On the evening of 31 August 1842, JS met with the in , Illinois, to express his gratitude and to bless the members of the organization. In late July, the Relief Society had drafted a petition, which was signed by approximately one thousand women, defending JS and urging Governor to refuse to allow him to be extradited to . Representing the Relief Society, , , and Amanda Barnes Smith traveled to , Illinois, and presented the petition to Carlin on 28 July. Despite their pleas, however, Carlin issued a writ to arrest JS. Unable to maintain his freedom through legal efforts, JS spent much of August in hiding, finally returning to his home on 23 August.
At the 31 August meeting, which was held in the near the , JS gave a discourse recounting his return to from exile—after having avoided extradition—and thanking the society for all they had done to aid him while he was hiding. In his discourse, JS condemned his enemies, namely and his supporters, and expressed his confidence that he would triumph despite the adversity he faced. He also spoke of additional instructions regarding for the dead, which he said he planned to share with the Latter-day Saints soon. , president of the Relief Society, then rose and read the names of women who hoped to become members of the society; they were unanimously accepted by a vote of the women present. She also asked the assembled sisters to pray for Latter-day Saint Roxsena Higby Repsher, who had separated from her husband, Daniel Repsher. At that point, JS resumed speaking; he made additional remarks about Roxsena Repsher and spoke further about baptisms for the dead, emphasizing the importance of having someone present to record the names of those who were baptized by proxy.
As secretary for the Relief Society, took minutes for the meeting, including the account of JS’s discourse. It appears that Snow initially took notes during the meeting on loose paper and then copied them into the Relief Society’s minute book shortly afterward.
Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.
In condemning his enemies and stating that he would ultimately triumph over adversity, JS echoed sentiments he had expressed in a 29 August discourse to the elders of the church. In that sermon, he denounced all those who had worked against him. (See Discourse, 29 Aug. 1842.)
Joseph Smith opened the meeting by addressing the Society. He commenced by expressing his happiness and thankfulness for the privilege of being present on the occasion. He said that great exertions had been made on the part of our enemies, but they had not accomplished their purpose— God had enabled him to keep out of their hands— he had war’d a good warfare inasmuch as he had whip’d out all of ’s host— his feelings at the present time were, that inasmuch as the Lord Almighty had preserv’d him today. He said it reminded him of the Savior, when he said to the pharisees, “Go ye and tell that fox, Behold I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” &c.
He said he expected the heavenly Father had decreed that the Missourians shall not get him— if they do, it will be because he does not keep out of the way.
Prest. S. continued by saying, I shall triumph over my enemies— I have begun to triumph over them at home and I shall do it abroad— all those that rise up against me will feel the weight of their iniquity upon their own heads— those that speak evil are abominable characters— and full of iniquity— All the fuss and all the stir against me, is like the jack in the lantern, it cannot be found. Altho’ I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charg’d with doing— the wrong that I do is thro’ the frailty of human nature like other men. No man lives without fault. Do you think that even Jesus, if he were here would be without fault in your eyes? Th[e]y said all manner of [p. ]
Two days earlier, JS spoke of the many enemies he had confounded, including Governor Thomas Carlin, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, and Missourians in general. He also spoke against Orson Pratt, Sidney Rigdon, and George W. Robinson, implying that they had ties to John C. Bennett. In his letters to the editor of the Sangamo Journal, Bennett called for Robinson, Rigdon, Pratt, and others to verify his accusations against JS. While Robinson apparently wrote privately to Bennett and shared his perspective, neither he nor the others spoke out publicly against JS. Robinson left the church and moved away from Nauvoo, while Rigdon and Pratt reconciled with JS. (See Discourse, 29 Aug. 1842; John C. Bennett, Carthage, IL, 2 July 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 15 July 1842, ; John C. Bennett, Carthage, IL, 4 July 1842, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal, 15 July 1842, ; George W. Robinson, Nauvoo, IL, to John C. Bennett, 3 July 1842, in Bennett, History of the Saints, 44–45; and George W. Robinson, Nauvoo, IL, to John C. Bennett, 16 Sept. 1842, in Bennett, History of the Saints, 248–249.)
Sangamo Journal. Springfield, IL. 1831–1847.
Bennett, John C. The History of the Saints; or, an Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Boston: Leland and Whiting, 1842.
In late August 1842, JS directed missionaries to travel to the eastern United States in an effort to refute the accusations that Bennett was making in the press and in public lectures. (See Discourse, 29 Aug. 1842.)
The phrase “Jack in the lantern” referred to the visual phenomenon of ignis fatuus, or erratically moving light (also called will-o’-the-wisp), and denoted something misleading or elusive. Folklore developed in western Europe around this visual phenomenon, connecting it with stories about “Shady Jack” or “Jack of the Lantern.” In most folklore, the trickster character of Jack confounded the devil to escape death for a time, only to be eternally caught between heaven and hell after his death as the result of his trickery; he thus was doomed to wander the world as a spirit. (See “Jack-o’-lantern,” in Oxford English Dictionary, 5:539–540; Allies, British, Roman, and Saxon Antiquities, 423–430; and Santino, All around the Year, 157.)
Allies, Jabez. The British, Roman, and Saxon Antiquities and Folk-lore of Worcestershire. 2nd ed. London: John Russel Smith, 1856.
Santino, Jack. All around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.