Subject: The Mormon Church has a poor record on free speech
Date: Dec 07 14:22 2002
Author: Deconstructor

The current fiasco over the Main Street Plaza isn't the first time a Mormon City Council decided to ban free speech in the name of a "public nuisance." This happened before in Nauvoo and ultimately led to Smith's death.

In the city of Nauvoo, the Mormon City Council was apalled that a newspaper (The Nauvoo Expositor) had exposed Smith's revelation and practice of polygamy. For this, Mayor Joseph Smith called the City Council together to declare the paper a "public nuisance" in order to have the press destroyed.

Much of the rhetoric then sounds familiar to what the church says now over free speech on the Main Street Plaza!

Here's how John Tayor, a member on the City Council, explained that fateful council meeting:

"...the apostate 'Mormons', associated with others, commenced the publication of a libelous paper in Nauvoo, called the Nauvoo Expositor... It was, however, no sooner put in circulation than the indignation of the whole community was aroused... As it was among us, under these circumstances, it was thought best to convene the city council to take into consideration the adoption of some measures for its removal, as it was deemed better that this should be done legally than illegally. Joseph Smith, therefore, who was mayor, convened the city council for that purpose; the paper was introduced and read, and the subject examined."

"All, or nearly all present, expressed their indignation at the course taken by the Expositor, which was owned by some of the aforesaid apostates, associated with one or two others... Various attempts had heretofore been made by the party to annoy and irritate the citizens of Nauvoo..."

"Being a member of the city council, I well remember the feeling of responsibility that seemed to rest upon all present; nor shall I soon forget the bold, manly, independent expressions of Joseph Smith on that occasion in relation to this matter. He exhibited in glowing colors the meanness, corruption and ultimate designs of the anti-'Mormons'; their despicable characters and ungodly influences, especially of those who were in our midst. He (Smith) told of the responsibility that rested upon us, as guardians of the public interest, to stand up in the defense of the injured and oppressed, to stem the current of corruption, and as men and saints, to put a stop to this flagrant outrage upon this people's rights."

"He (Smith) stated that no man was a stronger advocate for the liberty of speech and of the press than himself; yet, when this noble gift is utterly prostituted and abused, as in the present instance, it loses all claim to our respect, and becomes as great an agent for evil as it can possibly be for good; and notwithstanding the apparent advantage we should give our enemies by this act, yet it behooved us, as men, to act independent of all secondary influences, to perform the part of men of enlarged minds, and boldly and fearlessly to discharge the duties devolving upon us by declaring as a nuisance, and removing this filthy, libelous, and seditious sheet from our midst."

"The subject was discussed in various forms, and after the remarks made by the mayor, every one seemed to be waiting for some one else to speak. After a considerable pause, I arose and expressed my feelings frankly, as Joseph had done, and numbers of others followed in the same strain; and I think, but am not certain, that I made a motion for the removal of that press as a nuisance. This motion was finally put, and carried by all but one; and he conceded that the measure was just, but abstained through fear."
- Brigham Young, History of the Church, Vol. 7, p.62-63

Mayor Joseph Smith lied about polygamy during the City Council Meeting

From the official minutes of the City Council meeting:

"CITY COUNCIL, REGULAR SESSION, June 8th, 1844. Councilor Hyrum Smith proceeded to show the falsehood of Austin Cowles in the Expositor, in relation to the revelation (on polygamy) referred to. Mayor (Smith) said he had never preached the revelation (on polygamy) in private; but he had public. Had not taught to the anointed in the Church in private, which statement many present confirmed; that on inquiring concerning the passage on the resurrection concerning "they neither marry nor are given in marriage," &c., he received for answer, "Man in this life must marry in view of eternity, otherwise they must remain as angels, or be single in heaven," which was the doctrine of the revelation referred to; and the Mayor spoke at considerable length in explanation of this principle. and was willing, for one, to subscribe his name to declare the Expositor and whole establishment a nuisance."
- Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.442

(Hyrum Smith told the City Council that Smith's 1843 polygamy revelation pertained to ancient polygamy only and not to modern times.)

The next City Council meeting described by Joseph Smith in his personal diary:

"Monday, June 10, 1844.—I was in the City Council from 10 a. m., to l:20 p. m., and from 2:20 p. m. to 6:30 p.m. investigating the merits of the Nauvoo Expositor... An ordinance was passed concerning libels. The Council passed an ordinance declaring the Nauvoo Expositor a nuisance, and also issued an order to me to abate the said nuisance. I immediately ordered the Marshal to destroy it without delay, and at the same time issued an order to Jonathan Dunham, acting Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion, to assist the Marshal with the Legion, if called upon so to do."

"About 8 p. m., the Marshal returned and reported that he had removed the press, type, printed paper, and fixtures into the street, and destroyed them. This was done because of the libelous and slanderous character of the paper.. The posse accompanied by some hundreds of the citizens, returned with the Marshal to the front of the Mansion, when I gave them a short address, and told them they had done right and that not a hair of their heads should be hurt for it; that they had executed the orders which were given me by the City Council; that I would never submit to have another libelous publication established in the city; that I did not care how many papers were printed in the city, if they would print the truth: but would submit to no libels or slanders from them. I then blessed them in the name of the Lord. This speech was loudly greeted by the assembly with three-times-three cheers. The posse and assembly then dispersed all in good order."
- Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.432

Joseph Smith's official account of the destruction of the press

"Nauvoo, June 14th, 1844. Dear Sir, I write you this morning briefly to inform you of the facts relative to the removal of the press and fixtures of the Nauvoo Expositor as a nuisance."

"The 8th and 10th instant were spent by the city council of Nauvoo in receiving testimony concerning the character of the Expositor, and the character and designs of the proprietors."

"In the investigation it appeared evident to the council that the proprietors were a set of unprincipled, lawless ebauches, counterfeiters, bogus-makers, gamblers, peace-disturbers, and that the grand object of said proprietors was to destroy our constitutional rights and chartered privileges; to overthrow all good and wholesome regulations in society; to strengthen themselves against the municipality; to fortify themselves against the church of which I am a member, and destroy all our religious rights and privileges by libels, slanders, falsehoods, perjury, etc. and sticking at no corruption to accomplish their hellish purposes; and that said paper of itself was libelous of the deepest dye, and very injurious as a vehicle of defamation, tending to corrupt the morals, and disturb the peace, tranquility, and happiness of the whole community, and especially that of Nauvoo."

"After a long and patient investigation of the character of the Expositor, and the characters and designs of its proprietors, the Constitution, the Charter, and all the best authorities on the subject, the city council decided that it was necessary for the 'peace, benefit, good order, and regulations' of said city, 'and for the protection of the property', and for 'the happiness and prosperity of the citizens of Nauvoo', that said Expositor should be removed; and declaring said Expositor a nuisance, ordered the mayor to cause them to be removed without delay, which order was committed to the marshal by due process, and by him executed the same day, by removing the paper, press, and fixtures into the streets, and burning the same; all which was done without riot, noise, tumult, or confusion, as has already been proved before the municipality of the city; and the particulars of the whole transaction may be expected in our next Nauvoo Neighbor.... [signed] Joseph Smith"
- Brigham Young, History of the Church, Vol. 7, p.126

Has the Mormon Church ever liked free speech?

Why can't they handle criticism?