Understanding Why Joseph Smith Burned Down a Newspaper Printing Press

The Nauvoo Expositor was established in June 1844, only a few weeks before Joseph and Hyrum’s deathsThe Nauvoo Expositor was created with the intention of arousing the public against the Mormons, and especially against Joseph Smith. The Nauvoo Expositor only published one issue before it was destroyed. It was four pages long.


Regardless, Joseph Smith beheld a vision that the continuing publication of the Nauvoo Expositor would lead to more bloodshed of the Saints. For the public peace, Joseph Smith and the Nauvoo Legion swiftly and quietly burned down the printing press of the Nauvoo Expositor.


It sounds crazy and uncalled for, and today it would be considered both. However, the freedom of press was not considered to be applicable to each state yet. Burning down the printing press for the Nauvoo Expositor was totally legal at the time. That is not to say that it was necessarily the right thing to do, but it was legal and handled relatively professionally.



All the families behind the Nauvoo Expositor publication were angry and left Nauvoo for a nearby city named Carthage. They swore vengeance on Joseph Smith, the Nauvoo City Council, and the entire city of Nauvoo. They tried to get Joseph arrested but were mostly unsuccessful. They then went to Colonel Levi Williams, commander of a militia and one of the Church’s enemies. Colonel Williams went to Governor Thomas Ford for assistance.


The tension grew intense. Governor Thomas Ford requested that Joseph and Hyrum Smith voluntarily go to Carthage for trial or he would send a militia into Nauvoo, which would likely mean the loss of many lives. If they did go to Carthage, he promised them protection from mob violence. Brigham Young later said he believed that if the Twelve were still in Nauvoo at the time, they would never have allowed Joseph to come back to Nauvoo from Iowa. They would have tried to protect him. He believed Joseph and Hyrum would have lived if the Twelve were there to help.


The following was taken from the book, 1001 Facts About the Prophet Joseph Smithcurrently available at cedarfort.com.