“My Joseph”: Meg Stout and Polygamy, Part 3

Ms. Stout next tackles the meteoric but relatively brief history of John C. Bennett in the LDS church. In 1840 Bennett had attached himself to the LDS church in Nauvoo, helping to develop the city charter and using his charisma and persuasiveness to get it passed by the state legislature. Joseph Smith was so impressed by Bennett that he gave him a tremendous amount of civil and ecclesiastical authority, and Smith even adopted Bennett’s oratorical style and mannerisms. But who was John Bennett?

As before, Ms. Stout begins her discussion with a straw man:

There are two prominent views of John Cook Bennett.

Those who revere Joseph Smith tend to believe Bennett was a devilish scoundrel who told vicious lies about Joseph Smith.

Those who don’t much care about Joseph Smith tend to believe Bennett was a colorful individual who possibly told the truth about Joseph Smith.

This is a false dichotomy, as most historians put Bennett somewhere in the middle of the scale between scoundrel and truthful whistleblower, hence the title of Andrew Smith’s Bennett biography is The Saintly Scoundrel. Bennett, in his self-serving exposé of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, History of the Saints, portrays himself as an unbeliever from the start, dedicated to ingratiating himself with Smith and church leaders as a means of exposing the truth. Meg Stout posits an initially sincere believer who eventually “fell.”

However real people are not all good or all evil. I think of Bennett as someone who secured freedom for his adopted people and could have been one of the greatest leaders of the Mormon movement. Allow me to explain how a believing and honorable Bennett could have fallen.

But I’m not going to focus on Bennett here entirely, as what is far more interesting is the contrast between the way Stout deals with evidence against Bennett and how she dismisses similar, if not stronger, evidence regarding Joseph Smith.

First of all, let’s look at Bennett’s sincerity. In discussing Joseph Smith, Ms. Stout takes everything he says at face value, even when it conflicts with compelling evidence to the contrary. Bennett, however, gets the opposite treatment:

Bennett’s 1842 exposé History of the Saints claimed he had never believed. But Bennett in 1842 was a wounded man full of rage, driven to hurt Joseph Smith in any way possible.

However I urge you to consider the possibility that Bennett was honestly impressed with the goodness of the people he had decided to save. Bennett’s past was littered with events of which a man might reasonably wish to repent. For a moment, let us consider that his decision to be baptized in October 1840 was sincere, despite his obvious political motivations.

It’s fine to consider a possiblity, but Ms. Stout gives us no reason to do so. Now, as before, Ms. Stout takes this speculation and interprets every subsequent event assuming that the speculation has become fact.

If Bennett was truly converted …

Perhaps a penitent Bennett thought his relinquished past could remain a secret.

It could be that Bennett was aware of how much Joseph was willing to forgive. … If Joseph could forgive the deadly treachery of W. W. Phelps, why need Bennett confess of politically inconvenient facts from the past?

In Ms. Stout’s world, then, by March of 1841, Bennett was a sincere, repentant believer, determined to leave his sordid past behind him. But it eventually caught up with him. Sometime after Bennett’s association with the church became public, Joseph Smith received a letter informing him of Bennett’s having committed adultery and having abandoned his still-living wife. Nothing is known about whether Smith confronted Bennett with this information, but, as we’ve seen before, that doesn’t stop Ms. Stout:

I imagine Joseph’s conversations with Bennett gently probed the past before Joseph took the step of commissioning an investigation. This would be the first point after baptism when Bennett could have come clean and retained Joseph’s trust. However Joseph remained concerned enough that he sent George Miller to look into the accusations.

On March 2, 1841, Miller reported back that he had substantiated the claims. Once again we have no information as to whether Joseph confronted Bennett at this time, either, but Ms. Stout forges ahead:

Joseph would have talked with Bennett again after receipt of George Miller’s March 2nd letter. The text of the letter is damning, so Bennett must have done something to retain Joseph’s good will. It’s even possible Bennett didn’t overtly lie.

Again we have an imagined conversation with nothing behind it but Ms. Stout’s hunch, but she goes further in telling us what she imagines the contents of the conversation were:

Why would an honest Bennett allow Joseph to reach a wrong conclusion? The key may have been love. Joseph would later accuse Bennett of having courted a woman under false pretenses. Bennett could have confessed to feckless behavior before his baptism without significant damage. But he could not admit he was still married and hope to continue courting his newly beloved.

