Joseph and Hyrum Smith are in Carthage jail. They aren’t going anywhere, not alive anyway. We spent last week catching up with Emma and seeing her role in the preceding events which landed her husband and brother-in-law in the jail. I want to spend a bit of time with some other inferior folks of the timeline to see what it is they’ve been up to lately as these tensions brewed between the Nauvoo Mormons and the Carthage anti-Mormons. When I say inferior, I just mean they’re perceived as less influential or crucial to the timeline and therefore have far less information written about them. This episode will kind of be all over the place but hang in there with me because there are quite a few threads to tie together into June of 1844.
I want to start with one of my personal favorites in Nauvoo history for complicated reasons, Eliza R. Snow. She’s kind of my personal crush, I better not get into it, but Eliza had a pretty busy 1844. Emma and Eliza had some form of altercation; we talked about it on Emma’s Stairway to Hell. Accounts differ but historians generally agree that something did occur. Immediately after the altercation, Eliza moved out of the Nauvoo Homestead where she was living with her husband and sister-wives. Where she moved was the Morley Settlement, known as Yelrom, because Mormons are super basic with codenames. This was run as a communalistic settlement by Father Isaac Morley, one of the earliest converts to the church in 1830 who lived near Kirtland, Ohio. The Morley settlements in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois were always a place of refuge for struggling and destitute Mormons who didn’t have somewhere else to call home. Even the Smith family, including Jo and Emma, lived on the Morley settlement in Ohio when the first got there in early 1831.
Eliza had moved into the Nauvoo Homestead with the Smiths and considered it home, but with the raging conflict between her and Emma, no place where they shared the same roof would be a peaceful home. Moving to the Morley settlement, named Yelrom, probably in mid-1843, was the best option to keep the peace between sister-wives. Well, Eliza Snow lived out the remainder of 1843 through to April of 1844 on the Morley Settlement. Yelrom wasn’t spectacular living conditions, but it had roofs and beds to lay ones head at night. Typically, the folks who lived on the Morley settlement were people who were down and out, or families whose husband was on a mission, or were sealed to Isaac as his wives and celestial family. Eliza fell into that category after she was violently removed from the Smith homestead. She didn’t have many options available to her and settling into one of the communal cabins in Yelrom seemed her best option. Yelrom, however, was about 30 miles south of Nauvoo with Warsaw and Carthage right between the two.
Eliza’s calling as secretary of the Relief Society went on hold when she moved to Yelrom. When that happened, a woman named Phebe M. Wheeler took over the scribal duties from Eliza. Emma also didn’t attend another Relief Society meeting for the rest of the year after Eliza was kicked out. Every absence is noted by both Emma and her councilors from July to October of 1843, before the Relief Society went on hiatus for the winter until March of 1844. Many times it notes that Emma was sick and requests the society to pray for her but others simply note that she wasn’t there. It wasn’t just Emma who was gone from the RS meetings for the latter half of 1843, Eliza Snow was absent as well. Phebe Wheeler took the RS notes for the rest of the year with a very brief meeting in September when an unidentified scribe took the notes for the morning meeting in black ink instead of blue ink that fills the other pages.
Eliza can be tracked through her journal and poems in Nauvoo. Eliza was “politely presented” an empty notebook by a friend of hers by the name of Sarah Melissa Kimball sometime in March 1842. Paper, let alone an entire empty notebook, was a gracious and costly gift for Sarah to give Eliza when used for unofficial purposes. White-out Willard Richards had provided Eliza with an empty notebook for the Relief Society Minutes, so this small notebook, according to Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Eliza’s biographer, “so this [notebook] lay unused for three months”. The first entry is marked for 29 June 1842, the day Eliza married Joseph, which can only be inferred by decoding her coded language which clouds the history of polygamy.
Maureen Beecher expresses the struggle for historians in decoding this language as representative of the struggle of Eliza to properly record her thoughts on that momentous day. A link to Beecher’s edited version of Eliza’s Nauvoo Journal is in the show notes.
The first entry in the new book is dated 29 June 1842. Written in a manner far removed from the concise, direct style of Eliza’s usual prose, it seems to be struggling to express feelings without disclosing the events which precipitated those feelings. “This is a day of much interest to my feelings,” Eliza begins, and wanders off into vague references to her family and their plans for moving.
When we understand the context of Eliza’s recent life-changing event when the first entry was recorded, it seems as if she was what we’d call today body and sex positive. Let me read it and try to listen to this first entry with the understanding that Nauvoo Mormonism was in the process of evolving into a free-love community and Eliza had just been inducted into that inner community within a community. She also provides a few signals that her worldview was perceived through the esoteric art of numerology.
This is a day of much interest to my feelings. Reflecting on past occurrences, a variety of thoughts have presented themselves to my mind with regard to events which have chas’d each other in rapid succession in the scenery of human life.
As an individual, I have not passed altogether unnoticed by Change, in reference to present circumstances and future prospects. Two weeks and two days have pass’d since an intimation was presented of my duty and privilege of remaining in the City of the saints in case of the removal of my father’s family: one week and two days have transpired since the family left, and though I rejoice in the blessing of the society of the saints, and the approbation of God; a lonely feeling will steal over me before I am aware, while I am contemplating the present state of society—the powers of darkness, and the prejudices of the human mind which stand array’d like and impregnable barrier against the work of God. While these thoughts were revolving in my mind, the heavens became shadowed with clouds and a heavy shower of rain and hail ensued, and I exclaim’d “O God, is it not enough that we have the prepossessions of mankind—their prejudices and their hatred to contend with; but must we also stand amid the rage of elements?” I concluded within myself that the period might not be far distant, that will require faith to do so; but the grace of God is sufficient, therefore I will not fear. I will put my trust in Him who is mighty to save; rejoicing in his goodness and determin’d to live by every word that proceedeth out of his mouth.
