Ep 192 – Called and Numbered with the Chosen
On this episode, propaganda flies all directions about the Mormons. A New York Tribune article from January 1844 made waves across the nation with some vicious claims about the Mormon empire in Nauvoo. The article was picked up and reprinted in many news outlets, especially in the cities neighboring Nauvoo. In answer to this, the Quincy Whig received pushback from Mormons for publishing the Tribune article, but the Whig made a commitment to journalistic integrity. A Mormon wrote a letter to the editor of the Whig which they indulged him by publishing it. After all of this, Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith, in the midst of a legal dispute over polygamy and slander, published an article in the Times and Seasons which carved out a future of Mormonism that openly practiced polygamy.
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With Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign at the early stages, the propaganda machine was in full force. As articles circulated revealing the finer points of the theocratic Mormon kingdom, articles were devised in response.
I offer as an example of this, an article published as a letter to the editor of the New York Tribune which caused a significant amount of public attention to be focused on the Mormon kingdom. It is a remarkable article, but the resulting propaganda and public’s response to the article is even more fascinating to me. To preface the article, it’s almost as if the person was a local of one of the neighboring towns to Nauvoo, had heard the constant rhetoric from the prophet and his cronies, and devised an exact and direct response to each point. We’ll discuss what each of those points are as we go through the article.
To the Editor of the N. Y. Tribune:
I take my pen to day to give you some account of the Mormons and their Prophet -- about whom much is said abroad, and but little known.
First point this article attempts to deal with is the economic growth the areas experienced as a result of the Mormon refugee crisis. This was a constant mainstay of Jo’s rhetoric, how industrious the Mormons are. Whether it was from the pulpit, published in the Times and Seasons or Nauvoo Neighbor, or in letters to people considering migrating to Nauvoo from anywhere in America or Europe, the economy in Nauvoo under Jo’s inspired leadership was better than it had ever been. Ignore the unemployment, the insane inflation and inability of people to afford housing, Jo’s economy was the strongest it had ever been. Nauvoo’s place on a jetty into the Mississippi placed it in the most favorable location in America and the whole area was reaping the benefit of Mormon industry.
No one, acquainted with this section of the country, since 1837, can realize the extent to which its prosperity has been impeded, by the settlement of the Mormons amongst us, on leaving the scenes of their difficulties in Missouri. That section of country, embracing an extent of fifty miles, having the Des Moines Rapids and the City of Nauvoo for its centre, possesses natural advantages, in my opinion, not equalled by any other of similar extent in the Mississippi Valley. At the date alluded to, this region was rapidly filling up with an enterprising, moral, and intelligent population; now, since the sojourn here of the ragmuffin imitation of Mahomet and his servile followers, an effectual stop has been put to emigration -- excepting, indeed, such as is intended to swell the number of adherents to the fortunes of the Prophet. And it is not unreasonable that it should be so. It is not to be expected that peaceable and inoffensive citizens would desire for their neighbors a set of fanatics, whose fundamental doctrine is, that the Earth and its good things are theirs, and that they will shortly inherit them; many of whom are not willing to await their appointed time, but proceed to take their portion from the Gentiles in advance.
This deals with the rhetoric that Nauvoo was a safe and secure place to visit. The Mormon leadership were criminals and were using the Nauvoo Municipal Court to cover up rampant theft and robbery happening all over town. In accordance with Jo’s Missouri revelations in 1833 and 38, the Mormons were taking the property of the gentiles, the non-Mormons, and consecrating it to the church. A point I neglected to make last week about the Book of the Law of the Lord has to do with this. People consecrated or tithed property to the temple through 1841-44 and hundreds of contribution records follow page after page through the BoLoL. Well, there was nothing stating that the Mormons had to contribute their OWN property to the temple, just that any property could be consecrated to the building of the temple. With this interpretation of the evidence, some of the lines denoting material consecrations to the temple could have been used as evidence of theft by the Mormons. I’ve never seen a study done on this and I don’t suspect one has been done yet because the BoLoL was only opened to research like 4 years ago, but I wonder if it might be possible to match the criminal records of theft and robbery with items donated or “consecrated” in the BoLoL. How interesting would that be?! A Nauvoo municipal hearing is held for theft of a trunk of clothes and a saddle, the accused are acquitted by Joseph Smith and then 2 days later there’s an entry in the Book of the Law of the Lord for some clothes and a saddle. Hmmm… food for thought. Let me know if any of you have seen research on this. Nakedmormonism@gmail.com
In any case, this person goes on to talk about the average member not being the villainous knave that is the prophet.
