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IN a former chapter we made some mention of John C. Bennett, who about this time was expelled from the church, 1 and soon after published his "Mormonism Exposed," charging the church leaders with immorality and crime. We devote this space to Mr. Bennett because it is a part of the history, and to show the course pursued by the church with such characters, also to show what the position of the church was on some of the things charged.
The subscribers, members of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, withdraw the hand of fellowship from General John C. Bennett, as a Christian, he having been labored with from time to time to persuade him to amend his conduct, apparently to no good effect.
The following members of the Quorum of the Twelve concur in the above sentiments:-
HEBER C. KIMBALL.
JOHN E. PAGE.
GEORGE A. SMITH.
We concur in the above sentiments:-
N. K. WHITNEY.
Bishops of the above-mentioned church.
NAUVOO, May 11, 1842.
-Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 830.
In the Times and Seasons for July 1, 1842, Joseph Smith presents the case editorially, which we here give in full:-
"To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and to all the honorable part of community:-
"It becomes my duty to lay before the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the public generally, some important facts relative to the conduct and character of Dr. John C. Bennett, who has lately been expelled from the aforesaid church; that the honorable part of community may be aware of his proceedings, and be ready to treat him and regard him as he ought to be regarded; viz., as an impostor and base adulterer.
"It is a matter of notoriety that said Dr. J. C. Bennett became favorable to the doctrines taught by the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and located himself in the city of Nauvoo about the month of August, 1840, and soon after joined the church. Soon after it was known that he had become a member of said church, a communication was received at Nauvoo, from a person of respectable character, and residing in the vicinity where Bennett had lived. This letter cautioned us against him, setting forth that he was a very mean man and had a wife and two or three children in McConnelsville, Morgan County, Ohio; but knowing that it is no uncommon thing for good men to be evil spoken against, the above letter was kept quiet, but held in reserve.
"He had not been long in Nauvoo before he began to keep company with a young lady, one of our citizens; and she being ignorant of his having a wife living, gave way to his addresses, and became confident, from his behavior towards her, that he intended to marry her; and this he gave her to understand he would do. I, seeing the folly of such an acquaintance, persuaded him to desist; and, on account of his continuing his course, finally threatened to expose him if he did not desist. This, to outward appearance, had the desired effect, and the acquaintance between them was broken off.
"But, like one of the most abominable and depraved beings which could possibly exist, he only broke off his publicly wicked actions to sink deeper into iniquity and hypocrisy. When he saw that I would not submit to any such conduct, he went to some of the females in the city, who knew nothing of him but as an honorable man, and began to teach them that promiscuous intercourse between the sexes was a doctrine believed in by the Latter Day Saints, and that there was no harm in it; but this failing, he had recourse to a more influential and desperately wicked course; and that was, to persuade them that myself and others of the authorities of the church not only sanctioned but practiced the same wicked acts; and when asked why I publicly preached so much against it, said that it was because of the prejudice of the public, and that it would cause trouble in my own house. He was well aware of the consequence of such willful and base falsehoods, if they should come to my knowledge; and consequently endeavored to persuade his dupes to keep it a matter of secrecy, persuading them there would be no harm if they should not make it known. This proceeding on his part answered the desired end,-he accomplished his wicked purposes; he seduced an innocent female by his lying, and subjected her character to public disgrace, should it ever be known.
"But his depraved heart would not suffer him to stop here. Not being contented with having disgraced one female, he made an attempt upon others; and, by the same plausible tale, overcame them also; evidently not caring whose character was ruined, so that his wicked, lustful appetites might be gratified.
"Sometime about the early part of July, 1841, I received a letter from Elder H. Smith and William Law, who were then at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. This letter was dated June 15, and contained the particulars of a conversation betwixt them and a respectable gentleman from the neighborhood where Bennett's wife and children resided. He stated to them that it was a fact that Bennett had a wife and children living, and that she had left him because of his ill-treatment towards her. This letter was read to Bennett,
which he did not attempt to deny; but candidly acknowledged the fact.
"Soon after this information reached our ears Dr. Bennett made an attempt at suicide, by taking poison; but he being discovered before it had taken effect, and the proper antidotes being administered, he again recovered; but he very much resisted when an attempt was made to save him. The public impression was that he was so much ashamed of his base and wicked conduct that he had recourse to the above deed to escape the censures of an indignant community.
