Ep 179 – William Brutus Marks; Rat Patrol
On this episode, we discuss William Marks, his importance to our timeline, and a special council called to determine how loyal he was to the prophet. Just like last week, some had entertained thoughts that there was a Brutus in the highest rings of Mormon leadership waiting to backstab the prophet when his back was turned. William Marks is called in and various church officials testify about secret oaths and plots in the dark alleys of Nauvoo. Some police officers camp outside Marks’s home waiting to cut him off when the time was right. Jo plays dumb and everybody goes home for want of candles.
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
Two men had been scoped out as possible enemies to the prophet and some of his deeper teachings. We discussed the tribunal of William Judas Law last week, but another was labeled as a possible traitor to the prophet and cause of building the kingdom of god. This other person is somebody who’s come up before in our timeline, but only tangentially when his name was mentioned in revelations or he was called to various leadership positions. However, this man, William Marks, is going to occupy an increasing amount of our timeline moving forward.
A few days after the special counsel was called to answer William Judas Law’s complaint that Jo was trying to remove him by use of the Danite police force, William Marks petitioned for a similar hearing, which was answered.
We’ll read through the proceedings of his special counsel as it reveals even deeper troubling trends in the Nauvoo government system, but first, let’s spend a little time getting to know William Brutus Marks.
Marks was born in Rutland Co., Vermont in 1792, 13 years senior to Joseph Smith. He married Rosannah Robinson in May of 1813 at age 20 and they moved to Portage Co., New York when missionaries came knocking on their door. The Marks family was baptized into the church around April of 1835 and Marks was inducted into the office of Priest. He was ordained as an elder the following year, after which he moved to Kirtland when the church was amidst considerable turmoil during the Fanny Alger scandal.
Clearly William Marks showed promise in leadership as he was inducted into the high council of Kirtland in September of 1837 and was elevated to Kirtland Stake President in 1838 when Jo, Rigdon, and the majority of the Quorum of Apostles had removed to Missouri to flee legal and ecclesiastical consequences for their conduct. Jo instructed Marks directly to move to Far West to be a Stake President there, but the plan for his move was thwarted as the Missouri-Mormon war, Haun’s Mill Massacre, and arrest of Jo and other leading church officials happened before the Marks family could make the move.
The Marks family instead moved straight to Quincy, Illinois during the winter of 1838-9 as the Mormons were experiencing their third mass-exodus. Jo, Rigdon, Hyrum, and other church leaders escaped from jail in spring of 1839 and made their way to Quincy to find William Marks doing a fantastic job of helping the Mormons settle. William Brutus Marks was instrumental in coordinating the settlement of Commerce, Illinois and changing it from a swampland with a few buildings to a thriving community known as Nauvoo. William Marks, by special appointment, was named Stake President of Commerce on 5 October 1839, which became the Nauvoo stake in 1841 when the city charter went into effect.
Stakes in Joseph Smith’s church are much different than today. The Mormon church today is structured such that small localities with few members are called branches. Above the pecking order from branches are wards. Conglomerations of multiple wards and branches are stakes. Today there are about 3,300 stakes worldwide. However, under Joseph Smith’s leadership there were essentially three stakes; Kirtland, Missouri, and Nauvoo. These were the stakes that tethered the kingdom of god to this terrestrial sphere. So, to be a stake president, like William Marks was, meant you were of a select group of extremely high-ranking Mormon leaders.
But, his leadership roles didn’t end there because Marks was also named in D&C 124 and specifically told to purchase stock in the Nauvoo House Association, the hotel project Jo started but never finished. He was also in the Nauvoo Legion, a regent of the University of Nauvoo, one of the earliest members of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge, AND he would be inducted into the Council of Fifty when it’s organized in March of 1844, which we’ve already discussed on this show.
William Marks was one of the highest-ranking Mormon elites in Nauvoo, he was also a personal friend of the Smiths and a generally moral person. Marks had been one of those on the forefront defending Jo against the supposedly slanderous accusations of John C. Wreck-it Bennett when his expose letters and book were published in 1842.
From Mormon Enigma, the greatest biography of Emma Smith, pg 128.
