Episode 3 - Mysterious Prophet of the West
Two groups of men trying to kill Joseph: those outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Citizens in Illinois who are publishing material against the Prophet through their newspaper, “The Warsaw Signal,” and those who have recently left the restored Church of Jesus Christ and begun work on publishing their newspaper, “The Nauvoo Expositor”.
This week: Joseph Smith’s Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, starts publishing a newspaper in New York City called the Prophet. This third newspaper, along with the Warsaw Signal and Nauvoo Expositor, symbolizes the 3rd group of people who want to kill the Prophet Joseph Smith – his national political enemies.
I am Stephen Dethloff, and this is the Strangers & Pilgrim’s podcast telling of the Death of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
We have talked a lot about how before a large portion of the Latter-day Saints lived in southern Illinois they were in Missouri. And, how they were finally driven out of the state after Missouri Governor Bogg’s passed an extermination order – executive order 44. That order legalized the extermination and driving-out of all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Missouri. In fact, in the moment that executive order 44 begins to be carried out, Joseph Smith and a lot of the Latter-day Saints are in far west, Missouri. And, they see the state militia marching out to them across the plains. And, they think to themselves, “Finally! The militia has come to protect us from these mobs!” But, the militia hadn’t come to protect them. A messenger was sent out letting the Latter-day Saints know that it had come to massacre them.
Now, through a series of events that massacre wouldn’t happen, instead Joseph Smith and other church leaders were taken to jail, and the rest of the Saints were kicked out of the state. And, remember, this isn’t the first time they’ve had their property stolen and their homes destroyed in Missouri. Because Mobs kicked all the members of the church out of Jackson County, Missouri 5 years earlier.
So, now four to five years after being kicked out of Far West, the main body of members of the church live in Nauvoo, Illinois, and the nation is starting to gear up for a presidential election. So, Joseph Smith and the Church leadership write letters to some of the national political figures, who are running for president, trying to figure out what they would do regarding helping the Latter-day Saints regain their property and land in Missouri, if they were to be elected president. They’re trying to figure out who is going to help them, and who they can support.
One of the guys they write a letter to is Henry Clay. Henry is a United States Senator from Kentucky.
Senator Clay writes back saying that even though he acknowledged these Latter-day Saints had endured injustice, he couldn’t make promises to any particular portion of the people of the United States – as he did not want to become president with a lot of obligations to special interest groups.
Joseph also writes letters back and forth with John C. Calhoun. In between their letters John would go from being a United States Senator from South Carolina, to the United States Secretary of State. Secretary of State Calhoun said the same thing, essentially, as Henry Clay – that he could not favor certain groups of Americans over others. He also added that he didn’t think these persecutions by the state of Missouri fell underneath the jurisdiction of the Federal Government.
Joseph Smith had actually met John Calhoun 5 years earlier when he went to Washington D.C.. Joseph traveled to Washington D.C. after being kicked out of Missouri. He went to try and get the Federal Government to help him and his followers get their stuff back from Missouri.
While in Washington, John C. Calhoun told the prophet the same thing. He could not offer them any help. Another individual that Joseph Smith met with while in Washington was then President of the United States, Martin Van Buren.
Joseph met with President Van Buren, and explained to him the extermination order against himself and the members of his Church, and their lost land and property, and all their persecutions in Missouri. And, Joseph argued for their protection and for redress – he argued his case before President Van Buren as a First Amendment Issue. Joseph and his followers were not being allowed to practice their religion freely.
But, at the time, the Constitution of the United States only limited the federal government. And, President Van Buren – according to the then-current understanding of the constitution, looked at Joseph’s appeal to the First Amendment, and freedom of religion as unrelated to their problems in Missouri. That was a state issue, not a federal one. So, Van Buren told him, “I can do nothing for you! If I do anything, I shall come in contact with the whole state of Missouri.”
