Ep 77 – An Army to Raise a Temple
On this episode, we bring somebody into our timeline who will become an important dissenting voice against the Mormons throughout the rest of their years in Nauvoo, Thomas Coke Sharp. Raised by a Methodist preacher and learned in all things anti-Mormon, Thomas Sharp’s paper will become an interesting source of Mormon history moving forward through our timeline. After that, Jo gathers the entire Mormon population on the highest hill in town in a grand spectacle to dedicate the plot for the Nauvoo Temple, complete with the Nauvoo Legion parading around town in uniform and thousands of spectators. Newspaper outlets around the country pick up the story and all eyes turn to the Mormons’ new kingdom on the Mississippi. To round out the show for today, we’ll have on Ryan McKnight to discuss a Mormon leak and an exciting announcement that patrons heard in the exclusive Patreon only feed last week.
United Methodist Church History
Literacy Rates in early America
Warsaw Signal archive
News Articles related to Mormons
From Priesthood to Pretty
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Let’s review where we are in the last few episodes to partake milk for today. Lately we’ve been discussing all of the business and government affairs in the early construction phases of Nauvoo. From the Nauvoo House association to the Nauvoo Legion to the Government itself and all necessary organizations to keep it afloat, Jo and friends were attempting to build a sustainable system under which the Mormons could live in harmony with the non-Mormon populations surrounding them. We’ll see how this plays out, but most of these organizations and associations were created with one foundational flaw, speculation. For the most part, they started as public companies with tradable stock, but there wasn’t any capital being invested into them to begin with so the stock was worth exactly nothing, regardless of what the Mormons said it was worth.
That whets our palette with some milk, let’s get into the meat and potatoes.
Methodism had started across the Atlantic in Europe back in the early to mid-1700s, born out of its own revival by the Wesley brothers. The church of England wasn’t a fan as the Wesley brothers encouraged reformation and championed personal revelation through reading the bible. Methodism finally started to crop up a bit in early 1760 in America and finally in 1769, John Wesley sent two lay preachers on a mission to America to set out some ground rules and solidify the connection between early American Methodism and the steadily growing European stronghold.
The Wesley brothers were vociferously opposed to the American revolution. Of their many surviving writings, numerous passages present as calling American Methodists to be loyal to the crown of England and not take up arms to fight against the redcoats. Now quoting from the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church on the United Methodist Church Website, which you’ll find in the show notes.
“The American Revolution profoundly impacted Methodism. John Wesley’s
loyalty to the king and his writings against the revolutionary cause did
not enhance the image of Methodism among many who supported
independence. Furthermore, a number of Methodist preachers refused to
bear arms to aid the patriots.
When independence from England was won, Wesley recognized that changes were necessary for American Methodism to thrive. He sent Thomas Coke to America to superintend the work with Asbury. Coke brought with him a prayer book entitled The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America, prepared by Wesley and incorporating his revision of the Church of England’s Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey, whom Wesley had ordained, accompanied Coke. Wesley’s ordinations set a precedent that ultimately permitted Methodists in America to become an independent church.”
Thomas Coke, to which the article refers, was the primary authority sent to America to establish a systematic hierarchy and dictates of worship in line with the Methodist church in England. The Wesleys sent Thomas Coke to America with a book title The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America, published right before Thomas Coke made the trip over in mid-1780. It was this preacher and the ministers he trained who instructed a man named Solomon Sharp in the ways of Methodism and ordained him an official lay minister of American Methodism.
Fast-forward 35 years to September 25, 1818, Solomon Sharp and his lovely wife, Jemima, were confined to their homes due to the arrival of their healthy young son, Thomas Coke Sharp, paying homage to the American Methodist forefather. Solomon, the Methodist minister, and Jemima undoubtedly instructed their son, Thomas, in all the ways of Methodism as his namesake would have seen good and well.
