exerpt – Dimensions of Faith
I have long had a great admiration for the essay collections produced by Signature Books. As an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, I devoured The New Mormon History, Faithful History, and The Prophet Puzzle, among others. These collections were so valuable because they provided convenient access to some of the finest historical writing on the topic of Mormonism. Several years ago, as a doctoral student at Indiana University, I was in the habit of collecting new articles dealing with Mormonism. It occurred to me that the time was right for the publication of another collection of essays, and you are holding in your hands a book I would love to have had as a graduate student. That way, I could have simply thrust it wordlessly into the hands of those who expressed skepticism about the fitness of Mormonism as an object of serious academic study. Anyone who gives the essays in this book a thorough and fair reading will be left with no reservations on that score.
Happily, the people at Signature Books agreed on the need for a new collection, and I began the painful process of choosing which of the many worthy and cutting-edge articles to include and which to leave out. For every essay that made it into this collection, two or three others had to be sacrificed in the interest of space. Readers should think of this book as an introduction to the kind of fine scholarship that is flowering in the field rather than as anything approaching a comprehensive archive. The collection will be a success if it leads readers to other books and articles in the expanding world of Mormon studies. Moreover, its success will be amplified if it provides writers and researchers with new ideas and approaches to energize their own work.
I have been talking about Mormon studies as if it actually exists as a discipline. In fact, there is some debate about the term. Mormon studies, the argument goes, is too exalted and slightly pretentious. In the academic world, when the word studies is attached (as in American studies or religious studies), it typically suggests the inclusion of a wide variety of methodological techniques to a subject area. For instance, one would expect such a field to include sociological, anthropological, historical, literary-critical, folkloric, economic, political, and perhaps quantitative/statistical methods under its umbrella. The most common objection to the Mormon studies denomination is that Mormon history is the more accurate term.
It’s true that most of what one might consider serious scholarship on Mormonism has traditionally been of a historical bent. This is due in large part to the astonishingly vast manuscript records that document the rise and history of the faith. Out of these records, straight-forward narrative histories emerged and continue to form the bulk of scholarly work on Mormonism. However, such narratives have for decades been complemented by more interpretive work that draws on the historical record and applies, tests, works through, and evaluates broader theoretical issues and ideas. Perhaps the first serious effort in this vein was I. Woodbridge Riley’s psychobiography of Joseph Smith. It appeared in 1902. Riley’s work was at that time an outlier in its methodological approach, to be sure. But things have changed a little since then.
Now we are at a point where it is no longer necessary, or even helpful, to think of data and interpretation in tension with one another. They are in tandem. Some researchers are better at mining facts and others are better at offering interpretations of facts. Some gifted few excel at both. In any case, a thriving field of inquiry requires active efforts in both areas. In this anthology, the essays demonstrate with force and clarity that Mormonism is a rich field of inquiry into which theories and methods of a vast array of disciplines are being widely and skillfully integrated.
This book examines Mormonism from a variety of contexts including ritual studies, sexuality, folklore, comparative religion, architecture, collective memory, film studies, literary studies, and Jewish studies. In fact, the essays deal with the entire chronological span of Mormonism from its origins to today: from appearances of Cain/Bigfoot to Wilford Woodruff’s vision of the Founding Fathers; from Joseph Smith’s founding experiences to Edward Tullidge’s reservations about those events; from W. W. Phelps’s ghostwritten texts to David O. McKay’s natural eloquence; from Mormon women’s fiction to Mormon writing on the Holocaust; from anti-Mormon films to healing rituals; from constructions of collective memory to the uses of sacred space in fundamentalist groups. This anthology will provide readers with an example of the entire depth, breadth, complexity, and sophistication of Mormon studies as it is being practiced today.
The essays are organized under the thematic rubrics of biography, theory, memory, experience, and media/literature. These divisions highlight the developing tendency to engage in a wide variety of theoretical and methodological approaches. I should mention that a number of the contributors are not professional historians. That is, they do not hold a Ph.D. in history and are not professors of history or related disciplines. Mormonism as a field of scholarship has long been open to all who possess the drive and interest necessary to mine the archives and the creativity and vocal power to weave their gleanings into interesting, insightful, and important narratives. In this volume, such voices are complemented by views of professional academics and graduate students in training to become such.
All of this diversity is one of the most attractive elements of the current state of Mormon studies. In this book, there are essays by a medical doctor, a chemist, a college dean, history professors, religious studies professors, a professional editor, independent researchers, and a professor of literature. Graduate students make appearances as well. What binds them together is their commitment to thorough and thoughtful scholarship. In contrast to some other fields of study, there is no Mormon studies elite, cloistered away in one or two academic departments, dictating the tone, tenor, and direction of the field. The voices here are robust and vigorous, not timid or unduly tentative. No one will agree with every conclusion made by every author in this book. As with all good scholarship, there are more debates to come. In that sense, the collection serves as an invitation for others to join the fray if they have the interest. It is an open field, wide enough to accommodate all who put forth the effort and expend the intellectual energy to contribute.
As the editor, I naturally feel this book ought to be read by everyone. Tempering my idealistic impulse for the sake of practicality, I hope this collection will serve at least two broad groups of readers. The first are those who have what might be termed a casual interest in Mormon issues. That is, they aren’t steeped in the field, they don’t spend weekends and vacations doing archival research, and they do not wait with bated breath for the annual conference of the Mormon History Association. Rather, they are, collectively, a thinking, reading, curious bunch. I imagine they might find some of the essays somewhat challenging if they are unaccustomed to academic prose. My hope is that they will be rewarded for struggling through the scholarly jungle and even surprised by the accessibility and ease with which one might come to grips with such essays, provided that they have devoted a little effort to it.
Many of the readers who make up this first audience will be tied to Mormonism in some personal way. Some may be practicing Latter-day Saints, others may have left the institutional Church but treasure their cultural heritage. A good number will be somewhere in between. These essays are not intended to be theological treatises, apologetic tracts, or anti-Mormon literature. However, one cannot deny that they will have the potential to change the way readers relate to Mormonism on personal and emotional levels. My hope is that the complexity of Mormonism, and of Mormons, evident in these articles will enrich the reader’s relationship with their religion, whatever the nature of that relationship might be.
The second audience consists of those of an academic bent, readers who are familiar with the historiography of Mormonism but who are looking for a digest of some of the most recent scholarship in the field. The breadth and creativity of the essays collected here may provide useful information and perhaps sparks of inspiration for others to apply to their own work. A subset of this group consists of those who teach college students. I have received requests from colleagues for a selection of readings that might be used profitably in courses dealing with Mormonism. The recent emergence of academic departments offering regular courses on the subject has intensified that demand. With these factors in mind, the editorial process that shaped the anthology was informed by the notion that the book might be deployed in undergraduate classrooms. The articles are suitably accessible for undergraduates and particularly useful in courses where the instructor wants to highlight the confluence of data and interpretation in modern scholarship.
How to read
I spend most of my time teaching undergraduates. Many of them have never read an academic book. My advice to them is not to merely read this book but to step into a boxing ring with it and engage the ideas they encounter there. Take up a pen and analyze the authors’ positions. Interrogate them. Express in the margins your agreement and perplexity and contempt and frustration or, on the other hand, your agreement and surprise and joy at what you learn. I would recommend seizing the arguments and ideas and wringing out their implications. To me, reading is not a passive activity. It is a contact sport. I think that religion especially, instead of being treated with solemnity and deference, ought to become internalized. Some of the essays presented here have the potential to change one’s life, either in the direction of piety in a traditional sense or toward the kind of liberty the Apostle Paul characterized as freedom through conversion to an idea, rather than allowing oneself to be governed by something one doesn’t understand.
—Stephen C. Taysom, Shaker Heights, Ohio; May 31, 2010
Two Early Insider Exposés of Mormon Polygamy
Gary James Bergera
On Wednesday, February 7, 1844, the Whig-oriented Warsaw Message published, on its front page, a satirical poem about Joseph Smith. Titled “Buckeye’s Lamentation for Want of More Wives,” it demonstrated an insider’s awareness of Nauvoo’s most secret goings-on. Because Warsaw, Illinois, was situated about twelve miles south of the bustling headquarters of Smith’s Latter-day Saint Church, the newspaper liked to tweak the noses of the LDS faithful. As Thomas Gregg, the paper’s thirty-five-year-old editor, explained, “The poem … comes to us post marked ‘Nauvoo.’ It is not perfect in versification, but contains some hits at the Prophet, his Apostles, and their practices, which most readers will understand.” 1 Smith learned of the 104-line poem that afternoon and, according to his later official history, quickly dismissed it as “a piece of doggerel … evidently the production of Wilson Law [an LDS dissident], and breathing a very foul and malicious spirit.”2
The feisty Gregg represented the older residents of Illinois who had grown leery of the Mormons’ growing political power, but he urged peace even while stirring the pot of contention.3 Less than five months earlier, in late September 1843, Gregg had editorialized that while he despised “the whole system of Mormonism,” he nonetheless urged nonviolence: “Let it suffice for the present to say that our remedy must be a peaceable one … We can advocate no measure of redress that does not carry along with it the doctrine of Obedience to the Laws, from the beginning to the end.”4
Two months after its initial appearance, “Buckeye’s Lamentation,” together with a longer but equally cheeky companion poem entitled “The Buckey’s First Epistle to Jo,” ran again, this time in the Message’s successor, the Warsaw Signal, which had been re-acquired by twenty-five-year-old Thomas C. Sharp. The Signal was actually the Message’s forerunner, but Sharp had sold the paper to Gregg, who had renamed it and operated it for several years, then sold it back to Sharp. Much like Gregg, Sharp opposed Smith’s Church; but unlike Gregg, who was a Quaker, Sharp advocated its violent overthrow. “War and extermination is inevitable!” he thundered against the Mormons before year’s end. “Citizens ARISE, ONE and ALL!!! – Can you stand by, and suffer such INFERNAL DEVILS! to rob men of their property rights, without avenging them. We have no time for comment, every man will make his own. Let it be made with POWDER and BALL.” 5
“Buckey’s First Epistle,” running twenty-two stanzas of six lines each, totaled 132 lines. “Buckeye’s Lamentation,” which was thirteen stanzas long, was reprinted with only minor alterations, mostly converting italics to small capital letters, though four words were changed. Two days after the two poems’ publication on April 25, Joseph Smith mentioned in his diary that he had seen the “Warsaw Signal about Mormonism.” The later historians who expanded Smith’s diary into an official Church history said he “read in the Warsaw Signal a vile article against the Saints,” 6 apparently treating the two poems as one. The next issue of the weekly Signal did not appear until May 1.
