Ep 146 – I’ll See My Enemies in Hell
On this episode, Joseph Smith was safe in his kingdom on the Mississippi. A legal mess had been mixed by everything that happened during the week of June 23-30, 1843 and now it was time to sort it out. Documentation is entered into the Nauvoo Municipal Court record justifying Jo’s arrest in the first place. Then Jo makes a speech to the eager Mormons who were excited to see their prophet safe in their town again. The following day the court convenes to hear witness testimony proving that Joseph Smith wasn’t guilty of treason against the State of Missouri.
July 1, 1843 court hearing
Don’t miss the Zachrilege Cast episode #185!
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
Joseph Smith and his arresting posse had made it safely back to Nauvoo. It’s June 30th, 1843, the sun was shining, thousands of people were in the streets greeting the prophet upon his return. The Nauvoo Legion was out with their arms, the band was playing, Jo returned to the loving embrace of his mother, first wife, Emma, and his children who’d been tortured with uncertainty for over a week from when they first learned he’d been arrested by Sheriffs Wilson and Reynolds of Illinois and Missouri respectively.
But now, Jo was in his kingdom, surrounded by his bodyguards, ready to roam freely as his desires led. However, the week of multiple arrests by multiple individuals created a tangled mess legally speaking. When Jo was first arrested he attained a writ of habeas corpus for the Dixon court, but that judge was out of town. The new writ in his hand was much broader in that it granted the writ to be heard at any nearby court with jurisdiction. Add into the chaos, Jo’s friend, Sheriff Campbell, had arrested the sheriffs who’d arrested Joseph Smith, and they were given to the custody of General Wilson Law of the Nauvoo Legion. So everybody was in everybody else’s custody and the Nauvoo Legion had final say, which Joseph Smith was commander-in-chief of the Nauvoo Legion. Further, Jo was Mayor of Nauvoo and chief chairman of municipal court hearings, meaning he would be the primary person to chair the hearing on whether or not to grant his writ of habeas corpus. Seems like an ethical mayor would recuse himself, were he in Jo’s position, but ethics and the due process of law held no sway with a person like Joseph Smith.
Upon their arrival in town, Jo had the arresting sheriffs at his home for a proper feast, Emma served them and a massive party of Jo’s most trusted elites. The sheriffs were in hostile territory, in the custody of the captive, dining in the belly of the beast. But the day was young. They chose to begin sorting out the legal mess that very day. The various documents were entered into the Nauvoo Municipal Court record, beginning with the initial documentation from Governors Reynolds and Ford of Missouri and Illinois respectively which led to the arrest of Joseph Smith. Cyrus Walker was Jo’s legal counsel. Cyrus Walker was well-known in Illinois as one of the foremost criminal defense lawyers. Walker had been out campaigning for State Congress when Jo was arrested, but agreed to represent Jo once he was promised Jo’s vote in the coming election of 1843, which is a way of saying he had the Mormon voting bloc on his side.
I’ll briefly read a few excerpts from the documents in order to illustrate the defense that Jo and Cyrus Walker constructing against it.
First, the initial arrest and extradition warrant signed by the governor of Missouri. And today I’ll be reading almost exclusively from vol 5 of the Dan Vogel History of the Church. The documentation and court proceeding go from pages 488 to about 630. As usual, I’ve done a lot of reading so that you don’t have to.
I, Thomas Reynolds, Governor of the State of Missouri, having full trust and confidence in the integrity and abilities of [Sheriff] Joseph H. Reynolds, do hereby constitute and appoint him as the agent of the said State of Missouri, to proceed to the State of Illinois, for the purpose of receiving from the proper authorities of that State, one Joseph Smith, jr., charged with treason by him committed against the State of Missouri, and as having fled from justice to the State of Illinois, and I do hereby authorize and direct said Joseph H. Reynolds to convey said Joseph Smith, jr., from the State of Illinois, and deliver him to the custody fo the sheriff of Daviess County, int the State of Missouri…
By the Governor,
And the warrant for arrest and extradition from Governor Thomas Ford of Illinois in compliance with the request from Governor Reynolds and the Constitution.
Whereas it has been made known to me by the executive authority of the State of Missouri, that one Joseph Smith, junior, stands charged with the crime of treason against the State of Missouri, and alleged that Joseph Smith, junior, has fled from the justice of the said State of Missouri, and taken refuge in the State of Illinois.
Now, therefore, I, Thomas Ford, Governor of the State of Illinois, pursuant to the constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, do hereby command you to arrest and apprehend the said Joseph Smith, junior, if he be found within the limits of the State aforesaid, and cause him to be safely kept and delivered to th3e custody of Joseph H. Reynolds, Esq., who has been duly constituted the agent of the said State of Missouri to receive the said fugitive from the justice of said State, he paying all fees and charges for the arrest and apprehension of said Joseph Smith, junior, and make due returns to the executive department of this State, of the manner in which this writ may be executed…
By the Governor,
And finally the writ of habeas corpus to which Sheriff Reynolds submitted upon their entry into the city of Nauvoo when Jo was transferred to the custody of the Nauvoo city marshal, his buddy from the Kirtland years of the church, Henry G. Sherwood.
