Question: Did Joseph Smith write a pro-polygamy pamphlet called The Peace Maker in 1842?

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Question: Did Joseph Smith write a pro-polygamy pamphlet called The Peace Maker in 1842?

There is little reason to think that Joseph Smith or the Church had anything to with the publication of The Peace Maker

Joseph Smith is claimed to have written a pro-polygamy pamphlet called "The Peace Maker" in 1842, despite the fact that he denied doing so. In a variant version, the pamphlet is claimed to have been published by Joseph (though written by another) as a "trial balloon" for polygamy, but Joseph denied any connection with it when reaction was negative.

Reference source

The Peace Maker's doctrines are different from Joseph's, its creation dates to at least 1840, its author had a poor opinion of the Mormons initially, and a private letter makes it clear that Jacobs and Joseph had had no contact or introduction even after its publication. A later letter to Brigham Young makes it clear that Jacob wrote the pamphlet on his own for a non-LDS audience, and once a member of the Church considered it something best left in the past. There is little reason to think that Joseph Smith or the Church had anything to with the publication of The Peace Maker.

Joseph denied having anything to do with the pamphlet in a statement published in the Times and Seasons in December 1842

NOTICE

There was a book printed at my office, a short time since, written by Udney H. Jacobs, on marriage, without my knowledge; and had I been apprised of it, I should not have printed it; not that I am opposed to any man enjoying his privileges; but I do not wish to have my name associated with the authors, in such an unmeaning rigmarole of nonsence [nonsense], folly, and trash. JOSEPH SMITH. [1]

The pamphlet also contained a number of ideas which Joseph certainly would not have sanctioned, including the claim that Udney was the prophet Elijah (2), the person spoken of in Isaiah 66:7-8 (25), and the prophet who would stop the mouth of kings (22). There is little that parallels Latter-day Saint ideas. [2]

Udney Jacob's view of the Mormons

Furthermore, Udney would write to the President of the United States on 19 March 1840,

I hold in my hands a manuscript, which if it was published seasonably, and sufficiently circulated, would I humbly conceive be the certain means of insuring your Election. Of this I have no doubt. I am thorily acquainted with the religious principals and minds, of every sect, and denomination of men in this land. And I now offer to place this almighty power for the time being at your disposal: merely, by a publication of the book alluded to.... I remember you in the Citty of Hudson when a Lawyer there. And I now reside in Hancock Co. Illinois, in the vicinity of the Mormons who have by their delegates visited you this winter past. These Mormons know but very little of me; but Sir, I know them—and I know them to be a deluded and dangerous set of fanatics, dangerous I say, as far as their influence goes. [Joseph] Smith has returned home [from Washington, D.C.], and I am informed is determined to throw his weight with all his deluded followers into the scale against you. They are at this time in the United States a large body rapidly increasing. J. Smith and Rigdon hold their [the Saints'] consciences. Now Sir, a system of religious, as well as political truth. Supported by irresistible and admitted Testimony, calculated to cut it's own way to the very center of any rational mind; be their oppinions what they may; and compelling them to believe verily, that by their coming votes their own destiny, not only for time but for an endless Eternity is absolutely involved, would produce a tremendious effect. This my dear Sir can be done, even by your humble Servant. Observe, I do not pretend to say that every vote in the Union shall be thus influenced. But, I say this. That by the means which I hold in my power [my manuscript] if assisted reasonably by your aid. It [the book] shall throw such a weight into the right scale as shall bring the other infallibly to kick the beam [tip the scales]. [3]

Jacobs clearly does not think much of the Mormons. When the president declined to help him publish, Jacobs seems to have turned to the Nauvoo press near the end of 1842.

Joseph and Udney had never met

There is also evidence that Jacob and Joseph had never met, even after publication of his pamphlet in 1842. In January 1844, Jacob wrote to Joseph:

I hope you will not consider this letter an intrusion—I have not to be sure the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with you nor do I know that I am worthy of that favor; yet I believe that I am worth saving.... [4]

Jacob would later join the Church, and in 1851 wrote Brigham Young about another matter:

I cannot imagine why you suspected me unless it was that I wrote a pamphlet some years since entitled the Peace Maker--you have certainly a wrong idea of that matter. I was not then a member of this Church, and that pamphlet was not written for this people but for the citizens of the United States who professed to believe the Bible. [5]

This is a private letter, not written for public consumption. Jacob was trying to disabuse Brigham (now his priesthood leader) of suspicion in some matter, and he takes pains to assure Brigham that he is not guilty of the matter under consideration, and that he did write the Peace Maker—but hastens to add that this had nothing to do with the Church and (presumably) he is not now advancing those ideas.

Brigham was in favor of polygamy—why would Jacob be trying to reassure him if the Church had been in on Joseph's "trial balloon" for polygamy all along?

And, why did these private letters go unpublished or unheralded if their intent was to throw us off the scent? Why were their contents not trumpeted by Joseph or Brigham if Jacobs was involved in some complex plot to hide Joseph's involvement with The Peace Maker?

Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, Jr., "Notice," Times and Seasons 4 no. 2 (1 December 1842), 32. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  2. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 445.
  3. Udney H. Jacob to Martin Van Buren, president of the United States [March 19, 1840], Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield, Illinois); cited by Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A New Look at the Alleged Little Known Discourse by Joseph Smith," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 1 (Autumn 1968), 52.
  4. Original in LDS archives, cited by Godfrey, "A New Look," 53. See also discussion in Kenneth W. Godfrey, "Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839-1846," PhD thesis, Brigham Young University (1967), 90–110
  5. Udney H. Jacobs to Honorable Brigham Young, March 5, 1851, found in the LDS Church Historian's Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; cited by Godfrey, "A New Look," 53. Another Church source also rejected the idea that Joseph was involved: Eli B. Kelsey, "A Base Calumny Refuted," Millennial Star 12 no. 6 (15 March 1850), 92-93.