Ep 58 - Fop or a Fool for POTUS
On this week’s episode, we jump right into the latter part of 1839 with the quorum of the Twelve petitioning Jo to release the copyright on the Book of Mormon to begin printing the 1840 edition. The Times and Season church periodical begins circulating, and Jo finally departs for Washington D.C. to speak with the POTUS about helping the Mormon refugees out of their dire straits. The meeting doesn’t go as planned, but Jo and Rigdon weren’t done asking the government for relief and are stuck in D.C. for another month and a half waiting for Congress to come back from winter recess. We finish up the episode with airing a conversation I had with Molly UnMormon on Doubting Dogma Podcast, discussing the Martin and Willie handcart companies and other fun church stuff. Please consider supporting the podcast during our Patreon Pledge drive to get in on all the extra content! Patreon.com/nakedmormonism.
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When we last left off our historical timeline, Jo was barking some final instructions to the quorum of the Twelve before they began their long journey for England. Jo told us some very magical tests to determine whether or not a spirit is a resurrected being and whether it was sent by God or the Devil. I should add that the very appearance of these individuals from the earliest spiritual manifestations in Jo’s life was a concept mired in occult and magic signs and tokens. For example, the unnamed angel which first appeared to Jo in September of 1823 was all clothed in white and appeared 3 times in one night, those are magical indications that Jo was practicing white magic, good magic, if you will, as opposed to dark magic. Jo’s magic world view was inextricably tied to his theology and everything that became Mormonism, and his understanding of the world had direct influences on the beliefs of the early Mormons, some of which have been preserved in church practices today.
After Jo gave us his litmus test for determining what a spirit is, we picked up Bloody Brigham Young’s manuscript history as he departed Illinois with the rest of the quorum of the Twelve to make their way towards England. This was a two-year mission, and by the time Bloody Brigham returned to Nauvoo, it was a sprawling metropolis, where it had been nothing but an inhabitable swamp when they left. By late October 1839, Bloody Brigham and the rest of the quorum had made it to Kirtland Ohio to visit some old friends who used to follow Jo but didn’t make the move to Missouri. They remained there for a little while before boarding a steamer for Buffalo New York.
At the same time this was happening, Jo was preparing to depart Commerce to begin his long journey to the White house to meet with President Martin Van Buren in application for redress concerning what the Saints had suffered in Missouri. The motivations for this meeting are probably too complicated to truly understand, but we do know that Jo needed a lot of money to fulfill the contracts he was signing to purchase the tens of thousands of acres on which the saints were settling in Illinois and Iowa. But Jo likely wasn’t just doing it for the money, he may have been trying to save a little bit of face too. Think about it, the Mormons were completely screwed over in Missouri and they felt wronged for what had happened. What better way to turn the persecution complex real than by getting a huge payout from the government for being chased from Missouri? Unfortunately, everybody in the situation could see through the plea, and the Mormons weren’t particularly popular on a national level, so siding with them could mean the end of a political career. We’ll bite into that during the meat.
To wrap up last episode, we talked with Ryan McKnight for a new recurring segment called Mormon Leaks Minute, where Ryan comes on occasionally to discuss new or important leaks coming from the church. We finished with talking about Savannah’s testimony and Mormon and Gay.lds.org, covering the church’s current stance on LGBTQ issues.
That’s a nice splash of milk to get us started, let’s devour the meat.
Before Jo could depart Commerce for his trip to Washington D.C., a few items of business needed attending. Since the foundation of the church on April 6th, 1830, there were always semi-annual meetings, which continue to this day, known as general conference. Jo didn’t immediately leave for D.C. when the quorum of the Twelve left for their mission to England, he stuck around a little longer to set up some infrastructure prior to his departure, likely in hopes that he wouldn’t return from D.C. to a whole new church led by some untrusted usurper who may have been lurking in the ranks of trusted church leaders. Beginning on Saturday, October 5th, Jo held the usual semi-annual general church conference, where he appointed a number of trusted individuals to church offices.
