Previous chapter Previous chapter Table of Contents Table of Contents Next chapter Next chapter



THE year 1844 opened with public feeling running high on the "Mormon" question. So numerous had the saints become that their favor was eagerly sought by both political parties; and while each party was ready to favor and praise them if by so doing their patronage could be secured, they were each equally ready to abuse, slander, and if possible expel them, if their support was not given; so that in any event they were sure to have pronounced and bitter enemies.

This had just been illustrated in the campaign of 1843, when Cyrus Walker, Whig candidate for Congress, was defeated by his Democratic opponent, Mr. Hoge; and it was determined by the returns that if the votes of Nauvoo, a large majority of which were cast for Hoge, had been cast for Walker, he would have been successful. The rage of the Whigs knew no bounds.

Governor Ford relates the circumstances truthfully, no doubt. He writes:-

"The next day Mr. Hoge received about three thousand votes in Nauvoo, and was elected to Congress by six or eight hundred majority. The result of the election struck the

(page 729)


Whigs with perfect amazement. Whilst they fancied themselves secure of getting the Mormon vote for Mr. Walker, the Whig newspapers had entirely ceased their accustomed abuse of the Mormons. They now renewed their crusade against them; every paper was loaded with accounts of the wickedness, corruptions, and enormities of Nauvoo. The Whig orators groaned with complaints and denunciations of the Democrats, who would consent to receive Mormon support, and the Democratic officers of the State were violently charged and assaulted with using the influence of their offices to govern the Mormons. From this time forth the Whigs generally, and a part of the Democrats, determined upon driving the Mormons out of the State; and everything connected with the Mormons became political, and was considered almost entirely with reference to party. To this circumstance in part, is to be attributed the extreme difficulty ever afterwards of doing anything effectually in relation to the Mormon or anti-Mormon parties, by the executive government."-Ford's History of Illinois, p. 319.

From this we can easily see that it was largely the spirit of partisan politics that caused the agitation which finally culminated in the tragic and horrible assassination at Carthage and the expulsion of the church from Nauvoo.

Nor can we truthfully suppose that it would have been different had the Democrats been defeated. It was not the Whig party, as such, that caused the mischief; it was the partisan spirit that ruled in politics, affecting all parties. It has in this instance, at least, proven to be a curse to the church. It is a menace to the prosperity of the nation, and always detrimental, even to the interest of the party it seeks to serve.

As will be seen by Mr. Ford's statement, the two parties were so nearly equal in that congressional district that the saints held the balance of power; and it was charged that the Mormon leaders controlled the votes of the church, and hence were in a position to absolutely dictate the election.

While all men do have, or should have, some influence; yet so far as Joseph Smith dictating the vote of Nauvoo is concerned, the charge seems to be groundless,

(page 730)


as Mr. Ford himself states. While the vote was largely for Mr. Hoge, and he received the support of Hyrum Smith, Joseph voted for Mr. Walker, and stated, "that he would not, if he could, influence any voter in giving his vote; that he considered it a mean business for him or any other man to attempt to dictate to the people whom they should support in elections."

Such, in brief, were the facts regarding political dictation, of which so much has been said.

The Times and Seasons for February 1, 1844, contains an item that, taken in connection with subsequent issues, is of peculiar importance to history. It is a published notice over the signatures of Joseph and Hyrum Smith wherein they declare polygamy a false and corrupt doctrine, and give notice of the expulsion of an Elder Brown for teaching that "and other false and corrupt doctrines." 1

In keeping with this is the statement of Hyrum Smith, in a letter written to the members of the church on China Creek, Hancock County, Illinois, on March 15, 1844. 2

As we have lately been credibly informed that an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, State of Michigan;-
This is to notify him and the church in general, that he has been cut off from the church for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the special conference, on the 6th of April next, to make answer to these charges.
JOSEPH SMITH,}Presidents of said Church.
-Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 423
2 The following is an extract from the above-mentioned letter:-
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,

(page 731)


In the issue for April 1, 1844, the editor of the Times and Seasons, John Taylor, of the Twelve Apostles, states:-

"We very frequently receive letters from elders and individuals abroad, inquiring of us whether certain statements that they hear, and have written to them, are true: some pertaining to John C. Bennett's spiritual wife system; others in regard to immoral conduct, practiced by individuals, and sanctioned by the church; and as it is impossible for us to answer all of them, we take this opportunity of answering them all, once for all."-Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 490.