Even if Joseph wasn’t ready to censure Bennett openly, Bennett had clearly kept important information hidden. Assuming the young woman Bennett had been courting was known to Joseph, he could easily have put her on her guard against Bennett. Bennett was persuaded to leave the homestead around May, hinting that the young woman in question was a frequent visitor to or intimate of the Smith homestead.

I wouldn’t blame readers for getting a little lost here, but let’s try to sort this out. In the July 1, 1842, edition of the LDS newspaper Times and Seasons, Joseph Smith wrote of Bennett:

He had not been long in Nauvoo before he began to keep company with a young lady, one of our citizens; and she being ignorant of his having a wife living, gave way to his addresses, and became confident, from his behavior towards her, that he intended to marry her; and this he gave her to understand he would do. I, seeing the folly of such an acquaintance, persuaded him to desist; and, on account of his continuing his course, finally threatened to expose him if he did not desist. This, to outward appearance, had the desired effect, and the acquaintance between them was broken off.

Smith’s statement is problematic for a number of reasons, but it’s germane here because, in the previous section, Ms. Stout had identified the young woman in question as Annie Elvira Cowles. I’m assuming this will become important later, but so far it’s just speculation based on speculation. More speculation follows:

Despite Joseph’s likely misgivings, Joseph defended Bennett when Thomas C. Sharp attacked Bennett’s character in May.

Again, we don’t know if Smith had “likely misgivings,” but Ms. Stout proceeds as if her supposition is factual. She continues:

It appears Bennett’s next lodging was the home of Sarah Pratt, wife of apostle Orson Pratt. Sarah was a young woman and mother, and was likely emotional about her husband being gone on a foreign mission. Later reports alleging Bennett and Sarah were intimate early on could have arisen from professional treatment of her “hysteria.”

Here she relies on testimony from Stephen and Zeruiah Goddard, with whom Sarah Pratt stayed in October 1840. They swore an affidavit that Bennett was with Sister Pratt every night but one during that month. This testimony is clearly false, as Bennett was in the state capital that month, working for passage of the city charter. Indeed, Sister Pratt later claimed that the Goddards told her they were forced to sign the affidavits to “save” Joseph and the church.

Stout then states as a fact that Bennett and Pratt “became fully intimate”:

Bennett was later reported to have claimed “Sarah Pratt made a first rate go.” I imagine Bennett was heartbroken at being cut off from his beloved. Sarah was likely still anxious about the absence of her husband, Orson. The professional treatment for hysteria in Bennett’s day was vulvar massage, something we would see as intensely sexual. Bennett and Sarah Pratt lived in the same house, a house not nearly as crowded and public as the Smith homestead where Bennett had been living. It is little wonder that the two lonely adults ended up in bed together.

Here we see the double-standard by which Stout applies evidence. Firsthand testimony from Joseph’s wives that they were sexually intimate with him is dismissed as “euphemisms” and outright lies. Corroboration from people who said Joseph retired to bed with a woman is dismissed because no one actually saw them having sex. But with Bennett, a secondhand report that “Sarah Pratt made a first rate go” is taken as absolute truth. Jacob Backenstos’s ambiguous statements that Bennett and Pratt seemed like husband and wife are also taken as proof of sexual intimacy, as are the clearly fabricated statements of the Goddards.

I do not know what transpired between Sarah Pratt and John Bennett. What matters here is that Meg Stout takes hearsay and demonstrably false testimony and accepts it as fact when it applies to John Bennett. But when dealing with Joseph Smith, she discards stronger, firsthand testimony because it doesn’t fit her narrative. This is dishonest, and it is not scholarship.

But let’s get back to the timeline. Apparently unsatisfied with George Miller’s report, Joseph confronted Bennett only after receiving further confirmation of Bennett’s past from Hyrum Smith. Here’s Stout’s take:

Joseph called Bennett in and tore into him. I believe it is during this discussion that Bennett confessed to his adultery with Sarah Pratt. 22

I’m leaving the footnote citation in because it’s illustrative. It reads:

22. Lorenzo Wasson, Emma Smith’s nephew, overheard the exchange but his summary doesn’t mention Sarah Pratt.

So, again, based on nothing, she asserts that Bennett confessed to adultery with Sarah Pratt.

