Ep 181 – Green Mountain Masons
On this episode, times are tough in Nauvoo. From fights against the anti-Mormons in Carthage to financial strain pressuring everybody in the Kingdom on the Mississippi, Mormon leadership is looking for possible solutions to increasing debt crushing Jo and the whole community. They decided the Nauvoo Temple was the most financially viable solution to return initial investment causes, which pushed all other city projects back years. Joseph Smith decides to call on the Green Mountain Boys militia to help the Nauvoo Legion in a campaign to make Missouri answer for her crimes.
Check out the Smith-entheogen paper in Journal of Psychedelic Studies
Letter to Green Mountain Boys
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
The work of building an empire is a vast undertaking requiring a lot of resources. Joseph Smith was in the business of empire-building since day one of his church organizing. By in large, the Mormon people stood behind their divine leader in these empire undertakings. Jo was able to successfully drain many of his followers of everything they owned for the purpose of building up Zion. Theirs wasn’t just a business undertaking, but the greatest mission any group of people had ever been commissioned to carry out in all of human history. The Mormons were literally building the kingdom of God for Christ to reign from a throne upon his second coming.
Constructing this Mormon empire had many moving parts and all required lubrication in the form of money. Many Nauvoo public works projects had been started without reaching completion to return the initial investment. The Nauvoo canal project, the manufacturing district, the shipping port on the Mississippi river, and a dozen other projects all drained resources without ever giving back. But, there were other projects which were moving along, but not quickly enough. One of the main projects which was becoming an absolute black hole of Mormon resources was the Nauvoo House.
The Nauvoo House association was formed in early 1841 by way of revelation in order to create a place for boarding the Smith family and entertaining powerful politicians and dignitaries when they would visit the city. The Nauvoo House was to be the premier 4-star hotel experience in all of Illinois and attract visitors and tourism from all across the nation to come see what the industrious Mormon city was like. The Nauvoo House would also be very helpful for people making a journey up or down the Mississippi as Nauvoo was a great place to spend the night and trade goods carried by the various steamers plowing up and down the river year-round.
There was, however, a fatal flaw with the Nauvoo House. It was created as a publicly traded association without any capital investment to get it started. It was simply formed as part of the Nauvoo City Charter and designated with a value and wealthy Mormons were expected to purchase stock in the Nauvoo House in order to fund the construction; all with the expectation it would be completed and they’d become wealthy in a few years’ time.
If the Nauvoo House was the only project the 10,000 Nauvoo Mormons were working on, it may have worked out, but they had too few resources spread too thin over too many projects meaning none were actually completed.
By early 1844 it was necessary to form a triage list of the most desperate projects. Would it be forming more market districts? Would it be finally building a manufacturing plant on the Mississippi to create goods and ship them up and down the river as was initially intended with the location of the city? Would it be the canal to divert the unlimited power of the Mississippi through the center of town and provide mechanical power to all the hoped-for factories that were planned?
No… it was the Nauvoo temple. From a purely economical perspective, a temple was an interesting proposition. The church today recognizes that at the end of the day temples are investments. You build a temple and require tithing income for locals to enter. Once the temple is complete, hopefully a bunch of people renew their recommends, catch up on tithing, and continue to pay tithing to continue having access to the temple. The overhead for this investment is pretty low as no raw materials are needed and the work is volunteer so a temple can be a cash cow. But, the calculus which goes into constructing a temple today is a bit different than the Nauvoo temple. When the church considers a location for a new temple today, they look at the demographics of the prospective area. How many people live in the area who actively attend church weekly, what’s the average household income of the neighborhood and surrounding city, is there a plot of land which can be cheaply acquired yet still looks desirable to have a temple sitting on, and a few other factors. At the end of the day the result is retrenchment of the members near the temple and increased tithing income. Maybe an occasional non-member goes to the visitor’s center and picks up a pamphlet, agrees to have missionaries over, and gets baptized to be a new source of tithing income too.
The calculus which served at the genesis of the Nauvoo Temple were similar, yet different. Nauvoo was the headquarters of the Mormon population so they weren’t really going to shop around to other possible locations. There was only really one hill in Nauvoo so the location was already decided for the leadership before they ever chose to break ground. But, once again, the result at the end of the day was an appealing one. Construct one building, take in a ton of tithing income with very little overhead and no payroll expenses.
What this means is that the resolve of the leadership to prioritize the temple over the dozens of other projects still in progress was a very selfish choice. It benefited the leadership with greater tithing, but it absolutely did nothing to improve the overall financial situation of the average Mormons living in Nauvoo. With the temple done, understandably, there was hope for expanded economic possibilities. Once the temple was complete it would be a shining example to the outside world of the Mormons’ industriousness. Of course they must be a good religion, look at how beautiful and white that huge building is! I better join up and give them my tithing money too!