Joseph’s followers were tireless in their efforts to clear his name. William Marks, president of the ecclesiastical association of several congregations in Nauvoo (termed a Stake by the Mormons), published his support of Joseph in August 1842 in the Times and Seasons. Marks attacked John C. Bennett. “I believe him to be a vile and wicked adulterous man, who pays no regard to the principles of truth or righteousness.” Joseph had not taught the doctrine of plural marriage to Marks. Truthfully, Marks said he knew of “no order in the church which admits to a plurality of wives” and did not “believe that Joseph Smith ever taught such a doctrine.”
Well, by late 1843, it was egg on the face of William Brutus Marks because he’d stuck out his neck to defend Jo against the accusations of Wreck-it Bennett, but a year after his public screed Jo was like… yeah…. We’re totally doing that plural wives thing… But, thanks for publishing that when you did, buddy!
When Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith learned about polygamy, he’d been in league with William Marks and William Law in opposing it. All three of them had defended Jo publicly against accusations of polygamy, so their own reputations were at stake as much as all the legal and societal complications the practice may bring upon the burgeoning sect. Once again from Mormon Enigma, beginning on 140.
Within the same few weeks, in the spring of 1843, both Hyrum Smith and Emma would accept plural marriage. Hyrum, who had disbelieved the rumors that linked Joseph’s name with polygamy, had joined earlier with William Marks and William Law in condemning Bennett for his practice of spiritual wifery. They considered the rumors accusing Joseph of such practice to be attempts to blacken his reputation. Hyrum was patriarch to the church, Law was Joseph’s counselor in the first presidency, and Marks was the Nauvoo stake president. Although the exact sequence of events is not clear, at some point the three became convinced that the rumors were founded in elements of fact… Hyrum joined William Marks and William Law to “expose” Joseph and bring a stop to the practice. Heber C. Kimball learned of the effort and passed on his concerns to William Clayton, who recorded the incident in his diary on May 23.
Soon after this interaction, Hyrum and Bloody Brigham sat on a fence and chatted about the secret that Jo was keeping from everybody, the polygamy revelation was dictated a month and a half later, and then the highest leadership bodies of the church were instructed on the practice, the Holy Order was formed to control who knew about the practice, and Hyrum took his second wife while William Judas Law and William Brutus Marks continued to oppose the practice.
Teaching polygamy by reading the revelation to the high council and elders quorum was a line-drawing moment. From that time forward a member of the Mormon leadership could have heard the rumors and simply ignored or dismissed them as slander. Or, if you happened to be a guy who was interested in having multiple wives, maybe the allure of this clandestine doctrine inspired deeper conviction. When the doctrine was actually taught, it removed all doubt. No longer could a member of the highest Mormon leadership ignore the accusations and rumors and consider Wreck-it Bennett’s exposes completely baseless. Were you in or out? Those who were in could sleep comfortably in their beds at night while contemplating how hard it’s going to be to tell their wife about the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Those who were out… well… watch your back because nobody wants a visit from a Danite.
Which brings us to the hearing we’re discussing today. William Brutus Marks wasn’t on board with polygamy and was still smarting from putting his name out there in defending Jo against the accusations and them ending up all being true. Marks was concerned his general opposition to Jo’s quickly-evolving empire would end his life. A passage from Quinn’s second book of the Mormon Hierarchy series, Extensions of Power, illustrates these fears were well-founded. Beginning on page 246.
Some LDS leaders have dismissed allegations about blood atonement as misunderstanding or misuse of earlier sermons concerning the atonement of Jesus Christ or the civil necessity of capital punishment. Other Mormon leaders have continued to affirm that after committing “certain grievous sins,” a person “must make sacrifice of his own life to atone—so far as in his power lies—for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail.”
What are these certain grievous sins? Number one is shedding innocent blood. Number two is denying the gospel. Luckily for Mormon leadership, they determine whose blood is innocent and they determine what the gospel is and what actions constitute denying or opposing it. Early Mormonism was a death cult. There’s no other way to put it.
Some LDS historians have claimed that blood-atonement sermons were simply Brigham Young’s use of “rhetorical devices designed to frighten wayward individuals into conformity with Latter-day Saints principles” and to bluff anti-Mormons. Writers often describe these sermons as limited to the religious enthusiasm and frenzy of the Utah Reformation up to 1857. The first problem with such explanations is that official LDS sources show that as early as 1843 Joseph Smith and his counselor Sidney Rigdon advocated decapitation or throat-cutting as punishment for various crimes and sins.
