JS, Letter, [, Hancock Co., IL], to the editor of Times and Seasons , [, Hancock Co., IL, ca. Feb. 1843]. Featured version published in Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1843, vol. 4, no. 7, –98. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
In February 1843, JS wrote a letter from , Illinois, to , the editor of the Times and Seasons, giving what he intended to serve as a valedictory message concluding his editorship of the newspaper. , likely basing his dating off of the letter’s inclusion in the 15 February 1843 issue, suggested in his rough draft notes for JS’s history that JS wrote the letter on or after 15 February. However, JS may have begun drafting it by early February in response to a letter and subsequent editorial regarding his hearings that was published in the 15 and 16 January 1843 issues of the New York Herald. In the editorial, sarcastically challenged JS to “try his power at working a miracle or two” in order to prove that he was a prophet. JS responded by reviewing how biblical prophets were persecuted and suggesting that his recent trial demonstrated rather than contradicted his prophetic claims. Accordingly, JS’s letter to the editor corresponded with other editorials and statements he made during this period that attempted to establish that prophets had commonly experienced persecution throughout history.
JS also used this letter to censure American newspapers for the way they had generally reported on ’s criticisms of him and the Latter-day Saints during 1842. To articulate his reproach of the local and national press, JS included a parable in the editorial. In the parable, he described a pasture where a grazing fawn encountered an ass. The ass began braying so loudly that it alerted the lions of the forest, which then roared in response. In the end, JS said, God would take from the lions their teeth, claws, strength, and ability to roar. Contextually, JS cast himself as the fawn, John C. Bennett as the ass, and the local and national newspaper editors as the lions that roared in response to Bennett’s braying.
The original manuscript for this letter is apparently no longer extant. JS’s letter was featured in the 15 February 1843 issue of the Times and Seasons, which was evidently not published until sometime after 19 February 1843.
Although JS had earlier published a brief notice entitled “Valedictory” announcing that he had appointed Taylor as editor of the Times and Seasons, the notice was not a substantive editorial statement. (Notice, 15 Nov. 1842.)
The 15 February 1843 issue of the Times and Seasons includes a 19 February 1843 letter from Sidney Rigdon to Alfred Stokes. (Sidney Rigdon, Nauvoo, IL, to Alfred Stokes, 19 Feb. 1843, in Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1843, 4:100–101.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
,—Sir, ever since I gave up the editorial department of the “Times and Seasons,” I have thought of writing a piece for publication, by way of valedictory, as is usual when editors resign the chair editorial. My principal remarks I intended to apply to the gentlemen of the quill, or, if you please, that numerous body of respectable gentlemen who profess to regulate the tone of the public mind, in regard to politics, morality, religion, literature, the arts and sciences, &c. &c. viz. the editors of the public journals; or, if you please, I will disignate them, the lions of the forest. This latter cognomen , I consider to be more appropriate, because of the dignity of their office, their lofty bearing and mein, their ascendancy and influence over all others, and because of the tremendous noise that they make when they utter their voice.
It came to pass that as I went forth like a young fawn, one day, to feed upon the green grass in my pasture, an ass saw me, and brayed, and made a great noise; which a neighboring lion hearing roared, even as a lion roareth when he beholds his prey: at the sound of his voice the beasts of the field were alarmed, and the lions in the adjoining jungles pricked their ears and roared in their turn; and behold all the lions of the forest, alarmed by the noise, opened their mouths and uttered forth their voice which was as the roaring of a cataract, or as the voice of thunder; so tremendous was their roaring that the trees of the forest shook, as if they were shaken by a mighty wind; and all the beasts of the forest trembled, as if a whirlwind were passing. I lifted up mine eyes with astonishment when I heard the voice of the lions, and saw the fury of their rage. I asked, is it possible that so many lords of the forest, such noble beasts, should condescend to notice one solitary fawn, that is feeding alone upon his pasture; without attempting to excite either their jealousy or anger? I have not strayed from the fold, nor injured the trees of the forest, nor hurt the beasts of the field, nor trampled upon their pasture, nor drunk of their streams; why then their rage against me? When lo! and behold! they again