JS, Letter, [, Hancock Co., IL], to the editor of Times and Seasons , [, Hancock Co., IL, ca. Feb. 1843]. Featured version published in Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1843, vol. 4, no. 7, –98. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
In February 1843, JS wrote a letter from , Illinois, to , the editor of the Times and Seasons, giving what he intended to serve as a valedictory message concluding his editorship of the newspaper. , likely basing his dating off of the letter’s inclusion in the 15 February 1843 issue, suggested in his rough draft notes for JS’s history that JS wrote the letter on or after 15 February. However, JS may have begun drafting it by early February in response to a letter and subsequent editorial regarding his hearings that was published in the 15 and 16 January 1843 issues of the New York Herald. In the editorial, sarcastically challenged JS to “try his power at working a miracle or two” in order to prove that he was a prophet. JS responded by reviewing how biblical prophets were persecuted and suggesting that his recent trial demonstrated rather than contradicted his prophetic claims. Accordingly, JS’s letter to the editor corresponded with other editorials and statements he made during this period that attempted to establish that prophets had commonly experienced persecution throughout history.
JS also used this letter to censure American newspapers for the way they had generally reported on ’s criticisms of him and the Latter-day Saints during 1842. To articulate his reproach of the local and national press, JS included a parable in the editorial. In the parable, he described a pasture where a grazing fawn encountered an ass. The ass began braying so loudly that it alerted the lions of the forest, which then roared in response. In the end, JS said, God would take from the lions their teeth, claws, strength, and ability to roar. Contextually, JS cast himself as the fawn, John C. Bennett as the ass, and the local and national newspaper editors as the lions that roared in response to Bennett’s braying.
The original manuscript for this letter is apparently no longer extant. JS’s letter was featured in the 15 February 1843 issue of the Times and Seasons, which was evidently not published until sometime after 19 February 1843.
Although JS had earlier published a brief notice entitled “Valedictory” announcing that he had appointed Taylor as editor of the Times and Seasons, the notice was not a substantive editorial statement. (Notice, 15 Nov. 1842.)
The 15 February 1843 issue of the Times and Seasons includes a 19 February 1843 letter from Sidney Rigdon to Alfred Stokes. (Sidney Rigdon, Nauvoo, IL, to Alfred Stokes, 19 Feb. 1843, in Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1843, 4:100–101.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
mane rolled with majestic grandeur over his terrible neck; his claws were like the claws of the dragon; and his ribs were like those of the leviathan; when he lifted himself up all the beasts of the field bowed with respectful deference; and when he spake the whole universe listened, and the cinders of his power cover creation. His might, his influence were felt to the ends of the earth; when he lashed his tail the beasts of the forest trembled; and when he roared all the great lions and the young lions crouched down at his feet.
This great lion lifting up himself and beholding the fawn afar off, he opened his mouth, and joining in the common roar, uttered the following great swelling yelp:—
Joe Smith in Trouble.—By a letter which we published on Sunday, from , Illinois, it appears that Joe Smith, the great Mormon Prophet, has at last given himself up to the authorities of . He is charged with fomenting or conspiring to assassinate , of , and is demanded by the functionary of that , of the of . Joe has taken out a writ of , denying the fact, and is now waiting the decision of the court at . This will bring Joe’s troubles to a crisis.
In the mean time, why does not Joe try his power at working a miracle or two? Now’s the time to prove his mission—besides being very convienent for himself.
When I heard it, I said poor fellow! How has thy dignity fallen! and how has thy glory departed! Thou that once ranked amongst the foremost of the beasts of the field, as the lord of the forest! Even thou hast condescended to degrade thyself by uniting with the basest of animals, and to join in with the braying of an ass.