Picking up from the Dan Vogel Source and Text Critical edition of the History of the Church, vol 4 pg 11:
“The meeting was opened by prayer by President Joseph Smith, jr.; after which he was appointed President, and James Sloan, Clerk of the Conference, by a unanimous voice of the meeting. The President then spoke at some length upon the situation of the church; the difficulties they have had to contend with; and the manner in which they had been led to this place; and wished to know the views of the brethren whether they wished to appoint this a stake or not; stating that he believed it to be a good place, and suited for the Saints. It was then unanimously agreed upon that it should be appointed a stake and a place of gathering for the Saints.
The following officers were then appointed,--namely, William Marks to be President; Bishop Whitney to be Bishop of middle ward; Bishop Partridge to be Bishop of upper ward; Bishop Knight to be Bishop of lower ward; George W. Harris, Samuel Bent, Henry G. Sherwood, David Fullmer, Alpheus Cutler, William Huntington, Thomas Grover, Newel Knight, Charles C. Rich, David Dort, Seymour Brunson, Lewis D. Wilson, to be High Council; who being respectfully called upon accepted their appointment.
It was then voted that a Branch of the church be established on the other side of the river, in Iowa Territory; over which Elder John Smith was appointed President; Alanson Ripley, Bishop; and Asahel Smith, John M. Burke, Abraham Owen Smoot, Richard Howard, Willard Snow, Erastus Snow, David Pettigrew, Elijah Fordham, Edward Fisher, Elias Smith, John Patten, Stephen Chase, were elected High Council. Don C. Smith was elected to be continued as President of the High Priesthood. Orson Hyde to stand in his former office, and William Smith to be continued in his standing…
(From later on page 13)
Those persons who had been baptized, were then confirmed, and several children received blessings by Elders Cutler, Bent, and Brunson, Elder Lyman Wight then addressed the meeting on the subject of raising funds by contribution, towards paying for the lands, which had been contracted for, as a settlement for the church, after which, contributions were received for that purpose.
Judge Elias Higbee was appointed to accompany Presidents Joseph Smith, jr., and Sidney Rigdon, to the City of Washington.”
That sets our scene for who will be running the church in Jo’s absence, as well as who would accompany Jo to D.C. to help with talking to President Van Buren about recourse for the Saints. But, prior to actually departing, this passage made its way into the original conference minutes, but was removed prior to publishing the History of the Church in the Times and Season.
“On motion of Elder Lyman Wight it was Resolved that Prest. Joseph Smith be authorized to deed property to his family, his father’s family, and the poor for their support during life, to fall to their heirs and successors after them, as he shall deem proper.”
This single paragraph gave a ton of power to Jo, especially as he was about to depart to meet with the POTUS to get some money or property, which had been lost in Missouri, from the government. If the meeting went as Jo had hoped, President Van Buren would have given hundreds of thousands of dollars in property or monetary relief to the church, which means this passage would put all that property and money in Jo’s name to do with what he pleased, including, but not limited to, giving chunks of it away to his closest friends and family members at whatever price he saw fit. Jo definitely had a vested interest in his meeting with the POTUS going well, because, if successful, he’d be one of the richest men in Illinois.
This is an incredible amount of power to hand to somebody who’s always hungry for more power, especially given how much property and money was expected to come into possession of the church very soon if the meeting with Van Buren went well. But, it shouldn’t be surprising that this happened as similar things had happened everywhere the church resided during Jo’s history. I mean, the first quarrel between Jo and Oliver Cowdery, Cowdung Allover as we know him, was due to Ollie’s response to Jo giving a revelation saying that he and Emma should be sustained by the church. Jo always had his hands in money that was designated for the church, but he simply couldn’t resist it. Now Jo’s insatiable hunger for the kind of money the crazy rich preachers in his day were pulling in, could be momentarily satisfied with everything being put in his possession.