Another entry from August of 1842 reveals some conflict within the New and Everlasting Covenant Eliza had recently been inducted into. Eliza tells us that Emma called on her to move into the Nauvoo Homestead, which provided some conflict between her and her sister-wife, Sarah Cleveland, Emma and Eliza’s newest sister-wife and councilor in the Relief Society.
Mrs. [Sarah] Cleveland having come to the determination of moving on to her lot; my former expectations were frustrated, but the Lord has opened the path to my feet, and I feel dispos’d to acknowledge his hand in all things. This sudden, unexpected change in my location, I trust is for good; it seem’d to come in answer to my petitions to God to direct me in the path of duty according to his will.
This is when Eliza moved into the Homestead with her sister-wives. While there she taught school, helped Emma and the others in the Relief Society presidency with sundry other affairs, and continued to wax poetic whenever occasion demanded. Her journal includes poem after poem interspersed among her various entries. We’ve read a few on the show before when they capture a certain emotion of specific subject matter; her poems convey feelings conveyed in no other journal entry of the time. She also composed poems as commissions for friends who lost a family member or child. One of these was written for an elder Lorenzo Barnes who died on a mission in Bradford, England in December of 1842. She also recounts the return of her older brother, Lorenzo Snow, when he arrived in Nauvoo from his mission with the Quorum of Apostles in England.
Wednesday 12 [April 1843]
This day I have the inexpressible happiness of once again embracing a brother who had been absent nearly three years. I cannot describe the feelings which fill’d my bosom when I saw the steam-boat Amaranth moving majestically up the Mississippi, and thought perhaps Lorenzo was on board: my heart overflowed with gratitude when, after the landing of the boat, I heard Prest. Hiram Smith say to me “your brother has actually arrived.” It is a time of mutual rejoicing which I never shall forget.
Eliza didn’t feel up to the task of telling Lorenzo she’d found a nice man her age to marry, and instead told her husband to teach Lorenzo about the New and Everlasting Covenant. Lorenzo wouldn’t take his own polygamous wives until October 1844, 4 months after Jo and Hyrum died in Carthage. 6 of his 9 wives by the time of his death in 1901 were teenagers when he married them. Lorenzo was apparently opposed to celestial marriage initially but he clearly got over it pretty quickly once he aligned with the Brighamite faction coming out of the schism crisis.
Eilza continues entries throughout her journal for 1843. She spent some months writing nearly daily, while other entries span weeks or months after the previous. She notes every major event we’ve discussed on the show, the mysterious death of Judge Elias Higbee, the arrest and ensuing legal battle of Jo in Dixon, Illinois by Sheriffs Wilson and Reynolds, bickering and drama from polygamy, her removal to Yelrom and the ensuing feelings, perceived persecution from the legal system, the trial of Hingepin Sidney Rigdon when Jo tried to excommunicate him and the High Council refused, Eliza’s dream “that my father spoke to me of prospects nineteen months to come,” and even Eliza’s Oct 1843 poem to Eliza Partridge telling her to not be so depressed about the situation. Eliza Snow’s journal truly is a remarkable artifact of Nauvoo and her writing style provides only brief windows into the secretive nature of the criminal empire of Nauvoo.
Notably as well, while Eliza Snow lived on the Morley settlement, on Dec 19th 1843 she received her patriarchal blessing from Isaac Morley. In it, Isaac promises Eliza that “thy name shall be handed down to posterity from generation to generation: and many songs shall be heard that were dictated by thy pen and from the principles of thy mind, even until the choirs from on high and the earth below, shall join in one universal song of praise to God and the Lamb.” She doesn’t record any of her own thoughts or feelings about the blessing but she’s kind enough to reprint the blessing in its entirety in her journal.
Eliza Snow’s 1844 entries are unfortunately very light. She had one entry for January, two for February, and one for April, marking her last entry during her husband’s life. The entry from January and the first entry of February are simply poems she wrote for friends who’d recently lost their children; the first was “To Mrs. M[ary Ann] Pratt, on the death of her little son,” while the second poem is to “Mrs. Lyons,” whose daughter had also died in Yelrom.
Reading through her journal, Eliza R. Snow strikes me as quite the optimist. Page after page talks about her good feelings and the grand designs of Zion and the Lord’s plans. Her penultimate entry in 1844 come from February 20th, 1844, which talks about her attending a prayer meeting in Lima, the next village north of Yelrom, where she was living. I’ve long speculated that psychedelics were involved in these prayer meetings, particularly on the various Morley settlements in both Ohio and Illinois. Anybody with personal experience with psychedelics will see why I see Eliza Snow as a proto-free-love psychonaut hippie when we see stuff like this:
Spent last evening much to my satisfaction, entertainment and instruction, at a Blessing meeting at br. Beeby’s in Lima. It was quite a treat to my mind—one of the bright spots on the page of my life never to be forgotten.
Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness details numerous of these prayer and blessing meetings. “On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1843, [Eliza] wrote, “A social circle of a few choice friends convened at the house of our sister, and we had a lovely time,” a meeting that probably included tongues and prophecy.” Another passage from Eliza’s journal in October 1843 reads “Some circumstances of very peculiar interest occur’d during my visit to the City. Every thing connected with our affections is engraven on the heart, and needs not the perpetuating touch of the sculptor.” These prayer meetings weren’t just held in Kirtland and Nauvoo, but all across the plains and in Utah; Eliza’s path can be traced by these prayer meetings with her best friends who were largely the sisters in the Relief Society presidency in Nauvoo and Utah.