Moreover, a decade before Utah’s reformation, Brigham Young’s private instructions show that he fully expected his trusted associates to kill various persons for violating religious obligations. The LDS church’s official history still quotes Young’s words to “the brethren” in February 1846: “I should be perfectly willing to see thieves have their throats cut.” The following December he instructed bishops, “When a man is found to be a thief, he will be a thief no longer, cut his throat, & thro’ him in the River,” and Young did not instruct them to ask his permission.
But it wasn’t just thieves who deserved an immediate death penalty on the spot…
A week later the church president explained to a Winter Quarters meeting that cutting off the heads of repeated sinners “is the law of God & it shall be executed…” A rephrase of Young’s words later appeared in Hosea Stout’s reference to a specific sinner, “to cut him off—behind the ears—according to the law of God in such cases.”
That Law of God wasn’t created by Bloody Brigham Young, it was a tool crafted by his predecessor and wielded expertly by the blooming tyrant. Both William Judas Law AND William Brutus Marks were right to be afraid for their lives as their opposition to Jo’s tyranny mounted. William Marks’s fears came to a head when one night some men decided to lay in wait outside his home, acting very shady, building a small fire to keep warm because this was December, and keeping up William and Rosannah all night as they expected the men outside were actually Danites waiting for the opportunity to blood atone this perceived Brutus before he could strike the Mormon Caesar.
Now we have a proper introduction to William Brutus Marks, why he’s important to the timeline, and the context for the hearing itself. I could summarize what transpired, but I much prefer to let the documents tell their own stories; that’s kinda what we do on this podcast. So, let’s get to the hearing and discuss it as we go.
It begins with a speech from Jo responding to the complaints that Marks and Law thought they were in danger. Of course, Jo plays dumb.
Object of the council stated by the Mayor, similar to the last council, as William Law and William Marks had considered themselves in danger. When he heard the report he was unwilling to believe anything about it, from the course the thing took in the last council; but for the sake of others, he had called this council.
Now we discuss our first player in the hearing today, Leonard Soby. Soby was on his way home when he was stopped by a Danite. This was peculiar and Soby thought he himself might be in danger, but the man instead chose to relay to Soby that Marks and Law were in danger and if either Judas or Brutus crossed his path, they were done for.
As Leonard Soby was going home night before last, he was hailed by a supposed policeman with a gun, which frightened him. Soby says that a policeman had told him that Marks and Law must not cross his tracks; that Warren Smith said at another time that William Marks and William Law were enemies to Joseph.
Jo responds to these Danites on the prowl for Marks and Law by continuing to play dumb. Always remember, this was purely an act because nothing happened in Nauvoo without Jo knowing about or allowing it. Very few things escaped the notice of his little birds around the city.
I have never thought even to dream of doing anything against the peace of the inhabitants of this city. Did not know I had any enemies in this city; have stayed at home and heard but little: did not know there was so much evil surmising among the people. My long forbearance to my enemies ought to be sufficient testimony of my peaceful disposition toward all men. It occurred to my mind that it was not fear, but got up for effect; but I do not know it. I want the council to investigate this matter.
Jo was at home, he couldn’t have sworn a secret oath with these policemen to keep the peace through Danite enforcement rules, right? This is grandstanding. He wants the special council to investigate where all these accusation came from because apparently his blanket denials aren’t good enough. His bit about him being home most of the time and therefore unable to orchestrate conspiracy is exactly why we have RICO laws for prosecuting organized crime. A crime boss never pulls the trigger himself, but he’s responsible for sending people to the catfishes just as much as the guy who actually pulled the trigger. After this denial, William Brutus Marks took the stand and reports what Leonard Soby told him about the conspiracy to kill him and William Judas Law.
William Marks sworn: Testified that on Monday evening, brother Soby came up and said “Are you aware of the danger you are in?” Marks replied, [“]No![“]
Soby: “Your life is threatened, a policeman stopped me in the dark last night as I was going home, I was alarmed.” Marks: I suppose the threats were from that policeman, but I was mistaken. Another policeman, Warren Smith, said last Sunday that Joseph had enemies—that Law and myself were Joseph’s enemies, and if they came in his way they might be popped over. A fire was kindled in the street near my house, and I thought I was watched.