So, now 4 years after not finding any help for his people in Washington, Joseph is still upset. The persecution of the Latter-day Saints had been ignored by almost every politician at the county, state, and then federal level. And, the presidential election is starting to pick up steam, and leadership of the church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is talking about all the potential candidates they could vote for. The prophet says that it is ‘morally impossible’ for the Latter-day Saints to vote to reelect President Van Buren. After all – he said that the federal government could do nothing to help the Latter-day SAints who had been robbed, murdered, and attacked by the state of Missouri. Their letters with Clay and Calhoun make them feel that they cannot also vote for them.
So, probably realizing there was no other option, Willard Richards – one of Joseph Smith’s scribes and friends – at a meeting of church leadership, nominates Joseph Smith for the next president.
Everyone in the room unanimously agrees.
Joseph tells them he will accept their nomination. But, that they all have to go all over the country to electioneer – or campaign – for his candidacy. He believed that there were enough experienced, quality speakers in the Church that he could win the presidency on his very first try.
A few months after he decides to run, and a month before Joseph’s Death, the state convention of Nauvoo was held in an assembly room above one of Nauvoo’s General Stores.
Because Joseph was running as a 3rd party candidate, it was an Independent convention. And it was set to precede a national convention the Latter-day Saints would hold back east in Baltimore, Maryland later that year. While there Joseph Smith was nominated as a candidate for President. But, he couldn’t attend because his wife, Emma, was sick. She had been sick all day. So, Joseph stayed home to take care of her.
As he is taking care of his wife, suddenly he hears noise in the streets outside. He looks out his window and sees a barrel of tar burning in the middle of the road, and large crowd of people gathered around. He goes out to investigate what is going on.
As he approaches the crowd he finds that there are a group of Nauvoo citizens giving toasts. When they see him, they run at him, grab him, and carry him around the fire – lifted up on their shoulders. They then carry him back to his home, the Nauvoo Mansion, escorted by a band of music.
They were celebrating that Joseph Smith had just been chosen by the Nauvoo State Convention as its 3rd party candidate for the President of the United States of America.
Now, Joseph’s presidential candidacy is going to complicate his life because it feeds into one of the most basic claims that had been made against Joseph since he founded the restored Church of Jesus Christ.
The claim that Joseph Smith’s presidential candidacy feeds into is that Joseph Smith was this power hungry guy attempting to overthrow the United States government and start a theocracy. This rumor started in Ohio, back in 1831 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was only 1 year old, and Joseph was 25.
When this claim first started 13 years earlier, one of the main pieces of evidence Joseph’s enemies used to support their theory was that Joseph taught that he was the only person that could receive revelation, or guidance, or direction for the entire Church – or even the World.
Revelation, here, means a metaphysical experience where knowledge or wisdom is transmitted. So, through the Holy Spirit Joseph learns a doctrine – or through a vision, or dream, or communication with an angel – Joseph receives knowledge or wisdom from the Lord, and then he turns around and shares it with the church. Joseph taught that he was the only one who could receive revelation like this for the whole church – but that everyone could receive revelation like this for their personal lives.
And, that’s where all the teachings and doctrines of the Church came from -- they came from visions and revelations of Joseph Smith.
The church’s early enemies, some of whom, again, were members of the church, thought this was totalitarian. They thought that it was dictatorial. They believed everyone deserved to teach truth and guide the direction of the Church and set out doctrines and dogmas – not just Joseph Smith. They believed that if one of the members of the Church had a dream of a new doctrine or teaching, that it should be a valid doctrine for the entire religion.
Joseph, meanwhile, and his most ardent supporters viewed Joseph’s structure as a way to preserve order. To understand Joseph Smith better I think you have to understand that Joseph Smith views himself in the context of Moses, and Abraham, and the great prophets of the old and New Testament. And, his followers do, too.
So, it’s like in the Old Testament when Moses came down from the Mountain after communicating with God. And, he brings with him commandments. And, he comes down to see the children of Israel worshiping a false idol. They’re worshiping a golden calf that Moses’ brother Aaron made for them. When Moses saw the golden calf he did not say, “Cool. You guys can pray to that, too.” He got angry. He broke the commandments. He told them to only worship one God. God’s commandments would come through him, Moses. That’s how Joseph was when it came to revelations for the church. God’s commandments would come through him. And it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
But, that was just 13 years ago when Joseph was the 25 year old leader of this new, really small, religion. Now, Joseph is a 38 year old prophet to over 20,000 people.