Eliza’s role as Relief Society secretary would never be filled by her again after her ouster from Nauvoo and relocation to Yelrom in mid-1843. The women who took over the role were Phebe M. Wheeler, and unidentified scribe for a single meeting, and Hannah Ells, who was the scribe for the final meeting of the RS in Nauvoo before the schism crisis. For this period from mid-1843 to mid-1844, Eliza Snow becomes a bit of a mysterious figure. She did, however, continue to write poems when daily entries in her journal wouldn’t do proper justice. Many of these poems were initially written in her journal, or transcribed from being written somewhere else. Many of them were printed in the Wasp or the Nauvoo Neighbor, others weren’t published until the Utah era during the Mormon Reformation era. The final poem Eliza wrote before the assassinations of her husband and Hyrum was a few short lines to Lauran Miranda and Emily Matilda Hyde
Fair little misses, always do
As your fond mother teaches you,
And you shall both, your brother meet
And fill his cheeks with kisses sweet.
Be to each other very kind
With useful studies store your mind
To God our Father bow the knee,
And when you pray, remember me.
Composed 2 June 1844.
The rest of Eliza’s poems reveal her personal struggles, as well as those of all the saints, with the deaths of Jo and Hyrum. We’ll save those for a later time.
Let’s catch up with the Quorum of Apostles. Back in the March 21, 1844 meeting of the Council of Fifty, Jo and the leadership were developing his Presidential campaign. Folks needed to be dispatched across America to spread the good word of how great a candidate Jo was. Accordingly,
Prest. J. Smith recommended that the Twelve should select men from the Quorums of the seventies and High Priests and send them to preach and electioneer through the different States, and then as many of the Twelve as can, follow these Elders and hold conferences in the various branches of the Church through the States.
The role of the Quorum of Apostles in Jo’s church is largely different than the apostles today. Today’s apostles in the SLC church are tasked with running the church, sitting on boards, directing the actions of the Quorums of Seventies, the middle managers, and various other administrative duties. However, in Jo’s church they were mostly permanent missionaries. They carried with them the weight of the presidency of the church in that they could baptize people, organize branches, wards, and stakes, ordain local leaders to organize those congregations, and preside over meetings wherever they went. The role of the Apostles developed out of necessity in Utah to become the administrative body it is today.
During the earliest meetings of the Council of Fifty, they were drafting their own constitution, Double-dub Phelps was writing Jo’s campaign platform, and the members were constantly deliberating on who the VP nominee should be until they finally settled on Hingepin Sidney Rigdon. He was super-interested in building the Mormon theocracy. As much as his public presence in the church has been minimized in the historical record, he was an acting and active member of the Council of Fifty. In the March 21st meeting he “made some lengthy and animated remarks on various subjects particularly on the situation of Texas & her position in regard to other nations.” During the next meeting on March 26th, “He entered into the subject [of the kingdom of God] in a most spirited & animated manner, showing the glory and joy which will exist when God reigns over the nation, when oppression shall cease, and the righteous enjoy the blessings of the kingdom.” In the April 4th meeting, Rigdon “referred largely to the anticipations of the Ancients respecting the glories of the days in which we live, showing that the Angels had joy in heaven when before the creation they looked down and saw the privileges we enjoy in this organization”. He went on to further articulate the importance of the Native Americans in the Mormon theocracy building campaign when he “was speaking [of] eleven of the Potawottamie tribe of Indians attended by a French Interpreter appeared & were admitted into the council. They made known that they were friendly to the Mormon people, and wanted their influence They had been oppressed by the U.S. government and did not want to sell them any more land.” Rigdon brought this fury into the public preaching when he gave a sermon for the church on April 6th, 1844, during general conference when Jo gave his famed King Follett Discourse. During this speech, Rigdon stated “When God sets up a system of salvation, he sets up a system of government; when I speak of a government I mean what I say; I mean a government that shall rule over temporal and spiritual affairs.”
Bloody Brigham Young echoed these sentiments 3 days later in a public speech when he said “that there was no dividing line between the Govt of God & the Govt of the Children of men… that the Govm. belongs to God.” These were common sentiments of those who were in the Council of Fifty, it was to be the theocratic kingdom of the world, the last government the world would ever need. The Council and Quorum of Apostles shifted their efforts to being an effective campaign team for Joseph Smith. The presidency of the United States was only the beginning and it was a good place to start. The Joseph Smith Papers has an editorial note on their transcription of the Council of Fifty minutes that says “By mid-April nearly 350 men, including many members of the council, had been given assignments to campaign throughout the United States.” This same meeting of the Council of Fifty that is preceded by this editorial note happened on April 25th, 1844, when the Council voted and received by unanimous consent the new constitution of the Mormon theocracy. The next meeting on May 3rd, Jo took the stand:
[Joseph Smith] wanted Elder [Lyman] Wight and every other man who could leave, to go into all the States and preach and electioneer for him to be president. And when he is president we can send out ministers plenipotentiary, who will secure to themselves such influence that when their office shall cease they may be received into everlasting habitations, but we should never indulge our appetites to injure our influence, or wound the feelings of friends, or cause the spirit of the Lord to leave us…” Jo “concluded by remarking that it is best to run on a long race and be careful to keep good wind &c.
The men took Jo’s suggestions seriously and after the following meeting just 3 days later, many concluded to take their various directions across the nation to electioneer for Jo and meet with other powerful men to tell them how good a candidate Jo was. It was also during this May 6th meeting that the council devised a plan for settlement of various members of the council and Quorum of Apostles.
Lucian Woodworth, George Miller, and Lyman Wight were tasked with meeting Texas president Sam Houston, Hingepin Sidney Rigdon “consented to run for the vice precidency if the council wished” and was sent to his old stomping grounds of Pennsylvania to electioneer and get the votes for Jo as president from that state, Almon Babbitt was appointed to go on a mission to either France or Russia, “or some other popular Kingdom”. All these were exciting moves for the Council of Fifty and the men were quite ambitious.
