Whose story is it? Part 3

The Nauvoo Expositor is relied on by Brighamite apologists as “proof” of the practice of polygamy by Joseph Smith. However, that assumes the accusers are truthful and Joseph was a liar. That is a remarkable assumption to make.

Chauncey Higbee was excommunicated from the church in 1842. William Law, Wilson Law and Robert Foster were excommunicated in mid-April 1844. Francis Higbee and Charles Ivins were excommunicated on 18 May 1844. Charles Foster and Sylvester Emmons were not church members.

In a meeting of the Nauvoo City Council on 8 June 1844, Hyrum Smith stated “that Wm. Law when sick said he had been guilty of adultery etc. and he was not fit to live or die, had sinned against his own soul.” (Spelling corrected, JSP Documents Vol. 15, p. 164.) William Law’s credibility is important to the Brighamite apologists because he was in the church presidency.

Francis Higbee suffered from a sexually transmitted disease (STD). He confessed this to Hyrum Smith, who reported to the Nauvoo City Council that “he confessed to him [Hyrum] that he had the Pox.” (Id.) The term “Pox” is explained in footnote 131: “Higbee had reportedly acquired a sexually transmitted disease.”

Another witness who was sworn in to testify truthfully reported that both Wilson and William Law were involved in counterfeit money printing. That witness (Mr. Washington Peck) testified that it “would be death of witness if he ever went to Joseph or any one to tell” about the counterfeiting. (Id., p. 165.) Death threats from these counterfeiters kept Joseph from knowing the Laws were among the perpetrators.

Mayor Joseph Smith told the City Council that William Law was offended by the Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo (which denounced plural wives, promiscuity or adultery) that was published in the Nauvoo Neighbor newspaper. This was “the bone of contention” between him and Joseph. (Id., pp. 172-173.) It offended William Law, but was published by his wife with Joseph’s support.

Wilson Law was caught sexually compromised, “caught …with the girl on the floor –at Mr. Hawes—in the night.” (Id., p. 192.) This was a daughter of Thomas Smith who had recently arrived in Nauvoo from Lancashire, England. “Wilson had seduced her.” (Id., Minutes of Nauvoo City Council, 10 June 1844 p. 192.)

Warren Smith swore that Francis Higbee asked him to join in the counterfeiting as his partner.

After these meetings the Nauvoo City Council passed an Ordinance based on their review of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. This states, in part, “injuries affecting a man’s reputation or good name are, first, by malicious, scandalous, and slanderous words tending to his damage and derogation. As if a man, maliciously and falsely, utter any slander or false tale of another: which may either endanger him in law, by impeaching him of some heinous crime, as to fay that a man hath poisoned another, or is perjured; or which may exclude him from society, as to charge him with having an infectious disease ; or which may impair or hurt his trade or livelihood,” (Private Wrongs, Book III, Chapter 8, part 5.) Based on their understanding of the law, the Nauvoo Expositor statements were determined by the Nauvoo City Council to constitute a nuisance and justify removal to prevent any further injury.

The Nauvoo City Ordinance identified the Expositor’s accusations as “publishing lies, false statements, coloring the truth, slandering men, women, children, societies and countries.” (Id., Ordinance 10 June 1844, p. 208.) The ordinance would only apply against a false statement, and not a statement that could be proven to be true. If, therefore, the Nauvoo Expositor publishers could prove the truth of their claims, it would not be slander, nor a nuisance, nor a violation of the ordinance.

Joseph Smith and the Nauvoo City Council believed the publishers of the Nauvoo Expositor were the worst sort of unprincipled, corrupt, dishonest men. As Mayor of Nauvoo Joseph stated in a Proclamation dated June 16, 1844: “Our city is infested with a set of blacklegs, counterfeiters and debauchers, and the proprietors of this press were of that class.” (Id., p. 295.)

So there we have another choice to make about Joseph’s story: On the one hand we have Joseph Smith saying that these sexually depraved, criminal counterfeiters, seducers and liars are spreading falsehoods of the worst sort. In the circumstances, I think there is reason to consider his position carefully. Why would he be bringing people before church courts to investigate sexual improprieties if he was involved in them? Why would he denounce spiritual wives and preach against adultery, fornication, and polygamy if he was involved? Why would he accuse the Nauvoo Expositor of slander if the accusations could be proven true?

But on the other hand, we have the Brighamite apologists trusting and relying on sexually diseased, criminally involved, seducers and liars to tell their version of the story.

How should this conflict be decided? Perhaps the Lord’s voice about Joseph ought to help guide our decision: “The ends of the earth shall inquire after your name, and fools shall have you in derision, and hell shall rage against you, while the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under your hand. And your people shall never be turned against you by the testimony of traitors, and although their influence shall cast you into trouble, and into bars and walls, you shall be had in honor.” (T&C 139:7.)