Bennett begged Joseph to not openly shame him. Sarah was evicted from the house she had been granted and sent back to board with the Goddards. Bennett may have moved to a public house at this point. Certainly Joseph would not have brought Bennett back to the homestead.

Alone, disgraced, despairing, Bennett apparently took a lethal dose of medicine. I believe Bennett’s suicide attempt was sincere. But Bennett was discovered and his life saved.

Oddly, though, Joseph Smith did not make any of this public.

As angry as Joseph would have been at Bennett, he had compassion on the fallen man. As soon as practicable, Bennett was again involved in the duties of his offices. No mention was made publicly at this time of his abandoned wife and children, his shady past, or the adultery with Sarah Pratt.

Once again, Ms. Stout makes unsupported assertions. How do we know Joseph had compassion on Bennett? By this time, the anti-Mormon press had already suggested that it was common knowledge that Bennett was not a believer in Mormonism but had joined for personal gain. This would have been the perfect opportunity for Joseph to disavow Bennett, but he did not do so. Why, I do not know. I could as easily suggest that Bennett knew of Joseph’s marriage a few months earlier to Louisa Beaman and feared exposure, so he decided to keep quiet about Bennett’s problems. That makes as much sense as Meg Stout’s assertion, but at least I recognize mine is speculative and based on no evidence.

Next, she tells us, “By July Bennett was stripped of all real power. But few realized how hollow his positions were.” Without elaboration, it’s difficult to know what she means. But never mind, we’ll keep going.

In July Orson Pratt returned to Nauvoo after a successful mission to the Holy Land. Orson was perturbed to find his wife living as a tenant, without the level of support other missionaries’ wives were receiving. However no one told Orson at that time about Sarah’s infidelity. Orson re-established his household and looked to re-integrate himself into the excitement that was Nauvoo. Orson’s interest in founding a University led him to Bennett. When Orson learned of Bennett’s care for Sarah while Orson was absent, he insisted Bennett come live with them.

Again Ms. Stout assumes that Bennett’s alleged adultery with Sarah Pratt is established fact and was known in July 1841. Why? Because she believes that Bennett would have confessed to Joseph Smith. This baseless assertion leads to more wild speculation:

Bennett was forced to be friends with a man he’d cuckolded, forced to endure while that man enjoyed all the benefits of being back home. Bennett had to go through the performance of his duties knowing that Smith would never permit him any more opportunities for advancement. The woman he loved was in the city, forever in sight, but never to be his.

I’m trying to be polite, but this is beyond bizarre. But Meg Stout needs all of this to be true because she needs the sexual polygamy of Nauvoo to have originated with John C. Bennett, not with Joseph Smith. According to her narrative, Bennett’s first hint of polygamy came from an Joseph Smith made in the fall of 1841, at which Smith suggested that in countries were polygamy was practiced, the church might have to accept the practice.

After lunch the meeting reconvened, and Joseph recanted his words. But the sermon may have planted the seed of an idea in Bennett’s mind.

She doesn’t tell us why Joseph recanted, but it was Emma’s and other women’s strenuous objections over lunch that forced Joseph to back down. But for Stout, this is a seminal moment in that it gave the lecherous Bennett an excuse to sleep around with multiple women.

Bennett was apparently not alone. A small group of individuals came together over this idea. Some one or more of them was familiar with Jacob Cochran’s explosive teachings related to spiritual wifery. Bennett was an obvious individual to guide the group for good or ill. He could have called them all to repentance or asked Joseph to instruct them more perfectly in what he’d meant with his sermon about the Turks and Indians.

I submit that Bennett saw an opportunity to possess the one he desired. If he could convince her that it was right to sleep with someone who was not acknowledged as her husband before the world, he might taste the pleasure of her embrace. If he could convince her that it was right to be his secret, spiritual wife even though he was still legally married to another, he could have the joy of her devotion.

He could not risk approaching his beloved first, however. It needed to be bigger than him, something that neither his beloved or Joseph would see as the object of the group’s activities.

With luck Bennett would secure the heart and body of his beloved before Joseph discovered the matter. Joseph had forgiven men who had plotted to kill him. 28 Bennett himself had not suffered terribly even though he had bedded the wife of an apostle. What then if a few men tasted the pleasures of the fair ladies of Nauvoo, as long as it was done in secret without exposing those involved by unexplained pregnancies?

