From Historian to Dissident
Bruce N. Westergren, editor

Chapter 21

CHAPTER 21. Feb. 184-

[p.191]Now after Smith & Rigdon & those who were with him were let go they speedily went to Ill. to a place which Smith named Nauvoo, where they built a city which they called Nauvoo and began to build up a broken and scattered people—sending forth many Elders and priests &c. to proclaim to the Nations of the earth the sufferings of the Saints & also the gospel in great haste, and many received the gospel and gathered to Nauvoo and built a City—Smith received a Commandment to build a house unto the Name of the Lord, Which they speedily commenced but did not complete it before the wicked rose up and murdered Joseph & Hiram Smith.1 Now the Mormons [(] the <as> they are called by those who do not believe in the book of Mormon) found great favor in the eyes of the Gov. and Congress of Ill. So that the Mormons had a charter granted for the City of Nauvoo. in which they organized themselves according to their own desires—Now according to the best information I could get2 they the leaders protested [a]gainst Spiritual wife System & gadianton bands & their [p.192]wickedness publickly but I will show hereafter that they did not do as did the Lamanites, in the days of the Nephites when they were convinced of the incorrect traditions of their fathers for when they were once converted they remained so unto the day of their death.

As soon as the Lord gave Smith & the church favor in the eyes of the people among whom they lived, and began to prosper them and many began to gather to Nauvoo—Smith and the leaders began to excercise their hatred to those whom he called his enemies—he hired a man by the name of Porter Orin Rockwell (who was one of the gadianton band of whom I heretofore spoke of) to go and murder a man by the Name of L. W. Boggs who had been elected Gov. by the people of the state of Mo. but was not gov. at the time Smith sent him to commit this crime—Boggs Resided at Independence, the place appointed for the land of <Zion> yea the New Jerusalem. So Rockwell went to Independence and at night he went to the house of Boggs and shot him through the window but he did not kill him only wounded him severely but he recovered. Rockwell was caught and put to jail and I believe he was tried by a Jury of inquiry but [there] was not sufficient testimony to condemn him, though it is a well known fact that [p. 91] he was hired by Smith to kill Boggs3—Now the foregoing I have given to show that this secret band did still exist among the leaders of the church. even in Smith the Prophet & Seer & Revelator[.] had it not been upheld by him the church would not have suffered in the way it did for example look at the children of Israel in the days of King Saul[.] for his transgression the Kingdom was wrent from him, and given to another more worthy. and the Children of Israel suffered much in consequence thereof.

Now as I said before the Lord began to prosper them in [p.193]Nauvoo, and as soon as they began to prosper they began to be lifted up in pride and behaved vilely towards the people in Hancock County Illinois in which Co. Nauvoo was Situated as also to the people in the Counties round about. So that the people began to threaten them again and raised mobs to drive the Saints, (as they called themselves,) from their homes. The Mormons at the same time would steal for some came to Mo. and stole some horses, and we heard much complaint from people of Ill. for the Mormons would steal from them many things, and indeed the Mormons would Justify themselves in this wickedness by saying We are the Lords, and the earth is the Lords, & the fullness thereof, therefore these things are ours. also, God has said by the mouths of the Prophets that he would consecrate the riches of the Gentiles to the House of Israel and we are the House of Israel &c. &. Now say they when these things are placed before our eyes go [p. 92] God is not intending to give it himself but you are agents, and these things are before you go and help yourselves &c.

Now these Scriptures would they quote to excuse themselves that they might steal and Rob their Neighbors according to their wicked desires lusting after those things which were forbidden them in the Scriptures.

After the Mormons had their city Chartered by the state Legislature they had all their officers, and when any Stole, they would flee to Nauvoo. to seek protection, and. behold they were protected and upheld so that the guilty could not be punished according to the Law of the land. Now had the Leaders been willing to bring the guilty to Justice they could not have escaped but must have been punished, but here is the bad affect of Secret combinations such as have ever destroyed the church of God because those who were leaders in the church were partakers of these Cain institutions which were handed [p.194]down by the devil4

In the mean while the Twelve were Preaching in England5 and else where and built up many churches the gathering continued, and many who were born again and came to Nauvoo and beheld the things that were there conducted, sickened in their hearts, others were pleased with those things for they were pleasing to the carnal mind, especially when an assurance was held forth for their protection by the [p. 93] Prophet of God. Others dined [denied] the faith for they knew that these things were contrary to the word of God and withdrew themselves.6

Now there has been much said <and published> by the mobbers of Illinois & Mo. that are without a shadow of truth as also by the people of Nauvoo.

