Ep 207 – “His Blood Would Be Shed”
On this episode, Governor Thomas Ford is finally in town and he’s here to sort out the entire mess between the Mormons in Nauvoo and the anti-Mormons in Carthage. Meetings, letters, and affidavits are brought to Ford to inform him of the situation from both sides of the escalating conflict and he makes a judgement call: Joseph Smith, we’re going to arrest you and if you resist it means war. Ford details the facts he’s learned of the situation and his judgment of the events in a letter to Joseph Smith and Jo replies telling Governor Ford that he’s sadly misinformed by anti-Mormon propaganda. Jo tells the Mormons that the Governor isn’t on their side and that a war is imminent; he prepares by ordering the Nauvoo Legion to build temporary battle camps and dig defensive trenches around the city.
History of Illinois by Governor Thomas Ford
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
It was unknown how much longer peace could be maintained between the Mormon settlement of Nauvoo and the anti-Mormons in nearby Carthage and Warsaw Illinois. Both sides felt their rights had been infringed. Both sides considered the other antithetical to the existence of their own side. Both wanted to get Governor Thomas Ford on their side which would grant them license to do whatever they saw fit. Neither party imagined a de-escalation of the conflict without some kind of climactic resolution. For the Mormons it might be warfare against yet another state. For the anti-Mormons it might be warfare against the Mormons in yet another state. Both sides were ratcheting up the conflict and only violent resolution of some kind seemed to be the pacification for all these troubles.
Conflict, however, spelled disaster for all involved parties. That didn’t stop them from glorifying in the destruction of their enemies, but war has some significant costs beyond human life. How does a state sustain militias of men who’re normally blacksmiths and farmers? Those soldiers need fed and the work they’d be doing if not engaged in warfare still needs to be done. The Mormons, on the other hand, had demonstrated in their past that if they’re unable to sustain themselves during warfare with their own provisions they’ll just raid local non-Mormon settlements for supplies. At the end of the day, this lawlessness gave the Mormons the upper hand in any armed conflict and made the non-Mormon settlements surrounding Nauvoo the victims of collateral damage. We should never get this mixed up; the Mormons had ONLY their self-preservation in mind. They owed no loyalty to country or fellow American; the leadership, and by extension the membership at large, had sworn oaths of fealty to Joseph Smith and they’d follow him straight to the gates of hell at the cost of their own lives if demanded. What complicated matters further is the non-Mormons and anti-Mormons knew this to be the case even if thousands of Mormons themselves didn’t. More importantly, Governor Thomas Ford knew this to be the case and he knew that he was arriving to a fire surrounded with powder kegs when he got to Carthage.
Accordingly, the issue needed to be handled prudently and with as little excitement as possible to keep everything from blowing up. Near the end of last week’s episode we read the letter Governor Ford sent to Joseph Smith about sending a messenger to Carthage who can tell him the Mormon side of the story; notably, the messenger was to enjoy free passage between the two rival cities of Carthage and Nauvoo in exchange for free passage of any messengers from Carthage who needed to enter Nauvoo on official business.
Jo’s conduct following Governor Ford’s arrival reveals to me that he knew he was in the wrong and he’d made a series of mistakes. There’s a tired old phrase, “innocent people don’t run”. Obviously, whoever coined the phrase has never seen a video of an officer shooting an unarmed black man, but there’s a nugget of truth there worth consideration. If Jo thought that he was innocent and had the law on his side, he never would have gone into hiding in the first place. We’ll get to that soon, but the point remains. Jo had a habit of running away from his problems and once Governor Ford arrived on the scene a reckoning with the law was nigh at hand and Jo was well-aware that he wouldn’t win in a fair trial.
It was becoming a repeat of the Missouri-Mormon war. Armies were amassing all around the Mormon settlements. The leadership had committed crimes. This could only be resolved one of two ways. The guilty are arrested and taken to court, or the Mormon settlement wages war on the state of Illinois. Those were the only options and the future of Mormonism hinged on the result. Now that Governor Thomas Ford was in town, all these pressures became more urgent and everything needed to be handled without delay.
John Bernhisel and John Taylor set out for Carthage to meet with Governor Ford with a folder of affidavits and their stories prepared. White-out Willard Richards was under consideration for making the trip as well, being Jo’s chief propaganda minister, “but Dr. Richards tarried to prepare additional documents”. Those additional documents White-out Willard prepared were more affidavits. While the Johns Bernhisel and Taylor had plenty of statements to exhibit to Governor Ford, events were still happening all around the Mormons and White-out Willard had to continue collecting more of them.
The Mormon leadership wanted to establish the precedent that a conspiracy was afoot to take Jo’s life. There probably was but they wanted plenty of documentation to show it and the perpetrators of said conspiracy were the same folks who published the Nauvoo Expositor as well as Joseph H. Jackson, a scoundrel of a dude we’ve talked about a bit these past few weeks who was trying to play both sides of the conflict. The affidavits center around a trip Jo made to Carthage with his posse back on May 27th, between when the prospectus of the Expositor and the Expositor itself was published on May 10th and June 7th respectively. Jo made this trip to Carthage because “thinking it best for me to meet my enemies before the Circuit Court, and have the indictments against me investigated.” Jo and his posse of like 45 guys all descended on Carthage and stayed the night at the only tavern in town that could accommodate such a large group, Hamilton’s Hotel. While there, Jo found out that 3 of the soon-to-be-published Expositor were staying at the hotel as well, in addition to Joseph H. Jackson. This is where Jo made his speech that he has more to boast of than any other man and that he’s better than Jesus and all that stuff. All the while, Joseph H. Jackson was spotted by the posse on a grassy knoll watching them pass while loading his pistols, ready for action. Pistol Packin’ Porter got in a fight with Chauncey Higbee and the tavern-owner kicked Porter out. A bunch of the citizens of Carthage were motivated by the Expositor printers and they were mustered and ready to jump Jo’s posse because they “were determined I should not go out of Carthage alive, &c. Jackson was seen to reload his pistols, and was heard to swear he would have satisfaction of me and Hyrum.” In the end, it was learned that the judge to hear the complaints of Jo and the conspirators who apparently wanted to kill him was not in town and Jo’s posse returned to Nauvoo unscathed but sufficiently terrified. If only Jo could have looked in his seer stone to learn that the judge wasn’t in town instead of having a very close scrape with a bunch of dudes who wanted to kill him.
That was all back on May 27th that the enemies met at Hamilton’s Hotel in Carthage and it was the last time Jo set foot in the city before going to the Carthage Jail where he’d be assassinated. It was a chaotic trip and a total mess. One of the men who was part of the posse was the Nauvoo city marshal, John P. Greene, who made an affidavit before White-out Willard about what happened then.
on or about the 27th day of May, 1844, while at Hamilton’s tavern, in Carthage,… in company with Joseph Smith and others, Robert D. Foster called deponent into a private room, and there and then said, “for God’s sake, don’t suffer that man, Joseph Smith, to go out of doors, for if he steps outside of the door his blood will be spilt,” to which statement deponent replied he had no such fears; when said Foster confirmed said statements with considerable emotion, and said he knew that Smith could not go out of doors but his blood would be spilt.
Deponent asked Foster who would do it; Foster said he would not tell, but he knew the proud spirit of Jackson—that he would not be insulted, and that he would kill Joseph Smith if he had to die on the spot, and there were many others in Carthage who would assist to do the same thing. Joseph H. Jackson was in the house below at that time.
A day or two previous to the above conversation, while at Carthage aforesaid, deponent heard Joseph H. Jackson say that Joseph Smith was the damnedest rascal in the world, and he would be damned if he did not take vengeance on him if he had to follow him to the Rocky Mountains, and said Jackson made many more such like threats against Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith.
JOHN P. GREENE
Robert D. Foster is quite the conspirator to take Jo’s life, isn’t he? Warning your target that he’s about to die before accomplishing a plan to kill him doesn’t seem like a very prudent way of carrying out an assassination. Similarly, Jo made his own affidavit of his version of the story.