This is how Jo built Nauvoo on credit. He was signing a bunch of land purchase agreements in his name, using church funds to purchase the land, then he would turn around and sell the plots to the starving Mormon refugees once they’d decided on a plot in Illinois or Iowa they liked. I’m not sure how this is illegal, but it seems like some fishy stuff was going on with Jo as treasurer in chief for the church and city of Commerce, especially because he was putting everything in his name again, just like he’d done in Ohio, which landed him in court with a thousand dollar fine.
With this newly instilled executive power, along with the reorganization of the church hierarchy to keeps things in check during his absence, Jo set to depart for Washington D. C. These are the meeting minutes included on page 17 dated for Monday October 28th, 1839 of the Dan Vogel history of the church:
“Voted that the recommends drawn by Elder Sherwood, recommending, constituting, and appointing Joseph Smith, jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Higbee, Delegates for the Church, to importune the President, and Congress of the United States for redress, &c., be signed by this Council…
Later on page 19,
“Tuesday, 29th.—I left Navuoo in a two-horse carriage for the city of Washington, to lay before the Congress of the United States, the grievances of the Saints in Missouri, accompanied by Sidney Rigdon, Elias Higbee, and Orin P. Rockwell.—Passing through Carthage, we stayed at Judge Higbee’s over night, and the next day we arrived at Quincy.”
Just like we read from Bloody Brigham’s manuscript history last episode, Jo’s accounts of their travels are punctuated nearly every other day by saying some people were sick. Travel was slow going with Rigdon, Pistol-Packin Port, and Robert Foster constantly throwing their guts up. The carriage rides were taxing on the few in this small group who were very ill. A lot of focus sits on Rigdon’s sickness during this trip.
From Saturday, November 2nd, from Dan Vogel’s history of the church:
“Continued our journey, and during the day put up with a friend on the bank of the Illinois river, so that Doctor Foster who had accompanied us so far for that purpose, might administer medicine to Mr. Rigdon again.”
After 2 and a half weeks of lugging around the sickly Rigdon and Pistol-packin Port, Jo decided they were too far behind schedule to reach D.C. at any reasonable time. This schedule was probably largely contingent upon the time of year. It was November and the 1800-mile roundtrip journey to D.C. and back needed to be completed before Jo and friends were stuck in winter weather conditions. Realizing this time restraint, Jo took drastic measures upon reaching Columbus Ohio, which was pretty much halfway between Nauvoo and D.C. This is how it reads from the History of the Church:
“Monday, [Nov.] 18th.—President Young visited brother R. Potter at Newbury, and returned on Tuesday to Kirtland.
About this time we had arrived near Columbus, when the roads were so bad, Elder Rigdon’s health so poor, and the time so fast spending, when it was necessary for the committee to be in Washington, that I started in the stage with Judge Higbee on the most expeditious route to Washington City, leaving Rockwell, Rigdon, and Foster, to come on at their leisure in the carriage.”
Jo left these guys behind and continued on to D.C. with only Elias Higbee accompanying him. It’s important to note that some of the details of this trip are a complete mystery to historians, which Vogel explains really well in a footnote concerning the entire D.C. trip.
“The account of JS’s trip to Washington, from 29 Oct. 1839 to 4Mar. 1840, was reconstructed…from undetermined source(s). The account concludes with the complaint: “I [JS] depended on Dr. [Robert D.] Foster to keep my daily journal during this journey, but he has failed me.” A canceled passage…reads “& many dates are lost through his neglect, or that he has never made any returns.” In a letter to Foster dated 11 Mar.. 1840, JS mentioned: “I want to get hold of your journal very much”. This evidently was never accomplished. In a letter to Joseph Smith III, dated 14 Feb. 1874, Foster recounted his trip to Washington with JS and mentioned that he still possessed “many incidents, dottings and jottings, taken during our journey”. Yet, some of [the] reconstruction seems too detailed to have been surmised…”
It continues on for a minute, but that was the important part to include. This trip to D.C. is fairly mysterious to historians reading through the surviving documents, but we do know the point of the trip, the time period during which it happened, as well as the outcome of the meeting with President Van Buren. We also know that Jo spoke a lot on the history of the church and his divine calling during this trip. He was going around to places where some Mormons may have been living, or even where Mormonism was a subject of interest for the locals. People wanted to hear his claim to fame which was largely shrouded in mystery during this time as Smith’s own narrative hadn’t been widely publicized prior to this point. Luckily for us, during much of Jo’s trip and subsequent speeches, Orson Brain-Powered Pratt, an incredibly intelligent and scientific mind, was making his trip across the country with Jo until they were forced to part ways to continue their respective missions.
