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Why Joseph Destroyed Expositor (Part 7 of 8)

The Nauvoo Expositor exposed Joseph Smith’s polygamy and was the lightning rod that led to Joseph Smith’s death.  As Mayor of Nauvoo, Smith directed the city council to destroy the Expositor press.  While polygamy was an explosive issue, it wasn’t the only reason Joseph wanted the press destroyed.  In his book, “Origins of Power,” Dr. Michael Quinn makes the case that polygamy was a relatively minor reason for the destruction of the press.  I asked Dr. Derek Sainsbury if he agreed with Quinn, and he did.  What else was published in the Expositor that Joseph wanted suppressed?

GT:  Well, let me ask you a question about that. I remember reading Michael Quinn. It was a long time ago that I read this, but one of the things that he said–going back to the Nauvoo Expositor, polygamy kind of always grabs the headlines. The Expositor published Joseph Smith’s polygamy. But the bigger issue, according to Quinn, was that Joseph was seeking alliances with England, France, Texas, which would have been considered treasonous. Can you talk about that? I’m assuming that that didn’t really happen in the Council of Fifty minutes or was speculation.  Can you talk to that issue?

Derek:  So, they sent a delegate to Texas to negotiate.  Woodworth is his name.  That’s an independent nation. So, the Council of Fifty considered themselves to be the kingdom of God on Earth, the political Kingdom of God that represents it on earth. There’s a reason why when Joseph Smith is headed to Carthage, he tells William Clayton to either burn or bury the minutes because they could be construed as treason. They didn’t consider it to be treason. But it could be construed that way. So yes, they did send a representative to Texas. They did formally call someone to go to Russia and to England.  Those ambassadors, if you want to call them that, never left. But it gives you the mindset that they were acting like a government. They were pushing for the United States. They were pushing this idea of Joseph Smith for president. But then if that doesn’t work out, where can we go? So, then you have to start looking at where you go, who are you going to have to work with? If you go to Texas, you got to work with Texas. If you go to Oregon, which is contested property between the United States, Great Britain and Russia, then, of course, you need to be talking with those three countries as well. Does that make sense? The minutes show that these assignments were made.  The only one that was made and actually reported back was the Texas one.

Derek:  But yeah, the minutes also reveal that on the April 11th meeting, in the new Masonic hall had been built in 1844, they nominate Joseph as a prophet, priest and king over Israel, different from maybe the promises that might be found in an LDS endowment. So, this idea of making him a king over Israel, that ends up being leaked.  It’s in the Nauvoo Expositor that he’s made himself [king.] They’re twisting it that he’s made himself King. They’re twisting it and so that’s…

GT:  Well, I would think that would be an easy thing to twist because we hate kings, and even the Book of Mormon says it’s better that you do not have a king.

Were you aware of these reasons?  What are your thoughts?

Check out our conversation….

Dr Derek Sainsbury says polygamy was a minor irritation of the Nauvoo Expositor. There were other reasons Joseph wanted the paper destroyed.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Dr. Sainsbury.

423:  Theo-democracy in Deseret (Sainsbury)

422:  Anti-Slavery Missionaries in the South (Sainsbury)

421: Bobby Kennedy-Joseph Smith (Sainsbury)

420:  Electioneer Missionaries (Sainsbury)

419:  Mormons: The Original Swing Voters! (Sainsbury)

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Martyrdom of James Strang (Part 4 of 6)

Both Joseph Smith and James Strang died in a hail of bullets.  In our next conversation with historian Bill Shepard, we will learn more about the martyrdom of James Strang.

GT: So he’s on Beaver Island. He creates a lot of political enemies and I guess religious as well.