I am far from casting reproach upon the whole body of the Mormon people. There are, doubtless, many exemplary and estimable citizens among them, whose chief aim is to live "righteously, soberly, and godly, in this present world." Their greatest failing is in that they are yielding too implicit obedience to the mandates of a most wicked and corrupt man. But, after an intercourse of six or seven years with numbers of the sect, the unwilling conviction has been forced upon me -- that a large number of them are evil disposed men -- men, who like their leaders, embraced Mormonism for the sake of more effectively preying upon their fellow men.
This is a super interesting point in my eyes. People who are just genuinely bad people see Mormonism as a land of refuge and opportunity and they “join” to prey on their fellow men, or on women in many cases. Mormonism did provide some interesting and appealing propositions to those who were less scrupulous in their personal ethics. Lots of money to be made, women to be sealed to in the New and Everlasting Covenant, and a banana republic legal system to protect the guy from any legal troubles. Jo surrounded himself with these people, each member of the high priesthood less moral than the previous, none of them idiots. It’s no wonder folks like John C. Wreck-it Bennett and Joseph H. Jackson made their way up the leadership ranks so quickly to gather information for their exposes. Bad men tend to congregate like dragging a magnet through dirt and Jo was the worst of them all, which, is where the focus to which this article next turns its ire.
Of the Prophet himself, none who know him can respect him. They cannot respect him for his sincerity -- for he cannot be sincere; he cannot be the victim of his own delusion. They cannot esteem him for his piety -- for he does not even profess to be pious -- and he is notoriously the greatest blasphemer and railer in the country. They cannot respect him for his talents -- for he has none. He is uneducated and ignorant -- possessing no more of the qualifications for a great Reformer (as he professes to be) than can be found in fifty grog-shop loafers in your city. Let me assure you and your readers, that this man is much more indebted to circumstances for the unenviable position he occupies, than to any ability of his own.
He has obtained a strong ascendency over a mass of mind -- uneducated and vicious, as it undoubtedly is. For this, as I have said, he is indebted to circumstances -- and by the force of these circumstances alone is he able to maintain it. His own people do not love or respect him. Many are jealous of his power; and only submit to it because their present interest seems to require it. Even SIDNEY RIGDON, (who has been the main pillar of Mormonism, in its earlier days,) I am assured, is only waiting for a favorable opportunity to withdraw.
Obviously, this article is painting with a pretty broad brush, but it should be notable that life wasn’t great for a lot of Nauvoo Mormons. A core of unyielding sycophants may have painted the illusion that every one of the 15,000 people living in the area venerated Jo as their king on earth, but a lot of people sacrificed a lot to be a member of this church, which understandably left many of them jaded by what had happened to them. It also claims that Jo had created a system of vicious competition which has certainly survived in the Salt Lake City church today, and that some of his purported loyal leadership were actually just waiting for the opportunity to either leave or ascend to the presidency. This system of competition, understandably, came as a result of the carrot and stick approach Jo had to leadership. You’re loyal and help the church out, you gain the prophet’s favor and plenty of worldly comforts. You’re an enemy of the church or a dissenter against the prophet, you suffer his wrath and may even enjoy a nice late night visit from a Danite like Pistol Packin’ Porter Rockwell.
In Smith centres all power -- spiritual and temporal. He is Prophet, Priest, President (an office in the Church,) General, Mayor of the City, and Landlord!
The organization of the City, under a charter obtained from the Legislature of Illinois, is complete. They have a City Council, whose acts are but the echo of the Prophet's will.
I send you two specimens of their legislation. Both are now in full force in the city.
"An extra Ordinance for the extra case of Joseph Smith and others."
(Preamble: recounting Smith's difficulties with Missouri.)
Section 1. Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, according to the intent and meaning of the Charter for the "benefit and convenience" of Nauvoo, that hereafter, if any person or persons shall come with process, demand or requisition, founded upon the aforesaid Missouri difficulties to arrest said Smith, he or they shall be subject to be arrested by any officer of the city, with or without process, and tried by the Municipal Court upon testimony, and if found guilty, sentenced to imprisonment in the City Prison FOR LIFE, which convict or convicts can only be pardoned by the Governor, with the consent of the Mayor of said City.
* * * * *
Passed Dec 8, 1843.
JOSEPH SMITH, Mayor.
WILLARD RICHARDS, Recorder."
What beautiful legislation! The pardoning power taken from the Governor! -- and life imprisonment under a city ordinance!! Here is another less dangerous one:
"An Ordinance for the Health and Convenience of Travellers and other persons,"
Section 1. Be it ordained by the City Council of Nauvoo, that the Mayor of the City be and is hereby authorized to sell or give spirits, of any quantity, as he in his wisdom shall judge to be for the health, comfort, or convenience of such travellers or other persons as shall visit his house from time to time.
