Mormon History

John C. Bennett's 7th Disclosure - 1842

Sangamo Journal August 19, 1842

6TH LETTER FROM GEN BENNETT.

JOE  SMITH'S  LETTER  TO  MISS  RIGDON, in defence of the spiritual wife doctrine -- in which he goes into a long argument to show that things which are forbidden by human and divine laws may be rendered lawful by "revelation" -- that things which might be considered ABOMINABLE to all who do not understand the orders of Heaven only in part, ARE RIGHT because God gave and sanctioned them by special revelation. Such is the whole tenor of the letter. (Wonder Sidney Rigdon, the father of the young lady on whom the base attempt was made has not had the scoundrel indicted and punished for his base attempt at seduction, and blasphemously bringing the name and perfections of Almighty God as authority for the purpose of accomplishing his hellish purposes).                       

ERIE CANAL,. Boat Nassau, Aug. 3, 1842.

To the Editor of the Journal:

As I have a little time to appropriate, I proceed to transcribe and forward you an exact copy of Joe Smith's letter to Miss Nancy Rigdon per William [sic] Richards, one of the Holy Mormon Apostles, alluded to in one of my former communications, and which is in the words following, to wit:

"Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it, and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, thou shalt not kill, -- at another time he said, thou shalt utterly destroy. This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted -- by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, NO MATTER WHAT IT IS, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon -- first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every DESIRE of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality, were right, because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation. A parent may whip a child, and justly too, because he stole an apple, whereas if the child had asked for the apple, and the parent had given it, the child would have eaten it with a better appetite, there would have been no stripes -- all the pleasure of the apple would have been secured, all the misery of stealing lost. This principle will justly apply to all of God's dealings with his children. Everything that God gives us is lawful and right, and 'tis proper that we should enjoy his gifts and blessings whenever and wherever he is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without revelation, without commandment, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end, and we should have to lie down in sorrow and wailings of everlasting regret. But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed, and as God has designed our happiness, and the happiness of all his creatures, he never has, he never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to his people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which he has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. Blessings offered, but rejected, are no longer blessings, but become like the talent hid in the earth by the wicked and slothful servant -- the proffered good returns to the giver, the blessing is bestowed on those who will receive and occupy, for unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly, but unto him that hath not or will not receive, shall be taken away that which he hath, or might have had.

"Be wise to-day, 'tis Madness to defer,
"Next day the fatal precedent may plead;
Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time.
Into eternity."


Our heavenly father is more liberal in his views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive, and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of his punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose him to be. He will [be] enquired of by his children -- he says, ask, and ye SHALL RECEIVE, seek and ye SHALL find, but if you will take that which is not your own, or which I have not given you, you shall be rewarded according to your deeds, but no good thing will I withold from them who walk uprightly before me, and do my will in all things, who will listen to my voice, and TO THE VOICE OF MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE SENT, for I delight in those who seek diligently to know my precepts, and abide by the law of my kingdom, for all things shall be made known unto them in mine own due time, and in the end they shall have joy."


Thus reads the Prophet Joe's love letter to Miss Rigdon. To understand it I refer you to the spiritual wife doctrine heretofore alluded to, and to Miss Brotherton's letter. You will see that ALL things that God gives and sanctions by special revelation THROUGH THE HOLY JOE IS LAWFUL AND RIGHT. Joe knows it to be so because God TOLD HIM so!! I told you before that the great Solomon was a novice in these matters when compared to Joe. Peruse the letter carefully, examine all its bearings and allusions, and compare it with the former disclosures, and you will see that it is pregnant with the "spiritual doctrine" taught by Joe to his cloistered, chambered, and cyprian maids and members of his female LODGE of Mormon Inquisition. My last letter to the editors of the Louisville Journal will explain this in part, and the "History of the Saints," in full.
            Yours respectfully,
            JOHN C. BENNETT.


