Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

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maverick
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Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by maverick » 21 Dec 2011, 02:25

My take is that the Nauvoo Expositor destruction was the event that led to Joseph Smith death. Was it necessary for him to destroy it. Why not just admit that yes he is practicing polygamy.

What is your opinion ?

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by Brian Johnston » 21 Dec 2011, 07:08

I think it was the final straw, the match that lit the fuse, so to say. In isolation, I don't think that single event would have been enough.

Why not admit it? Well ... there are actually a couple of answers to that, I think.

It was a damned if he did, damned if he didn't situation for one thing. As they say in the intelligence business, the best way to keep a secret is to not tell anyone. ;) Joseph broke that fundamental rule by slowly including more and more people into the inner-circle of what he was exploring through "the new and everlasting covenant." It was bound to leak eventually.

He couldn't openly admit to it because it would destroy him, and probably also the entire movement he had created. It was VERY divisive even among the most faithful and dedicated. Indeed, it played a large part in the messy succession crisis that played out after his martyrdom.

The other point I would like to make: There is actually the remote possibility that Joseph Smith did not preach polygamy. I know this is a minority position among historians at this point, but it was a major argument of the Reorganized LDS Church. I still think it very likely that Joseph had an active libido that may have gotten him into trouble at times, but vast bulk of the evidence for this "doctrine" comes from historical evidence created under the influence of Brigham Young. At a minimum, I don't think plural marriage was clearly developed or systematized by Joseph during his life as it appears after the fact. There was a lot of manipulation by the Brighamite faction to "prove" their claims in the years that followed (the LDS Church).

The bottom line, either way, is Joseph had managed to collect a lot of really bitter enemies over the years, and the counties surrounding Nauvoo were nearly hysterical in fear of what was going on in that city. If it wasn't the Expositor, it very likely would have been something else IMO.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

Old-Timer
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Re: Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by Old-Timer » 21 Dec 2011, 07:46

Exactly what Brian said, especially the following:
At a minimum, I don't think plural marriage was clearly developed or systematized by Joseph during his life as it appears after the fact.


Personally, I see the multiple versions of the concept of sealing that were played out in his lifetime as evidence that he had a "vision" of something that totally challenged the foundation of Christianity at the time - the idea that salvation was individual and that marriage as a religious construct was strictly monogamous. He tried implementing various things to express that difference, and I think what eventually "took" after his death (polygamy as developed under Brigham Young) only did so because, ironically, it was the "easiest to comprehend" or "least foreign" arrangement.
If it wasn't the Expositor, it very likely would have been something else IMO.
Moving back to the question of the destruction of the Expositor itself, I also think it was the final can of gas thrown on a smoldering fire - but, ironically, he actually was within his legal rights to do what he did. Don't get me wrong; I think he shouldn't have done it. It wasn't popular, and it was used by others as an inciter among his enemies and those who simply were scared of the growing Mormon population and needed any excuse to act - but, techinically speaking, he had the legal authority to do it.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

GBSmith
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Re: Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by GBSmith » 21 Dec 2011, 09:04

Old-Timer wrote:Moving back to the question of the destruction of the Expositor itself, I also think it was the final can of gas thrown on a smoldering fire - but, ironically, he actually was within his legal rights to do what he did. Don't get me wrong; I think he shouldn't have done it. It wasn't popular, and it was used by others as an inciter among his enemies and those who simply were scared of the growing Mormon population and needed any excuse to act - but, techinically speaking, he had the legal authority to do it.
I'm not so sure about that. The press was ordered destroyed by the city council but there was no trial, just the majority decision of the council. It wasn't proved that the paper was libelous or that was a public nuisance, just the opinion of JS. That a public official would do that would be pretty worrisome to the state government especially in light of the size of the Nauvoo Legion. I don't know if there would have been something else if this wouldn't have been the last straw. JS was already planning a move to Texas or west. I think he realized that he couldn't sustain the momentum by having it sit still and would have likely come up with something that would have meant more hardship and sacrifice. Plus I think he was pretty restless and wasn't inclined to just let things stay the way they were.

Getting back to polygamy I think JS was making it up as he went and including others into his circle as a way to justify his actions. He did that with Fanny Alger back about 10 years earlier. As it was made a key part of the theology by BY it was codified and justified further. It did make the church distinctive and apart and futher underscored the us vs them mind set that still exists today.

By the way Mormon Heretic has a nice post over on www.wheatandtares about this very subject.

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Re: Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by Old-Timer » 21 Dec 2011, 09:52

The press was ordered destroyed by the city council but there was no trial, just the majority decision of the council. It wasn't proved that the paper was libelous or that was a public nuisance, just the opinion of JS. That a public official would do that would be pretty worrisome to the state government especially in light of the size of the Nauvoo Legion.