There were, however, disagreements about which project should be prioritized. Jo wanted the Nauvoo House done, while the Quorum of Apostles thought prioritizing the temple was the best economic and religious option.
Robert Flanders’ Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi page 189:
At the annual conference in April, 1843, Smith complained that “there is no place in this city where men of wealth, character, and influence from abroad can go and repose themselves, and it is necessary we should have such a place… This is the most important matter for the time being… The Church must build it or abide the result of not obeying the commandment.”… On April 24, 1843, Smith told the Twelve to “wake up the people to the importance of building the Nauvoo House, as there was a prejudice against it in favor of the Temple.”…
The prospects of the Nauvoo House were waning, however, despite the considerable energy which Smith exerted in its behalf. Its conception was too grand for the available resources. Finally work languished and then stopped altogether. In the summer of 1843, even the Prophet lost faith to the extent that he built a wing on his own house, the “Nauvoo Mansion,” and opened it as a hotel. In February, 1844, Miller and Wight were asking to leave the project to go to Texas; and on March 7, Brigham Young, never as much interested in the hotel as he was in the Temple, urged the completion of the one and the abandonment of the other. In a sermon he said, “I expect that the Saints are so anxious to work [on the Temple], and so ready to do right, that God has whispered to the Prophet, ‘Build the Temple, and let the Nauvoo House alone at the present.’”
The Quorum of Apostles, likely at the behest of Bloody Brigham, had pushed Jo towards sending more resources the way of the temple. Jo renewed his public calls for reinvigoration about the project by selling it as the absolute greatest aspiration the city could attain.
Smith made it clear that the Nauvoo Temple was to be no ordinary meeting house but was to play an integral and indispensable role in new religious modes which were to come: “The temple of the Lord is in process of erection here,” he wrote… “where the Saints will come to worship according to the order of His house and the powers of the Holy Priesthood, and will be so constructed as to enable all the functions of the Priesthood to be duly exercised, and where instructions from the Most High will be received and will go forth to distant lands.”
What cannot be ignored here is the religious significance of the temple as a place of worship. As Flanders said, this wasn’t a church, this was a temple where initiates were devoted to keep the deepest and darkest secrets of what events transpired therein. There’s something that happens to the mind of a person when they walk into a large structure like a temple that’s devoted solely to spiritual pursuits. Walk into a Mormon chapel and see how you feel and then walk into the dom cathedral in Cologne, or the Cysteine Chapel. The feeling you get when entering each of these buildings is far different than just any old church. The grandiose size and awe-inducing workmanship which goes into the buildings has a subconscious effect on the attendee and strike wonder in the mind of the curious or believer while simultaneously striking fear into the hearts of enemies of the faith. Those subconscious effects are harnessed by the people building the temple and preaching within its chambers, but with Mormon theology it runs much deeper.
What do I mean by that? Well, secrecy. Mormons will often say what goes on in the temple is sacred not secret, but that’s just a dodge to make it not seem like a cult. The temple rituals are inherently secret and until 1990 included swearing oaths of self-mutilation or consent to being murdered for revealing the secrets. Initiates literally motion slitting their own throats and disembowelment should they apostatize and reveal what happens in that hallowed chamber. Think of how the mindset this creates can be abused. The highest-ranks of Mormon leadership were doing all sorts of seedy things from illegal adultery to sowing seeds of treason against the United States by forming plans to commit a violent coup against the powers that be. The secrecy of those meetings was kept relatively tight-lipped when they were held in the upper floor of the Red Brick Store or the Masonic meeting house, but if those meetings were to transpire in a completed house of the lord with all the subconscious effects at play that put an air of religious supremacy over anything that happens during the meetings, it’s much more likely that information never gets leaked and more people in larger congregations can be trusted with the deepest secrets of the kingdom.
For Joseph Smith and his religiopolitical practices, the temple was exactly the tool he needed to ensure secrecy to his ever-expanding ranks of closest devotees. To reiterate, secrecy is one of the primary purposes of a Mormon temple and Jo wanted the Nauvoo temple completed so he could run his criminal empire with impunity.
In accordance with this mindset, by January and February of 1844, Jo’s renewed devotion to completing the Temple project became a centerpiece of his public sermons. He’d introduced the practices of baptisms for the dead back in 1841 when his own father died and the Mormons loved it because their non-believing family members could now be baptized posthumously and receive exaltation. But, after hundreds of Mormons got dunked in the Mississippi that summer and autumn for thousands of dead relatives, Jo realized he could commodify dead people’s salvation by telling the Mormons that they would no longer be able to baptize for the dead until the ordinances could be completed in the Nauvoo temple. This became his bargaining chip to motivate the people to renew their efforts on completing the temple. On a cold, rainy Sunday morning, the 20th January, 1844, Jo stood in front of a large congregation of “several thousand people” in “somewhat unpleasant” weather to reiterate just how important the temple project was.