In his reply to these questions he expresses his surprise that anyone acquainted with Nauvoo would ask such questions, and closes with a strong disapproval of any man who will teach what is not found in the standard books of the church, denounces him as an impostor, and advises that he be disfellowshipped. 3

and lose his license and membership also: therefore he had better beware what he is about.-Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 474.
In connection with this the following extract from a private letter to J. J. Strang, written by Mr. Hewitt, of Bastrop, Texas, June 14, 1849 (the original of which is now before us,) is significant:-
I want to know what your mind is about men having the priesthood having more wives than one. The principle is taught amongst all that I have been with. Some have from two to ten, or twenty, and some have none. If it is consistent I want you to let me know when you write to me, and I want you to write as soon as you get this, so Brother Miller [Bishop George Miller] and myself may know what to do. You must excuse me for asking so much, but you must bear with me, as I confess I am ignorant. Bro. Miller says their whoring will send them all to hell. You can see Bro. Hyrum's epistle to me on that subject, in the Times and Seasons, 15th March, 1844, if I don't mistake. I don't find such things in the Book of Covenants, nor in the Book of Mormon, nor in the writings of the apostles: and I don't want to be deceived, nor flattered any more, etc.
3 If any man writes to you, or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Doctrine and Covenants set him down as an impostor. You need not write to us to know what you are to do with such men; you have the authority with you. Try them by the principles contained in the acknowledged word of God; if they preach, or teach, or practice contrary to that, disfellowship them; cut them off from among you as useless and dangerous branches, and if they are belonging to any of the quorums in the church, report them to the president of the quorum to which they belong; and if you cannot find that out, if they are members of an official standing, belonging to Nauvoo, report them to us.
Follow after purity, virtue, holiness, integrity, godliness, and everything

(page 732)


The testimony of William Marks, then President of the Nauvoo Stake, indicates that Joseph Smith continued in his opposition to polygamy up to a few days before his death, though some members of the church were guilty of the crime. It shows further that Joseph realized that to save the church from destruction such parties must be expelled from the church. 4

that has a tendency to exalt and ennoble the human mind; and shun every man who teaches any other principles.-Times and Seasons vol. 6, pp. 490, 491
Brother Sheen:-I feel desirous to communicate through your periodical a few suggestions made manifest to me by the Spirit of God, in relation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. About the first of June, 1844, (situated as I was at that time, being Presiding Elder of the Stake at Nauvoo, and by appointment the presiding officer of the High Council,) I had a very good opportunity to know the affairs of the church; and my convictions at that time were, that the church in a great measure had departed from the pure principles and doctrines of Jesus Christ. I felt much troubled in mind about the condition of the church. I prayed earnestly to my heavenly Father to show me something in regard to it, when I was wrapped in vision, and it was shown me by the Spirit that the top or branches had overcome the root, in sin and wickedness, and the only way to cleanse and purify it was to disorganize it and in due time the Lord would reorganize it again. There were many other things suggested to my mind, but the lapse of time has erased them from my memory.
A few days after this occurrence I met with Brother Joseph. He said that he wanted to converse with me on the affairs of the church, and we retired by ourselves. I will give his words verbatim, for they are indelibly stamped upon my mind. He said he had desired for a long time to have a talk with me on the subject of polygamy. He said it eventually would prove the overthrow of the church, and we should soon be obliged to leave the United States, unless it could be speedily put down. He was satisfied that it was a cursed doctrine, and that there must be every exertion made to put it down. He said that he would go before the Congregation and proclaim against it, and I must go into the High Council, and he would prefer charges against those in transgression, and I must sever them from the church, unless they made ample satisfaction. There was much more said, but this was the substance. The mob commenced to gather about Carthage in a few days after, therefore there was nothing done concerning it.
After the Prophet's death, I made mention of this conversation to several, hoping and believing that it would have a good effect; but to my great disappointment, it was soon rumored about that Brother Marks was about to apostatize, and that all that he said about the conversation with the Prophet was a tissue of lies. From that time I was satisfied that the church would be disorganized, and the death of the Prophet and Patriarch tended to confirm me in that opinion. From that time I was looking for a reorganization of the church and kingdom of God. I feel thankful that I have lived to again behold the day, when the basis of the church is the revelations of Jesus Christ. which is the only sure foundation