Soby had told Brutus Marks his life was in danger then a bunch of guys camped outside his house, which stoked these fears. He went and told Francis Higbee, another of Jo’s opponents who supposed his father had died by foul play by the prophet only a year prior, and Higbee told him about the conspiracy. I’ll just let the document speak for itself.
Francis Higbee told me, and a man in the east part of the town told me; and a man came from the other side of the river, and told the story to that man, as he said. Yesterday morning, Hyrum [Smith], Wilson Law, and William Law met in the street, and I told the story as before related.
This was how Marks tried to establish his credibility. Soby told him about the Danite conspiracy and the night after the guys staked out his house he told Francis Higbee, Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith, and William and Wilson Law about what he knew and the guys watching him the previous night.
Mayor: Did ever anybody tell you I directed you to be watched?
William Marks; No!
Jo was attempting to establish distance between himself and the conduct of his Danite policemen. Higbee and another man named George W. Crouse were sent for. Crouse was a store owner where one of these conversations happened. Crouse was also a Danite. The conversation included another dog of Joseph Smith’s, Warren Smith, one of the leaders of the Nauvoo police force and one of the most stalwart Danites in the secret cabal.
Marshal went for Francis M. Higbee and George W. Crouse.
Leonard Soby sworn: On Sunday, 31st December last, I met Warren Smith in Crouse’s store; asked him if he knew who the Brutus was. Warren Smith said he believed William Law was one, and Marks another; they had better not come in his way. Did not say he would shoot them, or endanger their life any way. Did not know whether there was any private instructions or what; believed brother Marks was in danger; did not thinks Marks in danger from joseph; thought Warren Smith was under a wrong impression with regard to Marks. Warren Smith said, “He (Marks) had better not cross my path when I am on duty.” I gathered the idea there was something wrong with brother Warren Smith. Do no recollect any person present.
Leonard Soby bore witness to this exchange and figured that Warren Smith was on the warpath to get rid of Marks or Law by any means necessary. But, like any good made-man, Warren Smith would never betray the confidence of his boss because he’d sworn oaths of secrecy with penalty of death.
Mayor[:] Did Warren Smith or any other policeman give you to understand that I had authorized him to believe there was any difficulty between me and brother Law or Marks?
Soby: No! He did not think Warren Smith would transcend his official duties towards Law or Marks; felt at the time Marks and Law were in danger; did not think they were in danger, if they did not rise up against the authorities.
Did not say he had any instruction; said to Mr. Marks, “you have enemies.” My impression was that somebody had been to Joseph to make a bad impression on his mind. Warren Smith did mention brother Marks’ name, I think.
Of course, Jo had plausible deniability in all this because no Danite would betray their oaths and tell on the stand what Jo had commanded them to do. It was all just a misunderstanding.
Thirty policemen—all who were present, sworn: Testified that General Smith had never given them any private instruction concerning the case before the council.
Just like with the hearing 2 days prior with William Judas Law, Jo made a grand display with all the policemen in attendance that there weren’t any secret oaths. These men knew exactly what their duty required, the first rule of Danite club.
Warren Smith said Soby asked his opinion who was the Judas. I said from rumor I would suspect William Law; does not believe he mentioned Marks’ name. My opinion was founded on rumor.
As we’ve seen countless times, when there was a rumor in Nauvoo it was often founded in a nugget of truth. Now another guy is introduced, Isaac Hill. Hill doesn’t seem to be a Danite, but may have just had some insider knowledge about their existence. He was loyal, but wasn’t totally on board with polygamy, which, of course, was scrubbed from the published HoC and restored by Vogel’s source and text critical edition of the HoC from which I’m reading this hearing.
Brother Isaac Hill said brother Law was in a bad situation, was kicking; and if he did not mind, he would go over the board; if he [h]ad his property in available means and was away, he would feel better. Have heard it talked of that brother Law was not going to stand. Hill did not tell what he was kicking at. [I] think he mentioned spiritual wife system, &c. I understand a Brutus to mean a treacherous man. Bro Hill did not believe in the spiritual wife system and Law did not believe in it.
Once again, we see polygamy being scrubbed from the record by small degrees and the lines historians draw between celestial marriage and spiritual wifery are completely arbitrary, post-hoc, and done so with an agenda to scrub Jo’s name of any wrongdoing. Next on the stand is George W. Crouse, the storeowner where this conversation between Leonard Soby and Warren Smith took place.