I, Joseph Reynolds,… do hereby return this writ, with the body of Joseph Smith, with the following cause of caption and detention, to wit.: The within named Joseph Smith was arrested on a warrant issued by the Governor of the State of Illinois, by one [Sheriff] Harmon T. Wilson, a constable of Hancock County, in the State of Illinois, on the 23rd day of June,… a copy of which warrant is hereunto annexed, and marked letter A., and delivered over to my custody as directed by said writ. The person of said Smith was, on the said 23rd of June, in the county of Lee, and State of Illinois, by the said Wilson, delivered over to my custody, and that I received and detained the said Smith in my custody, by virtue of a certain warrant of attorney issued by the Governor of the State of Missouri,… directing me to receive the said Smith, and convey him to, and deliver him to the sheriff of Davies County, in the State of Missouri,…
JOSEPH H. REYNOLDS
And now the defense Jo and Cyrus Walker constructed against the arrest. A few of these points are fascinating, the first of which is simply asinine and reveals how much the defense was grasping at straws to find ANY flaw in the documentation.
[T]he arrest [of Joseph Smith], and the imprisonment consequent thereupon, by said [Sheriff Harmon T.] Wilson, and afterwards by said Joseph H. Reynolds, is illegal, and in violation of law, and without the authority of law, as he is informed and verily believes, for the following, besides other reasons, to wit.:
And here are the arguments they made:
1st, that the warrant for arrest was sworn out for Joseph Smith junior, which is not the same person as our Joseph Smith because he claimed to be going by Joseph Smith senior. Yes, Jo was known his whole life as Jo jr., but when an arrest warrant was issued for him, he decided he wanted to be called Joseph Smith Sr., because he had a 10 year old son named Joseph Smith III, or Joseph jr. in this case. That was literally the leading argument, that the warrant was for the wrong person because it was for Jo Smith Jr, instead of Sr, and therefore the sheriffs had the wrong guy. Their warrant then would be for a 10-year-old kid who committed treason against the state of Missouri. That would be like me murdering Eli Bosnick because of certain aroma-related accusations, then an officer comes to arrest me and I tell them that my dog is named Bryce Blankenagel, and I go by Daddy Bryce, so he should arrest my dog instead.
2nd, that the warrant for arrest is defective because it didn’t state explicitly that the executives of Missouri or Illinois demanded the arrest. This is only true so far as Sheriff Wilson apparently didn’t offer up the initial writ of arrest. This is patently false. I just now read the warrants signed by Governor Thomas Ford and Governor Thomas Reynolds and both of them demand the arrest and extradition of Joseph Smith junior and appoint Sheriffs Reynolds and Wilson to be the special agents to carry out said warrant. So the first point of defense Jo and his counsel made was that the arrest warrants were for the wrong guy, and the second point they made was factually wrong. Cyrus Walker’s and Jo’s side of the court were not operating from a strong position.
3rd, that the warrant didn’t allege any criminal indictments against Jo. This is also factually wrong. Governor Reynolds’s warrant specifically says Jo committed treason against the state and fled as a fugitive, both factually accurate statements, and Governor Ford’s request clearly states that Sheriff Reynolds is appointed to act as a sheriff within the state of Illinois to carry out the legal process of Missouri. Once again, Jo and his counsel were grasping at straws here.
4th, the warrant is defective and void because it “does not show that any legal foundation was furnished by the executive of the State of Missouri”. The reason that the crime of Treason is so broad and ill-defined is because it can mean any number of treasonous acts. When Jo caused the Nauvoo Expositor printing press to be burned down, that was suppression of the right of the free press, thus an act of tyranny and criminally treasonous. When Jo had his own army in Missouri and waged war against the militia of Missouri, that was open treason against the state. A president of the United States working with an enemy foreign entity to win an election is technically treasonous. Treason is more like an umbrella criminal activity that many different categories of crimes can fall under. So, the state of Missouri merely alleged treason on Jo’s part, but his defense is making the argument that because specific treasonous acts were not enumerated in the arrest warrant, that it’s void and defective. Once again, not a very strong defense. It’s like if I killed Noah Lugeons because I hate his long hair, and I was arrested for murder, and my defense was that the officer arresting me didn’t specify that it was a hate crime against people with long hair, therefore I should be allowed to go free. It’s hard to believe that the guy writing this defense was known as the best criminal defense lawyer in Illinois at the time.
5th just says “said supposed warrant is in other respects defective and void” without providing any clarification whatsoever.
6th claims that Sheriff Reynolds from Missouri didn’t actually have authority to arrest somebody in a state that wasn’t Missouri, but he’d been appointed as a special agent by both state governors so he did have jurisdiction to arrest Jo.
7th complaint claims the right of double jeopardy because Jo had already been arrested in June of 1841 and December of 1842 on these charges, but Jo had been let off on writs of habeas corpus in both of those cases, both time released on technicalities in the law by judges who were under his political thumb. He had the right to make the claim, but he’d actually never seen a jury trial for the charges, so he’d never even single jeopardied to be able to claim double jeopardy, so this argument is another fail.
8th counterclaim states that Jo wasn’t a fugitive from justice because he, “has not fled from the justice of the State of Missouri, and he is not guilty, and has not been guilty of treason in or against the state of Missouri.” Sheriff Reynolds was Jackson County sheriff during the Missouri Mormon war of 1838 so he’d seen the treason happen. This is like if I killed Heath Enwright in front of a cop because I’m intimidated by tall people and my defense was “but no I didn’t” when the cop arrested me. Like he was there, he saw it happen. This point of defense Jo’s counsel was arguing is nonsense.
