Discourse, 25 April 1841, as Reported by Julius Alexander Reed
JS, Discourse, , Hancock Co., IL, 25 Apr. 1841. Featured version reported by Julius Alexander Reed; handwriting of Julius Alexander Reed; two pages; Julius Alexander Reed, Papers, Special Collections, State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines.
On 25 April 1841, JS delivered a discourse in , Illinois, answering recent complaints made against him. Earlier that month, the had celebrated its eleventh anniversary by laying the cornerstones of the Nauvoo . JS’s attire on this occasion had reportedly offended at least one person who then left Nauvoo and abandoned the church. This incident apparently led JS on 25 April to address various criticisms leveled against him and other leaders. In particular, JS defended himself against the charges of wearing a ruffled shirt, driving a nice carriage, and saying that he was willing to steal from wealthy individuals. In addition, JS warned of the consequences of criticizing church leaders and encouraged his audience to avoid finding fault with their leaders’ conduct.
Julius Alexander Reed, a Congregationalist minister living in , heard JS speak on 25 April and made notes on what he said. Reed later published a portion of these notes, which he had revised, in the Congregational Journal. The commentary that accompanied Reed’s published account reveals his animus toward JS; he criticized JS’s “rich and genteel dress,” for instance, and pronounced him “a villain.”
Reed’s handwritten notes are featured here. Significant textual differences between this version and the version published in the Congregational Journal are identified in footnotes.
JS, Discourse, 25 Apr. 1841, Julius Alexander Reed, Papers, Special Collections, State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines; Benediction, 6 Apr. 1841; “Celebration of the Aniversary of the Church,” Times and Seasons, 15 Apr. 1841, 2:376; “The Mormons,” Western World [Warsaw, IL], 7 Apr. 1841, .
Reed, Julius Alexander. Papers, 1825–1909. Special Collections, State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Cutter, New England Families, 3:1149. Reed described these notes as “a memorandum made while it was fresh in my memory.” [Julius Alexander Reed], Fairfield, Iowa Territory, 2 Feb. 1843, Letter to the Editor, Congregational Journal, 16 Mar. 1843, .
Cutter, William Richard, comp. New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial, a Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation. 4 vols. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1914.
A portion of Reed’s published account from the Congregational Journal was later published in the Christian Observer, a Presbyterian newspaper published in Philadelphia. (“The Mormon Prophet as Speaker,” Christian Observer, 7 Apr. 1843, 14; see also Shankman, “Converse, ‘The Christian Observer’ and Civil War Censorship,” 228.)
Christian Observer. Philadelphia. 1840–1861.
Shankman, Arnold. “Converse, ‘The Christian Observer’ and Civil War Censorship.” Journal of Presbyterian History (1962–1985) 52, no. 3 (Fall 1974): 227–244.
Lungs in bad state did efforts of preceding sabbath— Such a place for preaching w[oul]d do for long winded cold-hearted Presbyterian but not for man of feeling—
Subject complaints of people against leaders—
Complained of his ruffle shirt—
Some poor fellow run off to & denied the faith because Brother Joseph wore a ruffle shirt on day <6th> of April—
Did not wear ruffle shirt— hired girls knew he had none— What was it? Old womans ruffle— pinned it in his bosom & he s[ai]d to her it wd make some poor fellow deny the faith— <would to God some more wd do so> He meant to get some fine cloth & have ruffle shirt & hoped some more hypocrites wd kick up their heels & go—
Joseph rode in fine carriage— He did & would— He worked hard day & night— & they might ride in them if worked hard— But they wd loiter about his door all day— Didnt like to say he wished them to go but felt so— & at night burn old man Doyles fences— Bro. Joseph sd send the rich to me & I’ll pick their pockets— supposed every body knew he spoke ironically— Wd not take any mans property wrongfully— Did not say hoped w[oul]d not wd try not &c. but wd not knew it— Temptations not from that quarter— Great have wd not tempt— What are my temptations? Whiskey whiskey whiskey— C[oul]d live on it & get fat & feel well. If God did not say it was sinful— Wd not wrestle with it cd not throw it—
— was blamed about setting bone—
Best Doctor they had had— Cared when applied to in season— Many refused physician till twas too late then save <send> for Joseph to save them— He I can do it but wont that’s the idea Have faith use means & I will meet them half way—