Methodist ministers comprised the majority of early opposition to Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Jo had joined the local Methodist sect in Manchester, NY, in 1826 for a brief period, but fell away when vice and temptation overtook his better judgement. Methodism was still new and exciting to those who gravitated to charisma and fads, which people were the perfect audience for conversion to the newer and more charismatic Mormonism once it was started. Much of the Methodist opposition to early Mormonism can be explained by how many people who converted to Mormonism did so by leaving Methodism. What likely started as a few Methodist preachers seeing a decrease in tithing income evolved into legitimate religious persecution and shots being fired back and forth between the differing sects of Protestantism. When Mormonism came along, a Methodist minister couldn’t be considered part of the in-group of ministers without decrying the delusional fanaticism that was the Mormon religion. Solomon Sharp likely passed his vitriol for Mormonism to his teenage son, Thomas.
Thomas Coke Sharp, much like his namesake, was an intelligent and bright young lad with an insatiable urge to disseminate information to the unwashed masses. General literacy rates in the early to mid-1840s was around 90% for white northerners, compared to about 56% for white southerners, and Thomas Sharp was privileged with a legitimate education from his early years. In spite of his learning impediment being hard of hearing, Thomas enrolled and graduated from Dickinson Legal College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and was admitted to the Illinois bar in April of 1840.
Unfortunately for Thomas, his partial deafness became a major issue in the courtroom and he quit practicing law a few months after he began. At the age of 21, with a law degree and nowhere to really turn, Thomas took drastic measures to create a business which would allow him to use his education and literary acumen without the need for encouraging everybody in a courtroom to yell so he could hear them. In September of 1840, while the Mormons were amidst the early efforts of settling Quincy and Commerce Illinois and drafting the Nauvoo Charter, Thomas Sharp and a man named Gamble purchased a recently established printing press donning the name Western World. On May 12, 1841, the Western World published a declaration reading as such, check the show notes for the entire newspaper archive.
“According to a promise made in our last number, we this week issue our paper under a new name.
For a paper so limited in its circulation as ours must necessarily be, we have always considered the title of 'Western World' to be too extensive in its signification. The year having now expired, we consider it a proper time to make the change contemplated, and we have selected the title of "The Warsaw Signal," as being more appropriate and neat, and limited in its meaning to the sphere of its action...
It may not be amiss, on the present occasion, to advert to the policy which it is our intention to pursue. In Politics we have aimed, and shall still aim, to make it decidedly a Whig paper....
In conclusion, we may be permitted to add, that it shall be, as it has heretofore been, our aim to make the paper generally interesting to all classes of readers -- and ask the favorable indulgence of all.”
From that time forward, the Western World was known as the Warsaw Signal, brandishing the new subtitle of “Devoted to politics, agriculture, literature, commerce, and general intelligence.” This was the single closest paper to the new Mormon HQ of Nauvoo that wasn’t published by the Mormons themselves. If somebody in the nation wanted to know what those deluded religious fanatics were up to lately, they could go to the Times and Season, but that was filled with Mormon propaganda. They could use another large newspaper outlet, but most of those just reprinted articles from this one little source out of Hancock County written by Thomas Sharp. To really see what the locals thought of the Mormons, people were forced to subscribe to and read the Warsaw Signal for lack of any better publications, and, by reading it along with what was published out of the church’s own propaganda arm, newspaper readers could ascertain some interesting truths from all these publications, but most people only read one or the other paper and only heard a simplified and biased reporting of the facts.
The Warsaw Signal was printed right on the banks of the Mississippi, making it a perfect paper for a broad audience and able to reach a nation’s worth of readers interested in whatever may be happening in Illinois, specifically in relation to the Mormons.
The first publications of the Western World before it became the Warsaw Signal were fairly simplistic and unbiased in their reporting relating to the Mormons. Then, something happened in Nauvoo which signaled to Thomas Sharp that he was dealing with something which deserved much greater care and attention on his part.
From the Vogel HoC vol 4:322
“Tuesday April 6, 1841. It being the first day of the twelfth year of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At an early hour on the 6th Inst. The several companies comprising “the Nauvoo Legion,” with two volunteer companies from Iowa Territory, making sixteen companies in all, assembled at their several places of rendezvous, and were conducted in due order to the ground assigned for general review. The appearance, order, and movements of the Legion, were chaste, grand, and imposing, the chief officer of the day, Maj. General Bennett. We doubt whether the like can be presented in any city in the western country. At half-past seven o’clock, a.m., the fire of artillery announced the arrival of Brigadier-generals Law and Don Carlos Smith, at the front of their respective cohorts; and at 8 o’clock, Major-general Bennett was conducted to his post under the discharge of cannon, and took command of the Legion.