The value of Buckeye’s poetry lies not in its creative expression but in its accurate, albeit sensationalized, parallels to historical facts. 7 By 1844, Smith’s doctrine of plural marriage had become one of Illinois’s better-known secrets. Despite his and others’ denials, Smith himself had married (or been “sealed” to) thirty-plus women, while many of his closest disciples had taken an equal, or greater, number of plural wives.8 This circle of confidants does not include other potential authors of the poems such as parents, siblings, children, friends, and colleagues. Buckeye’s verses evinced an understanding not only of Mormon polygamy’s practice but, just as importantly, of its theology. The author seems clearly to have been a knowledgeable insider-turned-dissident who wanted to expose Smith’s scandalous secrets—particularly those involving a young woman named Nancy—while also dropping enough hints to enable readers to venture a tentative identification.
The first of the two poems, “Buckeye’s Lamentation,” is preceded by an author’s note, reading in part: “It is time that all should know that there are hundreds and thousands in Nauvoo who will neither worship the image nor bear the yoke of the tyrant.” The poem begins by noting Buckeye’s feigned fear that he will not be saved in heaven because he only has “one lone wife” (ln. 5), and not “half a score” (8), since “beardless Joe” Smith (12) teaches that salvation depends on the number of wives a man has.8 Monogamy was the practice anciently, the poem asserts, but Heaven’s gate has become narrower. Smith received permission “to open the broad way” (16) “of greater glories far” (26) by sanctioning multiple wives. In fact, “the prize” (33) is no longer “some lone twinkling star” (28), or even two wives (29), but ten, since “with it you will shine as bright / as the bright shining sun” (35-36). In heaven, such husbands will “reign like mighty Gods, / creating worlds so fair; / at least a world for every wife / that you take with you there” (37-40). Men who do not embrace a plurality of wives “will find a bitter fate” (44), for as in Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), those few wives will be given to a more deserving husband.
Through the end of the sixth stanza, overlooking the sarcasm, Buckeye presents a plausible explanation for plural marriage. 10 In fact, it is possible to draw a rationale for Mormon polygamy from sympathetic sources that is similar to what Buckeye proposes. Theoretically, a plurality of wives facilitates the passage into mortality of a larger number of spirits than results from normal birth and conversion rates. “For if I will raise up seed unto me,” God says in Smith’s Book of Mormon, “I will command my people” (Jacob 2:30).11 In fact, Smith’s revelation on plural marriage, recorded in mid-1843, stipulated that plural wives “are given unto [the husband] to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, … that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified” (D&C 132:63). “When Lorenzo Snow was twenty-nine years old,” the biographer of one of Snow’s plural wives explained, “the Prophet, Joseph Smith, had a talk with him and Lorenzo was told it was urgent that he marry right away and do his part in replenishing the earth.”12
Likewise, after the resurrection of the righteous, polygamy will aid in peopling other worlds, according to Apostle George A. Smith, who said the practice will “exalt mankind to celestial glory and increase.”13 “[T]he Prophet taught us,” an early Mormon elaborated, “that Dominion & powr in the great Future would be Comensurate with the n[umber] of ‘Wives Childin & Friends’ that we inheret here,” “that our great mission to earth was to Organize a Neculi of Heaven to take with us. To the increace of which there would be no end.”14 “I understand,” another of Smith’s followers reported, “that a Man’s Dominion will be as God’s is, over his own Creatures[,] and the more numerous[,] the greater his Dominion.”15 Sarah Rich, the first wife of Apostle Charles C. Rich, consented to polygamy because she believed that “those holding the Priesthood of Heaven might, by obeying this Order attain to a higher glory in the eternal world.” 16 When Joseph Smith invited seventeen-year-old Lucy Walker to become his wife, he told her “this principle … would prove an everlasting blessing to my father’s house and form a chain that could never [be] broken, worlds without end.” 17 For worthy men, plural marriage was thus “a privilege with blessings.”18 “It is your privilege,” Joseph Smith told his male secretary, “to have all the wives you want.”19 “The Lord had given him the keys of this sealing ordinance,” Smith’s cousin remembered, and “he felt as liberal to others as he did to himself … and said to me ‘You should not be behind your privileges’.”20
In the remaining seven stanzas, Buckeye reports that Smith sometimes sanctioned a friend or a faithful priesthood bearer to take another man’s wife or daughter: “Some priest or king, may claim your wife / because that you are poor” (51-52). Those who reject Smith’s counsel risk damnation; those who obey are forever blessed: “He’ll seal you up, be damned you can’t, / no matter what you do[;] / if that you only stick to him, / he swears he’ll take you through” (62-64). This “secret doctrine” (73), Buckeye continues, is taught and practiced by Smith and the “red rams,” referring to red-headed apostles Brigham Young and Orson Hyde (74), “though they deny it publicly” (75), and even by Smith’s older brother and Church Patriarch, Hyrum (83). In fact, Buckeye implies that Hyrum has already taken a widow as a plural wife: “For sure, ’twould be quite impolite, / if not a great disgrace, / to have a widow sister fair / spit in a Prophet’s face!” (85-88). Still, Buckeye asserts, Joseph Smith, “at snaring[,] beats them all, / and at the rest does laugh; / for widows poor, and orphan girls, / he sets his snares around for all, / and very seldom fails / to catch some thoughtless Partridges, / Snow-birds or Knight-ingales!” (89-96). Some women are not so easily “drag[g]ed to hell” (99), Buckeye says, especially those “whose sires have bled in days gone by, / for their dear country’s cause; / and who will still maintains its rights, / its Liberty and Laws!” (101-04).
Again using sources friendly to Joseph Smith, Buckeye’s allegations find support. To that man who is given ten talents “shall be given more,” Smith taught, “and from him that had but one should be taken … and given to him who had ten. This, so far as I could understand,” explained one of Smith’s followers, “might relate to families.”21 Rejecting these teachings imperiled one’s soul: “All those who have this law revealed unto them,” God said to Smith in the revelation on plural marriage, “must obey the same. For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory” (D&C 132:3-4). One faithful father who agreed to “consecrate” his teenage daughter to Smith was promised: “[T]he thing that my servant Joseph Smith has made known unto you and your Family … shall be rewarded upon your heads with honor and immortality and eternal life to all your house both old & young.”22 “If you will take this step,” one of Smith’s plural brides reported him saying, “it will insure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred.”23 In fact, only those who accepted the doctrine of plural wives24 were worthy to receive the Church’s highest blessing: the “promises that worthy men could become kings and priests and that women could become queens and priestesses in the eternal worlds,” this guaranteeing their exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom.25
By the time of “Buckeye’s Lamentation,” in early February 1844, Mormonism’s “red rams,” apostles Young and Hyde, had already been sealed, as Buckeye says, to three and two plural wives, respectively.26 Of the remaining ten members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Heber C. Kimball had taken a plural wife in 1842, Parley P. Pratt in July 1843, Willard Richards in January 1843, and John Taylor in December 1843 and again in February 1844. Apostle Ezra Taft Benson would marry polygamously in April 1844, as would Lyman Wight, probably in May 1844, John E. Page sometime in 1844, Orson Pratt later that fall, George A. Smith in November 1844, and Wilford Woodruff in April 1846. In addition, Smith’s brother Hyrum had, in August 1843, married as his first plural wife Mercy Rachel Fielding Thompson, sister of his legal wife, Mary Fielding Smith, and relict of Robert B. Thompson, who had died in August 1841.
Joseph Smith himself had married some thirty-plus women by this time, in addition to his first wife.27 Of these, four were widows and four, though not orphans per se, had lived with Smith as their de facto guardian. The widows—Agnes Coolbrith Smith (m. January 1842), Martha McBride Knight (m. August 1842), Fanny Young Murray (m. November 1843), and Delcena Johnson Sherman (m. before July 1842)—ranged in age from thirty-three to fifty-seven; Smith’s charges—Sarah and Maria Lawrence (both m. May 1843) and Emily Maria and Eliza Dow Partridge (both m. March 1843)—were from seventeen to twenty-two years old.28 Notice that Buckeye also correctly identifies by surname four of Smith’s plural wives: the Partridge sisters, Eliza Roxcy Snow (m. June 1842), and Martha Knight: the “thoughtless Partridges, / Snow-birds or Knight-ingales!”
Not all plural wives greeted the practice enthusiastically, as Buckeye writes;29 and not all would-be wives, despite threats of damnation, submitted to Smith’s solicitations.30 One of Smith’s intended wives said she would “sooner go to hell as a virtuous woman than to heaven as a whore.”31 “Teach it to someone else,” replied another woman.32 In referring to those whose fathers had “bled in days gone by, / for their dear country’s cause,” Buckeye may have meant Cordelia Calista Morley, daughter of Isaac Morley, a veteran of the War of 1812. With Smith’s blessing, Isaac took his first plural wife in January 1844, about the same time, according to Cordelia’s autobiography, that “plural marriage was introduced to me by my pearents from Joseph Smith asking their consent … [for] me to be his wife. Imagine if you can my feelings to be a plural wife. Something I never thought I ever could be[,] I [k]new nothing of such religion and could not [ac]cept it. Neither did I.”33 Following Smith’s death, however, Cordelia changed her mind and was sealed to him posthumously in January 1846.34 Finally, some writers34 have interpreted Buckeye’s closing reference to “Libery and Laws!” as a nod to his identity as one or both of the renegade Mormon brothers Wilson and William Law. On the other hand, Buckeye may have simply been saluting other prominent dissidents like himself.
The second of Buckeye’s two poems focuses on Smith’s slanderous charges against the poet. In the first five stanzas, Buckeye trumpets his earlier broadside and calls himself a “certain chief” who had “learned to sing” and “turn’d out a poet great, / or some such thing” (3-6). “Like some great herald,” he proclaims Smith’s “wicked ways, / your tyran[n]y, your sin and shame, / in these last days” (10-12). People should know “there is still one child who dare / and will be free” (lns. 17-18). Buckeye reveals that he “lives in Nauvoo,” where he once was a true friend “to you, / in days that’s past,” until Smith slandered him, throwing “fair fame to blast” (21-24). Only then did the poet see that “you were not what you had been,” displaying instead iniquity “in every way; / And from fair virtue’s paths did lean[,] / vile plans to lay” (26-30).