[Joseph Smith] saith, that while at Hamilton’s tavern at Carthage…, whither deponent had gone to transact business in the circuit court…, Charles A. Foster took deponent into a private room and told deponent there was a conspiracy against the life of deponent, and that deponent had not better go out of door, if he did his blood would be shed. Foster said he was deponent’s friend, and did not want to see bloodshed.
Not only Robert D. Foster, but also Charles A. Foster, two people Jo had named personally from the stand as being conspirators to kill him for 3 months now, told Jo that he needed to watch his back because Jackson is going to kill him if he steps out the front door of the hotel. Were these men actually the threat to Jo that he’d made them out to be in multiple sermons, or were there greater threats and these men weren’t actually as bad as Jo claimed? These affidavits were made to point to Jackson as the primary aggressor in the plot to kill Jo. However, these events had transpired back in late May, before the Expositor was published and the press was destroyed, before the riots, before martial law was declared, before all of the most recent excitement.
However, Jo took matters concerning Joseph Jackson into his own hands. On June 21st he received word that Jackson had been spotted just outside Nauvoo and was vulnerable. If Jo could get Jackson arrested, that’s a major threat with a ton of insider knowledge that would be locked down and controlled. Accordingly:
About 11 a.m., a rumor was circulated at Gen. Dunham’s headquarters, that Joseph H. Jackson was seen at Davidson Hibberd’s. He ordered out a posse to arrest [Jackson], which went accordingly, but returned without success.
This is fascinating for a few reasons. Jo’s Danite, Jonathan Dunham, was unable to affect the arrest of Jackson and no further details are provided as to why they weren’t successful. Maybe Jackson evaded them, maybe they did catch up to him but didn’t arrest him for some reason. But, the primary reason I find it so fascinating comes two pages later in the History of the Church. The same day the posse rode out to Davidson Hibberd’s to arrest Jackson, Jackson made two affidavits in front of W.W. Phelps which were calculated to help the Mormon cause. These people were Jackson’s enemies, yet his two affidavits give credence to the growing anti-Mormon violence. Here they are:
[Jackson] saith, that on Tuesday, the 11th inst., he was in Nauvoo, when Francis M. Higbee [(publisher of the Expositor)] while speaking of the destruction of the printing press said he was very sorry, for the proprietors had set up that press for the destruction of the city, and that he meant to kill Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith, and he saith no further.
But he did say further because this is Jackson’s second affidavit that same day.
[Jackson] saith, that on the 19th day of June inst. [(2 days before the affidavit was given)], at his residence near Pilot Grove in the afternoon, about twenty-four persons fired about twenty-six guns at him, and that the balls whistled close by his head; thus, this mob, of which John McKay was one, fired about one hundred guns, but not all at your affiant; and that this mob was very noisy, cursing and swearing that they would kill every damned Mormon, and he says no further.
So maybe the Danite Jonathan Dunham DID actually catch up with Joseph H. Jackson and they brokered a deal to get him to swear out an affidavit about the mob violence and how he narrowly escaped with his life as bullets whizzed by his head. This is the same Jackson who Jo and Hyrum saw on the grassy knoll loading his pistols to bumrush the Mormon posse leaving Carthage on May 27th. This is the same Jackson who attempted to work with the publishers of the Nauvoo Expositor and they told Jo that this same Jackson was trying to kill him. This is the same Jackson who joined the church under false pretenses to infiltrate the Mormon stronghold, gain Jo’s trust, and expose the corruption of the religious regime just like Wreck-it Bennett had done. These affidavits being given in front of Phelps just after Jonathan Dunham attempted to arrest him “without success” evidence to me that Jackson was still trying to play both sides of the conflict like he’d been doing the whole time.
He gave these affidavits in Nauvoo where he was viewed as public enemy #1… or one of many public enemies #1. It’s incredibly fascinating and whether or not these affidavits were given by him as some kind of deal brokered between him and the Danite Jonathan Dunham is something we’ll never know. I should also note, there’s no evidence that a group of 20 some odd guys fired their guns at Jackson and said they’d kill every damned Mormon. I’m sure there were plenty of men saying they’ll kill every damned Mormon, but actually firing upon Jackson seems like his typical story-telling. Given the circumstances and Jackson’s relationship with the Mormon leadership that led to these affidavits, I’m convinced it was fabricated.
Immediately following Jackson’s affidavits, the History of the Church also claims that a “Private ____ Minor gave information that as he was passing, an hour since, about two miles out of the city to his home, he was fired upon by some unknown person”. In response to this, Jo dispatched “General Stephen Markham [(Piggy-bank Steve)] ordered out a detachment to proceed to the designated place, scour that part of the country, and see that all was right.” Were there just groups of anti-Mormons camped outside the city shooting at anybody they saw walking toward the city? Is that really what was going on? People riled up into this kind of frenzy, I get it; they aren’t acting rationally but just shooting at anybody who walks by seems absolutely crazy to me. Why I find it really hard to believe is that anti-Mormons taking pot shots at Mormons indiscriminately like this would be answered with equal aggression by the Mormons and there’s absolutely no evidence that the Mormons fired a single shot during this time or else it would be plastered all over the Warsaw Signal and Quincy Whig and that would have incited more violence which didn’t end up happening.
Regardless of these allegations, the Warsaw Signal printed a resolution which was passed in the Iowa territory voicing unequivocal support for the non-Mormon settlements.
WHEREAS, it is abundantly evident to us, that Joe Smith, is the boldest blasphemer, the greatest debauchee, the most successful swindler, and consumate outlaw that ever disgraced human form.
Therefore, be it Resolved, That we intend by all lawful means to protect ourselves and families, from Joe Smith, and his lawless Banditti.
Resolved, That we will not shelter him nor any of his adherents, nor allow them to stop among us, if law can prevent it.
Resolved, That we do seeply sympathise with the citizens of Hancock county, Ills., in their difficulties with Joe, and that we will give them any assistance they may require, or the law allows. to aid in the execution of the Laws of the land.
Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be forwarded to the Warsaw Signal, for publication.
In the same issue, intelligence of a very concerning nature was reported concerning the arrival of Governor Ford, which was expected the day after this EXTRA was published. It says: “an order has been granted by His Excellency [Gov. Thomas Ford], to try Joe Smith by Court Martial, for unofficerly conduct.” This was huge. Treason committed by an officer of a state militia would carry the death penalty from by a Court Martial. If we remember all the way back to the Missouri-Mormon war, once General Lucas was able to get the Mormon leadership to surrender outside of Far West, he held a Court Martial for Joseph Smith and his 5 co-conspirators and came to the verdict that Jo, Rigdon, Hyrum, and the others were guilty of treason, after which he ordered Major-General Alexander Doniphan to execute them by firing squad the following morning in the city square of Far West in front of 3,000 Mormons. Doniphan was a friend of the Mormons and refused the order, telling General Lucas that he would carry the trial to Richmond and have Lucas prosecuted for murder. The technicality which rendered Lucas’ Court Martial invalid was that Jo’s militia wasn’t a state-sanctioned militia, it was a rebel one. The circumstances in Nauvoo were different because the Nauvoo Legion was a recognized state militia under the command of a city mayor. Any treasonous action committed by Jo and his bois this time would actually stick and likely be adjudicated in a Court Martial. The Signal printing their new intelligence that Gov. Ford intended to hold a Court Martial was important news because if it could be determined that Jo had actually committed treason with his militia, Gov. Ford would rightfully execute the prophet in a military capacity and thereby forego all the troubles of trying everything in a civil criminal court. That’s where this case belonged and receiving the intel that Gov. Ford intended to try it in a Court Martial was dangerous news for Jo and the Mormons.
In the same June 19th issue of the Warsaw Signal EXTRA we find more evidence that was troubling to the nearby citizens. It was known in the city of Nauvoo that Jo had declared Martial Law on June 18th, but that information needed to travel. In a postscript to the 19th issue of the Signal, we find this little gem which reveals a bit of what it was like traveling between the cities of Nauvoo and Carthage.