Passed December 12, 1843.
JOSEPH SMITH, Mayor.
WILLARD RICHARDS, Recorder."
The sole intent of this ordinance is to give to the "Mayor of the City" -- Joseph Smith -- who, it will be recollected is a tavern keeper, a monopoly of retailing liquors to "travellers and others," without license!!!
Did you know Joseph Smith had wine and tobacco brought to him when he was in Carthage jail?! That’s a frequent “anti-Mormon” talking point some of you may have heard or used at some point. Well, he also passed laws as Mayor that he was the only person who could sell alcohol in the entire city and his police force vigorously enforced these laws. Jo didn’t just drink alcohol, he made sure he was the only guy who could legally sell it in Nauvoo and used his position as mayor to set himself on top of the alcohol monopoly in the city. If folks wanted to get alcohol at prices which weren’t exorbitant from Jo, they’d have to travel about 15 miles to the nearest grog shop which wasn’t in the city jurisdiction. In a car, that’s no big deal, in a wagon or carriage, that was quite a burdensome requirement.
Jo was in a dangerous position in Nauvoo. He could make the rules to the game of reality and play it however he wanted to. He made the rules allowing him to act any way he wanted to, and following the rules was elective for him, but everybody else had to play by his rules of his game. We see how a lack of checks and balances like this can be very dangerous to the regular order of law. We have a system set up and a general social contract of abiding by that system and not breaking it, then a guy comes along and flaunts those social contracts, makes his own rules, and we’re all left with our hands up in the air wondering what the hell to do to get rid of them. Thing is, Jo had long since ruled that he couldn’t be impeached and his cabal of legitimately loyal sycophantic leadership had made sure that power resided solely in him. This worked for him until the only remaining solution was vigilante justice, which was swift and far too late.
Should the Temple ever be finished, on the plan originally contemplated, it would be the most magnificent building in the West. But it will not be finished! At the rate it has progressed, since its foundation stone was laid, it will require 20 years to complete it -- and a sum of money not far short of half a million of dollars. I have good grounds for the opinion, that large sums, bestowed for that purpose, never have been, or will be, expended on that splendid monument of folly and wickedness.
This article was published in the New York Tribune in late January 1844 and was reprinted all across the country for the months of February and March, while Jo was putting the word out about his presidential campaign. The cogs of the Nauvoo propaganda machine began to churn and the Times and Season printed an article which was supposedly written by somebody who happened to travel to Nauvoo and write a good yelp review of the city and its prophet-mayor-general-tavernkeeper apropos of nothing, of course. I’ll tell you, this reads like W. W. Double-dub Phelps wrote it as he was one of Jo’s primary propaganda officer, but reading wordprints with this little data and a nearly infinite well of possible authors means I have no way of proving it.
Vogel HoC 6:298
A traveler, having visited Nauvoo for a few days, wrote to the Times and Seasons:
Nauvoo, Mansion, March, 1844
Mr. Editor:--Before I take my departure, permit me to express my views relative to the leading men of your city, where I have been these few days.
I have been conversant with the great men of the age, and last of all, I feel that I have met with the greatest, in the presence of your esteemed Prophet, Gen. Joseph Smith. From many reports I had reason to believe him a bigoted religionist, as ignorant of politics as the savages; but to my utter astonishment, on the short acquaintance, I have found him as familiar in the cabinet of nations as with his Bible; and in the knowledge of that book, I have not met with his equal in Europe or America. Although, if I should beg leave to differ with him in some items of faith; his nobleness of soul will not permit him to take offense at me. No, sir, I find him open, frank and generous, as willing others should enjoy their opinions as to enjoy his own.
The General appears perfectly at home on every subject, and his familiarity with many languages affords him ample means to become informed concerning all nations and principles, which his familiar and dignified deportment towards all must secure to his interest the affections of every intelligent and virtuous man that may chance to fall in his way, and I am astonished that so little is known abroad concerning him.
Van Buren was my favorite, and I was astonished to see Gen. Smith’s name as a competitor; but since my late acquaintance, Mr. Van Buren can never re-seat himself in the presidential chair on my vote while Gen. Smith is in the field. Forming my opinions alone of the talents of the two, and from what I have seen, I have not reason to doubt but Gen. Smith’s integrity is equal to any other individual; and I am satisfied he cannot easily be made the pliant tool of any political party. I take him to be a man who stands far aloof from little caucus quibblings and squabblings, while nations, governments and realms are wielded in his hand as familiairly as the top and hoop in the hands of their little masters.