The next eleven stanzas address Smith’s courtship of a young woman for whom Buckeye has strong romantic feelings. “Have you forgot,” he asks Smith, “the snare you laid / for Nancy, (lovely Buckeye maid?) / … assisted by that wretched bawd / who kept the house” (31-32, 35-36). Nancy would not yield to Smith’s doctrines, “although the scriptures you did wield / in your relief” (41-42). Faced with rejection and the threat of exposure, Smith “chang’d your lovers sighs, / and vengeful hate flash’d in your eyes” (49-50). “Circulating lies” (53), Smith hoped to “destroy her fame, / and give to her a ruin’d name, / so that if she should ever proclaim / what you had tried; / your friends might turn on her the shame / and say she lied” (55-60). Instead of cowering, Nancy “met you face to face / … and like a counterfeit she nail’d / you tightly down” (63-66). “Although you tried,” Buckeye gloats, “to make this gentle creature … eat her words, / … strong in truth, she in that hour / told you you lied” (67-72). Humiliated, Buckeye says, Smith went to Nancy’s father and admitted that “what she had said, was true,” but explained that he had simply been testing her virtue to “keep herself all pure and free / from base seducers like to me, and Joab vile,” both of whom, Smith had been told by God, would attempt to “beguile” her (75-84). Though pained by Smith’s “slanderous tongue” (85), Buckeye would have said nothing of Smith’s infamy, provided Smith repent (89). Instead, Smith continued to voice his “slanders vile” (91), which Buckeye—“this child” (92)—now refuses to bear any longer: “Although by nature he is mild, / and well disposed; / thy sins from continent to isle / shall be exposed” (93-96).
While giving vent to his anger, Buckeye discloses his own shaken faith in Smith and promises to expose “Missouri’s deeds … / though perpetrated in the night, / by hirelings who thought it right / to do thy will / by cabin conflagration bright[,] / to scalp and kill” (98-102). Buckeye pleads for Smith to repent and “think, how mighty and sublime / thy calling first [is,] / and in black sackcloth bow thee down / low in the dust / … and I’ll forgive” (103-14). Otherwise, “your dark deeds in Nauvoo, / as well as in Missouri too[,] / like Hamlet’s ghost shall rise to view” (115-17). Buckeye may be a “child” (125), but he can trace his lineage back to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, champions of Scottish freedom who “for Liberty did raise / the sword, and broke / (as I intend in these last days) / a tyrant’s yoke” (lns. 129-32).
From a variety of sources, it is clear that “Nancy,” the “lovely Buckeye maid,” is Nancy Rigdon, daughter of Sidney Rigdon, one of Smith’s two counselors in the three-man First Presidency.36 According to Rigdon biographer Richard S. Van Wagoner,37 thirty-one-year-old Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde, though civilly married to Orson Hyde, was sealed to Smith about this time and was probably the “wretched bawd / who kept the house.” Marinda asked Nancy in April 1842 to accompany her to talk with Smith. Smith was unable to meet the two women, and Nancy later mentioned the episode to twenty-three-year-old Francis (“Frank”) M. Higbee, who at the time was courting Nancy.38 John C. Bennett, one of Smith’s boosters-turned-traitors, cautioned Higbee that Smith was interested in nineteen-year-old Nancy. Higbee allegedly told Nancy of Smith’s interest, and when she subsequently met Smith, she spurned his advances. Within the next few days, Smith sent Nancy a pleading letter to change her mind. The letter read, in part: “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be and often is, right under another. … Everything that God gives us is lawful and right; and it is proper that we should enjoy His gifts and blessings … Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in his views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive.” Nancy told her family of the encounter and gave the letter to Higbee, who handed it to Bennett, who soon published it. Relations between the Rigdons and Smith soured, and some of Smith’s followers publicly branded Nancy a prostitute.39
Smith succeeded in accounting for his actions in such a way to satisfy everyone involved except Higbee. Meeting privately with him on June 29, 1842, Smith explained that his criticisms of Higbee had been spoken “in self defense.” Smith later told a small group of followers that he would attack the credibility of anyone who violated his trust, that those who did so were covenant-breakers and liars, especially if they threatened his or his people’s safety, and it did not matter if his criticisms of them were true or not. According to Smith’s secretary, Higbee seemed “humble, and promised to reform.”40 Higbee, however, remembered the encounter differently and never forgot Smith’s rationalization. In recounting this same episode, Buckeye reported Smith’s contention that he had merely been preparing Nancy to resist the amorous overtures of young men such as Buckeye and lechers like Joab (one of John Bennett’s well-known noms de plume).41 By 1844, Bennett’s own extramarital escapades circa 1841-42 had become common knowledge. For Buckeye, Smith’s assertion that he had been protecting Nancy was a coup de grâce which “burning tears from me have wrung” (86). Still, Buckeye forbore, and only after subsequent slanders did he, like the Scottish patriots, dare to break the “tyrant’s yoke.”
In this second poem, Buckeye shows his hand most clearly to be Nancy Rigdon’s suitor, Francis Higbee.42 In addition to calling himself Buckeye, signaling his status as Ohio-born, he scatters throughout his verses the following hints regarding his identity:
● He is a “child” living in Nauvoo, who was both a friend and follower of Smith until Smith slandered him;
● He is familiar with Smith’s teachings on plural marriage and knows some of those who took other wives, including Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, and others of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles; he also knows that Joseph Smith married widows and orphans and the identities of four wives; he knows that some women rejected Smith’s proposals, including women whose fathers are veterans;
● He is well acquainted with Nancy Rigdon. He knows that Smith proposed to her and what arguments Smith used to persuade her; he knows that Nancy rejected the prophet, that Smith and others attempted to discredit her, and that Smith admitted his guilt but explained he had been preparing her for seduction by others;
● He knows about being saved in mortality as a king and priest or queen and priestess.
Of these clues, Francis Higbee seems to satisfy the greatest number.43 Born in 1820 in Tate, Ohio, to Elias Higbee and Sarah Elizabeth Ward (m. 1818), Francis’s family joined the Mormon Church in Ohio in early 1832. Like other new Latter-day Saints, the Higbees moved to Jackson County, Missouri, the following year but left in 1835 to settle in Kirtland, Ohio, another Mormon stronghold. In 1836 they relocated to Missouri, left again, and by early 1839 had migrated to Illinois and helped establish Nauvoo. Like others, it may have taken the Higbees years to recover from the horrors associated with their experiences in Missouri. Francis’s father, Elias, was a county judge in Missouri, a leading officer in the Church’s Missouri quasi-militia sometimes called the Danites, and accompanied Joseph Smith to Washington, D.C., to plead the Mormons’ case for redress in 1839-40. Elias was Church Recorder from 1838 until June 1843 when he died from cholera. His passing devastated his forty-two-year-old wife and seven or so children, ranging in age from four to twenty-three. Smith had scolded Elias the previous year for not being “as diligent as you ought to have been, … [to] make your children industrious,”44 but now at his funeral said that in the resurrection Elias would “come forth and strike hands with the faithful, and share the glory of the kingdom of God for ever and ever.”45
In 1841, twenty-one-year-old Francis was elected a colonel (“a certain chief”) in the Nauvoo Legion, a county-wide militia, with Smith and John Bennett as his superior officers. About this time, Francis became serious about Nancy Rigdon, whom he had met in Missouri. He apparently began seeing her in early 1842. Nancy had been born in Pennsylvania, but Francis seems to have thought she was from Ohio, probably because her parents had married there in 1820 and Ohio was where several of her siblings were born.
At about the same time as Joseph Smith’s proposal to Nancy in April 1842, allegations erupted that Bennett and others had defiled several young women and said that Smith had sanctioned such behavior.46 By this time, Smith had been sealed to at least eight women, and for nearly ten months, from September 1840 to July 1841, Bennett had lodged with him and was evidently privy to Smith’s first plural marriage on April 5, 1841. Bennett seems to have felt authorized to initiate others into his version of plural marriage. Smith worried that Bennett was exposing the Church to criticism and decided by mid-May 1842 to rid himself of his counselor. Bennett apparently confessed his guilt prior to resigning the mayorship of Nauvoo and membership in the Church, then left town in June and was succeeded as mayor by Smith. Prior to his departure, Bennett announced under pressure that he had never known Smith “to countenance any improper conduct whatever either in public or private; and that [Smith] never did teach to me in private that an illegal, illicit intercourse with females, was under any circumstance justifiable, and that I never knew him to so teach others.”47 When Smith became connected to women, it was through a marriage sealing ceremony performed by an authorized priesthood holder, whereas Bennett believed that a marriage ceremony was unnecessary.48
Francis Higbee’s brother Chauncey was among the city’s young men who fell under Bennett’s spell. Despite swearing to an affidavit virtually identical to Bennett’s, Chauncey, as a lesson to all, was formally expelled from the Church on May 24, 1842, “for unchaste and unvirtuous conduct towards certain females, and for teaching it was right, if kept secret, &c.”49 To counter any suspicion of complicity after Chauncey invoked Joseph Smith’s name in his defense, Chauncey was sued for “slander[ing] and defam[ing] the character of the said Joseph Smith, and also the character of Emma Smith, his wife.”50 Chauncey felt his situation differed little from that of Bennett, who at this point had not been disciplined, or from Smith’s own younger brother William, who was never punished for his sexual liaisons.
