Ep 189 – The Next Mormon Settlement
On this episode, we get back into our historical timeline. It’s a busy time in Nauvoo, constant accusations of polygamy rage inside and outside the kingdom on the Mississippi. The Council of Fifty are scrambling to name a good Vice President for Jo’s POTUS campaign. Money problems affect every project in the city and more resources are being funneled into the Temple construction project. Church leader, King Follett, was just crushed by a bucket of rocks while digging in a well. Tensions between Nauvoo and the neighboring cities of Carthage and Warsaw were reaching a fever pitch. Property values were skyrocketing but nobody was buying with gold and silver, everything was bartered for or purchased with stocks in failing Nauvoo Companies like the House Association. Crime was at an all-time high and the city court system seemed to exist only to protect those who would obey the prophet and disobey the laws. Laws and ordinances were passed not based on what was best for the city, but upon what Joseph Smith or his cronies were feeling like that day. Complaints made by citizens of the city couldn’t be assuaged without interfering with the leadership’s extensive liberties. The City Council debates hog laws and reveals the church leadership trending towards aristocracy. Lyman Wight sends 2 letters to the leadership, one public the other private, describing the situation in the Pineries Mission and the next steps of the church which informs the first meeting of the Council of Fifty where they debate the next Mormon settlement (California, Texas, Oregon, Great Basin, Mexico, Canada, &c.).
History of the Church Source—and text—Critical Edition by Dan Vogel
Warsaw Signal March 1844
Nauvoo Neighbor March 1844
“Bicycle day” event 19 April 2020 at Salt Lake City Library followed by
a tour of Gilgal Gardens
Utah Psychedelic Society
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This podcast is produced with the help of Julie Briscoe as Social media manager and Brian Ziegenhagen as audio editor. Music is written and produced by Jason Comaeu of Aloststateofmind.com and used with permission. Legal counsel is Andrew Torrez of the Opening Arguments podcast and the Law Offices of P. Andrew Torrez. Naked Mormonism is a production of Ground Gnomes LLC copyright 2020 all rights reserved.
Let’s get back to our historical timeline. We took about a month to read through the entheogenic origins of Mormonism and the feedback has been fantastic, but hey, that’s not what you come to this show for. You’re here for the serialized history of Mormonism.
We’re in early March 1844. It’s a busy time in Nauvoo, constant accusations of polygamy rage inside and outside the kingdom on the Mississippi. The Council of Fifty are scrambling to name a good Vice President for Jo’s POTUS campaign. Money problems affect every project in the city and more resources are being funneled into the Temple construction project. Church leader, King Follett, was just crushed by a bucket of rocks while digging in a well. Tensions between Nauvoo and the neighboring cities of Carthage and Warsaw were reaching a fever pitch. Property values were skyrocketing but nobody was buying with gold and silver, everything was bartered for or purchased with stocks in failing Nauvoo Companies like the House Association. Crime was at an all-time high and the city court system seemed to exist only to protect those who would obey the prophet and disobey the laws. Laws and ordinances were passed not based on what was best for the city, but upon what Joseph Smith or his cronies were feeling like that day. Complaints made by citizens of the city couldn’t be assuaged without interfering with the leadership’s extensive liberties.
Here enters an issue we’ve only ever referenced in passing on the show. Look, a lot of history doesn’t make the cut into the show because I try to balance complexity with understandability and this issue has simply never made the cut and also hasn’t really seemed all that important. However, it was ongoing for years.
By way of introduction to the topic, one of the staple foodstuffs of Americans at this time was swine. Bacon, ham, and sausages with coffee and biscuits for breakfast and pork shoulder, pork roast, and pork stew with johnny cakes were common dinners. Hogs running wild around town was an issue in many major cities and Nauvoo was no different. Problem is, hogs are very destructive. They root around in mud slogs, eat gardens, trample crops, run through the streets, and some of them can be very aggressive. Because of all the problems they create, hog laws were a common point of discussion for the Nauvoo city council. What do you do? Do you make hog laws that they need to be in pens and fine those who don’t follow the law when some flower gardens and crops get eaten? Do you go the libertarian route and not have hog laws so everybody knows they need to build their own fence regardless of their ability and means to do so? We’ve never covered it on the show because frankly it’s boring and unimportant, however I decided to bring it up because it reveals an interesting trend in Jo’s mentality.
Met in city council, and gave my reasons in favor of the repeal of the hog law, that I was afraid there were but few men who would ever make a fence round their gardens, unless the hogs were suffered to run at large; and if the people think there is a hog law, they will not fence, and consequently will be eat up by hogs and other animals from the country.
The hog law has made more contention than all the hogs would, if they had been let alone: let the hogs run in the streets, and the people make good fences to secure their gardens.