"It might have been supposed that these circumstances transpiring in the manner they did would have produced a thorough reformation in his conduct; but, alas! like a being totally destitute of common decency and without any government over his passions, he was soon busily engaged in the same wicked career, and continued until a knowledge of the same reached my ears. I immediately charged him with it, and he admitted that it was true; but in order to put a stop to all such proceedings for the future, I publicly proclaimed against it, and had those females noticed to appear before the proper officers that the whole subject might be investigated and thoroughly exposed.
"During the course of investigation the foregoing facts were proved by credible witnesses, and were sworn and subscribed to before an alderman of the city, on the 15th ult. The documents containing the evidence are now in my possession,
"We also ascertained by the above investigation that others had been led by his conduct to pursue the same adulterous practice, and in order to accomplish their detestable designs made use of the same language insinuated by Bennett, with this difference, that they did not hear me say anything of the kind, but Bennett was one of the heads of the church, and he had informed them that such was the fact, and they credited his testimony.
"The public will perceive the aggravating nature of this case, and will see the propriety of this exposure. Had he only been guilty of adultery, that was sufficient to stamp disgrace upon him, because he is a man of better information
and has been held high in the estimation of many. But when it is considered that his mind was so intent upon his cruel and abominable deeds, and his own reputation not being sufficient to enable him to do it, he must make use of my name in order to effect his purposes, an enlightened public will not be astonished at the course I have pursued.
"In order that it may be distinctly understood that he willfully and knowingly lied in the above insinuations, I will lay before my readers an affidavit taken before an alderman of the city, after I had charged him with these things:-
"STATE OF ILLINOIS, }
"City of Nauvoo. }
"Personally appeared before me, Daniel H. Wells, an Alderman of said city of Nauvoo, John C. Bennett, who being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith: that he never was taught anything in the least contrary to the strictest principles of the gospel, or of virtue, or of the laws of God, or man, under any circumstances, or upon any occasion, either directly or indirectly, in word or deed, by Joseph Smith; and that he never knew the said Smith to countenance any improper conduct whatever, either in public or private; and that he never did teach to me in private that an illegal, illicit intercourse with females was, under any circumstances, justifiable, and that I never knew him so to teach others.
"JOHN C. BENNETT.
"Sworn to and subscribed, before me, this 17th day of May, A. D. 1842.
"DANIEL H. WELLS, Alderman.
"The following conversation took place in the City Council, and was elicited in consequence of its being reported that the Doctor had stated that I had acted in an indecorous manner, and given countenance to vices practiced by the Doctor and others:-
"Dr. John C. Bennett, ex-mayor, was then called upon by the mayor to state if he knew aught against him; when Mr. Bennett replied: 'I know what I am about, and the heads of the church know what they are about. I expect I have no difficulty with the heads of the church. I publicly avow
that anyone who has said that I have stated that General Joseph Smith has given me authority to hold illicit intercourse with women is a liar in the face of God; those who have said it are damned liars; they are infernal liars. He never, either in public or private, gave me any such authority or license, and any person who states it is a scoundrel and a liar. I have heard it said that I should become a second Avard by withdrawing from the church, and that I was at variance with the heads and should use an influence against them because I resigned the office of mayor; this is false. I have no difficulty with the heads of the church, and I intend to continue with you, and hope the time may come when I may be restored to full confidence, and fellowship, and my former standing in the church; and that my conduct may be such as to warrant my restoration; and should the time ever come that I may have the opportunity to test my faith, it will then be known whether I am a traitor or a true man.'
"Joseph Smith then asked: 'Will you please state definitely whether you know anything against my character either in public or private?'
"General Bennett answered: 'I do not; in all my intercourse with General Smith, in public and in private, he has been strictly virtuous.'
"Aldermen: N. K. WHITNEY. Counselors: WILLARD RICHARDS.
"HIRAM KIMBALL. "GEO. A. SMITH.
"ORSON SPENCER. "WILSON LAW.
"GUST. HILLS. "B. YOUNG.
"G. W. HARRIS. "JOHN TAYLOR.
"H. C. KIMBALL.
"JOHN P. GREEN.
"JAMES SLOAN, City Recorder
"After I had done all in my power to persuade him to amend his conduct, and these facts were fully established, (not only by testimony, but by his own concessions,) he having acknowledged that they were true, and seeing no prospects of any satisfaction from his future life, the hand of fellowship was withdrawn from him as a member of the
church, by the officers; but on account of his earnestly requesting that we would not publish him to the world, we concluded not to do so at that time, but would let the matter rest until we saw the effect of what we had already done.