We stop the press for the purpose of presenting our readers with additional proof of the declaration of Martial Law, in Nauvoo. Two gentlemen left this place on the 18th inst. for that city. They arrived during a severe shower of rain, and were not molested until they had reached the Mansion House. They were then told that they could not leave the city without a pass! The same was reiterated by Joe Smith, with the additional remark, that all who were there should be made to remain and fight for him. -- Sentries were stationed throughout the city, and as far as they could judge the most rigid adherence to Military Law was observed. One of the gentlemen, was so fortunate to have an acquaintance in the city, through whose urgent solicitation, backed by assurances of good intentions, they were enabled to procure a pass.
While in the city they were closely questioned, as to their residence, business and destination, by persons who appeared to act by authority.
They also report that several persons were in the city under arrest. One family of emigrants, bound for Iowa were detained, being unable to procure a pass.
The following affidavit will corroborate the foregoing.
STATE OF ILLINOIS.)
James Cameron, being duly sworn deposeth and saith; that on the 19th day of June inst., he went to Nauvoo on business, and on his return from said City, near the Corporation line of said City, he was stopped by a Guard at said place, and told that he could not pass out without orders from their head quarters, at the Masonic House; that thereupon he returned into the City and demanded of the authorities permission to leave said city, and upon his telling them he was a citizen of McDonough County, that he came there on business and was intending to return, they told him he should have gone; and that afterwards a suspicion arising, that he was a Carthagenian and a spy; they refused to give him permission to leave without his first taking an oath in substance, as follows viz.: That he was not a Spy, but had come on business, as stated, that he was not a Carthagenian, nor had any connection with them that he had never been hostile to the Mormons, nor was now hostile to them.
That he would return home direct by way of La Harpe, and by no means go to Carthage -- that he would not inform the citizens of Carthage, nor any other persons during life of what had occurred to him in Nauvoo, nor any information respecting their strength and movements in Nauvoo. -- that he might either take the oath the substance of which, is just now given. And return home or if he refused to take said oath he must remain there as a prisoner with them, to abide such decisions as they should come to, respecting him -- that whilst there amongst them he heard it said in the crowd surrounding him that the Carthagenians and Mobocrats ought to be put to death and that hell was too good for them -- that they took means of discovery whether or not he was a citizen of Carthage, as he supposed, to carry into effect their threat upon him as a citizen of said place -- that to get away from said City and avoid the danger he felt himself to be in, whilst there, he took the above oath, and thereupon they gave him a strip of paper, which they told him was a pass which was as follows viz.:
"This certifies that James Cameron can pass to his home in McDonough County in safety.
Major General, N. L."
That upon showing said paper called a pass to the guard of the borders of said City, he was allowed to pass out. And further this deponent sayeth not.
Sworn to, and subscribed
before me, this 20th day
of June 1844.
ROBT. D. FOSTER, J. P.
We don’t have arrest records from Nauvoo or if we do I can’t find them in digital format anywhere so when it comes to arresting people and holding them in the city jail for not having a pass during Martial Law we only have antagonistic reports from outlets like the Warsaw Signal like this to go with. However, it is a crucial window into the measures put in place to keep Nauvoo from spiraling out of the control of the Mormon leadership.
Notably as well, Jo knew that things were quickly getting out of hand. He knew that he was going to be caught up in court for a while once Governor Ford was able to exercise proper legal authority. He began to make decisions based on this realization which came in the form of preserving the Mormon movement during his coming absence. Accordingly, Jo got together with his brother Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith and told him that it’s getting too real.
I advised my brother Hyrum to take his family on the next steamboat and go to Cincinnati. Hyrum replied, “Joseph, I can’t leave you”; whereupon I said to the company present, “I wish I could get Hyrum out of the way, so that he may live to avenge my blood; and I will stay with you and see it out.”
While this was recorded after the deaths of both of these men by George A. Smith who didn’t personally witness the conversation and it contains dramatic elements written with hindsight, it is fascinating that Jo wanted to send Hyrum to Cincinnati. Why Cincinnati? That’s where Bloody Brigham Young had just arrived on his mission electioneering for Jo just 2 days prior. If Jo was locked up in the gridlock of the Illinois state legal system for months as he had been the Missouri legal system resulting from the Missouri-Mormon war, Jo wanted people on the outside who knew to carry out the next exodus and follow his directions. Bloody Brigham working under direction from Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith made a formidable team to run the church via communications from Jo while he was in prison. Jo knew those two men together would be able to organize and execute the next exodus to the Rocky Mountains and once Jo was somehow able to escape this legal scrape like he had every other in his life, the people would be in a new location ready and primed for the return of their great and glorious leader.
Jo also sent Hingepin Sidney Rigdon out of the city. It had been decided that Rigdon would be Jo’s Vice Presidential nominee after the numerous people they petitioned all fell through. Rigdon needed to be outside Illinois to be able to coordinate continued electioneering, get the vote of constituents in his home-state Pennsylvania, and to help coordinate with Brigham and Hyrum the next exodus. If war broke out between the Mormons and the Illinoisans, the election was still expected to take place and Jo could leverage the persecution narrative from his jail cell to explode a populous platform. Nothing motivates extremist elements in a population more than investigations caused by the fake news anti-Mormons. Rigdon did set out for Pittsburgh on the steamer Osprey and his leaving the city was even noted by the Warsaw Signal who also noted about “100 other Mormons who are making tracks for the lower country.” These movements of the Mormon leadership were regarded with merited skepticism and suspicion by the anti-Mormons in the surrounding cities. There could only be a few reasons why Jo would be sending his closest and most trusted advisors out of the city because he never would do so unless it was strategic, right? So, was he moving them out of Nauvoo in preparation for the surrender of the city and himself or was he doing it so they wouldn’t be in danger should war break out? If war did break out, Jo had his plants all over the country who could persuade the public and politicians in other states that the actions of the anti-Mormons and Governor Ford were baseless religious persecution. Everything was calculated.
Speaking of calculated, the anti-Mormons were running assessments of what the coming Illinois-Mormon war might look like.
Two hundred and fifty men mastered arms yesterday at this place.
Troops are gathering from other counties in Carthage. About 300 are now encamped in that place; ready for action.
The Mormons say that they have 4000 well drilled troops.
We have just learned by a gentleman from Keokuk; that they have organized a company of volunteers in that place, and appointed a committee of vigilance, and a committee for safety.
Provisions have been made by our citizens, to furnish all persons coming from a distance with provisions.
This was published the day before Governor Ford arrived in Carthage to handle the situation personally and accordingly the Signal stated “No news yet of a definite character from the Governor. It was rumored in Quincy, that the Militia are ordered out; but no reliance is placed in the truth of it.” The Mormon militia was a massive force to be reckoned with and the non-Mormon militias who were tasked with fighting the Mormons in the coming war were well-aware that the Mormons retained a superior force unbounded by the laws with which regular militias were forced to comply. Once branded a rebellious force and treasonous, the Mormons could sustain themselves by pillaging the local towns. The state militias needed to be supported by provisions acquired through legal means provided by the state itself.
If we’re sizing up the militaries and their available supplies, the Mormons win 5 to 1 every day of the week and that was known by the Mormon leadership and Jo himself. If battle broke out, it would require mustering entire armies from multiple states under the direction of the federal government to answer the Mormon forces. There’s simply no denying the absolute Mormon superiority in military power here, which made everything a much greater and more realistic threat. Governor Ford, however, as governor had total control over the Nauvoo Legion, as granted by the Nauvoo Charter. However, various provisions in the Nauvoo Charter had been disposed of or ignored when they presented an inconvenience and the provision granting Ford control of the Legion would share a similar fate.
The anti-Mormons recognized this disparity in militia sizes and also understood that only Governor Ford stood a chance of nullifying the martial law orders in Nauvoo and reining in the expansive powers of Jo’s private militia. Thomas Coke Sharp printed in the Warsaw Signal “When the Governor learns that Nauvoo is under Martial Law, if he does not act, there is no need of a Governor.” The implication there is that if Ford doesn’t bring the Legion into his control then all semblance of law is completely irrelevant and we’re at war.
