told, "These are the lost books of Esdras." I read the titles of some of these volumes. One was "The Words of Righteousness to all Men." The vision then passed from my sight, and I obtained no light as to what was the value of those books, or by whom they were to be written; in fact, I was not at that time informed whether or not they were to be written.

On the last day of September, 1838, I arrived in Springfield, with my father and the rest of his family. In December following I saw a third vision, and the angel whom I had seen before then declared that, "It is the will of the Lord that you should commence and write those books of Esdras." At the same time the first book was presented to me; that is, I saw it again in vision.

On the 27th of December, 1838, I commenced a book called "The Words of Righteousness to all Men," and wrote a few lines, but could not write so as to render it intelligible to any but myself, so poor a writer was I at that period. I told my father what I had seen, and he was rather inclined to disbelieve. He did not doubt that I had seen the visions, as I had related them, but he thought it highly improbable that an all wise God should command a family as poor and illiterate as we were, to perform so great a work. Said he, "We have not wisdom enough amongst us to write a single book, and if it was written, we would not know whether it was correct or not;" but if he could be satisfied that the Lord required it of us, he was willing to commence and do what we could; but until he was convinced, he did not feel disposed to move.—Olive Branch, vol. 1, pp. 33, 34.

He here relates some visions which convinced his father, and continues:—

In obedience to this command he did commence, and as I saw the books in vision, he wrote the words as I repeated them to him. He had not written any in many years and could proceed but slowly. The first Sunday after his seeing the vision, we spent all day in writing seventy lines, or little more than one page of the first pamphlet. A short time after, Jonathan Dunham came to this place from Missouri. We employed him, and he wrote about two hundred pages in writing, for which we paid him thirty six dollars. On account of the prejudice of the members of the church then here, we said nothing about these writings to any but a few. One of these, E. Merriam, came whenever an opportunity offered, and wrote for us. He wrote in all nearly two hundred pages.

About the time he commenced writing, my father took the first book, and went to Nauvoo to lay it before Joseph Smith; but he would not even look at it, as he was so pressed by other business that he could not examine it. My father returned, and soon after was reduced so low by a fever that he was not able to work for nearly a year. During this time he wrote several small books as I dictated the matter as it appeared to me.

It was late in the fall of 1840, that the first light was obtained from those writings on the subject of the gathering, or the place of refuge for the saints. Soon after, it became generally known to the branch in Springfield that we had these writings, and Hyrum Smith visiting this place, my father invited him to his house and laid it before him. He made no decision, but advised us to lay it before Joseph, at the same time saying, "We have no right to condemn a gift in a child."

In June, 1841, my father went to Nauvoo again, taking with him the manuscript we had written. Joseph took the writings, and after keeping them in his possession six days, he returned them, saying, "I have inquired of the Lord concerning this, and have not received an answer." After this we continued to write as often as we had time without neglecting our other business. Many members of the church had by this time heard a part of the writing read, as they came to our house for this purpose; but as yet nothing had been published. Our duty in this respect we did not know, and we made it a matter of prayer daily for months, and on the twenty-ninth day of March, 1842, I received the following instruction:—

Thus saith the Lord your God, it is my will that ye should make known the place of safety unto those that strive to serve me, and also the time when they shall gather themselves together to depart, and that ye cause small portions of the books to be printed in various places, that the people may read and understand before the day and the hour of my judgments shall come; amen.

Fear not wicked men, neither Satan, neither secret combinations; for the Lord your God and his Son Jesus Christ shall prosper you, in all works of righteousness, if ye remain steadfast unto the end.

We at once set ourselves about it, and in June following the pamphlet entitled "The Words of Righteousness to all Men" was printed. Since that time, we have published extracts from the Writings of Esdras as much as our poverty would permit. I will here add that those writings are not altered or revised after they are first written. In the same words that it [was] first written, it is given to the public, without any additions or corrections, except it is to rectify some mistake of the scribe, such as misspelling or omitting a word. Some few typographical errors have occurred in the pamphlets that have been published, but with these exceptions no alteration has taken place in those writings since it was first put upon paper.

From the very commencement of this work we have carefully noted the many prophecies they contain and looked for their fulfillment, and in hundreds of instances the events spoken of have taken place in the same manner that Esdras foretold, and in no case have any of the predictions failed. I think that it may be safely said that no prophecies of ancient or modern times are so plainly and clearly expressed, and so free from ambiguity, as those of Esdras. Through the medium of this paper I intend to present to the public the prophecies that have been published, and the fulfillment of the same, and also many prophecies that have not been published, and the events spoken of in them are yet in the future.

Olive Branch, vol. 1, pp. 35, 36.

On June 26,1848, an organization was begun with nine members, called the Church of Christ. Elder Hazen Aldrich was chosen president. Elder Aldrich published an address, from which we extract the following:—

That all may understand, we will give a description of our organization. We learned from the Writings of Esdras, and the same has since been published in the Olive Branch, that the call was to saints to commence anew upon the same foundation.

