minister; who though perhaps more learned and talented than some of his
coadjutors, yet his religious creed was not so popular; . . . the natural
consequence was that long before my arrival he had preached all his
congregation away . . . . In this predicament, without congregation or
influence, some Methodist local preachers . . . promised to assist in
pecuniary measures, and made use of the Rev. Mr. Haining as their tool to do
what they could not get Mr. Heys to do: either to meet me in public debate or
to deliver public lectures against my principles . . . .
 As I had a large congregation to attend to, and . . . so weak,
irrelevant, so farfetched and so foreign to the point were most of his
arguments, that I considered it only like beating the air to answer them, and
that it was a burlesque upon religion . . . .
I would just remark that the truth came off victorious in the Isle of
Man, and although I may say with Paul that "I have fought with beasts at
Ephesus," yet I feel thankful to my Heavenly Father that I have escaped
unhurt. The standard of eternal truth is planted there, many are rejoicing in
the liberty of the gospel of Jesus Christ . . .. and many more are believing
and on the eve of coming forth . . . . There have been about seventy baptized
in all, (8) thus in spite of all the combined powers of earth and hell, the
"truth will prevail." (9)
On 20 April 1841 Taylor and fellow Apostles Brigham Young, Heber C.
Kimball, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith and Willard
Richards sailed on the Rochester for America. Regarding the mission,
Brigham Young reported:
It truly seemed a miracle to look upon the contrast between our landing
and departing from Liverpool. We landed in the spring of 1840, as strangers in
a strange land and penniless, but through the mercy of God we have gained many
friends, established churches in almost every noted town and city of the
kingdom of Great Britain, baptized between seven and eight thousand, printed
5,000 Books of Mormon, 3,000 hymn books, 2,500 volumes of the Millennial Star,
and 60,000 tracts; and emigrated to Zion 1,000 souls, established a permanent
shipping agency, which will be a great blessing to the Saints, and have left
sown in the hearts of many thousands the seeds of eternal truth. (10)
 (1) MS, 10 May 1841; Juvenile Instructor, 30 Oct. 1875; Journal of
Wilford Woodruff, 2 Sept. 1839.
(2) MS, 10 May 1841; Times and Seasons (hereafter T&S) 1 May 1841.
(3) T&S, June 1840.
(4) It was claimed that the Book of Mormon was copied from a lost
manuscript written by Solomon Spaulding.
(5) MS, 10 May 1841.
(6) Juvenile Instructor, 15 Oct. 1870.
(7) MS, March 1941.
(8) At Douglas, Taylor stayed at the Jewish home of Solomon and Ann
Pitchforth. Though Solomon didn't convert, Taylor baptized Ann and her
children. She subsequently came to Nauvoo and became his plural wife.
(9) MS, March 1841.
(10) MS 26:7.
 Chapter 5
NAUVOO, THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DOOMED
On 13 February 1841 Taylor wrote to Leonora from Liverpool that "we
purpose starting next April for home." He previously had sent ahead a
package in care of a returning missionaryshoes for Leonora, and for the
children a coat for George, a dress for Mary Ann, a trinket for the baby.
He also sent eight pounds in English money, which the elder never
delivered to Leonora. (1)
I wish I had put it into another person's hands, but I thought that he
would bring it to you safe. I don't care so much for the money as I do for
your needs. I have forwarded five pounds by Er Clark; I hope that he will deal
more honorably by you . . . .
We purpose going to New York, thence to Philadelphia, thence to
Pittsburgh, then enquiring the way to Nauvoo; and then enquiring if there is
any woman that wants a husband, and if we meet with any, we shall probably get
married for awhile; and you know the law of the Israelites was that when a
young man marries he was not to leave home or go to war for twelve months; and
surely the law of Israel should be as binding as the laws of the Medes and
While the quip about getting "married for awhile" quite obviously
was in jest, it was anything but funny to Leonora. When Taylor arrived
home, I July 1841, he found that plural marriage had become an open 
secret both within and outside the Society of Saints. Gentile newspapers
were charging that Nauvoo was a den of iniquity and abominations.
This marriage system of ours, at first sight appears to as it
did to us at first sightthe most revolting, perhaps, of anything that could
be conceived. Whatever others may have thought of it, I know what was thought
about it by those who first embarked upon it. . . .
When this system was first introduced among this people, it was one of
the greatest crosses that ever was taken up by any set of men since the world
stood . . . . When this commandment was given, it was . . . so far binding
upon the elders of this church that it was told them if they were not prepared
to enter into it, and to stem the torrents of opposition that would come in
consequence of it, the keys of the kingdom would be taken from them . . . .
