Volume 7 Chapter 21 | BYU Studies

Volume 7 Chapter 21


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Chapter 21

Formal Trial and Excommunication of President Sidney Rigdon—Restless Movements of James Emmett—Mission Activities of the Church—Movements of State Officials and the Mob of Hancock County

Rigdon's Vagaries—God and Magog.

"Sunday, September 1, 1844.—I [Brigham Young] went to the stand 1 in the forenoon. Elder Sidney Rigdon preached. His discourse was complicated and somewhat confused; he said he had all things shown to him from this time to the winding-up scene, or the great battle of Gog and Magog; there were great things to take place, but he did not tell what the saints should do to save themselves.

I met with the high priests' quorum in the afternoon and spoke at some length to the brethren. Elder Heber C. Kimball addressed the meeting; afterwards, we proceeded to the Seventies' Hall and instructed the seventies pertaining to the organization of their quorums.

Conference in Philadelphia.

A conference was held at Philadelphia, August 31st and September 1st, at which Elder William Smith [Apostle and brother of the Prophet] presided. Elder Jedediah M. Grant represented three hundred and thirty-four members, including officers and gave much good instruction pertaining to the duties of the saints, in building a Temple and strengthening the hands of the saints at Nauvoo. Elders Wm. Smith and William I. Appleby preached.

Monday, 2.—Visited Elders Willard Richards and John P. Greene who were very sick.

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I wrote the following which was published in the Times and Seasons:

Concentration At Nauvoo

'The Twelve would invite the brethren abroad, in obedience to the commandments of the Lord, to gather to Nauvoo with their means to help build up the city, and complete the Temple, which is now going forward faster than it has at any time since it commenced. Beware of the speculations about the Prophet! Believe no tales on the subject: Time will tell who are the friends of Joseph Smith, who laid down his life for his brethren. We have no new commandments, but beseech the brethren to honor and obey the old ones, for, wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.'

Rigdon's License Demanded.

Tuesday, 3.—I had an interview with Brother Sidney Rigdon. He said he had power and authority above the Twelve Apostles and did not consider himself amenable to their counsel. In the evening, the Twelve had an interview with Brother Rigdon, who was far from feeling an interest with the Twelve. His license was demanded, which he refused to give up, and said the church had not been lead by the Lord for a long time, and he should come out and expose the secrets of the church.

Wednesday, 4.—Elder Willard Richards sick. The Twelve Apostles and a few others met at my house in the evening and prayed for the preservation of the church and ourselves; and that the Lord might bind up the apostates and preserve the honest in heart.

Thursday, 5.—Brother Wm. Marks came to see me in relation to President Rigdon and his revelations. Afternoon, attended public prayer meeting and exposed the false prophets. Evening, Elder Hyde preached in the Masonic Hall on Elder Rigdon's conduct since his return to Nauvoo.

Friday, 6.—Elder Heber C. Kimball and I visited the sick till two p.m.

Brother Alonzo W. Whitney informed us of the proceedings of Elder Rigdon and others.

Elder Orson Pratt preached in the Seventies' Hall.

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Saturday, 7.—Accompanied by Elder Kimball I waited upon Elder John P. Greene, and attended to ordinances for him: he was on his deathbed. 2

Leonard Soby was disfellowshipped by the high council for following Elder Rigdon.

Sunday, 8.—I insert the following synopsis of minutes of Elder Sidney Rigdon's trial:

The Formal Trial of Elder Sidney Rigdon

'Minutes of a meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held on the meeting ground in the city of Nauvoo. Present, of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, George A. Smith, John Taylor and Amasa M. Lyman.

The high council was organized with Bishop Newel K. Whitney their head. 3

Testimony of Elder Brigham Young.

President Young briefly addressed the congregation and introduced the business of the day, which he said would be this: All those who are for Joseph and Hyrum, the Book of Mormon, Book of Doctrine and Covenants, the Temple and Joseph's measures, they being one party, will be called upon to manifest their principles openly and boldly, the opposite party to enjoy the same liberty and be as decided and manifest their principles as boldly as they do in their secret meetings and private councils. If they are for Sidney Rigdon, and believe he is the man to be the first President and leader of this people, they are requested to manifest it as freely as they do in other places, because this will form another party: President Young alluded to the course of Elder Rigdon.

Other Witnesses.

Elders Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Amasa M. Lyman, John Taylor, William W. Phelps, Heber C. Kimball and William Marks bore testimony in relation to the course of Elder Rigdon, which is published in full in the fifth volume of the Times and Seasons.

Elder W. W. Phelps [after the above hearing] moved that Elder Sidney Rigdon be cut off from the church, and delivered over to the buffetings of satan until he repent.