When I consider the surrounding circumstances in which I am placed this day, standing in the open air with weak lungs, and somewhat out of health, I feel that I must have the prayers and faith of my brethren that God may strengthen me, and pour out his special blessings upon me, if you get much from me this day.
There are many people assembled here today, and throughout this city, and from various parts of the world, who say that they have received to a certainty a portion of knowledge from God, by revelation, in the way that he has ordained and pointed out.
I shall take the broad ground, then, that if we have, or can receive a portion of knowledge from God by immediate revelation; by the same source we can receive all knowledge. What shall I talk about today? I know what bro. Cahoon wants me to speak about; he wants me to speak about the coming of Elijah in the last days; I can see it in his eye: I will speak upon that subject, then.
The Bible says, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Now, the word turn here should be translated bind, or seal. But what is the object of this important mission, or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion.
But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth, and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them, that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them, and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah; and I would to God that this temple was now done, that we might go into it, and go to work and improve our time, and make use of the seals while they are on earth.
The Saints have not too much time to save and redeem their dead, and gather together their living relatives, that they may be saved also, before the earth will be smitten, and the consumption decreed falls upon the world.
I would advise all Saints to go to with their might, and gather together all their living relatives to this place, that they may be sealed and saved, that they may be prepared against the day that the destroying angel goes forth; and if the whole church should go to with all their might to save their dead, seal their posterity, and gather their living friends, and spend none of their time in behalf of the world, they would hardly get through before night would come, when no man can work, and my only trouble at the present time is concerning ourselves, that the Saints will be divided, broken up and scattered, before we get our salvation secure; for there are so many fools in the world for the devil to operate upon, it gives him the advantage oftentimes.
The question is frequently asked, “can we not be saved without going through all these ordinance, &c.?” I would answer, No, not the fullness of salvation. Jesus said, “there are many mansions in my Father’s house, and I will go and prepare a place for you.” House here named should have been translated kingdom; and any person who is exalted to the highest mansion, has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too.
But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation; it has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God, but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass, as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions; they cannot stand the fire at all: how many will be able to abide a celestial law and go through, and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say; as many are called but few are chosen.
This was a call to bring more Mormons to Nauvoo or the surrounding cities, give until it hurts, and get back to work on the temple. To be clear, the system of tithing for the destitute Mormons at this point was donating time. One in every ten days was to be given by every able-bodied man for manual labor on the temple because so few people had any money they could give to the project.
Desperation for money has been an underlying tension for every bit of Nauvoo Mormon history. Well, Missouri Mormon history too… and Kirtland Mormon history… And New York Mormon history… And for the Smith family before the Book of Mormon was published now that I think about it. But, that desperation was at a fever pitch in early 1844. Not only was the city unable to meet the demands of unfinished public works projects, but Jo himself was falling dangerously far behind on all his own financial commitments. Not only was he unable to pay all the lands speculation contracts he’d signed to settle Nauvoo and the Half-Breed tract in Iowa, he couldn’t even make the interest payments. His Red Brick Store was a fitting name because it was constantly running in the red. As trustee in trust of the church, he had too much property listed at too high a price for it to sell without a directive from the almighty.
Even Thomas Sharp in his Warsaw Message commented on Jo’s land speculation in the 17 January 1844 edition:
It may not be generally known, that the Mormon Prophet is a great Land Speculator. The following, a standing advertisement in the Nauvoo Neighbor, will show how he operates upon the brethren in that line:
Notice to Emigrants and Latter Day Saints Generally.
I feel it my duty to say to the brethren generally, and especially those who are emigrating to this place, that there is in the hands of the Trustee in Trust, a large quantity of lands, both in the city and adjoining Townships in this county, which is for sale -- some of which belongs to the church and is designed for the benefit of the poor, and also [to] liquidate debts owing by the church, for which the Trustee in Trust is responsible. Some also is land which has been consecrated for the building of the Temple, and some for the Nauvoo House.
If the brethren who move in here and want an inheritance will buy their lands from the Trustee in Trust, they will thereby benefit the poor, the Temple and the Nauvoo House, and even then only be doing that which is their duty and which I know, by considerable experience, will be vastly for their benefit and satisfaction in the days to come....
Notice to everybody, we have a ton of land that we need to sell to pay debts. If you buy it, it’ll be a great service to the poorest of the Mormons and will be your benefit in the days to come… you know… when the world ends and all it’ll be nice to have a select plot in downtown Nauvoo.