Many physicians have given it as their opinion, that a hog mud hole in the streets is the most healthy of any damp place. (some people are saying…)
If we do not let the hogs run at large in the city, the hogs and cattle from the country will come into the corporation and eat the grass, &c., in the city, and we suffer all the evils, and lose all the benefits.
Impound the country hogs, and the owners will damn the impounded and the city, and fight against us. I say to the city council, let the hogs and dogs alone.
A man that is afraid of a dog and grumbles a great deal about a dog’s barking at him, is a coward; it is one reason why God withdrew his Spirit from the earth, because the people were so ready to take the life of animals.
It was the principles of democracy that the people’s voice, should be heard, when their voice was just; but when it was not just, it was no longer democratic; but if the minority’s views are more just, then aristocracy should be the governing principle, i.e.., the wisest and best laws should be made.
This is a conversation that’s raged in this country since its foundation. Who should be allowed to vote? The authors of the constitution thought it should only be their type of people, white land-owning men, preferably educated. How do we keep states with large metropolitan areas from oppressing agriculture states with much smaller populations? We manufacture a complicated voting system to balance majority power with minority desire. How does one create a representative system of democracy and insulate the government from idiots and populism? It’s nearly impossible and we’ve seen the American system break down many times from these foibles, but Jo’s solution is far from novel. If the people vote the right way, then we can have democracy. If they vote wrong it should be an aristocracy. He used the term “just,” but keep in mind that it was his opinion of what constituted something which was “just” or “unjust”.
At its foundation, Mormonism was a theodemocratic movement. The idea of common consent, members voting on church functions and canon with unanimity, was one of the earliest systems Jo put into place. However, a democratic system is inversely related to dictatorial control. Power and control are finite principles and when a governing body cedes control to the people, it takes a smaller slice of the power and control pie. Throughout his life, Jo had never demonstrated a willingness to take a smaller piece of any pie so the practice of common consent had long since fallen away in lieu of divine decrees from the mouthpiece of god.
This trend was recognized in the very early church and perfectly articulated by Ezra Booth, one of the earliest defectors and expose-writers of the church when he published his letters in the Ohio Star in summer of 1832. His first letter reads in part:
The relation in which Smith stands to the church, is that of a Prophet, Seer, Revealer, and Translator; and when he speaks by the Spirit, or says he knows a thing by the communication of the Spirit, it is received as coming directly from the mouth of the Lord. When he says he knows a thing to be so, thus it must stand without controversy. A question is agitated between two Elders of the church—whether or not a bucket of water will become heavier by putting a living fish in it. Much is said by each of the disputants; when at length, Smith decides it in the negative, by saying—“I know by the spirit, that it will be no heavier.” Any person who chooses, may easily ascertain by actual experiment, whether the Prophet was influenced in this decision, by a true or false spirit.
That was written in 1832. Jo, like any other leader of any other organization, couldn’t effectively balance his dictatorial control with the voice of the people and instead often appealed to a power that stands without question, thereby his answer stood likewise.
He was also smart, or dumb enough, I’m not sure yet, to surround himself with cronies who would enable this behavior. After he voiced his opinions on repealing the hog laws and squashing the majority and openly instate an aristocracy which had always existed in the shadows of Mormonism, Dr. Samuel Bennett and Councilor Bloody Brigham Young took the stand to voice their support and carry out Jo’s plan.
When Ald[erman]. [Samuel H.] Bennett and Coun[cilor]. Young will call caucuses and explain the subject to them, then we will hear them, and they can petition understandingly, and believed if he could explain the subject, that 99 out of every hundred would vote to have no hog law in this city from its birth to its death.
Cannot believe in the doctrine of exalting the majority, when it must be brought about by depressing the minority in a greater degree.
This provides for an interesting precedent. Majority rules until the leadership is in the minority then we can’t believe in exalting the majority if it means depressing the minority. Yes, this was a disagreement over hog laws, but rest assured that this same idea of how to manage the city of Nauvoo bled into other aspects of government. Even more interesting, only a week before this city council meeting about hog laws, the Nauvoo Government had established itself as a sovereign territory. At least, they were acting as such and had sent memorials to Congress to be recognized as one, but that level of leniency was never granted. But just because the government didn’t recognize resolutions Nauvoo had passed, that didn’t mean the leadership didn’t act as if such ordinances and resolutions were law.
If all else failed, they had the great fallback plan of the next Mormon exodus. Plans for this exodus were in full-swing, spearheaded by Lyman Wight, the Wild Ram of the Mountain.
Lyman Wight had set up in the Wisconsin territory on what was known as the Pineries mission. This was formed for the purpose of evangelizing to the local Native American groups as well as cutting timber and sending it down the Mississippi to Nauvoo for various construction projects, mostly the Temple. They’d cut over a million feet of lumber for the temple and figured they had enough so Lyman Wight instead focused on forging relationships with the Native groups on reservations, much to the chagrin of the Indian Affairs Director of the territory.