George W. Crouse sworn: Does not recollect any conversation between Warren Smith and Leonard Soby at his store relative to the case in question; had a discussion about the duties of policemen.
As a businessowner in Nauvoo, it was best for Crouse to just stay out of this regardless of what he knew. Crouse isn’t heard from again for the rest of the hearing. Lost in the record, as always, is the subtext of the conversation and an exact recounting of everything which was said. Unfortunately we only have the transcription for W. W. Double-dub Phelps to work with and he leaves out what led to the next point made, but it hearkens to what transpired in the previous hearing. People were generally concerned that the Nauvoo police force were patrolling the street with loaded rifles. It put people on edge and was too similar to martial law when the Nauvoo Legion would occasionally occupy the streets. But, Nauvoo wasn’t in martial law at this time, so people couldn’t see any justification for the police force to constantly walk around with loaded rifles. A resolution was passed at the end of the hearing we covered last week about William Judas Law, and the policemen were required to hang up their rifles and only patrol with pistols. Apparently, that still wasn’t good enough and caused more tension, but John Taylor, second prophet of the Utah church, spoke in favor of the practice.
Councilor [John] Taylor said it was customary in all cities for policemen to go armed in time of danger.
Councilor [Orson] Hyde confirmed Councilor Taylor’s observation.
Next to speak is Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith and he has a fun little bit of folklore to share.
Councilor Hyrum Smith spoke. Told a story of the old Dutchman and the ox. Soby makes me think of an old Dutchman, who had an ox, the first animal he ever owned in his life, and he broke him to ride; the he filled a sack with rocks and laid it on the ox’s back, and got on himself, and told his son to hide by the roadside; and when he came along, to jump out and hollo boo, as he wanted to know how well his ox was broke. The son did accordingly; the ox was frightened and threw the old man off. “Father,” said the son, “I did as you told me.” “Yes,” said the old man, “but you made too big a boo.”
This is an interesting and astute point Hyrum made, but I think it’s important to see it from a larger perspective. Who is it that was making too big a boo? Was it Soby who told Marks that his life was in danger needlessly, or was it Jo who was making too big a boo out of what he perceived to be threats? Look, a person with such a tenuous grasp on power like Joseph Smith, it’s not uncommon for them to overreact to something they see as a dire threat like William Judas Law going public with an expose. Jo didn’t learn from this little tale because his reaction to the Nauvoo Expositor, written by William Judas Law, was what actually killed him. He didn’t go to Carthage Jail because of the accusations in the Nauvoo Expositor, he went there because he committed an act of tyranny and destroyed the printing press. The coverup was worse than the crime and he died for the coverup. Jo was the guy making too big a boo when he thought the ox was tame.
The town Marshal returned with Francis Higbee and he was called to the stand to get his side of the story. Remember, at this time, Higbee was wondering whether or not his own father had been taken out by the Danites. Higbee would be one of the co-conspirators alongside William Judas Law to publish the Nauvoo Expositor. It was important for him to keep his own thoughts close to his chest because if he aired out suspicions that Jo was orchestrating hits in Nauvoo, this is the audience who wouldn’t listen to his cries and he’d be food for the Mississippi catfishes before nightfall.
Francis M. Higbee sworn: Have received the impression from rumor that Mr. Law, Mr. Marks, and probably one or two others, could not subscribe to all things in the church, and there were some private matters that might make trouble; don’t know of anyone being in danger. No one told me the police had received any private instruction. Could not tell who he had received these rumors from.
It was hard for anybody to trust anybody else in this hearing. There were two perceived sides. The prophet and his Danites, and those who weren’t on the prophet’s side. Nobody could be certain where each other was, especially when we had people playing both sides like William Judas Law and Joseph H. Jackson, the guy who was sent to bust Pistol Packin’ Port out of prison and was still deeply infiltrated in the leadership while actively writing his expose in secret at this time.
Next to take the stand was William Judas Law, apparently seeking an explanation for why Warren Smith would tell Leonard Soby that if Judas or Brutus crossed Warren’s path they’d be popped.
William Law spoke: Said he had no personal feeling against Warren Smith. Some two or three years since he sued brother Warren, and stayed the suit, &c.: was suspicious Warren Smith’s feelings might have risen from that source.
Councilor Hyrum Smith, Daniel Carn, Warren Smith, L[eonard] Soby, and William Marks addressed the council.
