Nauvoo Expositor was a conspirators’ tool to destroy Joseph Smith

Events leading to the June 27, 1844, martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith included the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, as described in History of the Church, with Joseph writing: "Monday, June 10, 1844. — I was in the City Council from 10 a.m., to 1:20 p.m., and from 2:20 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. investigating the merits of the Nauvoo Expositor, and also the conduct of the Laws, Higbees, Fosters, and others, who have formed a conspiracy for the purpose of destroying my life, and scattering the Saints or driving them from the state.

"An ordinance was passed concerning libels. The Council passed an ordinance declaring the Nauvoo Expositor a nuisance, and also issued an order to me to abate the said nuisance. I immediately ordered the Marshal to destroy it without delay, and at the same time issued an order to Jonathan Dunham, acting Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion, to assist the Marshal with the Legion, if called upon so to do.

"About 8 p.m., the Marshal returned and reported that he had removed the press, type, printed paper, and fixtures into the street, and destroyed them. This was done because of the libelous and slanderous character of the paper, its avowed intention being to destroy the municipality and drive the Saints from the city."

The reason for the destruction of the press was discussed during the 1994 Sons of Utah Pioneers Mormon History Symposium by Larry Porter, a BYU religion professor with specialties in Church history and doctrine. Enemies of the Church, including apostate William Law, plotted to kill the Prophet but were thwarted when their plans were revealed. Because of this, Brother Porter recounted, "They discussed how they could get to Joseph Smith and get him to commit some overt act which would cause the law to come in and get him away from his friends where the enemies could get to him with powder and ball. They concluded that they would float a newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor." (Dec. 3, 1994, Church News.)

The publication was libelous against Church leaders, Brother Porter said, and quoted John Taylor as saying the people rose up against it. The Nauvoo City Council declared the Expositor a public nuisance and directed that it be removed.

"On the face of it," he commented, "if you were to not chip all the bark away, it appears as though the sanctity of the press had been violated. But when you realize that these men had formed a blood conspiracy against the Prophet Joseph Smith, and were not adverse to taking his life and that of Hyrum Smith and others of their primary leaders, then it takes on a different bent."