It was during these public talks that Orson Pratt recounted Jo’s history the way he’d heard it parroted so many times by Jo. Pratt’s writings were compiled together and published in 1840 in Edinburgh during this major missionary trip to England under the title of “Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records”. Subsequently, some of the language which Pratt used to recount Jo’s history finds its way verbatim into the History of the Church version of Jo’s account. I’m just pointing out causal correlation between what Jo was preaching at the time and what Pratt recounted as coming from Jo’s mouth. Pratt’s pamphlet was also a source used by many missionaries of his time and has also been used sparingly in our modern time to instruct hungry missionaries who want to read early missionary tracts used by early missionaries. Pratt’s version of Jo’s history was crucial to getting the story straight from then on. Quick side-note, if you’re a supporter on patreon, this episode won’t be extended, but you will see two shorter episodes this week where I read through the pamphlet and analyze it in comparison to church history before and after it was published. That’s just my little way of saying thank you for supporting the show and giving those who pay for premium content more of what they want; content.
Back to it. During September and October of 1839, the church purchased a printing press and began to finally circulate the Mormon periodical, Times and Season, along with a few other smaller scale projects. Unfortunately, the printing needs for the church far outweighed the capacity of this little print shop, and the Mormons were forced to outsource a few of their largest projects on the docket. At this time, the church was about to begin publishing its newest edition of their proprietary hymn book, along with the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon. Those were huge projects which couldn’t be undertaken by the dinky little shop in Commerce because it was busy establishing itself and printing the new Times and Seasons. P-Cubed Parley Parker Pratt, while on the first leg of his journey towards England sent a letter to Jo illustrating just how desperate they were for getting out printed materials to the Mormon congregations he was visiting in America prior to departure. The letter reads in part from the Dan Vogel history of the church:
“We realize that your press and materials &c in the west were not at present sufficient for so large a work. We have a printer here who does most of our work. He is a fine man, and thorough in his business. He works very cheap and paper is also cheap. We have also [a] book binder who does a thorough business, is very reasonable, and a fine man to deal with…
We are instructed to write to you immediately requesting leave to publish the Book of Mormon say, two or three thousand copies. If you will write to us immediately and grant us this privilege, we hereby assure you that it shall be done exactly correct and with the utmost care and diligence and on any terms which will best suit you, and secure to you the profits which may arise…
We will give you one hundred dollars on each thousand copies for the right of publishing, or we will give you one hundred Books on each thousand. Or we will publish it on commission and return you all the profits after defraying the expenses of the same together with a reasonable charge for our time. Or, we will publish it on any other conditions which you can reasonably propose.
Please write immediately and let us know and in the meantime we will be getting ready and seeking for means…
If you would appoint a periodical to be published in this city, it can be done immediately and thousand[s] would circulate here, where one would circulate from the west. They are so slow and uncertain in coming from there to us. I would also suggest for you considerations that the publication of the Book of Mormon in Europe in English, French, German, and other languages, be committed to the Twelve, as a committee who shall take charge of the same and whose duty it shall be to secure to you the copy rights in the several governments, and to render strict account from time to time to the first presidency…”
Jo received this letter and we’ll discuss what he did with the information in shortly upcoming episodes, because soon after this letter was written, Jo finally made it to Washington D.C. with Elias Higbee, with Hingepin Rigdon close behind him. The passage says specifically that He arrived in Washington City on the morning of Thursday, 28th November 1839. Unfortunately for Jo, he didn’t plan his meeting with Congress and the President before departing, and you can’t just walk into a meeting with Congress, so Jo had his meeting with the President and then had to hang out in D.C. for another month and a half before he could be heard by Congress, during which time Rigdon was making his way towards D.C. to join Jo and Higbee.