Wight sent back a report discussing how his liaison work was going as well as discussing future plans. What’s notable here is that he sent one letter to the church in general and a second letter to just the anointed quorum of close leadership with more detailed plans.
First, his letter to the general membership from HoC 6:283
Dear Brethren:--Through the goodness and mercy of God, the Eternal Father, and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are permitted to write and send by a special messenger, a concise account of our lumbering operations, together with the apparent prospects of the introduction and spread of the Gospel among the Chippewa and Menomanee Indians, and also the projects of our hearts in regard to future operations in spreading the gospel south in all the extent of America, and the consequences growing out of the same; all of which we beg leave to submit to your consideration, that we may have your concurrence or such views as shall be in accordance with the mind and will of the Lord, and govern ourselves in accordance thereto…
We have recently ascertained that the lands from the falls of Black River to its sources, is the property of the Menomanee Indians, and the general government having urged them to move off of the lands in the vicinity of Green Bay unto their own lands. The Indians say they will, provided the government will remove all strange Indians and trespassing white men off of their lands; consequently the agent and Superintendent of Indian Affairs are taking such steps as will stop all further trespassing on the Indian lands, on the Wisconsin, Black and Chippewa Rivers, under the penalties of the laws relative to the cases.
We sent brothers Miller and Daniels, in company with the principal chief of the Menomanee Indians, overland to the Wisconsin River, to ascertain more about the matter. They saw the agent, found him a gruff, austere man, determined to stop all trespassing on Indian lands.
The Indians are willing to sell privileges to individuals for lumbering and cutting timber, as they have hitherto done; but the agent is opposed to it. Thus a difficulty arises between themselves.
After discussing how the Native groups could be exploited for their timber rights and the conflicts caused by the director of the office of Indian Affairs, Wight gets to the crux of the issue; how successful the Mormon missionaries there are, and how the groups and their land could be further exploited.
Now, as regards the introduction of the gospel of Christ among the Indians here, it will require more exertion to all appearances, to check the enthusiastic ardor of these our red brethren until the full principles of faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shall be reasoned into their minds, than to urge them on to receive it. They have great confidence in us.
What could the Mormons possibly have to offer the Natives that would cause them to be overly enthusiastic and have great confidence? War. The Natives wanted to wage war against their oppressors. The Trail of Tears had happened just 8 years prior to this and it gets all the press but, in many respects, every displaced Native group had their own trail of tears, some of them experienced multiple. During these migrations, they were removed from their lands, forced to sleep in the elements with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, starved, many starved to death, fed rotten meat and fetid water, children dragged from their parents and forced into labor and sex slavery, many of them brutally beaten if they opposed what the white men told them to do; the 1830s and 40s were an ugly time for Native Americans. Lyman Wight, an enthusiastic war-hawk himself, approaching various groups of Natives and offering them respite if they convert to Mormonism and allow the missionaries to exploit their land resources with hollow promises of General Joseph Smith overthrowing the government and giving the Natives back everything the government had taken. It was an appealing proposal for so many reasons. But, there was no altruism in his offers. He was an emissary of the prophet and was only there to carry out the mission of Joseph Smith. The remainder of the letter truly reveals Lyman Wight’s mission and intention.
The country belonging to these norther Indians is a dreary, cold region, and to a great extent, cranberry marshes, pine barrens, and swamps, with a small amount of good land, scarce of game, and only valuable in mill privileges and facilities for lumbering purposes.
As to mineral resources, they have not been fully developed. There is no doubt as to the abundance of iron ore, but uncertain as to quality.
These groups in the Wisconsin Territory had extinguished their usefulness to Lyman Wight and the Mormon cause of kingdom building and could be tapped later once the revolution had begun. The mission was complete. But, what was next on Wight’s chopping block?
Now, under all of these circumstances, a few of us here have arrived at this conclusion in our minds, (such as can undergo all things,) that as the gospel has not been fully opened in all the South and Southwestern States, as also Texas, Mexico, Brazil, &c., together with the West India Islands; having produced lumber enough to build the Temple and Nauvoo House; also having an influence over the Indians, so as to induce them to sell their lands to the United States, and go to a climate southwest, more congenial (all according to the policy of the U.S. Government;) and having also become convinced that the church at Nauvoo, or in the Eastern States, will not build the Nauvoo House according to the commandment, neither the Temple in a reasonable time; and that we have, so far as we have made trials, got means in the South; we have it in our minds to go to the table-lands of Texas, to a point we may find to be the most eligible, there locate, and let it be a place of gathering for all the south (they being encumbered with the unfortunate race of beings, the Negroes) and for us to employ our time and talents in gathering together means to build according to the commandments of our God, and spread the gospel to the nations, according to the will of our Heavenly Father; we, therefore, our beloved brethren, send our worthy brother Young, with a few of our thoughts, on paper; that you may take the subject-matter under consideration, and return us such instructions as may be according to the mind and will of the Lord our God.