Unfortunately, the record doesn’t have anything more than this. They spoke; nobody today knows what was said. After Judas Law spoke and these guys all gave their piece, Jo took another opportunity to speak and clear his name of any Danite conspiracy by playing dumb. Then he spoke about the necessity of having a police force in Nauvoo, which was apparently still up in the air.
The Mayor spoke: said no one had come to him with tales about William Marks, to prejudice his mind against him: was totally ignorant of it. I said to brother Dunham, if any man approach my house with arms, or attempted to disturb my house, I wanted the police to take care of that individual, whoever he might be. I repeat the instruction, and am perfectly astonished that brother Law, Marks, or any other man should entertain such an idea. I live above suspicion on this subject from any source whatever. I never could bring my feelings to take revenge on my enemies. The city council did not concoct the idea of having a police; the several wards petitioned for a police to protect them against invasion—wanted citizens to pass the streets at any time of night without molestation; but if the police see a man breaking my house or barn, or anybody’s house or barn, tell him to stand and inquire his business. I think it possible that some person has been practicing fraud on brother Soby and the police, and upon individuals, as the police according to their instructions, had laid away their guns.
That last point basically claims that there may be some who are imitating the police force and purposefully scaring the good citizens of the city. The police force was necessary, but of course it normalized the practice of having armed guys walking the streets which meant a person could walk around with a loaded rifle and simply claim they were a policeman without any check or balance. But Jo did say that William Brutus Marks was basically overreacting. If somebody was camping outside Jo’s house with guns at night, he’d call the police over to ask them what’s up instead of thinking a conspiracy to take his life was afoot. But when the people staking out your house are corrupt cops who you think are going to kill you, it’s kind of tough to call the cops. Sensing there was apprehension about Daniel Carns and Warren Smith, the two radical Danites who were suspected of plotting to kill Law and Marks, somebody proposed that they should be dropped from the police “lest they scare somebody”. There was some deliberation, and that passage was removed from the published HoC, but by the end of the hearing they retained their leadership positions in the Danite police force.
Proposed that Daniel Cairns and W[arren] Smith be dropped from the police if the council consent[s] lest they scare somebody.
Then Jo had some explicit instructions to Warren Smith and Daniel Carns. Of course he did; their actions nearly revealed to the whole council that Jo had a secretive assassination squad. He never missed a beat when it came to invoking the collective trauma of Governor Boggs and the Missouri-Mormon War. Although, given the context of the hearing, this almost sounds like an admission that a Danite was the one who pulled the trigger on Boggs.
Don’t guard brother Marks’ house any more. Men must not pervert the power entrusted to them like Ex-Governor Boggs, whose executive oath required him to protect the Saints in Missouri, but perverted his power to enforce their extermination from the State.
Brother Soby does not know that it was a policeman who stopped him; brother Marks does not know that the police kindled the fire before his house. Let the police have canes. Let the citizens pass and repass at all times of night.
Then it was Brother John Taylor’s time to speak his piece of kool-aid drunk propaganda.
Councilor Taylor spoke. Thought the conclusion drawn up by brother Soby that Joseph or somebody was going to get revenged by setting the guard to kill Marks, was the most contemptible that could be imagined; and if brother Soby had had the respect for brother Joseph he ought to have had, he could not have formed such a conclusion.
Yes, William Marks and Soby relaying an assassination conspiracy to Marks, simply don’t have enough respect for brother Joseph and therefore concluded that he wanted them dead. The next note is remarkable and it’s even more remarkable because it was removed. William Brutus marks and Francis Higbee, two of the primary dissenters and possible targets of Danite assassination attempts, were dismissed from the special council. It simply says they retired, but I think it’s more reasonable that they had spoken their piece and were no longer seen as important to the rest of the council proceedings. Why is it important? Well, when we read the rest of the document, it seems like everybody left on amicable terms. But, when we see that Marks and Higbee were no longer present for the conclusion of the council, it takes on a much more clandestine and seedy nature. When Jo takes the stand, it’s hard to tell if he’s gloating or if he’s guarded and uncertain. He had more reason to be guarded and uncertain. Always remember, we’re only reading the original document as it was recorded by Double-dub Phelps. We don’t know what was actually said, it was censored when it was initially recorded and it was censored when sections were removed from the published HoC. Jo’s speech after Marks and Higbee left leads me to believe that they actually gave much more damning testimony than what the record reveals.