It wasn’t just the unsold land. Signs were all over that the Mormon pocketbook was feeling a little light in Jo’s breast pocket. Jo relied on an old friend who converted in the Kirtland era with significant personal wealth, Ebenezer Robinson. Jo decided a quick way to alleviate some debt would be to sell the Nauvoo Mansion and Red Brick Store to Ebenezer Robinson while the printing establishment housing the Times & Seasons and Nauvoo Neighbor will officially transferred to another relatively wealthy Mormon, John Taylor, second prophet of the Brighamite tradition.
Monday [Jan] 22 – [William Clayton] at President Joseph’s commenced taking inventory of Goods, Groceries &c. for Joseph and settling with E[benezer] Robinson.
Rainy; wind easterly; mud very deep. Rented the Nauvoo Mansion and stables to Ebenezer Robinson, for one thousand dollars per annum, and board for myself and family, and horses, reserving to myself three rooms in the house.
Tuesday. 23.—E[benezer] Robinson took possession of the Nauvoo Mansion, to continue it as a public-house. W.W. Phelps, N[ewel] K. Whitney, and W[illard] Richards valued the printing office and lot at $1,500, printing apparatus $950, bindery $112, foundry, $270; total, $2,382. I having sold the concern to John Taylor, who in consideration was to assume the responsibility of the Lawrence estate.
Jo had a lot of debt crushing him. He had filed for bankruptcy back in 1842 and was denied status because his affairs were too deeply intertwined with church assets so there was no escape from the creditors who were more and more insistent with every passing day. Jo was a paper millionaire with his assets, but his liabilities outweighed his assets by possibly as much as two to three times, a disparity which was only growing with every passing month’s interest piling on. He lived lavishly but it was all fake. Everything he had was built on credit and almost all of it was years overdue. He was taking out loans to pay off other loans, building hotels and selling them off with his name on them in order to make some kind of money. He probably ran casinos and he certainly oversaw the affairs at the Nauvoo brothels and all his best friends were as insanely corrupt as humanly possible. He’s the perfect president of the United States.
But, it wasn’t just Jo himself who was coming under increased pressure and looking for an out. The average Mormon was having a rough go of it too as the Nauvoo Temple continued to suck the oxygen for community growth out of the Mormon society chamber. The Quorum of Apostles drafted a letter to a long-time font of community support for the church, the Isaac Morley family.
The Morley family were some of the earliest members in Kirtland, Ohio. It was the first experiment in Mormon communalism as per the Book of Mormon, but only worked because they were practicing communalism with Hingepin Sidney Rigdon as their pastor for years before the Book of Mormon was a thing. Well, Isaac Morley was the leader of the Mormon commune in Kirtland then dug up roots to move to Missouri as one of the early Mormon settlements there. The Morley commune continued their practices for half a decade in Missouri until the Missouri-Mormon war chased all the Mormons out. When Isaac Morley and his fellow communalists moved to Quincy during the exodus of 1839, they settled in a small town between Quincy and Nauvoo which they called Yelrom… Morley backwards… clever… Just like the Council of YTFIF. Mormon have always been super creative with their nicknames, right NaMo family? Yelrom was about 30 miles directly south of Nauvoo with Carthage and Warsaw lying between the Yelrom and Nauvoo. With all the violence brewing between Carthage and Nauvoo we discussed last week, the members in Yelrom were beginning to feel isolated, which will be a major issue in 1845 when the Illinois militia chose to march on the city of Yelrom and burn it to the ground.
So, instead of providing solace and support from HQ, this letter sent by the Quorum of Apostles, calls on the Morley settlement at Yelrom to send provisions to Nauvoo to aid in the Temple construction.
Beloved Brethren:--While the work of the Lord is great and sought out by all them that have pleasure therein, the Lord of the vineyard has laid special charges upon some of his servants to execute; and while we are striving by all means to raise funds to hasten the Temple the approaching spring, we are not unmindful of the “history of the church,” the “great proclamation to the kings of the earth,” and the “memorials to Congress,” &c., all of which are now before the church, though their progress is retarded for the want of the necessities of life, in the families of those who are employed in this business…
we again call on you, as those who have ever been ready to listen to the wants of the church, that you would raise such collections of provisions, as you may have at your disposal, and forward the same without delay, to us for the special benefit of the clerks of President Smith or the church. Asking no more, it is right they should not go hungry or naked.
