Occasionally, the contented boredom of Sunday School classes is broken up by disagreements and strained but mild-mannered arguments over the fate of the sons of perdition, spirit fluid, and the like. It used to get a bit more heated. Consider the following story from Lorenzo Snow’s autobiography, describing a meeting in the Kirtland Temple in 1837:
Warren Parrish, who had been a humble, successful preacher of the Gospel, was the ringleader of [the] apostate party. One Sabbath morning, he, with several of his party, came into the Temple armed with pistols and bowie-knives, and seated themselves together in the Aaronic pulpits, on the east end of the Temple, while Father Smith and others, as usual, occupied those of the Melchisedec [sic] Priesthood on the west. Soon after the usual opening services, one of the brethren on the west stand arose, and just after he commenced to speak, one on the east interrupted him. Father Smith, presiding, called to order — he told the apostate brother that he should have all the time he wanted, but he must wait his turn — as the brother on the west took the floor and commenced first to speak, he must not be interrupted. A fearful scene ensued — the apostate speaker becoming so clamorous, that Father Smith called for the police to take the man out of the house, when Parrish, John Boynton, and others, drew their pistols and bowie-knives, and rushed down from the stand into the congregation; J. Boynton saying he would blow out the brains of the first man who dared to lay hands on him. Many in the congregation, especially women and children were terribly frightened — some tried to escape from the confusion by jumping out of the windows. Amid screams and shrieks, the policemen, in ejecting the belligerents, knocked down a stovepipe, which fell helter-skelter among the people; but, although bowie-knives and pistols were wrested from their owners, and thrown hither and thither to prevent disasterous results, no one was hurt, and after a short, but terrible scene to be enacted in a Temple of God, order was restored, and the services of the day proceeded as usual. (Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, 20-21)
Now there are obviously problems with these sorts of meetings and presumeably the deep institutional memory of such events is what prompted the Church to take the radical position a few years ago of supporting a law banning concealed weapons in churches. As Father Smith’s experience illustrates, it is much better when Church leaders can see the pistols and bowie knives of disgruntled members. Still, I suspect that everyone was good and awake when the meeting resumed.