The Higbees were furious at what they perceived to be Joseph Smith’s hypocrisy. In fact, Smith became worried they might attempt to convince the brother of a woman Smith intended to court to disrupt his plans, and Smith therefore called the brother away on a mission to get him out of town.51 For a brief time, Francis collaborated with John Bennett, who denied any wrongdoing and on July 8, 1842, began publishing a series of letters to expose Smith.52 Francis gave Bennett the letter Smith had sent to Nancy, which had the unintended effect of ending Francis’s relationship with her. Chauncey initiated a civil action against Smith so he could call women as witnesses who could be forced to admit to immorality by Smith.53
After some three months, Smith dropped his own suit and went into hiding, trying to avoid extradition to Missouri. Authorities there wanted to charge him with an attempted assassination of a former governor. In addition, the Higbees had retreated from their earlier threats of reprisal.54 Smith no doubt sensed that a trial might expose his marriage teachings. “I want [all] to understand,” a chastened-sounding Francis wrote in late November 1842 to the editor of a Nauvoo newspaper, “that I have no feelings against Joseph.” He had “fully satisfied myself that [Smith] has been called of God, to do a great, and mighty, work in the earth, and let it suffice to say I am fully satisfied with him.—All our former difficulties (if such they might be called), were forever effectually settled before I left.”55 “My object,” Chauncey later added, “is not to vindicate or anathamatise either party”; but “free from the shackles of party litigation,” he “desire[d] peacefully to pursue the duties of my daily avocation; while—thankful for the boon—I hope long to remain a citizen of our flourishing city.”56
“If … I have done anything to injure my character,” Smith himself confessed four months later, “I am sorry for it; and if you will forgive me, I will endeavor to do so no more. I do not know that I have done anything of the kind. But if I have, … I want you to come boldly and frankly, and tell of it; and if not, [for]ever after hold your peace.”57 When the Higbees’ father passed away in June, the Times and Seasons editorialized: “He has raised a large family—all to respectability—all to ultimate usefulness.”58 But Smith offered a mild rebuke to Francis and Chauncey when, during the funeral sermon, he advised “the mourners” to “do as the husband and the father would instruct you, and you shall be reunited.”59
Francis soon relocated to Cincinnati until mid-summer 1843 when he returned to Nauvoo and found his name linked to ongoing efforts to extradite Smith to Missouri. He had not, in fact, forgiven Smith for his overtures to Nancy Rigdon. Maybe he had shared his feelings on the topic with others. “My father’s death has been enough,” he wrote to Smith on September 8, 1843, anxious to clear his name,
when taken in connection with other things of less moment, to engage my whole attention without seeking to draw down upon my own head, the heads of my mother’s family, another scourge, such as we suffered in Missouri. Who suffered more and hazarded life oftener than did I—God forbid that ever I should be instrumental in bringing destruction not only upon my friends, but upon myself and relatives—Then, Sir, please read this, or announce to the public that the charge with which I stand charged is false, false, false, and greatly oblige.60
Within weeks Francis participated in a special “pleasure party and dinner” hosted by Smith,61 who subsequently “expressed himself satisfied that Col. Frances M. Higbee was free, even of reproach or suspicion, in that matter.”62 But rumors of Higbee’s disloyalty would not die. In late December, Smith expanded Nauvoo’s police force, which doubled as a personal security force, in response to Missouri’s efforts to capture him.63 During his charge to the forty new recruits, Smith declared:
My life is more in danger from some little dough-head of a fool in this city than from all my numerous and inveterate enemies abroad. I am exposed to far greater danger from traitors among ourselves than from enemies without … and if I can escape from the ungrateful treachery of assassins, I can live as Caesar might have lived, were it not for a right-hand Brutus. … Judas was one of the Twelve Apostles, even their treasurer, and dipt with their Master in the dish, and through his treachery, the crucifixion was brought about; and we have a Judas in our midst.64
Almost immediately, William Law, who was one of Smith’s counselors in the First Presidency, and William Marks, who was president of the Nauvoo Stake, were told that Smith had reference to them.65 Both had rejected Smith’s teachings on plural marriage, and Law in particular was an increasingly vocal critic.66 Smith tried to reassure the two that he had not meant them,67 but in the course of his comments he had linked the unnamed traitors with a rejection of polygamy: “Mayor [Joseph Smith] spoke on Spiritual Wife system, and explained, The man who promises to keep a secret and does not keep it[,] he is a liar, and not to be trusted. … When a man becomes a traitor to his friend or country who is innocent, treacherous to innocent blood[,] [I] do consider it right to cut off his influence so that he could not injure the innocent, but [it is] not right to meddle with that man without testimony, law & trial.”68
The Nauvoo City Council asked Francis on January 5 what he knew about Law and Marks. “Have received the impression from rumor that Mr. Law, Mr. Marks and probably one or two others could not subscribe to all things in the Church, and there were some private matters that might make trouble,” he replied.69 Annoyed at Higbee’s mention of “private matters,” Smith said before the close of the meeting that he “thought Francis Higbee had better stay at home and hold his tongue, lest rumor turn upon him and disclose some private matters which he would prefer kept hid. Did not believe there was any rumor of the kind afloat [regarding Smith’s private matters], or [Higbee] could have told some of the names of his informants. Thought the young men of the city had better withdraw from [Higbee’s] society, and let him stand on his own merits. I by no means consider [Higbee] the standard of the city.”70
William Law’s account of Smith’s remarks suggest that the official minutes may not do full justice to Smith’s warning:
Joseph made another speech, and in it said that F. M. Higbee had better be careful or a train of facts would be disclosed concerning him that he would not like; gave us to understand that [Higbee] was conniving with Missouri &c., and that [Higbee] only disgraced anyone who associated with him, and that [Smith] had denied him the privilege of [entering] his house (or words like that) and would not allow him to associate with his females &c; that he had been called on to lay hands on him when he stank from a cause that he did not like to name (or such a saying).71 I did not believe the story at all, and cannot see why he should tell it.72
During the next few days, Higbee fumed over Smith’s accusations and before the end of the week sent what Smith called “a long equivocating letter charging me with having slandered his character and demanding a public trial before the Church. It contains no denial of the charges which he accuses me of having spoken against him, but is full of bombast.”73 Barely able to contain his anger, Higbee replied:
The inconsiderate, the unwarented, and unheard of attack you made upon my character on the 6th inst before the City Council impels me to demand an investigation of you, and that without delay[,] before the eclesiastical powers. For if I am guilty of either of those charges, omitting the guilt of the whole, I most unquestionably am not worthy a name among a people making as great proffesions as do the people called mormons. It is said I seek the hours of the midnight assassin to seize my victim, when no one is near to bear witness of the crime or attest the unhallowed deed, that I sympathized with the afflicted and oppressed, that I may devour their vitals, that I seek the mantle of religion to envelop my scorpion body, that I may better practeice my nefarious designs. Then sir, if I am acting in this sphere, am I not acting in the sphere of a hypocrite, and am I not a dark body suffered a place on the fair escutcheon of our religion? In deciding this question, let us not sever the moorings of Christianity, [for if we do, do we not] plunge into the mad sea of revenge? persuade the mariner to sell his compass? or Washington his sword? persuade an intelegent man to pluck out his eyes, to enjoy the unmitigated horrors of blindness? Truth is our compass in the stormy sea of life; before which wealth, power, authority, talent and genious tremble, as did Felix on his thrown; when Heaven and Earth shall pass away[,] [t]ruth shall arise like the angel on Manoah’s sacrifice, upon the flame of Natures funeral pyre, and ascend to her source, her heaven and her horne, the bosem of the Holy, and eternal God.74 …
Sir, you have struck a blow at evry thing which renders existance sweet; you have sought to blast evry proud hope, and evry fond expectations by throwing into free circulation reports, the truth of which, God is some day to judge. The cause of your course towards me has astonished many, from the fact that they can not divine the reason, and as for myself I am as ignorant of the cause, as a child unborn. As for the opinion which I always, and still entertain, with regard to the propriety of one mans having more than one woman, or this spiritual business, I am not ashamed to avow, in your presence or in the face and eyes of the world; I have repeatedly said and am still of the same opinion “fixed and determined as the polar star” that any revelation commanding or in any wise suffering sexual intercourse under any other form than that prescribed by the laws of our country, and which has been ratified by special revelation through you, is of HELL; and I bid defiance to any or all such. As far as my character and influence extends, I am willing, not only willing but determined, to oppose it, under evry form it can present itself. Whether [or not] my name shall be sounded, my opposition to such a hellish fabrication shall be known, at the peril of my life, my fortune and my sacred honor. “Though the people should riot and pro[t]e[s]t in insurrection[,] though tyrants should rage and threaten distruction, though the hurricane should lay upon the bed of the sea; though the earthquake should tear the globe in peices; though the stars should fall from their sphere, and the frame of nature be dissolved I know virtue will protect her votaries while the good men will remain tranquil amidst the ruins of the world.[”]
That man who pursues a course different from that which I have persued and am still determined to persue, may reach the regions of pleasure when the happy companions [of] contentement, friendship, Knowledge, wealth, dignity, and fame shall greet him, but alas! how soon must he according to the inevitable decree of Heaven, be consigned to sorrow, remorse and dispair. Then sir[,] with me it is virtue or vice. I am a devoted friend to virtue, and Sir a court or council of the church must declare no[thing] otherwise immediately; or I shall think you unjust [i]n the extreme; then Sir I cla[i]m the right of investigation, I claim the right to a fair and impartial and public trial; and that without delay. From your mere ipse dixit [unfounded assertion] I shall extricate myself, for bear it I will not; I am quite determined not to remain quiet under the foul imputations cast upon me.75
Smith ignored Higbee’s demand for a public investigation, and word soon surfaced that Francis intended to publicly sue Smith for slander.76 Smith responded by arranging to have Higbee tried before Nauvoo’s municipal court “for absenting himself from City Council without leave, when summoned as a witness, and for slanderous and abusive language towards one of the members of the Council [i.e., Smith].”77 Instead of a trial, however, Smith and Higbee cobbled a tentative reconciliation. According to the official minutes:
Mayor [Smith] announced that all difficulties between him & Francis M. Higby [were eternally buried] and he was to be his friend forever & F. M. Higby said I will be his friend forever and his right hand man. And A[lderman] Hiram Smith stated that all aspersions which may have been supposed to have been cast upon Higby are false a mistake[,] tis not so. Mayor explained at length [illegible] what, in substance, he had said at previous councils on the same subject. … F. M. Higby spoke stating his distraction of mind the past week, glad the difficulties are settled shall be his friend as said before. The observations by the mayor before the council on the 5th inst. concerning F. M. Higby were ordered to be stricken from the minutes.78
Unfortunately, the détente proved short-lived, and three weeks later “Buckeye’s Lamentation for Want of More Wives” appeared in the Warsaw Message.
