Sunday, July 6, 2014

In lieu of a 4th of July parade

Apparently, the city of Carthage hosts an annual 4th of July parade. Elder Johnson and I had a few hours Friday morning in which to attend so my plan was to provide you with pictures of the latest in John Deere tractors as well as other farm life implements. Also, did you know that Carthage has 11 community churches, several dance studios, and a swimming pool? That was news to me. My favorite floats were from the LDS church of course one leading the parade with bagpipes and the other was the Nauvoo brass band (which plays for Sunset by the Mississippi).

However, I'm sad to say that the battery in my camera needed recharging. Elder Johnson and I took a few shots with our cell phones, but I'll admit we need our children's expertise to put them on the blog. Otherwise, I would spend my whole afternoon trying to make it happen.


Happy 4th of July from Carthage to come on another day.

Here is one picture. It may be be the only one that worked.

Instead, I'll tell you a story that may be of great interest to you. I have felt driven the past few months to read everything possible on the events that led up to the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. There are a number of books in the Carthage visitor's center (which includes Church History volume 6) as well as some excellent ones that our son Aaron gave us before we came to Illinois to name just a few.

I've been intrigued with an almost insatiable appetite to piece it all together. Because of the information I've gleaned, I had the opportunity this week to shed some light on the events for a family of three which included a teenage daughter. They were stuck on the fact that Joseph Smith had destroyed the printing press of the Nauvoo Expositor and I could see that it was a pretty big stumbling block for them.

Here's how it came down. After the family had taken a tour through the jail, they came into the visitor's center and wanted to ask some questions. First, they asked why Hyrum was in jail with Joseph. They wondered if both of them had been arrested for treason or just Joseph. They also wanted to know what led to the treason charges and to understand how a prophet could be accused of such a severe offense. Perhaps some of you wonder the same thing.

I will attempt to tell you a few of the facts that I've gleaned over the past few months that has helped me make sense of the whole thing. Initially, I assumed that there would be some fault on Joseph's part since there are two sides to every story. However, I believe that Joseph was murdered in cold blood with a conscience free of offense to both God and man as he claimed before coming to Carthage.

From what I've read, I have concluded that there was a pretty big conspiracy going on for several years that culminated in Carthage on June 27, 1844, but didn't fully end until February of 1846 when the saints in Nauvoo were driven from the state heading toward the Salt Lake Valley.

In the city of Warsaw which is located south of Nauvoo and west of Carthage, a newspaper called the Warsaw Signal owned and operated by Thomas Sharpe printed lies about the Mormon leaders (which I believe would have certainly warranted Mr. Sharpe jail time in our society). This started in about 1840 when Nauvoo was in it's infancy. The intent was to stir the LDS society to anger and get them to retaliate enough to have reason to come into Nauvoo and destroy the whole bunch-- Prophet and all.

There was also a great deal of harassment-- burning homes, haystacks, and letting livestock loose all for the same purpose of agitating the LDS people in defending themselves through violence. Also, other crimes were committed throughout the community and blamed on the Mormons to excite hatred and mistrust.

LDS leaders instructed the members of the church to stay calm, not to retaliate, and to focus their energies in building the Nauvoo temple. In the mean time, the Nauvoo legion was organized, trained, and fortified with state weapons. There were about 3,500 to 4,000 men in the Nauvoo legion. Normal legion sizes for other cities was closer to 1,200 to 1,500. In other words, Mormon enemies probably saw the Nauvoo legion as a great threat or at least hindrance to their plans of killing the Mormon prophet.

A portion of the problem was political. Nauvoo had about 12,000 people while both Carthage and Warsaw only had about 500 each and boatloads of new members of the church were coming into Nauvoo regularly. The LDS people generally did not approve of slavery as the leaders taught love and equality of all men. To top it off, Joseph Smith sought redress from the President of the United States for the loss of life and property in Missouri but without a helpful response from President VanBuren, had decided to run for President of the United States himself.