9th argument claims that Jo hadn’t been in Missouri for the last 4 years and therefore couldn’t be a fugitive from justice. But he’d literally bribed his guards while being transferred between jails in order to escape their custody and flee to Illinois. He was definitely a fugitive. The argument claims he hadn’t been in the state for 4 years, but nowhere in the complaint does it try to argue that the statue of limitations had been exceeded. But, I wouldn’t expect that treason against a state of the union had a statue of limitations in the 19th century, I could be wrong on that, however.
And the final complaint by Jo’s counsel simply states that none of what the Governors and Sheriffs had done was done so under the color of law and therefore it was all defective and void. For all 10 of these complaints, Jo and his counsel, Cyrus Walker, claimed that Joseph Smith should be discharged from the custody of Sheriff Reynolds of Missouri and allowed to go about his business as he saw fit.
Once all the paperwork was entered into the court record, the sun was just beginning to set. The Mormons wanted to hear the prophet preach of the persecution he’d suffered at the hands of the Missouri mobocrats who’d arrested him. Jo was transferred to the custody of Henry G. Sherwood, the Nauvoo marshal, and Sherwood let his prophet conduct himself according to the dictates of his own desires.
An assembly of a few thousand Mormons gathered at the grove near the temple to hear Jo’s sermon, which was recorded in the journals of White-out Willard Richards and Billy Goat Wilford Woodruff. It was synthesized together from their journals and included in the History of the Church. Here’s what Jo told the thousands of Mormons. He starts with his typical Jo grandiosity and charisma. Sermons like this after what he’d just experienced reveal a small window into the mechanisms of his charisma and why so many people loved him.
The congregation is large; I shall require attention. I discovered what the emotions of the people were, on my arrival at this city, and I have come here to say, “How do you do?” to all parties, and I do now at this time say to all, “How do you do?” <hold for laughter> I meet you with a heart full of gratitude to Almighty God: and I presume you all feel the same. I am well—I am hearty. I hardly know how to express my feelings—I feel strong as a giant. <because he was at this point, he’d just escaped the death penalty again> I pulled sticks with the men coming along, and I pulled up with one hand the strongest man that could be found: then two men tried, but they could not pull me up, and I continued to pull mentally until I pulled Missouri to Nauvoo. But I will pass from that subject. <Jo was known, by his own reports, to be a great stick puller>
There has been great excitement in the country since Joseph H. Reynolds and Harmon T. Wilson <BOOOOS> took me; but I have been cool and dispassionate through the whole. Thank God, I am now a prisoner in the hands of the Municipal Court of Nauvoo, and not in the hands of Missourians. <Jo had triumphed, but he continued to use the opportunity to galvanize the Mormons against their common enemy>
It is not so much my object to tell of my afflictions, trials, and troubles, as to speak of the writ of habeas corpus, so that the minds of all may be corrected. It has been asserted by the great and wise men, lawyers and others, that our municipal powers and legal tribunals are not to be sanctioned by the authorities of the State; <BOOOOOS again> and accordingly they want to make it lawful to drag away innocent men from their families and friends, and have them put to death by ungodly men for their religion! <ANGRY CROWD BOOS>
Relative to our city charter, courts, right of habeas corpus,…, I wish you to know and publish that we have all power; and if any man from this time forth says anything to the contrary, cast it into his teeth[!] <CHEERS AND ADULATION> <pause for crowd to calm down>
There is a secret in this; if there is not power in our charter and courts, then there is not power in the State of Illinois, nor in the Congress, or Constitution of the United States; for the United States gave unto Illinois her constitution or charter, and Illinois gave unto Nauvoo her charters, ceding unto us our vested rights, which she has no right or power to take from us: all the power there was in Illinois she gave to Nauvoo; and any man that says to the contrary is a fool. <CROWD LAUGHTER>
I want you to hear and learn, O Israel! This day, what is for the happiness and peace of this city and people. If our enemies are determined to oppress us, and deprive us of our constitutional rights and privileges as they have done; and if the authorities that are on the earth will not sustain us in our rights, nor give us that protection which the laws and constitution of the United States, and of this State guarantee unto us, then we will claim them from a higher power—from heaven—yea, from God Almighty.
I have dragged these men here by my hand, and will do it again; but I swear I will not deal so mildly with them again; for the time has come when forbearance is no longer a virtue: and if you or I are again taken unlawfully, you are at liberty to give loose to blood and thunder. But be cool, be deliberate, be wise, act with almighty power, and when you pull, do it effectually—make a sweepstakes for once! <BLOODTHIRSTY HOWLS FROM CROWD>
The time has come when the veil is torn off from the State of Illinois, and its citizens have delivered me from the State of Missouri: friends that were raised up unto me would have spilt their life’s blood, to have torn me from the hands of Reynolds and Wilson, if I had asked them, but I told them not. I would be delivered by the power of God and generalship: and I have brought these men to Nauvoo, and committed them to her from whom I was torn, not as prisoners in chains, but as prisoners of kindness. <LITTLE LAUGHTER and brief pause> I have treated them kindly. <BIG LAUGHTER> I have had the privilege of rewarding them good for evil. They took me unlawfully, treated me rigorously, strove to deprive me of my rights, and would have run with me into Missouri to have been murdered, if Providence had not interposed: but now they are in my hands <CHEERS>; and I have taken them into my house, sat them at the head of my table, and placed before them the best which my house afforded: and they were waited upon by my wife, whom they deprived of seeing me when I was taken. <HISSES AND JEERING>
I have not doubt but I shall be discharged by the Municipal Court; were I before any good tribunal I should be discharged, as the Missouri writs are illegal, and good for nothing—they are “without form and void.”