Do you ask what is wanting? We answer, look to your own households, and say what it requires to make them comfortable, and you will know just what is wanting by these men. Eatable of every kind, and even soap to keep their hands clean, is scarce at Nauvoo, and it takes many lights to keep the pen in motion these long evenings…
we are confident that when you are made acquainted with the facts, you will be unwilling that Joseph should do all, and get all the blessing. And as you shall continue your liberality in temporal things, God shall pour out upon your heads blessings spiritual and temporal—and now is the time for action.
Jo shouldn’t be the only one getting ALL the blessings for his tireless work to help the church. He wants to spread the blessings around by spreading the work around. What a guy! We may laugh at it from our lens but remember this is exactly how every single Mormon ward works today without hiring anybody to run the buildings, balance the books, deal with the nursery, or preach to the congregation.
Everything in January reeks of desperation. Add in to this a letter that Jo sent to the Green Mountain Boys. The Green Mountain Boys were a private militia that formed in the 1760s in what would become the Vermont Republic. They were led by Ethan Allen during the revolutionary war when they captured Fort Ticonderoga in May of 1775. They disbanded but were mustered again for the War of 1812 and other little scuffles. They became a recognized militia of Vermont and the Vermont National Guard still uses the Green Mountain Boys flag.
Jo wanted the Green Mountain Boys to join forces with the Nauvoo Legion to snuff out anti-Mormon violence in cities near Nauvoo. But, to a deeper degree, what Jo really wanted was their support to make Missouri pay for what Jo saw as the injustices of the Missouri-Mormon war and the fallout of the Mormon exodus. Remember, Jo was dead to rights in Missouri. The state government had him on arson, robbery, high treason, and murder so he couldn’t step foot in the state without his own militia or he’d be arrested and hung. But, Jo was known to hold personal animus toward Missouri for the remainder of his life while state authorities from Illinois and Missouri repeatedly tried to arrest and extradite him to Missouri to answer for his crimes. He thought that if he could just burn the whole state to the ground, he wouldn’t have to deal with the Missouri problem any more. The Nauvoo Legion wasn’t big enough yet to wage a war without sustaining heavy casualties so he thought if the Green Mountain Boys agreed to join forces to raze the state, he’d lose a lot less of his own militia. This isn’t Presidential, this is tyrannical.
A few excerpts from his letter to the Green Mountain Boys. He begins by appealing to the Vermont militia by telling them he’s a Vermonter himself.
Like other honest citizens, I not only (when manhood came,) sought my own peace, prosperity, and happiness, but also the peace, prosperity, and happiness of my friends; and, with all the rights and realm before me, and the revelations of Jesus Christ to guide me into all truth, I had good reasons to enter into the blessings and privileges of an American citizen; -- the rights of a Green Mountain Boy, unmolested, and enjoy life and religion according to the most virtuous and enlightened customs, rules, and etiquette of the nineteenth century. But, to the disgrace of the United States, it is not so. These rights and privileges, together with a large amount of property, have been wrested from me, and thousands of my friends, by lawless mobs in Missouri, supported by Executive authority; and the crime of plundering our property; and the unconstitutional and barbarous act of our expulsion; and even the inhumanity of murdering men, women, and children, have received the pass word of "justifiable" by legislative enactments, and the horrid deeds, doleful and disgraceful as they are, have been paid for by government.
In vain have we sought for redress of grievances and a restoration to our rights in the Courts and Legislature of Missouri. In vain have we sought for our rights and the remuneration for our property in the Halls of Congress, and at the hands of the President. The only consolation yet experienced from these highest tribunals and mercy seats of our bleeding country is, that our cause is just, but the government has no power to redress us.
Never forget, Jo was banking on a payout from the federal government to pay all his land speculation debts. Through 1839 he and the Quorum of Apostles collected affidavits from the Mormons in Quincy and Commerce about the recent Missouri-Mormon war to petition the U.S. Government for redress. Their request for $1.2 mn was denied by Congress and President Van Buren himself. There are legitimate grievances for what the Mormons went through but also don’t forget that Jo is painting them as the helpless martyrs of the outrages committed by a horrible and depraved set of lawless anti-Mormons by downplaying any Mormon aggression. In this letter, he’s far more dishonest about the Mormons role in the war then even Parley P. Pratt was when he wrote his propaganda rag History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri Upon the Mormons in 1839, which he wrote from a jail cell. Sign up on patreon.com/nakedmormonism to gain access to that entire audiobook with my commentary.
Jo continues his appeal to the Green Mountain Boys.
Our arms were forcibly taken from us by those Missouri marauders; and, in spite of every effort to have them returned, the State of Missouri still retains them; and the United States militia law, with this fact before the government, still compels us to military duty; and, for a lack of said arms, the law forces us to pay fines. As Shakespeare would say; "thereby hangs a tale."