Now, we professed to be the Apostles of the Lord, and did not feel like
putting ourselves in a position to retard the progress of the kingdom of God.
The revelation . . . says that "all those who have this law revealed unto them
must obey the same." Now, that is not my word. I did not make it. It was the
Prophet of God who revealed that to us in Nauvoo, and I bear witness of this
solemn fact before God, that he did reveal this sacred principle to me and
others of the Twelve . . . .
And the revelation further says, "For behold! I reveal unto you a new and
everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned."
Think of that, will you. For it is further said, "no one can reject this
covenant, and be permitted to enter into my glory" . . . .
But the world . . . do not know anything about marriage nor
the object of it. What do they know about eternal union? Nothing.
 Is there any man living, outside of this church, who will have a claim
upon his wife on the other side of the veil? No. Why? Because in all their
marriages, no matter by what church or denomination they are celebrated, the
ceremony distinctly states, "until death do you part" . . . .
God has revealed, through his servant Joseph Smith, something more. He
has told us about our wives and our children being sealed to us, that we might
have a claim on them in eternity. He has revealed unto us the law of celestial
marriage, associated with which is the principle of plural marriage . . . .
I will tell you what Joseph Smith said upon the subject. He presented
this principle to the Twelve, and called upon them to obey it, and said if
they did not, the kingdom of God could not go one step further.
Joseph said if we could not receive the gospel which is an everlasting
Gospel, if we could not receive the dictum of a priesthood that administers in
time and eternity, if we could not receive a principle that would save us in
the eternal world, and our wives and children with us, we were not fit to hold
this kingdom, and could not hold it, for it would be taken from us and given
to others . . . .
But through this principle we could be sealed to one another through time
and eternity; we could prepare ourselves for an exaltation in the celestial
kingdom of God . . . .
I had always entertained strict ideas of virtue, and I felt as a married
man that this was to me . . . an appalling thing to do. The idea of my going
and asking a young lady to be married to me, when I had already a wife! It was
a thing calculated to stir up feelings from the innermost depth of the human
soul. I had always entertained the strictest regard for chastity . . . .
 Hence, with the feelings I had entertained, nothing but the knowledge of
God, and the revelations of God, and the truth of them, could have induced me
to embrace such a principle as this.
But even though accepting the principle as a commandment, "We seemed
to put off, as far as we could," Taylor admitted, "what might be termed
the evil day."
Awhile later, Taylor rode out of Nauvoo on horseback, and near the
graveyard met Joseph astride Charley, his black stallion.
He said, "Stop," and he looked at me very intently. "Look here," said he,
"those things that have been spoken of must be fulfilled, and if they are not
entered into right away, the keys will be turned . . . ."
I replied, "Brother Joseph, I will try and carry these things out," and I
afterwards did . . . . (2)
John Taylor's first plural wife was Leonora's cousin, Elizabeth
Kaighin. He subsequently married, at Nauvoo, Jane Ballantyne, Mary Ann
Okley, Mary Amanda Utley, Mercy Rachel Thompson, Mary Ramsbottom, Sarah
Thornton, Lydia Dibble Smith, and Ann Hughlings Pitchforth. (3)
The Principle was practiced by the priesthood, denied most
vehemently by the church. Taylor was compelled as a matter of policy to
adopt doubletalk in an effort to keep the practice secret.
