John Alpheus Cutler (February 29, 1784 – June 10, 1864) was an early leader in the Latter Day Saint movement who founded the Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite) in 1853. He had previously served in several church positions under LDS founder Joseph Smith, Jr., as well as captain of Smith's personal bodyguard and "Master Builder and Workman on all God's Holy Houses." Following Smith's murder in June 1844, Cutler at first followed the Twelve Apostles under Brigham Young, but later left Young's church to start his own sect. Cutler claimed that his was the sole legitimate continuation of Smith's organization, and he served as its leader until his death.

  • War of 1812 Veteran
  • Stonemason
  • Returned to Far West to lay temple cornerstone
  • Helped design and build Nauvoo Temple
  • Nauvoo High Council
  • LDS Church Council of Fifty


Cutler was born in Plainfield, New Hampshire, to Knight Cutler, a veteran of the American Revolution, and Elizabeth Boyd.

War of 1812 Veteran

Cutler fought as a private in the War of 1812, serving in Cpt. E. Smith's company of New York Militia from September to December 1812. Although later Latter Day Saint sources would refer to Cutler as "Captain Alpheus Cutler" and say that he had fought at the battles of Chippewa Falls and Lundy's Lane, his service record does not support either assertion.


Cutler was a stonemason by occupation. He stood over six feet tall, and was described by one biographer as being "heavy set," "powerfully built," "critical" and "sarcastic," while generally expressing himself in "an extremely candid, sharp and brusque manner." Some of Cutler's contemporaries would later refer to him as having a "natural parabolical, allegorical, symbolical, mysterious, secretive way of telling things."

Conversion to Mormonism

Following the War of 1812, Cutler and his family were living in western New York, where they heard David W. Patten of the Church of Christ preach about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the ministry of Joseph Smith. Following what they claimed to be a miraculous cure of their daughter by Patton's prayers and laying on of hands, Cutler and his family were baptized by Patten on 20 January 1833. He moved to the main Mormon settlement at Kirtland, Ohio the following year.

An enthusiastic convert, Cutler was invited to attend Smith's School of the Prophets in Kirtland, and assisted in the construction of the Kirtland Temple there. Although brought before the Kirtland High Council on 15 March 1835 on charges of arguing with fellow member Reynolds Cahoon and complaining about not being paid enough for his work on the temple, Cutler weathered the storm and remained in Smith's good graces. During the building's dedication on 27 March 1836, Cutler claimed to have seen a vision of Jesus Christ descending down a long carpet into the temple; he claimed that Christ spoke to him, but did not record what he said. He also claimed in this vision to have seen a large gold chain draped across the newly completed edifice.

When Joseph Smith moved church headquarters to Caldwell County, Missouri in 1837, Cutler followed him there and settled in adjacent Ray County. A victim of Governor Lilburn Boggs's "Extermination Order," Cutler was expelled from the state with the other Latter Day Saints during the winter of 1838–39. Together with members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and other leading Latter Day Saints, Cutler risked death and slipped back into Far West, where as the newly named "chief architect and master workman of all God's holy houses",[20] Cutler laid the cornerstone for the (never-built) Far West Temple.

Relocating with his religious brethren to Nauvoo, Illinois, Cutler was appointed one of three members of a committee to oversee construction of the Nauvoo Temple on 3 October 1840. Directed to supervise the cutting of timber for the new edifice, Cutler led a group of workmen into the Pineries along the Black River in Wisconsin, where they spent the next year cutting logs and floating them down the Mississippi River to Nauvoo.[16]

While in Nauvoo, Cutler served on the Nauvoo High Council,[22] and the Anointed Quorum; he was also named to Joseph Smith's Council of Fifty. Cutler received his endowment under Smith's hand on 12 October 1843,[23] and subsequently became only the sixth person to be given the rare Second Anointing on 15 November—a full week before Brigham Young received his[24]—which made him a "King and Priest" in Smith's still-secret Kingdom of God (see Council of Fifty). Cutler also served as captain of Smith's bodyguard.[25]

Prior to Smith's murder in 1844, Cutler was called by Smith to undertake a mission to the "Lamanites" (as Native Americans were often called by the Saints during this time in history). However, he had not yet departed when Smith was assassinated on 27 June at the jail in Carthage, Illinois.