uttered their voices, as the voice of great thunderings, and there was given unto them the voice of men; but it was difficult for me to distinguish what was said, among so many voices; but ever and anon I heard a few broken, incoherent sentences, like the following:—Murder! Desolation!! Bloodshed!!! Arson!!! Treason!!! Joe Smith and the Mormons!!! Our nation will be overturned!!! The imposter should be drove from the !!! The fawn will be metamorphased into a lion; will devour all the beasts of the field, destroy all the trees of the forest, and tread underfoot all the rest of the lions. I then lifted up my voice and said, hear me, ye beasts of the forest! and all ye great lions pay attention! I am innocent of the things whereof ye accuse me. I have not been guilty of violating your laws, nor of treaspassing upon your rights. My hands are clean from the blood of all men, and I am at the defiance of the world to substantiate the crimes whereof I am accused; wherefore, then, should animals of your noble mein stoop to such little jealousies, such vulgar language, and lay such unfounded charges at the door of the innocent? It is true that I once suffered an ass to feed in my pasture: he ate at my crib and drank at my waters, but possessing the true nature of an ass, he began to foul the water with his feet, and to trample under foot the green grass, and destroy it. I therefore put him out of my pasture, and he began to bray. Many of the lions in the adjoining jungles mistaking his braying for the roaring of a lion, commenced roaring. When I proclaimed this abroad many of the lions began to enquire into the matter; a few possessing a more noble nature than many of their fellows, drew near, and viewing the animal found that he was nothing more than a decriped, broken-down, worn-out ass that had scarcely anything left but his ears and his voice. Whereupon many of the lions felt indignant; at the lion of ; the lion of ; the lion of Sangamo; the lion of , and several other lions, for giving a false alarm, for dishonouring their race, and for responding to the voice of so base an animal as an ass. And they felt ashamed of themselves for being decoyed into such base ribaldry, and foul-mouthed slander. But there were many that lost sight of their dignity, and continued to roar, although they knew full well that they were following the braying of so dispicable a creature. Among these was a great lion, whose den was on the borders of the eastern sea; he had waxed great in strength; he had terrible teeth, and his eyes were like balls of fire; his head was large and terrific, and his shaggy [p. ]
John C. Bennett was excommunicated in May 1842 and withdrew his membership from the church on 17 May 1842. In July 1842, he published four lengthy, sensational letters about JS and the Latter-day Saints in the Sangamo Journal. The following October, he republished the letters, supplemented with additional material, as a book. (Notice, 11 May 1842; “Affidavit of Wm. Law,” Wasp, Extra, 27 July 1842, ; “Astounding Mormon Disclosures! Letter from Gen. Bennett,” Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 8 July 1842, ; “Further Mormon Developments!! 2d Letter from Gen. Bennett,” Sangamo Journal, 15 July 1842, ; “Gen. Bennett’s Third Letter,” Sangamo Journal, 15 July 1842, ; “Gen. Bennett’s 4th Letter,” Sangamo Journal, 22 July 1842, ; “Gen. Bennet’s Mormon Disclosures,” Daily Atlas [Boston], 15 Oct. 1842, .)
Following their initial publication in the Sangamo Journal,John C. Bennett’s letters were republished by other newspapers. (See, for example, “Important from the Far West,” New York Herald [New York City], 21 July 1842, ; “The Terrible Troubles in the Mormon Country,” New York Herald, 24 July 1842, ; “Mormonism Unveiled,” Cleveland Herald and Gazette, 20 July 1842, ; and “Astounding Mormon Disclosures,” Peoria [IL] Register and North-Western Gazetteer, 15 July 1842, –.)
New York Herald. New York City. 1835–1924.
Cleveland Herald. Cleveland. 1843–1853.
Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer. Peoria, IL. 1837–1843.
The New York Herald declared that John C. Bennett’s book “may be classed under the obscene and licentious in the highest degree” and that it “utterly disgraces its publisher.” On that basis, the Herald asserted that readers should not “believe half of the filthy things it contains.” (“The Mormons,” New York Herald [New York City], 21 Oct. 1842, .)
“The lion of Quincy” is likely a reference to either John Pettit, editor of the Quincy Herald, or Sylvester Bartlett, editor of the Quincy Whig. (Collins and Perry, Past and Present of the City of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois, 288; History of Adams County, Illinois, 429.)
Collins, William H., and Cicero F. Perry. Past and Present of the City of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1905.
The History of Adams County, Illinois. Containing a History of the County—Its Cities, Towns, Etc. . . . Chicago: Murray, Williamson, and Phelps, 1879.