Marks and Higby retired.
Mayor referred to Francis Higbee’s testimony; thought Francis Higbee had better stay at home and hold his tongue, lest rumor turn upon him and disclose some private matters, which he would prefer kept hid; did not believe there was any rumor of the kind afloat, or he could have told some of the names of his informants; thought the young men of the city had better withdraw from his society, and let him stand on his own merits; I by no means consider him the standard of the city.
Leave Francis Higbee to stand on his own merits has a lot of implications. He no longer carries the blessing of the leadership. This was Francis Higbee’s exile.
There has been a system of corruption and debauchery which these rumors have grown out of, and the individuals who are the authors of them are those who do not want a police; they want to prowl in the streets at pleasure without interruption.
Okay, so it’s not that they didn’t want a police force, they didn’t want the NAUVOO police force because it was so incredibly corrupt and a bunch of them were Danites. Hey, I like to have cops, but if I thought every cop driving around my community wanted to kill me because I’ve called Joseph Smith a monster, I wouldn’t want that cop around! As much as this seems like a hearing about the utility of the police force, this was actually a divisive hearing. This council, and William Judas Law’s council on last week’s episode were really a dividing line being drawn. Whose side are you on, the prophet’s or the side of the dissenters? Can Jo trust you in his time of need or are you going to be a threat which requires being dealt with?
H[igh] Policeman spoke.
Alderman Orson Spencer spoke, approving the conduct of the police, [and] in objection to dropping the two police mentioned by the Mayor.
C[ouncilor] Harris said the police were in the hands of the Mayor.
Gen[eral] Wilson Law spoke.
This next passage is an interesting one. It is originally recorded as General Wilson Law speaking about Jo and him being friends, but the editors of the HoC inserted William Law instead of Wilson. This makes sense given the content of his speech. William Law thought Jo was prophet, but misguided. Wilson Law hated Joseph Smith and only grudgingly stayed in town because all his worldly possessions and his career were wrapped up in the Mormon empire. This speech more likely came from William Judas Law than his brother, Wilson Law.
Gen[eral]. Wilson [William] Law said. “I am Joseph’s friend—he has no better friend in the world; I am ready to lay down my life for him,” and upon that the Mayor and Gen[eral]. Wilson [William] Law shook hands.
High policeman said the fire was kindled before Marks by some men from the North part of the city and not the policemen.
Now the truth comes out, but without any details. The guys who camped out were from up north and weren’t policemen. What did that mean? How far north? Because the north end of town is the hill where all the most wealthy members lived next to the temple under construction. The wealthy markets and stores were up on the high side of town. But, much further north on the Mississippi towards Fort Madison is where the river rats lived. The river rats were basically Mississippi pirates who robbed and plundered under the cover of nightfall and then they’d disappear in canoes up the river. If any of them were caught or arrested, the Nauvoo Municipal court system would simply let them walk. The river rats operated with Jo’s blessing as long as they only took the property of people Jo perceived as deserving of it. For example, the hearing last week when Jo was mad because Norton was running a hemp farm instead of investing in the JST Bible project, Norton’s hemp farm was problematic because “the Lord had not blest them in the business, but sunk their hemp in the Mississippi river”. That was probably Danite River Rats who worked under the cover of night and destroyed the pot farm. So, if it were the river rats who were actually camped outside William Brutus Marks’s house that night, he SHOULD be terrified. There are a few ways to interpret that passage, I’m not sure what’s most reasonable.
Gen[eral] Law spoke again [and] expressed of his good feelings.
Councilor [W.W.] Phelps [said]. Policemen have always had to learn their duty. [He] hoped no one would get up another tempest in a tea pot.
A tempest in a teapot is such a great turn of phrase. I disagree that this situation really was blowing things out of proportion, it seems more like people complaining that there’s a tempest that’s about to run through Nauvoo and the leadership telling them to quit overreacting. Let’s be very clear, it was Jo’s corruption that killed him, and these two hearings are symptoms of the problem. Jo didn’t die because he was a prophet, he was assassinated because he was one of the most corrupt men in American politics.
C[ouncilor] H[yrum]. Smith apologized—
The ordinance concerning the forty policemen, read twice.