Nauvoo Temple

Smith's death produced a profound leadership crisis in his movement, with members torn between competing claimants for Smith's prophetic mantle. These included the Quorum of the Twelve, led by Brigham Young; James Strang, a newly baptized convert from Wisconsin; and Sidney Rigdon, who had served as Joseph Smith's First Counselor in the First Presidency.

At first, Cutler threw in his lot with the Twelve. He continued to work on the Nauvoo Temple,[27] where he was reportedly "sealed" to Lois on 14 February 1846.[28] LDS Church records indicate that Cutler was married to six other women during this timeframe, but the Cutlerite church adamantly denies this or any assertion that Cutler—or Joseph Smith, for that matter—approved of or practiced plural marriage.[29] Although the Nauvoo Temple would be dedicated on 1 May 1846 by apostle Orson Hyde, Cutler would later insist that it had not been finished by the "sufficient time" given in the revelation authorizing its construction;[30] this proved pivotal for his own claims to legitimacy when he decided to commence his own church organization in 1853.

At this point, however, Cutler's loyalties were clearly with Brigham Young; he participated as a member of the High Council in the excommunication trials of Rigdon and Strang, as well as Joseph Smith's own brother, William, who had publicly endorsed Strang. During a discussion over the competing succession claims in the High Council, Cutler indicated that he "felt bound to sustain the Twelve, and all the Quorums of the Church with its present organization, for on that his salvation depended."[3

Winter Quarters

When Brigham Young decided to commence the Saints' trek to the Salt Lake Valley, he appointed Cutler as Captain of "Emigrating Company No. 3," one of twenty-five such travelling units into which the Mormon pioneers were organized.[32] Cutler established Cutler's Park, Nebraska in 1846, and was appointed presiding member of the municipal High Council on 9 August of that year.[33] Barely a month later, he was asked to find a new location for a settlement; on 11 September he selected the site that would become Winter Quarters, Nebraska.[34]

Sometime prior to 1849, Cutler made a decision to withdraw from the main church body under the Twelve, and to go his own way. In the fall of 1847, Brigham Young had sanctioned his request to conduct the mission work among the Indians to which Joseph Smith had assigned him, and Cutler had commenced his efforts with nearby tribes.[35] All seemed well at first. However, the arrival of apostle Orson Hyde at nearby Kanesville, Iowa in early 1848 changed the situation. Cutler soon became the subject of lurid rumors concerning his Indian mission, with spurious reports indicating that he had been elected as the "Generalissimo" of a union of "thirty-seven nations". Further allegations of alleged disloyalty to the Twelve by Cutler among the "Lamanites" fueled the fire; a visit by Ezra T. Benson, George A. Smith and others to Cutler's mission only partially calmed the situation.[36] Although Brigham Young wrote to Cutler, offering him aid to move west, a house in Salt Lake City and a warm welcome once he arrived,[37] the "Old Fox" (as Cutler was affectionately called) refused to go.

According to Cutler biographer Danny Jorgensen, Cutler had been appointed to a committee of the Council of Fifty specializing in "Lamanite" affairs, and he might have seen his mission as ultimately being Council of Fifty business, rather than as church business; thus, his resistance to Hyde and the others' attempts to regulate his activities among the Kansas tribes.[39] However, since the role and place of the Fifty within Joseph Smith's overall scheme of things was not well known to many Latter Day Saints (due in part to its secret nature, and in part to Smith's untimely demise), many Latter Day Saints misunderstood Cutler's intentions and pronouncements on this subject, and this contributed to the eventual severing of his ties with Brigham Young's church

Cutlerite Sect

Alpheus Cutler organized his own Church of Jesus Christ in 1853. They were based at Manti, Iowa and at their peak in 1858 had a membership of 183 souls. They were heavily proselytized by the RLDS Church founded by the son of Joseph Smith.

Later Years

Joseph Smith III visited Cutler in person in 1863; he reported that the once-robust prophet had become partially paralyzed (due to a recent stroke) and weighed nearly 300 pounds; he struggled to speak, Joseph reported, but was no longer able to communicate effectively.