Free from all bigotry and superstition, he dives into every subject, and it seems as though the world was not large enough to satisfy his capacious soul, and from his conversation one might suppose him as well acquainted with others worlds as this.
So far as I can discover, Gen. Smith is the nation’s man, and the man who will exalt the nation, if the people will give him the opportunity, and all parties will find a friend in him so far as right is concerned.
Gen. Smith’s movements are perfectly anomalous in the estimation of the public. All other great men have been considered wise in drawing around them wise men, but I have frequently heard the General called a fool because he has gathered the wisest of men to his cabinet, who direct his movements: but this subect is too ridiculous to dwell upon. Suffice it to say, so far as I have seen, he has wise men at his side, superlatively wise, and more capable of managing the affairs of a state than most men now engaged therein, which I consider much to his credit, though I would by no means speak diminutively of my old friends.
From my brief acquaintance, I consider Gen. Smith (independent of his peculiar religious views, in which, by-the-bye, I have discovered neither vanity nor folly,) the sine qua non of the age to our nation’s prosperity. He has learned the all-important lesson, “to profit by the experience of those who have gone before,” so that, in short, Gen. Smith begins where other men leave off. I am aware this will appear a bold assertion to some, but I would say to such call and form your acquaintance as I have done, then judge.
Thus, sir, you have a few leading items of my views of Gen. Smith, formed from personal acquaintance, which you are at liberty to dispose of as you think proper. I anticipate the pleasure of renewing my acquaintance with your citizens at a future day.—
Such a resounding approval of Jo, Nauvoo, and the Mormons at large would have been welcome news for anybody keeping up with the Mormon controversy, or maybe it would have struck them as the propaganda it was, who knows. I would also point out here that the Times and Seasons had a few thousand regular readers who would have read this, maybe the letter was picked up by other newspapers, but it’s doubtful. However, the number of readers who saw that New York Tribune article about the Mormon villainy was probably a few hundred thousand nationwide, especially with the reprinting in other outlets. There were about 2.5 million people living in New York in the 1840s and a lot of them read the New York Tribune. More people knew about how bad the Mormons were than there were people who held them in high regard.
Even so, that New York Tribune article generated some skepticism from others who sent letters to the editors of newspapers which had reprinted the article. The Quincy Whig, for example, published a response to some of the pushback they received from citizens who didn’t hold such caustic views of the Mormons.
Some of our Mormon friends, or rather acquaintenances, we suppose we should should call them, are exceedingly wrathy, because we published an article in our last paper from the New York Tribune, reflecting in somewhat severe terms, upon the leaders of the Mormons. We are sorry that we cannot please them -- but having made up our mind to publish all that the cause of truth demands, in exposition of Smith's blasphemy, hypocrisy, and political proceedings, generally, whenever we deem it necessary and proper, to the public good, we shall not turn aside from our duty in consequence of the frowns or threats of any one or dozen men. We have no religious or sectarian prejudices to gratify, in exposing the conduct of the Mormon leaders. We should pursue the same course towards any other denomination calling themselves Christians, were the leaders of the same guilty of attempting to unite religious and political power together, under the control and at the behest of a leader whose morals as a religious teacher, as a politician, as an official magistrate, and as a man, were of so doubtful and questionable a character as Smith's. When such a man has influence in the land, and is leading thousands of perhaps honest, though deluded individuals, into a position that must bring upon them misrey, wretchedness, and a thousand other ills, it is time for the press to speak out, and expose the knavery and hypocrisy of such a man. We shall not, of course, devote much of our paper to the Mormon controversy, now raging in Hancock county, but we shall on necessary occasions publish such matter, referring thereto, as will best, as we believe, serve the cause of truth, humanity, and the rights of other citizens. This, Mormons, and all others may rely upon.
We are informed at a church meeting of this people in our city, on Sunday last, one or two of their speakers took the opportunity to denounce our paper in the strongest language, for publishing the article referred to above. This was hardly in the character of Christians, as they claim to be. If they were "persecuted." as they assert, the good book teaches them to bear all such things with patience and an enduring spirit -- instead of induging in wrathy denunciations, and exhibiting a bitter and vindictive feeling. This last is too much in the character of Mahomet, such as their leader desires to be, if he only had the men and money.
That last part was true. The Mormon leadership renewed a crusade against the Quincy Whig and other newspapers in the next public meeting when Jo said “we will whip the mob by getting up a candidate for President. When I get hold of the eastern papers (The New York Tribune) and see how popular I am, I am afraid myself that I shall be elected;…” It’s clear that Jo delighted in his name being had for good and evil over all the nation. Press is press and every national newspaper that carried his name was another like or retweet that made him more popular. Alexander Hamilton saw this failing in his very first federalist paper, which is all the more poignant in 1844 as he’d only died the year before Joseph Smith was born and the experiment of American democracy had yet to prove itself. I offer a brief reading from Federalist Paper 1 to illustrate his seemingly transcendent observations.
Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies than from its union under one government… Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.
The various articles going out about the Mormons were generating fuel for the persecution narrative, and that was dangerous. This was pointed out in a letter to the editor of the Quincy Whig as the articles published there only became more caustic towards Joseph Smith and the Mormons. The person had read the original article reprinted from the New York Tribune that started our conversation today and then he’d also read the editor’s defense of publishing the article. These were his thoughts after consuming both articles which was reprinted in the Times and Seasons of March 15, 1844. The sentiments captured in this article are absolutely terrifying and illustrate the mind of many Mormons thinking Jo would be their savior. The ambitions for him to become king of the world were far from secret, even if the specific plans to make it happen were.
Mr. Editor:- Sir: -- As I was perusing the Whig of the 28th of February last, my eye caught some remarks made by the editor of that paper, justifying himself for publishing an article from the New York Tribune, reflecting severely upon the Mormon leaders. I read the article alluded to, after which I made the following observations:
I have heard it observed by medical gentlemen, that if a person wish to commit suicide by taking poison, he will fail to accomplish his object if he take a very extravagant dose, for it being too strong for the stomach to retain, it meets with an immediate resistance, and is thrown off before time will allow it to be conveyed to the blood. So with the article in the Whig. It is so strongly tinctured with the bane of falsehood, slander and reproach, that it can do the Mormons no harm; for every person who has been to Nauvoo and witnessed there the fruits of industry and untiring perseverance which exhibit themselves both in the city and on the wide-spread prairie, must confess that the statements in the above named article are false; and how the editor should be ignorant of the fruits, I am at a loss to determine, for they have not grown in a corner!!...
He is very jealous of religious and political power being united. But I would ask, does not every wise legislative body invoke the aid of a religious power to order their deliberations in wisdom, and direct their political course with prudence? If not, why all these chaplains, in our legislative halls, in the army and in the navy? But probably the editor of the Whig would say: "It is true, in all christian governments, there are men selected of acknowledged worth and piety to ask wisdom upon the State and National councils, and also blessings upon the army and navy: yet says he, it is all a sham and mock ceremony; for if God were to give a revelation of wisdom and knowledge by the Holy Ghost, or by an Angel to any of these chaplains, and they should declare it in the national councils, it would not be regarded at all, only as the height of extravagance, presumption and folly. So you see it is all a sham." Yes Mr. Editor, your views are, no doubt, correct. They are too self evident for me to contradict. But Joseph Smith, more sincere and consistent than they all, prays to God for wisdom, receives it by revelation, and then as a test of his implicit confidence therein, acts upon it.
Would the editor have us to understand that there is one department in heaven to guide the destinies of the political world, and another directing the affairs of religion? If so, he is much mistaken. There is one God who presides over the destinies of all nations and individuals, both religiously and politically, and numbers the hairs of all our heads. I would ask if the editor of the Whig ever prays after the following manner: "Thy kingdom come, and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven:" if he does, he virtually asks God to destroy the distinction of Church and State on earth: for that distinction is not recognized in heaven. With God, politics and religion are both one, but not with us. He also prays that God may establish a government on the earth like that in heaven, and that "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ." Church must not triumph over State, but actually swallow it up like Moses' rod swallowed up the rods of the Egyptians. -- If this be not so, the kingdom of God can never come. Satan can never be bound, the millennial glory never dawn upon our world, Christ never reign king of nations, as he now does king of Saints, neither can death be swallowed up in victory. But Christ will reign, and put down all rule, and authority and power.
Terrifying! Those, like the author of this letter, who failed to see the error of their ways simply baffle me. You can’t have religious freedom if the nation in question is ruled by a specific religion, be it Mormonism, Catholicism, or Sharia law. Where do non-believers in Mormonism exist in this man’s dystopic view of a Mormon nation? Where do they have place? There’s an implicit mindset which informs this worldview and that is of the second coming. The second coming will happen and Jesus will reign personally over the earth and all non-believers or heretics will be burned up like chaff and those tough questions never need to be answered. Like some kind of magic cleansing fire, everybody who isn’t a true Christian will catch fire or turn into a pillar of salt or something. But, because the second coming hasn’t actually happened yet, every time somebody actually tries to build god’s kingdom, that whole killing of heretics thing is a duty that falls on the people building the kingdom. It’s people responsible for killing other people for not believing in the right god. Whether they be indigenous peoples of America refusing to convert to Christianity or Muslims in Iran people successfully brand as “terrorists,” religious purity requires cleansing the impure. That’s why America’s final frontier of rights must lay at the tattered bricks of the foundation of the church-state separation wall. Non-Mormons aren’t allowed to live in a Mormon America and that fact is just as much the case today as it was in 1844 when Jo was trying to build his Mormon American theocracy.