“Er [Lyman] Wight reminded Er Rigdon of a certain prophecy, and that the Lord promised to vex the nations and the nation could not be vexed worse than for Joseph to be president and brother Rigdon vice President.”
I’m not sure if that was an endorsement or a harbinger of how bad they’d be at their jobs because it could honestly go either way. Regardless, “Er Rigdon referred to a former prophecy and said I am satisfied God intends to do just what we are doing” which was followed with “The chairman [Joseph Smith] confirmed it.” Rigdon had conditions to running as VP. “Er Rigdon asked the privilege,--after Joseph had been President 4 years, that he should be president the next term which was granted, and he stated that as the Lord God lives Joseph shall be President next term and I will follow him”. This clearly reveals that once Jo was elected President the Council of Fifty never intended to have another presidential election.
These men were all sent in their various directions to electioneer, with some of them carrying the Mormon memorial to Congress in DC which declared Nauvoo as a sovereign territory and petitioned Congress for 100,000 volunteers to liberate Oregon territory.
Concomitant with all these political maneuvers was the dissenting group forming their own religion inside Nauvoo and shipping their own printing press into the city. These dissenters were the Higbees, Fosters, and Laws, who named William Law as president of the True COJCOLDS and printed the Nauvoo Expositor. Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Lucian Woodworth, Uncle John Smith, and some of the other Council of Fifty members all confronted the Laws, Fosters, and Higbees about their new church and what they planned on printing with their shiny, new press. William Law responded to Rigdon that “he would set up a press and go it to the death to get satisfaction”.
Bloody Brigham Young recounts this time in his manuscript history of this time period. He notes the General Conference in April 1844 where Jo gave his King Follett Discourse and Rigdon said that they were setting up the last government the world would ever need. In his history, Brigham says “The Prophet declared that all North and South America was the land of Zion. At the close of the conference 344 elders volunteered to go on missions.” Brigham himself was joined on a brief expedition to the Morley Settlement near Lima by Wilford Woodruff, they both preached and got another 26 volunteers for the Mormon propaganda campaign. Brigham also talks about the lawsuit against Francis M. Higbee by Joseph Smith where Brigham was called in to testify right before he and the rest of the Quorum of Apostles left Nauvoo for their various missions along with the other 350+ volunteers.
Bloody Brigham departed on May 21, 1844 and details his journey through St. Louis where he preached to “about 700 members”… but here I thought it was illegal to be a Mormon in Missouri since the Extermination Order… Brigham also preached on board the steamer they took for Cincinnati to “allay… some prejudice which had been manifested against the elders on board.” Brigham wasn’t alone during these parts of the journey. He lists Lyman Wight, Heber the Creeper Kimball, Franklin D. Richards, Lester Brooks (I’m not sure who that is), and a few others. They went through Pittsburgh and attended various meetings before they passed through Old Britain, Warren, and Akron on their way to Kirtland, the old HQ of the church. When they passed through Akron they attended an abolition convention, and Brigham describes the folks there, “some of whom manifested a spirit to put down everybody but themselves.” When, those folks did kind of win the war and got their way so hooray for them being on the right side of history.
Once in Kirtland, Bloody Brigham found his brother John Young and his sister Nancy Kent. The very next day after his arrival he preached in the Kirtland Temple, in the possession of a breakoff faction of the church at the time. “I lectured in the evening on the subject of the location of Nauvoo; the Saints were dead and cold to the things of God.” Oh how the salt has lost it’s savor, amiright brother Brigham? He also preached briefly in “Hiram [OH] and held a meeting in sight of the house where Joseph and Sidney were dragged out by the heels and tarred and feathered.”
From there, Brigham and Franklin Richards proceeded to Chester to visit Brigham’s sister and spend the night at “Brother Butler’s”. I assume that’s John L. Butler but I can’t seem to verify that. From thence, Brigham and company went to Fairport and took a steamer to Buffalo “where we arrived on the morning of [June] 13th, and went by railcars to Albany, and from thence by steamboat to New York, and proceeded to Boston, where I arrived on the morning of Sunday 16th.
During that small window of traveling from Kirtland to Boston over exactly 7 days, the Nauvoo Expositor had been published, the city council had met and resolved to destroy the press and it had been burned, Justice Morrison had sworn out the arrest warrant against Jo and the 17 other men, they held their first sham trial, they received word from Judge Thomas that the first hearing wasn’t good enough so they held the second hearing in front of Daniel H. Wells, the Warsaw Signal had called for a war of extermination, the gathering militia forces in Carthage were somewhere around 500 men, and to Governor of Illinois was en route to Carthage to handle matters personally. Over the next few days Brigham dallied about Lowell, Salem, Boston, and the local smaller cities without any inkling that Nauvoo and Carthage were on the literal precipice of war. It wasn’t just Brigham out and about because George A. Smith was in Peterborough, New Hampshire, John E. Page was in Pittsburgh, Heber the Creeper Kimball was in Washington D.C. with Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff was in Portage, New York, Crazy Willey Smith, Jo’s youngest surviving brother, was in Philedelphia with Orson Hyde, George Miller was in Richmond, Kentucky, P-cubed Parley P. Pratt was in New York City, and Amasa Lyman was in Cincinnati. All of these men were members of the Council of Fifty and electioneering for Jo’s presidential campaign while Nauvoo was gearing up for the next Mormon war and Jo was in hiding from arrest and extradition to Carthage. Brigham wouldn’t hear rumors of Jo and Hyrum’s deaths until July 9th, more than a week and a half after it happened. He wouldn’t receive confirmation until July 16th when he brought his “hand down on my knee,” and infamously declared “the keys of the kingdom are right here with the Church” and began his vicious power grab game.