We have thought it best to sell the mills here, if you think it expedient. We feel greatly encouraged to spend and be spent in the cause of Christ, according to the will of our Heavenly Father.
Lyman Wight got what he came for. The Natives there were willing to support the impending Mormon revolution, willing to move to the Southwestern states or Texas for “the gathering” as it was called. They were willing to give up their natural resources in exchange for this promise and now enough lumber had been cut to supply Nauvoo with timber for the temple and Nauvoo House; it was time for Lyman Wight and the Pineries Mission contingent to vacate the area and embark on the next mission to the south in Texas and beyond all the way to “Brazil, etc.” and the “West India Islands” or the Caribbean. That was his letter to the general leadership, however, he sent a second letter with John Young, Bloody Brigham’s brother, to Joseph and the anointed quorum separately which described the situation in much greater detail.
Believing a concert of action in all things in this church to be highly important, we deem it necessary, under existing circumstances, to make you acquainted with our views and feelings, temporal and spiritual prospects, as they now exist…
With the exception of several renegades and false brethren, things passed smoothly on until some time in the month of January, when we were visited by three different tribes of Lamanites upon the most friendly terms, receiving us as their counselors, both temporal and spiritual.
The names of those tribes, Menomanees, Chippewa and Winnebagoes, they informed us that all the land above the falls belongs to the Menomanee tribe, and that the agents and the Governor, the general agent in the northwest of all the Indian affairs, had agreed with them to remove all the lumbermen from Black River, Chippewa and Lemanware rivers, by their request; but after a lengthy conversation with them, they felt to treat us as their friends, and not their enemies…
The Lamanites owning this land, notwithstanding their great anxiety to receive the gospel and the Book of Mormon, have a strong desire, if counseled by us so to do, to go southwest, where game is more plenty, and their only resource here for a living is the plentiful annuities and proceeds from their pine timber, which timber is the only inducement to the government to purchase their lands.
This committee is therefore led to take a brief view of the south and western part of North America, together with the Floridas, Texas, West India Islands, and the adject islands to the Gulf of Mexico, together with the Lamanites bordering on the United Territories from Green Bay ot the Mexican Gulf, all crying with one voice through the medium of their chiefs. Give us an understanding of your doctrine and principles, for we perceive that your ways are equal, and your righteousness far exceeds the righteousness of all the missionaries, that we have yet become acquainted with, that your conduct with one another is like that of ours, and that all your feasts and attendant ceremonies are precisely like ours.
What Lyman Wight is detailing here is the desperate place these Native groups found themselves in. They’d been pushed further west and north because of American expansion and treaties that were repeatedly violated by the Government and now the only thing they could subsist on was the significant Pine reserves they were selling to simply buy food, probably at a dramatically inflated price. To reiterate, the Natives had been forced onto these reservations, told they could sell the natural resources to their oppressors, and the money they got from those natural resources was absorbed by inflated food prices due to scarcity. It should be no mystery why these groups were receptive to Mormonism with its grand plans especially as Wight, knowing the promises meant nothing, could promise them all sorts of incredible things if they converted and supported the Mormon revolution. You want land in Colorado? Why not twice the land the government gave you and we’ll run off any trespassing tribes on your new land. You feel degraded and oppressed by the white man? It just so happens we have a book of your history we call scripture. Not only are you actually people, but you’re the lost tribes of Israel. God loves you so much that you will be rulers of Zion the New Jerusalem when we build it on the American Continent! Notice also that Lyman Wight called them Indians in his public letter, but Lamanites in his private correspondence with the prophet. Later in the letter you’ll see he even calls them Ephraimites, which is a loaded and heavy name in Mormon theology. This reveals that the doctrine was clear, but the real policy and plans the religion had for the Natives was not public information.
The letter continues:
Your servants the committee have viewed the Colorado river, with all its beautiful hills and valleys and fertile soil, with deep regret, when viewing the countless thousands of inhabitants on either side thereof, without the knowledge of God, or the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and say in their hearts, would it be expedient to form a mission of those true and full-blooded Ephraimites, who from principle and the love of the truth have borne the most extreme burdens, fatigue and hunger to prosecute the mission, to procure lumber sufficient to build the two houses, to open the door to all the regions which we have named, which regions have never yet had an opportunity to hear the gospel, and to be made acquainted with the plan of salvation; or shall they continue to suffer the fatigues of hunger wet and cold in a rigid inclement climate for the pitiful sum that it shall avail them after undergoing those hazardous perils, or shall they, like Timothy and Titus, with Paul hazard the perils of sea and land through the Southern States and West India Islands, and all the Lamanite world, go forth and proclaim to them the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and tech them to build up Zion.
