Before the LDS Church was organized, Joseph Smith received a revelation telling him that twelve men would be called as latter-day apostles. Their assignment would be to warn men and women that the end was near. Although the determination of who would fill these positions was delayed for five years, when it finally happened, God reiterated that these men were to “prune the vineyard for the last time” because the Second Coming was nigh. Of the twelve men selected, nine would eventually be pruned from the vineyard themselves, to varying degrees. Seven were excommunicated, one of whom was reinstated to his position in the Twelve. Of the other six, the subjects of this book, none returned to the apostleship and four never came back to the Utah-based church at all. Those who left faded into obscurity except for when they are occasionally still mentioned in sermons as cautionary tales.
Luke Johnson and John Boynton would make their way outside of Mormonism, becoming successful businessmen and prominent members of their respective communities. Thomas B. Marsh and Luke Johnson would wander for a time, only to rejoin the largest branch of Mormonism and make their way to Utah, though they were not always treated well. William McClellin and William Smith would flit from one offshoot of Joseph’s church to another, struggling to find their place and occasionally leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Their lives illuminate as many similarities between themselves as they do differences, and they tell of just how harrowing the journey to remain a part of Joseph’s church could be.
William Shepard is a past president of the John Whitmer Historical Association and has published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, and the Journal of Mormon History. An elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite), he is active in the Burlington, Wisconsin, branch that was founded by James Strang in 1844. Shepard is a retired school teacher, holds a master’s degree in history, and is a former sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.
H. Michael Marquardt is an independent researcher and writer, the author of The Book of Abraham Revisited, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary, and compiler of Early Patriarchal Blessings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day