Surely, Bennett must have reasoned, Joseph would forgive.

More assertions and speculation without evidence. In a footnote, Ms. Stout explains her source for her unsupported assertions:

My midrashic view that Bennett could have fostered this scheme for the sole purpose of ensnaring the woman he had been courting is based on the 2002 DC Sniper. John Allen Muhammad created a cloud of shootings with the intent of hiding the intended murder of his wife. By the time John Allen Muhammad and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, were apprehended, they had terrorized the capital of the United States for months, shooting twenty seven people, of whom seventeen died. John Muhammad had not yet gotten around to shooting his wife.

I will leave it here for now, as I don’t think that statement requires any commentary from me.


14 Responses to “My Joseph”: Meg Stout and Polygamy, Part 3

  1. Jeff Seaman says:

    I think it would be far more honest to just admit Joseph had sex with women besides Emma and then just deal with it. Keep faith in him as a prophet if you like. It also makes no logical sense to defend Joseph as a sexless polygamist when the prophets after him practiced their obviously sexual polygamy openly. Why the fuss to defend something like this when Brigham Young did worse than Joseph (taking other men’s wives, wives too young, etc.)? I think I know the answer and it’s basically an emotional need to defend someone placed on as high a pedestal as most Mormons put Joseph Smith. Joseph’s actions count more because they expect more from him.

    • I wasn’t aware that Brigham Young did that, thought I cannot say it sounds out of character.

      You have an excellent point. If Brigham Young (obviously) practiced sexual polygamy, why is it so upsetting that Joseph Smith did?

      If practicing sexual polygamy disqualifies a person from being a prophet, then shouldn’t all LDS people become members of the Community of Christ?

      • runtu says:

        I think the reason people are upset about Joseph Smith is that Brigham did it openly, whereas Joseph did it behind Emma’s back and denied it publicly.

  2. ChrisW says:

    From Wikipedia:

    “At Muhammad’s trial, the prosecutor claimed that the rampage was part of a plot to kill his ex-wife and regain custody of his children, but the judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support this argument.”

    It is only appropriate that unsupported assertions are the source of her unsupported assertions..

  3. David Macfarlane says:

    Meg Stout’s version of events reads like a 19th century bodice-ripper. Didn’t she say this all started as historical fiction? It sounds like that’s where it remains. Perhaps she can clarify. Aside from the argument that Joseph didn’t have sex with his polygamous wives because there are no offspring, is any of the rest of this being presented as real historical analysis?

  4. Andrew says:

    Logical fallacies aside, I really just don’t get it. If sexual polygamy originated with Bennett then wouldn’t that make Brigham Young a false prophet? What’s the explanation? BY thought he was doing the right thing but was mistaken? If the objective is to ultimately defend the church, how does this help?

    And if polygamy wasn’t sexual, what the heck was it then? Some strange system of linking people together purely for the sake of salvation? So much for the atonement I guess. We don’t need Christ, just a pyramid scheme. There are just so many holes we can poke as a result of this. If that’s what polygamy was, why was it called polygamy to begin with, why associate it with marriage in any way? Why did Joseph lie about it instead of be open and explain what it was? Why doesn’t the modern church participate in this nonsexual practice? On and on and on.

    Long story short, defending Joseph would seem to undermine the church.

    • runtu says:

      If we are to accept Meg’s version of the story, Joseph was simultaneously trying to root out polygamy in Nauvoo at the same time he was practicing it himself. Since Meg has engaged in groundless speculation, here’s my speculation, based on the evidence. Smith is known to have introduced plural marriage to a few of his followers in 1840, as Meg notes. Given Bennett’s position and the respect Joseph had for him, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Joseph told him about it. Joseph was very careful about whom he approached and making sure that his wives were connected solely to him. Bennett seems to have taken Joseph’s instructions as license to sleep around with multiple women, and he and a small group of others did just that in 1841. Because they were careless in their interactions, their activities became known, or at least rumored by the following spring. Emma, having been through the trauma of the Fanny Alger incident, was upset and determined to make sure the accusations didn’t touch Joseph. Despite having known of Bennett’s background and some of the illicit sex, such as Francis Higbee’s, Joseph said nothing until the rumors began circulating in the spring of 1842, probably reasoning that exposing Bennett could expose his own polygamous relationships. Eventually, it became impossible to cover up for Bennett any longer, so Joseph publicly denounced him, and he was cut off. Joseph’s introduction of the endowment in May 1842 seems connected to his desire to make sure that, from that point on, no one would betray his confidence. Once Bennett was out of the way, Joseph could believe he was safe in pursuing further relationships.