Several hundred thousand dollars worth of land in Missouri was purchased at the U.S. Land Offices in that district of country: and the money without doubt, has been appropriated to strengthen the army and navy, or increase the power and glory of the nation in some other way; and notwithstanding Missouri has robbed and mobbed me and twelve or fifteen thousand innocent inhabitants murdered, and hundreds expelled, the residue, at the point of the bayonet, without law, contrary to the express language of the Constitution of the United States, and every State in the Union; and contrary to the custom and usage of civilized nations; and especially one holding up the motto: "The asylum of the oppressed;" yet the comfort we receive to raise our wounded bodies, and invigorate our troubled spirits, on account of such immense sacrifices of life, property, patience, and right; and as an equivalent for the enormous taxes we are compelled to pay to support the functionaries in a dignified manner, after we have petitioned and pleaded with tears and been showed like a caravan of foreign animals for the peculiar gratification of connoisseurs in humanity, that flare along in public life, like lamps upon lamp-posts, because they are better calculated for the schemes of the night than for the scenes of the day, is as President Van Buren said, your cause is just, but the government has no power to redress you!
No wonder, after the Pharisee's prayer, the Publican smote his breast and said, Lord be merciful to me a sinner! What must the manacled nations think of freemen's rights in the land of liberty?
Then Jo digresses into Chaldean, Egyptian, Indian, Italian, Samaritian, Syrian, German, and half a dozen other languages of absolute distress. See, I’m a polymath just like you guys! I assume almost none of his “translations” are accurate. He finally gets to the point.
I am compelled to appeal to the honor and patriotism of my native State: to the clemency and valor of "Green Mountain Boys;" for, throughout the various periods of the world, whenever a nation, kingdom, state, family, or individual has received an insult or an injury from a superior force, (unless satisfaction was made,) it has been the custom to call in the aid of friends to assist in obtaining redress…
With all these facts before me, and a pure desire to ameliorate the condition of the poor and unfortunate among men, and, if possible, to entice all men from evil to good, and with firm reliance that God will reward the just, I have been stimulated to call upon my native State, for a "union of all honest men;" and to appeal to the valor of the "Green Mountain Boys" by all honorable methods & means to assist me in obtaining justice from Missouri: not only for the property she has stolen and confiscated, the murders she has committed among my friends, and for our expulsion from the State, but also to humble and chastise, or abase her for the disgrace she has brought upon constitutional liberty, until she atones for her sins.
This is a declaration of war with a General of his own militia calling upon another progressive New England militia to join forces and force Missouri to “atone for her sins.” This is like Russel Nelson today calling on the California National Guard to help him invade Colorado and take land east of the Rockies by military force. People today will try to minimize the role of the Nauvoo Legion under Jo’s leadership by saying he never actually took them to active combat. Oh he wasn’t serious about running for president, he just did it for the good press and as a symbolic protest. No. that completely misses Jo’s real intentions. Had the Green Mountain Boys responded to his plea, the Nauvoo Legion could have successfully waged war against Missouri and there would have been a second Missouri-Mormon war in American history with hundreds or thousands of casualties. Don’t ever let Jo’s actions here be minimized. He was a tyrant through and through and he would stop at nothing.
I appeal also to the fraternity of brethren, who are bound by kindred ties, to assist a brother in distress, in all cases where it can be done according to the rules of order, to extend the boon of benevolence and protection, in avenging the Lord of his enemies, as if a Solomon, a Hiram, a St. John, or a Washington raised his hands before a wondering world, and exclaimed: -- "My life for his!" Light, liberty, and virtue forever!
This is a purely Masonic cry for help through print. Masonry is based around Solomon’s temple with the passion narrative of Hiram Abiff’s death, celebrating St. John’s day as the Mormons did every year and alluding to the first president of the U.S. who was a Freemason. Did Jo give the Masonic cry for help during the Carthage shootout? Well he’s certainly giving it in print to another Masonic society to help him wage war against Missouri.
I bring this appeal before my native State, for the solemn reason that an injury has been done, and crimes have been committed, which a sovereign State, of the Federal compact, one of the great family of "E pluribus unum," refuses to compensate, by consent of parties, rules of law, customs of nations, or in any other way. I bring it also, because the national Government has fallen short of affording the necessary relief as before stated, for want of power, leaving a large body of her own free citizens, whose wealth went freely into her treasury for lands, and whose gold and silver for taxes, still fills the pockets of her dignitaries "in ermine and lace," defrauded, robbed, moved, plundered, ravished, driven, exiled, and banished from the "Independent Republic of Missouri!"