Governor Ford’s arrival in Carthage on the 21st of June was widely celebrated by the anti-Mormons. Ford exchanged letters with Jo and set up his officers in tents around the city. Ford realized the immediacy and danger of the situation once he spent time talking to citizens in Carthage and receiving intel from all around Hancock and Adams Counties about what was going on. As Ford stated in his History of Illinois, a lot of it was unsubstantiated rumors and it was hard for him to know what was and wasn’t true. At a time when two groups of people are itching for war, verifiable information is scant, valuable, and comes at a premium, often too late.
News has just been received from Carthage that the Governor arrived there in the morning and addressed the people in the course of the day. He takes decided ground against the Mormons, assuring the people that he would take measures to check their lawless course, and to thoroughly investigate all the charges alleged against them, and to bring them to punishment. He addressed a letter to the Mayor and Council of Nauvoo, asking them to send to him two of their most discreet citizens to make such explanations of their recent conduct as they may have to offer, and to come unarmed or he would not receive them. As a means of defence and to the end that Joe Smith may not dictate his own terms; the Governor has ordered out the 4th brigade of the militia, part of the force to be stationed at Carthage, and the balance at Warsaw, and to take such measures for the security of these places as the commanding officers may deem necessary. A message was also despatched by the Governor to Alton, with an order for all the arms in the State Arsenal, to be transported to Warsaw, and used in arming the people.
You see, with a militia of 4,000 armed men drilling and marching throughout the city of Nauvoo, ready to go to battle, it didn’t matter if Governor Ford was a governor, Jo had more leverage and had proved himself repeatedly above the law. The force of Governor Ford’s words and orders not enforced by his own state militia didn’t carry much weight. Beyond that, if war broke out and the situation actually went disastrously wrong, there was absolutely no security for Governor Ford’s own life. The Mormons had attempted to kill a Governor once already, what’s another added to the rap sheet of an already lawless group of tens of thousands?
Governor Ford also knew that certain close allies of the prophet would not be welcome in Carthage even if Ford had insured them of safe passage between the cities. One of Jo’s Danites, Almon Babbit arrived in Nauvoo from Carthage on the morning of the 22nd of June with intel direct from Governor Ford.
Almon Babbit arrived from Carthage this morning at request of the Gov who thought it not wisdom to have [Willard] Richards, [W.W.] Phelps &c. city council to go to Carthage and best to let people pass in and out of the city.
Even the list of people who Ford could guarantee safe passage was limited because so many of Jo’s closest cronies were such pariahs anywhere other than in Nauvoo. After Almon Babbit told Jo about the situation, Jo wrote a letter for Governor Ford and sent it with another set of affidavits with Lucian Woodworth “who was delegated to go in place of Dr. Richards.”
The contents of this letter laid out the arguments from Jo himself, instead of being passed through his discreet liaison officers who were now taking meetings with Governor Ford to communicate his will to the prophet.
To His Excellency Thomas Ford, Governor:--
Dear Sir:--I this morning forward you the remainder of the affidavits which are ready to present to you, by the hands of a gentleman who is fully competent to give you information on the whole subject which has been the cause of the origin of our present difficulties. I would respectfully recommend the bearer, Col. Woodworth, as one of my aides, and a man whose testimony can be relied upon.
I presume you are already convinced that it would be altogether unsafe for me or any of the City Council to come to Carthage, on account of the vast excitement which has been got up by false report and libelous publications. Nothing could afford me a greater pleasure than a privilege of investigating the whole subject before your Excellency in person, for I have ever held myself in readiness to comply with your orders, and answer for my proceedings before any legal tribunal in the State.
I would hereby respectfully pray your Excellency to come to Nauvoo, if congenial with your feelings, and give us a privilege of laying the whole matter before you in its true colors, and where abundance of testimony can be forthcoming to prove every point by disinterested persons, men of character, and of worth and notoriety—strangers—who were here all the time. But I am satisfied your Excellency does not wish men to expose the lives of the citizens of this place by requiring them to put themselves into the power of an infuriated, bloodthirsty mob, a part of whom have already several times fired upon our people without the least shadow of cause or provocation.
I am informed this morning that some gentleman has made affidavit that he had a private conversation with me, in which I stated that I had secret correspondence with you, &c. If any person has been wicked enough to do this he is a perjured villain, for in the first place I do not suffer myself to hold private conversation with any stranger, and in the second place, I have never even intimated anything of the kind as having secret correspondence with your Excellency.
Our troubles are invariably brought upon us by falsehoods and misrepresentations by designing men; we have ever held ourselves amenable to the law, and for myself, sire, I am ever ready to conform to and support the laws and constitution even at the expense of my life. (Hollow words coming from this man) I have never in the least offered any resistance to law, or lawful process, which is a well-known fact to the public; all of which circumstances make us the more anxious to have you come to Nauvoo, and investigate the whole matter.
Now, sir, is it not an easy matter to distinguish between those who have pledged themselves to exterminate innocent men, women and children, and those who have only stood in their own defense, and in defense of their innocenct families, and that too in accordance with the constitution and laws of the country as required by the oaths and as good and law-abiding citizens?
In regard to the destruction of the press the truth only need to be presented before your Excellency to satisfy you of the justice of the proceedings. The press was established by a set of men who had already set themselves at defiance of the law and authorities of the city, and had threatened the lives of some of its principal officers, and who also made it no private matter that the press was established for the express purpose of destroying the city, as will be shown by the affidavit of Joseph Jackson, and as they stated to me in their threats.
Mr. Babbitt informs me that reports are in circulation that we have taken property which belongs to the Mr. Law and others. There has been no property meddled with, to my knowledge, belonging to any person, except property we have purchased of the rightful owners.
Mr. Law turned over some property to a Mr. Hicks to pay a debt. This I purchased of Mr. Hicks, and I am responsible to him for the amount. We have been especially careful to preserve the property of those who are exciting the public against us, inasmuch as we know that every means would be used which could be invented to raise excitement, and we have appointed the police to watch this property, and see that no harm was done to it by any person as they had tried to fire their own building, and was detected in the act; the fire was extinguished by the policemen, and no property damaged.
There have been no prisoners taken in this city, neither any person held as hostage, only some who are residents of this place, who had broke the laws. No stranger has been interfered with, nor detained in the city, under any circumstances.
In haste, I have the honor to remain, dear sir,
Your most obedient servant,
As Lucian Woodworth left the morning of June 22nd with this letter and a new set of affidavits for Carthage to meet with Governor Ford, more affidavits were collected, many of them concerning the anti-Mormons who fired on Joseph Jackson and other Mormons as they were headed to Nauvoo. Did it really happen? Were the anti-Mormons indiscriminately shooting at anybody walking down the road who looked like a Mormon? We can’t know for sure because it’s equally plausible that they did shoot at Jackson and other Mormons as it is that the affidavits were completely fabricated to give weight to the claim that the Mormons were acting in self-defense instead of being the aggressors.
The affidavit from Edward Robinson stated that he’d “heard several persons, who had assembled together for warlike purposes (having their arms and one cannon with them,) say that they were gathering together for the purpose of destroying the property of General Joseph Smith,… and finally said they would destroy the town, and exterminate the Latter Day Saints.”
James Olive made an affidavit claiming “there was a man by the name of Milton Hamilton came into my house, and told me he had come to tell me to arm and equip myself according to the law, and stand in readiness; that the Governor had demanded Joseph Smith according to law, and that he would not come it (meaning that Joseph Smith would not surrender); that the General had issued orders for the militia to be in readiness to take said Smith. I asked him what General, and he observed that he believed it was Colonel [Levi] Williams.” Levi Williams, of course, is our anti-Mormon posterchild who’d stand trial after Carthage for murdering Joseph and Hyrum; the dude was a loose cannon.
George G. Johnstone claimed in his affidavit that “the Governor had sent orders for the militia to be called out for today… and to start on the 22nd to Carthage, there to wait until all were ready from the different counties in the State, and then they should march out to the prairie, they should stop on the prairie, and send a flag of truce to Nauvoo, and demand the body of General Joseph Smith; if the people of Nauvoo refused to give him up, then they should exterminate the whole of them.”