Are there not thousands of the rich planters who would embrace the gospel, and, if they had a place to plant their slaves, give all the proceeds of their yearly labor, if rightly taught, for building up the kingdom, being directed by the President of the whole church to make the right application? We answer yes, we believe they would.
That was a bit cryptic so let’s decode it a little bit. What Lyman Wight is telling Jo here is that these people have been pushed further west and south because of the government. How can we use them in this sorry state of affairs? Send them to convert their fellow Lamanites of full-blooded Ephraimite heritage and locate them all to the Southwest where “the gathering” will take place. He then tells Jo that some of them are slave-holders and that if they’re taught the correct principles the church could take those slave-holder’s proceeds to build up Zion. What great guys Jo and Lyman Wight are…
Your servants the committee are of the opinion that a concert and reciprocity of action between the North and the South would greatly advance the building up of the kingdom.
The committee is well informed of the Cherokee and the Chocktaw nations who live between the State of Arkansas and the Colorado river of the Texas, owning large plantations and thousands of slaves, and that they are also very desirous to have an interview with the elders of this church upon the principles of the Book of Mormon.
This committee is of the opinion that they can choose soldiers for this expedition, who are as undeviating in the principles of the doctrine of Christ and the Book of Mormon as the sun in his daily course, and as indefatigable in their exertions in this cause as the earth is in its daily revolution.
This committee views it as a matter of investigation, whether would the Southerner with his slaves and abundance of wealth do better to take them to some slave-holding point, keep them in lively exercise according to his former customs and habits, turning over his yearly proceeds into the hands of the Trustee-in-Trust for the whole Church, or to abolish slavery and settle himself in a climate uncongenial to his nature and entirely derogatory to his former occupations in life.
Let the slave-owners keep their slaves because that’s the only life the owners and slaves have ever known and what keeps everybody comfortable and we could make a boatload of tithing money from these wealthy plantation guys. That’s… great. Just great… Let evil continue as long as it doesn’t burn me personally. Jo may have made abolition of slavery a point in his presidential platform, but he had devils like Lyman Wight in his ear who thought that maybe slavery isn’t the worst thing ever because it generates soldiers and tons of wealth the church could benefit from. You wonder why this portion of his communication was relegated to the private letter to Jo and the anointed quorum instead of the larger leadership body.
Let’s wrap up the letter with a very interesting point Wight makes about church money.
This committee view with deep regret the many different teachings this church has received concerning the distribution of their property, such as raising funds for the printing of tracts, evidences of the Book of Mormon, and pamphlets of various descriptions, which we consider has not advanced the cause in the least degree, but has tended directly to sap the foundation of building the houses.
We, therefore, believe that no person embracing the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, should give any part or parcel of their property without a direct counsel, written or oral, from the First Presidency of the Church…
Your servants, therefore, will wait patiently the result of your council, and submit ourselves to the same with all cheerfulness, our only object being to advance the cause and kingdom of God, stand ready to take hold wherever your wise council may consider it to be of the most advantage.
Even Lyman Wight knew that putting funds into researching evidences for the Book of Mormon was a waste of money and that was back in 1844.
Receiving these two letters was timely in that they were in hand for the first official meeting of the Council of Fifty. From the minutes of the first meeting, originally taken by Quilliam Claypen and reconstructed from his notes. You can learn more about that by going to episodes 168 and 69 where we talked all about the Council of Fifty, they were really fun episodes. This is what they said about Texas and Lyman Wight’s letters.
The letters were both read in their entirety, after which:
The brethren then began each to express his views of the subject set forth in the letter. It was encouraging to witness the union of feeling which prevailed on the subject and it was plain that although separated a long distance from each other yet the same feelings had run through the minds of the brethren here as was contained in the letters. Prest. Joseph said he wanted all the brethren to speak their minds on this subject and to say what was in their hearts whether good or bad. He did not want to be forever surrounded by a set of “dough heads” and if they did not rise up and shake themselves and exercise themselves in discussing these important matters he should consider them nothing better than “dough heads”. He gave some good advise which seemed to have due effect. The meeting was prolonged being occupied by several of the brethren speaking their views until a late hour when upon motion the meeting adjourned until tomorow…
Unfortunately, these notes by William Clayton, or Quilliam Claypen as we call him, are far from complete and contemporaneous. Why is that? Well, the contents of this little book are absolutely treasonous because this was Jo’s governing body to replace the U.S. government after the Mormon revolution. If this fell into the hands of any authorities or enemies of the church, Jo and his cronies could easily have been tried for high treason, which wouldn’t reflect well on Jo’s rap sheet because he already had those charges from the Missouri-Mormon War back in 1838. So, when Jo was headed to Carthage jail, a stay which ended in his untimely demise, he told Quilliam to burn or bury the minutes. Quilliam buried them, Jo and Hyrum were assassinated, and a couple weeks later Quilliam exhumed them only to find the notes in tatters. He spent the next few weeks reconstructing the minutes from memory and his journal. This first meeting basically claiming that everybody talked for hours without any further details reveals that this was reconstructed from really fuzzy memory months after the fact. But, a reconstruction of events based on contemporary journal entries is the best we have for the Council of Fifty under Jo’s leadership and it’s way better than nothing.