But, not only is his church bigger.
At a local level, almost everyone that lives in Nauvoo is a Latter-day Saint, or a member of Joseph’s Church – that means Joseph is the spiritual leader of an entire city. On top of it Joseph is Nauvoo’s mayor. So, he is the city’s governmental leader.
On top of that, Joseph is the Lieutenant General of Nauvoo’s Militia – the Nauvoo Legion. So, he is the city’s military leader. Actually, Joseph Smith’s title of Lieutenant General, at the time, made him the highest ranked militia member in the entire United States. As, every other militia only had Major Generals as their highest ranked officer.
A prophet. A mayor. A lieutenant-general. And, now, a third party candidate for the President of the United States of America. These people who used to think Joseph was trying to set himself up as a king are now really thinking that.
And, this is why, in William Law’s Prospectus for his newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, this is the prospectus we mentioned at the end of the last episode, William advocates “unmimigated disobedience to [Joseph’s] political revelations.” And refers to Joseph Smith as a “self-constituted Monarch” and encourages people to “oppose with uncompromising hostility, any union of church and state.”
And, that’s why that William Law says, in his prospectus, that the ‘sacred duty’ of that Nauvoo Expositor is ‘the unconditional repeal of the Nauvoo city charter.”
The Nauvoo City Charter is the legal document that allowed the city of Nauvoo to exist as a city. Repealing the city charter would mean the mayor would no longer have authority in the city. The city council, and the judges (a majority of which were Latter-day Saints) would no longer have authority within the city.
The civic authority would revert to the Justice of the Peace in Carthage, who is a leader of the “Anti-Mormon” party.
Joseph also, would no longer be the Lieutenant General of the Nauvoo Legion, because the Nauvoo Legion would no longer exist. It existed solely as an outgrowth of the Nauvoo City Charter.
If the Nauvoo Expositor accomplishes its goal of repealing the Nauvoo Charter, Joseph would lose 2 of his 3 leadership roles. His power, at least at the local level, would be severely curbed.
So, for all these enemies of Joseph Smith, who had all along – when he was penniless, jobless, without a home – a refugee living off of the kindness of strangers – for all these people who had all along been worried that this man was going to take over the world, now they’re really worried. So, for William Law, and for Thomas Sharp and the Anti-Mormons, the best way to start to curb Joseph’s power – they believe – is to get rid of Nauvoo’s city charter.
So you can better understand why people are scared of Joseph and the Latter-day Saints, outside of the reasons we talked about, and so you can better understand Joseph’s directions and thoughts during the last 6 months of his life, I am going to talk to you about the Kingdom of Daniel.
The Kingdom of Daniel is a reference to a dream that a king had in the Book of Daniel which is a book in the Old Testament in the Bible. In the Book of Daniel – this takes place about 600 B.C. over in the middle east -- The King of Babylon, a man named Nebuchadnezzar, comes into Jerusalem and kills a lot of people. He takes over the place. And, he carries off slaves back to Babylon.
And, that’s normal for Babylon, is what the Babylonians would do when they took over places. They would take prisoners back to their capital as a way to build some sort of relationship between themselves and their conquered civilizations.
So, Nebuchadnezzar takes these Israelites back to Babylon and they’re held captive and one of them is named Daniel. And, the King one night has this Dream. And, in the Dream he sees a giant statue of a man. And, his head is made out of gold, and then the rest of his body is made out of silver, brass, iron, and then a mixture of iron and clay all the way down to his toes.
In the dream a giant stone gets cut out of a mountain, and it comes down this mountain, and gets bigger, and bigger, and crashes into the statue, and breaks it into pieces. It doesn’t just break the statue to pieces, but it obliterates the statue and turns it to dust. And the dust is so fine, that it gets carried away in the wind. Then, the stone becomes a great mountain itself and fills the whole earth.