But before I will bear this unhallowed persecution any longer—before I will be dragged away again, among my enemies, for trial, I will spill the last drop of blood in my veins, and will see all my enemies IN HELL! <LOUD CHEERS!!!> To bear it any longer would be a sin, and I will not bear it any longer. Shall we bear it any longer? (One universal NO! ran through all the vast assembly, like a loud peal of thunder) <”NO” FROM TRUMP RALLY>
I wish the lawyer who says we have no powers in Nauvoo, may be choked to death with his own words. Don’t employ lawyers, or pay them money for their knowledge; for I have learnt they don’t know anything. I know more than they all[!] <LAUGHTER>…
If any lawyer shall say there is more power in other places and charters, with respect to habeas corpus, than in Nauvoo, believe it not. I have converted this candidate for Congress (pointing to Cyrus Walker, Esq.) that the right of habeas corpus is included in our charter. If he continues converted, I will vote for him…
However indignant you may feel about the high hand of oppression which has been raised against me by these men, use not the hand of violence against them; for they could not be prevailed upon to come here till I pledged my honor and my life that a hair of their heads should not be hurt. Will you all support my pledge, and thus preserve my honor? (One universal YES! Burst from the assembled thousands.) <YES AND CHEERS FROM CROWD> This is another proof of your attachment to me. I know how ready you are to do right; you have done great things, and manifested your love towards me in flying to my assistance on this occasion. I could not have done better myself. I bless you in the name of the Lord, with all the blessings of heaven and earth you are capable of enjoying.
<this is the point when Jo’s rhetoric takes a sharp turn towards dangerous. Everything in his speech culminated in this battle cry>
I have learned we have no need to suffer as we have heretofore—we can call others to our aid. I know the Almighty will bless all good men—he will bless you: and the time has come when there will be such a flocking to the standard of liberty as never has been, or shall be hereafter. What an era has commenced! Our enemies hve prophesied that we would establish our religion by the sword; is it true? No; but if Missouri will not stay her cruel hand in her unhallowed persecutions against us, I retrain you not any longer; I say in the name of Jesus Christ, by the authority of the Holy Priesthood, I this day turn the key that opens the heavens to restrain you no longer from this time forth. I will lead you to battle; and if you are not afraid to die, and feel disposed to spill your blood in your own defense you will not offend me. Be not the aggressor—bear until they strike you on the one cheek; then offer the other, and they will be sure to strike that; then defend yourselves, and God will bear you off, and you shall stand forth clear before his tribunal.
If any citizens of Illinois say we shall not have our rights, treat them as strangers and not friends, and let them go to hell and be damned! Some say they will mob us—let them mob and be damned! If we have to give up our chartered rights, privileges, and freedom, which our fathers fought, bled, and died for: and which the Constitution of the United States, and of this State, guarantee unto us, we will do it only at the point of the sword and bayonet. <CHEERS AND ADULATION>
The rest of Jo’s speech relates what happened to him once he was arrested, but we’ve already gone through all of that. He continues to paint himself as the martyr of the Mormon cause, suffering religious persecution and all the Mormons are being persecuted solely because they are the one true religion. The violent rhetoric is peppered all throughout the entire speech. This is a cry for war the next time Jo is arrested. He concludes the speech with bringing up his legal counsel, Cyrus Walker, who gave a few brief remarks. Jo finishes with this paragraph.
The lawyers themselves acknowledge that we have all power granted us in our charters that we could ask for—that we had more power than any other court in the State; for all other courts were restricted, while ours was not; and I thank God Almighty for it. I will not be rode down to hell by the Missourians any longer; and it is my privilege to speak in my own defense; and I appeal to your integrity and honor that you will stand by and help me, according to the covenant you have this day made.
Jo was right, the Nauvoo court system was more powerful than any other court in the state. The justification offered for these broad privileges? Religious liberty. It was a kingdom and Jo was untouchable as he riled up thousands of Mormons in preparation for war should Reynolds and Wilson, or any Missourian, attempt to remove him or any of his brothers from Nauvoo.
Sheriffs Wilson and Reynolds, however, weren’t in the crowd to hear this speech. Had they been there, they would see this violent rhetoric coming from their prisoner and who knows what they would have done. Instead, the sheriffs were headed to Carthage, one of the central hubs of anti-Mormonism, to apply to a local militia leader there for permission from the Governor to raise the Illinois State Militia to march into Nauvoo and arrest Jo. This whole sector of the State was a powder keg and Jo was a kid playing with matches.
Jo wasn’t sure where Governor Ford of Illinois would come down in his alliances. Would Ford be sympathetic to the Mormons and not call out the militia, or would he carry out his duties as Governor and bring in the militia to affect the arrest he’d been requested by the Governor of Missouri? Ford had not been favorable to the Mormons for the half of a year he’d been in office, and Jo was in an irrational state of mind when he said this.
“I prophecy in the name of the Lord God that Governor Ford by granting the writ against me has damned himself politically and eternally. His carcass will stink on the face of the earth, food for the carrion crow and Turkey buzzard.”
