Mormonism: “The Big Con?” (pt 8: The Year of the Doctor)

Editorial note: I am organizing my various series to cut down on Home Page clutter. The series will still be found all on a single page under their original title. However I want the different posts readily available. Therefore, I’m also adding them as individual posts.

Welcome back, or if this is your first visit, welcome to the madness.

Those of you who have been following this series, know it’s mostly based around a timeline. I say mostly, because for the sake of clarity, I’ve modified that a couple of times. This is going to be the third.

1841 & ’42 have a lot going on, with three stories dominating and a hell of a lot of crossover. One story centers around Dr. John Cook Bennett, (as do quite a bit of the next two). The second story is the attempted assassination of Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs (of Extermination Order fame) and the aftereffects. The third story is on “plural marriage”, “celestial marriage”, “spiritual wifery”, or whatever you want to call it. There are also, some minor events, such as Joe’s latest “translation”.

So, I’m going to split it up the separate stories and try to avoid another 6000 (or more) word post. No guarantees on the “spiritual wifery” episode, though.

This post, I’m going to concentrate on the doctor, with small sides of Joe screwing up another “translation”, and an apostle clearing the way for the aliyah (return of the Jews)

Next time around, we’ll delve into the attempted assassination. Whether or not Joe has something to do with the assassination, the assassination will have a lot to do with Joe.

The last episode in this sort-of-trilogy covers the “official” start of Mormonite multi-marriages. Sort of like the “Grand Opening” after a bunch of “soft openings”.


At the end of the last episode, we had just been introduced to “Dr. John” Cook Bennett, “The Saintly Scoundrel” as one book calls him. This is a man with many talents, and more than a few faults. (Kinda Joe’s “brother from another mother”.) He’s…….well, you’ll see as we go along.

In the meantime, teasing Joe’s “Dr. John”, gives me another very thin excuse to play my favorite “Dr. John”, so I’m gonna do it.


Mormon ChronologyCONTINUED

Doctor, Doctor

(12/16/1840) The Illinois General Assembly approves Nauvoo’s charter and grants corporate city status.

It’s actually three charters in one. Besides the city charter, there’s a charter to establish a college (The University of the City of Nauvoo), and a charter that allows the city to establish its own hit squad er… militia (The Nauvoo Legion). In retrospect, that third charter is not a good idea. (More later. yadda, yadda, yadda.)

The church claims that the charter is Joe’s “own plan and device” and “concocted for the salvation of the church”. I think this comes under the heading of “Minimizing Dr. John’s Influence”. (That’s Dr. John Cook Bennett, for those of you who’ve just joined us.)

Dr. John

Dr. John

It’s far more likely that the Charter is mostly Dr. John’s. He’s the one with multi-state (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio & Virginia) experience in writing passable bills. He’s also the one who shepherds the charter though the Assembly. Andrew F. Smith: The Saintly Scoundrel – The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett, p 60, University of Illinois Press (1997) As I said, the doctor is a man of many talents, not to mention political connections.


(1/5/1841) Joe calls the good doctor “active and diligent, always employing himself in doing good for his fellow men”. Later in the month, in his “Proclamation to the Saints Scattered Abroad“, Joe gives a written “shout out” to the doctor “He is a man of enterprize, extensive acquirements, and of independent mind, and is calculated to be a great blessing to our community”.

Over the next couple of months, Joe makes Dr. John Mayor of Nauvoo, Chancellor of “Nauvoo U”, and Inspector General of the Nauvoo Legion. (A reward for each section of the charter?)

There’s an old saw that states “You can’t con a con man”. Well, Dr. John is proof that you can! To be fair to Joe, he’s competing with a world-class grifter. This dude is so awesome, he makes Big Daddy his “mark“.

(1/19/1841) Big D drops by for one of his frequent chats. Again, let my servant John C. Bennett help you in your labor in sending my word to the kings and people of the earth, and stand by you, even you my servant Joseph Smith, in the hour of affliction; and his reward shall not fail if he receive acounsel. [sic] And for his love he shall be great, for he shall be mine if he do this, saith the Lord. I have seen the work which he hath done, which I accept if he continue, and will crown him with blessings and great glory.” D&C 124:16-17 Kinda makes Big D look his usual non-precient, not to mention GULL-E-BULL!

While he’s there, Big Daddy tells Joe he needs a new temple. (Probably because he’s been kicked out of his first, and his second was never built.) This one is mostly completed and dedicated in 1846 as the Mormonites are getting kicked out of the area. At first, they try to lease it to the Catholic church, but the Catholics don’t want it. They finally sell it in 1848 after it’s been heavily vandalized.

Not the "El Hotel"

Not the “El Hotel”

He also wants Joe to build a boarding house. Not only that, but it has to be named after B.D.. “And now I say unto you, as pertaining to my boarding house which I have commanded you to build for the boarding of strangers, let it be built unto my name, and let my name be named upon it, and let my servant Joseph and his house have place therein, from generation to generation.” D&C 124:56 Hmmm. The YHWH Hotel? Well, it has a nice ring to it. Or maybe he’s referring to his original name (El) from his earlier incarnation as head of the Canaanite Pantheon. Then it would be the “El Hotel”, with an even better ring. Although, some people might expect to see strolling mariachis in the lobby.

