Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Fairly Short History of Mormonism — Part 4, Nauvoo Period

Brigham took over leadership and guided the exodus of 12-15,000 persons to Quincy, IL.  On April 6, 1839 the prisoners were taken to Gallatin.  While there, they requested a change of venue and escaped in transit, joining with the remnant leaving Far West for Illinois.
Mormons then built Nauvoo, Illinois, losing many to disease during their first year, including Joseph Smith, Sr., Joseph’s brother Don Carlos, and Joseph’s son Don Carlos.  Brigham Young and other apostles were sent to England that summer (1839) for missionary duty.  Brigham Young set up a highly efficient immigration system bringing thousands into Nauvoo from England.

The Nauvoo Legion was established and became a well-drilled, well-equipped army, with 2000 troops by 1842.  Joseph even got a commission from the governor as a Lieutenant General.  Mormons then made many threats to Missouri for redress of their grievances.

At Nauvoo the Mormon theology was developed and firmed-up.  Articles of Faith were written and temple rituals established.   Smith became a Freemason and borrowed heavily from them for his temple endowment ceremony.  He set up his own lodge in March 1842 and it quickly grew to be half of all Illinois membership.

Also in 1842, Smith began playing with politics, giving the Mormon bloc vote to the party which did the most for them.  Meanwhile, just down the road the town of Warsaw became upset with the Mormon takeover, and opposed and feared their politics.  Smith, as leader of the church and the Nauvoo legion, was very authoritarian and operated Nauvoo as a state within a state.  

Smith’s closest friend and confident since their meeting in the summer of 1840 was Dr. John C. Bennett, general of Nauvoo Legion.  He was a womanizer, seducing many women in Smith’s name.  In May of 1842 he and Joseph both vied for Rigdon's 19-year-old daughter, and this led to open scandal.  Bennett had set Smith up so Joseph blamed the scandal on Bennett.  They made a deal that Bennett would confess his sins before the church and sort of disappear from the scene.  Unfortunately,  information on his abortions and fornication became well known, and Bennett hung around as more gossip surfaced about polygamy.  Bennett was then excommunicated in June 1842.

Bennett went to the press with stories of polygamy and church-sanctioned prostitution and fornication.  Because he overstated and sensationalized the problems, Smith easily discredited him by denouncing him for seduction, pandering and abortion.  He also got 12 men and 12 women to sign affidavits that polygamy didn't exist, some of the women having been married to him at that time!

As time went by, babies began to show up by supposedly single women, and talk of polygamy became open.  Surrounding communities also began talking about the immorality at Nauvoo.

Hyrum asked Joseph to write down the revelation on "celestial marriage" and he'd take it to Emma.  Joseph then dictated Doctrine & Covenants section 132 to William Clayton, which threatened Emma’s life if she didn't accept it.  By the Spring of 1843 Joseph finally convinced Emma about polygamy, but she demanded to choose who he was to take as wives (she did not know he was already practicing polygamy).  Emma chose two of their boarders (not knowing they were already married to Joseph), but several months later she threw them out.  Emma felt D&C 132 was a concoction of Bennett’s.

On August 12, 1843,  Joseph had Hyrum read D&C 132 to members of the High Council.  Three opposed it and put the council into confusion.  The church hierarchy divided into factions, pro- and anti-polygamy.  William Law was the champion for the opposition.  

Most Mormons were still in the dark and only knew of rumors about polygamy, but  Smith excommunicated anyone teaching or practicing polygamy without his permission.  However, the town of Warsaw was very familiar with the stories and evidences for polygamy.  (The text of D&C 132 was mocked in their newspaper, in a poem published on February 7th, 1844.)

William Law was Smith’s best friend until Smith approached William’s wife for "celestial marriage."  Law approach Smith and demanded his confession and reformation to end polygamy.  Law then joined other disgruntled Mormons, several of whom had wives Joseph had made plays for.  Scandals began and Joseph began having all dissenters excommunicated.

In December 1843 Joseph sent a petition to Congress demanding Nauvoo be made independent of federal territory, with the Legion incorporated into the US Army and the mayor having power to call up US troops.  This request was eventually denied.

On March 11, 1844 Joseph began selecting his "Council of 50" to form the "highest court on earth."  They ordained and crowned him "King of the Kingdom of God."  The Legion now numbered 4000 men and alarmed many of the local populace.  Also in March, Joseph petitioned Congress to appoint him as an officer in the U.S. Army, with power to raise 100,000 volunteers to patrol and police the western borders of the US, from Texas to Oregon.  (This again was denied.)

By May of 1844 Joseph was deeply involved in politics and became a presidential candidate.  One of his platforms was the abolition of slavery.

Meanwhile, Law had set up his own church, seeking reformation, believing that Joseph was a fallen prophet.  Law also founded the “Nauvoo Expositor” newspaper.   He then sued Joseph for adultery and polygamy, the latter of which was attacked in his newspaper.  The “Expositor” also attacked Smith’s character and abuse of power.  Those who did not previously believe the gossip were now overwhelmed with shock, while those practicing polygamy feared there would be a massacre by anti-Mormons.

Joseph declared the “Expositor” a public nuisance and he ordered its destruction; the Legion complied.  The apostates then fled to Warsaw and Carthage.  The Warsaw paper then published a list of crimes attributed to Smith by the apostates, and an editorial on June 12th raised a war cry against the Mormons.  This raised fear in the Mormons, and all outlying members came into Nauvoo for protection.  Smith called out the Legion to defend the city.

Warrants were let out for Smith’s arrest for riot and destruction of Law’s press.  Angry crowds swarmed Warsaw and Carthage, and armed bands crossed the Missouri River.  Local sheriffs and constables called up militia and prepared to attack Nauvoo.  Gov. Ford then wrote Smith, demanding his surrender for trial.  He said if Smith refused to submit, Nauvoo would be destroyed.

