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Shocking denunciation of Joseph Smith and Mormonism
by Emma Smith in 1845?   Not likely . . .


VERMONT MERCURY   (newspaper, Woodstock, Vermont) for Friday, December 19, 1845 [IX:39].

Folio, 21 X 15 inches. [4] pages. Complete issue. In very good, clean condition; creased, minor darkening to small blank area in upper margin of front page.

** SOLD ** on eBay ($125.00).

AT THE BEGINNING OF PAGE THREE appears the famous but presumably spurious letter of Emma Smith to James Arlington Bennet, the old friend of the Mormons in New York, editor of the New York Sun. Under date of November 20, 1845, Emma supposedly denied the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, shocking readers across the nation . . .


First published in the Sun on December 9, the hot copy was picked up by other papers, including the one now available here!


showing the full inner-page spread (21 X 31 inches),
with the location of the nine-inch "Emma" letter indicated here in yellow


According to Newell and Avery, this was a forgery, perhaps concocted by Bennet himself. Emma fired off letters of denial almost immediately, and retained bitter memories of Bennet's apparent betrayal for the rest of her life. Yet the data is confusing at best, and the whole truth may never be known . . .

     Perhaps pressure from his friends in New York was beginning to wear on Bennet and he sought a way to salvage his reputation. In that light, the more crucial paragraph in the letter is the last one, for coming from the respected Emma Smith was the statement: "What object Gen. Arlington Bennett has in advocating the cause of these petty tyrants, I am not able to understand, for he assured me, when at my house, that he had not the smallest intention of connecting himself in any manner with them, much less removing with them to the Pacific Ocean." With a stroke of the pen, Bennet publicly disassociated himself from the Mormons. At the same time he had a base for future dialogue with the Sun and a reason to speak out in favor of the church and its leaders as he countered "Emma's" letter.

     Because the Sun editors were familiar with Bennet's handwriting and style, he most likely had an accomplice write the "Emma" letter. On December 19 the Sun carried his reply to the "Emma" letter. He stated that the letter either came from Emma or "some person in her confidence," then argued impressively for the church, praised Orson Pratt, defended the previous state of education in the community, and lauded Joseph Smith and the truthfulness of his revelations. [Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith . . . (Garden City, NY, 1984), p. 225; for full background, see pp. 222-6, 231-2]

This is a "faith promoting" if indeed likely explanation of the controversy, but it is fascinating to contemplate the purported expressions of the widow who, we know, had undergone unspeakable stress and pressure by this time. She was certainly capable of intense denial (as with the polygamy of her husband).


The Mormon Times and Seasons newspaper in Nauvoo did not appear to work very hard to undo the bad public relations (probably because those in the ascendancy there had little use for Emma by this time). They merely printed Emma's succinct official repudiation of the letter on an inside page (one column inch, January 15, 1846 issue [ VI:21], page 1096):


Nauvoo, Dec. 30th 1845.

To the Editor of the New York Sun;

Sir: I wish to inform you, and the Public through your paper, that the letter published Tuesday morning, December 9th, is a forgery, the whole of it, and I hope that this notice will put a stop to all such communications.







The original "Emma" communication to the Sun had been so much longer and more dramatic than the official denial letter that one wonders at the brevity of the latter.

Below appears the text of the entire controversial November 20 "Emma" letter as published in the Vermont newspaper preserved and offered here (nine column inches):






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