  5. Allan Carter says:

    What is infuriating to me is the continued slander of Sarah Pratt. According to Compton’s book Joseph Smith proposed marriage to her and when she rebuffed him and threatened to take it public Joseph and his cronies started a smear campaign to ruin her credibility. Among the allegations were the adultery with Bennett for which there is precisely 0 evidence. In fact, with that smear Smith was able to kill 2 birds with one stone.

    Upon his return Orson Pratt was so distraught at what Smith had done that he nearly committed suicide and resigned from the church. He came back shortly and was restored to his position, but Brigham Young never forgave him for this and moved him down in seniority as if he’d become an apostle on his return. This later effectively blocked him from becoming the president of the quorum and later the president of the church. BY was also pissed off at him for disagreeing with Adam/God and other doctrinal things that BY taught and that have since been dropped.

    So the Pratt’s were in the right all along and saw nothing but grief for it. Wonderful church.

  6. starienite says:

    So she has an explanation for how this alleged sex ring could work without pregnancies, but there is no way the same techniques could be used to avoid pregnancy with JS and his wives?

  7. Meg Stout says:

    The Bennett sex ring did not work without pregnancies.

    This Bennett post is one of those I would re-write significantly based on the later evidence I tumbled over.

    That significant shifts had happened after Joseph learned of Bennett’s past is evidenced by the fact that he reassigned George Miller from his assignment related to Nauvoo House and/or the Mansion House (See D&C 124 from Jan 1841) to the mission of determining the truth or falsehood of the accusations against Bennett.

    I also now think that Joseph confronted Bennett about his past and the fact of his still-living wife once he got the letter from Miller. However a past from before baptism could be presumed to be something that could be overcome. A still-living wife who wouldn’t grant Bennett a divorce wasn’t a problem as long as Bennett broke off the engagement or involvement with the “young woman” he was courting.

    Lorenzo Wasson’s description of the “flagellation” was in his supportive letter published in the July 1842 timeframe.

    Whe I wrote this, I was under the mistaken impression that the 1844 description in the newspaper speaking of Francis Higbee and John Bennett confessing before about 60 men in the hall used for the Masonic Lodge had occurred in July 1841, around the timeframe that Shreiff Backenstos claimed to have found Bennett and Sarah together. But the confession in the Masonic Lodge could not have happened until after formation of the Masonic Lodge in May 1842.

    When I wrote this series, I also could not think of another explanation for a venereal disease that would be termed “the _______” other than the clap, but I’ve since learned that the blank apparently was inserted in lieu of the term ‘pox’ and that Frank Higbee would later claim that the pox he was suffering from wasn’t a sexually-transmitted pos. But I haven’t seen the documentation for the pox discussion.

    As for the fact that Joseph felt he had attempted for a long time to work with a fallen Bennett, we have the public statement cutting Bennett off from the Church. It is true that the various statements and letters published in 1842 and 1844 do not go into detail regarding how that ministration occurred, but Bennett didn’t have the option of taking a hidden recording device into his interviews with Joseph, nor in his case did he have any reason to play up a true history of his interactions when being counseled by Joseph. Joseph only mentioned the past efforts to bring Bennett to righteousness because it was a matter of significant damage. If Bennett had not gone to the Sangamo Journal, I doubt Joseph would have gone public regarding the details, other than the newspaper statement in June 1842 documenting that the hand of fellowship had been withdrawn from Bennett.

    Actually, this matter of Bennett illustrates how past individuals, including contemporaries of Bennett, have made assumptions about the timeline and connected events that don’t logicly fit together, such as the ‘flagellation’ Lorenzo Wasson heard the summer of 1841 and the June 1841 letter from Hyrum Smith and William Law reporting on what they’d learned about Bennett’s past.

    For what it’s worth, the posts themselves have plenty of footnotes, and I believe the majority of those footnotes actually provide links to documents, not merely my personal asides, as John’s writeup might lead you to believe.