Their meeting the next day focused on the same subject. They apparently took Lyman Wight’s counsel in stride and agreed on his suggestions.
The brethren continued to express their views on the foregoing subjects and many others of importance. All seemed agreed to look to some place where we can go and establish a Theocracy either in Texas or Oregon or somewhere in California &c. The brethren spoke very warmly on the subject, and also on the subject of forming a constitution which shall be according to the mind of God and erect it between the heavens and the earth where all nations might flow unto it. This was considered as a “standard” to the people an ensign to the nations &c.
Apparently, the constitution of America just isn’t good enough to run a theocracy because that pesky first amendment and other fatal flaws. Besides, that’s the constitution of America, this is going to be the “standard” constitution of the world. I’ll also remark that the “the brethren spoke very warmly on the subject” can actually have two meanings. That word, “warmly” could mean the way a person treats a very dear friend, with a warmness of the heart, or it could mean what we call in today’s parlance as hotly. The Mormon and anti-Mormon hotly debated whether or not Mormonism is true. Given that the meeting the previous day on the same subject went into the very late evening, I’d be willing to bet it was the latter. This wasn’t a debate about the best way to cook hogs, this was the literal future of the entire world. Most of these guys had been with Jo and the church for years, including the Mormon war from 6 years ago. They knew the logistics of moving 8,000 people hundreds or thousands of miles as well as the consequences of making the wrong decision in choosing the next exodus location. Each of these locations provided unique benefits and disadvantages which needed to be weighed and balanced. Climate, proximate location to other settlements, density of native groups, isolation vs. integration, state borders vs. national borders, national and international political tensions, and myriad other factors that escape simplistic summary. These aren’t issues and decisions which could be hammered out in an afternoon or two. Another factor to balance in the mix here was Jo’s presidential campaign. Would the leadership put earnest energy into the campaign or merely allow it to be a national distraction to keep the collective national eye focused on Jo instead of the conduct of his cronies? We can never know what actually transpired or what was said in these meetings because the actual contemporary record didn’t survive. However, Quilliam’s reconstruction continues:
Er. Lucian Woodworth was very sanguine for the measure [of forming a constitution] to be carried into effect. He said he had long desired it and now inasmuch as it had been proposed to organize this meeting into a council he was in favor of its being organized on an eternal principle after the order of God, every member of it to be bound to eternal secrecy as to what passed here, not to have the privilege of telling anything which might be talked of to any person even to our wives, and the man who broke the rule “should lose his cursed head”. He finally offered this as a resolution which was passed unanimously and became a law of the council.
Then they did some secret Masonic stuff with throat slitting and oaths, probably sacrificed a baby or something, then inducted a bunch of guys into it, the who’s who of Mormon cronies. After the Council of Fifty was officially formed with death oaths of secrecy after it had unofficially been formed, Jo continued lecturing the guys for the rest of the evening, which Quilliam records as pretty great.
The most perfect harmony prevailed during the whole of this council and the brethren all feel as though the day of our deliverance was at hand.
Yeah, they had plenty reason to believe that. The leadership also began to signal to the larger membership body some subtle hints of the future Mormon settlement. The March 13th edition included extensive articles on Oregon, “Late and Important from Texas,” as well as a column about “farming in winter,” as well as a short article on “Large Lumps of Gold” recently discovered in Russia to the tune of “48,323 pounds.” In the same issue, Quilliam Claypen also wrote a small notice that the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge would be dedicated on April 5th at 4 p.m. “Done by the order of the Lodge”. The plans were growing, the leadership’s duties were growing, and no idea was too crazy to entertain, in spite of how chaotic everything was becoming by only the third month of the year.
All the pressures discussed at the top of the show were coming to a head in this election year with Jo running as POTUS. Whatever the results of the Council of Fifty meetings, these guys had to stick the landing. They were slowly priming the Mormon population to be open-minded to the next exodus and settlement, wherever that might be. The decisions they made here in the Council of Fifty echoed through the remainder of the councilors lives and for many of them influenced the exaltation of the entire world. Joseph Smith getting elected or not, the location of the next Mormon settlement, the state of affairs in Illinois and the planned Nauvoo territory, all of these were factors in an equation of the Mormon revolution with dire consequences should the wrong decisions be made.
The stress was taking its toll on a lot of people, especially Joseph Smith. On March 9th, Quilliam Claypen had a meeting scheduled with Jo. When he arrived at the prophet’s house, Quilliam witnessed something few ever did.