And now, friend allow me to whisper a word in thine ear. Dost thou not know that there is a God in the heavens that judgeth? that setteth up one and putteth down another according to the counsel of his own will? That if thou possessest any influence, wisdom, dominion, or power, it comes from God, and to him thou art indebted for it? That he holds the destinies of men in his power, and can as easily put down as he has raised up? Tell me when hast thou treated a subject of religious and eternal truth with that seriousness and candor that the importance of the subject demands from a man in thy standing, possessing thy calling and influence? As you seem to be quite a theologist, allow me to ask a few questions. why did not God deliver Micaiah from the hands of his persecutors? Why did not Jeremiah not “work a miracle or two,” to help him out of the dungeon? It would have been “very convenient.” Why did not Zacheriah, by a miracle prevent the people from slaying him? Why did not our Saviour come down from the cross? The people asked him to do it; and besides he had “saved others,” and could not save himself, so said the people. Why did he not prove his mission by working a miracle and coming down? Why did not Paul by a miracle prevent the people from stoning and whipping him? It would have been “very convenient.” Or why did the saints of God, in every age, have to wander about in sheep skins and goat skins? Being tempted, tried, and sawn asunder; of whom the world was not worthy. I would here advise my worthy friend, before he talks of ‘proving missions,” “working miracles,” or any “convenience” of that kind, to read his Bible a little more, and the garbled stories of political demagogues less.
I listened and lo! I heard a voice, and it was the voice of my shepherd, saying, listen all ye lions of the forest; and all the beasts of the field give ear; ye have sought to injure the innocent; and your hands have been lifted against the weak, the injured and the oppressed. Ye have pampered the libertine, the calumniator, and the base. Ye have winked at vice, and trodden under foot the virtuous and the pure. Therefore hear, all ye lions of the forest. The Lord God will take from you your teeth, so that you shall no longer devour. He will pluck out your claws, so that you can no longer seize upon you[r] prey. Your strength will fail you in the day of trouble, and your voice will fail, and not be heard afar off; but mine elect will I uphold with mine arm, and my chosen shall be supported by my power. And when mine annointed shall be exalted, and all the lions of the forest shall have lost their strength, then shall they remember that the Lord he is God.
By the mid-1830s, James Gordon Bennett had become an acknowledged leader in a revolution of American newspapers. His New York Herald was among the most successful newspapers in a broader movement to make newspapers more widely available to the American public at a low cost. In order to attract a wider readership, Bennett’s paper consistently turned to sensationalism, giving readers “a steady diet of violence, crime, murder, suicide, seduction, and rape both in news reporting and in gossip.” The Herald drew frequent criticisms and attacks from other newspaper editors denouncing its sensationalism, at least in part because its editorials deprecated those other newspapers. (Crouthamel, Bennett’s “New York Herald,” 19, 25, 26, 35–36; Carlson, Man Who Made News, 168–190.)
Crouthamel, James L. Bennett’s “New York Herald” and the Rise of the Popular Press. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1989.
Carlson, Oliver. The Man Who Made News: James Gordon Bennett. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1942.
On 15 January 1843, the New York Herald published a 2 January 1843 letter from a correspondent in Springfield, Illinois. The letter explained that on 31 December 1842 JS caused an excitement throughout Springfield by “surrendering himself to Judge Pope.” The letter’s author expected JS to “get clear” but then noted “all is uncertain.” (Letter to the Editor, 2 Jan. 1843, Springfield, IL, New York Herald [New York City], 15 Jan. 1843, .)
Journal of the House of Representatives of the Thirteenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois, at Their Regular Session, Begun and Held at Springfield, December 5, 1842. Springfield, IL: William Walters, 1842.
It is unclear when JS first saw these articles from the New York Herald. The distance between New York and Nauvoo, however, makes it likely that JS became acquainted with them toward the end of January or in early February. Around this same time, JS received a letter from James Arlington Bennet in New York City approximately three weeks after Bennet mailed it. Supposing the newspaper traveled from New York at roughly the same speed, JS likely would have read the editorial in the New York Herald between 6 and 10 February 1843. (Letter from James Arlington Bennet, 20 Feb. 1843; JS, Journal, 15 Mar. 1843.)