So, the Babylonian King is scared by this dream. Daniel, eventually, tells the king what his dream was and offers him an interpretation. And, the King believes Daniel’s interpretation of his dream, because the King didn’t tell anyone the particulars of the Dream. So, when Daniel gives him these secret details of the dream, that he only he knew, and then follows it up with an explanation, the King knows that Daniel knows.
So, Daniel tells the King, that this statue and its various parts represent the great Kingdoms of the world – with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire being the Golden head of the statue. And, that, at some point in the future this stone is going to be formed and completely obliterate these political organizations on the earth, and take their place – except instead of taking their place as a statue, it is going to take their place as a mountain that will stand forever and fill the whole earth.
So, Joseph Smith outside of his political career as a candidate for the president of the united states, Joseph is preaching that he wants to create a political organization that will help this stone roll down the mountain to eventually destroy, or take the place of, all other political organizations.
And, Joseph isn’t secretive about this, he is preaching about it. In one sermon in Nauvoo, he said “I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the Kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord.”
He said that he wants to “lay a foundation that will revolutionize the world.”
He said he wants to revolutionize the world. That’s revolutionary talk. And people are scared of revolutionaries. Revolutions overthrow the status quo. But, this desire of Joseph isn’t new. It isn’t new to Joseph in 1844. And, it isn’t a new desire of his just now that he’s running for president.
When Joseph Smith was still in Missouri, five years earlier, we talked about how he was in Liberty Jail. Well, his actual charge – what got him in jail – was the charge of Treason. And, we talked about how Orson Hyde, one of the members of the quorum of the 12 apostles, had left the church briefly and testified at that trial against Joseph Smith that resulted in him being thrown in jail.
Well, when they first tried to charge Joseph with treason in Missouri it was partially based on this idea that Joseph wanted to establish the Kingdom of Daniel on earth.
Now, the majority of the people in America at the time are Christians. They are familiar with the Bible. And, they knew exactly what it meant to establish the Kingdom of Daniel. They knew it meant that existing political organizations would be destroyed so thoroughly that they would be turned into fine dust and carried away with the wind.
And, so this idea of smashing and destroying and pulverizing existing political structures was, to the Americans on the frontier, violent. So, when Joseph preached that he wanted to “be one of the instruments of setting up the Kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord.” All they heard was Joseph saying, “I want to destroy everything. Smash it. Pulverize it.”
So, as Joseph is being prosecuted for treason, the prosecutors bring this up as evidence against Joseph. But, the Judge tells them that he can’t jail Joseph Smith for wanting to establish the Kingdom of Daniel, because then you’d have to jail every Christian in America – he said that reading the Bible would be treasonous. Because, technically, in the Judge’s reasoning, all Christians want God’s promised Kingdom to come to earth. They’re just not all going around trying to actually do it.
Regardless, Joseph was still charged with Treason in Missouri, but not because of this desire to establish the Kingdom of Daniel on earth.
Just to let you know what he ended up actually getting charged with treason for, in Missouri. We talked earlier about how Joseph Smith was in Far West, and he saw the state militia marching across the plains and he thought that they were there to save them from the Mobs. But, the Militia was actually there to massacre the Latter-day Saints under Governor Bogg’s Executive Order – you remember the executive order.
Well, after sending out a messenger, to tell the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints they were there to massacre them, the militia camped just outside of the city for the night. And, so, all night long the Latter-day Saints in the city, and a few of their non-Latter-day Saint friends, were tearing down fences and sheds and pig pens to build fortifications to protect themselves during the upcoming battle. They figured if they were all going to die when the morning came, they wanted to try and give themselves as good of a chance as they could to fight back and stay alive.
Well, because the militia was sent there to massacre the citizens under orders of the governor, the fortifications they stayed up all night building were seen as treasonous. The Latter-day Saints, in attempting to protect their lives, were actually disobeying executive orders that they be killed.
