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Remarks at special meeting at Nauvoo, Ill. on Friday July 22, 1842
Sources: Manuscript History of the Church and Times and Seasons 3 (1 August 1842): 869

Prophet's Practice of Polygamy and Bennett Causes Him Difficulties

The meeting was called to order by the chairman [Orson Spencer], who stated the object of the meeting to be to obtain an expression of the public mind in reference to the reports gone abroad, calumniating the character of Pres. Joseph Smith. Gen. Wilson Law then rose and presented the following resolution. Resolved--That, having heard that John C. Bennett was circulating many base falsehoods respecting a number of the citizens of Nauvoo, and especially against our worthy and respected Mayor, Joseph Smith, we do hereby manifest to the world that so far as we know him to be a good, moral, virtuous, peaceable and patriotic man, and a firm supporter of law, justice and equal rights; that he at all times upholds and keeps inviolate the constitution of this State and of the United States. A vote was then called and the resolution adopted by a large concourse of citizens, numbering somewhere about a thousand men. Two or three, voted in the negative. 1

Orson Pratt Votes Against Joseph

Elder Orson Pratt then rose and spoke at some length in a explanation of his negative vote. Pres. Joseph Smith spoke in reply--2


1. The Wasp, the political comment paper published in Nauvoo (at constant counterpoint to the Warsaw Signal an anti-Mormon paper published in Warsaw, Ill.) had printed on the 20th of July a number of sworn statements on Joseph Smith's moral character and that he was not guilty of John C. Bennett's accusations of secret fornication, adultery, spiritual wifery, etc. This meeting on July 22nd was to continue that program against Bennett's accusations.

Orson Pratt, Sidney Rigdon and George W. Robinson refused to sign the Wasp statement and presumably voted against the motion at the meeting.

2. After Orson's explanation Joseph Smith responded, "Have you personally a knowledge of any immoral act in me toward the female sex, or in any other way?" "Personally, toward the female sex," Pratt replied, "I have not." However, Orson's wife Sarah had apparently related to him at least one sexual encounter with Bennett which she claimed was approved by Joseph Smith. William Law, Heber C. Kimball and Hyrum Smith denounced Pratt and Bennett. See sermon of 29Aug42 where Joseph speaks about Pratt and his objections. To counteract Bennett's bad influence, several hundred "public relations missionaries" volunteered to take out a special pamphlet "Afidavits and Certificates, Disproving the Statements and Affidavits Contained in John C. Bennett's Letters."

Orson and his wife refused to leave Nauvoo however. In later years when Orson had long since been reconciled to and with Joseph Smith, Sarah Pratt had virtually left the Church.

It is clear now that Joseph Smith was deeply involved in polygamy at the time Bennett left the Church and by one year later he had taken nine more wives. Bennett was not evidently part of the inner circle of Joseph Smith's confidants who knew of polygamy (not even Hyrum had been initiated) but had become aware of it and used the knowledge to slide into the beds of some Nauvoo women. Whether Sarah Pratt was one of those is knowledge that died with her, nor is it known precisely what Joseph Smith had to do with the issue.

While Emma Smith knew of Joseph Smith's polygamy, she varied in her tolerance/support of it. At times she gave full approval, at others she withdrew that support. During this time, she was in support of Joseph's polygamy doctrine and wrote a letter to the governor of Illinois (Thomas Carlin) in support of Joseph claiming that Bennett was a scoundrel and a liar. Carlin, partly on the strength of Bennett's accusations, had signed an order to arrest and deliver Joseph to Missouri officials on suspicion of attempted murder of former Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri. Joseph left town to avoid the Missouri pickup and lived in exile off and on for a period. Joseph and his friends felt it was certain death if he fell into the hands of Missourians.

After Joseph's death Emma eventually feigned no knowledge of his (and her) participation in polygamy.

Orson Pratt's brother, Parley would also have trouble with polygamy (see 16Jul43) but like Orson he was reconciled to it as a result of a spiritual experience. See Joseph Smith's remarks at the end of his 21Jan44 sermon.

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