Oddly, that prophecy was in Jo’s Nauvoo journal, but was removed from the History of the Church when B.H. Roberts compiled it. I wonder why that prophecy was cut from the record.
After Jo’s rousing speech, while the Sheriffs were on their day-long horse ride to Carthage to call out the militia, the Mormons were ready for a fight regardless of what happened. Blood and thunder, pistol and sword, the Missourians would all go to hell if the Mormons had their way. And, let’s just reiterate. Jo was a war criminal. Unquestionably he’d committed treason against the state of Missouri and had fled state custody by bribing his guards. He was wanted for crimes he’d committed. He faced the death penalty in Missouri if he were ever tried. But, because he was able to spin this as nothing but religious persecution by tapping into the Mormons’ shared trauma from their time in Missouri, the population of Nauvoo was even more galvanized to protect the prophet from any harm. He’d prejudiced the populace. He’d done exactly what a charismatic prophet is supposed to do in these situations, lie, obfuscate, and remove any blame for his own actions from himself. The crowd wanted any person who sought to oppress their prophet dead.
It’s with this collective and individual mindset that the court convened the next morning at 8 a.m. From the opening line in the History of the Church we can already tell how this is going to play out.
Saturday, July 1 .—At 8 a.m., the Municipal Court met in the Courtroom. Present: William Marks, Acting Chief Justice, Daniel H. Wells, Newel K. Whitney, George W. Harris, Gustavus Hills, and Hiram Kimball, Associate Justices, to investigate the writ of habeas corpus.
This is the who’s who of Jo’s best friends and anointed elites. William Marks, acting as chief justice because the Mayor, Joseph Smith, who would regularly be the one presiding, was the person for whom the hearing was being held. Then we have Daniel H. Wells. Wells wasn’t actually a Mormon, but what they called a Jack-Mormon back then. Wells was somebody who had a high-ranking position in many offices in Nauvoo. He was an alderman, school warden, regent of the University of Nauvoo, and was commissary general in the Nauvoo Legion. He was eventually baptized into the church 2 years after Jo’s death and became Bloody Brigham’s second counsellor in Utah, where he killed a lot of Native Americans as a commanding officer of the Utah Nauvoo Legion. My point being, Wells was one of the few members of Nauvoo government who wasn’t actually a member of the church, but had an incredible amount of power and had attached his name to the Mormons upon their arrival in Illinois in 1839-40. The next associate justice listed, Newel K. Whitney, was the first person to meet Joseph and Emma Smith upon their arrival into Kirtland in February 1831. Whitney owned the store in town, the Smiths lived with the Whitneys off and on throughout their entire time in Kirtland. Newel Whitney has always been one of Jo’s right-hand men. George W. Harris is the next name. Harris is another Mormon elite. When Jo left Kirtland after the lawsuits and the church melted down out there, Jo and Emma stayed with Lucinda and George Harris. That same summer Jo married Lucinda Harris as his possibly third wife after Fanny Alger. Harris had been there through thick and thin with the Mormons and had given his wife to Joseph Smith. The next name is Gustavus Hills. Hills hasn’t come up in our timeline and he’s not terribly important, but he’d become an elder in the church in December of 1840 and was therefore one of the in-group of Mormon elites. The final person listed was also a Jack-Mormon, Hiram Kimball. Let’s not mix up Heber the Creeper Kimball and Hiram Kimball. Heber the Creeper Kimball was the guy who was best buddies with Bloody Brigham and converted around the same time. From what I can tell, the Hiram Kimball who was associate justice of this hearing isn’t actually related to Heber the Creeper Kimball, unless they were distant cousins or something. Hiram Kimball was an alderman, a member of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge, and was assistant adjutant general in the Nauvoo Legion. He was eventually baptized a few weeks after this hearing began, but he wasn’t actually a member of the church at this time, even though he was one of Jo’s trusted elites with a lot of political power in Nauvoo government and the Legion. He was eventually wounded in the battle of Nauvoo and died later on a Mormon mission to the Sandwich Islands when the ship’s boiler exploded and killed everybody on board.
That gives us a sense for who the people were that would be judging whether or not Jo should be carried to Missouri. Like I said, just from the names listed, we already know how this is going to play out. The opening arguments witness list reveals exactly how this hearing would play out. First to testify that Jo should be released on his writ of habeas corpus were Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith, P-cubed Parley P. Pratt, Bloody Brigham Young, George W. Pitkin, Lyman Wight, and Hingepin Sidney Rigdon.
I’ve read through all these testimonies. The substance of them is reiterating what happened during the 1838 Mormon war in Missouri. We covered that extensively in episodes 40-50 of this show so if you want a refresher on that I’ll send you there in the backlog. The point of rehashing everything they went through in Missouri was basically to say you can’t arrest Jo because it’s not fair. We weren’t treated fairly in Missouri, therefore we don’t have to abide by their laws and warrants for arrest. How this functionally played out in the testimonies was by claiming that Jo was treated as a military offender and therefore treasonous, but since he wasn’t an actual sanctioned military leader of an actual state-sanctioned militia, he wasn’t held to the standards of military law, and therefore didn’t commit treason. This is a place where Jo’s defense witnesses and the Missouri government would not disagree. Jo had no military training or state sanction to lead a military, but he had his own military, The Army of Israel, in addition to his own shadow enforcement squad, the Danites, which he used to wage war on actual state militias. That was treason. But it’s not treason if you simply say it isn’t, right? Here’s how Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith, Jo’s older brother, put it in his testimony.
