[From The Mormons by Gunnison, 1852]
THE Mormons now boasted of having a hundred thousand persons in the faith throughout the States; and this accounts for the silence of the press concerning them, as their vote was a balancing power. They would go in a body on political questions. Snuith visited Washington, and reports his interview with the President to have concluded with this emphatic assertion of Mr. Van Buren; " Sir, your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you." In view of the approaching election of '44, letters were written to the prominent candidates, and answers elicited, which Joseph pronounced unsatisfactory, for no one pledged to coerce Missouri to restore Zion and their lands to them, as Latter-Day Saints. Then the prophet sent forth his "Views on Government," advocated a National Bank, denounced all punishment for desertions in the army or navy, throwing the soldier on his honor alone; would pardon out every convict from the penitentiaries; curtail government offices and pay; reduce the number of representatives; and, in short, make every thing harmonious and prosperous, by declaring that all were free to try " honesty " and " love" in their dealings, and become a brotherhood. Joseph was put in nomination for the Presidency; and the Mormons assert, that had he lived for the next trial after, he would have been elected. The opportunity was not given. A dark day was approaching. Their neighbors became dissatisfied and jealous. Their property disappeared, and causes tried in the Nauvoo courts went always against them. No Mormon could be brought to justice, they said. Political aspirations were alleged also; that they aspired to rule the State, and, under a spiritual leader, set the laws at defianec. It was industriously circulated that thieves, "bogus makers,"- and robbers, were harbored, protected, and assisted by the leaders. Cattle and utensils disappeared from the neighboring farms. Traces of stolen property were obtained at Nauvoo.
But, more than all, intestine quarrels brought on the crisis of affairs. Many influential and talented persons, finding themselves deceived both in the sanctity of the prophet, and in advancing their temporal fortunes, deserted his standard, and denounced him for licentiousness, drunkenness, and tyranny. Women impeached him of attempted seduction; which his apology that it was merely to see if they were virtuous, could not satisfy. Criminations brought back recriminations against certain men. The Wasp, Joseph's paper, lashed the dissenters with bitter hatred. The dissenters established a counter battery in the Expositor, and published one number, detailing the most offensive debaucheries on the part of the prophet and his principal friends.
The city council was convened, and eleven members of the twelve voted the Expositor a nuisance. A party immediately destroyed the press, scattering the type in the streets, and burning all of the edition it could find. Those engaged in the work repaired to head-quarters, and were complimented by Joseph antHyrum for doing their duty to the Lord, being further assured that they should be rewarded.
Writs were issued against the mob leaders and abettors, but they were immediately set at liberty by Habeas Corpus, a process often resorted to, whereby the outsiders could never bring such to justice. The officer then procured a writ in the county, and summoned a posse to enforce the lawbut the people and troops in Nauvoo prevented it, and when the militia were called out, Joseph, as mayor and commanding general of the Nauvoo Legion, declared the city under martial law. The Governor of the State was appealed to, who repaired to (:arthage, the county seat, and ordered out three companies of the State militia, and for a time a collision seemed inevitable. The Governor vent an agent to the Smiths, assuring their personal safety, and called upon them to meet him in conference. Joseph sent two men, Bernhisd and Taylor, to confer with Governor Fordbut the latter despatched an officer with the militia to arrest the prophet and patriarch. These crossed over the Mississippi into Iowa, to watch events, keeping up by boat a correspondence with the council. Finding that their own people were being incensed at their desertion, by advice of council it was concluded best to obey the summons of the Governor, their friends feeling sure of acquittal on trial. Accordingly they came back and started for Carthage, but, on the way, met a party with an order to disband the Legion, and deliver up the State arms. They returned with the troops, and the order was duly executed.
They now repaired to Carthage, and were indicted for treason, and lodged in jail, with two others, Dr. Richards and John Taylor, of the Apostles. The dissenters and those who had suffered loss of property were greatly exasperated against them, and those whose families were dishonored, or attempts upon them made, swore dire vengeance. But the Governor, seeing things apparently quiet, and the leaders safely secured, discharged the troops, and went to Nauvoo and addressed the people, advising submission to the course of the laws, and to demean themselves as good citizens, and justice should be done to all parties.
On the 2`th of June, 1844, he started back, and on the way met an express, informing him that a horrible massacre of the Smiths had been committed by the mob, in whom the spirit of revenge had been roused, and satiated in blood. The Governor, fearing that the Mormons would at once destroy the inhabitants, advised them to evacuate the place, and putting General Deming in command of the few troops that could be raised, retired forthwith to Quincy, to await the sequel of events.