"It appears evident that as soon as he perceived that he could no longer maintain his standing as a member of the church, nor his respectability as a citizen, he came to the conclusion to leave the place; which he has done, and that very abruptly; and had he done so quietly, and not attempted to deceive the people around him, his case would not have excited the indignation of the citizens, so much as his real conduct has done. In order to make his case look plausible, he has reported, 'that he had withdrawn from the church because we were not worthy of his society;' thus instead of manifesting a spirit of repentance, he has to the last proved himself to be unworthy the confidence or regard of any upright person, by lying, to deceive the innocent, and committing adultery in the most abominable and degraded manner.
"We are credibly informed that he has colleagued with some of our former wicked persecutors, the Missourians, and has threatened destruction upon us; but we should naturally suppose that he would be so much ashamed of himself at the injury he had already done to those who never injured, but befriended him in every possible manner, that he could never dare to lift up his head before an enlightened public, with the design either to misrepresent or persecute; but be that as it may, we neither dread him nor his influence; but this much we believe, that unless he is determined to fill up the measure of his iniquity, and bring sudden destruction upon himself from the hand of the Almighty, he will be silent, and never more attempt to injure those concerning whom he has testified upon oath he knows nothing but that which is good and virtuous.
"Thus I have laid before the Church of Latter Day Saints, and before the public, the character and conduct of a man who has stood high in the estimation of many; but from the foregoing facts it will be seen that he is not entitled to any credit, but rather to be stamped with indignity and disgrace
so far as he may be known. What I have stated I am prepared to prove, having all the documents concerning the matter in my possession, but I think that to say further is unnecessary, as the subject is so plain that no one can mistake the true nature of the case.
"I remain yours, respectfully,
"NAUVOO, June 23, 1842."
-Times and Seasons, vol. 3, pp. 839-842.
Mr. George Miller, who was at that time Bishop of the church, made some investigations into Mr. Bennett's early history, and published the following:-
"McCONNELSVILLE, Morgan Co. Ohio, March 2, 1841
"Dear Sir:-By your request I have made inquiries into the history of John Cook Bennett, and am enabled to give you the following facts which may be relied on as correct:-
"When a young man his character stood fair, he studied medicine with his uncle, Dr. Samuel P. Hildreth, of Marietta, Washington County, Ohio. It is believed he has a diploma, and also recommendations from some of the principal physicians of that place. He started out with fair prospects, and married a daughter of Colonel Joseph Barker, near Marietta. Bennett and his wife united with the Methodist Church, and he became a local preacher. It was soon manifest that he was a superficial character, always uneasy, and moved from place to place; at different times lived in Barnesville, McConnelsville, Malta, Wheeling, Virginia, Colesville, Pennsylvania, and Indiana; it is presumed that not less than twenty towns have been his place of residence at different times. He has the vanity to believe he is the smartest man in the nation; and if he cannot at once be placed at the head of the heap, he soon seeks a situation; he is always ready to fall in with whatever is popular. By the use of his recommendations he has been able to push himself into places and situations entirely beyond his abilities; he has been a prominent personage in and about colleges and universities, but had soon vanished; and the next thing his friends hear of him he is
off in some other direction. At one time he was a prominent Campbellite preacher.
"'During many years his poor but confiding wife followed him from place to place, with no suspicion of his unfaithfulness to her. At length, however, he became so bold in his departures that it was evident to all around that he was a sore offender, and his wife left him under satisfactory evidence of his adulterous connections. Nor was this his only fault; he used her bad otherwise. Mrs. Bennett now lives with her father, has two children living, and has buried one or two. Dr. Bennett has three brothers-in-law living in this place, who, if they were disposed, could give all the particulars; but I dislike to urge them. I did apply to one which I thought the most likely; but he seemed reluctant to give it, but referred me to the person who has given me the foregoing; but he not being a connection, has not been particular in following him in all his peregrinations; but is no doubt correct, so far as given. It has been Dr. Bennett's wish that his wife should get a bill of divorcement, but as yet she has not; nor does my informant know that she contemplates doing so;-in fine, he is an impostor, and unworthy of the confidence of all good men.' . . .
"Through motives of delicacy, we withhold the names of our informants and other correspondents; but hold ourselves in readiness, at all times, to substantiate by abundant testimony all that has been asserted, if required, as the documents are all on hand.
-Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 842.