We counseled together and agreed that none were acknowledged to be saints by the Lord but those that had obeyed the gospel as set forth in the Bible and Book of Mormon. This we had already done. We had those amongst us that had been ordained in the commencement of the church, under President Smith’s organization. We then adopted the following:—

We, the undersigned, being members of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, or saints of the last days, having received a commandment of the Lord, given by the Prophet Esdras, and revealed and brought forth by James Colin Brewster, to whom power has been given of the Lord to bring forth that record unto his saints for their salvation in the last days, do organize ourselves on the first foundation of the church, taking the Bible and Book of Mormon as the standard of our faith and the rule of our practice in this the Church of Christ.

We then chose one to preside, appointed a clerk, and now stand forth as the church of the Savior and Redeemer of all the saints, upon the same foundation that the church did in 1830.

And now, as we have said in a former address, it is the privilege of all that are called saints, wherever there is a sufficient number, to choose one to preside over the branch, hold meetings, strengthen and edify each other by improving each his or her gift.

In the word of the Lord to his people you will learn that the Lord has appointed the place of the temple, or in other words, Kirtland, for the temporary gathering of the saints (save those that live nearer California). We deem it the best economy to have the general church record kept at Kirtland.

Every branch and individual saint that is willing to start with us on the first or same foundation, can make out a list of their names, stating what office they hold, if any, and forward them to Kirtland, and they will be put upon the general church record.

The sentence so often found in the Writings of Esdras, same foundation, may be construed two ways (our organization embraces them both); the first is the articles adopted by the church, composed of six members, April 6, 1830. The second is revelation.

The church in 1830 was organized by revelation. The church was established anew on the twenty sixth day of June, 1848, by revelation (composed of nine members), embracing the same principles as did the first organization. The correctness of the position that we have taken has been confirmed unto us through the Writings of Esdras.—Olive Branch, vol. 1, pp. 82, 83.

Hazen Aldrich was prominently connected with the church prior to the death of its first President. (See RLDS History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 99)

On September 29, 1849, at a conference held at Springfield, Illinois, President Aldrich nominated James C. Brewster and Jackson Goodale as his counselors, and they were unanimously elected. (Olive Branch, vol. 2, p. 50.)

Provision was made in their organization for not only a First Presidency, but a quorum of Twelve Apostles, elders divided into quorums or schools of seventy each, priests, teachers, and deacons; but we have not learned who if any were appointed to occupy in leading positions other than the Presidency. (Ibid., pp. 78, 79.)

It was claimed that the church had gradually departed from the faith, the apostasy culminating in 1842 with the introduction “of a secret order.” This appears from the following editorial comment in Olive Branch, December, 1849, when J. C. Brewster was editor:—

The inquiry is sometimes made, When did the apostacy of the church take place? And in answer to this question we will here say that the apostacy did not occur suddenly. It was by almost imperceptible degrees that the church departed from the truth; one erroneous principle after another was introduced, until in 1842 the fatal step was taken by the introduction of a secret order in direct violation of almost every command contained in the gospel of Christ. The church was not entirely rejected until that time. Since that time the church as a body has not been recognized as the Church of Christ. Every party that has arisen claiming to be the true church, have, and still continue to maintain, some if not all of the false doctrines that caused the rejection and overthrow of the first church. The organization of June, 1848, was upon the true foundation, and in this respect differs very materially from all the parties into which the church is divided.—Olive Branch, vol. 2, p. 90.

Though Kirtland, Ohio, was to be a temporary gathering place, the permanent place of gathering was to be in the valleys of Colorado and Gila Rivers, on the shores of the Gulf of California, then in Southern California. An extract from an article entitled, “The Word of the Lord to His People,” reads as follows:—

In the land of California shall my people find refuge from the evils and troubles that afflict the nations of the earth. There they shall have peace and enjoy all the blessings that those that remain faithful shall receive. They shall not make war upon those that dwell there, neither shall these have power to make war upon them; for my power shall be their defense, and my glory their salvation.

The pure in heart shall be gathered there from amongst the nations and the righteous from all the people of the earth; the upright shall see the light of the truth and rejoice therein. They that have been oppressed by the unjust laws of men shall there find liberty. They that have been driven by their enemies shall there find a resting place. They that have been overthrown by the wicked shall there be built up.

They that have been afflicted shall there find peace and repose; for the reward of the righteous that remain faithful shall be all those things which God has created for their good, and which all other nations strive to obtain, but fail because of their great wickedness.—Olive Branch, vol. 1, p. 25.

It was predicted in the Writings of Esdras that the government of the United States (Bethsula) should begin to fall in the seventieth year of the nation (1846) and in four years after the saints should establish a kingdom of righteousness that should finally be acknowledged as an independent nation, while the government of the United States should pass away, and

in the days of their prosperity shall their destruction come upon them; in the midst of their rejoicing shall they lament, and in the midst of victory shall they be visited with defeat; in the midst of their liberty shall a tyrant rule over them; and to escape from all these evils many shall repent and flee to the land of safety, and receive their inheritance with the righteous nation, unto whom wisdom shall be given, that they shall never be overcome or destroyed; for by the power of God shall they be protected, that no power under the whole heavens shall prevail against them, but an everlasting kingdom shall be.—Olive Branch, vol. 1, pp. 39, 40.