Before the end of the month, on February 26, 1844, Higbee again crossed paths with Smith. By now a practicing attorney, as was his brother Chauncey, Francis represented Orsimus F. Bostwick, whom Hyrum Smith had charged with slandering him in connection with “certain females of Nauvoo.”79 The mayor’s court found Bostwick guilty, and Francis informed the tribunal that he would appeal the decision to the circuit court, which he felt would be less biased, knowing the influence Joseph Smith wielded over the city’s legal system.80 Smith countered: “I told Higbee what I thought of him for trying to carry such a suit to Carthage [the county seat]—it was to stir up the mob and bring them upon us.”81 Ten days later, Smith addressed a general gathering of Nauvoo’s citizens and placed Francis Higbee on notice:
[W]e have a gang of simple fellows here who do not know where their elbows or heads are. … [I]f there is any case tried by the authorities of Nauvoo, they want it appealed to Carthage to the circuit court. …
From this time I design to bring such characters who act against the interests of the city before a committee of the whole; and I will have the voice of the people, which is republican, and is likely to be the voice of God; and as long as I have a tongue to speak, I will expose the iniquity of the lawyers and wicked men.82
“I despise the man who will betray you with a kiss,” Smith added; “and I am determined to use up83 these men, if they will not stop their operation. … I will disgrace every man by publishing him on the house top, and who will not be still and mind his own business.”84 “Wo to the man or lawyer,” the women of Nauvoo joined in, “that filthies himself by advocating such rotten hearted raven’s rights,” meaning the right to defend oneself in court on the charge of insulting the Church.85
Before the end of March 1844, people were becoming increasingly aware that dissidents were organizing themselves into a knowledgeable cabal as Smith, in particular, lashed out at Chauncey Higbee, for instance. “The lies that C. L. Higbee has hatched up as a foundation to work upon” Smith said, included the claim that Smith had “had men’s heads cut off in Missouri” and that he had “wanted to kill and put out of the way” the dissidents. “I won’t swear out a warrant against them,” Smith postured, “for I don’t fear any of them: they would not scare off an old setting hen. I intend to publish all the iniquity that I know of them. … I am willing to do anything for the good of the people.”86 Smith’s critics had, in fact, met to discuss how best to expose Smith’s iniquities, and tensions escalated. On April 1, the Higbees were arrested for “assaulting the police” but were acquitted. Chauncey was then arrested for “using abusive language to and insulting the city marshal while in the discharge of his official duty.”87 Chauncey reciprocated by having the complaining policemen arrested for “false imprisonment.” Nauvoo’s municipal court intervened, released the three policeman, and ruled that Higbee was a “very disorderly person,” noting that the suit was “malicious” and ordering “that said Higbee pay the costs.”88
Smith’s opponents demanded that their complaints be aired fully during an upcoming Churchwide general conference. Unwilling to give his enemies a forum, Smith decided differently. “It had been expected by some that the little petty difficulties which have existed would be brought up and investigated before this conference,” he announced, “but it will not be the case; these things are of too trivial a nature to occupy the attention of so large a body.”89 Ironically, Hyrum Smith tried to defuse the situation during the same conference by saying the Laws had “done a great deal of good … I do not believe that the Messrs. Laws would do anything against me.”90 Joseph Smigh was not pleased with this olive leaf.91 On April 17, he confronted Chauncey with evidence that Chauncey had threatened to him him. The next day, Smith had William and Wilson Law formally expelled from the Church for “unchristianlike conduct.”92 This was the catalyst for the Higbees, Laws, and other dissenters meeting on April 21 to form a new Church. A few days later, on April 26, a skirmish broke out between three of the dissenters, including Chauncey, and Nauvoo policemen when the latter asked for help in bringing a prisoner to the mayor’s office. They were arrested for “resisting the authorities of the city.”93 The previous day, “Buckey’s First Epistle” had appeared in the Warsaw Signal, together with the reprint of “Buckeye’s Lamentation.”
Eight days later, Francis formally charged Joseph Smith with slander and had him arrested by the circuit court in Carthage, hoping to forego a hearing in Nauvoo. It is unclear what immediately prompted the suit; perhaps others of Higbee’s immediate circle had talked about Smith’s earlier accusations against him. Smith petitioned Nauvoo’s municipal court the same day to allow him to respond to Higbee’s charges and to force Higbee to justify why Smith should remain under arrest.94 During the May 8 proceeding, which Higbee did not attend, Smith proved good on his threat to try to expose Higbee.95 According to the published minutes:
Joseph Smith sworn … Francis M. Higbee said he was grieved at me, and I was grieved at him. I was willing on my part to settle all difficulties, and he promised if I would go before the City Council and tell them he would drop every thing against me forever. I have never mentioned the name of Francis M. Higbee disrespectfully from that time to this; but have been entirely silent about him; if any one has said that I have spoken disrespectfully since then, they have lied: and he cannot have any cause whatever. I want to testify to this court of what occurred a long time before John C. Bennet left [t]his city. I was called on to visit Francis M. Higbee; I went and found him on a bed on the floor.
[Here follows testimony which is too indelicate for the public eye or ear; and we would here remark, that so revolting, corrupt, and disgusting has been the conduct of most of this clique, that we feel to dread having any thing to do with the publication of their trials; we will not however offend the public eye or ear with a repetition of the foulness of their crimes any more.]96
Bennet said Higbee97 pointed out the spot where he had seduced a girl, and that he had seduced another. I did not believe it, I felt hurt, and labored with Higbee about it; he swore with uplifted hands, that he had lied about the matter. I went and told the girl’s parents, when Higbee and Bennet made affidavits and both perjured themselves, they swore false about me so as to blind the family. I brought Francis M. Higbee before Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith and others; Bennet was present, when they both acknowledged that they had done these things, and asked us to forgive them. I got vexed, my feelings had been hurt; Higbee has been guilty of adulterous communication, perjury, &c. which I am able to prove by men who heard them confess it. I also preferred charges against Bennett, the same charges which I am now telling: and he got up and told them it was the truth, when he pleaded for his life, and begged to be forgiven; this was [Bennett’s] own statement before sixty or seventy men; he said the charges were true against him and Higbee. I have been endeavoring to throw out shafts to defend myself, because they were corrupt, and I knew they were determined to ruin me: [Higbee] has told the public that he was determined to prosecute me, because I slandered him, although I tell nothing but the truth. Since the settlement of our difficulties, I have not mentioned his name disrespectfully; he wants to bind up my hands in the circuit court, and make me pay heavy damages for telling the truth. In relation to the conspiracy, I have not heard Francis M. Higbee say he would take away my life; but Chauncey Higbee [and two others] … said they would shoot me, and the only offence against me is telling the truth.
Although Hyrum Smith had earlier insisted that such accusations were “a mistake,” he and others now joined their testimony to Joseph Smith’s regarding Francis’s reported depravity:
Brigham Young, sworn, With regard to Francis M. Higbee, at the time that is spoken of, I stopped opposite Mr. Laws’ store, we had been conversing with Dr. Bennet when I came into the room, Francis Higbee rather recoiled and wished to withdraw; he went out and sat upon a pile of wood. He said it is all true, I am sorry for it, I wish it had never happened. I understood Bennet who related some of the circumstances, he cried and begged of us to forgive him, and said if he could be permitted to stay in the city as a private individual he should be happy; that was about what he said; it is true, I am sorry for it I wish it had never been so; as we came up, Dr. Bennet, Mr. Higbee, and Mr. Smith, had been talking about it, I have not mentioned it before, I knew of the whole affair, it was on the 4th of July, or a few days after[;] it was shortly after I came from England. I was in the City Council when Mr. Higbee said all was settled. …
Hyrum Smith swore,—I recollect a settlement of difficulties between Francis M. Higbee and my brother Joseph, about which some of the court may recollect. I recollect Dr. Bennett asking forgiveness of the [Masonic] Lodge when there was about sixty present—Francis M. Higbee acknowledged that it was the truth, that he was sorry, and had been a thousand times: he acknowledged his connection with the woman on the hill; I did think he was with Dr. Bennet at the time, the statement of Bennet was, that he was guilty, he was sorry and asked forgiveness, he said he had seduced six or seven, he acknowledged it, and said if he was forgiven, he would not be guilty any more. Francis said he knew it was true, he was sorry and had been a hundred times; the very things that we had challenged him with, he acknowledged. I told Francis that it had better be settled[.] [H]e said, Joseph had accused him—if his character was gone all was gone, he said he would settle it and they went into the room, he did not deny any charge, he said he was sorry, that he wanted it buried, and it was agreed to do so. Francis did not say any thing about his sickness, but Dr. Bennet … doctored him in the time of his sickness. …
Heber C. Kimball, sworn—I think it is near two years: I had some conversation with Francis Higbee, he expressed himself indignant at some things; he expressed himself that he was sorry, he would live a new life, he never would say a word against President Joseph Smith; he had an inclination to write that what he published was false. … The last time I conversed with him, he said, “if I had taken your council, I should now have been a man looked on with respect; he said he was not connected with the people that opposed President Smith and never would”—he much regretted the course he had taken.98
At the end of the hearing, the court discharged Joseph Smith and ruled that “Francis M. Higbee’s character having been so fully shown, as infamous, the court is convinced that this suit was instituted through malice, private pique and corruption; and ought not to be countenanced; and it is ordained by the court that said Francis M. Higbee pay the costs.”99 To underscore his commitment to expose Higbee, Smith had the court record, including his own testimony, published in the Nauvoo Neighbor the next week.
Before the end of the month, Higbee issued his own public statement to the Warsaw Signal:
The nature of the above case was as follows:—On the 1st day of May, 1844, I sued out a capias, from the Clerk of the Circuit Court, of the Fifth Judicial District of Illinois, against Joseph Smith, who, immediately on being arrested obtained a writ of habeas corpus, from the Municipal Court at Nauvoo, that he might under that garb or semblance of justice, extricate himself from the just demands of violated law, as has always been the case before when men have attempted to bring him to justice. On the return of said writ before the Municipal Court, Joseph Smith in justification of his own wickedness, corruption and infamy, swore first, as follows: “That I was grieved at him, and he was grieved at me,” but he does not tell the cause of my “grief,” neither does he give the world to understand the cause of his. He, as well as I, recollects well, the cause which first induced me to question his pretentions to sincerity, and which gave rise as he says, to my ‘grief:’ which was the base attack he (Joseph Smith) made upon the virtue of Miss Nancy Rigdon, in 1842, to whom I was at that time paying my addresses. The attack was of so base, so loathesome, and of so detestable a character, that I could not conceal my feelings from the base seducer, and I assailed Joseph Smith about the matter; in (as I think quite likely,) rather a rough manner, for I felt much excited indeed; when he (Smith) assured me I must keep perfectly dark, and be quiet, or he would serve a quietus upon me—But I could not feel reconciled towards Joseph, and I made another assault upon him, in front of Mr. James Ivin’s store, (or where he at that time kept,) and he upon that occasion told me he would blow my character to the four winds, if I did not be still, for God would deal with him, if I would be still and mind my own business, and that I was only exciting and agitating the attack, he made upon Nancy for the sake of insuring to myself an imperishable name, (or some words to that effect.)