Whoever, therefore, will always labor to keep up a distinction of Church and State, must oppose his own prayers, fight against the decree of heaven, and perpetuate strife and confusion on earth. Whoever are to be the honored instruments in carrying forward the ark of this covenant and affecting this union, time must determine; whether the Monks, the Methodists or Mormons, or any of them; yet it will certainly be that people whom the Lord shall choose.
That paragraph says a lot, doesn’t it? America will be the Christian promised land, whether it be the monks, Methodists, or Mormons who build it, we will live in a Christian America. Anybody praying to god to save the world who maintains a wall of separation between church and state perpetuate strife and confusion. They’re hypocrites who can’t be tolerated. They’re moderates who unflinchingly give ground to radicals of their same creed.
But to close. It may sometime happen to him who freely indulges in abusing a virtuous, industrious, and sincere people; a people who have been made poor by cruelty and oppression a people who are trying to live by all laudable industry, who have faced opposition in almost every form, and waded through "much tribulation;" a people against whom the popular cry is raised, mingled with vengeance and extermination, and whose voice can seldom be heard in reply, that he fall into the same difficulties in which he tries to involve them, that he die in poverty and disgrace when no relatives can lament, nor friends can bury.
A Friend to the Mormons.
This mentality is infuriating to yours truly; it’s maddening. The Mormon who wrote this is so quick to trot out the persecution complex and play victim while simultaneously neglecting to realize he’s the victim of Joseph Smith in the first place. Instead, he views the “much tribulation” which he’s suffered as a result of religious persecution instead of Joseph Smith being a monster. It’s the same mentality that cries foul about 18 dead Mormons at Haun’s Mill but doesn’t even add a footnote to a history book about the Timpanogos massacre and beheadings, the Bear River massacre, the Circleville massacre, and dozens of others resulting in the unjustified deaths of thousands of Indigenous people.
Hamilton put it so well:
[A] dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.
Joseph Smith was such a champion of liberty, fairer and more industrious than any other man. To quote from one of our articles today:
I have found him as familiar in the cabinet of nations as with his Bible; and in the knowledge of that book, I have not met with his equal in Europe or America. Although, if I should beg leave to differ with him in some items of faith; his nobleness of soul will not permit him to take offense at me. No, sir, I find him open, frank and generous, as willing others should enjoy their opinions as to enjoy his own… He has learned the all-important lesson, “to profit by the experience of those who have gone before,” so that, in short, Gen. Smith begins where other men leave off.
Everything the Mormons suffered was because Jo’s avarice to ascend to higher and higher offices of political, religious, and populist power. The mind which created this response to the Quincy Whig is some kind of warped cult Stockholm syndrome that may be the sole longest-lasting impact of Jo’s legacy. These people were damaged by his actions, their perceptions of reality molded and shaped by the man profiting from their anguish. They cry oppression not when considering their own circumstances, but when people attack the man standing on top of their crushed freedoms and autonomy.
The worst part about the entire article is he claimed the original New York Tribune article was full of falsehood and misrepresentation. It wasn’t. “It is so strongly tinctured with the bane of falsehood, slander and reproach, that it can do the Mormons no harm; for every person who has been to Nauvoo and witnessed there the fruits of industry and untiring perseverance which exhibit themselves both in the city and on the wide-spread prairie, must confess that the statements in the above named article are false;” Don’t talk bad about my supreme leader, especially when he’s done so much for us and the Nauvoo economy is better than its ever been. But, the two ordinances it talked about, the arresting power of the constable and pardoning power being removed from the Governor, and the other of Jo creating an alcohol monopoly were both real. They’d been printed in previous editions of the Times and Seasons pursuant to the Nauvoo Charter which required public notice of any ordinances passed before they went into effect.
As for this passage: “Of the Prophet himself, none who know him can respect him. They cannot respect him for his sincerity -- for he cannot be sincere; he cannot be the victim of his own delusion. They cannot esteem him for his piety -- for he does not even profess to be pious -- and he is notoriously the greatest blasphemer and railer in the country.” Is that the slander and reproach the person is talking about? Those are opinions. Now, New York v. Sullivan, the standard supreme court case by which slander and freedom of speech cases are largely judged by, wouldn’t come along for another 100 years, but the sentiment predated the court ruling. These are opinion judgements, not statements of facts. For example, I can say that Russel M. Nelson deserves as much respect and adoration as an Alzheimer-ridden Voldemort, he looks like a 3-year-old potato stretched over the skeleton of a lizard from a nuclear bomb testing site, and his brain is just nickelodeon slime and none of that is slanderous as they’re personal opinions and gross exaggerations that no reasonable mind would construe as legitimate claims to fact.
That Mormon respondent to the New York Tribune article is just wrong at the factual assertions, but it’s wrong on a deeper level. It began by saying the article was too poisonous to have any real effect on the Mormons. Well, what it did do was further prejudice the mind of the public toward Joseph Smith. A Times and Seasons article with a couple thousand readers responding to New York Tribune article with a couple hundred thousand readers has a greater impact on the mind of the public than can easily be measured. Like the modern Washington Post publishing the story that the Salt Lake City church is hoarding over $100 billion. WaPo has a few million readers and the Deseret News response has a few thousand regular readers. What was the impression the public took away from the story? Does the public remember the Deseret News response and the op-eds from BYU professors who say they’re glad the church has the money, or that the church having so much money proves it to be a good steward over the kingdom of god? Or, do people remember the WaPo article about the $100 billion nest egg the Mormons are sitting on? You wonder where myths of dragons sitting on piles of gold originate…
Needless to say, the media was having a field day with the Mormons in March of 1844 and it wasn’t long before the dissenters reacting to the constant onslaught of scandals finally reacted in a way which proved fatal for the prophet and his closest advisor and personal sidekick.
Speaking of Jo’s sidekick, Hyrum Smith, he was still caught up in litigation with Orsimus F. Bostwick with polygamy. Bostwick made allegations that Hyrum was preaching polygamy and Hyrum had sued him for slander in Nauvoo. Dr. Robert D. Foster acted as Bostwick’s attorney. The case was dismissed because it was the Nauvoo municipal court. Foster told Jo he was going to appeal the case to the circuit court in Carthage, which Jo… let’s just say he strongly advised Foster against doing so.
With that as background, Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith published an incredibly fascinating article in the Times and Seasons.
Nauvoo, March 15, 1844
To the brethren of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, living on China Creek, in Hancock County, Greeting:--Whereas brother Richard Hewitt has called on me to-day, to know my views concerning some doctrines that are preached in your place, and states to me that some of your elders say, that a man having a certain priesthood, may have as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrine is taught here: I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrine, for there is no such doctrine taught here; neither is there any such thing practiced here. And any man that is found teaching privately or publicly any such doctrine, is culpable, and will stand a chance to be brought before the High Council, and lose his license and membership also: therefore he had better beware what he is about.
And again I say unto you, an elder has no business to undertake to preach mysteries in any part of the world, for God has commanded us all to preach nothing but the first principles unto the world. Neither has any elder any authority to preach any mysterious thing to any branch of the church unless he has a direct commandment from God to do so. Let the matter of the grand councils of heaven, and the making of gods, worlds, and devils entirely alone: for you are not called to teach any such doctrine—for neither you nor the people you are capacitated to understand any such principles—less so teach them. For when God commands men to teach such principles the saints will receive them. Therefore beware what you teach! For the mysteries of God are not given to all men; and unto those to whom they are given they are placed under restrictions to impart only such as God will command them; and the residue is to be kept in a faithful breast, otherwise he will be brought under condemnation. By this God will prove his faithful servants, who will be called and numbered with the chosen.
And as to the celestial glory, all will enter in and possess that kingdom that obey the gospel, and continue in faith in the Lord unto the end of his days. Now, therefore, I say unto you, you must cease preaching your miraculous things, and let the mysteries alone until by and bye. Preach faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; repentance and baptism for the remission of sins; the laying on of the hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost: teaching the necessity of strict obedience unto these principles; reasoning out of the scriptures; proving them unto the people. Cease your schisms and divisions, and your contentions. Humble yourselves as in dust and ashes, lest God should make you an ensample of his wrath unto the surrounding world. Amen.
In the bonds of the everlasting covenant,
I am Your obedient servant,
This was not the usual categorical denial of the practice of polygamy. That’s a remarkable shift in the narrative from the multiple previous denials over the prior decade. Notably, this was removed from the History of the Church version published in the early 20th century; only by Vogel’s Source and Text Critical Edition has it been restored from the original manuscript drafts in bold text. Why? Why was it removed? Why was it published by Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith in the first place? What does it really mean?
