JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , [, Sangamon Co., IL?], 24 June 1842. Featured version copied [ca. 24 June 1842], in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 233–235; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 24 June 1842, JS wrote a letter to governor explaining ’s improper conduct in , Illinois, and asking the governor for direction on what the Latter-day Saints should do if a mob from entered the city. JS wrote the letter after being informed of rumors that Bennett was working with Missourians to kidnap him. In 1839, JS and others escaped from Missouri custody after being imprisoned for various charges, including treason, and since then at least one attempt had been made to extradite him back to Missouri: In June 1841, JS was served an arrest warrant, signed by Carlin, which was intended to lead to JS’s extradition, though he was quickly released after the warrant was ruled defective. Later, after JS was rumored to have been involved in a failed assassination attempt on former Missouri governor in May 1842, fears that Missouri would again attempt to extradite him increased.
JS also wrote this 24 June letter in his capacity as lieutenant general of the to report the conduct of , one of the senior officers in the legion, and to discover whether Bennett had resigned his commission. In addition, JS seemed concerned that Bennett might begin spreading slanderous rumors about him that would influence ’s opinion. Although the Saints had held Carlin in high regard for welcoming them to in 1839 and helping them obtain the charter for , the relationship had become strained after Carlin issued the arrest warrant for JS’s extradition to . Hoping to deflect any negative reports Bennett might convey to Carlin, JS used this letter to provide his own account of what had happened with Bennett.
The letter featured here echoed a letter JS wrote the day before to members and “all the honorable part of community.” That letter also provided information about ’s conduct, asserting that Bennett was a fraud and a liar and specifically explaining when JS had known about Bennett’s improper behavior and what JS did to address it.
The original letter to is not extant. copied it into JS’s second letterbook, likely soon after the letter was composed, but did not include Carlin’s location in the copy. Carlin received the letter within a few days and responded on 30 June, answering JS’s specific questions, but it is not known whether the letter was sent to Carlin in , Illinois, where he was located on 22 June, or to , Illinois, where he answered the letter.
“The Late Proceedings,” Times and Seasons, 15 June 1841, 2:447–448; “Assassination of Ex-Governor Boggs of Missouri,” Quincy (IL) Whig, 21 May 1842, ; Letter to Sylvester Bartlett, 22 May 1842. The Nauvoo City Council had established a city watch on 20 May 1842 apparently, at least according to one source, because of fears that Missourians would enter Nauvoo and retaliate for the assassination attempt on Governor Boggs. On 26 June 1842, JS and other church leaders “united in Solemn prayer that God . . . would deliver his anointed, his people. from all the evil designs of Governor Boggs. & the powers of the state of Missouri, & of Governor Carlin. & the authorities of Illinois.” (Mayor’s Order to City Watch, 20 May 1842; “The Mormons,” Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 3 June 1842, ; JS, Journal, 26 June 1842.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
the same manner, but publicly proclaimed against it in consequence of the prejudace of the people and fear of trouble in my own house. By this means he accomplished his designs, he seduced a respectable female with lying and subjected her to public infamy and disgrace.
Not contented with what he had already done he made the attempt on others and by using the same language seduced them also.
about the early part of July 1841 I received a letter from Pa In it was contained information setting forth that said had a and two or three children then living. This I re[a]d to him and he acknowledged it was true
A very short time after this he attempted to destroy himself by taking poison but being discovered before it had taken sufficient affect, and proper antidotes administered he again recovered.
The impression made on the minds of the public by this event was; that he was so ashamed of his base conduct that he took this coursse to escape the censures of a justly indignant community. It might have been supposed that after this he would have broke off his adulterous proceedings but to the contrary the public consternation had scarcly ceased before he was again deeply involved in the same wicked proceedings, and continued untill a knowledge of the fact reached my ears. I immediately charged him with the whole circumstance and he candidly acknowledged the truth of the whole.
The foregoing facts were established on oath before an of the .— the affidavits are now in my possession.
In order that the truth might be fully established I asked to testify before an wether I had given him any cause for such aggravating conduct He testified that I never taught to him that illicit intercourses with females was under any circumstances justifiable neither did he ever hear me teach any thing but the strictest principles of righteousness and virtue. This affidavit is also in my possession.
I have also a similar affidavit taken before the city council and signed by the members of the council.
after these things transpired, and finding that I should resist all such wicked conduct, and knowing that he could no longer maintain himself as a respectable citizen he has seen fit to leave , and that very abruptly
I have been credibly informed that he is colleaguing with some of our former cruel persecuters the missourians and that he is threatening destruction upon us; and under these circumstances I consider it my duty to give you information on the subject that a knowledge of his [p. 234]
By this time, JS had apparently been sealed to several women in Nauvoo. Bennett may have had some knowledge of these sealings and may have been referring to plural marriage in his accusations against JS. JS’s practice of plural marriage, however—which included a proposal, a religious ceremony, and at least one witness—did not resemble Bennett’s claims about JS’s conduct. (See, for example, Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, Affidavit, Minersville, Utah Territory, 23 Mar. 1877, Collected Material concerning Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage, CHL; and Presendia Lathrop Huntington Kimball, Affidavit, Salt Lake Co., Utah Territory, 1 May 1869, in Joseph F. Smith, Affidavits about Celestial Marriage, 1:7.)
Collected Material concerning Joseph Smith and Plural Marriage, ca. 1870–1912. CHL.
Smith, Joseph F. Affidavits about Celestial Marriage, 1869–1915. CHL. MS 3423.
The woman referred to here was probably Catherine Fuller Warren, who testified before the Nauvoohigh council that she became acquainted with Bennett around May 1841 and that he seduced her. (Catherine Fuller Warren, Testimony, Nauvoo, IL, 25 May 1842, Testimonies in Nauvoo High Council Cases, CHL.)
Testimonies in Nauvoo High Council Cases, May 1842. CHL.
Catherine Fuller Warren testified that Bennett also had improper relations with Melissa Schindle, Matilda Nyman, and Margaret Nyman. (Catherine Fuller Warren, Testimony, Nauvoo, IL, 25 May 1842, Testimonies in Nauvoo High Council Cases, CHL.)
Testimonies in Nauvoo High Council Cases, May 1842. CHL.
According to Willard Richards, the women involved with Bennett “subscribed and swor[e]” to their conduct “before an alderman of the City.” ([Nauvoo Masonic Lodge], Nauvoo, IL, to Abraham Jonas, [Columbus, IL], 21 June 1842, Letters pertaining to Freemasonry in Nauvoo, CHL.)
Letters pertaining to Freemasonry in Nauvoo, 1842. CHL.
Three days after JS composed this letter, Bennett wrote a letter stating that because JS was “indicted for murder, treason, burglary, and arson, in Missouri,” Bennett would gladly “deliver him up to justice, or die in the attempt.” (John C. Bennett, Nauvoo, IL, 27 June 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 8 July 1842, .)