Now Smith wrote many Revelations concerning himself as you will see by Reading the book of Covenants Printed at Kirtland[,] Ohio[,] in which we read that the Keys of the Kingdom, should not be taken from him until Christ should come, on conditions that he should not transgress. But if he should transgress they should be taken and another be appointed in his stead, and that this should be all the power that he should have to appoint another in his stead.7

God knowing all things prepared a man whom he visited by an angel of Goad and showed him where there were some ancient Record hid, and also put in his heart to desire of Smith to Grant him power to establish a stake to Zion in Wisconsin Territory, whose name is James J. Stang. Now at first Smith was unfavorably disposed to grant him this request, but being troublied in spirit and knowing from the things that were staring him in his face that his days must soon be closed therefore he enquired of the of the Lord and behold the Lord said, Appoint [p.94] James J. Strang the Prophet Seer <&> Revelator unto my church for thou shalt thereby do a mission, [p.195] thy [Wife] is [better] &c. Shortly after this appointment of Strang, the mob gathered and took by Strategem Joseph & Hyrum Smith conveyed them to Cathage the Seat of Justice in & for the Co. of Caldwell. <Hancock> as is to try them by the law of the land but instead of trying them by the law of the land for their crimes, they murdered them, & thus the Lords annointed fell by the brutal hand of man, & they are gone the way of all the earth, and [James] Stranges Reigns in the place of Smith the author and proprietor of the Book of Mormon.8

As I have before stated that Joseph Smith had left Kirtland[,] Ohio[,] with the Camp of the Saints so called, to go to Jackson Co. to redeem Zion and received a Revelation that God would redeem it in his own time &c. On his way to Mo. or Zion he was frequently heard to say that he had a duty to perform and that was [that] he had to appoint another in his stead to Wit David Whitmer.

After the Camp was dispersed at fishing River Smith & F. G. Williams came to Clay County together with many others who Scatterd in Clay Co & elsewhere Smith called a conference at the house of Lyman Wight three miles West of Liberty, in which Confranc the most of the official number belonging in Zion were present, Where Smith organized the [p. 95] High Council of Zion as I said m a former chapter in which David Whitmer was ordained President of Zion & John Whitmer & W. W. Phelps his counsellors. Here at the same time he ordained David Whitmer Prophet Seer Revelator & translator.9


1. See James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2d. rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co, 1992), 153-228.

[p.196]2. Note that Whitmer admits he was not present for the events he is discussing: he is relying on “the best information I could get.”

3. See Harold Schindler, Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder, 2d. rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983), 67-73. Although Rockwell was charged with the crime, such allegations against him, or charges that Joseph Smith hired him to assassinate Boggs, have never been proven.

4. See Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839-1846,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1967.

5. For an overview of the missionary work of the Twelve Apostles conducted in England during this period (1839-41), see James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker, Men with a Mission: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles, 1837-1841 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992), 67-322.

6. The extent of apostasy among new converts for these reasons is not known.

7. D&C 43:1-4; see Wood, 2[1835]:125-26. For background, see Cook, Revelations, 61-62, 132.

8. After Joseph and Hyrum were killed, Whitmer’s initial sympathies were with the leadership claims made by charismatic Mormon dissident James J. Strang. The exact extent of Whitmer’s activities with the group, however, is unknown; it would seem, though, from the writing of his history, that his belief in that group was a short one (see Steven L. Shields, Divergent Paths of the Restoration 4th rev. ed. [Los Angeles, CA: Restoration Research, 1990], 40-46; and Roger Van Noord, King of Beaver Island: The Life and Assassination of James Jesse Strang [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988].)

9. Concerning this incident, David Whitmer wrote:

[p.197]To show you that Brother Joseph and myself still loved each other as brethren after this, I will tell you that he had so much confidence in me in July, 1834, he ordained me his successor as “Prophet Seer and Revelator” to the Church. He did this of his own free will and not at any solicitation whatsoever on my part. I did not know what he was going to do until he laid his hands upon me and ordained me.

… I supposed this is news to many of you—that Brother Joseph ordained me his successor—but it is in your records, and there are men now living who were present in that council of elders when he did it, in the camp of Zion, on Fishing River, Missouri, July 1834 (An Address to All Believers in Christ, by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon [Richmond, MO: David Whitmer, 1887], 55; photocopy, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; more importantly, see Far West Record, 151-52).