    • runtu says:

      I don’t have a problem with the stuff you document, Meg. The problem is that the major assertions are undocumented, and, as I’ve shown, they are supported only by your desire to believe them. Take, for instance, your insistence that Louisa Beaman was unhappy with a nonsexual marriage. Is there any evidence of that? No, nothing. In fact, what evidence there is points to a sexual marriage. So, rather than accept the documentation, you deny it and then base your major assertion on pure fantasy. It’s dishonest, whether you think so or not. I have tried to be polite and give you the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not so sure I should have done that. Over and over you make baseless assertions (the Joseph-Emma anti-polygamy investigation, for one) with no documentary basis. Sorry, but that’s not history, it’s not research, and it’s not even apologetics. It’s intellectual and spiritual dishonesty.

  8. Meg Stout says:

    The investigation into illicit intercourse is something that scholars like Bergera have supposed were just part of the supposed tension between Emma and Joseph over plural marriage.

    I could almost believe that if it weren’t for the testimony of Catherine Fuller and the other women who yielded to demands that they provide illicit sexual favors to multiple men. As provided to the High Council, these testimonies paint a very different impression of such arrangements, and it is not possible to pretend that these are similar to what Joseph was alleged to have been doing.

    In the case of Catherine Fuller (Catherine Laur [Fuller Warren]), Bennett seduces her, then she is induced to consider granting sexual favors to his friends (Mormon and non-Mormon). In no way does this resemble any teaching Joseph Smith or his followers ever espoused. But this does align perfectly with Bennett’s triune system of spiritual wifery.

    I do not know why the full testimonies of the women have not been more widely studied. Redacted versions of the testimonies were published in 1844 in the Times and Seasons. The full testimonies might have been considered troublesome because they name individuals who the Saints didn’t want to alienate, or family members of individuals who had remained faithful.

    However it’s been over a hundred years since any of these folks died, so I don’t know that continuing to keep the testimonies close hold serves a purpose.

  9. grindael says:

    The full testimonys are out there. I have a copy of them (the original documents and transcription) I see many problems with them. For example, this one,

    County of Hancock} Nauvoo. May 21t 1842
    State of Illinois} To wit. Then personally appeard before me
    City of Nauvoo} George W. harris, Alderman for the
    City of Nauvoo ^Margaret J. Nyman, the signer of the above in trument^
    testified under oath
    that the above declaration is true
    Geo. W Harris Ald
    [p. 16:]

    Catherine Fuller. States that Darwin Chase has been at
    her house sometime in winter – made proposals to have
    unlawful intercourse – said it was no harm_

    Melinda Lewis_ States that she once saw Darwin Chase
    and another in Widow Fullers house at night

    Caroline Butler – has frequently seen Darwin Chase
    go to Widow Fullers

    Maria Champlin – saw Chase with Littefield one night
    Xxx last sabbath-came to Kingsleys about 5 o clock – about
    dusk rode out with one of the Miss Kingsley’s to the prairie-
    returned about 10 o clock – some time after L. O. Littlefield
    had returned – tarried about one hour after- said that Joseph
    tried to persuade men to act wickedly and then exposed them.
    Polly Mecham – saw Darwin Chase with L. O. Littlefield,
    come to Kingsleys last sabbath – on foot- spoke
    concerning terrible things going on in Nauvoo –

    Darwin Chase was rebuked, after he had partially
    confessed. Moved by the Prest that Bro Chase retain
    his standing &c

    Why would he only be “rebuked”? This was a witch hunt, with Smith going after who he wanted to. (Higbee, because he was teaching that Smith was practicing spiritual wifery.) Smith took him to court for slander but dropped the suit.

    These statements were taken between May 21st and 26th, 1842, as soon as Smith found out about Higbee, and yet on the 26th of May, after Bennett confesses, he is forgiven by Joseph and he defends Bennett? They named William Smith as also teaching this and going to some of those women. Nothing happened to him. Come on. Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.

