Prophet knew, used power of the press

‘You can write for thousands’

Joseph Smith knew the power of the press. In 1843 during a Mayor's Court in Nauvoo, he told John Taylor, then-editor of the Times and Seasons: "You can write for thousands to read; while you can preach to but a few at a time." (History of the Church 5:367.)

The Printing Office of the Times and Seasons and Nauvoo Neighbor news papers in Nauvoo Il. April 27, 2002. Photo by Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News. (Submission date: 04/28/2002)
The Printing Office of the Times and Seasons and Nauvoo Neighbor news papers in Nauvoo Il. April 27, 2002. Photo by Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News. (Submission date: 04/28/2002) Credit: Photo by Scott G. Winterton

The Prophet's commitment to Church newspapers and publications was such that he authorized the purchase of a printing press during a conference of the Church in Ohio — only 18 months after the Church was organized. (B. H. Roberts, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo.)

In fact, with mobs snapping at their heels in Far West, Mo., and after already having one press destroyed by mobs in Kirtland, early Church leaders were not about to, again, lose their valuable press, a valuable defense in the ongoing war of words.

"The brethren decided to try to hide it, so by night they dug a deep hole in the backyard of a Brother Dawson, carried the press out of the building, lowered it into the hole, and covered it and the type up with dirt. There it remained until the spring of 1839, when it was dug up and taken by wagon to Nauvoo, Illinois." (Ensign, January 1971.)

In Nauvoo in June 1839 the best-known newspaper from early Church history — the Times and Seasons — began publication with its first tentative issue. Problems delayed continued publication until November, when editors reissued the paper with a slightly altered first number. (Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, A People of Promise by Glen M. Leonard.)

The Prophet Joseph wrote that repairing and cleaning the press after months in the ground adversely impaired the health of his brother, Don Carlos Smith, who was the Times and Seasons' first editor and who had edited the Church's previous publications: "The types were considerably injured by the damp; it was therefore necessary to get them into use as soon as possible, and in order to do this, Don Carlos was under the necessity of cleaning out a cellar through which a spring was constantly flowing, as the only place where he could put up the press. . . . Working in the damp cellar, and administering to the sick impaired his health." Don Carlos died in 1841. (HC 4:398-399.)

Church News-- Times and Seasons and Nauvoo Neighbor June 25th, 2002. Allred/photo (Submission date: 06/25/2002)
Church News– Times and Seasons and Nauvoo Neighbor June 25th, 2002. Allred/photo (Submission date: 06/25/2002) Credit: Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred

For much of the newspaper's tenure, the print shop operated in that damp basement at the corner of Water and Bain streets. It was not until May 1845, according to Brother Leonard's book, that the print shop was moved to the northwest corner of Main and Kimball streets, where tours are conducted today.

Times and Seasons began as a monthly religious paper in pamphlet form; later it was issued semi-monthly. Early on, it was a private business venture by Don Carlos Smith and Ebenezer Robinson, but was sold to the Church in 1842. Its editors over the years included Don Carlos Smith, Joseph Smith Jr. and John Taylor. (HC 4:23; January 1971 Ensign; Sept. 11, 1971, Church News; Nauvoo, Leonard.)

"The 131 issues of this publication chronicled the growth of Nauvoo and the progress of the Church. They contained numerous articles on the gospel and related subjects, along with the news from the missionary fields and items of interest and importance concerning Latter-day Saints." (Ensign.)

Also published by the Church in Nauvoo, on the same press, was the Nauvoo Neighbor (formerly called the Nauvoo Wasp). The Nauvoo Neighbor was a weekly community newspaper of about four pages containing advertising, poetry, stories, practical advice and "a little news," explain missionaries serving today at the Printing Office.

On Oct. 4, 1845, with mobs again threatening, Brigham Young convened a council at the Seventies Hall. There it was decided, according to Brother Leonard, that the Church would cease publication of the Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor. The Neighbor ceased publication after the Oct. 29 issue. The final number of the Times and Seasons was dated Feb. 15, 1846.

During the last Church conference in Nauvoo in October 1845, John Taylor spoke of the ceasing of Church newspapers in this great city by the river: "The world doesn't wish any news from us, and we don't wish to urge it upon them."