It appears that when the troops were disbanded, many individuals conspired with other citizens to attack the jail and take justice into their own hands. Early in the day they assaulted the door of the room in which the prisoners were incarcerated. Richards and Taylor, lying on the floor, made a stretch across the room, the feet of one against the shoulders of the other, and kept the door from fully opening. Guns were thrust in and discharged, and Joseph, with a revolver, returned two shots, hitting one man in the elbow. A ball struck Hyrum the patriarch, and he fell exclaiming, " I am killed ! "to which Joseph replied, " O brother Hyrum !" The prophet then threw up the window, and, in the act of leaping through was killed by balls fired from the outside, saying as he fell, " O Lord, my God." The people in the hall forced into the room and wounded Taylor; the other escaped "without a hole in his robe."
Thus ended the mortal career of one whose true biography has yet to be written. He founded a dynasty which his death rendered more secure, and sent forth principles that take fast hold on thousands in all lands; and the name of Great Martyr of the Ninteenth century, is a tower of strength to his followers. He lived fourteen years and three months after founding a society with six members, and could boast of having one hundred and fifty thousand ready to do his bidding when he died; all of whom regarded his word as the voice from Heaven. Among his disciples he bears a character for talent, uprightness, and purity, far surpassing all other men with whom they ever were acquainted, or whose biography they have read. But few of these admirers were cognizant of other than his prophetic career, and treat with scornful disdain all that is said in disparagement of his earlier life. With those who knew him in his youth, and have given us solemn testimony, he is declared an indolent vagabond, an infamous liar of consummate impudence. He is regarded by the " Gentiles " who saw him in the last few years of successful power, to have been a man of unbridled lust, and engaged with the counterfeiting and robbing bands of the Great Valley, but these charges have never been substantiatedand dissenters charge him with breaking the whole decalogue.
His mind was an active one, and he possessed elements of an engaging kind; without them he could not hale held men so long and so forcibly. In this, he has compeers among those who have played a similar part on the credulity of mankind, and claimed divine mission. Like them, he was bold in assertion of his " truths " and hurled anathemas upon all who did not acknowledge his pretensions. He found many to listen, who would then consider and examine awhile, and ask themselves the question, " what, after all, if this should be true ? "and in that doubt lay their danger, for " he that doubteth is damned,' when the true light is shining around him. The wonder that strikes us is, the time and the manner in which this new doctrine is sought to be established' and its rapid success. No one can doubt that there was genius, sagacity, and intuitive insight into the characters of men, which was operated with from the time of inducing Harris to assist in publishing his bible. From the moment that person was duped, and became bound by his cupidity to the issue of the book from the press, was the struggle of mental power. Next, when it was found that the work would not be a lucrative object, what but transcendent ability could have controlled the mind of the versatile, eloquent, and methodical Rigdon, and used his talents to organise a church system and put it into complete operation, which no follower has dared to amend? And the most bitter trials did not daunt him; he looked calmly on the misery of thousands about him, in the fires of persecution, and still moved on, unflinching, till at last he dared a ruthless mob to his death, which showed a determination to ride " the whirlwind and direct the storm," regardless of the human suffering that might be endured.
The anecdotes of his eccentricities and manners are household themes in the mountains, and time and distance are embellishing them with all the virtues of the true hero. They love to relate to listening friends and children how the prophet Joseph would strip off the mask of hypocrisyhow he would meet a new convert, bringing his long-faced piety from the other denominations, and challenge a wrestling match in the streets, nor let off the sanctimonious and surprised fellow until he had shown him that his athletic reputation was not a sham, by leaving him fiat in the dustand to all he taught that his was a laughter-loving, cheerful religion. And how another, coming with charitable zeal to the prophets would be requested to lend for the temple ale his money, and then be noticed no more than other strangers, the poor destitute being obliged to shoulder spade and axe, and labor in poverty, until he would decamp or be proved faithful. If he stood the test for a few months, he would suddenly be called to head-quarters, and eligible lots assigned him, and some position given in which he could earn his bread in comfort.
That he had become politically as well as religiously ambitious, is apparent from his letters on governmental policy. By establishing "stakes" in various places, he could hope to hold the balance of power between the two great parties, and ultimately force one to help his own people to place him in the highest office in the nation. It is evident, that had he been permitted to colonise in Missouri, in a few years the control of the State must have passed into his hands. After the expulsion, all his movements and sentiments were tending toward regaining that lost section, and his credit with the people depended on fulfilling the prophecy concerning Zion. It is a cardinal point in the preaching of his successor, and in view of having to fight for it, that there is still kept up the drilling of the Legion, and exercises in military tactics, until there is in that community the material for the best partisan troops in the world. The mantle of the modern assumed Elijah has fallen on his kindred Elisha, whose ambition, though not as wide, has the same determined purpose of dominion as that of Joseph the Seer.