We don’t have the meeting minutes from when Jo met with the President, but we know that he and Elias Higbee were alone with the POTUS and the meeting didn’t go as planned. Jo presented the complaints to Martin Van Buren and this is what he wrote to the church in response to the meeting.
DV HoC pg 40
“Dear Brother Hyrum, President, and to the Honorable High Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—to whom be fellowship, love, and the peace of Almighty God extended, and the prayer of faith forever and ever: Amen.
On Friday morning, 29th [Nov], we proceeded to the house of the President. We found a very large and splendid palace, surrounded with a splendid enclosure, decorated with all the fineries and elegancies of this world. We went to the door and requested to see the President; when we were immediately introduced into an upper apartment, where we met the President and were introduced into his parlor, where we presented him with our letters of introduction. As soon as he had read one of them, he looked upon us with a kind of half frown and said, [“]What can I do? I can do nothing for you! If I do anything, I shall come in contact with the whole State of Missouri[“].
But we were not intimidated; and demanded a hearing, and constitutional rights. Before we left him he promised to reconsider what he had said, and observed that he felt to sympathize with us on account of our sufferings.
Now we shall endeavor to express our feelings and views concerning the President, as we have been eye-witnesses of his Majesty. He is a small man, sandy complexion, and ordinary features; with frowning brow, and considerable body, but not well proportioned as to his arms and legs; and to use his own words, is “quite fat”. On the whole we think he is without body or parts, as no one part seems to be proportioned to another;--therefore instead of saying body and parts, we say body and part, or partyism if you please to call it. And in fine, to come directly to the point, he is so much a fop or a fool (for he judged our cause before he knew it) we could find no place to put truth into him.
We do not say the Saints shall not vote for him, but we do say boldly,…that we do not intend he shall have our votes.
For God’s sake brethren, be wide awake, and arm us with all the power possible, for now is the time or never. We want you should get all the influential men you can of that section of country, of Iowa, and of every other quarter, to write letters to the members of Congress, using their influence in our behalf, and to keep their minds constantly upon the subject.
Yours in the bonds of the everlasting covenant:
Joseph Smith, jr.,
Hingepin Rigdon was 5 days away in Pennsylvania during this meeting. Say what you want about Jo and how great of an orator he was, but he could never hold a candle to Rigdon. Think back to the February hearing less than a year before this. Jo, Rigdon, Hyrum, and the others who were interred in Liberty jail petitioned the judge to let them leave on a writ of habeas corpus. Jo and the others plead their case and were thrown back in jail, but Rigdon got on the stand and moved the entire audience to tears with his tales of the Mormon persecution and was promptly released from prison. He had an incredible ability to change minds with the powers of emotive arguments, and I have to think that this meeting may have gone differently had Rigdon been the guy talking to President Van Buren instead of Jo being their advocate. There’s something to be said about playing your best hand, even if that means waiting an extra 5 days to get ahold of all the cards to make it a killer hand.
The way I picture this meeting going was Jo walked in to the oval office and told the president that he needs to hear of the persecution the Mormons had been suffering at the hands of Governor Lilburn Boggs, telling him of all the property the Saints lost and should be compensated for. However, it was presented to Van Buren by Jo, Van Buren’s reaction is indicative of what was said in the discussion. The primary refutation he had against Jo’s case was, if Van Buren does anything to help the Saints, he would be siding with the Mormons and lose all of Missouri in the next election. The conversation was focused on what Van Buren could do for the Mormons to help them out, and his severe lack of empathy shows that Jo was probably focused on presenting his problems to Van Buren in hopes of instilling a sense of justice.