By the spring of 1844, enemies of the church devised a plan for the demise of the Mormons and their leaders. They put a printing press right in Nauvoo to mimic the Warsaw Signal. It was named the Nauvoo Expositor which printed one edition of 1,000 copies. In it, not only church leaders but women and children were insulted. Joseph called it a filthy sheet that was intended to incite mobocracy and which would lead to death and destruction if allowed. Joseph also claimed that no other city in the country would allow such filth and if something wasn't done about it then fathers and brothers of the offended would destroy it since they had threatened to take it into their own hands. This would give their enemies the excuse they needed to bring havoc to the whole community and was therefore not the solution.

Joseph also said on many occasions that if he were to go to Carthage (the county seat), he would be killed. Therefore, using legal aide there was not an option, in fact, getting Joseph to Carthage appears to be part of the plot that would allow the murders. The city council which included Joseph as mayor deliberated for two days. They consulted Governor Ford as well as legal aide. It was concluded that the Nauvoo Charter gave them authority to deem the printing press  a "Nuisance" and could then be destroyed. This was not a new way to handle nuisances and had been done legally numerous times prior to this incidence within the US. Hyrum said that during deliberation,"doing nothing" was never discussed. In other words, the city council needed to handle it legally rather than let private citizens take it into their own hands. So the destruction of the press was approved and completed without damaging lives or the building that contained the press.

From what I see, the plot got really thick after that. There are many people involved including Governor Ford and apostate Mormon's who had deep grudges and were full of hate. A writ was served for Joseph and the whole city council for "rioting." They were accused of suppressing freedom of speech. The accused used the writ of Habeus Corpus to appear before a magistrate (judge) in Nauvoo and were shortly thereafter acquitted. Governor Ford demanded that they appear before a magistrate who was not a member of their church so Joseph sought out another magistrate that had a good reputation but of a different religion to come to Nauvoo and was again acquitted.

Clearly, the plan was to get Joseph and Hyrum into Carthage Jail where evil men could do their dirty deed because the Governor again insisted that they appear in Carthage and no where else. Joseph quickly made arrangements to leave Illinois giving his wife, Emma, instructions on where to go and where they would later meet. He was on a little island in the middle of the Mississippi River called No Man's Land, which is neither in Illinois or Iowa, when he received a note from his wife and other friends pleading for his return. The friends and Emma were afraid of the threats given to tear up the town in pursuit of "Joe Smith". Joseph returned to Nauvoo having said, "If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of no value to me".

The decision was made and a letter sent to Governor Ford saying that all those accused would be coming to Carthage on Monday, June 24th. Monday night was spent at the Hamilton Inn in Carthage along with many of their known enemies. That is a story in and of itself.

Tuesday morning the men showed up in court and bail was set two or three times higher than what was customary at that time for such a crime, obviously in hopes of preventing payment and therefore, putting the men in jail. When the accused mortgaged their property in Nauvoo and met bail many of them went home to await trial. However, as Joseph and Hyrum spoke with Governor Ford, they were served another writ for treason against the state. There is no bail offered for treason and when the men went before the judge to determine if there were grounds to hold them, the magistrate had already adjourned and gone out the back door. So, Joseph and Hyrum were taken to Carthage Jail completely illegally to await their day in court. There never was a trial, of course as the court date was delayed several times. They were shot while incarcerated and under a promise from Governor Ford that they would be protected and given a fair trial.

Some of you may wonder what excuse was used  for the charge of treason against the state? This is what I understand. Before Joseph left Nauvoo for the last time, he as General of the Nauvoo Legion, declared Marshal Law since there had been many threats to the lives of men, women, and children living in Nauvoo. They were told only to defend Nauvoo and nothing more. However, this was the excuse the enemies gave to accuse Joseph of treason. They claimed that under Marshall Law the Nauvoo Legion would take over the state Government while Joseph was in jail. There was no reason given for including Hyrum in the writ. Once again, it is obvious to me that the whole thing stunk.

There you have my opinion in a nut shell. I could document all I've said but won't take the time right now. Please, leave a comment if you'd like to know the source for a particular fact.

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