A guy named Luman Calkins claimed that “there were about 7,000 men ready in Missouri to join the[Illinois anti-Mormons] to exterminate all who believed on Joseph Smith.” He further alleged that the Die Vernon, the steamer who was refused landing at Nauvoo that all the passengers were “none but spies… who came on purpose to see the places in order to know how to strike, when the time comes to strike.” Calkins added some personal theater to his affidavit by relating a conversation with one of these anti-Mormons he’d supposedly shared with a guy from Missouri. “he said he should stay in Nauvoo, and carry on his butchering as usual, as if there was nothing taking place; that he had as good a gun as any man ever put to his face, and that the first shot he should fire would be to kill Joseph and Hyrum; said I, [“]the people will surely kill you then[“]; he replied he would rush through a thousand people to wash his hands in Joseph’s blood, and especially in Hyrum’s, if he was to be immediately cut into a thousand pieces; he said he should be willing to die, as soon as he had killed them.” Yeah, I’m sure that’s exactly how the conversation went with this unnamed Missourian anti-Mormon who wanted to stay in Nauvoo so he could butcher the Mormons and wash his hands in Jo’s blood like a Sylvester Stallone movie.
With all these new affidavits and Jo receiving the intel, Nauvoo’s martial law orders went on high-alert and he issued an order to Major General Jonathan Dunham.
Sir:--You will proceed without delay with the assistance of the Nauvoo Legion to prepare the background of said city for defense against an invasion by mobs, cause the Legion to be furnished with tents, and make your encampment in the vicinity of your labors.
Accordingly, Jonathan Dunham called out as many regiments of the Legion as he could to “work by turns three or four hours each with entrenching tools, and to take the best measures in case of attack. I also gave orders that a standard be prepared for the nations.” Now, armed officers were not only patrolling the city, but digging trenches around the outer areas vulnerable to attack for a proper battle, something they should have been doing for 2 weeks by this point but nonetheless late is better than never to construct city defenses.
At 10 o’clock this evening, Jo finally received an extensive letter from Governor Ford. This letter details Ford’s views of the situation since his arrival the day before and collecting so much intel and taking dozens of meetings at his tent headquarters there in Carthage.
To the Mayor and council of the City of Nauvoo:--
Gentlemen:--After examining carefully all the allegations on the part of the citizens of the country in Hancock county, and the defensive matters submitted to me by the committee of your citizens concerning the existing disturbances, I find that there appears to be but little contradiction as to important facts; so that it may be safely assumed that the immediate cause of the existing excitement is the destruction of the press and fixtures of the Nauvoo Expositor, and the subsequent refusal of the individuals accused to be accountable therefor according to the general laws of this State, and the insisting, on your parts, to be accountable only before your own municipal court and according to the ordinances of your city.
Many other facts have been asserted on both sides as tending to increase the excitement, but as they mostly relate merely to private persons, and committed by individuals, and tend simply to show the present state of affairs, I will not further notice them in this communication.
The material fats to be noticed are, that a newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor was established in Nauvoo; that this newspaper was deemed offensive to the people of that city; that the common council without notice or process to the owners, entered into a trial, and heard statements not under oath, and evidence which was under oath, in relation to the character of that paper, and in relation to the character, conduct and designs of the owners and editors of the press; that upon hearing such statements and evidence the common council passed an ordinance or resolution declaring said press and paper to be a public nuisance, and ordered the same to be abated as such; that a writ was issued by the mayor to the marshal of the city for that purpose; that a military order was issued at the same time by the mayor, who is also Lieutenant-General of the Nauvoo Legion, to the Major-General in command of that Legion, for a force sufficient to ensure the execution of the writ aforesaid.
It appears also the press was destroyed in obedience to the foregoing ordinance and writ, according to a return on the same by the marshal in the following words: “The within press and type is destroyed and pied according to order on this 10th day of June, 1844, at about six o’clock p.m.—J.P.GREENE,C.M.”
It appears also that the owners of the press obtained from a justice of the peace at Carthage a warrant against the authors of this destruction for a riot; that the constable charged with the execution of this process arrested some of the persons accused, who immediately obtained writs of habeas corpus from the municipal court of your city, by virtue of which they were tried in Nauvoo, and discharged from arrest, and that they have ever since refused to be arrested, or to submit to a trial at any other place, or before any other court except in the city, and before the municipal court aforesaid.
It has also been reported to me that martial law has been declared in Nauvoo; that persons and property have been and are now forcibly imprisoned and detained there, and that the Legion has been ordered under arms to resist any attempt to arrest the persons accused. I have not particularly inquired into the truth of these latter reports; for although they may become matters of GREAT IMPORTANCE IN THE SEQUEL, they are not necessary to be ascertained and acted upon at present.
I now express to you my opinion that your conduct in the destruction of the press was a very gross outrage upon the laws and the liberties of the people. It may have been full of libels, but this did not authorize you to destroy it.
There are many newspapers in this State which have been wrongfully abusing me for more than a year, and yet such is my regard for the liberty of the press and the rights of a free people in a republican government that I would shed the last drop of my blood to protect those presses from any illegal violence. You have violated the constitution in at least four particulars; you have violated that part of it which declares that the printing presses shall be free, being responsible for the abuse thereof, and that the truth may be given in evidence.
This article of the constitution contemplates that the proprietors of a libelous press may be sued for private damages, or may be indicted criminally, and that upon trial they should have the right to give the truth in evidence. In this case the proprietors had no notice of the proceeding.
The Constitution also provides that the people shall be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures of their property, and “that no man shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, except by judgment of his peers” (which means a jury trial) “and the law of the land”; which means due process of law and notice to the accused.
You have also violated the Constitution and your own charter in this. Your Council, which has no judicial powers, and can only pass ordinances of a general nature, have undertaken to pass judgment as a court, and convict without a jury a press of being libelous, and a nuisance to the city.
The Council at most could only define a nuisance by general ordinance, and leave it to the courts to determine whether individuals or particulars accused come within such definition.
The Constitution abhors and will not tolerate the union of legislative and judicial power in the same body of magistracy; because, as in this case, they will first make a tyrannical law, and then execute it in a tyrannical manner.
You have also assumed to yourselves more power than you are entitled to in relation to writs of habeas under your charter. I know that you have been told by lawyers for the purpose of gaining your favor, that you have this power to any extent. In this they have deceived you for their own base purposes. Your charter supposes that you may pass ordinances, a breach of which will result in the imprisonment of the offender.
For the purpose of insuring more speedy relief to such persons, authority was given to the municipal court to issue writs of habeas corpus in all cases arising under the ordinances of the city.
It was never supposed by the legislature, nor can the language of your charter be tortured to mean, that a jurisdiction was intended to be conferred, which would apply to all cases of imprisonment under the general laws of the State or of the United States, as well as the city ordinances.
It ahs also been reserved to you to make the discovery that a newspaper charged to be scurrilous and libelous may be legally abated or removed as a nuisance. In no other State, county, city, town, or territory in the United States, has ever such a thing been thought of before. Such an act at this day would not be tolerated even in England. Just such another act in 1830 hurled the King of France from his throne, and caused the imprisonment of four of his principal ministers for life. No civilized country can tolerate such conduct, much less can it be tolerated in this free country of the United States.
The result of my deliberations on this subject is, that I will have to require you and all persons in Nauvoo accused or sued, to submit in all cases implicitly to the process of the courts, and to interpose no obstacles to an arrest either by writ of habeas corpus, or otherwise; and that all of the people of the city of Nauvoo shall make and continue the most complete submission to the laws of the State, and the process of the courts and justices of the peace.
In the particular case now under consideration, I require any and all of you who are or shall be accused, to submit yourselves to be arrested by the same constable, by virtue of the same warrant, and be tried before the same magistrate whose authority has heretofore been resisted. Nothing short of this can vindicate the dignity of violated law, and allay the just excitement of the people.