And, so, the men who stayed up all night building them were committing treason. The Latter-day Saints, it was claimed, should have just accepted the will of the Government and allowed themselves to be massacred. And, because Joseph Smith was helping build the fortifications, Joseph Smith was guilty of treason.
Now, if that sounds insane, people in Missouri figured that out, and the charges didn’t stick. Eventually, the Government of Missouri realized that they couldn’t charge people with treason for building fortifications to protect themselves from an impending, government-sanctioned massacre. But, the government also realized it couldn’t let Joseph Smith, who was public enemy #1, walk out of jail to freedom – or it wouldn’t be able to control the populist outrage.
Remember, this is still right on the American Frontier. And, Missouri admits that it has a tenuous control over its citizens. So, in a sort of compromise, Joseph and other leaders of the church in jail were allowed to escape from their guards in Missouri, which is how they ended up in Nauvoo.
They actually walked to Illinois through backwoods, to avoid vigilante mobs, the same way that Porter would after being let out of jail and making his way back to Joseph’s Christmas party.
But, I say all this to let you know that Joseph wants to establish a political organization that is described in the bible as being a destructive force. This makes his neighbors scared.
Now, to add more nuance to it, even though Joseph is preaching that, at the same time, Joseph is preaching and teaching that this political organization that will take over the whole world won’t be violent and it won’t force people to enter into it. In one speech he said, “it will not be by sword or gun that his kingdom will roll on: the power of truth is such that all nations will be under the necessity of obeying the gospel.”
He looks at this giant stone growing out of the mountain as being so impressive. He looks at this government he will create as being so impressive, and full of so much truth and goodness, that people will voluntarily leave their own political organizations behind, and join his. He sees governments being destroyed by people abandoning them – not by his political organization crushing theirs through war and conquering.
This is the same principle, by the way, that Joseph governed people as Prophet of the restored Church of Jesus Christ and as Mayor. Whenever visitors would come to meet Joseph, and visit Nauvoo, they would regularly say, “hey. We’re really impressed with how good you are at controlling all these people that follow you. How do you do it?” And, Joseph tells them all. I don’t govern these people. I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves. I teach them what the Lord has revealed to me, and they control themselves.”
So, as a prophet, Joseph expects to show people greater truths, greater principles, greater laws than they currently know or understand, and then have them leave their old ways to join his new ways. It reminds me of one of my favorite church hymns “Know this that every soul is free, to choose his life and what he’ll be, for this eternal truth is given, that God will force no man to heaven.”
And, you know, this governing principle is probably the same reason why there were so many people who left Joseph’s church and started fighting against it. There was nothing keeping them there except themselves. There was no outside compulsion. Joseph, as a prophet, wasn’t forcing them to obey. So, converts join the religion. Then, when these Latter-day Saints are over it, they just left and started fighting against it.
Now, that being said – a lot of people don’t believe Joseph’s claim that the power of the truth he teaches is going to be so strong that people will voluntarily submit to his political organization. They think Joseph is, in their own words, an American Mohammad, who is going to gather up an army and force everyone into some sort of Latter-day Saint Caliphate. They think that Joseph is going to march his Nauvoo Legion all across America and kill everyone until they join his church.
They think Joseph is saying one thing, but planning or doing another thing. They think he is preaching peace, but getting ready for war.
The Latter-day Saints say Joseph is running for president because it is morally impossible for the Latter-day Saints to vote for a politician who did not support their being given their land and property back that was taken away from them in Missouri. Joseph is running from a city built by refugees from war who are only trying to protect themselves.
The Anti-Mormons say that story is a front, and Joseph is running for president because he wants to destroy the government and start his own. And, that the city that was built by refugees is actually a growing danger.
We have talked about two political storylines going on at once in the last 6 months of his life. One is this idea of Joseph establishing the Kingdom of Daniel and the other is Joseph’s presidential campaign.
A third political storyline Joseph has going on, at the same time, is that he and a group of men are trying to figure out a place the Latter-day Saints can go to be safe from persecution.
These Latter-day Saints were kicked out of Ohio – we haven’t really talked about that. But, a group of them were kicked out of Ohio, early on in the church’s founding. From Ohio, these members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ were kicked out of Missouri. Now, out of Missouri, their enemies are starting to grow their organizations in Illinois. And Joseph and the church just wants to get away from the persecution. They’re looking for a place to relocate – again. And, right now, the two areas they are most interested in escaping to are Oregon and Texas.
So, Joseph sends a group of men to try and secure a tract of land for the Latter-day Saints to settle in Texas. At the time, Texas isn’t in the United States. It is the Republic of Texas, and is its own country. So, a Latter-day Saint delegation from Nauvoo goes to Texas to talk with Sam Houston.
Joseph also sends two other men back to Washington D.C. – two Orsons. Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt. This is the same Orson Hyde that left the church in Missouri because he claimed Joseph wanted too much power. Orson came back, went on a mission to across the world to Palestine and Jerusalem, and is now going to Washington D.C. on behalf of Joseph Smith.
And, again, I just want to remind everyone listening, that while Joseph Smith is going through all these personal events that lead up to his death, everyone around him is also going through these wild stories. All the men and women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are dealing with their own spiritual lives as history rolled on around them.
And, Orson Hyde and the other Orson – Orson Pratt, are trying to get two things from the federal government when they visit Washington D.C.: 1) they’re trying to get reparations for their persecutions and stolen property in Missouri, and 2) they want congress to give Joseph authority to gather up an army and go settle Oregon Territory that Britain and America have joint custody over.
While these two things are happening, at the same time – a lot of moving parts here – Latter-day Saints go to New York City. They start printing a newspaper called, “The Prophet”. The Prophet is a political newspaper whose goal is to get Joseph Smith elected as president.
And the men running this paper – one of whom is Joseph Smith’s brother – are not trying to hide Joseph Smith’s religious claims to get him elected. It’s not like they’re trying to figure out how to make Joseph Smith less of a prophet, or less of a religious leader, so they can sell his presidency to the east coast. They’re embracing it. They say, in the second issue of their New York paper, that “they place before the world as a candidate for the chief Magistracy of this republic, the Prophet of the Last days, General Joseph Smith of Nauvoo, Illinois.” They refer to their presidential candidate as “the renowned and mysterious Prophet of the West.”
So, their whole point is, “this guy is God’s prophet – vote him for President, obviously.”
And immediately, on the national level, this starts to raise flags with newspapers about a presidential candidate who claims to speak with God, and visit with angels, and receive new revelations. They start to say, “We don’t know if this is real or not. We don’t know if this is a joke, or the prophet really thinks he can win. But, we all need to be cautious.”
Now top of all these things that create political friction between Joseph Smith and his enemies – on top of the Kingdom of Daniel, the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and Joseph’s local power and influence, and the Latter-day Saint voting bloc, and the fact that Joseph is asking congress to give him authority to raise up an army to go out to Oregon – is the very simple problem that Joseph Smith is a 3rd party presidential candidate in the American political system.
America, at the time, has 2 political parties – the Whigs and the Democrats. The Whigs would later split and become the Republican party. But, now, as a 3rd party candidate, Joseph Smith is going to pull votes away from the Whigs. And the Whigs know that, can’t have that.
And, we talked earlier in this episode about all these letters Joseph Smith is writing to and getting back from leading national political figures. Well, these letters that he has been writing back and forth with national political leaders are being published all over the country in newspapers. Joseph’s letters. Henry Clay’s letters. John Calhoun’s letters.
Not only are these letters being reprinted, but a Latter-day Saint Newspaper in Nauvoo, and Thomas Sharp’s Anti-Mormon newspaper in Warsaw are publishing editorials on the letters. And, those editorials are getting printed and mailed out to all the major newspapers across the country. So, newspaper men are not only reading Joseph Smith arguing with the nations politicians, but they’re reading local Illinois newspaper arguing about Joseph Smith’s arguing.