Bill: Not only that, there’s Alexander Wood Wentworth and Thomas Bedford, two obviously ex- Mormons. One of them, with the strict laws that the Strangites tried to enforce, there was a case of adultery.  The grieved man testified.  So, this seducer is whipped. Of course, he hated Strang for that. There was a merchant, an ex-Mormon by name of McCullough on Beaver Island, and we think that McCullough was in league with the United States government with the steamship Michigan.  It is going to steam into the port.  Strang is going to be a his home and they’re going to say, “They want you on the dock,” and he’s going to walk down to the dock and Wentworth and Bedford are going to jump out behind him and shoot him down. Particularly, one ball goes clear up near his skull and he is mortally wounded at this time. Bedford and Wentworth are going to run down to the ship, and the ship’s going to take them out of there. They’re going to take them to Mackinaw and put them in jail, I think for just a couple minutes.  They’re going to come out and celebrate. These two fellows are never, never brought to justice for what they did.  They were greeted as heroes among the non-Mormons. It looks like there is some kind of an evil cabal or something with some elements of the government because of the role of the steamship coming in the United States.

Bill:  It was a navy ship, right?  U.S. Navy?

Bill:  Yeah. So, whatever the course, a man I know a lot about and have written about is through Wingfield Watson, a settler that lives six miles inside the island with his wife, with his homestead.  He had a son and a daughter about one, and then an infant. So these people that ransack the island, basically, as the books seem to indicate, drunken Irishmen, these people that are on the fringes of law.  They come to this Wingfield Watson’s house and they say, “You have an hour to get your stuff and get out.  Take what you can carry.” So this is repeated all over the island. But these people six miles inside, it’s really a hard trip. Once a lot of people take their goods down to the pier or the dock just so they could take them with them, and, of course, they’re confiscated.  So the Mormons are stuck on these ships, penniless. It’s really heartfelt. Here’s the Watson family. They have a young boy, but they have a year old and they have an infant, walking six miles and carrying the kids. It is really a tragedy to the Strangites, and many Strangites are going to say, “Enough.”

Followers of James Strang were persecuted unmercifully.  Check out our conversation…

James Strang was shot and his murderers escaped on a U.S. Navy ship.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Bill Shepard!

399: Strang’s Prophetic Role as Translator

398: Strang’s Mormon Missions

397: “The Other Mormons”-Intro to James Strang

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Message to Critics & Believers of Joseph Smith (Part 6 of 6)

One of the things I find really interesting about Dr. Larry Foster is that he seems to disagree with both critics and supporters of Joseph Smith.   In our final conversation with Larry, we will close up some loose ends and seek to find a middle ground that best explain Joseph Smith.

Larry:  I think it’s really hard for people who have the sort of complete hero worship idea, or sort of a pasteboard saint, to really understand Joseph Smith. It’s really hard for people who think he was just a total scoundrel and crook and con man and confidence man, or whatever it was, to see him properly. I think that there’s an element of both in him. So, my latest piece on trying to reconcile the fact that so many people for so many years, have either thought that he was a true prophet of God that could do no evil, or he was a terrible scoundrel and con man.

I think that the fact that so many people have had those opposing viewpoints [means that neither can be the whole truth.] I always believe that most people are trying to do the right thing or be honest, unless I see otherwise. So, I think there’s something that’s very special about Joseph Smith. There’s also some stuff about him that looks like he’s manipulative, and so forth. So, I argue that he was genuinely committed to his religious beliefs and ideals, but that he was also willing to cut corners and even lie or make false statements in order to try to accomplish his goals.

GT:  Now, I just spoke with Dan Vogel recently.

Larry:  Yeah, we’re very much on the same page on this.

GT:  So, you would go with pious fraud?

Larry:  No, I don’t use that. [I call him] a sincere charlatan. That was the term that I developed. I think pious and fraud both are [problematic.] Pious sounds like you’re not really true, and fraud is fraud. I mean, charlatan, trickster would be better, maybe than charlatan. But I think that he really had a genuine religious vision and ideals. I also think that he was willing to manipulate other people as part of that in ways that from outsiders’ perspective look like he was a fraud. If you don’t bring the two together, you can’t understand the overall dynamic. He was a great man. He was also a flawed man. And he, of course, recognized that the prophet is a prophet only when it’s acting as such. But even though he was acting as such, sometimes he may have deviated.

Dr. Larry Foster addresses both fans and critics of Joseph Smith.

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