(1816) Benjamin Thomas Mitchell was Born Near Joseph Smith
Benjamin Thomas (Trotter) Mitchell was born on January 12, 1816, in Munsey Township in Lacomin County, Pennsylvania. At that time, Joseph Smith, Jun. was eleven (11) years old and living only 154 miles directly North of the newly born Benjamin Thomas Mitchell and his family.
Twenty-Eight (28) years later, in 1844, under extraordinary circumstances, Joseph Smith and Benjamin Thomas Mitchell’s paths intersected in Nauvoo, IL. In Nauvoo, Smith developed unique and distinctive plans for a sacred temple.
The temple plans included carved stone moons, stars and sunstones to symbolically represent eternal perspectives. Mitchell worked as a stone mason on the temple and sculptured the first sunstone (capital).
In 1844, Mitchell named a son Joseph Smith Mitchell. Sadly, the Prophet Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob during the same year–1844. Later, both Benjamin Thomas Mitchell and his son Joseph Smith Mitchell would work together to help build the Salt Lake City, Utah, Temple. The Salt Lake Temple also has sacred stone carvings to represent the restoration of the holy priesthood keys and encouragement of eternal progression.
(1816) New U.S. Religious Freedoms
In 1816, the United States was small–there were only 19 states in the Union. The guarantees of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights regarding religious freedoms were aggressively exercised and continuously developing. The American Bible Society was founded in 1816 in New York and was committed to spreading the word of God and to end slavery. The American religious era named the Second Great Awakening was sweeping the area and professed everlasting salvation through organized revivals.
(1816) U.S. President John Adams Writes about Corruptions of Christianity
In 1816, spiritual frustrations and religious discontent were documented in an official letter written by John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States to his former Vice President, Thomas Jefferson. Both, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were joint drafters of the Declaration of Independence and were well acquainted with the promptings of divine guidance.
John Adams reveals two interesting points about his own religious beliefs in 1816. First, he recognized that in 1816 there existed what he termed as, Corruptions of Christianity. Secondly, because of the corruption, he seemed to prefer the simple teachings of the Ten Commandments and Sermon on the Mount rather than any particular religious domination.
In his own words, John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson:
We have now, it seems a National Bible Society, to propagate King James’s Bible, through all nations. Would it not be better to apply these pious subscriptions, to purify Christendom from the Corruptions of Christianity; than to propagate those Corruptions in Europe Asia, Africa and America! … Conclude not from all this, that I have renounced the Christian religion, or that I agree with Dupuis in all his sentiments. Far from it. I see in every page, something to recommend Christianity in its purity and something to discredit its Corruptions. … The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my Religion. Letter to Thomas Jefferson, November 4, 1816
Continued Historic Events of 1816 Leading to Temple Construction Around the World
Further examination of the events of 1816, reveals that Joseph Smith’s family moved to the village of Palmyra, Ontario County, New York. During that time frame, they attended various churches with his family and actively studied the Holy Scriptures. Eventually, Joseph Smith Jun. experienced the same religious frustrations described by John Adams.
6 ……. yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more bpretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions………8 but so great were the confusion and astrife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was bright and who was wrong….. 9 and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error…….10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be aright, which is it, and how shall I know it?
In 1820 U.S. President Thomas Jefferson Predicts that Jesus Christ Will Restore His Church
In 1820, while Joseph Smith questioned which if any church was right, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson predicted that Christ would restore his church, he wrote, “The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored; such as it was preached and practiced by Himself”. Jefferson also wrote, “The religion builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them into mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers….”
1820 Commencement of the Restoration
In 1820, Joseph Smith was impressed to read (James 1:5) and subsequently offered a simple prayer in the woods near his home seeking the truth. He received a response to his prayer in the form of a revelation from God the Father and Jesus Christ. Smith asked the glorified beings what church he should join and the Lord instructed Joseph Smith Jun. with the following:
19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof “.
Interestingly, the Lord confirmed John Adams’ 1816 assertions of religious corruption and realized Thomas Jefferson’s spiritual predictions that the church would be restored.