However, four verses later, B.D. decides maybe it should be called “Nauvoo House“. He even names the people he wants to construct it. Talk about micro-managing. Where was he during the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company fiasco? (Oh yah, he was telling Joe his anti-bank would dominate the world’s financial system.)

(NOTE TO SELF: One of these days, I’m going to have to do a post on the evolution of God. That should piss off a hell of a lot of “true believers”. But, as my dear departed grandpappy used to say, “Better to be pissed off than pissed on.”)

Oh, and one last thing (Busy chat!), B.D. tells Joe that he doesn’t have to build that temple back in Far West. Which is probably a good thing, since it’s technically open season on Mormonites in Missouri. (And, will be until 1976, when Chris Bonds rescinds the “Extermination Order” aka Missouri Executive Order 44)

(1/19/1841) Joe Sr. dies and Hyrum is immediately made “Presiding Patriarch”. Like I said last episode, Joe has decided to keep this job in the family. And, it stays in the family until 1958.

(2/5/1841) Joe appoints Dr. John Inspector General of the Nauvoo Legion. Joe’s already made himself Lieutenant General. (George Washington’s old rank.)

(2/6/1841) Joe intervenes in the Nauvoo High Council excommunication trial of “Elder” Theodore Turley. Ted stands accused of “unchristian conduct”, “romping and kissing the females”, “dancing”, oh yah, and “sleeping with two females”. Joe doesn’t think “sleeping with two females” is all that egregious. Certainly not grounds for excommunication. All Ted really needs to do is publicly confess his “sins”. Minutes of the High Council of the Church of Latter Day Saints (2/6/1841) (If he was a “prophet”, he wouldn’t even have to do that.)

By this time, Joe’s practice of bedding and wedding(?) is beginning to spread among upper management. Joe, of course, keeps denying he’s “porking” anyone but Emma.

As far as the hoi polloi are concerned, multiple bed buddies is still an abominable NO! NO! But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” Jacob 2: 23-24

Over the next three years, Ted, who is already married, “marries” three additional women, all sisters. (Kinkeee!)

(2/1841) Hearing some rumors about Dr. John, Joe sends George Miller to investigate.

(3/2/1841) George reports back that Dr. John is a serial adulterer whose wife and child have left him. Not only that, but he moves around a lot and is a shameless self promoter. He concludes that the doctor is “an impostor, and unworthy of the confidence of all good men”. (I probably should mention that George is the doctor’s primary rival at this point in time.)

(4/6/1841) Joe makes Dr. John assistant president of the church. Heady territory. That’s up there with Ollie, Sid and Hyrum. (Olliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon & Hyrum Smith, for you newbies.)

So, at this point, Dr. John is Mayor of Nauvoo, Inspector General of the Nauvoo Legion, Chancellor of “Nauvoo U” and Assistant Church President. All-in-all, not a bad first six months for the doctor.

Still, you do have to question Joe’s judgement and/or motivation. His reaction to the Miller report was to give Dr. John a huge leap in authority? This along with several other factors leads me to believe that Joe already knew of the doctor’s predilections.This also partially explains why they get along so well. (Birds of a feather and all that.)


In addition, rumors of the sexual proclivities of Mormonite leadership may have been a factor in the doctor’s request to come on board the previous summer.


(6/15/1841) Bro Hyrum and William Law write Joe a letter backing up George Miller’s original infidelity report. Joe shows Dr. John the letter and the doctor acknowledges it.

The following is strictly my opinion. However, based on the character traits Joe has demonstrated in the past, this is what I think is going down. And remember, Joe already knows this stuff and he still keeps promoting Dr. John. On the other hand, this is the second report and rumors are starting to raise their ugly heads. Plus, Dr. John’s conduct with the ladies is also starting to raise eyebrows. A LOT more on that in pt 10: “Here Come the Brides“.

Since Joe is still butt-deep in denying that he’s a serial adulterer, he gets a bit nervous. If the word spreads about the doctor and everyone knows they’re good buddies…….

Joe decides it’s best if the doctor finds another abode. Other than that, nothing much changes. Dr. John is still Mayor, Chancellor, Inspector General and Assistant Church President. I’ll explore some of the possible reasons for that in the next couple of posts.

However, there are storm clouds on the horizon. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, Apos

!!!!!NEWS FLASH!!!!!

We interrupt this narrative for an important breaking story:

Dateline: (10/24/1841); Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Palestine, Asia, Earth, Solar System, Orion Arm, Milky Way Galaxy, Local Group, Virgo Supercluster, Universe, Mind of God.

Mormon Apostle clears path for rebirth of Jewish state of Israel!

On a hill overlooking the sleepy city of Jerusalem, Apostle Orson Hyde has dedicated Palestine for the return of the children of Abraham.

Word of this shocking turn of events is spreading through the Jewish community like an Antarctic wildfire.

We’ll keep you informed as developments develop (in about 105 years).