The Judgment.

Bishop Newel K. Whitney then presented the motion to the high council [who was trying the case] and the vote was unanimous in the affirmative.

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Elder Phelps then offered the same motion to the church, upon which President Young arose and requested the congregation to place themselves so that all could be seen who voted. He then called upon the church to signify whether they were in favor of the motion: the vote was nearly unanimous.

Those who were for Sidney Rigdon were requested to make it manifest: there were ten who voted for him.

Elder Phelps then moved that all who have voted to follow Elder Rigdon be suspended until they can have a trial before the high council. An amendment was offered as follows: 'or shall hereafter be found advocating his principles.'

The vote was unanimous in the affirmative.

President Young arose and delivered Sidney Rigdon over to the buffetings of satan in the name of the Lord, and all the people said, Amen.' 4

Monday, 9.—I attended council with the Quorum of the Twelve at Elder Heber C. Kimball's; thence I went in company with Elder Kimball through the city, attending to business and visiting Elders John P. Greene and Parley P. Pratt who were sick.

Labors with James Emmett.

Elder Heber C. Kimball and George A. Smith labored diligently with James Emmett that he might be persuaded to desist from his intended course of taking away a party of misguided saints into the wilderness. 5

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Tuesday, 10.—Elder John P. Greene died.

Elder Orson Hyde started for Kirtland.

I attended council with the Twelve and others when orders to the mob given by Colonel Levi Williams were read. General Deming [sheriff of Hancock county] said he did not consider that a mob large enough to do any mischief could be raised.

Afternoon, with Elder Kimball visiting the saints.

Evening, attended a meeting of officers of the Legion, when a resolution was passed to build an arsenal and gunsmith's shop: one hundred and thirty dollars was subscribed towards the erection of the building.

Wednesday, 11.—Elder John P. Greene buried. * *

I attended council at Elder Erastus Snow's; afterwards in company with several officers of the Legion looking out a location for the arsenal.

Friday, 13.—I went to the parade ground where the officers were drilling. Jonathan Dunham was elected brigadier-general of the second cohort of the Nauvoo Legion: I addressed the officers.

In company with Brother Heber C. Kimball and his wife, Vilate, I visited Mother [Lucy] Smith.

The "Wolf Hunt" Preparation.

There are many reports concerning the movements of the mob; who are making preparations for what they call a 'wolf hunt' on the 26th and 27th of this month; but the general apprehension is that they design coming and attempting to drag some more authorities of the church out to Carthage to murder them.

Saturday, 14.—In company with Elders Heber C. Kimball and George A. Smith I called on Sister Hyrum Smith.

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Elder Amasa M. Lyman being very sick and reported to be dying, Brothers Kimball, George A. [Smith] and I retired to my upper room and prayed for him: he was healed from that very hour.

Attended city council, Jonathan C. Wright was elected marshal and W. W. Phelps recorder of deeds. George A. Smith was elected councilor.

At two p. m,, the second cohort of the Nauvoo Legion inspected: Brother John Taylor and I attended.

Evening, visited Brother Amasa M. Lyman.

Sunday, 15.—Elder Parley P. Pratt preached in the forenoon and Elder Orson Pratt in the afternoon.

The Dedication of the Nauvoo Arsenal.

Monday, 16.—At six a.m., accompanied by Elder Heber C. Kimball, Generals C. C. Rich, Jonathan Dunham and other officers of the Legion, I went to the ground secured for the arsenal, near the Temple. We uncovered our heads and lifted our hands to heaven and I dedicated the ground, by prayer, to the God of the armies of Israel. I took the spade and broke the ground for the cellar.

Evening, I attended council; Jared Carter was present and made confession and promised to return to the church.

Tuesday, 17.—The Legion trained. Afterwards the officers met when George A. Smith was elected quartermaster-general of the Nauvoo Legion, with the rank of colonel,

The following is from Elder Addison Pratt, Tubuai [sometimes written Tooboui or Toboui], Society Islands, of date of July 26, 1844.

Letter of Elder Addison Pratt from the Society Islands

'July 26th, I baptized nine persons, four Americans, one Scotchman and four natives, having previously baptized one. On the 29th, I organized the Tubuai branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, numbering eleven members, all in good standing.

On the 5th of August, I administered the sacrament. For wine I substituted cocoanut milk, 6 that was a pure beverage, which never had come to the open air till we broke the nut for that purpose. On the 8th I baptized another person.

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The inhabitants here have resolved to build me a house. This climate is fine, never so cold as to freeze, though in July and August it is as cold as it can be and not freeze. January and February are the warmest months, though the heat is never so scorching as some days we have at home. In summer, however, the mosquitoes are innumerable and in winter the fleas are equally plentiful, though we have means to guard against them.