It’s a little political storm, and it’s getting riled up more and more by all these members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that get sent out as electioneers – to try and drum up votes for Joseph. And, these are hybrid electioneers slash Missionaries. Because, we talked about the New York City newspaper – the Prophet – as saying “vote for Joseph Smith because he’s God’s prophet in these last days.” These electioneers are the same thing. They’re preaching the gospel of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. And, they’re preaching about the restoration of God’s priesthood through Joseph Smith.
But, there are hundreds of these men, and women, leaving Nauvoo as electioneers for Joseph Smith. They are very excited about Joseph running for president. A lot of them are leaving on steamboats from Nauvoo. And on the steamboats they’re preaching the doctrine of their new religion to people and campaigning for Joseph Smith. And, they’re holding mock elections, to see how the people on the steamboats are going to vote – to gauge public interest. And, because the steamboats are leaving out of heavily-Latter-day Saint Nauvoo, Joseph Smith is winning every one of these steamboat polls. And so this is only making the electioneers more excited, and more focused, to get joseph elected as president.
The main tract they used in their campaigning was a pamphlet Joseph Smith had written called, “Views of the Power and Policy of the government of the United States.”
One of the policies Joseph outlines in the pamphlet is prison reform. Joseph thought all prisons should be taken down, and that only murderers should be put in them. But, this makes sense when you stop and remember that Joseph had been in and out of prison for the last 14 years of his life – mostly for charges that never stuck, or were proven to be unsubstantiated.
Joseph said that it wasn’t fair to put people in jail and expect them to reform, or pay off debts, and then get back off their feet and somehow get back into society. So, that was just one of his platforms.
Most of the electioneers were printing out copies of Joseph’s “Views of the government” pamphlet. Printing them out by the thousands and reading them on stumps, and handing them to people. And a lot of people that these Latter-day Saint electioneers talk to think Joseph Smith is either insane or a genius.
A side effect, of all these missionaries leaving to electioneer for Joseph’s presidential campaign, is that Joseph’s friends are leaving Nauvoo. They’re going back east to Boston, and New York, and Pennsylvania.
Joseph has many close friends and trusted associates. But, some of his most ardent supporters and fiery advocates, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball among the foremost, have left Nauvoo.
We talked earlier about how the 2nd highest governing body in the church was called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Well, by the time Joseph Smith is brought to Carthage, Illinois, in late June of 1844 and murdered, only 2 of the 12 apostles are in Nauvoo. Everyone else is gone – and they’re leaving right in the middle of William Law’s secret meetings, and oaths to assent to their leader’s destruction.
And, William Law and his supporters are becoming more outspoken against the prophet. They have started to openly disregard city rules. They don’t listen to the Sheriff. They want to see the entire city destroyed.
Joseph’s trusted friends are leaving while, in Nauvoo, Joseph is continuing to fight against William Law, the new prophet of the reformation church. William Law’s anti-Joseph Smith paper, the Nauvoo Expositor, has gotten its press in and is getting close to publishing its first issue.
All these close followers of Joseph are leaving to go back east while Thomas Sharp’s anti-Mormon paper, the Warsaw Signal, continues to rail against them. Speaking out against Joseph. Making veiled threats against their safety. It is a charged environment.
But, these people are oblivious to the dangerous situation they’re leaving.
One of those 12 apostles of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, Wilford Woodruff, who ends up leaving as an electioneer doesn’t want to go out and to earn votes for Joseph. He wants to stay back in Nauvoo. But, Joseph tells him that he must leave to campaign for his presidential election. Joseph tells Wilford that if he stays in Nauvoo he will be killed. Because the prophet can feel his death coming.
ON THE NEXT PODCAST:
So, we now have 3 groups of people who want to destroy Joseph Smith: the local anti-Mormons led by Thomas Sharp, the members of the reformation church led by William Law, and now these members of the national political scene who are starting to become scared and concerned about this 3rd party presidential candidate.
On the next episode a match is lit and the fire keg that has been building underneath Joseph goes off.