At half-past nine o’clock a.m., Lieutenant-general Smith, with his guard, staff, and field officers, arrived at the ground, and were presented with a beautiful silk national flag by the ladies of Nauvoo, which was respectfully received and hailed by the firing of cannon, and borne off by Colonel Robinson, the cornet, to the appropriate position in the line; after which, the Lieutenant-general with his suite passed the lines in review.
At 12, m., the procession arrived upon the Temple ground, enclosing the same in a hollow square, with Lieutenant-general Smith, Major-general Bennet, Brigadier-generals Wilson, Law and Don Carlos Smith, their respective staffs, guard, field officers, distinguished visitors, choir, band, &c., in the center, and the ladies and gentlemen, citizens, surrounding in the interior. The superior officers, together with the banner, architects, principal speaker, &c., were duly conducted to the stand at the principal corner stone, and the religious services were commenced by singing from page 65 of the new Hymn Book.”
Then, something remarkable happened. Hingepin Sidney Rigdon, who’d spent most of his time prior to this sealed up in his home separated from the trials and tribulations of the Saints, stood up in front of the crowd, shook off the rust, and delivered an incredibly moving speech.
“President Sidney Rigdon then addressed the assembly, and remarked that the circumstances under which he addressed the people were of no ordinary character, but of peculiar and indescribable interest, that it was the third occasion of a similar nature wherein he had been called upon to address the people, and to assist in laying the corner stones of houses to be erected in honor of the God of the Saints—…that the Saints had assembled, not to violate law and trample upon equity and good social order; not to devastate and destroy; but to lift up the standard of liberty and law, to stand in defense of civil and religious rights, to protect the innocent, to save mankind, and to obey the will and mandate of the Lord of Glory; …that not every people can build a house to him, but this only whom he himself directs—that the present military display is not to usurp; but to command as they are commanded and directed; to honor, not the world, but Him that is alive and reigns,…that the saints boast of their King;…that they honor a God of unbounded power and glory—…that he cannot be conquered—that he is working in the world to guide, to conquer and to subdue—…”
The HoC had a passage taken out which was only included in the Times and Season, but erased when it was compiled into the 7 volume HoC. The Vogel HoC inserts this paragraph written about Rigdon.
“When we consider the feeble health of the speaker, worn down, as he has been, by a long, and arduous, and ever hazardous service of the gospel truth, the unpropitious circumstances in which he was called to speak, in the open air, and to almost an innumerable multitude, there being probably not less than ten thousand persons present, we are constrained to say he acquitted himself honorably, and in a manner which, the almost breathless attention of the multitudes hanging upon the words that flowed from his lips, as he was borne on by the inspiration of his theme, fully manifested, was deeply interesting and satisfactory.”
What follows is as close to a Masonic cornerstone laying ritual as can be, which isn’t terribly surprising as a bunch of the Mormons and elites were varying degrees of Masons.
“The architects then, by the direction of the First Presidency, lowered the first cornerstone to its place, and President Joseph Smith pronounced the benediction as follows:--
This principal corner stone, in representation of the First Presidency, is now duly laid in honor of the great God; and may it there remain until the whole fabric is completed; and may the same be accomplished speedily; that the Saints may have a place to worship God, and the Son of Man have where to lay his head.
President Sidney Rigdon then pronounced the following:--
May the persons employed in the erection of this house be preserved from all harm while engaged in its construction, till the whole is completed, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Even so. Amen.”
They go on to lay the other 3 cornerstones in the same ceremonious manner, surrounded by the Nauvoo Legion and nearly every inhabitant of the city of Nauvoo.
“In conclusion we will say, we never witnessed a more imposing spectacle than was presented on this occasion, and during the session of conference. Such an almost countless multitude of people, moving in harmony, in friendship, in dignity, told in a voice not easily misunderstood, that they were a people of intelligence, and virtue, and order; in short, that they were Saints; and that the God of love, purity, and light, was their God, their exemplar, and director; and that they were blessed and happy.”
