Nauvoo High Council in Action - 1844
Warsaw Messenger – March 20, 1844
For the Warsaw Signal.
Mr. Editor: --
In all probability, you have heard of the existence of a body in Nauvoo City, called the "High Council," whose business it is to investigate all the affairs that concern the church, to try all offenders against the laws of said church, and punish accordingly. Of course, this court is considered by the members, to use the words of Mr. Dillon, in his history of the Inquisition, the most just, correct and holy of all others. I had often heard of this court, and my curiosity was aroused to see it, and I had the fortune to have it perfectly satisfied in the following manner. Being in that city, last December, I heard considerable talk of the doctrine of Spiritual Wives, which doctrine, I find has been, and is now being taught to a great extent in that place, the proofs of which are daily presenting themselves, but in what shape, I shall leave you to determine.
Being compelled to remain in that city on account of the closing of the river, I was happy to learn that there was to be a trial of one of their Priests, not for teaching said doctrine, but for teaching it too publicly. Accordingly on the day of the trial, I repaired to the council chamber and by good luck, obtained a seat, the room being crowded to excess. It was with much difficulty that I could learn the names of all concerned, but shall endeavor to give them as correct as possible: but previous to my going farther, I will say, that before this occurrence transpired, I cared little or nothing about their creed, consequently was not carried away, as other[s] are against them, on account of their faith; and therefore I watched their proceedings strictly, but without prejudice. But it was impossible to be there long, without seeing that it was fixed and settled between Smith and the accused (the trial merely being got up for effect,) that it should all be blown over. The parties concerned, as near as I could find out, were, Joseph Smith, complainant, Harrison Sagers, defendant, and the two principal witnesses were, Lucy Sagers, wife of the said Sagers, and her sister, Miss Mason, to whom he had been teaching this doctrine for the last two years; which fact was clearly proven, and would have been satisfactory to any court but such an accursed Inquisition as this. The evidence here produced, is of too black and despicable a nature to be described; and had the accused been dealt with according to his crime, he would have been divested of his office, as priest, and cut off from the church. As is common, however, in all cases of importance, that come before this tribunal, instead of meeting his just deserts, after a short address from the Prophet, which was more to screen himself and brother, than to chastize, the said Sagers was discharged by the Prophet, notwithstanding the suit was brought before the said High Council; and that body did not act officially on that subject, no vote being taken. I must say that a more ungallant speech than that of the Prophet, was never spoken in the presence of females -- in fact, so lewd and lascivious, that it was with difficulty that I could sit still and hear it. I would say more, but my time is short, and I am afraid I have occupied too much of your columns already; but if you should think this worthy of notice, I will give you a more full account at a future period, but shall now close, subscribing myself yours, &c.
Note 1: According to Mormon sources, on Apr. 13, 1844, “A charge was preferred against Harrison Sagers for teaching spiritual wife doctrine and neglecting his family, which was handed over to the High Council to act upon.” LDS History of the Church, VI:333; cf. Nauvoo Expositor, June 7, 1844: "Whereas my husband, the Rt. Rev. W. H. Harrison Sagers, Esq., has left my bed and board without cause or provocation, this is to notify the public not to harbor or trust him on my account, as I will pay no debts of his contracting. More anon. Lucinda Sagers."
Note 2: An earlier (Nov. 25, 1843) problem with Priest Harrison Sagers is recorded in LDS History of the Church, VI:81: "In the evening the High Council sat on the case of Harrison Sagers, charged with seduction, and having stated that I had taught it was right. Charge not sustained. I was present with several of the Twelve, and gave an address tending to do away with every evil, and exhorting them to practice virtue and holiness before the Lord; told them that the Church had not received any permission from me to commit fornication, adultery, or any corrupt action; but my every word and action has been to the contrary. If a man commit adultery, he cannot receive the celestial kingdom of God. Even if he is saved in any kingdom, it cannot be the celestial Kingdom. I did think that the many examples that have been made manifest, such as John C. Bennett's and others, were sufficient to show the fallacy of such a course of conduct. I condemned such actions in toto, and warned the people present against committing such evils; for it will surely bring a curse upon any person who commits such deeds."
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