(page 733)


For some time after the death of Joseph the leading men of the church occupied the same attitude towards polygamy. In the Times and Seasons for November, 1844, a communication signed "An old man of Israel," condemns the doctrine in unqualified terms. 5

This, perhaps, could not be considered official if it stood alone, but as it received editorial indorsement [endorsement] in the same issue of the paper when John Taylor, one of the Twelve apostles, was editor and proprietor, it must be considered authoritative. 6

This same Apostle Taylor resented the accusation of polygamy made against the church, in a discussion held by himself at Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, in July, 1850, and read from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants to disprove the allegation. 7

to build upon. I feel to invite all my brethren to become identified with us, for the Lord is truly in our midst.
SHABBONA, DeKalb County, Illinois, Oct. 23, 1859.
-Saints' Herald, vol. 1, pp. 22, 23.
5 The saints of the last days have witnessed the outgoings and the incomings of so many apostates that nothing but truth has any effect upon them. In the present instance, after the sham quotations of Sidney and his clique, from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to skulk off, under the "dreadful splendor" of "spiritual wifery," which is brought into the account as graciously as if the law of the land allowed a man a plurality of wives, is fiendish, and like the rest of Sidney's revelation, just because he wanted "to go to Pittsburg and live." Woe to the man or men who will thus willfully lie to injure an innocent people! The law of the land and the rules of the church do not allow one man to have more than one wife alive at once, but if any man's wife die he has a right to marry another, and to be sealed to both for eternity; to the living and the dead! there is no law of God or man against it! This is all the spiritual wife system that ever was tolerated in the church, and they know it.-Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 715.
6 + For the communication of an "old man of Israel," and the letter of Elder Addison Pratt from the islands of the Pacific Ocean, we bespeak a hearty welcome. They are genuine.-Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 711.
7 We are accused here of polygamy, and actions the most indelicate obscene, and disgusting, such that none but a corrupt and depraved heart could have contrived. These things are too outrageous to admit of belief; therefore leaving the sisters of the "White Veil," the "Black Veil," and all the other veils, with those gentlemen to dispose of together with their authors, as they think best, I shall content myself by reading our views of chastity and marriage, from a work published by us containing some of the articles of our faith.-"Doctrine and Covenants" page 330. [Liverpool edition.] [He here read article on marriage

(page 734)


Parley P. Pratt, also one of the Twelve Apostles, and at the time editor of the Millennial Star, editorially disclaims polygamy, in August, 1842, and reasons that it could never become a tenet of the church because of its opposition to the text-books of the church. 8

Taking these facts in connection with subsequent developments, it is evident that there has been some contemptible lying on this subject.

If Joseph and Hyrum Smith, or either of them, were implicated in the practice of polygamy or in telling falsehoods regarding it, we have no disposition to shield them; but in justice to them we insist that neither of these crimes shall be fastened upon them without competent evidence; and we further contend that neither those who have perjured themselves by giving conflicting testimony on the subject, nor those who justify such procedure, are competent or reliable witnesses.

A special conference was held at Nauvoo, convening on April 6, 1844. The business done was not of special historical importance, being principally devoted to instruction.

It was at this conference that Joseph Smith preached the funeral sermon of King Follett. A synopsis of this sermon was published in the Times and Seasons in August, 1844. We do not feel justified in presenting this synopsis as containing the teachings of Joseph Smith, for several reasons. First: The sermon was said to be a very long one, while this extract covers less than five pages of the Times and Seasons, and can leisurely be read in about twenty-five minutes. One cannot get the true sense

as given on pp. 596 and 597 this volume.]-Orson Pratt's Works, Public Discussion between Reverends C W Cleeve, James Robertson and Philip Cater, and Elder John Taylor, p. 8.
8 But, for the information of those who may be assailed by those foolish tales about the two wives, we would say that no such principle ever existed among the Latter Day Saints, and never will; this is well known to all who are acquainted with our books and actions, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants; and also all our periodicals are very strict and explicit on that subject, indeed far more so than the Bible.-Millennial Star, vol. 3, p. 74.