This was an incredible spectacle for all in attendance. The Mormons, most of which still weren’t living in full houses yet, just little temporary shacks, were somehow able to cobble together armed and uniformed soldiers numbering upwards of 600 men and paraded them around town among the entirety of the citizens of town, numbering somewhere between 8 and 10 thousand people. An event that lasted all day showing just how organized and prepared the Mormons were in outward appearance, ignoring the fact that thousands of them were in substandard living conditions and taking on absurd levels of debt to carry out their day-to-day lives, it must have been a much-needed morale boost to keep them going into the rest of 1841. This was still on the cusp of the era of good feeling in Nauvoo before rumors of polygamy began to crop up once again and sow insurrection.
It was about time that something worked out positively for the Mormons. With thousands of people looking to him for guidance and an army of over 600 uniformed soldiers all calling him Lieutenant-General Smith, and the foundation laying of the next temple on top of the largest hill in Nauvoo overlooking the Mississippi, Jo’s ego-fueled erection must have had its own gravitational field. He could unlock all the lootboxes and fuel the deathstar with the dark matter emitted from the sheer density of his rock-hard excitement. It’s a wonder he didn’t pass out on the stand for lack of blood in the rest of his body. People ask if Jo’s original intention was to put out a book and start a small religion but then things got out of hand; I think Jo was in his own self-aggrandized euphoria. He’d been working for this moment for 11 years now and it finally had come to fruition. This was when Jo was at his best and most winningest moment above every other ecstatic moment he’d lived prior to this time.
This April 6th parade and ceremony was the craziest thing any of the local non-Mormon population had ever seen. This came at a time when most of the newspapers nationwide were publishing about the recent report from the state of Missouri claiming the entire Missouri-Mormon war of 1838 had cost the state over $150,000 and suddenly a report was published on April 7th from Thomas Sharp in his Western World paper, soon to be the Warsaw Signal, which showed the Mormons weren’t much worse for the wear after their scrape with Missouri. Picture yourself as a typical American citizen following the Mormons through nothing more than newspaper reports and you hear about this coming from Thomas Sharp’s paper.
“THE MORMONS. -- The ceremony of laying the corner stone of the Temple at Nauvoo, passed off yesterday (6th) with great parade. The number assembled is variously estimated; we should think however about 7000 or 8000, some say as high as 12,000. The Nauvoo Legion consisting of 650 men, was in attendance, and, considering the short time they have had to prepare, made a very respectable appearance. Mr. Rigdon officiated at the laying of the chief comer stone, and addressed the assembly in a very energetic manner in a speech of about an hour's length. On the whole the exercises passed off with the utmost order, without accident or the slightest disturbance. Gen. Bennett commanded the legion, under the direction of the Prophet, and acquitted himself in a truly officer-like manner. -- We have no time for further comments this week.”
The reason Sharp had no time for further comments was because he was there during the ceremony, then rode home that afternoon the 18 miles and immediately wrote the article, worked all night to set the type and run off thousands of copies and get it out to the paper boys the following morning. For the next month and a half that little blurb made its way across the nation being reprinted in major newspaper outlets in nearly every state, especially those affected by the Mormons at some level. If you’d heard about the Mormons committing their militant acts of treason which got them kicked out of Missouri and you read in a newspaper one day that they cost the state of Missouri $150,000, adjusted for inflation that’s just a hair under $4mn, then you see an article saying they have another army and just laid the cornerstone for their temple in Illinois, just as they had done in Missouri 2 years prior, what goes through your mind? What would a Missouri citizen who had to deal with the Mormon war in Missouri think about this?
Just do a search on any newspaper archive website for the keyword Mormons for April through July 1841 and this same story is repeated over and over again. In Selma, Alabama they printed on April 17:
“They [Mormons] do not intend to be driven out of Illinois, as they were from Missouri. They have commenced operations under their city charter. Dr. Dennett [sic], Quarter Master General of Illinois, through the appointment of Governor Carlin, being their Mayor.”