Lucy Mack Smith has been a figure lurking largely in the shadows of our historical timeline since the death of her husband, Big Daddy Cheese Jo Smith Sr., in September of 1840. She’s only come up twice I can recall since then. The first is when we were talking about the Book of Abraham and she told some Quaker reporters in the late 1840s that Jo translated the Egyptian Papyri using precious and Mr. Hat, the little seer stone and stovepipe hat trick. The last time she came up was when Jane Manning James moved into the Nauvoo Mansion where Lucy had her own room. Jane came into the room where Lucy was sitting and Lucy told Jane to go to a cabinet and open the top drawer where Jane first saw the papyri and seer stone Jo used to translate it. I’ve mentioned her a few other times but Lucy has largely remained in the backstage of our timeline in Nauvoo. The primary reason for that is she just didn’t do much other than paint rugs and sew for income when she was feeling up to it. Lucy has been ill for the majority of the timeline. She attended various Relief Society meetings though.
Lucy spoke at the April 19th, 1842 meeting, just 18 months after her husband of 44 years had died, and it is equally tragic and revealing of her situation.
Mother Smith spoke very pathetically of her lonely situation, and the feelings she had as she reflected on the care which Father Smith always felt for the sisters when in life he presided over the meetings.
Lucy was, however, even in her sickness and mourning, a strong exhorter of the faith. During the March 31st RS meeting she spoke at length.
Mother Smith rose and said she was glad the time had come that iniquity could be detected and reproach thrown off from the heads of the church—we come into the church to be sav’d—that we may live in peace and sit down in the kingdom of heaven—If we listen to, and circulate every evil report we shall idly spend the time which should be appropriated to the reading the Scriptures, the Book of Mormon—we must remember the words of Alma—pray much at morning, noon and night—feed the poor &c.—She said she was old—could not meet with the Society but few times more—and wish’d to leave her testimony that the Book of Mormon is the book of God—that Joseph is a man of God, a prophet of the Lord set apart to lead the people [and he’s just the nicest boy any of you lovely women will ever meet!] If we observe his words it will be well with us; if we live righteously on earth, it will be well with us in Eternity—
Lucy had it rough as a widow, but she always had family who cared for her. She recounts a story from back in 1841 about injuring her knee but being attended to by her daughters Sophronia and Lucy.
In the winter I went to bear creek on a visit to Brother S[idney] A Knowltons when I arrived there it was dark and I was very cold and in getting out of the waggon stepped upon some round substance which rolling under my foot brought my round so sudenly that in trying to save myself from falling I injured my right knee—The cold settled in the injured part and the rheumatism set in I suffered considerable while there but I only remained about one week and after I returned him my lameness increased This with other sickness produced by the same cause kept me very low all winter and for 6 weeks I had wathcers ever night <Sophronia Smith McCleary> and Lucy [Smith Millikin] took care of me and faithfully did they watch over me never was a disconsolate widow more blessed in her children than I was in them
Even though Lucy was often times hold up in bed with sickness and arthritis, she still saw everything which transpired. She recounts “some assasin attempted to shoot Liburn Bogs governor of Misouri. In a trice the cry went forth that Joe Smith had shot Gov Bogs”. But, she tells that Jo was preaching to “some 4 or 5 thousand persons the day previous and was at a public training the same day” so obviously her little angel never would have shot that rotten old Governor Boggs. She then goes on to tell her side of Jo getting arrested in Dixon, Illinois by Sheriffs Wilson and Reynolds in July 1843.
They remained untill the next summer and then made the intended visit to Dixon but while [Joseph] was there the Misourians being aprized of his abscence from Nauvoo sent sheriff Rynolds to Gov Ford who gave him a writ with which he pursued Joseph to Dixon <and took> him prisoner but did not read the writ. but abused him shamefully their proceedings being unlawful Joseph took them in turn when he came to a place where he could do so and he was cleared
Lucy discusses the time following this arrest as a brief era of good feelings about Nauvoo, at least from her vantage point.
<there> was <now> a season of peace which lasted untill the winter of 1844 when the Police <of the city> was organized Joseph in addressing them said that if there were not such men as brutus in the church he might live as long as ceasar would have lived… one of the brethren suspecting that Joseph had allusion to William Law mentioned it to an intimate friend[.] this friendwas a very immaginative turn of mind and his suspicions being roused he went to Law and told a treme[n]dous tale which Law believed and when he asked Joseph about it a councill was call and Joseph proved what he did say[.] this satisfied Law and he said that [he] believed that no harm was intended to him or any other person
Lucy goes on to tell about a scoundrel of a man who joined the movement in Nauvoo, Joseph H. Jackson. She includes accusations against Jackson that aren’t present basically anywhere else but sure are interesting. Listeners to the patreon exclusive feed get to hear the audiobook version of his expose with my commentary. Patreon.com/nakedmormonism. Here’s what Lucy says about Jackson:
about this [time?] a man by the name of Joseph Jackson who had been several months in the place asked Hyrum for his daughter Lovina for he wished to make a wif of her[.] Hyrum not choosing to have his daughter marry a man who did not belong to the church refused for this and other reasons to give her to him[.] this Jackson then asked Joseph to his influence with Hyrum to get the girl for him Joseph refusing to do so Jackson went to Law to get his assistance in stealing Lovina from her father[.] Hyrum heard of this and <came to me several times for advice> he said he was alarmed about her that he felt worse than he did when he was in prison—Jackson went from one to another wherever he could learn that any one had any feeling against our family[.] [He held] secret [meetings] till finally he succceeded in getting a number to join in a conspiracy to Murder the whole Smith family[.]