I am anxious to preserve the peace. A small indiscretion may bring on a war. The whole country is now up in arms, and a vast number of people are ready to take the matter into their own hands. Such a state of things might force me to call out the militia to prevent a civil war. And such is the excitement of the country that I fear that the militia when assembled would be beyond legal control.
You are wrong in the first instance, and I can call out no portion of the militia for your defense until you submit to the law. You have made it necessary that a posse should be assembled to execute legal process, and that posse as fast as it assembles is in danger of being imbued with the mobocratic spirit. If you by refusing to submit, shall make it necessary to call out the militia, I have great fears that your city will be destroyed, and your people many of them EXTERMINATED.
You know the excitement of the public mind; do not tempt it too far. A very little matter may do a very great injury, and if you are disposed to continue the causes of excitement, and render a force necessary to coerce submission, I would say that your city was built, as it were, upon kegs of powder, which a very little spark may explode.
It is my intention to do all I can to preserve the peace, and even if obliged to call the militia to prosecute the war so as not to involve the innocent, and comprehend all in the same punishment. But excitement is a matter which grows very fast upon men when assembled; the affair I much fear may assume a revolutionary character, and the men may disregard the authority of their officers.
I tell you plainly, that if no such submission is made as I have indicated, I will be obliged to call out the militia, and if a few thousands will not be sufficient, many thousands it will be.
I sincerely hope that your people may do nothing which will make such a proceeding necessary. I hope also that they will be well-disposed to co-operate with me in allaying the excitement of the public mind. Immediately discharge such persons as you have under martial law; let them go without molestation. Abstain from all injury to private property; let people go where they please without swearing them first to take no part against you; all such proceedings tend only to inflame the public mind, and raise up ten men disposed to fight you for every one thus foolishly disabled.
Your committee assures me that you are sincerely desirous of preserving the peace, and if so I hope you will co-operate with me in everything necessary to allay the excitement in the minds of the people.
The following-named persons are reported to me as being detained against their will by martial law: John A. Hicks, H.O. Norton, A.J. Higbee, John Eagle, P.J. Rolf, Peter Lemon, and T.J. Rolf. It will tend greatly to allay excitement if they shall be immediately discharged and suffered to go without molestation.
It is also reported here and generally believed—but whether truly or not I have not yet learned—that there are many foraging parties abroad from Nauvoo, committing depredations upon the cattle and property in the vicinity. These acts, if correctly reported, must absolutely cease immediately, if you expect any person here to have the power to reserve the peace.
In case the persons accused should make no resistance to an arrest, it will be against order to be accompanied by others. If it should become necessary to have witnesses on the trials, I will see that such persons as may thus be brought to this place from Nauvoo either for trial or as witnesses for the accused.
If the individuals accused cannot be found when required by the constable, it will be considered by me as an equivalent to a refusal to be arrested, and the militia will be ordered accordingly.
I am, gentlemen, with great respect,
Your obedient servant,
Governor and Commander-in-chief.
After reading this scathing and accurate letter from Governor Ford, Jo stayed up until midnight writing a reply with the help of W.W. Phelps, one of his chief propaganda ministers. Jo attempted to answer each and every point made by Governor Ford in the previous letter. Let’s see how well Jo does in his own defense.
Sir:--Yours of this date is received by Messrs. Taylor and Bernhisel; a part of the same delegation, Mr. Woodworth, who was detained yesterday, started for Carthage at 12 noon this date, whom we perceive had not arrived at your last date; some documents conveyed by him would tend to counteract some of the views expressed in your Excellency’s communication, and we feel confident if all the facts could be before your Excellency, you would have come to different conclusions.
Our “insisting to be accountable only before our own municipal court” is totally incorrect. We plead a habeas corpus as a last resort to save us from being thrown into the power of the mobocrats, who were then threatening us with death, and it was with great reluctance we went before the municipal court on account of the prejudice which might arise in the minds of the unbiased, and we did not petition for a habeas corpus until we had told the constable that on our lives we dare not go to Carthage for trial, and plead with him to go before any county magistrate he pleased in our vicinity, (which occurrence is common in legal proceedings) and not a member of our society; so that our lives might be saved from the threats thus already issued against us.
The press was declared a nuisance under the authority of the charter as written in the 7th section of addenda, the same as the Springfield Charter; so that if the act declaring the press a nuisance was unconstitutional, we cannot see how it is that the charter itself is not unconstitutional; and if we have erred in judgment it is an official act, and belongs to the Supreme Court to correct it, and asses damages vs. the city to restore property abated as a nuisance. If we have erred in this thing we have done it in good company; for Blackstone on [“]wrongs[“] asserts the doctrine that scurrilous prints may be abated as nuisances.
Blackstone was a legal book about English law, not American law.
As to martial law, we truly say that we were obliged to call out the forces to protect our lives; and the constitution guarantees to every man that privilege; and our measures were active and efficient, as the necessity of the case required; but the city is and has been continually under the special direction of the Marshal all the time. No person to our knowledge has been arrested only for violation of the peace, and those some of our own citizens, all of whom we believe are now discharged.
And if any property has been taken for public benefit without compensation, or against the will of the owner, it has been done without our knowledge or consent, and when shown shall be corrected, if the people will permit us to resume our usual labors.
If we “have committed a gross outrage upon the laws and liberties of the people,” as your Excellency represents, we are ready to correct that outrage when the testimony is forthcoming. All men are bound to act in their sphere on their own judgment; and it would be quite impossible for us to know what your Excellency’s judgment would have been in the case referred to, consequently acted on our own; and according to our best judgment, after having taken able counsel in the case. If we have erred we again say we will make all right, if we can have the privilege.
[“]The constitution also provides that the people shall be protected against all unreasonable search and seizure.” True; the doctrine we believe most fully, had have acted upon it; but we do not believe it unreasonable to search so far as it is necessary to protect life and property from destruction.
We do not believe in the “union of legislative and judicial power,” and we have not so understood the action of the case in question.
Whatever power we have exercised in the habeas corpus has been done in accordance with the letter of the charter and constitution as we confidently understood them, and that too with the ablest counsel; but if it be so that we have erred in this thing, let the Supreme Court correct the evil. We have never gone contrary to constitutional law, so far as we have been able to learn it; if lawyers have belied their profession to abuse us, the evil be on their heads.
You have intimated that no press has been abated as a nuisance in the Untied States; we refer your Excellency to Humphrey vs. Press in Ohio, who abated the press by his own arm for libel, and the courts decided on prosecution no cause of action. And we do know that it is common for police in Boston, N. York, &c., to destroy scurrilous prints; and we think the loss of character by libel, and the loss of life by mobocratic prints, to be a greater loss than a little property, all of which life alone excepted, we have sustained, brought upon us by the most unprincipled outlaws, gamblers, counterfeiters, and such characters as have been standing by me, and probably are now standing around your Excellency; namely those men who have brought these evils upon us.
We have no knowledge of men’s being sworn to pass our city, and upon receipt of your last message the Legion was disbanded and the city left to your Excellency’s disposal.
How it could be possible for us now to be tried constitutionally by the same magistrate who first issued the writ at Carthage we cannot see, for the constitution expressly says no man shall twice be put in jeopardy of life and limb for the same offense, and all you refer to have since the issue of the habeas corpus been complied with for the same offense, and tried before Daniel H. Wells, justice of the peace for Hancock county, and after a full investigation were discharged; but notwithstanding this we would not hesitate to stand another trial according to your Excellency’s wish, were it not that we are confident our lives would be in danger. We dare not come. Writs, we are assured, are issued against us in various parts of the country; for what? To drag us from place to place, from court to court, across the creeks and prairies, till some bloodthirsty villain can find his opportunity to shoot us. We dare not come, though your Excellency promises protection; yet at the same time you have expressed fears that you could not control the mob, in which case we are left to the mercy of the merciless. Sir, we dare not come, for our lives would be in danger, and we are guilty of no crime.
You say “it will be against orders to be accompanied by others” if we come to trial; this we have been obliged to act upon in Missouri; and when our witnesses were sent for by the court, (as your honor promises to do) they were thrust into prison, and we left without witnesses. Sir, you must not blame us, for “a burnt child dreads the fire”; and although your Excellency might be well-disposed in the matter, the appearance of the mob forbids our coming; we dare not do it.