The Evening Post out of New York New York on 22 Apr:
“The cornerstone of the Great Mormon Temple (that is to be) at Nauvoo, Illinois, was laid on the 6th instant, in presence of seven or eight thousand persons, and the Nauvoo Military Legion, consisting of six hundred and fifty men.—(Goes on to quote passage from Warsaw Signal)
The most intimidating part about all of this for any non-Mormons living in Missouri or Illinois was the fact that Governor Thomas Carlin of Illinois converted to the church in May of the same year after the cornerstones were laid. People lost all sense of what was real in the world, and the most vicious reports came out of Missouri, Illinois’ southern neighbor who’d just dealt with the Mormons. These scrappy kind of rough and tumble Missouri democrats were convinced that their governor could beat up the Mormons’ governor any day of the week.
This is from the Boon’s Lick Times, out of Fayette Missouri on Jun 5, 1841:
Our neighborhood friends are again being interested with rumors of War, and the poor Mormons are anon represented as drilling four thousand men—the 1st of July being fixed as the day for the descent on Missouri! Gov. Carlin, of Illinois, is represented as having joined their church, and every now and then we are met by a surmise that he is to head the anti-Missouri army.
We do not perceive so much danger from this movement as some apprehend, for although Gov. Carlin is commander in chief of the Army and Navy of Illinois, our friends forget that Gov. Reynolds is commander in chief of the Army and Navy of Missouri! Our Governor, we apprehend, will not permit so fortunate a circumstance to pass without improvement, and as military renown is considered the road to preferment and fame, we opine he is even now making note of his regimentals, and preparing to draw on the armor of his wrath. We therefore caution Gov. Carlin and his Mormon brethren to beware of Gov. Reynolds. He is a remarkably athletic man—of middle age—sound health—determined spirit—frequently smokes at the nostrils when angry, and has been seen to sparkle as if charged with electric fluid. In consequence of these dangerous propensities and properties of our Governor, we will not agree to be answerable for the consequences, as if Gov. Carlin comes it is said that no one will agree to hold [back] Gov. Reynolds!”
Any way you cut this, the Mormons were becoming a formidable force to reckon with. With a city of their own, a special militia of religious zealots, business, land, and educational institutions being organized every day, the Mormons were actually establishing themselves in an area previously uninhabited. As we continue to progress, the Methodist Thomas Coke Sharp will become a steadily increasing voice of anti-Mormonism rancor through his outlet, the Warsaw Signal. Eventually, Jo’s younger brother, Crazy William Smith, would begin publishing his own paper in response to ThomAss Sharp under the name of the Wasp, we’ll get into the propaganda feud as it becomes increasingly more relevant.
One way of looking at this is that the Mormons were gaining more nation-wide notoriety given everything that had happened during the 11-year trajectory through which Jo had dragged them. This only fueled the persecution complex which seemed to catalyze firmer belief in the minds and hearts of 2 Mormons for every one Mormon who saw through the bullshit and left. A paper published on 29 May 1841 out of Louisiana took a merited cynical approach after the Mormons were chased out of a small settlement in Lafayette.
“The Mormons, who have attempted a settlement at Lafayette, La., were disturbed by some rioters on the night of the 20th inst. That’s right; brush them up if you would see them prosper. There is nothing like persecution to make people believe in the efficacy of any new doctrine.”
From Priesthood to Pretty Work and Glory
You have to be careful, because fake news in nothing new.
"Jo Smith was yesterday arrested, between Nauvoo and Quincy, by the
authorities of Illinois, on a requisition from the Governor of Missouri.
May justice be meted out to him for his villanies...Martin Harris, who
was one of the witnesses of the book of Mormon, and who has been for
some time lecturing in Illinois against the Mormons, was found dead last
week, having been shot through the head. He was no doubt murdered."
-Evening Post NY, NY 19 Jun 1841
Mecklenburg Jeffersonian Charlotte North Carolina 18 May 1841
“A Western paper says a rumor is afloat that Joe Smith, the Mormon Prophet and High Priest, lately took a ride with Rigdon, his second in command and having returned without his lieutenant, the citizens of Nanvos enquired what had become of him, and Jo replied that Rigdon had been translated to Heaven.”
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