The press, the very agency that had so much to do with his father's troubles in Hancock County, was divided on the importance of what had happened. The Amboy Times was the first to publish the news, and took a conservative and very fair stand on the subject. The editor of the Times was at the conference, and it was he who reported (in long hand) the speech of Young Joseph. In his paper he writes:
THE MORMON CONFERENCE
We devote considerable space to the proceedings of this body, believing that they are of great importance to us, even as a nation. There is a great body of these people scattered through the States, who, unwilling to follow the fortunes and doctrines of Brigham Young, have been quietly waiting for the time to come when they could organize under a lineal descendant of Joseph Smith, as their prophet. That time has at length arrived. Joseph Smith, junior, occupies the position which his father once held. A new era in the history of Mornonism has dawned--an era which we hope will greatly improve the name of this despised people.
Whatever ideas we may entertain in relation to the doctrines of the Mormons, we must look with approbation and satisfaction upon any movement on their part which looks towards a radical reformation in their practices as a people.
For many years past Brigham Young has been looked upon as the embodiment of Mormonism, and those professing to be Mormons have been regarded as no better than he. Henceforth, they, or at least one branch of them, are to be judged by a different standard. The eyes of the world will now be turned upon Young Joseph. Hitherto this man has borne a good name. His talents are of no mean order; and it is earnestly to be hoped that he will use them for good, and not a bad purpose.1
The news was received in various ways about Nauvoo. George Edmunds, Jr., asked Joseph Smith to remain in Nauvoo for five years and see if the Saints would not move in and again build up the city. Others urged the same course, but there were other more unpleasant features. The citizens in Carthage under the leadership of Jesse C. Williams, Henry P. Harper, Jacob B. Strader, and David Mack, had adopted resolutions earnestly protesting against the return of the Mormons to Hancock County, and even stating they would not be allowed to settle there (August 21, 1860). Similar resolutions were adopted at meetings in Montebello and Basco Township in the same county and about the same time in Nauvoo. Then Joseph received word from judge Roosevelt of Warsaw that if he should be sent a certain letter ordering him to leave the county or to remain at his peril, to present the names of the men who signed the letter to the grand jury at its first sitting, and he would find a host of friends about whom he knew nothing. The letter never came, but Joseph understood later that such a letter had been presented to several by two men influential in driving out the Saints in 1845-46. Judge Roosevelt had told them he would not sign it and advised them to put it away or they would get into trouble. Thomas C. Sharp, in a mellower maturity, wanted nothing to do with it; he had lived through one Mormon War and chose not to get into another.
Friends all over the county were prompt in their denunciation of such measures, but in spite, of that, one interior township passed a sweeping resolution that no Mormon be permitted to preach or pray in that county. The Carthage Republican opened its columns to articles against the resettlement of Nauvoo, and some of the personal friends of Young Joseph implored him to leave the county. He wrote a reply and evidently had it, printed in the Democratic News.2 It was also reproduced in the Herald. The straightforward and fearless attitude of the young leader is plainly revealed in this letter:
In taking the head of the Mormon3 Church, I am running counter to the opinions of many people; but believing that "there is a destiny which shapes our ends," I am content to let those who are astonished and opposed to such a measure, stand the test of time, and an opportunity for reflection, satisfied that investigation will result in my favor.
To those familiar with the books upon which our faith is founded, the Bible being the groundwork, I have no apologies to offer, and to those not familiar with them, and to those who do not believe them, none is due.
I know that many stories are now being circulated in reference to what will be the result of the step I have taken. I know that many believe that I will emigrate to Salt Lake. To those who know me, it is needless for me to say that I am not going to do any such thing while the doctrine of polygamy and disobedience to the laws are countenanced there; to those who do not know me personally, and to whom my principles are unknown, I must say, withhold your censure until such time as I shall, by some flagrant act of disobedience to the law of the land, or some striking breach of morality, deserve the just indignation of society; when I do either one or the other, I am ready for the opening of the vial of wrath of outraged society, and shall cheerfully receive the condemnation I shall merit.
Numbers of the readers of the Democratic press know me personally, and have been warm friends to me; they know my sentiments in regard to those obnoxious features in Utah Mormonism, and I trust in their knowledge of me as a pledge to them of what my future actions shall be.
Religious toleration is one of the principles of our government, and so long as any denomination shall keep within the pale of the law, so long is it entitled to the consideration and protection of the government, but when those bonds are exceeded, the claim is forfeited and society ought to ignore it, and the law proclaim against it.
A man is known by his acts; I have been judged heretofore by mine and am willing still to be so judged, asking all to do so fairly and impartially, laying their prejudices aside, relying not upon rumor for their knowledge, but investigating for themselves.
I leave the result in the hands of him who "doeth all things well," hoping no man will judge me without knowledge.
The summer, fall, and winter of 1860 passed away; Young Joseph Smith went about his business undisturbed. During the year following, he continued to preach in Nauvoo and vicinity, both in Illinois and Iowa, went anywhere in Hancock County he chose, unarmed and alone, or in company with others. Many of the more prominent citizens expressed to him their opinion that mob violence would never again be tolerated. Some even said they were convinced that the treatment of the Mormons had left a curse upon the country that would never be removed until they were permitted to return.
The temple had burned in 1848 and was a genuine loss to the community as well as the State, for says one authority:
Of all the structures erected by religious colonies [in Illinois], the largest and most unique one was, no doubt, the famous Mormon Temple at Nauvoo. Although never fully completed on the interior, the exterior was essentially complete at the time the Mormons departed. From the standpoint of architecture alone, it was a great loss to the State when the structure was burned. The architectural and decorative features involved in this Temple were wholly different from anything in the State, and were it standing today it would be one of the most unique historical structures.5
The French and German population into whose hands the ruins ultimately came, sold them, and under the supervision of one Sellers, the temple ruins became a quarry where stone for many buildings in Nauvoo was dug, until there was scarcely any of the original structure remaining.
A few Saints came back to the old city and attempted to make a home there--Thaddeus Cutler, Henry Cuerdon, Thomas Revell, William Redfield, and some others. Benjamin Austin and family already lived there, having moved in soon after 1860. The first meetings in Nauvoo were held in his small rented home, then the services were moved to the corner of Water and Granger Streets, into the house once owned by William Marks. Later, as the congregation grew, new quarters had to be found, and a room was fitted up in the Brick Store, used as a store and office by Joseph Smith. They soon numbered seventy-five in Nauvoo. Emma Smith Bidamon had united with the church on the same day as her son Joseph. Two other sons soon united their fortunes with the church, first David, then Alexander. Frederick died April 13, 1862, expressing belief but without baptism.
In 1865, the editorship of the Herald was assumed by the President of the church, and Joseph Smith moved his family to Plano in January, 1866. The Herald had been moved to this place in 1863 from Cincinnati accompanied by Isaac Sheen and his family.
After his removal, the branch in Nauvoo gradually dwindled and eventually disappeared, but in recent years a flourishing church has again been built up there.
l Amboy (Illinois) Times (date not known); The True Latter Day Saints'
Herald, Volume 1, page 101; Church History, Volume 3, page 253.
2 I have not located this paper.
3 Joseph Smith in a footnote explains that he uses this word in the commonly accepted sense.
4 The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, Volume 1, pages 169, 170 (evidently reprinted); Churoh History, Volume 3, pages 275, 276.
5 "An Outline of the History of Architecture in Illinois," by Thomas Edward O'Donnell Associate Professor of Architecture, University of Illinois, at Urbana, Illinois Historical Transactions, 1931.