The excitement upon my part was still on the increase, for as I reflected upon the matter, the more and more I became astonished; to think that Joseph Smith, a man professing to be a Messiah, sent by the God of Heaven to revolutionize and christianize this depraved and fallen generation, would have the presumption to attack the virtue of any female, with whom I was corresponding, and that too under the cloak of Christianity, was more than I could or ever will bear from him or any other man made in the image of his God;—I care not what his pretentions of Christianity may be, or how many revelations he may call to his aid—he is a dark fiend from the Tartarian regions,100 and hell stands wide to swallow him up; and I would here recommend that Joseph Smith should look well to the west, for the figure of the Lord hath written it upon the wall “Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.”101
Smith discovered my feelings and commenced raging against me, by assailing my character in every corner of the street and in any private circle, and he soon commenced his outrageous attacks upon my character from the public stand. I met Smith in the public street before Hiram Smith’s office, about that time (in ’42,) when he presented his hand for my acceptance, I carried mine behind me, and refused to accept his, when he stated that he was sorry the things had assumed such an aspect, for he always loved me and did still, and I was a good boy, and every body knew it, and if every body did not know it, they were not as smart as he was. At that time he eulogized my moral worth to the skies, but could not come [to] it, for I still persisted, and utterly refused to extend my hand to any one so base, so lost to every sense of honor and virtue.”
The above is a brief statement of some things that passed between Joseph and myself, about the time he made the attack upon the virtue of Miss Nancy, sufficient, however, to acquaint the public with the reasons for my feeling towards him, as he stated I did. As for himself he could not succeed in his unhallowed attempts, and that is what made him feel so bad, but all the man had to do, I suppose in mitigation of the crime, was to offer up the entrails of a lamb, if John T. Barnett would sell another, as he did when Mr. Samuel Pratt repeated his attempts.102
Joseph Smith continues his statement before the Municipal Court, at great length with regard to myself, during which statement he (Joseph) tells but one falsehood, and that includes all the man said from the time he rose to swear, until he closed his testimony—which was a lie of the basest kind, and constitutes him a perjured villain, and so he stands on the docket of that Court, and what is still more painful and desperate, is to know as I do verily know, that he stands before the Bar of Heaven and own[s] [i.e., admits] that he has lied, and that too, for the sole purpose of destroying him who has never harmed the hair of any man’s head, or injured any female under Heaven.103
Smith continued to go toe-to-toe with his critics. The day after his testimony against Higbee, he saw to it that Wilson Law was cashiered from Nauvoo’s militia for “ungentlemanly and unofficer-like conduct.”104 The next day, the Laws, the Higbees, and others began distributing the prospectus for a new independent publication, the Nauvoo Expositor, promising “to give a full, candid and succinct statement of facts as they really exist in the City of Nauvoo[,] fearless of whose particular case the facts may apply.”105 “It shall be the organ through which we will herald the Mormon ribaldry,” Francis explained. “It shall also contain a full and complete exposé of his Mormon Seraglio or Nauvoo Harem—; and [the prophet’s] unparelleled and unheard of attempts at seduction. As it regards Joe I am as well satisfied that he excells Solomon, Tiberius, or even the black prince of Dahomeny himself, among the women as I am that he is the bigest villain that goes unhung.”106
On the 12th, Smith seethed:
All the lies that are now hatched up against me are of the devil, and the influence of the devil and his servants will be used against the kingdom of God. … I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught. … I testify that no man has power to reveal it but myself—things in heaven, in earth and hell; and all shut your mouths for the future.107
Within the week, Chauncey returned briefly to Nauvoo’s municipal court to represent a complainant in a civil case.108 Two days later, Frank and three others were officially excommunicated “for apostasy.”109
On May 23 word circulated that William Law intended to charge Joseph Smith with adultery.110 Two days later, on the strength of Law’s affidavit about Smith living in “an open state of adultery,” two indictments were issued against Smith.111 Francis Higbee’s testimony was rejected, according to Smith’s history.112 Smith gave a feisty public response: “The Lord has constituted me so curiously that I glory in persecution. I am not nearly so humble as if I were not persecuted. If oppression will make a wise man mad, much more a fool. If they want a beardless113 boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of the mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them.”114 He decided he would not avoid the trial and traveled the next day to Carthage, Illinois, where he hoped to “have the indictments against me investigated.” However, since one of the witnesses was absent, the case was postponed until October and Smith returned home.115
On May 29 the Nauvoo Neighbor published affidavits from three women who had, two years earlier, testified that Chauncey Higbee seduced them. Smith’s history noted that this was done “to show the character of the men who are now seeking to destroy my life and usefulness, and overthrow the work of the Lord which He has commenced through my instrumentality.”116 The editor of the Neighbor explained:
After all that this Chauncey L. Higbee has done in wickedly and maliciously using the name of Joseph Smith to persuade innocent females to submit to gratify his hellish lusts, and then blast the character of the most chaste, pure, virtuous and philanthropic man on earth, he, to screen himself from the law of the land and the just indignation of an insulted people, and save himself from the penitentiary, or whatever punishment his unparalleled crimes merit, has entered into a conspiracy with the Laws and others against the lives of those who are knowing to his abandoned conduct, thus hoping to save himself from the disgrace which much follow an exposure, and wreck his vengeance and gratify his revenge for his awful disappointment.117
Not everyone was convinced. The Warsaw Signal editorialized: “No Joe, these affidavits are but evidence against yourself. They show conclusively, that the females of your city, are taught by you, to hold virtue, chastity, decency and propriety, eh! every thing that gives adornment to the character of the sex, as subservient to your will and desire. … Shame where is thy blush?”118
Two days later, on June 4, Smith wondered about his prospects if he were to sue the Laws and others for “perjury, slander, etc.,” perhaps in behalf of one of the women implicated in his alleged adultery.119 Before the end of the week, the first (and only) issue of the Nauvoo Expositor appeared, publishing three affidavits attesting to Smith’s revelation on plural marriage. “Infinite are the gradations which mark this man’s attempts for power,” wrote Francis Higbee of Smith.
Is it not a shame and a disgrace, to think we have a man in our midst, who will defy the laws of our country; the laws which shed so gentle and nourishing an influence upon our fathers, which fostered and protected them in their old age from insult and aggression; shall we their sons, lie still and suffer Joseph Smith to light up the lamp of tyranny and oppression in our midst? God forbid, let the departed spirits of our fathers, cry from the ground against us. Let us arise in the majesty of our strength and sweep the influence of tyrants and miscreants from the face of the land, as with the breath of heaven.120
Smith was outraged and feared more exposures; he convened the city council on June 8 and 10 and orchestrated passage of a new ordinance and resolution declaring the Expositor a public nuisance and ordering its destruction.121 During these meetings, Hyrum Smith insisted that his brother’s revelation on “a multiplicity of wives” was “in answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days, and had no reference to the present time.”122 He said William Law had confessed to adultery and that Francis Higbee “had the P** [pox, meaning syphilis].”123 Joseph Smith admitted to preaching plural marriage “on the stand from the bible, shewing the order in ancient days, having nothing to do with the present times,” after which Hyrum again stressed that the revelation “was in reference to former days, and not the present times.”124
Following destruction of the Expositor,125 most dissenters left Nauvoo, hoping to avoid arrest and fearing for their lives.126 On June 12, Smith was arrested for causing “a riot” and appeared before Nauvoo’s court, which freed him. Five days later he was again arrested and discharged. Informed that angry citizens were gathering in Warsaw to storm Nauvoo,127 Smith mobilized the Nauvoo Legion and declared martial law. He then decided to escape to the west, believing that the Saints would be safer without him; but when told that troops were being sent to occupy the city and that he would be protected, he returned to Nauvoo to stand trial. While imprisoned in nearby Carthage Jail, Joseph and Hyrum were killed on June 27, 1844. The Higbees and Laws were not directly involved in the assassination, but their rhetoric helped to ignite the volatile situation. If dissenters hoped their actions would cause the demise of polygamy, they underestimated the power of Smith’s revelation.
The Higbees continued for a time to practice law in and around Nauvoo. Chauncey married Julia May White in 1854 in Quincy, then resettled to Pittsfield. That same year, he was admitted to the bar and elected to the Illinois general assembly. Four years later he joined the state senate. In 1861, he was elected as a circuit judge. He was appointed a member of the appellate court in 1877 and served as president of First National Bank, of which he was a charter member. He supported construction of the Pittsfield East School and a new Methodist Episcopal church. He remained in Pittsfield and died in 1884.128
Francis is more difficult to track. A Mormon source claims he was arrested in mid-1846 for anti-Mormon activities,129 but he was still residing in Hancock County four years later when census takers identified him as a merchant and his younger brother Jackson as a clerk.130 He reportedly died in New York.131 Whether or not he married and had descendants is unknown. While he may have had help in composing the two Buckeye poems,132 they reflect aspects of his life, personality, and temperament that seem to mark him as their principal creator. The poems are significant as evidence of the controversial environment in which Joseph Smith was assassinated, particularly with regard to the beginnings of plural marriage, as well as being artifacts of the author’s own stormy encounter with Mormonism.
BUCKEYE’S LAMENTATION for want of more wives.
(Warsaw Message, Feb. 7, 1844, 1; Warsaw Signal, Apr. 25, 1844, 3)
I once thought I had knowledge great,
But now I find ’tis small;
I once thought I’d Religion, too,
But I find I’ve none at all.
5 For I have got but one lone wife,
And can obtain no more;
And the doctrine is, I can’t be saved,
Unless I’ve half a score!
The narrow gate that Peter kept,
10 In ages long ago,
Is locked and barred since he gave up
The keys to beardless Joe.
And Joe proclaims it is too small,
And causes great delay,
15 And that he has permission got
To open the broad way.
The narrow gate did well enough
When Peter, James, and John,
Did lead the saints on Zion-ward,
20 In single file along:
When bachelors, like good old Paul,
Could win the glorious prize,
And maids, without a marriage rite,
Reach “mansions in the skies.”
25 But we have other teaching now,
Of greater glories far;
How a single glory’s nothing more
Than some lone twinkling star.
A two-fold glory’s like the moon,
30 That shines so sweet at night,
Reflecting from her gracious lord
Whatever he thinks right.
A tenfold glory—that’s the prize!
Without it you’re undone!
