William E. McLellin (Original Member of the Quorum of Twelve)
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William E. McLellin, one of the original members of the Council of the Twelve, apostatized and lost his membership in the Church, but he never lost his testimony of the Book of Mormon. He remained firmly convinced of its truth.
The strength of his conviction is evident in a letter written in 1880, three years before his death. “I have set to my seal that the Book of Mormon is a true, divine record and it will require more evidence than I have ever seen to ever shake me relative to its purity.”
William E. McLellin joined the Church in 1831 and was chosen as one of the original Twelve Apostles in 1835. Shortly after his baptism, the Lord warned him, “You are clean, but not all; repent, therefore” (D&C 66:3). He served faithfully in the Church but sometimes indulged in criticizing the First Presidency and in seeking the praise of men. In 1835 he was disfellowshipped for a time, and in 1838 he was excommunicated for unbelief and apostasy. He joined the mobbers in Missouri in persecuting the Saints. When Joseph Smith was arrested at Far West, McLellin was with the group that plundered the Prophet’s home.
Later that day a few brethren made negative comments about the language and style of the revelations. Therefore, the Lord in a revelation challenged the critics to select the “least” of the commandments and to have the wisest man among them try to write a better one (see D&C 67:4–9). William E. McLellin, a schoolteacher and recent convert, presumptuously accepted the challenge.
The Prophet said that McLellin, “as the wisest man, in his own estimation, having more learning than sense, endeavored to write a commandment like unto one of the least of the Lord’s, but failed; it was an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord.”
This experience renewed the brethren’s faith in the revelations, and they agreed “to bear testimony of their truth to all the world. Subsequently, the Prophet wrote that the revelations were “the foundation of the Church in these last days.”