Mr. Bennett was also dropped from the Masonic Lodge in Nauvoo, upon evidence that he had before been expelled from Pickaway Lodge, Ohio.
In the Times and Seasons for August 1, 1842, there is an editorial on "John C. Bennett," of which the following is an extract:-
"Such was Dr. Avard and John C. Bennett. With the latter we have to do at the present time, and in many of the foregoing statements and prophecies we shall see his character and conduct exemplified. He professed the greatest
fidelity, and eternal friendship, yet he was an adder in the path and a viper in the bosom. He professed to be virtuous and chaste, yet did he pierce the heart of the innocent, introduce misery and infamy into families, reveled in voluptuousness and crime, and led the youth that he had influenced over to tread in his unhallowed steps. He professed to fear God, yet did he desecrate his name, and prostitute his authority to the most unhallowed and diabolical purposes, even to the seduction of the virtuous, and the defiling of his neighbor's bed. He professed indignation against Missouri saying, 'My hand shall avenge the blood of the innocent;' yet now he calls upon Missouri to come out against the saints, and he 'will lead them on to glory and to victory.'
"It may be asked why it was that we would countenance him so long after being apprised of his iniquities, and why he was not dealt with long ago. To this we would answer, that he has been dealt with from time to time, when he would acknowledge his iniquity, ask and pray for forgiveness, beg that he might not be exposed, on account of his mother, and other reasons, saying he should be ruined and undone. He frequently wept like a child, and begged like a culprit for forgiveness, at the same time promising before God and angels to amend his life, if he could be forgiven. He was in this way borne with from time to time, until forbearance was no longer a virtue, and then the First Presidency, the Twelve, and the Bishops withdrew their fellowship from him, as published in the sixteenth number of this paper. The church afterwards publicly withdrew their fellowship from him, and his character was published in the seventeenth number of this paper. Since that time he has published that the conduct of the saints was bad; that Joseph Smith and many others were adulterers, murderers, etc.; that there was a secret band of men that would kill people. etc., called Danites; that he was in duress when he gave his affidavit and testified that Joseph Smith was a virtuous man; that we believed in and practiced polygamy; that we believed in secret murders, and aimed to destroy the government, etc., etc. As he has made his statements very
public, and industriously circulated them through the country, we shall content ourselves with answering his base falsehoods and misrepresentations, without giving publicity to them, as the public are generally acquainted with them already."-Times and Seasons, vol. 3, pp. 868, 869.
At a mass meeting of the citizens of Nauvoo the following proceedings were had:-
"At a meeting of the citizens of the city of Nauvoo, held in said city at the meeting ground, July 22, 1842, Orson Spencer, Esq., was called to the chair, and Gustavus Hills was appointed clerk.
"The meeting was called to order by the chairman, who stated the object of the meeting to be to obtain an expression of the public mind in reference to the reports gone abroad calumniating the character of President Joseph Smith. General Wilson Law then rose and presented the following resolution:-
"'Resolved, that having heard that John C. Bennett was circulating many base falsehoods respecting a number of the citizens of Nauvoo, and especially against our worthy and respected Mayor, Joseph Smith, we do hereby manifest to the world that so far as we are acquainted with Joseph Smith we know him to be a good, moral, virtuous, peaceable, and patriotic man, and a firm supporter of law, justice, and equal rights; that he at all times upholds and keeps inviolate the Constitution of this State and of the United States.'
"A vote was then called and the resolution adopted by a large concourse of citizens, numbering somewhere about a thousand men. Two or three voted in the negative.
"Elder Orson Pratt then rose and spoke at some length in explanation of his negative vote. President Joseph Smith spoke in reply:-
"Question to Elder Pratt, 'Have you personally a knowledge of any immoral act in me toward the female sex, or in any other way?' Answer by Elder O. Pratt, 'Personally, toward the female sex, I have not.'
"Elder O. Pratt responded at some length. Elder B. Young then spoke in reply, and was followed by Elders
William Law, H. C. Kimball, and President H. Smith. Several others spoke bearing testimony of the iniquity of those who had calumniated President J. Smith's character.
"Meeting adjourned for one hour.
"P. M. Meeting assembled pursuant to adjournment and was called to order by the chairman.
"A petition was then received from a committee appointed by the city council for the reception, approbation, and signatures of the citizens generally, petitioning the Governor of Illinois for protection in our peaceable rights, which was read, and approved, and signed by eight hundred persons.
"ORSON SPENCER, EsQ., Chairman.