35 But with it you will shine as bright
As the bright shining sun.
There you may reign133 like mighty Gods,
Creating worlds so fair;—
At least a world for every wife
40 That you take with you there.
The man that has got ten fair wives,
Ten worlds he may create;
And he that has got less than this,
Will find a bitter fate.
45 The one or two that he may have,
He’d be deprived of then;
And they’ll be given as talents were
To him who has got ten.
And ’tis so here, in this sad life–
50 Such ills you must endure–
Some priest or king, may claim your wife
Because that you are poor.
A revelation he may get—
Refuse it if you dare!
55 And you’ll be damned perpetually
By our good Lord the Mayor!134
But if that you yield willingly,
Your daughters and your wives,
In spiritual marriage to our Pope,
60 He’ll bless you all your lives;
He’ll seal you up, be damned you can’t,
No matter what you do—
If that you only stick to him,
He swears he’ll take you through.
65 He’ll lead you on to135 the broad gate,
Which he has opened wide—
In solid column you shall march,
And enter side by side.
And no delay you’ll meet with there,
70 But “forward march” you shall:—
For he’s not only our Lord Mayor
But Lord Lieutenant-ral.136
This is the secret doctrine taught
By Joe and the red rams*—
75 Although in public they deny—
But then ’tis all a sham.
They fear the indignation just,
Of those who have come here,
With hands thats clean and honest hearts,
80 To serve the Lord in fear.
Thus, all the twelve do slyly teach,
And slyly practice, too;
And even the sage Patriarch,
Wont have untied his shoe:
85 For sure, ’twould be quite impolite,
If not a great disgrace,
To have a widow sister fair
Spit in a Prophet’s face!
But Joe at snaring beats them all,
90 And at the rest does laugh;
For widows poor, and orphan girls,
He can ensnare with chaff,
He sets his snares around for all,—
And very seldom fails
95 To catch some thoughtless Partridges,137
Snow-birds138 or Knight-ingales!139
But there are hundred140 other birds
He never can make sing;
Who wont be driven nor draged to hell,141
100 By prophet, priest nor king:
Whose sires have bled in days gone by,
For their dear country’s cause;
And who will still maintains its rights,
Its Liberty and Laws!
*B. Y. & O. H.142
The Buckey’s First Epistle to Jo.
(Warsaw Signal, Apr. 25, 1844, 1)
Friend Jo, I have been told of late,
That you had got it in your pate
A certain chief, to vent his hate,
Had learned to sing;
5 And had turn’d out a poet great,
Or some such thing.
Because the “Warsaw Message” came
With tidings from that state of fame,
Like some great herald to proclaim
10 Your wicked ways,
Your tyrany, your sin and shame,
In these last days.
With Buckey’s trumpet sounding clear,
That Democrat and Whig might hear,
15 And Priest-rid Mormons, who in fear,
Bow down to thee;
That there is still one child who dare
And will be free.
That Buckeye child lives in Nauvoo,
20 And some there are, who know how true
A friend, he ever was to you,
In days that’s past,
Till slanders base around you threw
Fair fame to blast.
25 Till for himself he’s fairly seen
That you were not what you had been,
But that iniquity you’d screen
In every way;
And from fair virtue’s paths did lean
30 Vile plans to lay.
Have you forgot the snare you laid
For Nancy, (lovely Buckeye maid?)
With all your priestly arts array’d
Her to seduce;
35 Assisted by that wretched bawd
Who kept the house.
But she, in virtues armour steel’d,
Was proof against what you reveal’d,
And to your doctrines would not yield
40 The least belief;
Although the scriptures you did wield
In your relief.
And when you saw, she would detest
Such doctrines, in her noble breast,
45 And did d[e]pise the man, ’tho priest;
Who taught them too
A sallow, yellow, lustful beast,
Poor Joe, like you.
’Twas then you chang’d your lovers sighs,
50 And vengeful hate flash’d in your eyes
When you found out she did despise
You as a man;
So took to circulating lies,
Your usual plan.
55 Just that you might destroy her fame,
And give to her a ruin’d name,
So that if she should ever proclaim
What you had tried;
Your friends might turn on her the shame
60 And say she lied.
But Joe, in this you fairly tail’d,
Though you her father’s house assail’d
She met you face to face; you quail’d
Before her frown,
65 And like a counterfeit she nail’d
You tightly down—
Although you tried, by priestly power
To make this gentle creature cower
And eat her words, that you might tower
70 In priestly pride;
But strong in truth, she in that hour
Told you you lied.
And when you found it would not do,
Then like a coward paltroon,143 you
75 Acknowledg’d what she had said, was true
Unto her sire;
But then you’d nothing more in view
Than just to try her—
And put her on her guard, that she
80 Might keep herself all pure and free
From base seducers like to me,
And Joab144 vile—
For that it was reveal’d to thee
We would beguile.
85 O Jo! O Jo!! thy slanderous tongue
Some burning tears from me have wrung,
And I had thought t’ have held my tongue
And nothing said—
If thou had’st but repentance shown
90 And shut thy head.
But thy repeated slanders vile
Shall not be long borne by this child;
Although by nature he is mild,
And well disposed;
95 Thy sins from continent to isle
Shall be exposed.
Missouri’s deeds shall come to light
Though perpetrated in the night,
By hirelings who thought it right
100 To do thy will—
By cabin conflagration bright
To scalp and kill.
Repent, repent, there still is time—
And add no more dark crime to crime,
105 But think, how mighty and sublime
Thy calling first—
And in black sackcloth bow thee down
Low in the dust—
And put away far from thy heart,
110 Each wicked, sensual, sinful art;
And from the truth no more depart
Long as you live—
But stop and make another start,
And I’ll forgive.
115 If not, your dark deeds in Nauvoo,
As well as in Missouri too—
Like Hamlet’s ghost shall rise to view
With old white hat145 —
Then tremble tyrant, for but few
120 Will sanction that.
But I must stop this long epistle,
“My pen is worn down to the gristle,”
And ’tis the poet’s only missill
In truth’s relief—
125 For, be it known to all, this child
Aint yet a chief—
1. Warsaw Message, Feb. 7, 1844, 3. Ironically, Joseph Smith had just disciplined a follower for preaching the very thing Buckeye accused him of: “polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines” (see “Notice,” Times and Seasons, Feb. 1, 1844, 423.
2. Joseph Smith et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Period I. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973), 6:210. I cite the published history when it does not differ materially from the manuscript version. In his diary, Smith does not mention having seen the poem, and his reaction is probably a later interpolation by LDS historians. See Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books/Smith Research Associates, 1989), 445. The Church’s historians may have assumed that Law was the author since three weeks earlier the Church had published one of Law’s poems. See “Farewell, Illinois,” in Ebenezer Robinson to John Taylor, Nov. 20, 1843, Times and Seasons, Jan. 15, 1844, 412-13; see also “Love of God” by “W. L.” in Times and Seasons, Jan. 1, 1841, 270.
3. By the fall of 1840, Nauvoo counted more than 2,400 residents. Eighteen months later, its population had grown to 4,000. B 1845, there were more than 11,000 residents, nearly half the population of the county and only 1,000 shy of Chicago’s. James E. Smith, “Frontier Nauvoo: Building a Picture from Statistics,” Ensign, Sept. 1979, 17-19, found that “cities the size of Nauvoo were rare in the American West” and that “the Mormons almost single-handedly caused Hancock County to be the most populated county in Illinois by the time of the 1845 Illinois State census” (17-18). It was second only to “Chicago and St. Louis in the region,” according to Glen M. Leonard, Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise (Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book and BYU Press, 2002), 179.
4. In John E. Hallwas, Thomas Gregg: Early Illinois Journalist and Author (Macomb: Western Illinois University, 1983), 47. Gregg was a self-taught newspaper man who once wrote a feature story under the name “a Buckeye.” He was an abolitionist and teetotaler. He founded a total of eight newspapers and four magazines during his lifetime.
Other examples of “Buckeye” used as a pen name include a newspaper series by Samuel Sullivan Cox, written from Europe in the 1840s under the nom de plume, “A Buckeye Abroad.” See Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio: An Encyclopedia of the State, 2 vols. (Cincinnati: State of Ohio, 1902), 1:204; also “Buckeye,” “The Grand Union Barbecue,” Harper’s Weekly, Oct. 12, 1861, 647. In 1841, U.S. President William Henry Harrison was known as “the Buckeye president.”
5. Warsaw Signal, June 12, 1844, 2. See also the editorials reprinted in John E. Hallwas and Roger D. Launius, eds., Cultures in Conflict: A Documentary History of the Mormon War in Illinois (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1995), 79-81, 247-51.
7. Buckeye was not the first to publicize Joseph Smith’s doctrine of marriage. Almost two years earlier, John C. Bennett had published a series of letters in the nearby Sangamo Journal detailing what he had seen or learned, which he expanded in The History of the Saints (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842). For more on Bennett’s activities, see Andrew F. Smith, The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997). Another early insider exposé was Oliver Olney’s The Absurdities of Mormonism Portrayed (Hancock County, IL: the author, 1843).
8. See the data in George D. Smith, “Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy, 1841-46: A Preliminary Demographic Report,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (Spring 1994): 1-72. The fact of Joseph Smith’s polygamy is generally accepted by historians today, but not entirely. For a contrary opinion based on Smith’s own denials, see Richard and Pamela Price, Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy (Independence, MO: Price Publishing, 2000).
9. In citing the poetry, I have put line numbers in parenthesis and inserted a solidus at each line break. In addition, I have removed the capitalization at the beginning of each line, the emphasis (italics, small capitals), and superfluous dashes. For the full punctuation, see the Appendix.
10. Another possible early explication was Udney Hay Jacob’s The Peacemaker, excerpts from which were published in 1842 in Nauvoo by “Joseph Smith, Printer.” See Lawrence Foster, “A Little-known Defense of Polygamy from the Mormon Press in 1842,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 9 (Winter 1974): 21-34.
11. “What if,” asks twentieth-century LDS educator Danel W. Bachman, “God was interested in raising up a certain lineage or a group of children through a special core of spiritual elite, who had been initiated into the mysteries of God and were thereby qualified to instruct others? How better might this be expeditiously accomplished than through multiple wives? These women might perpetually bear children of the men of modern Israel—‘holy men’ whom God had ‘reserved’ and chosen” (Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage before the Death of Joseph Smith,” M.A. thesis, Purdue University, 1975, 96).