Jackson’s role in Nauvoo is one full of adventure and disinformation making the truth pretty hard to tease out. Jackson claimed he refused to be married to anybody in Nauvoo as it would frustrate his plans of espionage of the criminal empire, even though Jo took Jackson around to the various brothels and offered plenty of women to Jackson to marry. But then we have Lucy claiming that the troubles with Jackson started because Jackson wanted Hyrum’s daughter and planned to kidnap her, which seems very believable considering the guy. Then Lucy pins this disagreement as the cause for the trouble with Jackson and the printers of the Nauvoo Expositor, which is kind of putting the cart before the horse and missing out on the conflict between the Expositor printers and Jackson to begin with.
Lucy’s version of the growing conflict with the Expositor publishers and Jackson against her sons shows to us how much they were able to keep all these things secret and hide the drama and chaos of polygamy and theocracy-building from, not only the standard Mormon public, but even from their own mother who lived in Jo’s house and was best friends with Emma who knew a lot about what was going on. If they could keep this stuff under wraps from their own mom, they could obviously keep it hidden from the larger Mormon public, which is why the Expositor was such a bombshell when it was published.
She also talks about Charles Foster pointing a pistol at Jo in broad daylight and then says “Joseph caught his hands and prevented him and was compelled to hold him in this way above an hour in order to preserve his own life”. Another account says it was Pistol Packin’ Porter who knocked the gun out of Charles Foster’s hands while yet another account says it was Robert Foster who told his younger brother to put away the piece. Jo having to hold down Charles for an hour is simply impossible. It was maybe for a few minutes, if it even happened, and I can assure you that Charles could breathe the entire time because he didn’t die while crying out for his mom.
Lucy does, however, talk about the Expositor.
the Apostates with Jackson at their head continued to gather strength untill finally they established a printing press in our midst through this organ the[y] belched forth the most intolerable & the blackest of lies that was ever palmed upon a community
She remembers the sequence of events more vaguely than the historical record actually reveals. She was recounting these events months after they happened while she was racked with grief having just lost 3 of her sons, Hyrum, Joseph, and Samuel, who died a month after the Carthage shootout.
The last pages of Lucy’s dictated memoir read as follows:
My sons knowing that the men by whom the Gov was suronded were sworn to take their lives at first fled to Iawa but the pledged faith of the state for their protection and Hyrum was inclined to come back as he heard the Gov had threatened to burn the city if the prisoners were not given up many of the brethren thought they ought to give themselves up for trial—But Joseph if he went he should die however he was willing to die for the…
And then there are pages missing. The next written line from Martha Coray, who wrote as Lucy dictated, read “I have now given a history of My life as far as I intend carrying it at this time.” That’s where the record ends for that dictation session. She does add in the next session that “all that [I] have writen is true and will stand forever yes it will stand before God at that hour when <it> shall and great shall appear to answer at his bar for the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil--<Then and> there will I Meet the persecutors of my family who are the enemies of the church and declare with a voice that shall penetrate the ears of every inteligence which shall be present on that momentous occasion”.
For a mother who had lost 3 sons, survived her husband and all but one of her sons who was the black sheep of the family anyway, the only solace she took was in her ability to testify at the bar of judgment after death against the people who persecuted her family and the church her sons started. She would live another 11 years after this memoir was completed, sickly, grieving, and cared for by her daughters and daughter-in-law, Emma, until her death in Nauvoo in 1856.
When the Nauvoo Expositor was published, the authors were intentionally vague. Because of sexual slander laws protecting men from public exposure for adultery or assault, names of people involved in polygamy were almost always obscured or redacted from exposes, even those which were most critical of the church. The authors of these exposes feared legal repercussions and insulated themselves from lawsuits by referring only obliquely to details which may reveal who was at issue within the given expose. The Expositor accomplished this by revealing only marginal details of those caught up in polygamy, but a few passages from the Expositor bear discussion here given the subject alluded to.
Speaking of how Jo and other practitioners of polygamy would mark and acquire their prey, the Expositor reveals some troubles aspects of Jo’s methodology. This is disgusting. This is ecclesiastical abuse for sexual gratification of the Mormon elite. This may be uncomfortable for some to hear. It’s also a long passage which centers around the lived experience of two teenage girls we’ll discuss in a minute, so bear with me.
They are also notified that brother Joseph will see them soon, and reveal the mysteries of Heaven to their full understanding, which seldom fails to inspire them with new confidence in the Prophet, as well as a great anxiety to know what God has laid up in store for them, in return for the great sacrifice of father and mother, of gold and silver, which they gladly left far behind, that they might be gathered into the fold, and numbered among the chosen of God. (there’s a big clue to who William Law is writing about) -- They are visited again, and what is the result? They are requested to meet brother Joseph, or some of the Twelve, at some insulated point, or at some particularly described place on the bank of the Mississippi, or at some room, which wears upon its front -- Positively NO admittance. The harmless, inoffensive, and unsuspecting creatures, are so devoted to the Prophet, and the cause of Jesus Christ, that they do not dream of the deep-laid and fatal scheme which prostrates happiness, and renders death itself desirable, but they meet him, expecting to receive through him a blessing, and learn the will of the Lord concerning them, and what awaits the faithful follower of Joseph, the Apostle and Prophet of God, when in the stead thereof, they are told, after having been sworn in one of the most solemn manners, to never divulge what is revealed to them, with a penalty of death attached, that God Almighty has revealed it to him, that she should be his (Joseph's) Spiritual wife; for it was right anciently, and God will tolerate it again: but we must keep those pleasures and blessings from the world, for until there is a change in the government, we will endanger ourselves by practicing it -- but we can enjoy the blessings of Jacob, David, and others, as well as to be deprived of them, if we do not expose ourselves to the law of the land. She is thunder-struck, faints, recovers, and refuses. The Prophet damns her if she rejects. She thinks of the great sacrifice, and of the many thousand miles she has traveled over sea and land, that she might save her soul from pending ruin, and replies, God's will be done, and not mine. The Prophet and his devotees in this way are gratified.