The saints of the last days have witnessed the outgoings and incomings
of so many apostates that nothing but truth has any effect upon them. In the
present instance, after sham quotations . . . from the Bible, Book of 
Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to skulk off, under the "dreadful
splendor" of "spiritual wifery," which is brought into the account as
graciously as if the law of the land allowed a man a plurality of wives, is
fiendish . . . . Wo to the man or men who will thus wilfully lie to injure an
The law of the land and the rules of the church do not allow one man to
have more than one wife alive at once, but if any man's wife die, he has a
right to marry another, and to be sealed to both for eternity; to the living
and the dead! . . . This is all the spiritual wife system that ever was
tolerated in the church, and they know it. (4)
Taylor found that although Nauvoo now had almost 8,000 people, with
the marshland drained and a much more healthful climate, and although its
charter made it a powerful citystate, there were serious problems. In
addition to the outraged reaction to polygamy, neighboring newspapers
charged the Mormons with planning to dominate a vast empire, with Joseph
Smith at its head. (There actually was a core of truth to this. In the
anticipated kingdom of God on earth, Joseph would be king of the world,
other Mormons hold all positions of importance in the United StatesJohn
Taylor would be VicePresident)
Gentiles of Hancock County had formed the AntiMormon Party just
three days before Taylor returned to Nauvoo. Three weeks later the
AntiMormon Party met to nominate two men to county office. The Warsaw
Fellow citizens: On Monday next you will be called to decide the question
which has for some months past been agitated in your midst. On that occasion
we sincerely  hope that those of you who wish that this county should be
ruled by free, independent, and thinking citizens, and not by a
politicomilitary church, will give your votes to our worthy citizens, Richard
Wilton and Robert Miller. If you suffer yourselves to be defeated in this
contest, be assured that you will surrender the county to be governed by one
who has, under the garb of religion, defied the laws of man, and desecrated
those of heavena man whom fortune and impudence alone has elevated from the
dregs of the earth, yea! from the status of money digger, to the leader of a
fanatical band, which now numbers thousandsa man whose history proves him to
be a greater knave, a more consumate imposter, and a more impious blasphemer
than any whose acts disgrace the annals of villainy or hypocracy. (5)
The Signal and other Gentile papers charged that Nauvoo harbored a
nest of thieves who preyed on the countryside; that the city was a depot
for stolen goods, and a center of counterfeiting ring; and that it was
impossible to bring a Mormon to justice because the Nauvoo court would
automatically free him. (6)
However, it was true that the riverbottoms of this frontier area
were infested with gangs of banditti, and some of these outlaws had
infiltrated the Mormon ranks by pretending conversion, in order to gain
the protection of the wellorganized Society. At the nearby town of
Ramus, the situation became so bad that a number of Saints were cut off,
and the entire stake dissolved.
Regarding the action at Ramus, the Twelve issued an epistle: (7)
We are very glad that the perpetrators . . . of crime have been caught in
their iniquitous practices; and we are  only sorry that anybody should be
found who would bail them out of prison; for such individuals . . . ought to
be made an example of, and not be suffered to run at large . . . .
Persons whose conduct has exposed them to the just censure of an
indignant public can have no fellowship amongst us, as we cannot, and will
not, countenance rouges, thieves, and scoundrels . . . . We consider such
characters as a curse to society, whose pestilential breath withers the morals
and blasts the fame and reputation of any people among whom they may sojourn.
There is no poison that is and ought to be despised more than the thief, by
any respectable community; yet more especially ought such persons to be
abhorred who have taken upon them the name of Christ, and thus with the
pretext of religion and the garb of sanctity cloak their nefarious practices.
The prophet also denounced thievery in the strongest terms, as did
Hyrum Smith and the mayor of Nauvoo, John C. Bennett. However, the
Gentiles discounted these statementsas, in truth, did some of the
This credibility gap stemmed primarily from doubletalk concerning
polygamy, and from disavowal of Danite activities. On both subjects both
Saints and Gentiles knew that what was preached in public was not
Thus there was a tendency, among Saints and Gentiles alike, to
believe the whisper, and discount public statements as being designed to
Then came a double blow that sealed the fate of Nauvoo: someone shot
former  Governor Lilburn W. Boggs of Missouri, seriously wounding
him. It was charged that Porter Rockwell did the deed at the prophet's
Soon afterwards John C. Bennett, assistant president of the church
and mayor of Nauvoo, apostatized. He wrote a sensational expose of
Mormonism for the newspapers and amplified the material in a book. (9)
Bennett toured the country lecturing on the abominations of Mormonism,
and he joined Boggs in the attempt to get Joseph by hook or crook across
the river to Missouri, to hang him on the old charges pending at the time
of his escape from Liberty Jail. (10)
Taylor expressed withering scorn for Bennett, along with two other
authors who published biased books at this time: J. B. Turner (Mormonism
in All Ages), and Henry Caswall (The City of the Mormons).
Preying upon the cupidity of the uninformed, they made a very lucrative
business of their disgusting traffic, and sold it to the world garnished with
the names of Doctor Bennett, the Rev. Mr. Turner, and the Rev. Mr. Caswall,
and numbers of other reverends, associates of blacklegs and murderers. Hence,
we have awful disclosures! Terrible iniquity! Horrid blasphemy! Ornamented and
dressed off by the aforesaid reverends, and rewritten, republished, and
circulated by their brethren . . . .
I say now, as I said before, that reports have nothing to do with truth;
and I will say, moreover, that public opinion has very little to do with it .
. . .
Respecting John C. Bennett, I was well acquainted with him. At one time
he was a good man, but fell into adultery, and was cut off the church for his
iniquity; and  so bad was his conduct that he was also expelled the
Municipal court, of which he was a member. He then went lecturing through the
country, and commenced writing pamphlets for the sake of making money,
charging so much for admittance to his lectures, and selling his slanders. His
remarks, however, were so bad, and his statements so obscene and disgraceful,
that respectable people were disgusted. These infamous lies and obscene
stories, however, have been found very palatable to a certain class of
society, and in times of our persecution, multitudes were pleased with them.
