Letter from James Arlington Bennet, 16 August 1842
, Letter, , New Utrecht, Kings Co., NY, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 16 Aug. 1842; handwriting of ; four pages; JS Materials, courtesy of Community of Christ Archives, International Headquarters, Independence, MO. Includes address and dockets.
Bifolium measuring 9⅛ × 7½ inches (23 × 19 cm). A paper mill insignia, embossed in the top left corner of the first leaf recto, reads “D. FELT & Co. | NEW YORK”, encircling an eagle. The document was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer, the wafer remaining on the recto of the second leaf.
, who served as scribe to JS from 1842 to 1844, docketed the document, as did an unidentified scribe. The letter was likely retained by JS and passed down among Smith family descendants. By 1961, the family had donated the letter to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ), and it is now housed in the Community of Christ Library and Archives.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901–1936.
Richard Howard, email to Rachel Killebrew, 5 June 2017, copy in editors’ possession.
On 16 August 1842, , a prominent educator and journalist, wrote a letter to JS detailing his thoughts on various members he had encountered and outlining his position on and the allegations Bennett had made against JS. Although Bennet had not met JS in person, he had become acquainted with the Latter-day Saints earlier in 1842 and had—apparently at John C. Bennett’s instigation—received an honorary degree from the University of Nauvoo; had the “freedom of the city” of , Illinois, conferred upon him; had a street in Nauvoo named after him; and received a commission as inspector general in the . In May 1842, he had proven himself a friend to JS and the Saints by defending them against charges of free love and communalism in a letter he published in the New York Herald under the pseudonym “Cincinnatus.” Bennet’s letter to JS answered one JS had written to him on 30 June 1842, which had delivered to Bennet while in his company from 5 to 7 August.
explained in his 16 August letter that had asked him to help publish an exposé of JS and the church but that he had refused. Bennet believed that , the editor of the New York Herald, planned to publish and promote the book, but Bennet advised JS not to worry about John C. Bennett’s allegations. Bennet was confident that John C. Bennett’s claims would bring greater attention to and interest in the church and that his exposé would not present anything that JS had not already been charged with in various newspapers. James Arlington Bennet also expressed his satisfaction with leaders of the church he had met, including , a church and JS’s scribe; , who presided over the church’s in ; and , who was in New York City.
Although there are no postal markings on the letter, an entry in JS’s journal states that the letter was conveyed to JS by mail and that he received it a few days before 7 September 1842. On 8 September, he dictated a reply.
But dont be concerned, you will recieve no injury whatever from any thing that any man or set of men may Lay against you. The whole of this muss is only extending you[r] fame & will increase your numbers ten fold. You have nothing to expect from that part of the community who are bigotedly attached to the other churches. They have always believed & still believe every thing said to you[r] disadvantage and what Gen. is now saying in the papers is nothi[n]g more than what was common report before throughout this whole community insomuch that I had to contradict it in the Herald under the Signature of “Cincinatus” and even requested the at the Mormon to do so long ago. you therefore have lost not a whit of ground by it. I must in charity forbear commenting on the course of in this matter— Considering all things, delicacy forbids such a course— There are some things, however, I feel very sorely & could wish they had not transpired. He & the Herald will make mony out of the Book & then the matter will end, as you will find that the Herald will puff it to the skies. The books which I sent you, you will retain in you[r] hands for the present. My repects to your Amiable & all friends & believe me as ever, tho’ not a Mormon, you[r] sincere friend—
Bennet's letter to the Herald stated that charges that church members were allowed to “connect in promiscuous intercourse without any regard to the holy bonds of matrimony” were “slanders put into the mouths of their enemies by the father of lies, the devil, having no foundation in truth.” (James Arlington Bennet [Cincinnatus, pseud.], “The Mormons,” New York Herald, 16 May 1842, .)