    Smith was going after Chauncey Higbee. That was the whole purpose of these statements. Chase was implicated by many of the women, but Smith wasn’t after him. One of Joseph’s own Council of 50 members, Edward Bonney wrote:

    In the month of May, [June] A. D. 1844, the new press was put in operation, and the prospectus and first number of a newspaper published under the title of the “Nauvoo Expositor.” It contained a series of charges against Joseph Smith, and the leading men in the church, including bigamy, adultery, larceny, counterfeiting, &c. —
    In reply to this, the ” Nauvoo Neighbor,” a newspaper printed under the direction and control of the Prophet, charged the dissenters from the Mormon faith with the same crimes, and sustained many of the charges by the publication of numerous affidavits, made, without doubt, by the Prophet’s standing witnesses. Each appeared determined to out-do the other in the promulgation of slander and abuse, with which, according to their own stories, each had long possessed a knowledge of. If either were guilty of half they were accused of, the gallows had long been defrauded of its just dues, and earth was teeming with the base, the vile, and the bloodstained.

    Bonney knew that Joseph had “standing witnesses” who would say whatever he wanted them to.

  10. grindael says:

    Here is the full testimony of Sarah Miller that the RLDS do not quote,

    Testimony of Sarah Miller before the High Council
    of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the
    City of Nauvoo May 24th 1842.–– Agnst Chauncy Higby.

    Some two or three weeks since, in consequence of
    Bro Joseph Smiths teachings to the singers, I began to be alarmed
    concerning myself, & certain teachings which I had recevd
    from Chauncy L. Higby, & questioned him about his teaching, for
    I was pretty well persuaded from Joseph[’s] public teachings that
    Chaney had been telling falsehood.– but Chauncy said that
    that Joseph Now taught as he did th[r]ough necessity, on
    acount of the prejudices of the people, & his own family
    particlarly as they had not become full believers in the
    doctrine.– I then became satisfied that all of chaunceys
    teaching had been false [erased word], & that he had never been
    authorized by any one in authority to make any such
    communication to me. Chancy L. Higbys teaching & conduct
    were as follows. When he first came to my house ^soon^ after
    the spical conferene this spring, darwin chase was with
    him ^Chancy^ he comnced joking me about my getting married &
    & [sic] wanted to know how long it had been for since my
    husband died – and he soon removed his seat near
    me & began his seducing insinations by saying it was
    no harm to have sexual intercourse with women if they
    would keep it to themselves. & continued to urge me to
    yield to his desires, & urged me vehemently. & said he &
    Joseph were Good friends & he teaches me this doctrine.
    & allows me such privilgs & there is no harm in
    it & Joseph Smith says so.– I told him I did not believe
    it, & had heard no such teching frm Joseph. Nor frm the stand
    but that it was wicked to commit adultry, &c. Chauncy said
    that did not mean Single women, but Married women:
    & continued to press his instructions & arguments until after
    dark, & until I was inclined to believe, for he called God
    to witness of the truth, & was so solemn and confident, I
    yielded to his temptations, having received the stronget assure
    from him that Joseph app[r]ovd it & would uphold me in it. [p. 2:]
    He also told me that many others were following the same
    coure of conduct As I still had some doubts near
    the close of our interview I suggested my fear that I
    had done wrong & should loose the confidence of the brthrn
    when he assurd me that it was right & he would bring
    a witness a witness to confirm what he had taught.
    When he came again William Smith came with him
    & told me that the doctrine which Chancy Higby had taught
    me was true. & that Joseph believd the doctrine. I still
    had doubts & replied that I had understood that Higby had
    had [sic] recently been baptized & that Joseph when he confirmd him told him to quit all his iniquitous practices. Chauncy
    Said it was not for such things things that he was
    baptized for & William Smith said that he would take all the sin to himself. – for there was no sin in
    it. before Chauny left the house he said do you
    think I would be baptized for such a thing & then go
    into it so soon again. Chauncy Higby said that it
    would never be known. I told him that it might be told in
    bringing forth [pregnancy]. Chauny said there was no Danger Dr Bennt understood it & would come & take it away if there was any
    thing. Sarah Miller

    Hancock Co } To wit – Then appeard Sarah Miller to
    State of Illinois} sign of the above instrument : & made
    City of Nauvoo} oath that the above declaration, is true
    before me. Geo W Harris Ald
    Nauvoo May 24, 1842 Alderman of Nauvoo City

    Sarah Miller
    Chauncy Higby

    Why did one of the 12 Apostles, William Smith, accompany Higbee and Bennett?Why did Joseph do nothing about it? Was there something else going on here?

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