"GUSTAVUS HILLS, Clerk."
-Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 869.
In the same issue it is editorially stated that the "Ladies' Relief Society," and many citizens not members of the church, signed petitions to the same effect. 2
Thirteen members of the City Council published an affidavit to the effect that J. C. Bennett was not under duress when he made affidavit to the good character of Joseph Smith. 3
2 The "Ladies' Relief Society" also drew up a petition signed by about one thousand ladies, speaking in the highest terms of the virtue, philanthropy, and benevolence of Joseph Smith; begging that he might not be injured, and that they and their families might have the privilege of enjoying their peaceable rights. A petition was also drawn up by many citizens in and near Nauvoo, who were not Mormons, setting forth the same things.-Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 869.
3AFFIDAVIT OF THE CITY COUNCIL.
We the undersigned, members of the City Council of the city of Nauvoo, testify that John C. Bennett was not under duress at the time that he testified before the City Council May 19, 1842, concerning Joseph Smith's innocence, virtue, and pure teaching. His statements that he has lately made concerning this matter are false; there was no excitement at the time, nor was he in anywise threatened, menaced, or intimidated. His appearance at the City Council was voluntary; he asked the privilege of speaking, which was granted. After speaking for some time on the city affairs, Joseph Smith asked him if he knew anything bad concerning his public or private character. He then delivered those statements contained in the testimony voluntarily, and of his own free will, and went of his own accord as free as any member of the council.
We do further testify that there is no such thing as a Danite society in
The above facts are abundantly sustained by the statements and affidavits of Hyrum Smith, D. H. Wells, George Miller, William Law, Elias Higbee, William Marks, and others. (See Times and Seasons, vol. 3, pp. 870-875.)
In this connection we insert an article "On Marriage," from Times and Seasons, October 1, 1842, which sets forth the faith of the church on marriage; to which is attached the certificates from leading gentlemen and ladies of the church, showing that there was no other system of marriage known to them:-
"According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority. We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be their determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the Holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: 'You
this city, nor any combination, other than the Masonic Lodge, of which we have any knowledge.
WILSON LAW. GEO. A. SMITH.
JOHN TAYLOR. GEO. W. HARRIS
W. WOODRUFF. N. K. WHITNEY.
VINSON KNIGHT. BRIGHAM YOUNG.
H. C. KIMBALL. CHARLES C. RICH.
JOHN P. GREEN. ORSON SPENCER.
Subscribed and sworn to, by the persons whose names appear to the foregoing affidavit, this 20th day of July, A. D. 1842; except N. K. Whitney, who subscribed and affirmed to the foregoing this day, before me.
DANIEL H. WELLS
Justice of the peace, within and for Hancock County, Illinois.
-Times and Seasons, vol. 3, pp. 869, 870
both mutually agree to be each other's companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.' And when they have answered, 'Yes,' he shall pronounce them 'husband and wife' in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: 'May God add his blessings and keep you to fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.'
"The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages solemnized in his branch.
"All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that husbands, parents, and masters who exercise control over their wives, children, and servants, and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin.
"We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's 'secret wife system' is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and show that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despised. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:-
"We the undersigned members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families, do hereby certify and declare that
we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's 'secret wife system' is a creature of his own make, as we know of no such society in this place, nor never did.
"S. BENNETT. N. K. WHITNEY.
"GEORGE MILLER. ALBERT PETTEY.
"ALPHEUS CUTLER. ELIAS HIGBEE.
"REYNOLDS CALHOON. JOHN TAYLOR.
"WILSON LAW. E. ROBINS0N.
"W. WOODRUFF. AARON JOHNSON.
"We the undersigned members of the Ladies' Relief Society, and married females, do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practiced in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett's 'secret wife system' is a disclosure of his own make.
"EMMA SMITH, President.
"ELIZABETH ANN WHITNEY, Counselor.
"SARAH M. CLEVELAND, Counselor.
"ELIZA. SNOW, Secretary.
"MARY C. MILLER. CATHARINE PETTEY.
"LOIS CUTLER. SARAH HIGBEE.
"THIRZA CAHOON. PHEBE WOODRUFF.
"ANN HUNTER. LEONORA TAYLOR.
"JANE LAW. SARAH HILLMAN.
"SOPHIA R. MARKS. ROSANNA MARKS.
"POLLY Z. JOHNSON. ANGELINE ROBINSON.
-Times and Seasons. vol. 3 pp. 939, 940.
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