(page 735)


of a discourse from so meager an extract. Second: It was not found in print until after Joseph's death, and hence was not subjected to his inspection as published. Third: Its style and diction, as well as its doctrinal teachings, differ so widely from the productions of Joseph Smith as found elsewhere that it suggests suspicion as to its genuineness. Fourth: We have no evidence that a verbatim report was made when delivered, and hence it must have been written from memory, or at best from notes. So without indorsing [endorsing] or condemning we decline to present it as historically correct.

At this conference there was quite a large force of missionaries sent out.

About this time disaffection, in which the Laws, Doctor Foster, and the Higbees figured prominently, culminated, and under date of April 18, 1844, the Church Recorder published notice that several had been expelled for "unchristianlike conduct" 9

We have never been able to determine fully the cause of this trouble. Crime and immoral conduct were charged on both sides and many conflicting stories told and published. The more we have read and heard on the subject the less prepared are we to state just what the status of the case was. We are unwilling to state our opinion in the absence of verified facts upon which to base that opinion.

We, however, have carefully examined all that has come under our observation, and found no conclusive evidence of immorality or dishonesty against Joseph Smith or others who remained in association with him. This agitation within the church, however, connected with the religious and political influence used against the church

9 Nauvoo, April 18, 1844.
Robert D. Foster, Wilson Law, William Law, and Jane Law of Nauvoo, and Howard Smith, of Scott County, Illinois, for unchristianlike conduct, were cut off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by the authorities of said church, and ordered to be published in the Times and Seasons.
W. RICHARDS, Church Recorder.
-Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 511.

(page 736)


from without, produced troublesome times in and around Nauvoo, and public feeling ran so high that the lives of the Prophet and others of the leading men were in constant danger, and conditions were ripening for the bloody and cruel consummation at Carthage.

On May 6, 1844, Joseph was arrested by officer John D. Parker on a warrant issued by the clerk of the Circuit Court at Carthage, issued on complaint of Francis M. Higbee, one of the dissenters mentioned above. It appears that Higbee claimed five thousand dollars damage, but his complaint did not specify upon what his claim was based; nor was there any crime charged whatever.

Joseph obtained a writ of habeas corpus and brought the case before the Municipal Court at Nauvoo. Before this court he had an investigation on the 8th and was duly discharged. The complainant did not appear, either in person or by counsel.

On the request of the defendant the court allowed the case to proceed, and the evidence disclosed that a conspiracy existed between Francis M. Higbee and others to take the life of Joseph Smith.

Immediately after this a "prospectus" was issued and distributed for a paper to be called the Nauvoo Expositor.

On May 18, 1844, F. M. Higbee and others were expelled from the church for apostasy.

June 7, 1844, the Expositor made its appearance. It contained much that was of a slanderous character, and also affidavits against the character of the Prophet and others.

June 10, 1844, the City Council declared the Expositor a nuisance, and ordered the mayor (Joseph Smith) to have the establishment and paper removed without delay in such manner as he should elect. The mayor issued an order to the marshal, John P. Green, who with a posse proceeded to the office of the Expositor and removed the press, type, paper, and fixtures into the street, and destroyed them.

F. M. Higbee went before Thomas Morrison, a justice of the peace, at Carthage, Illinois, and obtained a writ for the

(page 737)


arrest of Joseph Smith, Samuel Bennett, John Taylor, William W. Phelps, Hyrum Smith, John P. Green, Stephen Perry, D. B. Huntington, Jonathan Dunham, Stephen Markham, William Edwards, Jonathan Harmon, J. P. Harmon, John Lytle, J. W. Coolidge, H. D. Redfield, Porter Rockwell, and Levi Richards, on a charge of riot.

Joseph Smith sued out a writ of habeas corpus in the Municipal Court of Nauvoo and was, after due investigation, discharged by that tribunal. Subsequently all the others named in the writ took the same course and were also acquitted.