Leave to me— has been under my scrutiny— some say I’m sleepy But some see out of corner of eye when most asleep— I have seen him asleep & awake— I’ll take care of him Is little man cd take him on my shoulder— If mob come mean to put him in my pocket—
Leave him to me I[’]ll take care of him— I’ll take care of him any how—
Don[’]t lisp one word against me or my associates— which you can[’]t prove— If do will deliver you to buffetings of Satan & shant escape without repenting one while that is the idea Time has been when had to bear with tares but should root up the wheat— but time near when reverse & he’d nab ’em—
S◊◊◊◊◊ Finding fault with leaders moral conduct—
If had confidence in prophet that he is guided by Great God cant charge him with sin without charging God with it — So of his associates—
Sh[oul]d indulge them in a little sin— For Charity covereth a multitude of sins— Straining at gnat & swallowing camel What mean? Putting on long face whining thinking sister must go to hell for wearing curls & at night stealing ham out his smoke house & burning Doyles fences Lazy worthless fellows Noble as tip of my dogs tail <(wh[ich] is)> pretty high up you know—
Seemed as if some stood ready to swallow a man— If he was greased over feared some wd swallow him alive— Stood— just so (opening his mouth wide)—
Cd not visit sister but something wrong— cd see to wants of poor &c—
Sister Hyde had worn out pair of good shoes heaking her wood— Tried to cut it but wd strike one blow & next a yard off— Her hearth speaking ironically rat cd not run across it in seven years— all up & down motioning with his hand— child wd step in up to its hip Crickets cd not live there did not see a place where one cd run— Bluff on bluff hill & a & mountain (laughing so as to stop utterance)
Terms— read— Poor devils, derr◊◊◊◊, not afraid of devils nor his imps— you thief you that <I am going to throw this stone at (throwing back his arm)>
Knew more about them than they thought— God told him much wh. al[s]o he told him not to tell his he did not inform of some villains because his he cd not prove— but wd find him a good greyhound— grey hound can smell when others cant you know—
Read a call from to call upon to detect author of fire in Doyles fence— Sd he was in authority & sworn to do his duty— Had power & would use it— not whim as I can do nothing for you— He ordered to take 8 picked men from each company & put them under oath of secrecy as to instructions & measures— [p. ]
Reed’s expansion of these notes in the Congregational Journal reads “His subject was, the complaints of the Mormons against their leaders. The first complaint he noticed in this strain:—‘Some of the brethren were very much troubled because brother Joseph wore a ruffle shirt. He surely could not be a good man. Why, it’s a fact, that some poor fellow run off to Quincy and denied the faith, because brother Joseph wore a ruffle shirt. Didn’t wear a ruffle shirt—ha’int got any. What was it then? Why, it was an old woman’s ruffle.— My wife pinned it in my bosom; I told her it was a first-rate idea, that it would make some of these poor fellows, that steal hams out of brother Joseph’s smoke-house, deny the faith. I would to god some more of them would do it.’ He added that he would wear a ruffle shirt and he ‘hoped some more of the poor devils would kick up their heels and go.’” ([Julius Alexander Reed], Fairfield, Iowa Territory, 2 Feb. 1843, Letter to the Editor, Congregational Journal, 16 Mar. 1843, , italics in original.)
JS was later accused of encouraging Latter-day Saints in Hancock County to steal from those who were not members of the church. (“Thieves,” “Hyrum Smith’s Affidavit,” and “Pres’t. J. Smith’s Affidavit,” Times and Seasons, 1 Dec. 1841, 3:615–618; Affidavit, 29 Nov. 1841.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
An 1833 JS revelation stated “that inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or Strong drink among you behold it is not good, neither mete in the sight of your Father.” Later, the revelation reiterated that “strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.” (Revelation, 27 Feb. 1833 [D&C 89; 5, 7].)
Reed’s expansion of these notes in the Congregational Journal reads “Some were troubled because he had said,—‘Send the rich to me and I will pick their pockets.’ ‘I thought any fool would know I was speaking ironically. I would’nt take a cent wrongfully from any man. I dont say, I hope I shan’t, I think I wont, I’ll try not to, but I wont, I know I wont. How do you know it? Why, my temptation is not from that quarter. A great haul would be no temptation.’ ‘What is your temptation then?’ ‘Whiskey—whiskey—whiskey!! I could live on it, grow fat and feel well, if God didn’t say it was a sin.’” ([Julius Alexander Reed], Fairfield, Iowa Territory, 2 Feb. 1843, Letter to the Editor, Congregational Journal, 16 Mar. 1843, .)