Iow, what I said - only wth more detail. ;) :lol:
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

doug
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Re: Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by doug » 21 Dec 2011, 09:58

Old-Timer wrote: ... the idea that salvation was individual and that marriage as a religious construct was strictly monogamous. He tried implementing various things to express that difference ...
Such as ... polygyny?
Moving back to the question of the destruction of the Expositor itself, I also think it was the final can of gas thrown on a smoldering fire - but, ironically, he actually was within his legal rights to do what he did.
That is highly doubtful. Most analyses I have read (even one by Dallin Oaks) suggest that the destruction of the press was, in fact, extralegal. The legal avenues available were bypassed.

I don't mind admitting that Joseph Smith was a great spiritual leader, inspired in many ways, and a deep and complex person who I would have loved to have known, but I don't think whitewhashing his legacy is productive ... at least not for me.
The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. -- Mark Twain

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Re: Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by Old-Timer » 21 Dec 2011, 10:14

I don't think whitewhashing his legacy is productive ... at least not for me.


I agree - but, within the powers delegated within the city at that time, I see the action as unwise (or even stupid) but legal.

Now, having said that, if he'd been tried for it, he probably would have been convicted - given who would have been making the decision and their own views of what should / shoulf not have happened.

There often is a difference between technically legal and punishable by law - especially when we're only dealing with one level of the court system. We have almost innumerable appeals that actually are heard (and many reversals) to illustrate that fact.

Bottom line is that I'm not trying to whitewash or "apologize" for what happened. I admit it openly and don't hesitate to call it a stupid decision. From everything I've read, however, I think it was done in accordance with the powers as articulated in the charter under which they were operating - and that aspect of the charter hadn't been challenged legally at that point.

Iow, I think it's clear that, at the time, it wasn't an obvious, settled "legal fact". Many people agree with that opinion; many don't. I'm fine with that, since law is inherently messay and subjective in most areas.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by Roy » 21 Dec 2011, 10:23

maverick wrote:My take is that the Nauvoo Expositor destruction was the event that led to Joseph Smith death.
I was always troubled by this event because I live in a time when the freedom of the press is so sacrosanct, but it would appear that it was not always so. The following events are from the same time period and area of the country:
In May 1836, after anti-abolitionist opponents in St. Louis destroyed his printing press for the third time, Lovejoy left the city and moved across the river to Alton in the free state of Illinois. In 1837 he started the Alton Observer, also an abolitionist paper. On November 7, 1837, a pro-slavery mob attacked the warehouse where Lovejoy had his fourth printing press. Lovejoy and his supporters exchanged gunfire with the mob, who fatally shot him. He died on the spot and was soon hailed as a martyr by abolitionists across the country. After his death, his brother Owen entered politics and became the leader of the Illinois abolitionists.
GBSmith wrote:I'm not so sure about that. The press was ordered destroyed by the city council but there was no trial, just the majority decision of the council. It wasn't proved that the paper was libelous or that was a public nuisance, just the opinion of JS.
As to the legality of the destruction of the press, I believe that JS had said to the Governor through correspondence that if he had erred in his judgment then he was prepared to go through civil court and/or pay restitution. But that surely would not have satisfied his opponents, who were understandably afraid and/or enraged by the Mormon problem.
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Re: Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by Old-Timer » 21 Dec 2011, 10:36

Roy, that's actually the heart of my opinion about the legality of the action.

As a former history teacher, I am well aware of how often printing presses were destroyed in that general time period. It happened quite frequently - at least frequently enough that it wasn't a shock that it happened. I'm not aware of any instance of it happening in the "western states" where the person who did it was tried and jailed because of it until well into the late 1800's - and, even then, most times no jail time was served. It was treated as a regrettable misdemeanor, with the punishment being the payment of restitution.

I'm not trying to defend the decision. Really, I'm not. I really do see it as wrong and politically stupid. I'm just saying it wasn't obviously illegal back then, nor was it the big deal in that time period as it is now.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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cwald
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Re: Nauvoo Expositor Destruction

Post by cwald » 21 Dec 2011, 13:43

Not only was it illegal to destroy the press --- private property --- but every accusation that William Law made against JS and the church leaders in his finally article that led the council to vote to destroy, were in fact ---- CORRECT. He merely exposed what JS and the church leaders were doing at the time, and they didn't like it.

Mormon Expression did a great podcast on the Expositor. I highly recommend it. Even Mike Tannihill admitted that William Law was not being libelous and was honest about what he said in his article.

IMO --- the church owes the family of Willaim Law and apology for dragging his name through the mud for 160 some years.
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

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