The next step to avoid public exposition from the common course of things, they are sent away for a time, until all is well; after which they return, as from a long visit. Those whom no power or influence could seduce, except that which is wielded by some individual feigning to be a God, must realize the remarks of an able writer, when he says, "if woman's feelings are turned to ministers of sorrow, where shall she look for consolation?" Her lot is to be wooed and won; her heart is like some fortress that has been captured, sacked, abandoned, and left desolate. With her, the desire of the heart has failed -- the great charm of existence is at an end; she neglects all the cheerful exercises of life, which gladen the spirits, quicken the pulses, and send the tide of life in healthful currents through the veins. Her rest is broken. The sweet refreshment of sleep is poisoned by melancholy dreams; dry sorrow drinks her blood, until her enfeebled frame sinks under the slightest external injury. Look for her after a little while, and you find friendship weeping over her untimely grave; and wondering that one who but so recently glowed with all the radiance of health and beauty, should so speedily be brought down to darkness and despair, you will be told of some wintry chill, of some casual indisposition that laid her low! But no one knows of the mental malady that previously sapped her strength, and made her so easy a pray to the spoiler.
She is like some tender tree, the pride and beauty of the grove -- graceful in its form, bright in its foliage, but with the worm praying at its heart; we find it withered when it should be most luxuriant. We see it drooping its branches to the earth, and shedding leaf by leaf until wasted and perished away, it falls in the stillness of the forest; and as we muse over the beautiful ruin, we strive in vain to recollect the blast or thunder-bolt that could have smitten it with decay. But no one knows the cause except the foul fiend who perpetrated the diabolical deed. Our hearts have mourned and bled at the wretched and miserable condition of females in this place; many orphans have been the victims of misery and wretchedness, through the influence that has been exerted over them, under the cloak of religion and afterwards, in consequence of that jealous disposition which predominates over the minds of some, have been turned upon a wide world, fatherless and motherless, destitute of friends and fortune; and robbed of that which nothing but death can restore. Men solace themselves by saying the facts slumber in the dark caverns of midnight. But Lo! it is sudden day, and the dark deeds of foul fiends shall be exposed from the house-tops… It is difficult -- perhaps impossible -- to describe the wretchedness of females in this place, without wounding the feelings of the benevolent, or shocking the delicacy of the refined; but the truth shall come to the world. The remedy can never be applied, unless the disease is known. The sympathy, ever anxious to relieve, cannot be felt before the misery is seen.
William Law, in the Nauvoo Expositor, is describing a pattern of sexual predation which can never go unnoticed when studying Nauvoo and broader religious polygamy history. Law successfully concealed the identity of the victims for readers of the time, although some would have known who he was talking about, but for historians now we know exactly who Law was pointing to, the Lawrence sisters, Sarah and Maria.
Sarah and Maria Lawrence were friends of William and Jane Law when they converted in Canada. Law led the immigration to Commerce, Illinois in mid 1839 while the Mormons were settling the area as refugees. Sarah and Maria were orphans who the Laws essentially adopted, but never officially. They were basically godparents of the Lawrence sisters until they all arrived in Commerce, soon to become Nauvoo. Eventually Emma and Jo became the wards of the Lawrence sisters who moved into the Nauvoo Homestead and later the Nauvoo Mansion, living together as a sealed family. However, the Lawrence sisters also had a large inheritance they couldn’t access until they were legal adults. Sarah and Maria were first marked by Joseph Smith when he and Hingepin Rigdon visited the Ontario branch of the church in August 1837. Maria was 13, Sarah 11 at that time. They travelled to Illinois in the wake of the Missouri-Mormon War and their father, Edward, died probably in March of 1840, leaving Maria and Sarah, aged 17 and 14, without a legal guardian, as their mother, Margaret, had yet to remarry and single women couldn’t have legal custody of their children. When Emma and Jo became Maria and Sarah’s guardians, they were put in control as trustees of the Lawrence estate. As Todd Compton write in his book In Sacred Loneliness “This guardian relationship is not fully understood,” which is quite an understatement as it became a major source of dispute between Jo and the Lawrence sisters’ mother, Margaret, after she remarried. He continues:
After [Josiah] Butterfield married Margaret, he began consulting with Joseph Smith concerning the Lawrence inheritance. Presumably the estate could now be transferred to Margaret and Josiah, who would act as Maria’s and Sarah’s guardian. But for unknown reasons, this did not happen… tension began to simmer between Joseph and Josiah Butterfield [concerning the estate], until on march 28, 1843, it erupted into violence… “Josiah Butterfield came to my house and insulted me so outrageously that I kicked him out of the house, across the yard, and into the street.”
Yes, what an insult, to accuse the money-hungry prophet of stealing the estate of two orphan teenagers who he’d married earlier that year at ages 19 and 17. The dispute over this inheritance wouldn’t be resolved before Joseph Smith died. There are other passages in Jo’s journal for the remainder of 1843 and January 1844 of him dealing with the estate which was apparently valued at $3,790.89 in November of 1843. On January 23, 1844, “Joseph sent for [William Clayton] to assist in settling with Brother [John] Taylor about the Lawrence estate.” Which Todd Compton summarizes by saying “There is some evidence that Smith intended to transfer the guardianship to John Taylor, but there is no certain evidence that this ever took place.”
What that means in all likelihood is that Jo stole the estate of two orphan teenage girls, then he raped them under the guise of the New and Everlasting Covenant of marriage. William and Jane Law cared for the Lawrence sisters, they were family friends in Canada before immigrating to Nauvoo and that passage we read from the Nauvoo Expositor is written about them which perfectly describes PTSD.