Note: The above text may have been the very first appearance in print of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s 1842 "Happiness" letter. It was also published in the Aug. 31, 1842 issue of the New York Herald. Elder Brigham H. Roberts, in his edition of the LDS History of the Church, inserts an editorial note, after the appearance of this text, in Chp. 7 (Aug. 1842), Vol. 5, p. 134. Elder Roberts' note reads: "It is not positively known what occasioned the writing of this essay; but when it is borne in mind that at this time the new law of marriage for the Church -- marriage for eternity, including plurity of wives under some circumstances -- was being introduced by the Prophet, it is very likely that the article was written with a view of applying the principles here expounded to the conditions created by introducing said marriage system." Roberts does not say when, how, why, or by whom the text was copied from ex-Mormon John C. Bennett's attacks upon Smith, nor why the document was accepted at face value as being Smith's 1842 creation. Roberts inherited the "Happiness" essay, as part of the "History of Joseph Smith" which was serialized in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons, and continued in the Salt Lake City Deseret News. The News for Dec. 12, 1855 (V:40) prints Smith's love-letter to Nancy Rigdon, as part of his late August, 1842 history, but providing no explanations for readers' probable questions over its authorship and purpose (two years later, the Liverpool LDS Millennial Star for Dec. 5, 1857, XIX:49, simply reprints the history from the News, with no changes). B. H. Roberts' later editorial note similarly leaves unanswered questions, as to why Smith would write such a positive "marriage for eternity" essay in 1842, if, in 1843, he was very reluctant to accept the doctrine "plural marriage" -- so reluctant that, (according to Wilford Woodruff's Journal, Vol. 8, p. 235) "An Angel of God Stood by him with a drawn Sword and told him he should be slain & Cut off from the Earth and the kingdom of God if he did not obey that Law." The most likely explanation is that the text was introduced into the 1855 DEseret News more or less by accident, with the editor (Willard Richards?) believing it was directed to Emma Smith -- then Roberts, who understood its true context, subsequently struggled to pen an explanation which did not introduce Nancy Rigdon and John C. Bennett into his own faith-promoting editorial offerings.

 

New York Herald August 31, 1842

JOE SMITH'S LOVE LETTER TO NANCY RIGDON.

DEAR MISS RIGDON:--

Happiness is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know, unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said that thou shalt not kill, -- at another time he said thou shalt utterly destroy. This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted -- by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon -- first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which, in reality, were right, because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation. A parent may whip a child, and justly too, because he stole an apple; whereas, if the child had asked for the apple, and the parent had given it, the child would have eaten it with a better appetite, there would have been no stripes -- all the pleasures of the apple would have been secured, all the misery of stealing lost. This principle will justly apply to all of God's dealings with his children. Everything that God gives us is lawful and right, and it is proper that we should enjoy his gifts and blessings whenever and wherever he is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without revelation, without commandment, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end, and we should have to lie down in sorrow and wailings of everlasting regret. But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness, the happiness of all his creatures, he never has, he never will, institute an ordinance or give a commandment to his people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which he has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. Blessings offered, but rejected, are no longer blessings, but become like the talent hid in the earth by the wicked and slothful servant -- the proffered good returns to the giver; the blessing is bestowed on those who will receive, and occupy; for unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly, but unto him that hath not, or will not receive, shall be taken away that which he hath, or might have had.

           "'Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer,
           Next day the fatal precedent may plead;
           Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time"

into eternity. Our heavenly father is more liberal in his views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive, and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of his punishments, and more ready to detect every false way than we are apt to suppose him to be; he will be inquired of by his children -- he says ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find; but, if ye will take that which is not your own, or which I have not given you, you shall be rewarded according to your deeds, but no good thing will I withhold from them who walk uprightly before me, and do my will in all things; who will listen to my voice and to the voice of my servant whom I have sent; for I delight in those who seek diligently to know my precepts, and abide by the laws of my kingdom; for all things shall be made known unto them in mine own due time, and in the end they shall have joy."
                 JOS. SMITH.

 

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