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Join Date: Dec 2006
It's rather long, but an interesting read.
Here is my attempt at a brief summary of some highlights from the article: Joseph Smith favored annexing Canada and Mexico into the United States. He wanted the U.S. to free every convict. He wanted the penitentiaries to be turned into seminaries and to have only murder punishable by confinement or death. As the prophet he received a new revelation to sanction taking multiple wives. By force Joseph Smith suppressed speech, destroying the printing press of a newspaper. He did this because the newpaper revealed the Smith's secret teachings to the inner circle of the Mormon leadership some new corrupt doctrines.
And here are a few excerpts from the above web page document (the heading are my own):
Joseph Smith as presidential candidate
Concerning the annexation of Canada and Mexico:
Smith also favored the annexation of Texas and Oregon to the United States. As the Mormon founder contended: "Oregon belongs to this government honorably; and when we have the red man's consent, let the Union spread from the east to the west sea; and if Texas petitions Congress to be adopted among the sons of liberty, give her the right hand of fellowship, and refuse not the same friendly grip to Canada and Mexico.36 Not surprisingly, Smith realized (as would Brigham Young a decade later) that the degree of liberty required to allow movements like his to flourish was greatly dependent upon the steady expansion of the frontier. The unsettled west invited social experimentation, while the ever-increasing population of the east and midwest meant criticism, conflict, and unrelenting pressure for conformity.
Concerning the freeing of convicts:
The final item on Smith's agenda, and perhaps the most radical plank in his platform, concerned a thoroughgoing reform of America's prison system. In his "Views," Smith exhorted America's citizens to: "petition your State Legislatures to pardon every convict in their several penitentiaries, blessing them as they go, and saying to them, in the name of the Lord, Go thy way, and sin no more.
No punishment for felonies:
"Advise your legislators, when they make laws for ... any felony, to make the penalty applicable to work upon roads, public works, or any place where the culprit can be taught more wisdom and more virtue, and become more enlightened. Rigor and seclusion will never do as much to reform the propensities of men as reason and friendship. Murder only can claim confinement or death. Let the penitentiaries be turned into seminaries of learning, where intelligence, like the angels of heaven, would banish such fragments of barbarism.1141 Again, on this issue Smith demonstrated his faith in the potential deification of humanity. A human race unfettered by the chains of original sin need not adopt a Draconian code of law. Smith also advocated the termination of imprisonment for debt, and of punishing soldiers for desertion. Smith believed that the thought of forfeiting honor would be incentive enough to keep military men at their posts.' Society's first response to crime ought to be an attempt to reintegrate the offender back into the community. Not unexpectedly, that proposal subjected Smith to a degree of ridicule. (An unfriendly newspaper editorial reprinted in the Nauvoo Neighbor remarked that "if this humane recommendation be adopted, the 'specie basis' would soon disappear from Joe's mother bank and branches . . . which would show a 'beggarly account of empty boxes.'")43 However, that view of prison reform was consistent with Smith's concept of the local community and its religious institutions as the level at which moral authority was ultimately exercised. Thus, the federal and state governments would assume a regulatory role in defining crime and overseeing the judicial process, but the reform of the individual perpetrator must be left to the community. By sentencing such convicts to meaningful labor within the community, Smith hoped that their morality might be improved, their personal honor restored, and that they might eventually be reassimilated into society as law-abiding and productive citizens.
The open canon of scriptures:
However, it would be the introduction of radical new doctrines into Mormonism during the Nauvoo period which would lead to the unraveling of Smith's "theodemocratic" principles, and, eventually, to the downfall of Mormonism in Illinois. The LDS church's open canon of scripture suggested the possibility that the next divine revelation might dramatically change the character of the faith. Such was the case with the doctrine of polygamy. As early as 1841 Smith had begun to teach the doctrine of plural marriage to the inner circle of Mormon leadership, and by 1843 he was recording his extra marriages in his journal.51 The introduction of polygamy into Mormonism had two major consequences. First of all, it introduced a large element of instability into Smith's political philosophy. If plural marriage were to be practiced within the LDS church, then suddenly the regulatory duties of the federal government were in direct conflict with the moral and spiritual mission of the community.
Secondly, the new body of doctrine alienated many Mormons who had embraced the faith during the church's earlier days when it more closely resembled traditional Christianity. The new revelations concerning multiple marriage, along with the emerging doctrines concerning the plurality of gods and eternal human progression, precipitated a large departure from the church during the last year of Smith's life. One of those people was a man named William Law. A former counselor of Smith's, Law was appalled by the rumors of those novel teachings, withdrew from the church and established an opposition press known as the Nauvoo Expositor. In the Expositor's first and only issue, the paper stated as its purpose the disclosure of the corruThe open canon of scripturest doctrines that had taken hold within the Mormon church. Indeed, the Expositor was not an anti-Mormon publication; the editors insisted on the first page that "we all verily believe, and many of us know as a surety, that the religion of the Latter Day Saints, as originally taught by Joseph Smith ... is verily true." However, the editors also exhorted the Saints to not ". . . yield up tranquilly a superiority to that man which the reasonableness of past events, and the laws of our country declare to be pernicious and diabolical. We hope many items of doctrine, as now taught, some of which, however, are taught secretly, and denied openly, (which we know positively is the case,) and others publicly, considerate men will treat with contempt; for we declare them heretical and damnable in their influence, though they find many devotees."52
Of course, Smith and the church hierarchy at Nauvoo were outraged. Smith swiftly summoned the Nauvoo city council, and, declaring the Expositor a nuisance to be abated, had the press and as many issues of the paper as he could obtain burned. In a statement later published in the Neighbor, Smith accused the publishers of the Expositor of seeking "the destruction of the institutions of this city, both civil and religious." Consequently, "to rid the city of a paper so filthy and pestilential as this, become the duty of every good citizen, who loves good order and morality... If then our charter gives us the power to decide what shall be a nuisance and cause it to be removed, where is the offense? What law is violated? If then no law has been violated, why this ridiculous excitement and bandying with lawless ruffians to destroy the happiness of a people whose religious motto is 'peace and good will toward all men'?"54