That’s the way the church tells the story, anyway. (Well, maybe not the “Antarctic wildfire” bit.) D&C 68: 1-3; 124: 128-29

The story is mostly true. Joe has sent Orson to proselyte (that’s not a naughty word) in Palestine. And, Orson does dedicate the area for the return of the Jews. There’s even a memorial garden to commemorate the event.

Orson Hyde Memorial Garden

Orson Hyde Memorial Garden

As to whether it has any effect, physical or spiritual, is a hay burner of an entirely different hue.

And now back to our narrative, already in progress.

ne will ever know.


Emma Smith (1804-1879)

Emma Smith (1804-1879)

(3/7/1842) The Female Relief Society is organized. This is the blossoming of an idea of Sarah Kimball and Margaret Cook.

At its start, it’s initially a church sewing circle organized “after a pattern of the Priesthood.” This quickly expands to “looking to the wants of the poor”, so the men don’t have to.

The first meeting draws 20 ladies, mostly the wives of church leaders, and eight more join later. By 2014, there will be six million members in 170 countries.

Emma is elected General President. (Natch.) There are also two counselors selected and a secretary, assistant secretary and treasurer elected, none of whom are Sarah Kimball or Margaret Cook. (Hmmm.)

Several women make donations and Joe, who was invited to attend, kicks in five bucks to get things rolling.

It’s Egyptian to Me

“I give unto you my servant Joseph to be a presiding elder over all my church, to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and prophet.” D&C 124:125

(4/18-19/1842) Professor Henry Caswall, an Episcopal Clergyman by trade, and anti-Mormonite by inclination visits Nauvoo. He’s brought along a psalter. (A psalter, for all of you non-medieval Christianity freaks er…enthusiasts out there, is a manuscript containing the book of Psalms.)

Prof Caswall approaches Joe and tells him he has this ancient manuscript, and he really doesn’t know what it is. Since Joe is “famous” for his translating ability, the Professor asks him if he would kindly translate it for him.

I’ll let the professor pick up the story:

“He led the way to his house, accompanied by many elders, preachers, and other Mormon dignitaries. On entering the house, chairs were provided for the prophet and myself, while the curious and gaping spectators remained standing. I handed the book to the prophet, and begged him to explain its contents. He asked me if I had any idea of its meaning. I replied, that I believed it to be a Greek Psalter; but that I should like to hear his opinion. “No he said; “it ain’t Greek at all, except, perhaps, a few words. What ain’t Greek, is Egyptian; and what ain’t Egyptian, is Greek. This book is very valuable. It is a dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics.” Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each verse, he said: Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics; and them which follows, is the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian. Them characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates.” Upon this, the Mormons around began to congratulate me on the information I was receiving. “There,” they said; “we told you so — we told you that our prophet would give you satisfaction. None but our prophet can explain these mysteries.” The prophet now turned to me, and said, “This book ain’t of no use to you, you don’t understand it.” “Oh yes,” I replied; “it is of some use; for if I were in want of money, I could sell it for something handsome.”Greek Psalter Incident“…Having exhibited the book to the prophet, I requested him in return to show me his papyrus, and to give me his own explanation, which I had hitherto received only at second hand. He proceeded with me to his office, accompanied by the multitude. He produced the glass frames which I had seen on the previous day; but he did not appear very forward to explain the figures. I pointed to a particular hieroglyphic, and requested him to expound its meaning. No answer being returned, I looked up, and behold! the prophet had disappeared. The Mormons told me that he had just stepped out, and would probably soon return. I waited some time, but in vain: and at length descended to the street in front of the store. Here I heard the noise of wheels, and presently I saw the proophet [sic] in a light waggon, flourishing his whip and driving away as fast two fine horses could draw him. Henry Caswell: The City of the Mormons or Three Days at Nauvoo in 1842, pp 35-7 (1843) You can read the book here, or you can download it here. It’s free and rather interesting.


The church has two responses to this:

  1. Never happened!
  2. It happened, but Joe declined to translate.

I think I’ll go with the professor’s side on this one. Mainly because it’s far more logical, knowing what I know about Joe and his “translating” abilities. (Quick question: Why doesn’t Joe use his magic hat stone to translate? Did he leave it in his other jacket?)

The church, on the other hand, would be a smidgen (half a skosh) more credible if they could settle on one story and stick with it. (But, only a smidgen.)

Still to come: The Kinderhook Plates in 1843. (Stay tuned, fantasy fans.)

Well, that wraps up another episode. Next time, we’ll continue along the timeline and examine the Boggs assassination attempt and it’s aftermath. Dr. John will be here, and we’ll be joined by “God’s gunslinger” himself, Orrin Porter Rockwell. While we’re at it, we’ll explore the perks of ruling a theocracy, particularly the judicial division.

So, til we meet next time, remember “Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.”

Couldn’t find a group called “Weasels”, so I went with “Eagles”


p.s.: If my ramblings don’t revolt you, check out my FaceBook page (“Grouchy’s Grumbles”) you might just enjoy it. Better yet, you might “like” it. I’d love it if you did.It’s free (and worth every cent) and almost completely painless (other than the usual bad jokes).

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