The Mayor objected to assuming the entire disposal of the police, beyond the definition of the ordinance.
C[ouncilor]. Taylor though the difficulties with W[arren]. Smith and D[aniel]. Cairns was of a private nature, and did not belong to the council.
That passage was also removed. If it was a private matter with Warren Smith and Daniel Carns, why would somebody like William Marks be afraid for his life? This is precisely why the due process of law is supposed to exist, because sometimes people like Joseph Smith, a demagogue and tyrant, push the system to the point of breaking. He didn’t operate by the set of rules and ethics most of us follow. We saw last week that there were different systems of law which people followed. There was law, then there was the Law of the Lord; and the Law of the Lord was whatever Jo wanted it to be. He was a king in a nation with no kings. People don’t look kindly upon tyrants.
Alderman George A. Smith said he could sleep with a fire near his house, if there were some of the police warming themselves by it, and he believed any honest man could do the same.
Clearly George A. Smith is either deliberately trivializing the issue, or completely misunderstands why William Marks was afraid in the first place. But we can’t ever trust George A. Smith to be intellectually honest.
On motion of W.W. Phelps, voted that the 2 police be retained.
The police received the thanks of the council.
Bro[ther] Soby—said W[arren] Smith did not say he would pop a hole through him.—did not say anybody would pop a hole through him. [He] never heard such a thing.
This final statement by Soby was clearly him reading the room and understanding he didn’t have friends in the council. His denials of what he’d stated earlier simply shows he knew that this battle was lost.
The cross-examination and speeches are generally omitted.
Council adjourned at dusk for the want of candles.
It’s such a fascinating special council. The reasons we spent so much time on just these two hearings in early January 1844 was because they reveal exactly how corruption flourishes in the darkness. There was absolutely no watchdog, no independent oversight, no check and balance, no democratic process; he was anointed King over all of Israel and king is the most fitting term.
In many ways, we’re lucky Jo called William Marks and William Law a Brutus or a Judas at his right hand, because the nicknames fit perfectly for both of these guys. From William Law’s perspective, he did betray Jo by publishing the Nauvoo Expositor. This showed to the world and the powers that be that Jo was who everybody suspected he was and needed to be stopped. This was the greatest betrayal in Jo’s life from his own right-hand man, and one of the most powerful men in Nauvoo at the time and it was the inciting incident of his death in Carthage.
But, what about William Brutus Marks. Why is Brutus the fitting name for him to wear? Marks’s betrayal of Jo didn’t happen immediately at his death. Instead, William Marks was a well-liked guy in high leadership positions in the church during the schism crisis and held a lot of sway with the general Mormon public. He was a level-headed guy and his stability was very appealing to thousands of people. He was one of the primary opponents to polygamy as Bloody Brigham and the Quorum of Apostles began absorbing power through the second half of 1844. In the greatest backstab to Joseph Smith’s legacy, William Brutus Marks refused to align with Bloody Brigham and the quorum of Apostles, instead publicly declaring Hingepin Sidney Rigdon to be the rightful guardian of the church until Joseph Smith III came of age. By mid 1846, William Brutus Marks twisted the knife already placed in the back of Jo’s legacy by joining James Strang’s movement and being named counselor to the president. This move dragged a lot of Mormons with him to follow James Strang as Rigdon became increasingly irrelevant in late 1846 and early 1847.
From the believing Salt Lake City Mormon perspective, William Marks truly was a Brutus who betrayed the polygamous legacy of Joseph Smith. After Strang’s assassination in 1856, William Marks became a central figure in the Reorganization. A devoted friend to Emma and Jo 3.0, William Brutus Marks was ordained a counselor in the RLDS church presidency in April of 1863. If the Utah church was what Jo envisioned and strived for his entire life, William Marks was the man to drive the dagger into the back of the Mormon colossus. While he didn’t succeed in killing the demon, he weakened it. His fealty and legacy are a source of debate, but the point remains that Jo was right to be skeptical of Marks’s loyalty to him in early 1844. Given Jo’s penchant for either running from his problems or making his problems go away through brute force, William Marks was also right to be afraid for his life. Anybody with his social standing and moral compass was a grave threat to the Mormon theocratic empire. Jo dealt with threats, and Marks fit the categories those who deserve blood atonement. He certainly had denied the fullness of the gospel, and shedding his blood was no problem because he was no longer innocent.
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