Taylor became editor of the church newspapers, the Nauvoo Wasp
(which became the Neighbor) and the Times and Seasons. He also was a
close friend of the prophet, and influential in city affairs; in fact,
Bennett called him, along with Joseph Smith and William Law, the "Holy
Trio" who ran Nauvoo.
Booming Nauvoo, including its environs, became the largest city of
Illinoisperhaps four times the population of Chicago. The Mormons,
voting as a unit, controlled county offices and even state elections. As
in Missouri, Mormon political power caused Gentiles in Illinois to form
mobs determined to drive the Saints out. Taylor, "Champion of Rights",
deplored mob rule and the erosion of American liberties.
We, as Republicans, look back to the time when this nation was under the
iron rule of Great Britain, and groaned under the power, tyranny and
oppression of that powerful nation. We trace with delight the name of a
Washington, a Jefferson, a LaFayette, and an Adams, in whose bosoms burned the
spark of liberty . . . .
But where are now those principles of freedom? Where are the laws that
protect all men in their religious opinions? Where are the laws that say, "A
man shall  worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience."
What say ye, ye saints, ye who are exiles in the land of liberty. How came you
here?" Can you in this land of equal rights return in safety to your
possessions in Missouri? No. You are exiles from thence, and there is no
power, no voice, no arm to redress your grievance. Is this the precious boon
for which your fathers fought and struggled and died? . . . "How has the gold
become dim, and the fine gold, how has it changed? . . ."
Let us compare this with the Church of Christ. Fourteen years ago a few
men assembled in a log cabin. They saw the visions of heaven, and gazed upon
the eternal world. They looked through the rent vista of futurity, and beheld
the glories of eternity. They were planting those principles which were
concocted in the bosom of Jehovah. They were laying a foundation for the
salvation of the world; and those principles which they then planted have not
yet begun to dwindle, but the fire still burns in their bones. The principles
are planted in different nations and are wafted on every breeze.
When I gaze upon this company of men, I see those who . . . will stand up
in defense of the oppressed, of whatever country, nation, color or clime. It
is planted by the Spirit of God . . . and reaches to all the world. No matter
whether it was an Indian, a Negro, or any other man or set of men that are
oppressed, you would stand forth in their defense.
I say unto you, continue to cherish those principles. Let them expand.
And if the tree of liberty has been blasted in this nationif it has been
gnawed by worms, and already blight has overspread it, we will stand up in
defense of our liberties, and proclaim ourselves free in time and in eternity.
John Taylor wrote the classic account of events leading to the
martyrdom at Carthage, and the expulsion of the Saints from Illinois:
 In the year 1844, a very great excitement prevailed in some parts of
Hancock, Brown and other neighboring counties in relation to the Mormons; and
a spirit of vindictive hatred and persecution was exhibited among the people,
which was manifested in the most bitter and acrimonious language, as well as
by acts of hostility and violence, frequently threatening the destruction of
the citizens of Nauvoo and vicinity, and utter annihilation of the Mormons . .
. . Persons were kidnapped, whipped, persecuted, and falsely accused of
various crimes; their cattle and houses injured, destroyed, or stolen;
vexatious prosecutions were instituted to harass and annoy. In some
neighborhoods they were expelled from their homes without redress . . . .
There were a number of wicked and corrupt men living in Nauvoo and
vicinity, who had belonged to the church but whose conduct was incompatible
with the gospel; they were accordingly dealt with by the church and severed
from its communion. Among these were John C. Bennett, former mayor ; William Law, counselor to Joseph Smith ; Wilson Law, his natural brother, and general of the
Nauvoo Legion; Dr. R. D. Foster, a man of some property but with a very bad
reputation; Francis and Chauncey Higbee, the latter a young lawyer, and both
sons of a respectable and honored man in the church, known as Judge Elias
Higbee, who died about twelve months before. Besides these, there were a great
many apostates, both in the city and county, of less notoriety, who for their
delinquencies had been expelled from the church . . . .
There were three other parties. The first of these may be called
religionists, the second politicians, and the third counterfeiters, blacklegs,
horse thieves, and cutthroats.
The religious party were chagrined and maddened because
Mormonism came in contact with their religion; . . and instead of owning the
truth and rejoicing  in it, they were ready . . . to persecute the
believers in principles which they could not disprove . . . .
There were two parties, the Whigs and the Democrats, and we
could not vote for one without offending the other . . . . As an instance of