The John Taylor Papers, by Samuel W. & Raymond W. Taylor Volume I, The Apostle

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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 . . . .

[53] 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)

[54] (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.

[55] Chapter 5


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 [56]

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.

[57] 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 . . . .

[58] 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 [59]

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

innocent people!

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

Signal reported:

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 [60] 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 [61] 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

strictly true.

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 [62] 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 [63] 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 [64] 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:


[65] 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 [66] 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

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