Shakers

Shaker Witnesses

CES Letter Core Question

Why should we believe the Book of Mormon Witnesses but not the Shakers witnesses?

Shakers

The Shakers and Ann Lee:

The Shakers felt that “Christ has made his second appearance on earth, in a chosen female known by the name of Ann Lee, and acknowledged by us as our Blessed Mother in the work of redemption” (Sacred Roll and Book, p.358). The Shakers had a sacred book entitled A Holy, Sacred and Divine Roll and Book; From the Lord God of Heaven, to the Inhabitants of Earth.

More than 60 individuals gave testimony to the Sacred Roll and Book, which was published in 1843. Although not all of them mention angels appearing, some of them tell of many angels visiting them. One woman told of eight different visions.

Here is the testimony statement (page 304 of Sacred Roll and Book):

We, the undersigned, hereby testify, that we saw the holy Angel standing upon the house-top, as mentioned in the foregoing declaration, holding the Roll and Book.

BETSEY BOOTHE.
LOUISA CHAMBERLAIN.
CATY DE WITT.
LAURA ANN JACOBS.
SARAH MARIA LEWIS.
SARAH ANN SPENCER.
LUCINDA MCDONIELS.
MARIA HEDRICK.

Joseph Smith only had three witnesses who claimed to see an angel. The Shakers, however, had a large number of witnesses who claimed they saw angels and the Sacred Roll and Book. There are over a hundred pages of testimony from “Living Witnesses.” 

CES Letter, Page 103-104


Next Relevant Quote


Why should we believe the Book of Mormon Witnesses but not the Shakers witnesses? 

CES Letter, Page 104

The reality is each situation is different and each person has to believe whether the person is telling the truth or not. The question being posed is similar to saying, "Tom said he saw a car accident. So did Katie. Why do you believe Tom but not Katie?" The details are far different when comparing the Shaker experience. The Book of Mormon witnesses gave hundreds of highly consistent testimonies. Virtually nothing is known of this account in the Sacred Roll or the people involved. What is known is the Sacred Roll became rather unpopular by its own followers within a short period of time.

A holy, sacred, and divine roll and book from the Lord God of He

However, a comparison demonstrate many important contrasts:

Witnesses

Book of Mormon Sacred Scroll (Shakers)
Viewed the same things Yes

No

Commanded to bear witness

Yes No
Spiritual and physical experiences Yes

No (all spiritual)

Supernatural Experiences given to fulfill the law of two or three witnesses

Yes No
Testimonies specifically to all the world Yes

No

Later denials that the ever denied their testimonies

Yes No
Specific purpose of witnessed experiences Yes

No

Unified message

Yes No
Randomness of visions and testimonies No

Yes

 

To read the testimonies, Click here.

In Christian theology, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word [should] be established” (2 Cor. 13:1). The Book of Mormon witnesses were granted very specific supernatural experiences and then commanded to bear witness of what they saw.

The Shaker Roll and Book afterwards fell into discredit and dishonor among the Shakers themselves and was abandoned by its leaders and most believers,[12]

After the Three Witnesses saw the angel and the plates, Lucy Smith recalled Joseph exclaiming:

"Father, mother, you do not know how happy I am: the Lord has now caused the plates to be shown to three more besides myself. They have seen an angel, who has testified to them, and they will have to bear witness to the truth of what I have said, for now they know for themselves, that I do not go about to deceive the people, and I feel as if I was relieved of a burden which was almost too heavy for me to bear, and it rejoices my soul, that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world” (History of Joseph Smith, p.153).


Who were the Shaker Witnesses?

Shakers had 5200 members in 1860.

Virtually nothing is known about these Shaker witnesses. Contrast that with an abundance of testimonies and interview from the Book of Mormon witnesses. Here is what I could dig up:

  1. BETSEY BOOTHE.
    • Her Shaker record here
      • Born: 1797
      • Died: December 15, 1843
      • Lived: New Lebanon
      • Note: a Ruhama (Ruthama) Boothe appears in that same list in New Lebanon and was born in 1793. Perhaps her relative? Also a Mercy (Mary) Boothe in New Lebanon as well.
    • Another Shaker record here:
      • Born: July 5, 1797 Southold Suffolk, 2nd Family
      • Died: December 15, 1843
    • Appears on Ancestry.com here
      • Her mother Is Ruhamah Griffing (1778-1834)
      • Her father: Ezekiel Booth (died in 1844)
      • Sibling: Ezekiel Booth
  2. LOUISA CHAMBERLAIN
    • Shaker record:
      • Born: 1805ish
      • Death: March 25, 1889
      • Detail: Part of the Second Family at Mount Lebanon NY
    • Another Shaker record:
      • Born: April 28, 1806, Grafton N.Y.
      • Died: March 25, 1889
      • More Details:
        • 1811 - came to East Family
        • 1819 - Hill Family West House
        • May 6, 1842 - Second family, adopted from East family
    • This transcribed version of the 1860 New Lebanon census appears to be her. Born in 1805.
      • Per this page about Mt. Lebanon:
      • Facts pulled from that Census:
        • 446 total names - 249 female, 197 male.
    •  1850 Census in NY
    • 1860 census living with Lucinda McDonald (below)
  3. CATY DE WITT -
  4. LAURA ANN JACOBS - 
    • Shaker record:
      • Lived in Watervliet NY.
      • Note: there were five Jacobs listed a living in Watervliet NY. They were: Claracy, Laura Ann, Lester, and Lucinda.
    • Another Shaker record:
      • Born: July 16, 1823 - 2nd Family in New Lebanon, NY
      • Moved: May 2, 1836, John Jacobs record says he and family moved to Waterlievt, NY South Family.
      • Family: Lester, Lucinda, Lucy, and John all appear to be related.
    • However, the 1850 census has two Jacobs sisters who were born in NY Sarah (age 20) and Clarissa (age 17) who live in the exact same house as these other witnesses.
  5. SARAH MARIA LEWIS.
    • Another Shaker record:
      • Born: August 18, 1818 Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut, Second Family
      • New Lebanon
      • Has a sister:
        • Mary Ann Lewis
          • Born: June 4, 1816 Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut, 2nd Family
          • New Lebanon
    • Shaker record: She's located in New Lebanon with no other details.
    • Doesn't seem to be this other shaker: Sarah Ann Lewis?
  6. SARAH ANN SPENCER.
    • Another Shaker record:
      • Born: March 24, 1817 Oxford, New Haven, Connecticut, 2nd
      • Admitted to Church Family June 15, 1855 from 2nd Family
      • Died: August 3, 1897
    • 1850 Census -
      • Age: 33
      • Birth Year: Abt 1817
      • Birthplace: Connecticut
      • Dwelling Number: 368
      • Family Number: 390
      • Note: the census shows 100 other women also living in this "dwelling number" 368 and "family number" 390. Twenty girls on that list were under 18 years-old- and and 8 of those were under age 10. In the same household as another Sarah Spencer age 64, also born in Connecticut. . This is likely Sarah's mother. Fellow witness listed above, Louisa Chamberlain (age 44) and Maria Hedrick (age 25) also live in this same household.
  7. LUCINDA MCDONIELS.
    • Another Shaker Record:
      • Lucinda McDonald:
        • Born: December 1, 1821 Underhill, Adderson, Vermont (Chittendon County)
        • Admitted: August 17, 1837 2nd Family
        • Died: March 16, 1890
        • New Lebanon, NY
      • Lucinda McDoniels
        • Born: March 9, 1825 Hinesburgh, VT 2nd Family
    • 1850 Census - Lucinda McDowell
      • Age: 27
      • Birth Year: Abt 1823
      • Birthplace: Vermont
      • Dwelling Number: 368
      • Family Number: 390
      • Note:
    • 1855 New York state census - Lucenia McDonalds age 34, born in 1821, living in New Lebanon.
    • 1860 census - Lucinda McDonald, age 37, living in New Lebanon NY. Living in the same household as Louisa Chamberlain (above)
    • 1870 Census Shaker list. - Lucinda McDonald, born in 1821, living in New Lebanon.
  8. MARIA HEDRICK.
    • A Maria Hedrick born in 1824 appears on this Shaker List.
    • She's here in the
      • 1850 Census -
        • Age: 25
        • Birth Year: Abt 1825
        • Birthplace: NY
        • Dwelling Number: 368
        • Family Number: 390
        • Note: the census shows 100 other women also living in this "dwelling number" 368 and "family number" 390. Twenty girls on that list were under 18 years-old- and and 8 of those were under age 10. In the same household is 16-year-old Elizabeth "Hedrich" -- (who appears as Hedrick in the 1860 census). This is likely Maria's sister who is 10 years younger. Fellow witness listed above, Louisa Chamberlain is also in the house. Louisa, age 44, is nearly 20 years-older than Maria.
      • 1855 New York State Census - Listed as Maria "Hardwick"
        • Age: 30
        • Birth Date: abt 1825
      • 1860 Census -
        • Age: 35
        • Birth Year: Abt 1825
        • Birthplace: NY
        • Dwelling Number: 240
        • Family Number: 244
        • Occupation: Seamstress
        • Note: Maria moved to a different house number and family number since the last census. There are only 77 people in this group and there are only 8 children under age 18. The most notable change is a combination of men and women live in this same household. A 65-year-old John Hedrick is now in the house (perhaps this is her father?). In the same household is 26-year-old Elizabeth Hedrick again. This is likely Maria's sister who is 10 years younger. Fellow witness listed above, Louisa Chamberlain is also in the house. Louisa, age 44, is nearly 20 years-older than Maria.
      • 1870 census - listed as doing "house work"
      • 1880 Census still in New Lebanon NY, listed as a Shaker and single.
      • Died: July 4, 1893 at the age of 67 -- according to the The New England Historical & Genealogical Register, 1847-2011

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