But, Rigdon was much more focused on motivating people based on emotion, not logic and justice. Had Rigdon presented the Mormons’ case to Van Buren, he may have been able to convince the President that the Mormons had been treated poorly in Missouri for the half decade they’d been settling there. They may be deluded religious fanatics, but they’re still people, and they were chased from their homes and remain sick and dying in refugee camps. Van Buren could be a hero for saving the Mormons from the persecution they’d suffered if he just provided some form of relief. If Van Buren wanted a chance to take Illinois in a sweep during the next election, there were over 10,000 Mormon votes he could have as a bloc if he but just helped a little with the troubles they’d experienced. He didn’t need to pay the $200 grand Jo was asking for, but some little olive branch like a small Mormon stimulus package for settling in Illinois would make him a hero among the Mormons and not cause Missouri to hate him for helping the deluded zealots. A compromise could have been reached, but given Van Buren’s whole rejection of Jo’s proposal, I feel like Jo sold it as an all or nothing proposal to the President, which was ended with nobody satisfied and the Mormons hating the government even more.
But Jo wasn’t finished with pleading to the government for help. As there exists a tri-lateral balance between chapters of government, Jo tried to go over the President’s head by petitioning congress with a writ of complaints for what the Mormons suffered. Unfortunately, Congress was on winter recess when Jo, Higbee, and Rigdon got into town, so they had to wait to appear in front of congress.
Sitting back and looking at how this meeting went down causes me to muse a bit on motivation, hopefully you don’t mind a bit of a personal digression to finish up the history for today. What is it that truly motivates us? There were a million ways that this meeting with the President could have gone wrong, but probably only a couple ways to get it right. It obviously went one of the million wrong ways because the Mormons were never paid for what happened in Missouri, but thinking about the possible ways this could have been pitched to the President to get a more favorable outcome is a fascinating mental exercise. What could Jo have said to motivate the President to realistically consider his proposal?
I think the primary problem was that Martin Van Buren found out he was going to have a meeting with the Mormons, which undoubtedly colored his perspective of the conversation from the get-go. And that’s possibly the foundation of why he was so apathetic. He viewed the Mormons as thems. They were an outside group which the majority of the country was either ignorant of or opposed to. He probably didn’t have any friends who were Mormons or Mormon sympathizers which only added to the fact that he considered them something of a different species almost.
In order to motivate the President, I think Jo needed to bridge the gap between Mormons and anti-Mormons. That’s what would cause the President to see things through his eyes, and possibly even empathize with the plight of the average Mormon family who’d suffered through everything Jo dragged them through. Because, at the end of the day, that’s the point. The Mormons, who’d been with Jo during the best and worst of times, 1839 being truly the worst of times, they were all just people who happened to believe in some crazy shit. They were people who’d lost all their money after putting it in the KSS anti banking company at God’s command. They were people who’d become religious refugees at God’s command. They’d encountered ecstatic experiences and had seen angels flying around the rafters of the temple at God’s command. These Mormons had gone through hell and back, all at God’s command, proving they were good and truly devout people who were led by a gigantic piece of human waste without the least bit of true empathy for the suffering he’d caused these people. If Jo truly had empathy for the trials and tribulations of the Mormons, he wouldn’t have done most of what he did, and everything he did wouldn’t include some self-serving byproduct as it always inevitably did.
Jo couldn’t convey to the President that these Mormons were European Americans, just like him, who were in desperate need of help. They were starving, they were dying from sickness, and nobody had any crops in the ground to weather the doomridden impending winter ahead. The Mormons had a bad hand, and Jo was the dealer. But each and every one of them had their own story and had walked their own path to land them in these dire straits. Each Mormon family wasn’t responsible for the troubles they were going through, but it’s easy to label all of them as deluded religious fanatics which somehow shifts the blame to the collective credulity of herd mentality. But it’s a lot easier to make hard decisions concerning a group of people when you don’t see a single one of their faces. Had Governor Lilburn Boggs gone to either of the Missouri Mormon strongholds himself to meet some of the people who were called the Mormons, it may have been a lot harder for him to sign the extermination order, because it was much easier for his mind to otherize the Mormons when none of them had faces.