On the 14th the mayor made a detailed report of the Expositor case to Governor Ford, and stated that if the Governor had any doubts about the legality of the proceedings, he had only to signify it and all who were implicated would go before any legal tribunal at the State capital and submit to an investigation; that he need not go to the trouble or expense to issue a writ, as they would respond upon the receipt of his expressed wish.

Upon the advice of Judge Jesse B. Thomas, those named in the warrant for riot, again submitted to arrest. They were rearrested by Constable Joel S. Miles on a writ issued upon the complaint of W. G. Ware, by Daniel H. Wells, justice of the peace.

They had a lengthy examination before Esquire Wells, who was not then a member of the church, and they were again acquitted.

During all this time mobs were collecting in different parts of the county; inflammatory speeches were being made from pulpit and rostrum. The press, especially the Warsaw Signal, were opening their columns to the most slanderous reports that could be invented. So with traitors within and foes without times were very perilous in Nauvoo.

What favor they had secured from the Democratic party by their support of Mr. Hoge in the election of 1843, was now withdrawn, because of their action in putting out an independent ticket for the ensuing election. This action served notice to both parties that the

(page 738)


"Mormons" could not be depended upon to assist either of them in carrying the State in the presidential election, and hence, though there was no party action taken as such, yet men of different political beliefs were equally clamorous to expel the saints from the State.

Governor Ford in his message to the legislature in December, 1844, admits that the accusations made against the citizens of Nauvoo were false, and were originated for the purpose of exciting public prejudice against them. 10

10 These also were the active men in blowing up the fury of the people; in hopes that a popular movement might be set on foot, which would result in the expulsion or extermination of the Mormon voters. For this purpose public meetings had been called; inflammatory speeches had been made; exaggerated and unfounded reports had been extensively circulated: committees had been appointed, and rode night and day to spread the reports, and solicit the aid of the neighboring counties. And at a public meeting at Warsaw resolutions were passed to expel or exterminate the Mormon population. This was not, however, a movement which was unanimously concurred in. The county contained a goodly number of inhabitants in favor of peace, or who at least desired to be neutral in such a contest. These were stigmatized by the name of "Jack Mormons," and there were not a few of the more furious exciters of the people, who openly expressed their intention to involve them in the common expulsion or extermination.
A system of excitement and agitation was artfully planned and executed with tact. It was planned and executed very much upon the principle adopted by the Jacobins in revolutionary France. It consisted in spreading reports and rumors of the most fearful character. As examples: On the morning before my arrival at Carthage I was awakened at an early hour, by the frightful report, which was asserted with confidence and apparent consternation, that the Mormons had already commenced the work of burning, destruction, and murder; and that every man capable of bearing arms was instantly wanted at Carthage for the protection of the country. We lost no time in starting; but when we arrived at Carthage we could hear no more concerning this story. Again, during the few days that the militia were encamped at Carthage, frequent applications were made to me, to send a force here, and a force there, and a force all about the country, to prevent murders, robberies, and larcenies, which it was said were threatened by the Mormons. No such forces were sent; nor were any such offenses committed at that time, except the stealing of some provisions; and there was never the least proof that this was done by a Mormon. Again, on my late visit to Hancock County I was informed by some of their violent enemies that the larcenies of the Mormons had become unusually numerous and insufferable. They indeed admitted that but little had been done in this way in their immediate vicinity. But they insisted that sixteen horses had been stolen by the Mormons in one night, near Lima in the county of Adams. At the close of the expedition I called at this same town of Lima, and upon inquiry was told that no horses had been stolen in that neighborhood, but that sixteen horses had been stolen in one night in Hancock County. This last informant being told

(page 739)


Amidst this tumult the writ for riot in destroying the Nauvoo Expositor was renewed, and placed in the hands of Constable Bettisworth. Joseph and Hyrum Smith, though willing to submit to legal investigation when protected, feared the violence of the mob, and hence concluded to avoid arrest. They left their homes and crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa, where for the time they were secure.

of the Hancock story again changed the venue, to another distant settlement in the northern edge of Adams.-Message of Governor Ford, December 23, 1844, pp. 7, 8.

(page 740)

Previous chapter Previous chapter Table of Contents Table of Contents Next chapter Next chapter