The idea of a “wolf” concealing itself in “sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15) comes from the pretense of piety by men whose hearts are set on the things of this world. The more conspicuous the pretensions to piety the quicker people are misled.
John C. Bennett was a notorious adulterer, having abandoned his marriage and family before arriving in Nauvoo. But he was elected the first Mayor of Nauvoo. His election was unanimous. The citizens of Nauvoo universally admired him.
In his inaugural address on February 3, 1841, his first recommendation for improving the community was to pass an ordinance forbidding bars, dram shops and sales of alcohol by the drink in Nauvoo. He associated drinking with “evil and crime” which could be prevented by adopting his recommended ordinance. The first ordinance adopted by the Nauvoo City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bennett was “An Ordinance in relation to Temperance” passed on February 15, 1841. It prohibited “all persons and establishments” from selling whiskey by the drink in Nauvoo without a physician’s recommendation in writing.
This conspicuous act of public piety reaffirmed the man’s nobility and concealed Bennett’s real inclinations and ongoing betrayal of a wife and children. It made Bennett appear to be the right man to be trusted to lead the community.
This same black-hearted character defended enforcement of morality by compulsion. “Liberty to do good should be cheerfully and freely accorded to every man; but liberty to do evil, which is licentiousness, should be peremptorily prohibited. The public good imperiously demands it.” This was Lucifer’s plan advocated anew by Nauvoo’s first mayor. Given Bennett’s inclinations, maybe he proposed forcing morality on citizens because he knew it was the only way he could be moral.
John C. Bennett also appears to be the first Mormon to quote Francis Bacon: “Knowledge is power.” This slogan is now carved on a monument at one of the entrances to BYU. So far as I have discovered, it was John C. Bennett’s Inaugural Address in February 1841 that this quote first found its way into Mormon use.
In hindsight, it is so very easy to pick out Bennett’s pretensions to piety and to see them for what they are. Nauvoo elected the man by unanimous vote to be the first mayor of the Mormon city because they could not see what he really was. His attire was so very sheep-like they could not conceive they were upholding a wolf.
Today it is probably no different. Wolves are still trusted with the treasury, given honor, and smothered with adoration. Joseph Smith had little confidence in mankind’s ability to decide between the real and the imitation. He explained it this way: “The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth, (see Hebrews 11:38), and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.” (DHC, Vol. 4, p. 574; also TPJS, p. 206.) Anything claimed to be truth should conform with the truths already given in scripture. Everyone’s motives should be questioned until it is determined by sufficient observation they are sheep. Any teaching or person who draws us to them, and does not point us to the Lord is unable to help us. If they try to supplant Christ as the object of admiration, then they are anti-Christ and a false prophet.