Marriage & Family

1st Marriage: Lois Lathrop

Cutler married Lois Lathrop (1788-1878) of Lebanon, New Hampshire on November 17, 1808. She was a descendant of Rev. John Lathrop (1584-1653), and thus a distant cousin of Latter Day Saint prophet Joseph Smith (1805-1844).

  1. Thaddeus Cutler (1809-1896) - left Cutlerite sect to follow RLDS Church.
  2. Lois Huntington Cutler (1811-1880)
  3. Libbeus Cutler (1814-1819)
  4. Louisa Elizabeth Cutler (1816-1854)
  5. Sarah Maria Cutler (1818-1890)
  6. William Lathrop Cutler (1821-1851)
  7. Benjamin Franklin Cutler (1823-1866)
  8. Clarrisa Crisey Cutler (1824-1852) - married to LDS Church Apostle Heber Chase Kimball (1801-1868) but later divorced after one child
  9. Emily Trask Cutler (1828-1852)- also married to LDS Church Apostle Heber Chase Kimball (1801-1868) but later divorced after one child
  10. Edwin Cutler (1829-1837) - died young
  11. Betsey Cutler (1832-1843) - died young
  12. Oscar Fitsland Cutler (1833-1883)

Plural Marriage

LDS Church records indicate that Cutler was married to six other women during this timeframe, but the Cutlerite church adamantly denies this or any assertion that Cutler—or Joseph Smith, for that matter—approved of or practiced plural marriage.

The contemporary Cutlerite church adamantly denies that any of these alleged marriages occurred, or that Cutler ever sanctioned or practiced plural marriage. According to non-Cutlerite biographer Danny L. Jorgensen, Cutler allegedly abandoned his plural wives (and plural marriage altogether) sometime during the 1850s after one of his disciples, F. Walter Cox, was threatened with imprisonment in Iowa. This same biographer also cites Heber C. Kimball's abandonment of Cutler's two daughters as another reason for Cutler's disaffection with polygamy.[

  1. Luana Hart Beebe (1814-1897)
  2. Margaret Carr (1771-1852)
  3. Abigail Carr (1780-1867)
  4. Disey Caroline McCall (1802-1890)
  5. Sally Smith (1794-1863)
  6. Henrietta Clorinda Miller (1822-)


Offspring of John Alpheus Cutler and Lois Lathrop (1788-1878)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Thaddeus Cutler (1809-1896)
Lois Huntington Cutler (1811-1880)
Libbeus Cutler (1814-1819)
Louisa Elizabeth Cutler (1816-1854)
Sarah Maria Cutler (1818-1890)
William Lathrop Cutler (1821-1851)
Benjamin Franklin Cutler (1823-1866)
Clarrisa Crisey Cutler (1824-1852) 23 December 1824 Silver Creek, Chautauqua County, New York, United States 1852 Kansas, United States Heber Chase Kimball (1801-1868) Heber Chase Kimball (1801-1868) Calvin Gilmore Fletcher (1825-1900)
Emily Trask Cutler (1828-1852) 23 February 1828 Hanover, Chautauqua County, New York 1852 Thompsonville, Jefferson County, Kansas Heber Chase Kimball (1801-1868) Heber Chase Kimball (1801-1868) Benjamin Franklin Pratt (1824-1852)
Edwin Cutler (1829-1837)
Betsey Cutler (1832-1843)
Oscar Fitsland Cutler (1833-1883)


#g1: Offspring of Knight Cutler (1755-1830) and Elizabeth Boyd (1760-1834)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Charlotte Cutler (1782-) , ,
Alpheus Cutler (1783-1864) 29 February 1784, Plainfield, Sullivan County, New Hampshire, United States 10 June 1864, Manti, Fremont County, Iowa, United States Lois Lathrop (1788-1878)
Asenath Cutler (1786-1786) , ,
Abigail Cutler (1787-1873) , ,
Betsey Cutler (1792-1879) , ,
Ann Cutler (1794-1880) , ,
Mehitable Cutler (1796-) , ,
Amanda Cutler (1798-) , ,
Herman Cutler (1799-) , ,
Reuben Cutler (1800-1884) , ,
Elizabeth Cutler (1802-) , ,
Lydia Cutler (1804-) , ,



Footnotes (including sources)