12. Mildred H. Bray, “Elenor Houtz Snow (Fifth Wife of Pres. L. Snow),” typescript, 2-3, Archives, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, hereafter LDS Archives. LDS historian Kathryn M. Daynes observes: “Joseph Smith’s counseling another of his followers to marry a fecund woman is consonant with a second reason for plural marriage: ‘to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment’” (More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910 Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001, 29).
14. In Dean R. Zimmerman, ed., I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Horizon Publishers, 1976), 47.
18. Sarah M. Kimball, in Augusta J. Crocheron, Representative Women of Deseret, A Book of Biographical Sketches to Accompany the Pictures of the Same Title (Salt Lake City: J. C. Graham & Co., 1884), 26.
19. In “William Clayton’s Testimony,” Feb. 16, 1874, rpt. in George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books / Smith Research Associates, 1995), 557.
23. Helen Mar Kimball, in Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 293. “The promise was so great,” Kimball admitted, “that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward.” See also Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977), 355.
24. “These sealing ordinances,” LDS scholar Andrew F. Ehat writes, “were being administered to those who were at least willing to believe in the divinity of plural marriage. … Acceptance of plural marriage was a demonstration that they would obey the actual laws that God taught were absolutely prerequisite to such blessings” (Ehat, “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982, 74-75).
26. Young had married Lucy Ann Decker in mid-June 1842 and Augusta Adams and Harriet Elizabeth Cook on November 2, 1843. Hyde had married Martha Rebecca Browett in February-March 1843 and Mary Ann Price on July 20, 1843. Young would marry a fourth wife, Clarissa Decker, in May 1844. These and other dates come from Smith, “Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy,” and from subsequent correspondence with the author (copies in my possession).
28. The Partridge sisters lived with Joseph and Emma Smith for three years following the death of their father on May 27, 1840. Their mother remarried on September 27, 1840. Smith was appointed guardian of the Lawrence sisters in 1841 following the death of their father. Their mother remarried in late 1841. Smith’s critics would later point to his relationship with the Lawrence sisters, whom he had married, as evidence of adultery.
43. Wilson Law was born in Northern Ireland in 1807. In 1818 his family immigrated to Pennsylvania and later to Canada. He was baptized and ordained an elder in Nauvoo. In 1841 he was elected to the city council and promoted to brigadier general in the Nauvoo Legion. On July 22, 1842, he presented a public resolution attesting to Smith’s good character; two weeks later was elected major general of the legion, replacing John Bennett. In mid-August, Smith said Law was of “noble stature, of noble hands, and of noble deeds” (Smith, History of the Church, 5:109). On December 25, 1842, he married Elizabeth Sikes, who died fifteen months. By 1844 the thirty-seven-year-old joined his younger brother William, a counselor in the LDS First Presidency, in opposing plural marriage. He and his brother were excommunicated on April 18 and discharged from the legion on May 9, 1844. He helped to found the Nauvoo Expositor. By 1850, he was living in Pennsylvania and died ca. 1877. While he was aware of Mormonism’s secret doctrines, he was not connected to Ohio or to Nancy Rigdon and had not been repeatedly “slandered” by Smith.
52. Francis also neglected his duties in the Nauvoo Legion. In early June 1842, he was tried for negligence after failing to hold a court of assessment on May 14 and court of appeals on May 28, “thereby depriving the Legion of the use of the Funds which would have been assessed, & has suffered delinquents to escape Justice.” Higbee “admitted his guilt” and was allowed to continue to serve. See “Capt. John H. Tippets versus Francis M. Higbee, Col.,” June 3, 1842, Nauvoo Legion Papers, LDS Archives.
67. Nonetheless, Smith’s official History of the Church (6:170) reported him thinking: “What can be the matter with these men e.g., William Law, William Marks, et al.? Is it that the wicked flee when no man pursueth, that hit pigeons always flutter, that drowning men catch at straws, or that Presidents Law and Marks are absolutely traitors to the Church, that my remarks should produce such an excitement in their minds. Can it be possible that the traitor … is one of my quorum i.e., First Presidency?” Though these thoughts are not recorded in his diary, they are probably representative of Smith’s suspicions.
74. The references are to Antonius Felix, the former slave who became governor of Judea and trembled when the apostle Paul spoke to him (Acts 24:24-27), and to Manoah, the Danite father of Samson, who is said to have seen an angel ascend to heaven in the flame of his sacrifice (Judges 13:19-20).
78. Nauvoo City Council Minutes, Jan. 16, 1844. These are summarized in Smith, History of the Church, 6:178. Where the references to Higbee were “ordered to be crossed out,” they were subsequently published verbatim in Smith’s History (6:169).
79. Smith, History of the Church, 6:225. Bostwick’s allegations, although not specified in the official history, had to do with Hyrum’s and others’ polygamy. Bostwick allegedly bragged that he could “take a half bushel of meal, obtain his vile purpose, and get what accommodation he wanted with almost any woman in the city” ( in “Virtue Will Triumph,” Nauvoo Neighbor, Mar. 20, 1844, 2).
80. Unlike other municipal courts in Illinois, Nauvoo’s mayor automatically served as chief justice and the city’s aldermen as associate justices. “Thus,” write legal historians Edwin Brown Firmage and Richard Collin Mangrum, “the lawmaker was also the law interpreter, creating a concentration of power that was absent” elsewhere (Zion in the Courts: A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900 Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988, 86-87; 92-105).
83. Smith’s use of the phrase “use up” must have been disconcerting to his audience. Consider, e.g., Brigham Young’s later use of the term in reference to the Utah War. As U.S. troops approached, he boasted that “we could go out and use them up, … but we do not want to kill men (Journal of Discourses, comp. George D. Watt, 26 vols. Liverpool: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1854-86, 5:234; cf. 1:171, 10:110; History of the Church, 2:181; 6:559).
91. “My brother Hyrum called in the evening,” Joseph Smith later reported, “and cautioned me against speaking so freely about my enemies, &c., in such as manner to make it actionable. I told him that six months would not roll over his head before they would swear twelve as palpable lies about him as they had about me” (Smith, History of the Church, 6:403).
93. Ibid., 344; see also 348-49. The Nauvoo Expositor said they committed the “very enormous offence of refusing to assist the notorious Orrin Porter Rockwell, and his ‘dignity’ John P. Green, in arresting a respectable and peaceable citizen, without the regular process of papers” (June 7, 1844, 3). The three men appealed the verdict to the municipal court but did not appear when that court convened on June 3. The court sent the case back to the mayor’s court for dismissal or a rehearing (History of the Church, 6:426; Nauvoo Expositor, June 7, 1844, 3).
95. See Joseph Smith’s testimony in “Municipal Court,” Nauvoo Neighbor, May 15, 1844, rpt. in Times and Seasons, May 15, 1844, 538-39. While the testimony of Smith and others was later reprinted in the official history (Deseret News, Aug. 12, 1857, 1-2), it was deleted from the twentieth-century revision.
96. This bracketed paragraph appears in the published minutes. Most historians have tended to accept Smith’s charges without question. Some have speculated that the deleted testimony concerned possible homosexual activity (D. Michael Quinn, Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996, 268, 362n121), but I suspect not.
99. This amounted to a little over thirty-two dollars (see Smith, History of the Church, 6:427). Higbee appealed the decision to the circuit court in McDonough County (“Circuit Court,” Nauvoo Expositor, June 7, 1844, 3).
104. Smith, History of the Church, 6:362. Among the witnesses against Law, Cyrus H. Wheelock testified: “I heard Mr. Law say … he knew Mr. Smith was the greatest villain, and guilty of the darkest deeds of any man on the earth—he said Mr. Smith was a whoremaster—all his religion was to carry out his points—He did not know but that he was guilty of every thing but murder.” John Scott added: “I was at Mr. Laws a few days before they were cut off … he said he did not believe that ever there was a more cursed scoundrel than Joseph Smith ever hung between the heavens and the earth, he said it voluntarily” (“Evidence taken at a Court Martial held on Major General Wilson Law,” May 9, 1844, Nauvoo Legion Papers).
106. Francis M. Higbee to Thomas Gregg, May 1844, Chicago Historical Society, Chicago. By “dark prince,” Higbee may have meant the Brazilian slave trader Francisco Felix de Sousa, who allegedly had 1,000 women in a harem and worked from the Kingdom of Dahomey in west Africa, now the Republic of Benin, whose king had thousands of wives and an army of female soldiers (Wikipedia).
120. Francis M. Higbee, “Citizens of Hancock County,” Nauvoo Expositor, June 7, 1844, 3. The last two lines echo the closing stanzas of “Buckeye’s Lamentation”: “Whose sires have bled in days gone by, / for their dear country’s cause; / and who will, still maintains its rights, / its Liberty and Laws!”; and “Buckey’s First Epistle”: “When they for Liberty did raise / the sword, and broke / (as I intend in these last days) / a tyrant’s yoke.”
124. Ibid., 3. Again, the last eight words of Joseph’s comments, as well as all of Hyrum’s testimony quoted here, do not appear in History of the Church, 6:441. Both men’s assertions were intended to disprove the affidavit, published in the Nauvoo Expositor, of a man whose twenty-nine-year-old daughter had been sealed to Smith a year earlier on June 1, 1843 (see Compton, Sacred Loneliness, 543-57).
125. Francis reportedly threatened that any who “lay their hand upon it the press or break it, they may date their downfall from that very hour, and in ten days there will not be a Mormon left in Nauvoo” (in Smith, History of the Church, 6:451; cf. Orrin Porter Rockwell’s testimony of Higbee’s threats, 457).
127. See the special issue of the Warsaw Signal, June 14, 1844. Francis told the angry Illinoisans of “his personal knowledge of the Mormons, from their earliest history, through their hellish career in Missouri and this State—which has been characterized by the darkest and most diabolical deeds which has ever disgraced humanity.”
132. In September 1903, ninety-one-year-old Joseph A. Kelting, while swearing to his knowledge of Joseph Smith’s marriages, recited virtually verbatim a handful of verses from “Buckeye’s Lamentation,” which he placed in the mouth of William Law. It is not clear if Kelting, or his aide, was suggesting Law wrote the poem or was merely using the poem to give voice to Law’s criticisms (Kelting Affidavit, Sept. 11, 1903, LDS Archives).
136. Smith was named lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion by Illinois’s governor on March 10, 1841. The last general commander to hold such a rank was George Washington. Buckeye’s addition of “-ral” seems simply to have aided the poem’s rhyming scheme.