One hundred and sixty-three years ago tomorrow (June 7, 1844) the one and only issue of The Nauvoo Expositor was published in Nauvoo, Illinois. The newspaper was intended to be the voice of the Reformed Mormon Church, a dissident religious group led by former counselor in the LDS First Presidency, William Law.The members of the Reformed Mormon Church were deeply opposed to Joseph Smith’s polygamy. The preamble of The Nauvoo Expositor explained,
Many of us have sought a reformation in the [Mormon] church, without a public exposition of the enormities of crimes practiced by its leaders, thinking that if they would harken to council, and show fruit meet for repentance, it would be as acceptable with God, as though they were exposed to public gaze… But our petitions were treated with contempt, and in many cases the petitioner spurned from their presence, and particularly by Joseph [Smith], who would state that if he had sinned, and was guilty of any charges we would charge him with, he would not make acknowledgment, but would rather be damned; for it would detract from his dignity, and would consequently prove the ruin and overthrow of the Church.We would ask him on the other hand, if the overthrow of the Church was not inevitable, to which he often replied, that we would all go to Hell together, and convert it into a Heaven, by casting the Devil out; and says he, Hell is by no means the place this world of fools suppose it to be, but on the contrary it is quite an agreeable place, to which we would now reply he can enjoy it if he is determined not to desist from his evil ways, but as for us, we will serve the Lord our God! (as quoted in Hallwas and Launius, Cultures in Conflict, 143-144)
The sermon in which Joseph Smith spoke of converting Hell into a Heaven was given in July of 1843 and is recorded in History of the Church 5:517. The other concerns voiced in The Nauvoo Expositor preamble can be better understood in the context provided by a speech Joseph delivered to the Saints just two weeks before the newspaper was published. On May 26, 1844 the Prophet said,
The Lord has constituted me so curiously that I glory in persecution. I am not nearly so humble as if I were not persecuted… If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them. When facts are proved, truth and innocence will prevail at last…Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet… How I do love to hear the wolves howl! When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go…
A man has asked me whether the commandment was given that a man may have seven wives; and now the new prophet [William Law] has charged me with adultery…
What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.
I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers. (History of the Church 408-412)
At the time Joseph Smith gave this speech there were 34 women and girls in Nauvoo who were wives of the Prophet.
Joseph said proven facts would allow truth and innocence to prevail; yet the publishers of The Nauvoo Expositor are defamed to this day, while Joseph Smith is lauded in song: “Great is his glory…Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom, crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.” (Praise to the Man, LDS Hymn 326)