I have not been absent from [Joseph Smith] at any one time, not even the space of six months since his birth, to my recollection, and have been intimately acquainted with all his sayings, doings, business transactions and movements, as much as any one man could be acquainted with another man’s business up to the present time, and do know that he has not committed treason against any State in the Union, by any overt act, or by levying war, or by aiding, abetting, or assiting an enemy in any State of the Union; and that the said Joseph Smith, senior, has not committed treason in the State of Missouri, nor violated any law or rule of said State,… and I do know that said Smith never bore arms, as a military man, in any capacity whatever, whilest in the State of Missouri or previous to that time; neither has he given any orders or assumed any command in any capacity whatever;
Hyrum also made the argument that Jo had been going by Joseph Smith sr for 2 years by this point since Big Daddy Cheese had died in September of 1841, giving voice to the first objection crafted by Jo’s counsel that the warrant was for the wrong person and therefore had no legal effect.
Hyrum continues to relate his side of the story in the Missouri-Mormon war. It’s an interesting window into what it looked like behind closed doors in the Mormon elite towns of Far West and Adam-Ondi-Ahmen during the war, but we’re going to skip it as it isn’t really relevant. He also tells of how the November court of inquiry went from the Mormon perspective, as well as their struggles in Liberty Jail, their escape, their journey to Illinois, and the struggles of their settlement in Quincy and Nauvoo. Hyrum concludes with appealing to the sense of mistreatment and unfairness the Mormons suffered during the entire ordeal and the lack of the U.S. government to pay reparations for what they’d suffered in being chased from their homes in Missouri.
But notwithstanding the Mormon people had purchased upwards of two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of land, most of which was entered and paid for at the land office of the United State in the State of Missouri—and although the President of the United States has been made acquainted with these facts, and the particulars of our persecutions and oppressions, by petition to him, and to Congress—yet they have not even attempted to restore the Mormons to their rights, or given any assurance that we may hereafter expect redress from them. And I do also know, most positively and assuredly, that my brother, Joseph Smith, senior, has not been in the State of Missouri since the spring of the year 1839.
P-cubed Parley Parker Pratt was the next to testify. He begins by saying “that he fully concurs in the testimony of the preceding witness, so far as he is acquainted with the same,”. Pratt goes on to relate his perspective of the Missouri-Mormon war and also enters into the court record his copy of the Extermination Order by Lilburn Boggs, titled Missouri Executive Order 44, issued Oct 27, 1838.
One point added in by Pratt is something that is rather controversial and by no stretch of imagination unbelievable. He related hearing the stories of the Haun’s Mill Massacre while he was in the custody of some of the people who’d committed the massacre. He adds some salacious details. Here’s a trigger warning for the next 45 seconds of violence and sexual assault.
While under these circumstances [of arrest], our ears were continually shocked with the relation of the horrid deeds they had committed, and which they boasted of. They related the circumstance in detail of having, the previous day, disarmed a certain man in his own house, and took him prisoner, and afterwards beat out his brains with his own gun! In presence of their officers. They told of other individual laying here and there in the brush, whom they had shot down without resistance, and who were lying unburied for the hogs to feed upon.
They also named one or two individual females of our society, whom they had forcibly bound, and twenty or thirty of them, one after another, committed rape upon. One of these females was a daughter of a respectable family, with whom I have been long acquainted and with whom I have since conversed, and learned that it was truly the case. Delicacy at present forbids my mentioning the names.
Yeah I mean it probably happened. There’s no reason to believe it didn’t. It’s just one of those realities when it comes to military conflict. The next person to testify was George W. Pitkin. He reiterates a number of the same points but adds a bit about the Mormon’s guns being taken away, but they were guns that the Mormons had taken from the Missouri militia in the first place, so there that. This is what he said.
About this time [Joseph Smith] received information that about forty or fifty “Yauger Rifles,” and a quantity of ammunition were being conveyed through Caldwell to Daviess county, for the use of the mob: upon which he deputized William Allred to go with a company of men and intercept them, if possible; he did so, and brought the said arms and ammunition into Far West, which were afterwards delivered up to the order of Austin A. King, Judge of the fifth circuit in Missouri.
This alone is a treasonable offense. If you have a private military that marches out of your theocracy and seizes the arms of a state sanctioned militia, you’ve now committed treason, regardless of whether or not your private military has sanction. If this is a witness called on behalf of defending Jo that there was no evidence to legally arrest and convey him to Missouri to be tried for treason, this witness didn’t help his case. But, to be clear, nobody in the court that day was in favor of Jo being taken to Missouri. Every member of the judicial panel, nearly every person spectating, Jo’s legal counsel, Cyrus Walker, Jo himself, nobody there wanted Jo extradited.
Bloody Brigham Young was the next to testify. He repeats the same points of the Missouri-Mormon war but adds an interesting detail because he was the overseer of the Mormon removal from Missouri to Illinois.
The witness also says that they [Missourians] compelled the brethren to sign away their property by executing a Deed of Trust, at the point of the bayonet, and that Judge Cameron stood and saw the Mormons sign away their property, and then he and others would run and kick up their heels, and said they were glad of it, and “we have nothing to trouble us now”. This Judge also said, “God damn them, see how well they feel now.” General Clark also said he had authority to make what treaties he pleased; and the Governor would sanction it.