We have been advised by legal and high-minded gentlemen from abroad, who came on the boat this evening, to lay our grievances before the federal government, as the appearance of things is not only treasonable against us, but against this State on the part of Missouri, unless the same has been requested of Governor Ford by the federal government. And we suppose your Excellency is well aware by this time that the mass-meetings of the county declared utter extermination of the Mormons, and that the legion was not called out until complaints were made to the Mayor, and the citizens were afraid of their lives, and losing their confidence in the authorities of the city, and that nothing on the part of the city authorities had been wanting, legally and judiciously, to allay excitement and restore peace. We shall leave the city open and unprotected; and by everything that is sacred, we implore your Excellency to cause our helpless women and children to be protected from mob violence, and let not the blood of innocence cry to the heavens against you. We again say, if anything wrong has been done on our part, and we know of nothing, we will make all things right if the government will give us the opportunity. Disperse the mob, and secure to us our constitutional privileges; that our lives may not be endangered when on trial.
I remain, most respectfully,
Your Excellency’s humble servant,
JOSEPH SMITH, Mayor
And with that letter, Jo drew a battle line with Governor Thomas Ford and there was no going back. Deny, obfuscate, gaslight, outright lie, and cap it all off with saying we’ve done nothing wrong and our lives are in danger. Whether or not Jo believed he did wrong, I think that’s a complicated issue. Whether he knew he was in trouble is a lot simpler to me. He was and he knew it. And this time it was different. Jo staked his position in the conflict and told the Governor he was wrong, the mobocrats were wrong, everybody on the planet was wrong and he’d done nothing wrong. Every interaction between Jo and Governor Ford from this point forward was hostile and Ford would be successfully branded as an enemy to the Mormons. To capture the mentality, permit me a brief final reading for today from the History of the Church.
It appears that the Governor, on arriving at Carthage, ordered the entire mob into service, adopted the lies and misrepresentations circulated against us by our enemies as the truth, turned Supreme Court, and decided on the legality of our municipal ordinances and proceedings, which is the business of the judiciary alone. He charges us in his letter, based upon the most cursed falsehoods, with violations of law and order, which have never been thought of by us. He treated our delegates very rudely; my communications that were read to him were read in the presence of a large number of our worst enemies, who interrupted the reader at almost every line with “that’s a damned lie,” and “that’s a God damned lie.” He never accorded to them the privilege of saying one word to him only in the midst of such interruptions as “you lie like hell” from a crowd of persons present; these facts show conclusively that he is under the influence of the mob spirit, and is designedly intending to place us in the hands of murderous assassins, and is conniving at our destruction; or else that he is so ignorant and stupid that he does not understand the corrupt and diabolical spirits that are around him.
5 days, everybody. 5 days away. Our historical timeline is less than a week away from Joseph and Hyrum Smith being struck down as a result of this growing tension and violence. Just like last week, today’s show covered only a day and a half and trust me, I’m leaving out a lot. It’s a testament to how complicated these events really were and how hard it is to get to the bedrock of what was actually going on. We know what happens. We have hindsight and a century and a half of historians working through documents and artifacts to construct the models by which we can understand and contextualize this history, but for the people living through it… every morning they woke up from stress-filled sleep to a nightmare of uncertainty and conflict. Every decision made had consequences which would shape the future of world history and for the people living through this conflict the consequences extended beyond the mortal realm. These were decisions in life which echoed through eternity; if I can appropriate the words of a New Zealander playing an ancient roman gladiator with a British accent.
This is what happens though. When you bend a system to the breaking point and push even more, the break is going to happen. Then when daddy eventually comes home you have to explain the broken TV. Jo viewed himself above the law because he was living a higher law, one he’d made up in his sociopathic mind; but you simply can’t do that forever. You can’t abide by laws you like and ignore laws you don’t. That’s not how society works. At least, not a functional society. In a functional society, the president is held to the same laws as the pastors as the teachers as the doctors as the janitors. We all agree to abide by those laws because they make society better. When a Joseph Smith comes along and places himself in polar defiance opposing that system of laws, either he breaks or the system breaks. In our society, when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, it always results in human suffering.
Q&A audio for patrons
GBP 46 broken missionary & CfBoM
Take a seat folks (or like 7 seats), this is a fascinating and controversial article by a personal friend, Cristina Rosetti. Lots of talk about sex and plural marriage and Cristina digs into the nitty gritty of the origin of clandestine teachings in some fundamentalist Mormon groups; the Law of Purity.
It’s a long read ahead. If you don’t care for my commentary on the article you can find the jstor link below and read Cristina’s excellent article for yourself. It is ABSOLUTELY worth the time spent.
I’ve had the opportunity of spending a bit of time with the author in the past. In addition to featuring Cristina on my podcasts, I’ve been lucky enough to chat with her on numerous occasions about her research and ethnography. As an aside, congratulations to her for graduating with her Ph.D. last year!
Cristina’s article is titled “Further Light Pertaining to Celestial Marriage”: The Law of Purity and Twentieth-Century Mormon Fundamentalist Discourse on Sexuality. To begin the article, she relates a personal story during her ethnographic trips to various fundamentalist Mormon groups, specifically the Peterson group, where she first learned of the “Law of Purity”. When the phrase came up in conversation with missionaries, Cristina asked them if the Law of Purity is similar to the SLC COJCOLDS (LDS) Law of Chastity, which apparently caused the missionaries to grow “uncomfortable and explained that they do not teach the law of purity to outsiders”.
A little background for anybody who may not know, the Law of Chastity is what governs courtship, between man and woman only, before and during marriage in Mormonism. It is because the Law of Chastity that Mormons don’t date before 16 and abstain from sex before marriage. From what I’ve seen and personally experienced in the church, the Law of Chastity is often weaponized to shame teenagers for any expressions of sexual desire, or explorations of it, as dictated by their teenage hormones and human psychology. However, in the marriage bed, Salt Lake City Mormonism typically takes a hands-off approach as long as infidelity isn’t present. Whatever transpires between a married man and wife is their business; at least that’s how it’s been for about 30 years.
The fact that the Christ’s Church missionaries were uncomfortable when Cristina asked about comparing the fundamentalist Law of Purity to the LDS Law of Chastity reveals there’s more to the Purity doctrine than just abstaining from sex before marriage. Cristina “was encouraged to speak with a woman in the group, specifically one with the experience of living plural marriage” in order to learn this rarely-spoken-of doctrine in this specific fundamentalist group, Christ’s Church (Peterson group).
On a personal note, I’ve spent a lot of time with Christ’s Church missionaries. We’ve talked for hours, painted rooms and hung sheetrock in Short Creek, attended a music festival together, seen each other’s presentations at Sunstone, and so forth. I’ve always found them to be very forthcoming and candid about their doctrines and religious praxis. For them to be cagey with Cristina concerning this Law of Purity is highly uncharacteristic.
What is the Law of Purity?
According to Cristina, “In contemporary discussion, this law is most associated with prohibitions against sexual activity during periods of gestation and lactation.” She adds, “Unlike the LDS law of chastity, which defines proper sexual relationships as between [male and female] spouses in legal and lawful unions, the law of purity goes a step further to define proper sexual relationships within marriage.” Upon understanding the Law of Purity to mean a prohibition of sex during pregnancy and nursing, in addition to a prohibition on birth control, the background and genesis for this clandestine plural marriage law required exploration. Cristina began this exploration via her usual ethnographic studies and noted that “few fundamentalists have responses for the origination and dissemination of the doctrine beyond brief statements from leaders alluding to the teaching.” With ethnographic practices exhausted, she instead turned to public statements by Joseph Musser and Rulon Allred, two primary leaders of the fundamentalist Mormon movements in 20th-century Utah.