Before I came here King Tommatooah buried his wife; on the 14th July I married him to Toupah his queen; he has been very friendly with me ever since I came here.

Sometimes when I get to thinking about home I feel that I could leave all and return as quickly as possible. A few evenings since I fell into a train of thoughts and told my brethren. I went to bed, fell asleep and dreamed I had deserted my post and got to Nauvoo; the people all knew I had left without counsel and treated me with coolness and neglect. This mortified my feelings so much that I never thought of my family; I saw Brother Young, he was busily employed in sending a company of elders to Europe; I felt an anxiety to go with them, but I had deserted one station, and they never intended to send me to another. I then thought I would go back to the one I had left, but I had no means to get back, or to help myself with: I thought my shame was greater than I could bear, and with these reflections I awoke. 7

I have lived at Mattaoora since I came here till the 23rd of August. I then removed to this place called Mahoo, which is the place where I first landed.

The second sabbath after I came here, the church [i. e. the saints] came over to visit me, and I baptized seven more, all natives and heads of families. I administered the sacrament and we felt that we were greatly blessed.

It is now a year since I have heard a syllable from home, and three months since I have heard from the brethren at Tahiti, though I have sent word by eight vessels bound thither.

On learning that missionaries [i.e. of sectarian churches] had arrived from Tahiti I called to see them. I had heard so much of their iniquity and I wanted to see how they looked; to me they looked guilty indeed. One of them named Howe very sanctimoniously remarked, 'I understand you have come among the Islands in the capacity of a preacher.' I answered, 'yes.' 'And what do you preach?' 'The sacred truths of the Bible,' I replied. 'I suppose you are aware,' said he. 'that many years ago the London Missionary Society established a mission here at a very great expense;' the whole stress was on the great expense, the cost of translating the Bible, etc. 'Well,' said I, 'and now you are opposed to having the Bible preached after you have accomplished the translation?' He said, no: he had no objections to my preaching the Bible, but he understood I had another book I preached from. I told him that was a mistake, and went on to tell him what it was; a long dialogue ensued in which they all questioned me on the fundamental principles of the gospel, but they had to drop several points they introduced for fear of trapping themselves; at length they told me they found no fault with me as far as the Bible was concerned, but the Book of Mormon they had read and it was a bad book. I told them to show me some specimens of bad doctrine in it: they turned to the place where it says, 'Adam fell that man might be,' at which they flounced considerably, but I soon succeeded in proving that it was not contrary to Bible doctrine; they laid they could find a worse place than that and turned to the passage:

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'Adam had to know misery before he knew happiness.' This they spouted upon me in a great rage. I referred them to the temptations of the Savior and his sufferings that he might be perfected.

I questioned them about their belief in the Bible, and the coming of the Son of God the second time; contrasted this with the dispensation of Noah, told them the world was now being warned, and the consequences that would ensue if men did not give heed. I then raised right hand towards heaven and called on all the heavenly hosts to witness the testimony I bore; that I knew Brother Joseph Smith to be a good man and a Prophet of the Lord. * * * The Spirit of the Lord rested upon me; it threw them into confusion, they knew not what to say. They finally told me as long as I preached the truth they would pray that I might be upheld, but if I preached error they should pray that it might fall to the ground. Then, I said, our prayers will be united.'

Wednesday, 18.——I attended council with the Twelve Apostles and Bishops Whitney and Miller, at Elder Taylor's. Several communications from the elders abroad were read.

Disposition of the Profits Arising from the Sale of the Church Works.

It was voted that the profits arising from the publication of the Book of Mormon and Book of Doctrine and Covenants be devoted to the priesthood for the building up of the kingdom of God.

Thursday, 19.—At home waiting upon my wife who was very sick. The saints called upon me for counsel and direction.

Friday, 20.—Attending to ordinances in behalf of the saints, and laying hands on the sick. The Lord is with me continually.

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Opposition of Benjamin Winchester Reported.

Saturday, 21.—I visited the saints accompanied by Elders Kimball and Lyman. Received a letter from Elder Jedediah M. Grant relating the slanderous course pursued by Elder B. Winchester against the Twelve, and informing us that at the Philadelphia conference he refused to vote to sustain the Twelve asserting that they gagged him while on his trial at Nauvoo.

Sunday, 22.—I preached to the congregation of the saints on the priesthood: had a good time.

High priests' quorum met at the Masonic Hall. Elder George A. Smith preached.

Evening, attended council.

Affidavit Against the Murderers of the Prophet.

