On 30 July 1842, wrote a letter from to JS and in , Illinois, reporting on a mission he had undertaken to that area and expressing concern for the effects ’s “disclosures” were having on members in Philadelphia. Wasson was JS’s nephew, the son of Emma Smith’s sister Elizabeth Hale Wasson. He had been into the church in March 1842 in Nauvoo and had then departed on a mission to the eastern , during which he preached in Philadelphia and the southern part of . Although much proselytizing had been done in other parts of New Jersey, including , , and Ocean counties, Wasson declared that he and his mission companion were the first to preach in southern New Jersey. Wasson’s letter also referred to the opposition he faced, along with others who were preaching in the area, and he pointed specifically to debates between church member and George Montgomery West, an avowed critic of the Latter-day Saints.
In addition, mentioned difficulties the Saints were experiencing because of ’s accusations, which were getting a great deal of exposure in newspapers at that time. Wasson offered to help in any way he could to diminish Bennett’s influence.
’s original letter, which likely took a couple of weeks to reach , is apparently not extant. The text featured here was published in the 15 August 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons, which was evidently printed several days after 15 August.
One newspaper reported that in June 1842, West preached “that Infidelity is identical with Mormonism.” (Tyler Parsons, Boston, MA, 14 June 1842, Letter to the Editor, Boston Investigator, 15 June 1842, .)
By the end of July 1842, the Sangamo Journal in Springfield, Illinois, had published four of Bennett’s letters.a The New York Herald reprinted some of the letters in July, and other eastern newspapers, including Philadelphia’s North American and Daily Advertiser, referenced the letters and the falling-out between Bennett and JS.b
(aJohn C. Bennett, Nauvoo, IL, 27 June 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 8 July 1842, ; John C. Bennett, Carthage, IL, 2 July 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal, 15 July 1842, ; John C. Bennett, Carthage, IL, 4 July 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal, 15 July 1842, ; John C. Bennett, St. Louis, MO, 15 July 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal, 22 July 1842, . bSee, for example, “Important from the Far West,” New York Herald, 21 July 1842, ; “Excommunication Extraordinary,” North American and Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 8 July 1842, ; and “A Row among the Mormons,” Sun [Baltimore], 22 July 1842, .)
Sangamo Journal. Springfield, IL. 1831–1847.
New York Herald. New York City. 1835–1924.
North American and Daily Advertiser. Philadelphia. 1839–1845.
With feelings of no ordinary character, and under peculiar circumstances, I now attempt to break the seeming long silence that has not been interrupted since I left your hospitable cottage, and the society of those rendered dear to me by their virtues, their benevolence and their glorious institutions. That, with the assistance of my heavenly Father, has formed my character and habits for the society of saints and angels.
I am in the enjoyment of good health, and I believe entirely free from that miserable, contemptible disease that destroys the constitution of man, (namely ague and fever,) and what causes me greater rejoicing, I have, by the grace of God, abolished the more dangerous malady—one that binds the mind of man in midnight darkness, and obscures their future destiny and eternal happiness in mistic clouds of uncertainty and doubt, namely, sectarian cupidity. I have just returned to this from a short excursion of four weeks through the south part of . Brother I. Ivins and myself were the first that ever proclaimed the everlasting gospel in that region of country; and to the disappointment of the people, and consternation of hireling priests, we preached Christ, and him crucified, and presented new and important truths from their own bibles that they never saw or heard of before. The people of this section are principally Methodists and Presbyterians, but they were inclined to believe the truth as it was presented, until the decrees of their long robed gods went forth commanding them not to hear or entertain these impostors, as we were called—O delusion! O blind philosophy! how long will thy unfortunate dupes be gulled by the ipse dixit of learned fools and holy knaves?
We were frequently obliged to leave the scriptures, or subject under consideration and give lessons on good manners, and advise disorderly priests not to disgrace their parents by showing their bad breeding. We held a discussion with a college bred advocate of Calvinism on the 23d; he would not show that Mormonism was false, as he had stated, so we took him up on Calvinism, and I assure you he found himself in poor picking before we got through. We left many believing [p. 891]
“Brother I. Ivins” is almost certainly Israel Ivins, a twenty-seven-year-old member of the church from Toms River, New Jersey. Ivins had been baptized in March 1838 by Benjamin Winchester. (Erdman, Israel Ivins, 1–3.)
Erdman, Kimball Stewart. Israel Ivins: A Biography. [Slippery Rock, PA]: By the author, .
Benjamin Winchester similarly noted that after preaching in Hornerstown, New Jersey, in 1839, “the priests were engaged in fumbling over their old news paper files, and hunting up all the old stories that was told a number of years ago, probably thinking that this would be the most effectual way to stop the spread of truth.” He continued by saying that “three priests, a Methodist, Baptist and Universalist, united, Pilate and Herod like, to combat the truth.” (Benjamin Winchester, Payson, IL, 18 June 1839, Letter to the Editors, Times and Seasons, Nov. 1839, 1:10.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.