Progress isn’t made when we put people into the “other” category. I’m often asked, “why do you do what you do when Mormons are such nice people?” Yeah, they may believe in a blatant falsehood, but they’re nice people. Why would you think I have something against Mormons? I have nothing but good to say about Mormons, because they’re my friends and family. Every Mormon I’ve ever met has a face and a story, and I only have good memories of my life in Mormonism due to the good people I was surrounded by. This crusade isn’t against Mormons, it’s against Mormonism, there’s a meaningful distinction between the two. I don’t call out falsehoods perpetuated by deluded people, I call out falsehoods perpetuated by a systematic cult which causes its followers to say and believe in demonstrable falsehoods. That’s how we bridge the gap between Mormons and ex-Mormons, by acknowledging that there is no real gap, only a gap in our perceptions of each other.
But like any other hallucination, just because that gap isn’t real, doesn’t mean it isn’t real to those who perceive it. My inbox is inundated with emails from people who don’t believe in Mormonism, but they can’t jump the proverbial gap because their entire life is wrapped up in Mormonism; the gap from belief to non-belief is very real to those people. Once a person leaves the church, the perceived gap left in their wake is very real to them because they lost precious friends and family to it. Until the secular community builds the infrastructure that people leave behind when they transition out of Mormonism, that gap will always be a very real thing to those who are intimidated by its presence. And maybe this is a pipedream, but after the weekend I had with my friends at Scathing Atheist and God Awful movies and the crowd the live show drew to Seattle, I’m very hopeful for the current progress and the future outlook of the secular community.
Real progress is made when we acknowledge that a group of people are beholden to a beliefs system which causes pain and suffering in ways which are unquantifiable, all while they’re completely oblivious to the phenomenon. This systematic desensitizing to Mormon’s own cult mentality was captured well by the son of George Q. Cannon named Frank J. Cannon when he said:
“[Mormons] live under an absolutism. They have no more right of judgment than a dead body. Yet the diffusion of authority is so clever that nearly every man seems to share in its operation... and feels himself in some degree a master without observing that he is also a slave.”
The dehumanization of, and utter lack of empathy for, the suffering Mormons by President Martin Van Buren marks the end of 1839 for our purposes. The quorum of the Twelve were on their way to New York to hop on a ship bound for England. Jo and Rigdon were stuck in Washington D.C. for another month and a half awaiting a meeting with Congress, and the saints were just beginning to understand Illinois winters without anything but their wagons for shelter, and no food to sustain them. The winter of 1839-1840 was a bitter and trying time for thousands of people, all of whom were led to do incredible and stupid things because of their belief in one charismatic guy who only cared about himself and his own best interests.
What you’re about to hear is part 2 of a conversation I had with Molly UnMormon of the Doubting Dogma podcast. The first part, which you’ll have to listen to in the Doubting Dogma feed was a conversation we had with Marissa McCool of Inciting incident podcast, it was a really fun conversation. But for part 2, Molly UnMormon asked me to bring some notes on the Martin and Willie handcart companies, which we discussed for quite some time. The first part of the conversation you’re about to hear begins with me dominating the conversation presenting my knowledge of the handcart companies, then we go on to discuss some other topics in Mormonism. If you enjoy this segment, be sure to hop over to Doubting Dogma and give Molly a quick subscribe to keep her doing the podcast, you’ll find the necessary links in the show notes. Also, I was on Inciting Incident’s episode 99, which is hosted by Marissa McCool and occasionally some other awesome folks, so check the show notes for that episode as well. Finally, be sure to listen to this week’s scathing atheist and God Awful Movies to hear a little bit about Jo drugging his followers and some special brownies the GAMcrew partook of on stage live in Seattle.
Without further ado, this is my conversation with Molly UnMormon on Doubting Dogma podcast.
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