Reed’s expansion of these notes in the Congregational Journal reads “Dr. Bennett, (now General) was censured for his treatment of a fractured limb. In his defence of the Doctor, Smith said, ‘Many refuse to employ a physician till it is too late, and when they find the doctor can do nothing for them (grievingly) they send for br. Joseph to heal them. I can do it, but I wont; that is the idea.’” ([Julius Alexander Reed], Fairfield, Iowa Territory, 2 Feb. 1843, Letter to the Editor, Congregational Journal, 16 Mar. 1843, .)
JS later recounted that he had reason to scrutinize Bennett’s behavior soon after the latter came to Nauvoo in 1840. Around that time, Bennett “began to keep company with a young lady” whom he apparently intended to marry. JS, however, received a letter “which cautioned us against him [Bennett], setting forth that he was a very mean man, and had another wife, and two or three children” in Ohio. JS subsequently “threatened to expose him if he did not desist” in his designs toward the young woman, which proved sufficient inducement for Bennett to end the relationship. (Letter to the Church and Others, 23 June 1842.)
Reed’s expansion of these notes in the Congregational Journal reads “Some suspected the moral conduct of their leaders: He said, ‘If you have confidence in your prophet, that he is guided by the great God, you cannot charge him with sin without charging God with it.’ He claimed ‘that they ought to be indulged a little in sin,’ they had suffered so much in ‘the cause;’ . . . ‘Why, charity covereth a multitude of sins;’ . . . . ‘Strain at a gnat and swallow a camel; what does that mean? Putting on a long face,’ (assuming an air of affected gravity and drawing his hand down his face) ‘and whining,’ (his voice corresponding with the sentiment,’ ‘and thinking sister —— must go to hell for wearing curls and at night stealing hams from brother Joseph’s smoke-house, and burning neighbor Dayle’s fences. That is straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.’” ([Julius Alexander Reed], Fairfield, Iowa Territory, 2 Feb. 1843, Letter to the Editor, Congregational Journal, 16 Mar. 1843, .)
Reed’s expansion of these notes in the Congregational Journal reads “‘It seemed as though some were ready to swallow a man, ‘through jealousy. He ‘did not know but, that if he were well greased all over, some one would swallow him. They stood just so,’ (stretching his mouth which is none of the smallest, to his full extent and spreading his arms.— Here he laughed, and a thousand Mormons laughed the chorus.) I can’t visit a sister nor attend to the wants of the poor, but some will think something is wrong.’ ‘There is sister Hyde (the wife of an apostle then in England) she has worn out a pair of good shoes breaking wood. She tried at first to cut it; she would strike a blow and the next she would strike a yard off’—suiting the action to the word. ‘I wish some of these poor lazy fellows would just go and see her fire heart. Why, speaking ironically, a rat couldn’t run across it in seven years. It’s all up and down, just so’—waiving his hand by way of illustration. ‘Crickets can’t live there. I did’nt see any. I did’nt see a place where one could run. It’s bluff on bluff, hill on hill, and mountain’—here his laughter stopped his utterance.” ([Julius Alexander Reed], Fairfield, Iowa Territory, 2 Feb. 1843, Letter to the Editor, Congregational Journal, 16 Mar. 1843, .)
Reed’s expansion of these notes in the Congregational Journal reads “Addressing the thieves he remarked—’I know more about you than you think for. god tells me a great many things about you. Why dont you tell of them, then? God tells me not to. And my knowledge is not such as would be received in a Court of justice. But, you will find me a first-rate greyhound on the track. Greyhounds can smell where other dogs can’t you know.’” Reed added an additional paragraph in the Congregational Journal that does not appear in his notes: “Speaking of some with whom he was offended, he said: ‘They may go to old Boggs and the’—(laughing, scratching his head, and snapping his fingers,) ‘well, I knew when to stop once.’ The multitude laughed with him.” ([Julius Alexander Reed], Fairfield, Iowa Territory, 2 Feb. 1843, Letter to the Editor, Congregational Journal, 16 Mar. 1843, .)