To clarify that point a little bit, the Mormons hadn’t paid for their lands. Very few of them had paid any actual coinage for the land they settled in Jackson county, Missouri because they were using the government program to settle newly stolen Native lands west of the Mississippi. People could move to a land, settle and plant crops, then pay the government for the land in 2 years. The Mormons hadn’t actually paid for their land when they were first removed in 1833. During the 1838 conflict some of the land had been paid for but the vast majority of the Mormon settlements were on borrowed land they’d merely signed contracts for. Had they been allowed to remain in Caldwell and Davies counties for a few more years after 1838 they may have made some significant payments to the government, but as it stood they had just settled the land. Then, when they were removed from Missouri they made claims that all that property had been stolen from them along with all the money they’d paid the government, but the amount of land they’d actually paid for was tiny in comparison to the amount of land they actually inhabited. Sure, they’d built the homes themselves and planted all the crops so it felt like it was their land, but what really matters to the government and the state is what they actually hold contracts for. So, when the Mormons compiled their folder of grievances to hand to the federal government, it was really hard to verify what they tallied up to make the $1.2 mn because the state records didn’t have anything to corroborate their numbers. Also remember that $400,000 of that $1.2 mn was just boldly asserted by Jo and Hyrum Smith with absolutely no documentation to base it on. My overall point, it’s a lot more complicated than Jo is making the case to the Green Mountain Boys for because he was painting a picture that the Mormons were so terribly persecuted which required never acknowledging any wrongdoing on his or the Mormons’ part.
And in the appeal let me say; raise your towers, pile your monuments to the skies; build your steam frigates; spread yourselves far and wide, and open the iron eyes of your bulwarks by sea and land; and let the towering church steeples marshal the country like the "dreadful splendor" of an army with bayonets: but remember the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts; remember the handwriting upon the wall, mene, mene, teke, upharsin; remember the angels visit to Sennacherib and the 185,000 Assyrians; remember the end of the Jews and Jerusalem, and remember the Lord Almighty will avenge the blood of his Saints that now crimsons the skirts of Missouri! Shall wisdom cry aloud, and her speech not be heard?
Has the majesty of American liberty sunk into such vile servitude and oppression, that justice has fled? Have the glory and influence of a Washington, an Adams, a Jefferson, a Lafayette, and a host of others, forever departed, -- and the wrath of a Cain, a Judas, and a Nero whirled forth in the heraldry of hell, to sprinkle our garments with blood; and lighten the darkness of midnight with the blaze of our dwellings? Where is the patriotism of '76? Where is the virtue of our forefathers? and where is the sacred honor of freemen?
Must we, because we believe in the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the administration of angels, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, like the prophets and apostles of old, -- must we be mobbed with impunity -- be exiled from our habitations and property without remedy; murdered without mercy, -- and government find the weapons, and pay the vagabonds for doing the jobs, and give them the plunder into the bargain? Must we, because we believe in enjoying the constitutional privilege and right of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own consciences; and because we believe in repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins; the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; the resurrection of the dead; the millennium; the day of judgment; and the Book of Mormon as the history of the aborigines of this continent, -- must we be expelled from the institutions of our country, the rights of citizenship, and the graves of our friends and brethren, and the government lock the gate of humanity, and shut the door of redress against us? -- If so, farewell freedom; adieu to personal safety, and let the red hot wrath of an offended God purify the nation of such sinks of corruption! For that realm is hurrying to ruin where vice has the power to expel virtue.
My Father, who stood several times in the battles of the American Revolution (when he was 5 years old?), till his companions in arms, had been shot dead, at his feet, was forced from his home in Far West, Missouri, by those civilized, or satanized savages, in the dreary season of winter, to seek a shelter in another State; and the vicissitudes and sufferings consequent to his flight brought his honored grey head to the grave, a few months after. And my youngest brother also, in the vigor and bloom of youth, from his great exposure and fatigue in endeavoring to assist his parents on their journey, (I and my brother Hyrum being in chains, in dungeons -- where they tried to feed us on human flesh -- in Missouri,) was likewise so debilitated that he found a premature grave shortly after my father. And my mother, too, though she yet lingers among us, from her extreme exposure in that dreadful tragedy, was filled with rheumatic affections and other diseases, which leave her no enjoyment of health. She is sinking in grief and pain, broken-hearted, from Missouri persecution.
Okay… that was a massive list of falsehoods. Joseph Sr., Big Daddy Cheese, never served in the American Revolution. He died almost 2 years after the exodus, not “a few months after”. Sure, his health was decreased by the winter exodus, but it wasn’t a direct result. Don Carlos Smith died because he was working in a dark and mildew-filled basement churning out propaganda as editor of the Times & Seasons, not because of anything he suffered during the exodus to Illinois. Either that or he was poisoned for opposing polygamy and Jo married his wife a few months later, the record isn’t clear. And Lucy Mack was feeble at this time but that wasn’t because of the Mormon exodus, it was because she was almost 60 years old living in the 1840s! Of course she was feeble! Also, there’s absolutely no evidence the Liberty jailors tried to feed Jo and the other 5 men human flesh. That’s a baseless assertion made by Jo after the fact which pervades the story being told to this day. But, the whole point of this letter is to weave a persecution narrative and we can’t let pesky facts get in the way or that would ruin the whole thing.
