On 30 July 1842, wrote a letter from to JS and in , Illinois, reporting on a mission he had undertaken to that area and expressing concern for the effects ’s “disclosures” were having on members in Philadelphia. Wasson was JS’s nephew, the son of Emma Smith’s sister Elizabeth Hale Wasson. He had been into the church in March 1842 in Nauvoo and had then departed on a mission to the eastern , during which he preached in Philadelphia and the southern part of . Although much proselytizing had been done in other parts of New Jersey, including , , and Ocean counties, Wasson declared that he and his mission companion were the first to preach in southern New Jersey. Wasson’s letter also referred to the opposition he faced, along with others who were preaching in the area, and he pointed specifically to debates between church member and George Montgomery West, an avowed critic of the Latter-day Saints.
In addition, mentioned difficulties the Saints were experiencing because of ’s accusations, which were getting a great deal of exposure in newspapers at that time. Wasson offered to help in any way he could to diminish Bennett’s influence.
’s original letter, which likely took a couple of weeks to reach , is apparently not extant. The text featured here was published in the 15 August 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons, which was evidently printed several days after 15 August.
One newspaper reported that in June 1842, West preached “that Infidelity is identical with Mormonism.” (Tyler Parsons, Boston, MA, 14 June 1842, Letter to the Editor, Boston Investigator, 15 June 1842, .)
By the end of July 1842, the Sangamo Journal in Springfield, Illinois, had published four of Bennett’s letters.a The New York Herald reprinted some of the letters in July, and other eastern newspapers, including Philadelphia’s North American and Daily Advertiser, referenced the letters and the falling-out between Bennett and JS.b
(aJohn C. Bennett, Nauvoo, IL, 27 June 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 8 July 1842, ; John C. Bennett, Carthage, IL, 2 July 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal, 15 July 1842, ; John C. Bennett, Carthage, IL, 4 July 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal, 15 July 1842, ; John C. Bennett, St. Louis, MO, 15 July 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal, 22 July 1842, . bSee, for example, “Important from the Far West,” New York Herald, 21 July 1842, ; “Excommunication Extraordinary,” North American and Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 8 July 1842, ; and “A Row among the Mormons,” Sun [Baltimore], 22 July 1842, .)
Sangamo Journal. Springfield, IL. 1831–1847.
New York Herald. New York City. 1835–1924.
North American and Daily Advertiser. Philadelphia. 1839–1845.
our testimony, and intend to return next week and give them the second edition of the same important subject. When I arrived in the saints were in a tremendous flustration for the welfare of brother Joseph, and their friends at . The disclosures of and his sattelites had just arrived, and the faith of some was failing—others doubting, and those founded on the rock were contending against such unheard of falsehoods and slanders, and turning the reproach where it belongs—upon the heads of those black and midnight fiends who have made this bold attempt to destroy a virtuous people.
Great excitement in this at this time—there is a discussion in progression between our beloved and Dr. [George Montgomery] West, the celebrated lion (liar) of sectarianism. It is really amusing to see these two champions contend with stentorian voice, eloquence, and language; and all the tact of argument that God lavishes upon the defenders of truth, and the devil upon his lawyers, is arrayed in this debate. It is appalling to hear the groans of priests—the clamors of infidels, and apparently the last dying struggles of modern Babylon, beneath the ponderous weight of truth. May the time speedily arrive when she shall have kicked her last, and liberty, truth and happiness be the principles that stand as a watch word for the faithful, who by their virtues make glad the city of God.
Although I have left the society of tried friends—the joyous circles of the young and gifted—the endearments of domestic happiness, surrounded with brothers and sisters—an affectionate mother in tears—and the society of those that would deem it a pleasure to administer to my necessities when sickness or adverse fortune had laid upon me her withering hand—I have done it for the cause of truth, and not for worldly gain, applause, or pleasure—but it is my greatest delight to defend the truth against the attacks of holy hypocrites and bible infidels—and by the assistance of God I intend to bring our relatives into the good work unless they persist in believing a lie that they may be damned. I intend going to and this fall, unless I am advised to the reverse. Uncle, if you want any thing of me write to , N. J. I should be pleased to hear from you all. If I can be of any service in this affair I am ready. I was reading in your chamber last summer—yourself and came into the lower room, and I heard you give a tremendous flagellation for practicing iniquity under the base pretence of authority from the heads of the —if you recollect I came down just before you were through talking. There are many things I can inform you of, if necessary, in relation to and his prostitutes. I am satisfied of your virtue and integrity. I have been with you to visit the sick, and time and again to houses where you had business of importance, you requested me to do so—many times I knew not why, but I am satisfied it was that you might not be censured by those that were watching you with a jealous eye, and I now solemnly protest before God and man, I never saw a thing unvirtuous in your conduct. With sentiments of high esteem to the children and family, I am your most obedient nephew.
According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, one definition of satellite was “a follower; an obsequious attendant or dependant.” To support his accusations against JS, Bennett had produced affidavits from Francis M. Higbee, Melissa Schindle, and others, as well as a statement from Martha Brotherton. (“Satellite,” in American Dictionary ; John C. Bennett, Carthage, IL, 2 July 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 15 July 1842, ; “Miss Brotherton’s Statement,” Sangamo Journal, 22 July 1842, .)
An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.
In June and July 1842, Adams, a high priest in the church who had formerly been a lay Methodist preacher, debated Presbyterian minister George Montgomery West, first in Boston and then in Philadelphia. In Boston, the debates lasted for five evenings in June. According to one Boston newspaper, Adams defended the church “in a masterly manner, and so ingeniously and fairly supported it by the Bible, as to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mormonism is the doctrine of the Bible; provided it teaches any one particular doctrine more than another.” Apparently, Adams and West had recently resumed their debate in Philadelphia. (Letter from Erastus Snow, 22 June 1842; “The Mormon Discussion,” Boston Investigator, 29 June 1842, , italics in original; Advertisement, Public Ledger [Philadelphia], 1 Aug. 1842, ; Advertisement, Public Ledger, 2 Aug. 1842, .)
The Times and Seasons reprinted an article from the Boston Investigator stating that in the Boston debates, Adams, “with the whole Bible at his tongue’s end, bore down upon him [West] with a torrent of Scripture that swept away his objections like chaff before the hurricane, and the doughty Dr. was fairly at a loss how to get hold of him.” Another article from the Bostonian, also reprinted in the Times and Seasons, characterized West as “a master of language, and very sarcastic, but his proofs are all assertions, his arguments assumptions, his reasons ridicule; and he seems determined to frighten the Mormons away by looks and expressions of horror, and annihilate their system by a flower of rhetoric, appealing to the well known prejudices of the people, instead of their understanding.” (“Dr. West and the Mormons,” Times and Seasons, 15 July 1842, 3:862; “Great Discussion on Mormonism,” Times and Seasons, 1 Aug. 1842, 3:864.)
Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee County. Dixon, IL: Inez A. Kennedy, 1893.
Anderson, Mary Audentia Smith. Ancestry and Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale: With Little Sketches of Their Immigrant Ancestors All of Whom Came to America between the Years 1620 and 1685, and Settled in the States of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1929.