Murray McConnel, Esq., governor's agent from Morgan county arrived in Nauvoo, and Elder John Taylor made affidavit against Thomas C. Sharp and Levi Williams, two of the murderers of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

Monday, 23.—The first capital weighing about two tons was raised on to the walls of the Temple.

This evening, Sheriff Deming came into Nauvoo for a Mormon posse to take Sharp and Williams. The Twelve decided that it was imprudent to take [use] Mormons for that purpose and advised him accordingly.

Received some arms and ammunition from the brethren in St. Louis, by the hands of Thomas McKenzie.

Selection of Presiding Seventies and High Priests.

Tuesday, 24.—I attended a council at Winsor P. Lyons; six of the brethren of the Twelve were present, and Elder Joseph Young; we selected seventy presidents to preside over the seventies 8 and fifty high priests to preside over different sections of the country.

The Quincy Greys under Captain Morgan and a company of Germans under Captain Swinder arrived from Quincy and encamped in the east part of the city. These captains expected a general officer to direct their movements and expressed their astonishment at his non-arrival.

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Received a letter from David Clayton containing an account of the sayings and doings of Lyman Wight, his opposition to the Twelve and Clayton's reasons for leaving Wight's company.

Attempt to Arrest the Murderers of the Prophet.

Wednesday, 25.—Sheriff Deming asked for wagons to take the Quincy militia to Warsaw to arrest Sharp. The marshal furnished teams and wagons, when the militia said they had no orders from the governor to go.

An attempt was made under the directions of the governor's agent to arrest Thomas C. Sharp, but failed; it was reported that Colonel Levi Williams ran away.

Received a letter from Elder William A. Moore pertaining to the malicious and wicked course of Ben Winchester.

Thursday, 26.—I attended a council held at my house. Benjamin Winchester and wife were cut off from the church.

The Quincy militia escorted about town by the Nauvoo Band.

Night Watchman Appointed for the Temple.

Held a council at the Temple Office appointed four watchmen to watch the Temple tonight, some of Wight's company have come to town and they report that they have come to deface the capitals, and burn the lumber round the Temple.

General Charles C. Rich wrote the following:

'To His Excellency, Thomas Ford, Governor of the State of Illinois and Commander-in-chief of the Militia.

Sir

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Judge Lot who also arrived here last evening from Quincy, passed through the neighborhood of Warsaw, and informed us that the country was in commotion, and that they had dispatched runners in all directions to raise a force and have it in readiness to act in defiance of all law; from all we have learned there is not much force assembled as yet in Carthage or Warsaw.

Everything is perfectly quiet here; we were, however, a little surprised on the arrival of two companies of militia from Quincy, such things being altogether unsuspected by us, having received no information from you in regard to such movements.

I had a conference with General Miller since the receipt of your letter, who informs me that he has as yet received no letter from you, though he has been expecting an answer for several days, consequently were left in the dark in regard to your instructions for our intended movements.

Permit me sir, to introduce to your acquaintance Major John Pack and Mr. Snow, gentlemen, in whom we repose the utmost confidence and to whom you can communicate anything you wish concerning us.'

I received the following:

'Special Order No. 10

Camp Pulasky, Sept. 26, 1844.

To the Commander of the Nauvoo Legion:

General Hardin having been commanded by the governor and commander-in-chief to take command of the Nauvoo Legion in the event of their being called into service will review the Legion tomorrow the 27th at 1 o'clock, p.m. It is not intended as a muster of the Legion into service but as a parade for inspection and review.

By order of Brigadier-General,

[Signed] J. J. Hardin,

W. B. Warren, Brigade-Major. Commanding Illinois Volunteers.

Friday, 27.—This was the day set apart by the anti-Mormons for the great 'wolf hunt'.

A little before noon the governor and two of his aids arrived in Nauvoo. After viewing the Temple they went down towards the Mansion. About two p.m. his troops marched into the city, about five hundred in number. They had three six-pounders with them, two of which were brass. The whole company halted on the first vacant block on the flat and tarried there some time. Many of the men visited the font and the Temple; they appeared astonished, but were civil.

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I received my commission as lieutenant-general, and Charles C. Rich his as major-general.

Governor Ford said he had come to execute the law and was ready to proceed against the murderers of Joseph and Hyrum Smith as fast as the people get out writs. He issued a Proclamation offering a reward of two hundred dollars each for the arrest of Sharp, Jackson and Williams, and announced his intention of taking all the arms from this part of the state. His troops numbered four hundred and seventy, all that would volunteer in nine counties to help maintain the supremacy of the laws in Hancock and bring murderers to justice.

