Documents, Volume 10, Part 1 Introduction: May 1842
Part 1: May 1842
In May 1842, JS assumed the duties of mayor of
, Illinois, and
navigated various financial and ecclesiastical responsibilities. He
faced challenges resulting from an attempted assassination of former
and from the actions of , a
prominent and civic leader and former
friend of JS. Such developments set the stage for the turbulent
summer that followed.
Some of JS’s papers reflect an uneventful
day-to-day routine. He continued as editor of the church newspaper
Times and Seasons, for example, ostensibly
overseeing the publication of its two issues during the month. He also received reports
from missionaries proselytizing throughout the , including in New Hampshire and
, in ,
and in . In addition, JS received
letters informing him about donations of land and money for the
construction of the
Such donations were especially needed at this time when
debts hung over JS and the church. These debts
stemmed both from the church’s , Ohio, years and from the large land purchases
made in 1839 in and to resettle
the Saints expelled from . The extent of JS’s
debts, particularly those from Kirtland, had led him to apply for
bankruptcy in April 1842 under a recently enacted
federal bankruptcy law.
This action generated concern among JS’s creditors, especially and his
partners, from whom JS, , and had purchased approximately four hundred acres of land in the , Illinois, area (which became ) for $110,000
in August 1839. Hotchkiss sent two
letters to JS in May, both expressing apprehension
about JS’s financial situation. The second letter addressed JS’s decision to petition for
bankruptcy; in his reply, JS explained to Hotchkiss that he had
no other recourse. JS also received information from about additional land that the church could
purchase southeast of Nauvoo. Although JS made tentative
arrangements to purchase the land, the sale never went through.
Of particular concern to JS in May was the conduct of , the mayor of and a member
of the church’s governing .
Although rumors had circulated for months that Bennett had been
engaging in illicit affairs with women in Nauvoo, JS had allowed him
to retain his church membership and his leadership position because
he had expressed contrition and promised to reform.
By May, as additional evidence of
Bennett’s actions came to light, JS’s patience ran out, and he,
along with other members of the First Presidency, the three in Nauvoo, and members of the , signed a notice
withdrawing fellowship from Bennett. On
17 May, Bennett resigned his
membership from the church and his position as mayor of Nauvoo.
Two days later, JS was elected mayor in Bennett’s place.
In a discourse to the given the following week, JS counseled
members of the society to show mercy to those who had sinned and to
work with them to reform. Such counsel was apparently intended to
apply to the women seduced by Bennett and perhaps also to other men
and women in Nauvoo who were charged with immoral conduct.
At the same time, JS faced rumors that
he had ordered the 6 May assassination attempt on in , Missouri. The Quincy Whig,
for example, ran an article in its 21 May issue declaring that JS had
prophesied Boggs’s violent death, which, to the editor of the
Whig, strongly suggested that JS had a hand in the shooting. JS vehemently denied these
allegations, and at a 26 May meeting, citizens
publicly denounced the Whig’s claims.
Concerns that the rumors might revive efforts to extradite JS to
apparently led Nauvoo’s city council to
establish a night watch in Nauvoo to protect him and the city’s
other citizens. The allegations of the
Whig may have also prompted JS to declare in the
26 May meeting in Nauvoo that he did not intend “to co-operate or
vote with either the Whig or Democratic parties as such.” That same
day, Nauvoo’s citizenry put up their own ticket for the upcoming
August election—a move that, in turn, led the Anti-Mormon Party to
hold a political convention in , Illinois, on 29 May.
The documents in this part of the volume include
correspondence, reports of JS discourses,
documents pertaining to JS’s election as mayor, minutes of civic and
ecclesiastical meetings, a report of a court-martial, and selections from two
Times and Seasons issues.