“At the Pres[iden]t[‘s] A.M. he was weeping and seemed very sorrowful.”
With the culture of puritanical 19th-century America, a man of Jo’s rank and public profile was never to be witnessed crying for any reason unless his wife or children died in front of him or something like that. Weeping, absent those reasons, didn’t necessarily inspire confidence in leaders. So, Quilliam helped Jo pick up the pieces of himself, dusted off the prophet, and they went to the city council meeting scheduled for that afternoon.
It’s not hard to forget that Joseph Smith was a human being. He bore the stress of his decisions. Many people joked about his conduct and decorum not befitting of a prophet because the guy was a laugher and jokester. He enjoyed playing with people and he rarely let his humanity show. But, at the end of the day he was still a human with feelings and enough introspection to realize he’d put himself under a lot of pressure to deliver. Everything was at stake for him in 1844.
The pressure is very understandable. He was putting himself on the national stage, a place he’d never occupied before; and his reputation was being bandied about for good and evil across the nation.
Thomass C. Sharp, one of Jo’s sharpest critics, murdered the prophet in his columns. In the March 13th edition of the Warsaw Signal, Sharp got ahold of Jo’s presidential platform pamphlet and reprinted extracts with commentary.
We have by accident stumbled on a copy of Joe Smith’s pamphlet, in which he shadows forth his views, in relation to the powers, and policy of the General Government, preparatory to the announcement of his name for the Presidency. As our readers would like to know what Joe says in this document, we will proceed to give a brief review, merely for amusement:--
The first part of this strange, yet dignified production, proves conclusively, (and for the life of us, we cannot see for what other purpose it was intended,) that Jo has read the Messages, of all our Presidents, or at least a part of them. We are led to this conclusion from the fact, that the first six pages are occupied with extracts from the Messages, thrown together in pure Joe Smith style, without any application to the subject, or connection with the remarks by which they are introduced. In short, the first part of Joe’s pamphlet, is most confoundedly dull, and if it means anything, its signification is so mystified, as to render it altogether impenetrable to our intellect…
Sharp goes on to take apart Jo’s presidential campaign pamphlet piece by piece in the most glorious fashion. Go back to episode 166 to learn all about Jo’s POTUS campaign where we read it from top to bottom. Thomass Sharp’s commentary is simply, pithy, and scathing and he even makes the point “Now Joe this last is mixing up church and state. Just think of it Lawyers.” But he ends with this glorious conflagration of the prophet’s campaign.
Now Joe there is no question but that you are a man of great learning, for in your address, you quote Hebrew, Dutch, French, Italian, Chaldean, Greek, and Latin, but with all your learning, you have not learned that lesson so plain to all sensible men, viz: that you are a most egregious ignoramous. Now Joe, set about that task, for it is evident that your errors are not all of the heart, some of them have a much higher locality. Candidly, from a review of your pamphlet we have come to the conclusion, that you are a greater dunce than nature ever intended you to be, and that you have about as much knowledge in your cranium of the relative limits and structure of our Governmental polity, as there is essential moisture in a January corn stalk. If it would be any accommodation we will lend you our Devil to teach you the first rudiments of our National Economy.
Jo obviously read this article from the Warsaw Signal. He was vain enough to read anything that came to his desk when it was about him and it’s clear Thomass Sharp’s criticisms of his campaign pamphlet went into his brain. The next issue of the Nauvoo Neighbor published a sly little article, which the Warsaw Signal reprinted a portion of under the heading of “A Touch of the Sublime”. The article is so nonsensical and cryptic that I simply can’t make heads or tails of it, and it seems I’m in good company with Thomass Sharp in that regard. I’ll do my best to read it here but fair warning, I can’t get this thing into my brain in a way that makes sense and I suspect it will be even worse to listen to it read.
A Touch of the Sublime
Somebody has been furnishing the Nauvoo Neighbor, an article, produced we suppose by a prose machine. Speaking of Joe Smith’s merits as a candidate for the Presidency, we have the following.
“Let his valor as a General, his wisdom as a legislator, and his judgement as a jurist, be known, and all the bright names that adorn the official Galaxy will stand eclipsed, while the world will be put to its trumps for an equal.” We acknowledge the corn—as a General, Legislator and Jurist, Joe can’t be beat—except by a jackass.
Again the writer says, “Let the meritorious principles of Gen. Smith go forth. (and no man can prove he has any other principles.) &c.” Joe’s principles are like Paddy’s flea—“had to come at.”