Saturday, 28.—I sent the following:

President Young's Letter to Governor Ford

'Headquarters, Nauvoo Legion,

Sept. 28, 1844.

His Excellency, Thomas Ford, Governor and Commander-in-Chief:

Sir

[Signed] Brigham Young,

Lieutenant-General, Nauvoo Legion.

By E. H. Derby, Secretary.'

I reviewed the Legion. The governor, General J. J. Hardin and staff were present. Appropriate salutes were fired on the occasion.

The Legion made a creditable and soldier-like appearance. Several of the staff officers of the Legion appeared in uniform without arms, which the governor regarded as a hint to remind him of his disarming the Legion previous to the massacre of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

Four p.m., the governor marched his militia force about three miles down the river and camped in the woods.

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Preparation of Boats for Governor Ford.

The governor called upon General George Miller to furnish boats to convey his command in the night to Warsaw, who after making the necessary arrangements, accompanied by Cyrus H. Wheelock, two other brethren and one of the governor's officers, started to inform his Excellency that the boats were ready. On reaching the neighborhood of the camp the officer requested the brethren to wait until he would go in and speak to the governor; after waiting a few minutes the brethren attempted to go in and see the governor for themselves but were prevented by a sentinel who cocked his gun. Soon after three rounds of musketry were discharged by a detachment of the governor's troops, the bullets whistled all around Brother Miller and party, one ball taking effect upon the sentinel who cried out very loudly, 'I am a dead man': the officers subsequently remarked that they had forgotten to call in their sentinel. Brother Miller and party rendered the wounded sentinel all the assistance they could until his comrades from the camp came to his relief, when Brother Miller learned the boats were not wanted; whereupon, accompanied by his party he started back for Nauvoo, when they got a few rods off twenty or thirty guns were fired after them; some of the balls skimmed the road near their feet; but they were preserved by the hand of God."

Chapter 21.

1. "I went to the stand." This had reference to an outdoor place of meeting on the Temple site and was the only place of meeting sufficient to accommodate the large congregations that were wont to assemble in Nauvoo during the summer time.

2. These were doubtless the usual ordinances for the sick and dedicating him to the Lord.

3. This was the special high council provided for in the church for the trial of a president in the Presidency of the High Priesthood of the Church, which is presided over by the bishop of the church, assisted by twelve high priests chosen for the occasion. (See D&C 107:82-84). In this case Bishop Newel K. Whitney was the presiding bishop of the special court and the Apostles—the Twelve—were the accusers.

4. This is a very brief statement of the trial and final dismissal of Elder Sidney Rigdon from the church. The minutes of the trial with objections and remarks and complaints were published in the Times and Seasons of Sept. 15, Oct. 2, and Oct. 15, 1844, running through three numbers, and in all making fifteen pages of closely printed matter. Very serious charges are made against Elder Rigdon for insubordination, for claiming to hold keys and authority above any man or set of men in the church, even superior authority and keys thereof than those held by the Twelve; and likewise he had ordained men to positions—places and offices not recognized as properly belonging to the church. Among other things he somewhere about this time predicted that the building of the Temple would cease and prophesied that there would not be another stone raised upon the walls of the Temple. At one of the meetings where this was said, a Brother Wm. W. Player determined that Elder Rigdon should not prove a true prophet, in this instance at least, and took with him Archibald and John Held, and set a stone upon the Temple wall, making this prediction a failure; and of course the Temple was subsequently completed and dedicated, and ordinance work performed therein. The statement of Wm. W. Player is signed and recorded in the History of Brigham Young, Ms., for December, 1844, p. 67.

After this trial at Nauvoo Sidney Rigdon returned to Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania where he had something of a following; and he undertook to organize a church, choosing twelve apostles, etc.; his efforts however amounted to but little. He sent missionaries to many branches of the church to represent his claims, but his organization was never strong either in membership of leading men, and it soon crumbled into decay. Sidney Rigdon himself sank out of sight and in 1876 he died in obscurity in Allegheny county, state of New York. (See Succession in the Presidency of the Church, by the present writer, second edition).

5. James Emmett, born on February 22. 1803, in Boone county, Kentucky. He was quite active in the affairs of the church in Missouri; but just a bit uncertain in his conduct. In May of 1837, fellowship was withdrawn from him by a meeting of the presidency and high council of the church at Far West "for unwise conduct, until he should make satisfaction". This he did, and was returned to fellowship; but he was always a restless, impatient man and ambitious of leadership which led him into great trouble and final separation from the church as we shall see.

6. D&C 27.

7. This is a very common experience with missionaries of the Church of the Latter-day Saints as thousands will testify who read these words.

8. See ch. 22.