I believe the reason it was removed alludes to the original purpose of publishing it in the first place which allows us to peak into what it really meant when it was published in March 1844. First, it talks about a man “having a certain priesthood” preaching about “having as many wives as he pleases”. This is true as the sealing power of the New and Everlasting Covenant was still in early prototype phases. Sealing power was manufactured by Jo to control who could preach polygamy and who was allowed to engage in it. By Jo’s own direction in the July 1843 revelation, which is modern D&C 132, it declares that only he has the power of sealing in the New and Everlasting Covenant. However, many men had taken many women as polygamous wives by that point and the distinctions between spiritual wifery practiced by dozens of elites and polygamy practiced only under Jo’s approval had yet to be defined. So, Jo created his certain priesthood of sealing power and he had control over what polygynous relationships were approved.
Then it denies that any such thing is going on in Nauvoo and any man who is found preaching such things is liable to be brought before the High Council for a tribunal and lose his preaching license. While this reads as a blatant denial, when taken in context of what is said in the next paragraph the statement becomes a bit more nuanced. However, reading between the lines of just that statement, this meant that anybody who’s preaching polygamy without approval will be disciplined. Only our approved short list of men can preach such mysteries and if you’re not on that list you’re putting all of us in danger.
So, on to the next lines. “an elder has no business to undertake to preach mysteries in any part of the world, for God has commanded us all to preach nothing but the first principles unto the world. Neither has any elder any authority to preach any mysterious thing to any branch of the church unless he has a direct commandment from God to do so. Let the matter of the grand councils of heaven, and the making of gods, worlds, and devils entirely alone:” This passage contextualizes the previous lines. Only those who we approve of can preach mysteries. The doctrine of exaltation, becoming gods with planets, grand councils of heaven; all of these are super deep Mormon doctrine and all of them are tied to polygamy somehow. How does one ascend to become a god? By taking at least 3 wives. How does one make planets? By populating them with spirit children from one’s multiple wives. How does one enter the grand councils of heaven? By becoming a god; see above answers. These are the greatest mysteries of Mormon theology and anybody preaching these deeper points of doctrine couldn’t do so without at very least leaving the door open for the New and Everlasting Covenant.
The next line is the most revealing of the entire article. “For when God commands men to teach such principles the saints will receive them.” This leaves the door wide open to declare polygamy publicly from the pulpit at a later time. There simply is no other way to deal with that line and there’s no other reason for it to be in there. But, to further illustrate my point, it continues from there, “Therefore beware what you teach! For the mysteries of God are not given to all men; and unto those to whom they are given they are placed under restrictions to impart only such as God will command them;”. The mysteries, the New and Everlasting Covenant, are placed under restriction and only the men who God commands can teach them. “By this God will prove his faithful servants, who will be called and numbered with the chosen.” Will you be one of the chosen? Will you believe everything we tell you but only when we choose to tell you? Will you obey?
“And as to the celestial glory, all will enter in and possess that kingdom that obey the gospel, and continue in faith in the Lord unto the end of his days. Now, therefore, I say unto you, you must cease preaching your miraculous things, and let the mysteries alone until by and bye”. Let the mysteries alone until all the chips are down, ducks in a row, and all the puzzle pieces fall where they must. We’ll teach polygamy and exaltation to godhood when the time is right. The article ends with a threat. “Humble yourselves as in dust and ashes, lest God should make you an ensample of his wrath unto the surrounding world.” This wasn’t just a public statement; this was a warning to anybody who may disobey. The wrath of god was a tangible reality to those who became a threat to the church. The will and wrath of god was exercised by his most faithful and elect who appear like a thief in the night.
When I opened this episode by saying the Mormon propaganda machine was in full force, I meant it. Nauvoo Mormon propaganda was a versatile machine and it had its way of controlling narrative outside the church looking in as much as the internal mechanisms like who could and couldn’t preach the mysteries of the kingdom. 1844 was a big year for the church leadership under Joseph Smith. With so many moving parts, a lot of decisions were constantly in the air but one thing I’m relatively certain of is that had he not died in 1844, it would have been within the following 2 years that he would have led the Mormons on their next mass exodus outside the boundaries of the United States Government and openly started practicing polygamy, just as Bloody Brigham Young had done by 8 years after this very article was published. All the headlines and national attention turning towards the Mormons forced Jo to calculate many complex forces into his equations, but his ultimate goal of moving away from the boundaries of any law enforcement was at the top of his to-do list. Why? So he could flaunt the laws with impunity and finally build his theocratic empire with his harem of wives and armies of thousands. That fateful evening in the Carthage Jail shaped American history and with little signals in the historical record like Hyrum’s article here, I can’t help but wonder how the world might be different if it had never happened.
Next on the chopping block is the King Follett discourse.
New NaMo book?
View of the Hebrews
Maybe more contemporary with our timeline like the Joseph H. Jackson expose
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