Understandably, Cristina points to the intermingling of medicine with spirituality, noting, “Mormon prophets are interested in both the physical and spiritual health of their followers.” Resulting from this intermingling of the physical and spiritual worlds, the divide between the worlds quickly collapses under the direction of prophets who practice medicine. This is relatively unsurprising; doctors often work with human physiology and symptoms invisible to those untrained in medicine. We all understand what a broken bone is, how it happens, and the symptoms; however, as we’ve all learned very recently, virology and infectious diseases operate in worlds most are unable to see or understand. Similarly, the role of “prophet” is predicated on the existence of an unseen world that only accessible to those who’ve been endowed from a force beyond mortality. This intermingling of invisible forces is noted by Cristina when she says “by seeing into the invisible realm and speaking authoritatively about the nature of the world, both seen and unseen, doctors acted prophetically.” Religious movements with leaders who happen to have medical training represent a confluence of adherents seeking guidance in fields beyond their comprehension, thereby marrying the fields of medicine and religion and granting incredible influence to such a leader.
Such undue influence is noted in the article. “At the same time, by articulating psychosocial and sexual acceptability within the community, prophets often traversed the boundaries of the medical world.” “In groups where prophets act as both doctors and leaders in their religious communities, these individuals become doubly interested in the health of their adherents. In these instances, regulation on sexuality became more than medical stipulations, they became religious indictments to strengthen both individual adherence to the laws of God and communal identity within the group.”
By this point in the article, I must pay respect to Cristina. I personally take issue with religious control of sexuality and the associated trauma and shame resultant from such teachings. However, Cristina maintains a strictly scholarly approach by presenting the inherent issues of undue influence without any judgment call concerning how much psychological damage is caused by such draconian sex-control mechanisms. Control a person’s emotions, especially such fundamental emotions as attraction and sexual desire, the locus of control completely shifts from the person acting as their own independent agent to complete groupthink. Needless to say, I would write this article very differently and absolutely no academic journal would ever publish it. I digress…
Cristina traces the genesis of the Law of Purity to a possibly apocryphal teachings of Joseph Smith recounted by George Q. Cannon (1827-1901) who wrote an article for the Western Standard concerning sexual purity within marriage. Orson Pratt also wrote an article in The Seer in 1853 concerning the well-being of the parents during gestation influencing the well-being of the child. Quoting Pratt’s article, Cristina notes his “teachings on the matter [are] consistent with LDS theology of this time” when he wrote, “The state of the parents’ minds at the time of conception, and the state of the mother’s mind during her pregnancy, will be constitutionally impressed upon the offspring, bringing with it consequences which, in a degree, have a bearing upon the future destiny of the child.” Essentially, as Cristina summarizes, “For Cannon, as with Pratt, impure parents produced impure offspring”. Sexual purity during gestation and lactation thereby influence the overall purity of the community.
Adherence to the Law of Purity became a community-focused effort. If you won’t abstain from sex during pregnancy for God, at least do it for your neighbors! Or, put more reasonably by Cristina, “This assertion shifted sexuality away from an individual or familial concern to one that affected the entire community”. Impure children defiled by parents violating the Law of Purity makes for generations of impure people. It was necessary to raise up a pure people such that they could be capable of receiving higher truths. Cristina quotes George Q. Cannon on teachings of Joseph Smith concerning the logistics of polygamy. “According to Cannon, Smith taught that ‘none but healthy men should marry—that a man should know his wife for the purpose of procreation and for that only—that he should keep himself apart from her during the carrying and nursing periods—that it is lawful and right, God commanding, for a man to have more than one wife—that adultery should be punishable with death—that whoredom should not be tolerated under any consideration—and that by observing these roles and the general laws of health, their posterity would become healthy and vigorous.”
From Cannon to other early Utah-era leadership, who largely broke off from the main LDS branch in the early 1900s, Cristina points to the Council of Friends and claims of prophetic authority, an issue hotly debated among various Mormon groups. She quotes Amos Musser from 1877, “The science of life teaches, that during the periods of gestation and lactation, the mother should be free from the too frequent embraces of her husband. It is conceded that this course will promote the growth and development of a healthier offspring. Polygamy certainly favors this consummation more than monogamy.” Women don’t have sexual desires, especially during pregnancy, but men do so obviously polygamy is the only right way for society to be constructed. The husband can abstain from sex with the pregnant wife while still sharing intercourse with his other wives. Flawless logic which passed from Amos to his son, Joseph Musser (1872-1954), one of the primary authorities and authors of the fundamentalist movement in Utah spawning from the 1920s-40s. Joseph Musser was “the man that many contemporary Saints refer to as the codifier of the law of purity” according to Cristina, and “Musser believed the principle of plural marriage, but only when it was done correctly,” meaning within the context of this Law of Purity.
Musser even authored a revelation in 1936 stating the celestial gender roles and the part of sexuality being exclusively for procreation. From Cristina’s article quoting Musser’s Book of Remembrance, “when the Saints live the fullness of that law, there will be no sexual intercourse or sexual indulgences, except for the purpose of bringing children into mortality. Men will respect the wishes of their wives and never approach them except when invited,” a notably progressive perspective on consent when taken in isolation, however it’s nullified by what follows, “…women will never invite their husbands except to have children; and during pregnancy there will be no sexual relations.” A pure society only comes from practice of the Law of Purity in the context of polygamy. Cristina adds an important aside, “During the twentieth century, this teaching was increasingly racialized and used to conceptualize differently abled bodies within a Mormon theological framework.” Those born with disabilities or with dark skin were so because the sins of their premortal existence coupled with the sinfulness of the parents during the child’s conception, gestation, or nursing.
Sometimes when I read articles like this, I find myself at a loss for words. “Purity” is a blunt tool within the toolbox of any supremacist movement which claims authority to judge what is, or isn’t, pure. When that authority is an ethereal concept, such as God(s), in this case spoken from “homeopathic doctors” acting as prophets, it’s a dangerous recipe for sexism, racism, and complete oppression of controllable and subjugated populations. Complicating matters further is the fact that those who codify and perpetuate these ideologies are almost exclusively victims of the same oppressive and supremacist theologies they pass to younger generations.
Understandably, Musser and Allred coopted the writings of a popular pseudoscience author from the 30s-50s named Walter Siegmeister (1903-1965). A proponent of hollow-earth theory, homeopathy, alternative health, UFOs, and a utopian society living inside the hollow earth, his beliefs that “semen will harm the fetus” contributed to independent thought on the scientific basis for the Law of Purity. Cristina notes, “While revelation and instruction related to plural marriage was cited as the primary reason for the law of purity, medical support bolstered the religiously and prophetically grounded insight of fundamentalist leaders following Joseph Musser. Within each of these justifications, the physical and spiritual were bound together as reflections of one another.” Selectively citing one quack, this one with a penchant for eugenics, for scientific support of religious beliefs is a stunningly pervasive behavior in many sects of Mormonism.
Cristina wraps the article by discussing how Musser’s teachings were passed to Rulon Allred and thus proliferated throughout various fundamentalist groups and even details “the great difficulty of the doctrine” whether it was the micro practice at the family level or the macro enforcement at the institutional level. She notes that Allred considered not teaching the Law of Purity to some; “there are men in my council who would damn themselves because they would refuse to abide the conditions of the law. And I would rather have them ignorant than to have them aware of it and under condemnation.” Because of the troubles with enforcing purity, and the Mormon doctrinal basis of ignorance=eternal bliss, the Law of Purity has largely fallen out of popular discussion, descending primarily through oral tradition only to those who are believed to be devout enough to receive it. Withholding specific “higher” doctrines to only selectively dole out to the most committed followers has a long history of forming unyielding, and often dangerous, religious devotion.
In conclusion, Cristina Rosetti wrote a truly remarkable article on the Law of Purity, published in the Journal of Mormon History V45 N3 (July 2019). Her prose and ability to deal with controversial topics within the milieu of religious beliefs expertly weaves together a coherent narrative of the Law of Purity. Starting the study with the story of an interaction with Christ’s Church missionaries added a personal touch absent of most academic articles in a tasteful and thought-provoking way. The JWHA articles committee has a tough task this year of somehow picking a winner among a litany of excellent articles. This article is a shining example of how hard that task truly is.
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