This isn’t inaccurate. General Clark was the Missouri militia general to whom the Extermination order was issued by Governor Boggs. This order told General Clark to remove or “exterminate” the Mormons at all hazards, but keep in mind the context in which Governor Boggs issued the order. The Mormons had just aggressively attacked Captain Bogart at Crooked River and two Mormon elites, Thomas B. Marsh and Doctor Sampson Avard had defected and sworn out affidavits that the Mormons had a shadow military known as the Danites. That’s why it says, “I have received… information of the most appalling character, which changes entirely the face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of the State… The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated, or driven from the State, if necessary for the public peace.” Boggs wasn’t wrong, the Mormons were an enemy of the Missourians who’d waged open war on the militia, which the Mormons called a mob in order to diminish the authority by which the Missouri militia operated in their own consciences. The result of the Mormons waging war on Missouri was that they completely got shafted on their land and property once driven from the state. That was simply one of the consequences of losing a war, they lost everything. At least they were allowed to live and relocate which is something that can’t be said of most other wars against non-European Americans at this time. But to also be fair, the Mormons were the ones who did it first. Jo took something like 150 Danites to the houses of public officials in Missouri and forced them to sign documents under duress, or as Brigham said, “at the point of the bayonet”. They treated the Missourians one way then got offended when the Missourians responded with similar force. They wanted it both ways.
Bloody Brigham’s testimony concludes with this absolute absurdity:
The witness also stated that he never transgressed any of the laws of Missouri; and he never knew a Latter Day Saint break a law while there. He also said that if they would search the records of Clay, Caldwell, or Daviess counties, they could not find one record of crime against a Latter Day Saint, or even in Jackson county, so far as witness knew.
But the Mormons had transgressed the laws of Missouri and of the federal government. All of the crimes Missouri charged them with when they held Jo and his 5 boys in Liberty Jail and something like 60 other Mormon elites in other jails while the state compiled the proper documentation to bring a case, the Mormons had committed all of those crimes. Arson, larceny, theft, robbery, treason, all of those crimes had been committed by the Mormons, and by extension the leader of the Mormons.
The next testimony came from Lyman Wight. Wight was one of the craziest of the Danites who was always ready for a fight. His testimony reiterates everything the other witnesses had said only in greater detail. He also adds about the Missouri election during which he was elected to a Colonel of the Missouri militia and received a stipend from Governor Boggs for his position. Wight adds the detail of his own courageousness in the face of death when he was arrested with Jo and friends outside Far West after they surrendered. The sham court martial was held by General Lucas when he was able to get the Mormons to surrender, General Lucas commanded General Doniphan, friend of the Mormons, to execute Jo and his 5 friends in the public square of Far West the morning after the surrender. When one of the captains of the Missouri militia approached Lyman Wight to tell him of his fate, this was what supposedly transpired.
He returned… that night and took me aside and said, “I regret to tell you, your die is cast, your doom is fixed, you are sentenced to be shot tomorrow morning on the public square in Far West, at 8 o’clock.” I answered, “shoot and be damned.”
“We were in hopes,” said he, “you would come out against Joe Smith, but as you have not, you will have to share the same fate with him.” I answered, “you may thank Joe Smith that you are not in hell this night; for had it not been for him, I would have put you there.”
Always ready for a fight, Lyman Wight was a lion of the prophet. His testimony concludes with explicit details of how Jo and friends bribed the guards during their transfer to release them so they could run away to the Mormon settlement in Quincy, Illinois. His testimony, like that of nearly everybody else, reveals that Jo was, indeed, a fugitive from justice of the State of Missouri. So far, none of the testimonies we’ve discussed have done anything to exonerate Joseph Smith of any of the crimes he was currently accused of. An objective jury would have used these testimonies to convict Jo of all the crimes charged against him in Missouri and vote to extradite him, but he wasn’t in an objective jury trial by any stretch of imagination.
The next testimony was the final heard that day, and it was from Hingepin Sidney Rigdon. Rigdon needs no introduction, but since he’s been largely absent from the timeline for so many episodes, I’ll just remind any new listeners that Sidney Rigdon was one of the most important pieces of the puzzle to the success of early Mormonism. Had Rigdon not converted to the sect in late 1830, just 8 months after the Book of Mormon was published, and subsequently converted his congregations to the church, it never would have survived as a religion. He was Jo’s first counselor since the formation of the presidency of the church and was called to be interim president of the church while Jo was on Zion’s camp, his first military foray in 1834 when the Mormons were first removed from Jackson County 4 years before the actual Missouri-Mormon war. No other single person was responsible for the success of the Mormon religion than Sidney Rigdon. Jo was responsible for starting it, Rigdon was responsible for its success. Rigdon’s power of oration was his single most defining characteristic and most useful skill. His proclivities toward flourishing language and run-on sentences means his testimony is by far the longest and most verbose, robbing 18 pages of volume 5 of the History of the Church.
Rigdon’s testimony adds details absent from every other testimony, but nothing substantive and absolutely nothing that we need to discuss on the show because we’re already over time for today’s show.
It had been a long day. Rigdon’s oration undoubtedly tired out all the spectators and certainly the clerk of the court because what was said to conclude the day’s hearing isn’t recorded beyond this little line:
Messrs. [Cyrus] Walker, Patrick, Southwick and Backman (the counsel on my behalf) then respectively addressed the court, and they exhorted the Mormons to stand for their rights, stand or fall, sink or swim, live or die. Mr. Mason was counselor for Reynolds.