Rigdon had previously taken 300 defectors to Pennsylvania, and now Joseph, Hyrum, Rockwell and Willard Richards escaped across the Mississippi River, with some families being sent on a river boat to the Ohio River and east.

Ford sent word that he would protect Joseph for trial, but if he didn't surrender the town of Nauvoo would be ravaged.  Joseph agreed, knowing that he'd probably be killed.  Ford then ordered disbandment of the Legion and the  return of all state-supplied arms.

On June 24, 1844 Joseph headed for Carthage with Hyrum and other men for trial; they were met and escorted by troops from McDonough County.  At Carthage, Warsaw and Carthage troops argued for control, threatening death to the Mormons. 

At the hearing all but Joseph and Hyrum were released on bail.  The next day Ford disbanded all militia except the Carthage Greys, who were left to guard the jail.   Ford then had McDonough County's troops escort him to Nauvoo, not believing the threats against Joseph were serious..

When Joseph learned that Ford was gone, he sent word to have the Legion come to his rescue, but the message was never delivered.  Joseph and Hyrum then had guns smuggled to them.  Willard Richards and John Taylor were also in the cell.  All visitors were forced out at bayonet point.

As soon as Ford left, the Warsaw militia returned and stormed the jail.  A gunfight ensued and Taylor was wounded and Hyrum killed.  Smith emptied his gun and jumped to the window; he was shot in the back and fell to the ground wounded.  He was then dragged against a well-curb in the yard and several men shot him.  The militia then scattered.  The Mormons decided that peace was the best course of action, and voted to depend on the law for retribution.

The First Presidency had been Joseph, Hyrum and Rigdon; now Rigdon attempted to take over the church and move them to Pennsylvania.   However, Brigham Young established the authority of the 12 Apostles, of which he was the President.  In September the Apostles ousted Rigdon, who then went back to Pittsburgh and established the "Church of Christ."  (A remnant of his church still exists in the Pittsburg area.)

James Strange was the head of a stake in Wisconsin and he made the claim that Joseph gave him a vision that he was to take the leadership.  He drew considerable numbers to follow him, including Bennett and Martin Harris.  Strange also sent missions to England.  He was crowned "King in Zion" in 1850 on Beaver Island in Lake Superior and advocated polygamy.  He was shot in 1856 and his sect died out.

Emma fought for Smith’s son, Joseph III, to be made the leader, but Young stated that no one should know he had been appointed heir or his life would be in danger.  Young stated that Joseph III would be placed at the head in the future.  William Smith claimed he had a revelation giving him succession until Joseph III grew up.  

Emma remarried a Gentile and always denied that Joseph taught or practiced polygamy.  The legend then began that Bennett, Young and Hyrum developed polygamy without Joseph’s knowledge.  Joseph III was placed as the head of the Reorganized LDS in 1860 in Amboy, IL.  They moved their headquarters to Lamoni, IA in 1881, and finally to Independence, MO.

Charles Thompson claimed he had revelations giving him the leadership, but he was also ousted by the Apostles, taking some followers to St. Louis.

Young exerted his authority over the Apostles as their President, and as such took over leadership of the church.  Lyman Wight resented the takeover and led a small group to Texas, near Austin.  He died in San Antonio in 1858 and his band split up.

In January 1845 the Mormons began making speeches and writing editorials advocating rebellion against the law until all parties responsible for the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum were executed.  In the spring a murder by the Danites took place across the river in Iowa, and other killings in Nauvoo raised fears in the "Gentiles."  In April, Governor Ford suggested to Brigham that the Mormons go elsewhere, such as California.

In May 1845 the temple was completed and endowments were held up to the time of all departing Nauvoo the following year.  The oath associated with the endowment is quite revealing.  Elder Hyde said, "We were sworn to cherish constant enmity toward the United States Government for not avenging the death of Smith, or righting the persecutions of the Saints; to do all that we could toward destroying, tearing down or overturning that government; to endeavor to baffle its designs; to frustrate its intentions; to renounce all allegiance and refuse all submission.  If unable to do anything ourselves toward the accomplishment of these objects, to teach it to our children from the nursery, impress it upon them from the death bed, entail it upon them as a legacy."  A portion of the oath is as follows: "To obey him, the Lord's anointed, in all his orders, spiritual and temporal, and the priesthood or either of them, and all church authorities in like manner; that this obligation is superior to all the laws of the United States, and all earthly laws; that enmity should be cherished against the government of the United States; that the blood of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and Apostles slain in this generation shall be avenged."

More outbreaks of violence began.  On September 24, 1845 the citizens of surrounding counties sent a delegation to Nauvoo to see about the Mormons departing Illinois. Young stated his proposal to leave in the spring, but he wanted hostilities to end until they left.  During the first week of October, Gov. Ford accepted Young's proposals and kept the militia there to maintain law and order.  European immigration was suspended.

In February 1846, when the river froze, the first party headed west.  By May, ferries at Nauvoo and Ft. Madison were operating almost 24 hours a day, but some anti-Mormons decided this wasn't fast enough.  In June hostilities broke out, and over the next month several Mormons were killed while their enemies had many wounded.   A mass evacuation began without adequate shelter or provisions.  Many Warsaw people pillaged and harassed those departing; the last leaving on September 18th were actually driven out.

After the Mormons left, the temple was desecrated.  It was torched in November 1848, and was finally destroyed by a tornado in 1850.  In 2002 a newly-built replica opened there.

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

Part 2 of this series can be found here.

Part 3 of this series can be found here.

Part 5 of this series can be found here.

No comments: