The Nauvoo Expositor – A Different Perspective

So, in reading The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, the author D Michael Quinn makes a very interesting claim.  While most people think the publication of polygamy was the reason that Joseph Smith ordered the destruction of the printing press, Quinn makes a more startling reason–that Joseph was attempting alliances with foreign nations, and he didn’t want that to get out.  Quinn almost acts as if the Expositor had only been about polygamy, then Smith would have left it alone.

We read this book for my book club.  One of the other guys in the club majored in history, and he questions the validity of Quinn’s interpretations, so I will say that it is up in the air as to this accusation, but here’s how Quinn tells it.  Basically, Joseph was upset with the mistreatment of the Mormons, and wanted to set up a theocracy.  To some degree, Richard Bushman agrees with that in this Pew Research Forum interview.  Quinn says that most of these contacts were to be done in secret.  Smith sent ambassadors to

  1. England,
  2. the Republic of Texas (a foreign nation at the time),
  3. France, and
  4. Russia.

I’ve changed the formatting, but from page 132,

The assignment of ambassadors indicates the expansiveness of Smith’s intentions.  The council decided on 13 March that “Amos Fielding should return to England.” To mask the theocratic origin of this assignment, Joseph and Hyrum Smith signed a certificate for Fielding “to transact such business as may be deemed necessary for the benefit of said Church.”  The next day the Council of Fifty sent Lucien Woodworth on “a mission to Texas.”  After Smith signed Orson Hyde’s public credentials as a church missionary on 30 March, the council commissioned him on 4 April as its emissary to Washington, DC.  Next the Fifty voted to send Almon W Babbitt to France.

On 7 June, a week after the last meeting under Smith’s direction, he and his brother Hyrum signed a missionary certificate for George J. Adams “to the empire of Russia.”  This appeared to be simply a reinstatement of an earlier assignment for Adams to proselytize in Russia, but Council of Fifty members knew otherwise.  Almon W. Babbitt, ambassador to France, later told the Council of Fifty that “the Russian Mission” was connected to Uriah Brown’s invention “to destroy an army or navy.”  Even before the council’s formation, Joseph and Hyrum Smith explained that the proposed mission to Russia involved “some of the most important things concerning the advancement and building up of the kingdom of God in the last days, which cannot be explained at this time.”  Like the certificate to Amos Fielding three months earlier, Adams written commission provided a ministerial cover for a theocratic ambassador.

As proof for this, Quinn tells that there were negotiations with Sam Houston, President of the Republic of Texas for a Mormon district in his country.  Smith also wanted to coordinate interests with the U.S. Congress, France, Russia, and England, who all had a stake in claims in Oregon and California territories.  In Quinn’s mind, it seems that Smith wanted to have a presence with all the key players in the territorial disputes so Mormons could take advantage of any further problems in the U.S.  It is important to remember that the Mississippi River was essentially the border of the United States at this time, though the U.S. had several claims to the western territories, and was actively trying to expand the borders, including areas of Canada (as I mentioned in my post about Joseph Smith’s Presidential platform.)  Quinn also states (without footnotes to back it up) on page 134, that Joseph “had publicly proposed to lead 100,000 soldiers and privately commissioned Mormon scouts to act as an exploring party.”

Quinn further outlines that the Illinois legislature, which had previously granted a liberal charter for Nauvoo, was now trying to revoke the town charter.  In response, Smith petitioned Congress to make Nauvoo an independent territory.   This also led to Smith’s presidential candidacy.  While Smith took the presidential campaign seriously, he also knew that as a third party candidate, he could try to extract concessions even if he was unsuccessful in his presidential bid.  Quinn states on page 136,

If Smith could succeed as a third party “spoiler” in the 1844 presidential electoral vote, he would have the power to demand concessions regarding Nauvoo from whomever the U.S. House of Representatives elected.  The House’s election of John Quincy Adams twenty years earlier proved such a bargain was possible….

Even if both U.S. efforts failed, Smith was preparing a safe retreat for Mormon settlers to the western territories of Mexican California, British Columbia, or the Republic of Texas.  Again Smith would send settlers wherever the theocratic ambassadors had successfully prepared the way.”

I will state that Clean Cut has an interesting post on Lyman Wight’s Mormon colony in Texas.  It is also interesting to me that Sidney Rigdon (who led a Mormon movement after Joseph’s death) sent a missionary by the name of Stephen Post to British Columbia.  Post was able to set up a small congregation loyal to Rigdon, but it did not last long.

Quinn goes on to state how some church members became alarmed about Smith’s intentions of theocracy, when he was ordained a king.  From page 137,

Their worst fears seemed confirmed when Smith publicly announced on 12 May 1844, a month after his kingly anointing: “I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world.”  He stressed that this revolution “will not be by the sword or gun,” and a recent interpreter observes that Smith emphasized “conversion, not coercion” as the basis of his revolution.  Nevertheless, Smith’s sermon about revolution had an immediate and measurable impact on Nauvoo.  Several hours later, 300 people attended the meeting of William Law’s “Reformed Church” which openly rejected a Mormon theocracy.

Quinn speculates that Smith may have used the words of revolution to a Council of Fifty meeting on 22 April, which caused some alarm among those in attendance, and they informed the recently excommunicated William Law of Joseph’s ordination as “King, Priest and Ruler over Israel on Earth.”  From page 138,

On 10 May 1844 Smith’s former counselor William Law and his fellow religious dissenters distributed a prospectus for their newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor.  It advocated repeal of Nauvoo’s charter and proposed to reveal “gross moral imperfections” in Nauvoo.  This was nothing new.  Arguments in favor of repealing the charter had appeared for months, and partial (but accurate) lists of Smith’s plural wives had circulated in the anti-Mormon press since 1842.

However, there was a disturbing reference in the prospectus about Nauvoo’s “SELF-CONSTITUTED MONARCH.”  If Smith doubted that this vague statement hinted at betrayal by one of the Fifty, he did not want to risk even the possibility of disclosure.  On 13 May he “called a meeting of the Kingdom,” during which the Nauvoo Expositor‘s prospectus was a topic of discussion.

Quinn goes on to report that Sidney Rigdon approached Law to try to arrange some peace.  Law was offered to be reinstated back into the church, along with his wife and friends.  Law would regain his old position as counselor in the First Presidency.

Law countered with his own ultimatum.  He refused to accept reinstatement unless Smith publicly apologized for teaching and practicing “the doctrine of the plurality of wives.”  Otherwise, Law said, “we would publish all to the world.”  Ridgon “said he had not authority to go so far.”

On the surface this was a failure of Rigdon’s ecclesiastical mission from the Fifty.  However, Law had not mentioned the Council of Fifty or Smith’s office as king.  This may have reassured Smith that the members of the council had maintained its secrets.  Therefore he took no action to forcibly suppress the pre-announced publication of the Expositor‘s first issue the next month.  Smith no longer seemed greatly concerned that the dissident publication would reveal secrets about his polygamy and would advocate repeal of Nauvoo’s charter.  Such publicity did not justify his taking the risk of attacking freedom of the press.

However, he got a shock when the first issue of the Nauvoo Expositor appeared on 7 June.  Law and associates proclaimed: “We will not acknowledge any man as king or lawgiver to the church: for Christ is our only king and lawgiver.”  The first issue promised that details of all its allegations would appear in the next edition.  In fact, these dissenters intended to emphasize the details of Smith’s “delectable plan of Government,” according to Francis M. Higbee’s private outline of what their publication would do.

Smith realized that Council of Fifty members had betrayed him.  He could not allow the Expositor to publish the secret international negotiations masterminded by Mormonism’s earthly king.

Quinn goes on to say that Smith no longer trusted the Council of Fifty, and directed the city council to declare the Expositor a public nuisance, which officially ordered the destruction of the printing press.  Quinn on page 139 says that Law wrote in his diary, “I could not even suspect men of being such fools.”

Of course, we know the chain of events that followed.  Smith and other church leaders were charged with treason, and escaped to avoid jail.  Citizens in Nauvoo accused him of cowardice, to which Smith replied, “If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself”, and he turned himself in at Carthage.  Quinn does give some interesting details of this last few weeks.  From page 141,

To Smith, the kingdom was dead.  On the evening of 25 June a trusted mormon friend gave him final verification of treachery in the Council of Fifty.  The man reported that dissident Wilson Law was saying that “the kingdom referred to [in Daniel] was already set up, and that he [Joseph Smith] was the king over it.”

[PLEASE NOTE: THIS PARAGRAPH IS BASED ON A HOFMANN FORGERY.]  The morning of 27 June, Smith sent an order (in his own handwriting) to Major-General Jonathan Dunham to lead the Nauvoo Legion in a military attack on Carthage “immediately” to free the prisoners.  Dunham realized that such an assault by the Nauvoo Legion would result in two blood baths–one in Carthage and another when anti-Mormons (and probably the Illinois militia) retaliated by laying seige to Nauvoo for insurrection.  To avoid civil war and destruction of Nauvoo’s population, Dunham refused to obey the order and did not notify Smith of his decision.  One of his lieutenants, a former Danite, later complained that Dunham “did not let a single mortal know that he had received such orders.”

About 5 p.m. on Thursday, 27 June 1844, more than 250 men approached the Carthage Jail.  When informed by the panicky jailer, Joseph Smith replied: “Don’t trouble yourself [-] they have come to rescue me.”  That was not to be.

We all know that Joseph and Hyrum were killed, apostle John Taylor was severly wounded, and apostle William Richards escaped with only a scratch.  So what do you think of Quinn’s research?


31 comments on “The Nauvoo Expositor – A Different Perspective

  1. I found the Pew discussion fascinating most for the identities of the questioners — very recognizable bylines here in the Washington area. But what I found most fascinating is that they equated Mormons with Republicans. Isn’t the Democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reed, also LDS?

  2. Yes, FireTag, Harry Reid is one of the minority LDS democrats. I can tell you here in Utah, that most people think Reid is not a good Mormon, simply because he is a democrat (and they don’t like his stance on gay marriage.) In the Western US, mormon=republican. It’s not that way back east–my aunt lives in the DC area, and good mormons can be thought of as democrats, but here in the west, a mormon democrat is almost an oxymoron.

    Now there are exceptions, like Harry Reid. Utah hasn’t elected a democrat for governor since Scott Matheson (also LDS) left office in 1985. His son, democrat Jim Matheson is a US Representative for Utah. But Salt Lake County is actually less Mormon, and more politically liberal than any other county in Utah. Everybody I know wishes Matheson would just lose so “God’s party” (ie republicans) would win. Salt Lake City hasn’t had a republican mayor since Jake Garn in the 1970’s. The last Mormon SLC had as mayor was LDS democrat Ted Wilson in the 1980’s. Everybody outside of SLC hated Wilson, and I remember being quite surprised to learn he was in the stake presidency in my student ward. (He actually gave me a temple recommend in the 1990’s.)

    Personally, I vote democrat almost as often as I vote republican. I like Matheson, and his father was a good governor too. I know the church talks about being politically neutral, but nobody here believes it. It’s fun to point out that Pres Hinckley, and some apostles like James E Faust were democrats, but people always think I’m lying, because no good Mormon votes democrat. See, I really am a heretic!

    I loved the Bushman interview at the Pew Forum, and want to highlight that in some future blog posts.

  3. Firetag, outside of Utah and the US, most members of the Church who follow US politics wonder why American Mormons are Republicans. This is especially true after the Bush years. While Harry Reid is considered a “bad Mormon” for his Democrat views, he’s probably only a moderate to us “evil socialists” in Europe. 🙂

    MH, this was a fascinating post. Quite the claims Quinn makes. It just seems strange to think of Joseph Smith wanting to set up a theocracy when we supposedly believe in the separation of church and state. Also, the fact that so many American Mormons equate right-wing Republicanism or Libertarianism with “God’s politics.”

  4. I think the thing that is most unusual about the fact that Mormons so often vote Republican is the very fact that the Republican Party was founded specifically to rid the nation of the twin evils of “slavery and polygamy.” The Republican party was founded just after Smith’s death, and while the democrats weren’t fond of polygamy either, they were certainly more liked than republicans.

    You might want to check out an old post of mine. Utah Mormons Used to be Democrats–What Happened?

  5. One other thought. The interesting thing about really scrutinizing history is that you get a different perspective on things. I don’t think many Mormons realize that there were real reasons for the early Saints being persecuted so harshly. Did the Saints get what they deserved? No, of course I don’t think so. I’m sure they were treated harshly and unfairly time and time again. However, I don’t think that all the fears and suspicions of their persecutors were completely unfounded — especially if this particular story has any truth to it. If we had been on the other side of this story back in the day, what are the chances that we would have done exactly what all those who persecuted and betrayed Joseph Smith did? The odds would probably be pretty decent. And since this was back in the day when media was fairly primitive, it wasn’t so easy to get the “real story,” whatever it was. That’s hard enough today.

    How would we feel if some religious leader — particularly one with a reasonable influence — were planning to establish a theocracy in our respective countries? I know I’d be horrified by the idea — even if it were a Mormon theocracy.

  6. FD, you make a very interesting point. The church desires unity, as mentioned in the scriptures.

    “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.”
    “Let there be no inequality among you.”
    “Be One with the Father.”
    “Let there be no dissension among you.”


    Yet, this unity has the possibility of trampling rights in a democracy. Anyone who does not conform, risks upsetting this precious unity. Diversity is seen as a threat to unity.

    When the Saints gathered together, they often voted as a bloc, in order to have this unity spoken of in the scriptures. Yet, if one doesn’t believe that Joseph Smith is correct, then it looks exactly like any dictatorship. While unity is desired by democracy, it can also be used as a weapon of the majority against the minority.

    As you said, if a group of people moved into my neighborhood wanting to stack the city council with members supporting a strip club, or sharia law, or Catholocism, it would be viewed as a real threat to me and my beliefs. I can understand why non-Mormons got upset, because these immigrants from New York, England, etc voted in a bloc.

    Even in Utah, it still seems to be a problem. Mitt Romney got 90% of the republican vote. So I can understand why people are concerned. Now, if two Mormons run, such as Mitt and Jon Huntsman, many view that as a problem because it will split the Mormon vote. Well, yes it will, but it will also force Mormons to pick the better candidate.

    Unity in a democracy can lead to tyranny. I can definitely see that as a problem.

    The real question is how do we become unified, without trampling dissenters. How does God do that?

  7. “Even in Utah, it still seems to be a problem. Mitt Romney got 90% of the republican vote. So I can understand why people are concerned.”

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Mormons even realize how their one-sided voting actually, sadly, seems to confirm the stereotypes and suspicions of those who think that Mormons can’t think for themselves. I remember following the polls during the election and the two states with the widest margin between McCain and Obama were, guess who, UT and ID. It was huge, something like 30-35%. And it’s consistently so in every election. That’s the troubling part. Democrats need not campaign in UT because they know it’s pointless. It doesn’t matter what they say or what their platform is. As long as people like Harry Reid or other Democrats are seen as “bad Mormons,” the game is over before it’s even started. Bush would probably get re-elected there right now, even against Obama.

    “The real question is how do we become unified, without trampling dissenters. How does God do that?”

    Wow, good question. In a theocracy, I just don’t think it would be possible. All we have to do is look at the theocracies that exist in the world today. Would any of us want to live there?

  8. Yes, but doesn’t 3 Nephi portray the ideal theocracy, at least for 200 years or so after Christ’s visit?

  9. FD:

    I’ve lived most of my adult life in the bluest of the blue Congressional districts — the real split in the country is urban vs rural districts. I’ve actually had the experience of family members being shunned when visiting Independence congregations when people were offended that my family wasn’t working to elect Obama. It seems when either the left or right acquires to much power, things become problematic.

    Perhaps the unity of the church body is to be achieved the way it is in the physical body — with opposing muscles or hormones keeping each other in balance.

  10. Perhaps the unity of the church body is to be achieved the way it is in the physical body — with opposing muscles or hormones keeping each other in balance.

    Interesting premise Firetag, but that’s not how I understand 3 Nephi. Do you?

  11. “Yes, but doesn’t 3 Nephi portray the ideal theocracy, at least for 200 years or so after Christ’s visit?”

    I suppose we have to ask ourselves whether a theocracy today could work just as it did back then. I don’t know, I have my doubts, for a couple of main reasons:

    1.) I’m not sure that the US or many of the world’s countries today could be as homogenous as the people in 3 Nephi. While we all share common needs and desires as human beings, sometimes it seems that there is a huge gap between the different religions and cultures of the world — or even just America.

    2.) If we look at the LDS population alone as being a part of a religious “theocracy,” are we (i.e. prophets and leaders) really always running it the way that God intends? I have my doubts of course, but that’s a whole other topic. 🙂 How well could we expect the leaders of a theocracy to run things? How would the rights of dissidents and non-believers be protected?

    It is, of course, another story if the Lord Himself is the one running the theocracy. But in my opinion, He’d have to physically be here running the show. Revelation has shown to be unreliable in some cases.

  12. Well, the crucificion catastrophy was a rather effective “evolutionary selection effect”, and maybe we can get to the point where people are so filled with love that they can allow their own views to be moderated by their opponents. But I kind of suspect that “there must needs be opposition in all thbings” is a more general and recurring principle.

    I believe that God builds complexity, which can involve both the building of community AND its individualization and separation. He sure seems to do a lot of grafting in Jacob’s sermon about the olive trees.

  13. So, what I’m hearing from you both is that short of a miracle of Christ’s 2nd coming, there is no way in practice to have a model theocracy in today’s world. I must agree. Joseph Smith certainly tried, and failed.

    Is there anything we can implement, or is democracy the next best thing?

  14. A secular, social democracy that still protects freedom of religion is what I think works best. But church and state will always collide from time to time and I don’t think there’s any quick solution that can simply be implemented each time it occurs.

    There was an interesting survey about the world’s happiest countries that was just published a few days ago. This isn’t the first survey I’ve seen that claims that Danes are the happiest people on earth. Ironic, since they have some of the highest tax rates in the world, if not the highest. Those silly Norwegians will always find something to complain about, so they came 9th. 🙂

    Back to Joseph Smith and theocracy, there’s something that puzzles me about Quinn’s claim. If JS truly intended on establishing a theocracy in America, wouldn’t that be in complete contradiction to what his religion proclaimed (i.e. that the US Constitution was a God-inspired document)? I never took American history, so I’m no expert on the Constitution, but how could it have been upheld in a theocracy?

  15. FD,

    You inspired me to write a new post! Check it out. But I do have a few other questions for you. Since I have not lived outside the US, I do not understand what you mean by “social democracy.” How is that different from American democracy?

  16. Umm… MH, I think Europe’s fascination with Obama is because he’s the closest thing to a Social Democrat American politics has produced in a long time (if ever). The American Democratic party is well to the “right” on the European spectrum, and the American Republican Party would be (and often is) considered extreme right.

  17. Forgive my ignorance of politics. I’ve never claimed to be an expert.

    What is considered “right” and “left” in European politics?

  18. […] The Faithful Dissident asked a very interesting question in my last post. […]

  19. “Social democracy” is kind of a broad term. I would call it a moderate blend of socialism and capitalism. Most of the western, industrialized countries, such as Canada and western Europe, operate under a certain degree of social democracy. We have certain “socialistic” elements, such as a welfare state, universal health care (some countries use purely socialized health care, while others are more a mix of gov’t and private plans), while still employing a regulated, capitalist, mixed market economy.

    The problem in the US is that too many Americans associate “socialism” in ANY form with communism. I’ve come across many who believe they are the same thing. As one blogger once told me, Canada and North Korea are operating under the same system, which is a horribly narrow-minded statement. There are so many shades on the political spectrum and even within social democracy, there are various grades. I would call myself a pretty moderate social democrat. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have ever voted for Canada’s NDP party, which operates under a social democratic philosophy. They’ve made a bad name for themselves by making a mess of the budget on the provincial level and I’d hate to see what they would do at the federal level if they ever got in (which is unlikely). So I would most likely vote Liberal, although I’m not a staunch supporter of any political party. In Norway, I can’t vote because I’m not a citizen, but I think I identify most with the Labour Party, which is a little more centrist. I consider myself a socialist and a capitalist, which I know sounds like an oxymoron to most Americans. 🙂

    You should read this quick summary on Social Democracy, which will give you a good idea of what I mean when I use the term. 🙂

    “The American Democratic party is well to the “right” on the European spectrum, and the American Republican Party would be (and often is) considered extreme right.”

    I would say this is true, Firetag. American Republicanism, what Americans refer to as “conservatism,” is far to the right of “conservatism” in western Europe. Many Europeans do consider American Republicanism to be extremism, but I think this is a lot to do with sound-byte politics. Anything can sound extremist if you don’t scratch beneath the surface. Some of the election rhetoric, combined with the notion that conservatives have stood in the way of things like universal health care and a social safety net for Americans, is very damaging to the image of American Republicanism abroad — especially if that’s ALL they “know” about Republicanism. Many think it’s a party of all-white, war-mongering Bible-thumping Christian extremists who are unsympathetic to the plight of the poor and sick. Now of course, that is just as narrow-minded as the guy who thought that Canada = North Korea. I’ve tried to really understand American Republicanism and as long as you can manage to ignore voices like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh, I think that a lot of the core Republican values are respectable and make sense, and are not “extremist” by any means. I just can’t imagine ever voting for them. 🙂

  20. MH: No need to be an expert on politics; I think it’s ALMOST a virtue. Once you’re sitting in the gallery of a hearing room and watch a staff member wheel a Senator into the room, hand him a statement to read for the cameras to show the voters back home he’s looking out for their parochial issues, and then wheel him back out so the staff can do the real work of legislation (talking to who-knows-whom), the magic goes away.

    If you read enough of both “right” and “left” American political websites to understand the arguments of each side, you’re probably better qualified to judge policy merits than the Congressman/Congresswoman/Senator is. The bills are simply too complex for the decision-makers to actually understand. It’s really government by bureacrats and interest groups, and that doesn’t change when administrations change from one party to another. Only the ranking of the interest groups does.

  21. Thanks for the link, FD. After reading that, it seems to me that I would call Joseph Smith and Brigham Young Social Democrats. If socialism aims to have more social and financial equity, then I think that’s exactly what early church leaders wanted to do as well.

    Now it seems to me you both are more politically astute than me, so I could be up in the night, but assuming my previous paragraph makes sense, then am I correct in saying that Joseph Smith was on the left of the political spectrum?

  22. MH, it depends on who you ask. When I read your first paragraph in your last comment, I almost winced in sympathy for you because I know that if members of the Republican base of the Church read that, you’d be bombarded with anti-socialism quotes by Ezra Taft Benson. What you just said is considered heresy to many — even though it’s what I personally believe. 🙂

    It’s interesting because the United Order is, in every way I can see, a spiritual form of socialism — even communism, if you will. Of course, most American Mormons will say no it’s not, no it’s not, no it’s not! I say yes it is, yes it is, yes it is! The difference, of course, is that those who lived the United Order did it voluntarily. Under gov’t, we pay our taxes and let the money be redistributed by elected officials because we have to. True, the voluntary part is the main difference. The other difference is that the Law of Consecration will be a divine law, therefore it *should* be carried out correctly and fairly, without any waste or dishonesty. On the other hand, gov’t is run by men and we all know that there is at least some level of corruption and waste in any gov’t. And we all know how communism has worked in the places it has been tried, where corruption and oppression have been rampant. But to me, the concept is the same. I was surprised, actually, when I was home in Canada recently and the Sunday School lesson was about the United Order, and a member of my ward (who is an Area Authority and is usually looked up to among all the members for his knowledge) said without hesitation that he would describe it as a “spiritual form of socialism.”

    As far as Joseph Smith being on the left or the right of the political spectrum, once again I think it depends on who you ask. I remember that post you did a while back on JS’s presidential platform where it mentioned how he advocated for lower taxes and reducing the size of congress. Conservatives could argue that this made him a conservative. On the other hand, ideas like freeing the slaves and rehabilitating convicts were pretty liberal for his time. Even today, rehab for convicts is controversial. I think it can be legitimately argued by both liberals and conservatives the JS was “one of them.”

    When it comes to the Church and the United Order, I see a healthy balance between the left and the right. Even though the United Order seems like a socialistic concept, the Church has always stressed the need to be self-sufficient and avoid gov’t handouts, which is what conservatives want. I totally agree with them. We should try to be self-sufficient and not think that the gov’t will come to our rescue if we are careless. But where I part ways with conservatives is that I don’t think it’s wrong for a gov’t to use tax money to set up a safety net of welfare and social programs for those who can’t make it through no fault of their own. Yes, there will always be lazy moochers, but I don’t see it as justification for letting everyone fend for themselves. The other problem is that none of us can EVER be ENTIRELY self-sufficient no matter how hard we try. We all need things like roads, hospital care, and fire and police services. And I don’t think society would function very well if taxing stopped or was at a bare minimum, leaving most of these services we enjoy up to charities or individuals to carry out with their limited resources.

  23. Perhaps we could call JS and BY Social Democrats who stressed conservative values. 🙂

  24. FD:

    Certainly, being able to see the value of the other political “side” is a seriously needed virtue, especially when times get harder.

  25. Yes, and it’s not always easy to do. I try to remember what my dad always says:

    “The difference between a Republican and a Democrat?” Practically nothing.”

    I got my open mind from my mother and my realist cynicism from my father. 🙂

  26. Fascinating! I always enjoy reading Quinn’s work!

  27. […] until 1852, and the actual revelation was not added to the D&C until 1876.  I talked about the Nauvoo Expositor, which published allegations of Joseph’s polygamy.  Joseph directed the press be destroyed, […]

  28. Very interesting site here! Nice to see such civil discussion and debate!

    Quinn’s claims about the letter to Dunham alarmed me. I’ve read Bushman’s book and a few others, but neverheard anything about the order.

    I was curious about Quinn’s source for the claim, and found this explanation on fairlds which seems to place the claim comfortably in the area of fishy historical claim on Quinn’s part:


    I also remembered the council of 50 references in Bushman’s book, but it seemed pretty scarce. How much do we really know about the whole theocracy idea, and how much is guessing? Is there room for believing that it was just meant to be like what the church is today? A religious gov’t within the republic of the united states?

    I think Mormons tend to vote republican because of hot button issues like abortion and welfare / socialism etc… how they get past the coorperatism and war mongering of the right is beyond me. I’m surprised more mormons don’t vote for 3rd parties.

    On unity vs democracy, I think it has to be achieved from the bottom up, not the top down. To paraphrase a quote that rang true to me: “Peace and unity are easy, but peace and unity WITH freedom, that’s the real challenge.” When the leaders don’t have to put down rebelion, because no one wants to rebel, because we’ve finally figured out how to apply the freedom and compassion of the gospel to society… maybe then?

  29. Scott, thanks for that link. I know Quinn seems to have taken some liberty with footnotes, and this looks to be another example. The link to the Hoffman forgery should put any of these claims to bed as illegitimate. After reading that, I don’t believe there is any evidence supporting the idea that Joseph wrote a letter asking to be busted out of jail.

    I’m not sure I fully understand your question regarding theocracy. I must say that it was a new idea to me when I read this book, but I’ve read an interview by Richard Bushman and Great Basin Kingdom by former church historian Leonard Arrington, and both indicate that Brigham Young was successful in establishing a theocracy in Utah. I’m reading a new book by Sarah Baringer Gordon, (a non-member) who also supports this idea. I have to say I was a bit surprised to learn that Bishop Courts in the late 1800’s didn’t just excommunicate/disfellowship members, they settled land disputes with Mormons and non-Mormons (which is why the non-Mormons hated these Bishop’s courts). Joseph was certainly trying to establish a theocracy, and it looks like Brigham Young was successful.

    While the federal anti-polygamy raids get the lion’s share of coverage, it is significant to notice that the federal government took control of the courts, governorship, and tried to outlaw the United Orders because they are inherently monopolistic (and Mormons tried successfully to exclude non-Mormons and dissidents from the economy.) There is a lot more to the story of federal intervention than simply polygamy.

    Gordon also makes it extremely clear that the Republicans led the anti-poligamy charge against the Mormons. They compared polygamy to slavery. So, the Southern Democrats in defending slavery also defended the Mormon right to polygamy (even though Southern Democrats weren’t fond of polygamy either.) So, no good Mormon would have every voted Republican from about 1856-1900. I must say the federal government was very draconian in trying to stamp out theocracy and polygamy in Utah.

  30. […] The morning plenary session was from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  She is a 5th generation Mormon that teaches at Harvard.  She gave an interesting presentation on the Wilford Woodruff diaries.  The afternoon session included a great session about polygamy.  Newell Bringhurst was great!  Following the session, I asked him if he agreed with Michael Quinn’s assertion that theocracy was a bigger problem than polygamy from the Nauvoo Expositor.  He disagreed with Quinn.  He felt that polygamy was an explosive topic.  He agreed that theocracy was a potential problem, but believed the polygamy was the bigger problem.  (I blogged about this previously–The Nauvoo Expositor, a Different Perspective.) […]

  31. I need to correct something here. The letter that Quinn references and I quoted above is based on a Hoffman forgery, so those details are inaccurate. Specifically when I referenced

    The morning of 27 June, Smith sent an order (in his own handwriting) to Major-General Jonathan Dunham to lead the Nauvoo Legion in a military attack on Carthage “immediately” to free the prisoners. Dunham realized that such an assault by the Nauvoo Legion would result in two blood baths–one in Carthage and another when anti-Mormons (and probably the Illinois militia) retaliated by laying seige to Nauvoo for insurrection. To avoid civil war and destruction of Nauvoo’s population, Dunham refused to obey the order and did not notify Smith of his decision. One of his lieutenants, a former Danite, later complained that Dunham “did not let a single mortal know that he had received such orders.”

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