The Writings of Esdras contain also extensive instruction and laws for the political and religious government, as also the platting of cities and farms, in the promised land of “Bashan.”

The first company to start for this future Zion was organized at Independence, Missouri, July 15, 1850, with Jackson Goodale captain. It appears that J. C. Brewster was with them, as he writes to Olive Branch several times enroute, though his name is not mentioned in the list as published. The list with number in each family is found in Olive Branch for October, 1850, and is as follows:—

Jackson Goodale 7.   W. O. Wilder 4.
Z. H. Brewster 10.   George Meeter 10.
John Prior 2.   William W. Lane 3.
Ira Thompson 6.   J. B. Wheeling 7.
John W. Crandal 9.   A. Patching 7.
A. W. Lane 5.   O. F. Beckwith 1.
William J. Conner 3.   Robert Kelly 1.
Royce Oatman 10.   John Kelly 1.
John Richardson 4.   (Olive Branch, vol. 3, p. 37.)

This company with twenty-seven wagons, two hundred head of cattle, and a few horses started from Independence on August 6, 1850. Accounts of their journey were written by the way by J. C Brewster and others. Mr. Brewster wrote from Socorro, New Mexico, January 16,1851, stating that on December 4,1850, he and a part of the company “crossed the Amli [Rio del Norte] and entered into the land of our inheritance.”

He writes:—

In my address to the church written at Albuquerque, in November, 1850, I informed the readers of the >Olive Branch that it was our intention to make a settlement on this river, not far from Socorro. I am now happy to be able to inform them that we have purchased a large tract of land, and that the settlement has >already been commenced.—Olive Branch, vol. 3, p. 147.

They named this new settlement Colonia, a name taken from the Writings of Esdras.

As late as September 20, 1851, J. C. Brewster was at Colonia and we have seen no account of his company going farther west, but a part of the company through some disagreement left him near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and they, after much suffering, reached the valleys of Colorado and Gila. We have but little information of what was accomplished there by either settlement. A second company followed the first in 1851, but we cannot say how they prospered.

Things did not seem to work smoothly among the leading authorities. Hazen Aldrich, who remained at Kirtland, Ohio, to publish the >Olive Branch, says in his issue for August, 1851: “We believe J. C. Brewster has misconstrued the Writings of Esdras to his own liking.”—Vol. 4, p. 13.

A revelation to Elder Brewster says of Elder Aldrich:—

Moreover, the advice that thou hast given to the first elder of the church, concerning the council of the Presidency of my church, is right, and in rejecting it he has rejected that which is good, and caused confusion and disorder by acting contrary to the order of the church, in taking upon himself the duties and privileges that belong to the council of three.

Let him take heed lest he be found preventing the prosperity of the church.—Olive Branch, vol. 4, p. 65.

Jackson Goodale, the other member of the Presidency, also fell under the displeasure of his associates, and after leaving Independence in charge of the first company he was relieved of his command. J. C. Brewster writes of this:—

On the l9th of October, Jackson Goodale, the leader of the first company, was guilty of a transgression of the law of God; consequently his authority to lead the company was on that day forfeited and lost.—Olive Branch, vol. 3, p. 149.

The Olive Branch, the official organ of this church, first appeared August, 1848, issued from Kirtland, Ohio, but neither the editor nor publisher’s name appeared until January, 1849, when the names of Austin Cowles editor and Hazen Aldrich publisher appeared. This order continued for three numbers only, when the names are dropped for two numbers, then the name of H. Aldrich publisher appeared alone. This continued until July, 1849, the beginning of volume 2, when the paper was issued from Springfield, Illinois, with J. C. Brewster editor and Hazen Aldrich publisher. This continued during the entire volume closing June, 1850. It was then returned to Kirtland, Ohio, H. Aldrich editor and proprietor. It thus continued without interruption until January, 1852, which is the sixth number of the fourth volume. On February 23, 1852, Mr. Aldrich wrote Mr. John McKenzie, now of Jefferson City, Missouri: “February No. is delayed for want of means to pay the printer.” We have never seen a number after this date and think it was issued no more.

These people, so far as we have learned, would compare favorably with any others for morality, and among them were some men of ability and influence. Like the majority of the factions, they were opposed to polygamy. This is significant, for it has been supposed that these factions generally accepted polygamy, and this, it is argued, is circumstantial evidence that it was taught by the original church from which they came; but when it is considered that the majority of these factions rejected it, the inference is that those who taught it did not receive it from the original church.

In an article against polygamy by J. Goodale, one of their Presidency, on July 29, 1849, occurs the following:—

The above is sufficient to silence every one that would dare to teach the doctrine of polygamy and at the same time pretend to believe in the Book of Mormon. And I believe that there is not one of the different and conflicting parties into which the church is divided, that teach or believe the doctrine of polygamy, except that which has gone west under the guidance of Brigham Young; and yet they are accusing all of being apostates that cannot and will not follow their teaching in all things.—Olive Branch, vol. 2, p. 20.

The last we heard of James C. Brewster he was lecturing in California in advocacy of the system known as spiritualism.