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The Nauvoo Expositor was a newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois that published only one issue, which was dated June 7, 1844. Its publication set off a chain of events that led to the death of Latter Day Saint movement Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr..
The Expositor was founded by several seceders from Nauvoo church and was critical of Smith and LDS leadership. They espoused a belief in Mormonism, but criticized Smith for doctrines like plural marriage, and exaltation.
The destruction of the press led to charges of Riot against Smith and others. After Smith surrendered on the charge of riot, he was additionally charged with treason. Smith was killed by a mob while awaiting a trial.
- 1 Background and origins
- 2 Contents of the Nauvoo Expositor - June 7 1844
- 3 Reception and destruction
- 4 Immediate aftermath
- 5 After Illinois
- 6 Modern analysis
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Background and origins
A group of former members of the church were in open conflict with Smith for various doctrinal, economic, and political reasons.
By 1841, Joseph Smith had begun marrying women in Nauvoo (See List of Joseph Smith's wives). In 1842, apostate John C. Bennett made public allegations of Smith's unorthodox marriages. On August 12, 1843, Hyrum Smith read the revelation concerning plural marriage to the Nauvoo High Council.
William Law was a member of the First Presidency. According to William Law, Smith had made several proposals to Law's wife Jane, under the premise that Jane Law would enter a polyandrous marriage with Smith. Law's wife later described Smith's proposals, saying that Smith had "asked her to give him half her love; she was at liberty to keep the other half for her husband." On January 8, 1844, Smith removed Law from the First Presidency. On April 18, 1844, William Law and his wife Jane were excommunicated from the church,  along with his brother Wilson Law, a brigadier general in the Nauvoo Legion. Also cut off were Robert D. Foster and Howard Smith.
On May 1, Francis Higbee filed a legal complaint in the Fifth Judicial District of Illinois, suing Joseph Smith for Slander, with requested damages of five thousand dollars.
On May 10, a Prospectus was circulated announcing the creation of the Expositor.
On May 18, the Church excommunicated James Blakesley, Colonel Francis M. Higbee of the Nauvoo Legion, Charles Ivins, and Austin Cowles of the High Council, for apostasy. On May 29, the High Council published document purporting to show Francis's brother Chauncey L. Higbee had also committed misdeeds.
On May 23, William Law obtained a grand jury indictment against Joseph Smith on the charge of polygamy from the Hancock County Circuit Court. Law swore that that Smith had been living with Maria Lawrence 'in an open state of adultery' since October 12, 1843.
The Expositor was planned as an exposé of the church's practices which Law and his associates opposed.
The publishers are listed as
- William Law of the First Presidency, and his brother, Brigadier General Wilson Law of the Nauvoo Legion,
- Charles Ivins,
- Col. Francis M. Higbee of Nauvoo Legion, and his brother Chauncey L. Higbee,
- Robert D. Foster and Charles A. Foster.
Named & Sworn Affidavits are given by
- William Law of First Presidency (also a publisher)
- Jane Law, William's wife
- Austin Cowles of the Nauvoo High Council.
Contents of the Nauvoo Expositor - June 7 1844
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The only issue of the Nauvoo Expositor, dated June 7, 1844, was a four-page publication. In addition to more mundane content such as poetry and marriage announcements, it contained as statement from the "Seceders from the Church at Nauvoo" and sworn statements from multiple individuals attesting to the teaching of "the plurality of wives".
- Prospectus from Publishers
In their prospectus, the publishers advocate for major reforms including the repeal of the Nauvoo City Charter. They vow to "decry moral imperfections" wherever found, "whether in the Plebeian, Patrician, or self-constituted monarch;"
Statement from Seceders
The preamble establishes that despite the schism, the authors maintain their belief in "the religion of the Latter Day Saints, as originally taught by Joseph Smith".
The statement discusses the schism, attributed to "many items of doctrine, as now taught, some of which, however, are taught secretly, and denied openly" which they declare "heretical and damnable". They cite the "false doctrine of many Gods", saying "It is contended that there are innumerable Gods as much above the God that presides over this universe, as he is above us; and if he varies from the law unto which he is subjected, he, with all his creatures, will be cast down as was Lucifer;"
The statement criticizes the process behind the recent excommunication, writing "Smith has established an inquisition"-- a process they "contend is contrary to the book of Doctrine and Covenants, for our law condemnest no man until he is heard."
The statement suggests their struggle will be on-going, writing: "We most solemnly and sincerely declare that the sword of truth shall not depart from the thigh, nor the buckler from the arm, until we can enjoy those glorious privileges which nature's God and our country's laws have guarantied to us — freedom of speech, the liberty of the press, and the right to worship God as seemeth us good."
The authors resolve not to "acknowledge any man as king or law-giver to the church" and vow to oppose "every attempt to unite church and state".
They accuse Smith and other church officials of introducing "false and damnable doctrines into the Church, such as a plurality of Gods above the God of this universe, and his liability to fall with all his creations; the plurality of wives, for time and eternity, the doctrine of unconditional sealing up to eternal life, against all crimes except that of sheding innocent blood."
The Expositor contained affidavits alleging the teaching of a revelation from Prophet Joseph Smith which "authorized certain men to have more wives than one at a time". Statements were made by William Law, his wife Jane, and Austin Cowles.
Among the other content included in the Expositor:
- Poetry: The Last Man by Thomas Campbell
- ADELINE, or, The Two Suitors.
- An announcement of JOHN M. FINCH's candidacy for Hancock County Sheriff.
- An award for Pensmanship and advertisement for penmanship lessons
- A wedding announcement
- An article about the Philadelphia riots
Reception and destruction
Mayor Smith called a meeting of the City Council, where "he proceeded to put the Expositor and its editors on trial, as if that body was of a judicial instead of a legislative character." The "trial" "lasted all of Saturday, June 8, and a part of Monday, June 10".
After the city council declared the Expositor a public nuisance, Mayor Smith issued two orders for the Expositor's destruction. City Marshall John P. Greene, accompanied by a posse of several hundred, carried out the destruction.
Members of the Municipal Government, Summer 1844:
- Mayor Smith
- Councilor Hyrum Smith
- Councilor John Taylor
- Councilor Sylvester Emmons
- Councilor Jonhnson
- Councilor Benjamin Warrington
- Councilor Hunter
- Alderman Samuel C. Bennett
- Alderman Elias Smith (Mormon)
|Orders of June 10, 1844|
Order of Joseph Smith, Mayor (June 10, 1844)
To the Marshal of said City [Nauvoo], greeting.
You are hereby commanded to destroy the printing press from whence issues the Nauvoo Expositor, and pi the type of said printing establishment in the street, and burn all the Expositors and libelous handbills found in said establishment; and if resistance be offered to your execution of this order by the owner or others, demolish the house: and if anyone threatens you or the Mayor or the officers of the city, arrest those who threaten you, and fail not to execute this order without delay, and make due return thereon. By order of the City Council, JOSEPH SMITH, MAYOR
Order to Jonathan Dunham, acting Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion (June 10, 1844)
You are hereby commanded to hold the Nauvoo Legion in readiness forthwith to execute city ordinances, and especially to remove the printing establishment of the Nauvoo Expositor; and this is what you are required to do at sight, under the penalty of the laws, provided the Marshal shall require it and need your services.
Seeking relief from the state courts, Francis M. Higbee, one of the Expositor's publishers, gave a sworn statement about the events of June 10. On June 12, the Hancock County Justice of the Peace issued a warrant for the arrest of Smith and 17 other named individuals under the jurisdiction of the Hancock County Court. Specifically named were:
- Joseph Smith, Samuel Bennett, [Councilor] John Taylor, William W. Phelps, [Councilor] Hyrum Smith, [Marshal] John P. Greene, Stephen Perry, Dimick B Huntington, Jonathan Dunham, Stephen Markham, William Edwards, Jonathan Holmes, Jesse P. Harmon, John Lytle, Joseph W. Coolidge, Harvey D. Redfield, Porter Rockwell and Levi Richards
First arrest attempt
Constable David Bettisworth was tasked with arresting Joseph Smith and conveying him to the Hancock County Court. On June 12, Bettisworth served Smith with the warrant. Rather than return with Bettisworth to the Hancock County Court, Smith instead petitioned the unrelated Municipal Court of Nauvoo to dismiss the charges.
On June 12, a hearing was held in the Municipal Court of Nauvoo (not to be confused with Hancock County Court which issued the warrant). The Municipal Court of Nauvoo dismissed the charges against Smith. The following day, Smith presided over the Municipal Court of Nauvoo when it dismissed the charges against the others named in the Hancock County Court warrant. Unable to compel Smith to return, Bettisworth left Nauvoo without Smith or any the others named in the arrest warrant.
Wider response in Illinois
On June 13, citizens of Hancock County gathered in the county seat for a mass-meeting in response to the destruction of the Expositor. The meeting resolved to seek help from the Governor, writing:
Whereas said Smith and others refuse to obey the mandate of said writ; and whereas in the opinion of this meeting, it is impossible for said officer so raise a posse of sufficient strength to execute said writ; [...] it is the opinion of this meeting that the circumstances of the case require the interposition of executive power. Therefore,
Resolved, that a deputation of two discreet men be sent to Springfield to solicit such interposition.
The following day, the anti-Mormon Warsaw Signal published the resolutions, editorializing that "[r]epeated attempts have been made to arrest Smith, but he has been uniformly screened from the officers of Justice, by the aid of the Municipal Court [of Nauvoo], which is the tool and echo of himself."
In the investigation it appeared evident to the council that the proprietors were a set of unprincipled men, lawless, debouchees, counterfeiters, Bogus Makers, gamblers, peace disturbers, and that the grand object of said proprietors was to destroy our constitutional rights and chartered privileges; to overthrow all good and wholesome regulations in society; to strengthen themselves against the municipality; to fortify themselves against the church of which I am a member, and destroy all our religious rights and privileges, by libels, slanders, falsehoods, perjury & sticking at no corruption to accomplish their hellish purposes. and that said paper of itself was libelous of the deepest dye, and very injurious as a vehicle of defamation,—tending to corrupt the morals, and disturb the peace, tranquillity and happiness of the whole community, and especially that of Nauvoo.
In response to the crisis, Governor Ford traveled to Hancock County, and on June 21, he arrived at the county seat in Carthage.
On June 22, Gov. Ford wrote to the Mayor and City Council of Nauvoo, writing:
I now express to you my opinion that your conduct in the destruction of the press was a very gross outrage upon the laws and the liberties of the people. It may have been full of libels, but this did not authorize you to destroy it.
There are many newspapers in this state which have been wrongfully abusing me for more than a year, and yet such is my regard for the liberty of the press and the rights of a free people in a republican government that I would shed the last drop of my blood to protect those presses from any illegal violence.
The owners of the press obtained [...] a warrant against the authors of this destruction for a riot;
They [(the Defendants)] have ever since refused to be arrested or to submit to a trial at any other place or before any other court, except in the city and before the Municipal Court [of Nauvoo].
|Letter from Governor Ford to Joseph Smith, June 22|
HEADQUARTERS CARTHAGE, June 22, 1844. To the Mayor and Council of the City of Nauvoo:
GENTLEMEN.-After examining carefully all the allegations on the part of the citizens of the country in Hancock county, and the defensive matters submitted to me by the committee of your citizens concerning the existing disturbances, I find that there appears to be but little contradiction as to important facts, so that it may be safely assumed that the immediate cause of the existing excitement is the destruction of the press and Nauvoo Expositor, and the subsequent refusal of the individuals accused to be accountable therefore according to the general laws of this state, and the insisting on your parts to be accountable only before your own municipal court, and according to the ordinances of your city.
Smith fled the jurisdiction to avoid arrest, crossing the Mississippi River into Iowa. On June 23, a posse under the command of the governor entered Nauvoo to execute an arrest warrant, but they were unable to locate Smith.
Surrender and the death of the Smiths
On June 25, 1844, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, along with the other fifteen co-defendants, surrendered to constable Bettisworth on the original charge of inciting a riot. An arraignment was held on the rioting charge and Justice Robert F. Smith granted bail of $500 for each of the defendant.
After the defendants were granted bail on the riot charge, Justice R. F. Smith heard testimony by Augustine Spencer and issued a writ for the arrest of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on the charged of treason. Joseph and Hyrum were placed under arrest for the charge of treason and transported to the jail.
|Writ of Arrest on the Charge of Treason|
State of Illinois, City of Nauvoo. ss The people of the State of Illinois, to all sheriffs, coroners and constables of said state greeting: Whereas complaint has been made before me, one of the justices of the peace in and for said county aforesaid, upon the oath of Augustine Spencer, that Joseph Smith, late of the county aforesaid, did, on or about the nineteenth day of June. A. D. 1844, at the county and state aforesaid, commit the crime of treason against the government and people of the State of Illinois aforesaid. These are therefore to command you to take the said Joseph Smith if he be found in your county, or if he shall have fled, that you pursue after the said Smith into another county within this state, and take and safely keep the said Joseph Smith, so that you have his body forthwith before me to answer the said complaint and be further dealt with according to law. [Seal] Given under my hand and seal this 24th day of June, A. D. 1844.
R. F. Smith, J. P.
Repeal of Nauvooo Charter and Exodus
At the next session of the Illinois state legislature the following December, the Nauvoo Charter was repealed by a vote of 25–14 in the Senate and 75–31 in the House. This disincorporated the City of Nauvoo and dissolved its municipal institutions. Nauvoo municipal assets were court-ordered to be placed in receivership.
After the Mormon Exodus, Mormons resettled in Utah, with Brigham Young becoming Governor of Utah Territory.
Public teaching of plural marriage
In 1852, LDS leader Brigham Young publicly revealed the LDS teaching of plural marriage. Reportedly, the plural marriage doctrines had their origin in a early-1840s revelation from Prophet Joseph Smith.
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A detailed legal analysis of the Nauvoo City Council's actions was undertaken by Dallin H. Oaks, then a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Oaks opined that while the destruction of the Expositor's printing press was legally questionable, under the law of the time the newspaper certainly could have been declared libelous and therefore a public nuisance by the Nauvoo City Council. As a result, Oaks concludes that while under contemporaneous law it would have been legally permissible for city officials to destroy, or "abate," the actual printed newspapers, the destruction of the printing press itself was probably outside of the council's legal authority, and its owners could have sued for damages.
- "Polygamy, Persecution And Power", Salt Lake Tribune, June 16, 1996, paragraph 16, 17
- History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume VI (1912), pp. 430-432. The council met on June 8 and June 10 to discuss the matter.
- History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume VI (1912), p. 432: "The Council passed an ordinance declaring the Nauvoo Expositor a nuisance, and also issued an order to me to abate the said nuisance. I immediately ordered the Marshall to destroy it without delay." – Joseph Smith
- Newell 1994, pp. 111–113
- D&C 132
- "Wife no. 19", Ann Eliza Young, 1875, page 61
- Cook, Lyndon W. "William Law, Nauvoo Dissenter". (10.2 MB) BYU Studies. Winter, 1982. Vol. 22, no. 1, p. 47-72
- http://library.untraveledroad.com/Ch/Linn/Mormons/Illinois/Expositor.htm#FNanchor1[unreliable source?]
- Letter from Joseph Smith to Thomas Ford (14 June 1844)
- Firmage, Edwin Brown; Mangrum, Richard Collin (2001). Zion in the courts. University of Illinois: University of Illinois Press. pp. 114 & 115 of 430 pages. ISBN 0-252-06980-3.
- "Military Service Records of LDS Men". Genealogy Gateway. 1995. Retrieved 15 June 2009. Paragraph 6.
- Oaks has since become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Oaks, Dallin H. "The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor." Utah Law Review 9 (Winter 1965):862–903.
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