His death by violence, and by his enemies, was opportune for the support of the system he sought to establish. He had arrived at that point in the revolution which he led, when the least delay would have caused its waves to flow over and engulf him. New things and new light were constantly expected by those whose credulity was the measure of their faiththey were taught to look for principles according as they admitted and acted by them. Hence the immense strides in the last year toward pantheism and materialism of the Deities. And aspiring men were also bringing forward revelations which they were not content should be attributed to the inspiration of Beelzebub. Rigdon had again established his chain of communication with the angels of the unseen worldBishop - had accumulated large folios of enlightened " table-talk " with the spirits ur~secn, and Strang had found himself commissioned a King of Saints' and felt the divine inflatus within; and the numerous contradictions in the revelations of the prophet, though explained on the principle that God gave according to altered circumstances, threw doubt on the prophet's own. The endeavor to apply this to the relation of the sexes, and make that innocent which all the enlightened world considered wrong, by merely his assertion that " thus saith the Lord," staggered the faith of the virtuous who were not too blinded to reflect or think for themselves. This it was that commenced the quarrel which ended in his arrest and death.
He lived long enough for his fame, and died when he could just be called a martyr. He had become too violent and impatient, to control, for a long time, the multitudehe could begin, but not conduct, successfully, a revolution. In this respect, he contrasts remarkably with his successor in the Seership of the Saints. The latter could never be a martyr. His prudence and foresight have been shown under the most trying circumstances, and in cool calculation of the future he is pre-eminent, and plans with cautious policy to meet all the exigencies before him. Policy is a word little known in the vocabulary of the first prophet, and is the most frequent in that of the present one. It galls the more simple-hearted ones however, and they sigh for the bold attitude of the first Presidency, and feel derelict to the duties of their divine mission by yielding at all to the political interference of the general governmentwaiting impatiently for the signal to march back to Zionyet, on their principles of obeying "counsel," restraining themselves to yield a temporary submission.
The murder of their prophet exasperated the people of Nauvoo. They were ready, and a vast majority determined, on immediate war to the knife, with all engaged in that horrid tragedy, or whoever might come to abet them. A few more sagacious minds perceived the danger of such courses and began skilfully to prevent the utter ruin of their hopes, likely to result from open hostility to the state. They harangued them on the stands and tailed with the clubs collected at the corners of the streets. The great drum was beating to arms. It was a fearful struggles that going on in the breasts of the prudent. Revenge was deep in every hearts and the bursting movement there was interpreted into the voice of the Holy Spirit; and it was made audible in the terrible curses poured forth on the Gentile murderers. The "time to fight," was, by most, supposed to have come. But skilful delays were interposed by the influential: their arms had been just surrendered and a new organisation made, and leaders were to be chosen. The day passed off and no companies had started, and wrath was bosomed for the morrow. In the morning after, the congregation was early collected at the temple-square or gathering place. The chief Apostles promised them the vengeance of heaven upon their enemies, but that they were not quite ripe enough far the vials of wrath to empty their torments upon them. Shortly the pestilence, the fire, and the sword, would do their work.
The funeral pageant next absorbed all their attention. The mourning was sore, sad, and deep over the beloved patriarch Hyrum and the adored prophet Joseph. In " their deaths they were not divided," and, among the songs of Zion heard in the Mormon worshipping assemblies, are the elegy and the poems of Joseph and Hyrum, the martyrs for their faith, but triumphant in glory.
The struggle for the leadership, the Seer succession, followed. Rigdon, as second in rank claimed promotion; also by former revelations declared himself assigned to be their prophet. He called a meeting and proclaimed his position as head. He gave a revelation, by which he was commanded to visit queen Victoria, and if she rejected his gospel to hurl her from the throne. James J. Strang contended for the place of Seer, and showed letters over the deceased prophet's signature, assuring him that he should be the successor in the event of Joseph's death. But the college of the Twelve had other views, and a vote on the subject. They declared that definite instructions, and the last will and testament of Joseph, had been delivered to them in secret council. It revoked all former designations and devolved the choice upon them.
Under the management of their sagacious chief, they elected the Peter of the Apostles, Brigham Young, to the responsible station.
This man, with a mien of the most retiring modesty and diffidence in ordinary intercourse in society, holds a spirit of ardent feeling and great shrewdness, and when roused in debate, or upon the preacher's stand, exhibits a boldness of speech and grasp of thought that awes and enchains with intense interestcontrolling, soothing, or exasperating, at pleasure, the multitudes that listen to his eloquence. His title among the Saints is, " The lion of the Lord. "
This enthronement drove Rigdon with a party to Pennsylvania, where in a short time his influence vanished and the band dispersed. Strang founded a city on the prairies of Wisconsin and had a numerous colonyhe ultimately removed to Beaver island, in Michigan lake, and assumed the title of King of the Saints, where the small kingdom still exists. These bodies and their leaders were excommunicated by the great majority under the proper Seeras was also William Smith, another competitor for the throne, and a party in Texas headed by Hyman White.