O death! wilt thou not give to every honest man, a heated dart to sting those wretches while they pollute the land? and O grave! wilt thou not open the trap door to the pit of ungodly men, that they may stumble in?
I appeal to the Green Mountain Boys of my native State, to rise in the majesty of virtuous freemen, and by all honorable means help bring Missouri to the bar of justice. If there is one whisper from the spirit of an Ethen Allen, or a gleam from the shade of a Gen. Stark, let it mingle with our sense of honor and fire our bosoms for the cause of suffering innocence, -- for the reputation of our disgraced country, and for the glory of God; and may all the earth bear me witness, if Missouri, blood-stained Missouri, -- escapes the due merit of her crimes, the vengeance she so justly deserves -- that Vermont is a hypocrite -- a coward -- and this nation the hot bed of political demagogues!
Help me or you’re a bunch of cowards and hypocrites. That’s a surefire way to motivate people to risk their lives in a holy war.
I make this appeal to the sons of liberty of my native State for help to frustrate the wicked design of sinful men; I make it to hush the violence of mobs; I make it to cope with the unhallowed influence of wicked men in high places; I make it to resent the insult and injury made to an innocent, unoffending people, by a lawless ruffian State; I make it to show our nation's escutcheon; I make it to show presidents, governors, and rulers, prudence; I make it to fill honorable men with discretion; I make it to teach senators wisdom; I make it to learn judges justice; I make it to point clergymen to the path of virtue; and I make it to turn the hearts of this nation to the truth and realities of pure and undefiled religion, that they may escape the perdition of ungodly men; and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is my Great Counsellor.
Yep, there it is. Jo makes this appeal for his Mormon inquisition which starts at the seat of anti-Mormonism, Missouri. I make it to turn the hearts of this nation to the truth and realities of pure and undefiled religion. I called it a holy war and people may find that an overstatement or an alarmist reading of the passage, but that’s exactly what this is. Mormonism is the pure and undefiled religion and Jo’s great designs are to turn the hearts of the nation to it. The end of the world as people of the 19th century knew it was coming to an end, and Joseph Smith was the harbinger to bring about the desolation necessary to once and for ever build the kingdom of God.
Wherefore let the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble, the poor and the needy; the bond and the free, both black and white, take heed to their ways, and cleave to the knowledge of God; and execute justice and judgment upon the earth in righteousness; and prepare to meet the judge of the quick and the dead, for the hour of his coming is nigh.
As a friend of equal rights to all men, and a messenger of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ,
I have the honor to be,
Your devoted servant,
Nauvoo, Ill., Dec., 1843.
Desperation and ambition play in the same sphere for a guy like Joseph Smith. Everything we’ve discussed today reveals how desperate the Mormon settlement was, but rational answers and a cooldown period weren’t in the cards because Jo was a parasite. He could only survive by feeding and consuming more. He thrived in chaos. He dreamt of the day all his previous scandals would be forgotten because he was ruler of the entire world living under the iron first of his Mormon theocracy. You can’t go to prison and be hung for treason in Missouri if you’re king of the nation. People you owe money to suddenly stop knocking on your door when it’s guarded by armed Legionnaires. Who needs bankruptcy when the whole world bows to your military and religious supremacy? Who’s going to throw you in jail when they have to fight through thousands of armed men willing to die for you before they get the handcuffs on you? Simply put, the only way Jo saw out of the mess he’d created was by moving forward and never looking back. If he could keep expanding his power, building his empire, and quashing any dissenting voices, he would end the day victorious, wake up the next day and do it all again. Desperation required Joseph Smith to never look back, ambition required him to always look forward. But this isn’t sustainable. This pace of chaos and scandal can’t be maintained. This is how most empires are built unless the figurehead is removed from power before the construction process is complete and that’s what happened to Jo. He was in the empire business and in the wild frontier of America in his day, business was good until it wasn’t anymore. Desperation and ambition drove him, yet desperation and ambition damned him to an early grave.
Paper has received great response. Over 500 reads in the first week!
Molly Piper email
Comment about how the record listed them both as non-members, but both died in Utah so that was a most likely a lie when the original documents were filed in order to make it seem like the church wasn’t protecting its own and was simply carrying out the law.
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