When the final straw broke for Emma and she removed all her sister-wives from the Nauvoo Mansion, arrangements were made for Maria and Sarah Lawrence and they moved somewhere else in town. The location is unknown but it could have been back in with their remarried mother, or possibly somewhere else. The record isn’t clear. What precipitated their removal from the home is quite remarkable; picking up in Todd Compton’s book on page 476:
the marriage to the Lawrence sisters became public knowledge when William law, Joseph’s second counselor in the First Presidency, became alienated from the prophet. Law, who had known the Lawrence family since their conversion in Canada, chose the marriage of Smith to Maria Lawrence as a test case with which to prosecute Smith for adultery. On May 23 he filed suit against the Mormon leader in Hancock County Circuit Court, at Carthage, charging that Smith had been living with Maria Lawrence “in an open state of adultery” from October 12, 1843, to the day of the suit.
In response, Smith flatly denied polygamy in a speech delivered on May 26: “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.”
That was said during the same speech when Jo said he has more to boast of than Jesus. Continuing:
Smith and his counselors evidently decided to counterattack, prosecuting Law for slandering Maria Lawrence. On June 4 the Mormon leader’s journal reads, “In council with Taylor, Babbitt, Hyrum, Richards, Woodworth and Phelps &c. about prosecution [of the Laws and Fosters] in behalf of Maria [Lawrence, for slander]. Concluded to go to Quincy with Taylor and give up my Bonds of guardianship [of Maria Lawrence] &c.” The phrase “give up my Bonds of guardianship” suggests that Smith was transferring the guardianship to Taylor, but curiously, there is a certificate dated June 4, 1844, notarized by a Quincy justice of the peace, making Joseph guardian of the Lawrences.
These Lawrence sisters, whether they wanted it or not, became one of the primary focuses of the Nauvoo Expositor. Notable as well in the Expositor passage we read, Jo told them it would need to remain secret until there was a change in government. Jo wanted his Zionic revolution to instate a Mormon polygamous government over America once the constitution was replaced with what his Council of Fifty had drafted. These sisters at ages 20 and 18 became secret widows when their abuser was assassinated in Carthage. Sarah was sealed to Bloody Brigham and Maria to Almon Babbitt. Maria died in 1847 of unknown causes at age 23. As Compton reports in In Sacred Loneliness, a letter to the Deseret News from Benjamin F. Johnson describes Maria’s condition from 1844 to 47.
Maria Lawrence died of consumption or one might more truthfully put it of a broken heart. My Aunt Lucy visited her and felt great sympathy for her. She said to Aunt one time “That if there was any truth in Mormonism she would be saved for said she My yoke has not been easy nor my burden light.” As to what was the cause of Maria’s deep sorrow I do not exactly know… She suffered her doubts, her fears, her uncertainty as to whether she was acting right or wrong, for she had a concience and wanted to be right, all these things told on a sensitive nature.
Sarah went to Utah at age 21 sealed to Bloody Brigham. She later fled to Napa Valley, California and established a farm for herself and children. Sarah later visited Utah in the 1860s and viciously attacked the doctrine of polygamy and the damage it caused to practitioners. Sarah denied any connection she had with Joseph in Nauvoo. She died of “cancer womb” at age 46, possibly a complication of an STI she acquired in Nauvoo or Utah as yet another unspoken reality of polygamy.
I chose to end today’s episode with this turn toward the melancholy in Sarah and Maria Lawrences’ stories because it’s often a side of history lost when we have the privilege of viewing these matters with hindsight. Maria clearly suffered from some horrible mental illness as a result of what happened to her in Nauvoo and died, probably from her depression, although the record is unclear. Sarah suffered the consequences in a different way and lived for decades longer to tell her tale, only to be viciously attacked by the women in Utah when she visited, women she considered her friends and sister-wives for years. These young girls were marked at ages 11 and 13 by the prophet, just like Mary Elizabeth Rollins, just like Fanny Alger, just like Helen Mar Kimball, just like every other child victim of polygamy. Their stories are too often forgotten or simply overshadowed by other events we view as more consequential, but to ignore them is to ignore the darker side of history and religious power dynamics that are a disservice to their struggles to forget.
We’re very near the beginning of our Road to Carthage series and we’ll be examining many different angles of Joseph Smith’s life. I’ve received a number of messages from people who can’t wait for us to finally put Joey in the ground. I’m with you, each and every one of you. I’ve taken absolutely every step to vilify and destroy any whitewashed and rose-scented legacy this man may have left behind on this podcast. I make no effort at concealing my biases and disgust for Joseph Smith and the church which followed in his wake and I want us all to understand those biases and the privilege we have to view him these ways.
Whether it’s Eliza R. Snow, the Apostles or Council of Fifty, Brigham Young, Lucy Mack, Joseph H. Jackson, Sarah and Maria Lawrence, Emma, William and Jane Law, Governor Ford or Thomas Sharp of the Warsaw Signal, Helen Mar Kimball and her parents Heber and Vilote, Sidney and Phebe Rigdon and their daughter Nancy, John C. Bennett, Emily and Eliza Partridge, Elizabeth Davis Durfee, Patty Sessions, Alvah and Louisa Beaman, David and John Whitmer, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Sophronia Smith, it doesn’t matter who it is, each and every one of these people were affected in some way by what transpired the evening of June 27th, 1844. Each of their lives were moved and shaped by one human being in one way or another. Each and every one of these people were overcome with complicated emotions when they first heard of the death of Joseph Smith. I’d like to think they remembered the moment they heard like we remember when we first learned about JFK getting shot or the Twin Towers, or some other monumental thing happening. Each and every one of these people likely remembered the exact moment when they heard the prophet had been slain. Each and every one of them had their lives forever changed that day. Each and every one of them were overcome by emotions we could never understand; we can only see a window into their minds by what they left behind.
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