Whatever these lawyers said was never documented so we don’t get to hear the counterarguments made by Reynolds’ counselor, Mr. Mason. Were I in his shoes I would have said, are we serious right now? Alright Jo you’re under arrest again and I’m executing you right now. You’re very clearly guilty of EVERYTHING that Missouri wants to execute you for as all of these witnesses have clearly stated on record. But, because this was a kangaroo court with nothing but Mormons and Mormon sympathizers as the judge, jury, and executioner, this was the finding after the first day of testimonies.
This day came the said Joseph Smith, senior, in proper person, and the said Joseph H. Reynolds [Sheriff of Missouri] having made return of said Writ of Habeas Corpus and produced the body of said Smith in pursuance to the mandate of said writ, and after hearing the evidence in support of said petition. It is ordered and considered by the court that the said Joseph Smith, senior, be discharged from the said arrest and imprisonment complained of in said petition, and that the said Smith be discharged for want of substance in the warrant upon which he was arrested as well as upon the merits of said case, and that he go hence without [delay].
And just like that, Jo was arrested. The Illinois Register of July 7, 1843 reports the proceeding as follows:
The whole party made some stop at Nauvoo, where the Missouri agent says he was forced to go against his will. Smith and Walker then sued out a writ of habeas corpus from the Municipal Court of Nauvoo. The case of Smith, was brought before that court, which, after hearing a very able speech from Mr. Walker three hours long, and very loud in favor of Smith, that Court discharged him from imprisonment. Thus the matter now stands, The Executive of Illinois has so far performed the duty required by the Constitution and laws, and he will doubtless persevere in that course without deviation.
Jo was free to go, but the fight was long from over. During this hearing, Sheriffs Reynolds and Wilson were in Carthage trying to raise the local militia with the approval of the Governor to march into Nauvoo and arrest Jo again. Jo was no idiot and sent Stephen Markham to Carthage to get intel on their success and bring it back to Nauvoo as soon as he could, and that’s where we’ll pick up next week.
In conclusion, I guess I’ll just say, when it comes to Mormon doctrine, whether that’s polygamy, exaltation and the model of heaven, temple ceremonies, priesthood ordinances, and myriad other points, the church has completely shifted from what Joseph Smith first created. Everything he put in place has somehow been changed, adapted, altered, updated, removed, or completely forgotten. It’s nice to see something they kept from the Jo years of the church. And what, pray thee, is it they’ve preserved to this day? Wanting to have it both ways. They want to have their cake and eat it too. When Joseph Smith said religious persecution, that was the system of law trying to rein in a criminal empire. When Joseph Smith said prophecy that only applied until it was untenable by secular standards. When Joseph Smith says you must have 3 virgin wives to enter the celestial kingdom, it’s a divine commandment until their tax-exempt status is threatened then it’s put on hold until the end times. When Brigham Young says people of African descent can’t have the priesthood, it’s prophecy until BYU gets protested and a brand-new temple will be empty. When they say religious freedom today it’s used as an argument to oppress anybody that’s not cis-heterosexual. This hearing we read through today illustrates that Jo was trying to pick and choose what laws of an enlightened society he and his religion would follow, then cry foul when those rules applied in ways that obstructed his religious theocracy. Utah just appointed an old white guy returned missionary to the Utah state liquor board and his religious convictions somehow don’t constitute a conflict of interest. BYU can have a police force with full access to legal records that other police departments have, but when they’re forced to report their own statistics to state law enforcement agencies it’s a fight in the courts. Religious liberty was Jo’s defense to get out of the death penalty in this kangaroo court and it’s the same argument used today to insulate the church from the laws the rest of us abide by. When that church in St. George went up in flames, those were state-employed firefighters on the scene, but the church doesn’t pay taxes. They can’t interfere in politics without threatening their tax-exempt status, but that’s only if they use “a substantial portion” of their income to influence politics that they run afoul of the Johnson Amendment and the federal tax code. They can still make phone calls to their wealthy politician friends and ask for favors which is something you can rest assured happens every day. They can make land and regulation deals in nations that are avowed enemies of the United States, paying off oligarchs to build their temple, but the money exchanged lives under a shroud of darkness… because… religious freedom.
Religious freedom is a farce; it’s religious privilege. It was when Joseph Smith used it to escape a justified death penalty in the 1840s, it is today when the church uses it to ignore laws the rest of secular society lives by so we can all function in a pluralistic society. Their empire grows every day, they become more wealthy every hour than you or I will become in ten lifetimes, they pay no taxes, they influence politics in any way that might benefit them, they benefit from everything this society has built and contribute absolutely nothing but lies and thought-killing indoctrination. Joseph Smith and the church today want everything and cry persecution when somebody says they can’t have it both ways. When the history of Nauvoo Mormonism serves as the roots of the modern church, I don’t see how we can expect anything different than what we see today. This kangaroo court was purely under Joseph Smith’s control and they were never going to send him to Missouri to answer for his crimes. This wasn’t the first time this happened and it wouldn’t be the last. Even though it wasn’t doctrinal, at least we found one pattern Joseph Smith created that the church lives by to this day.
Copyright Ground Gnomes LLC subject to fair use. Citation example: "Naked Mormonism Podcast (or NMP), Ep #, original air date 03/15/2019"