Look… I don’t know, okay! I don’t know what all that means and I don’t know how what John Taylor put in the Nauvoo Neighbor was actually a response to Thomass Sharp’s article. I can’t make heads or tails of it. If I had to wager a guess, however, I would point straight to Jo. Dude was under a lot of stress and the hours he had in the day wore quite thin with all his occupations. I hate to make this political but have you watched recent rallies with our current president? He’s clearly under a lot of pressure and in a position such that he’s unable to admit to even acknowledging he’s ever made a mistake. He rants and raves and it’s impossible to make heads or tails of the point he’s trying to get across. That’s how the Nauvoo Neighbor defense against Thomass Sharp’s criticism of Jo’s presidential pamphlet strikes me. It reads like the ramblings of a Joseph Smith fever dream or drug trip where he’s fighting off evil spirits or something, it’s simply nonsensical.
A person like Joseph Smith, who couldn’t really be considered mentally stable to begin with, rising to all his ambitions put himself under enormous pressure to deliver on all his offices, duties, and aspirations. Look, I don’t pity the guy, I lost any pity I may have had a long time ago. Maybe you pity him for all the stress he was suffering, the stomach ulcers, the constant dissent, the national newspapers assailing his character constantly, all those things would be terrible if they happened to somebody undeserving of such maladies. But never forget, these are the consequences of Jo’s unending gluttony and avarice. He was the victim of his own successes as is anybody in a powerful position like his. The nights of lost sleep, the emotional breakdowns, the psychotic and nonsensical rants, declaring war to cause distractions from scandals, whether Missouri or Iran, all of these are symptoms of a human problem many people in power experience. The degradation of sanity within the mind of one man can drag nations into calamity. We’re lucky Joseph Smith was stopped before it was too late.
I want to respond to the last series we did on the entheogenic origins of Mormonism. When we started the series I told you the main reason I wanted to read the whole academic paper on the show was for feedback. Why? Because at this stage of propagating the theory, we’re in the feedback stage. We need more critical eyes on the paper and I know you listeners skepticize everything and thought this is a great place for some critical feedback. The feedback so far has been fantastic and I’ll read 2 really quickly because they’re largely representative of the other messages we received in response.
| Dennis Anderson | | --------------- | | |
I really enjoyed your episodes on the entheogenic origins of Mormonism. I even read the whole paper. It is the most logical explanation I have heard for the Kirtland Temple visions and of course Joseph Smith's first vision. Do you think John the Revelator was high on something when he wrote the crazy Book of Revelation in the Bible?
Just finishing listening to this episode. I have to say, I was in the skeptic's camp, rolling my eyes every time I'd hear you mention the topic and getting slightly uncomfortable when you'd ask others about it. However, having heard the first part of the paper, I'm already convinced. It's not just criminal behavior that rests on the three legs of means, motive, and opportunity - I think you've laid out a convincing case that Joseph had all three in abundance. Well done to you and your co-authors!
So, where does that leave us? When it comes to psychedelics in early Mormonism, given the construction of the theory, it’s kind of hard to disprove. That doesn’t make it wrong, that just makes it squishy and hard to rise to the level of academic muster. Where do we go from here? We need more folks talking about it. So, my fantastic audio editor has provided me with the audio without my commentary throughout and I’m cutting it up into shorter chapters to publish as a standalone audiobook. I’ll keep y’all updated on that when we get it up and running on audible. We want to get the word out there as much as possible but I know if you get into a conversation about psychedelics in early Mormonism and tell people to listen to Naked Mormonism, the name alone can chase a lot of people away; hopefully having it in audiobook form will help with that a little bit. I’ve contacted Steven Harper and Brian Hales in hopes they’ll provide some believer’s perspective on the topic and maybe even construct a defense or some solid criticisms I can incorporate into the next paper and the book. With the historic April 2020 conference coming and the church’s focus on Joseph Smith’s first vision experience this year, I’m hoping that will draw more eyes and ears to the topic. Maybe instead of saying Joseph stuck his head into a hat with a magic rock in it, we can begin to collectively say “yeah, Joseph Smith saw something in the forest, and I think I know how. Do you wanna see god too?” Share it around, spread the word, and if you’re in the Salt Lake area please consider coming to our bicycle day event on April 19th 2020; information is in the show notes or at psychevents.com. Also, you can pick up a shirt with the show logo or the Joseph Smith the Puppetmaster artwork we used for the Sunstone pamphlet, which you can find on glassboxpodcast.com. Lots of cool stuff with which to ring in the new year, like new patrons over at patreon.com/nakedmormonism.
My apologies to all our wonderful patrons as I’ve fallen a little behind on getting you your promised supporter-exclusive episodes but that will be rectified by the time this show airs. So, if you’re listening on the patron-exclusive feed, be sure to stick around after the credits for some musings about the church in 2019 which is where I go back to the old not safe for Mormon ears style of the show.
Thanks for sticking around everybody. Our next series is going to be on the King Follett Discourse, a mainstay of Mormon theology and an event contemporary with our timeline. But, because we just finished a series on this feed and the Mormon Money series on the Glass Box feed, we’re going to push that out for a few weeks so I don’t bore all of you.
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