Mitchell’s Fascinating Connection to the Nation’s Founding Fathers
Subsequently, during 1874-75, Benjamin Thomas Mitchell and two of his sons (Abram Alonzo Mitchell other son’s name not known) served as temple stone masons and helped build the Saint George, Utah, temple. His Journal states:
“I then sent two of my boys to cut stone on the St. George Temple continuing on the Temple myself until the Spring of 1875”. Source-B.T. Mitchell Journal
Astoundingly, after the Mitchell’s helped complete the stone work on the temple and after the temple was dedicated, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and the remaining signers of the Declaration of Independence appeared to Wilford Woodruff, Sr., Saint George, Utah, Temple President. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers petitioned the temple president for the rights of the temple blessings for their own continuous personal progression leading towards eternal life.
Wilford Woodruff stated in a September 16, 1877 discourse that he had been visited by the departed spirits of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers:
|“The spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them … Said they, ‘You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.’ These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence…. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them … I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon brother McCallister [sic] to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others….|
This historic event occurred 3 years prior to Benjamin Thomas Mitchell’s death in 1880. Mitchell and his sons helped build the Saint George Temple where the founding fathers received temple blessings. Interestingly, Benjamin Thomas Mitchell shared the combination of the founding fathers names: Benjamin (Benjamin Franklin) and Thomas (Thomas Jefferson)
Temple Building is an Essential Component of the Restoration
After the initiation of the restoration, the secular world continued pressing forward in the era of the Second Great Awakening, however, the Kingdom of God entered into a new dispensation – the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Fullness of Times.
The magnificent events of the restoration set-off divine strategies leading to the ordination of a modern day prophet and twelve apostles, to gather the latter day saints from the diverse areas around the world and to build Holy Temples- the House of the Most High- The House of the Lord.
The first temples of the restoration were built out of stone and required skilled stone masons to cut stone at quarries, chisel the stone into workable sizes, sculptor some stone into unique symbolic representations and to set the stone into precise and perfect order.
Benjamin Thomas Mitchell’s Distinctive Contributions in the Restoration “ A Builder in the Kingdom”
As documented in official church temple construction records, B.T. Mitchell sculptured the first sunstone (capital) for the Nauvoo temple. One of the original 30 sunstones is currently on display at the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington D.C., right next to the original U.S. Star Spangled Banner. The Sunstone at the Smithsonian has a chiseled (M) marked on the upper left hand corner-likely indicating that the Sunstone at the Smithsonian was sculptured by B.T. (M)itchell.
- He was a Stone Mason for the Nauvoo, IL Temple, dedicated May 1, 1846.
- He was a Stone Mason for the Saint George, UT Temple, dedicated April 6, 1877.
- He was a Stone Mason /Foreman for the Salt Lake City, UT Temple, dedicated April 6, 1893.
- On his first Mormon Pioneer Trek, he was a Captain in the Heber C. Kimball Pioneer Company, 1848.
- He served a mission in Nova Scotia, Canada, 1852-1855.
- Returning from his mission and on his second Mormon Pioneer Trek, he led a Mormon Pioneer Company, the Benjamin Thomas Mitchell Company, 1854.
- He counseled Brigham Young that granite rock should be used instead of red sandstone for the Salt Lake City, Utah Temple.
- He served as a Bishop in a Salt Lake City, Utah 15th Ward, 1857.
- He helped develop “Deseret” Salt Lake City as a stone mason for commercial and government buildings such as the ZCMI, the Courthouse and a bank building.
- He carved the Salt Lake City Meridian Marker- currently located in the Church Museum- 1st Floor.
His legacy includes grandchildren who have served missions world-wide. Also, grandchildren who fought in the foreign wars to secure freedom such as Benjamin Elias Mitchell who served in the U.S. Navy as a Medical Corpsman in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. And, most importantly, his legacy includes grandchildren that use the temples that he helped build to seal their families to each other as eternal links.