Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
John Cook Bennett  John Cook Bennett

1804 - 1867
  • Born 1804 Fair Haven Massachusetts
  • Baptized 1840
  • First Mayor of Nauvoo 1841
  • Commander of the Nauvoo Legion
  • Assistant President of the Church 1841
  • Excommunicated 1842
  • Bitter ememy of the Church, attempted assasin, etc.
  • Died 1867 Polk City, Iowa

    John C. Bennett was born in Fair Haven, Bristol County,Massachusetts on August 3,1804 to J. and N. Bennett. He was well educated and possessed many gifts and accomplishments. He was a physician, a university professor, and a brigadier-general in the Illinois Militia.

    Bennett became aware of the travails of the Latter-day Saints as they were expelled from Missouri and made their mid-winter exodus accross the frozen Mississippi River into western Illinois. On the 27th of July, 1840, he offered his services to the Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith replied, inviting him to come to Commerce, if he felt so disposed, but warned him at the same time not to expect exaltation "in this generation," from devotion to the cause of truth and a suffering people; nor worldly riches; only the approval of God. The outcome of the correspondence was that he joined the Church and rose to prominent positions among the Saints.

    Because of his untiring work in obtaining the city charter of Nauvoo, he was honored by being elected the first mayor of Nauvoo. He also rose to prominence in the councils of the Church, and appeared to be a firm believer in the Gospel, and a staunch friend to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    Joseph wrote of him: "We are happy to state that several of the principal men in Illinois, who have listened to the doctrines we promulgate, have become obedient to the faith, and are rejoicing in the same; among whom is John C. Bennett, M. D., Quartermaster-General of Illinois. We mention this gentleman first, because, that during our persecutions in Missouri, he became acquainted with the violence we were suffering while in that state, on account of our religion; his sympathy for us was aroused, and his indignation kindled against our persecutors, for the cruelties practiced upon us, and their flagrant violation of both the law and the Constitution. Amidst their heated zeal to put down the truth, he addressed us a letter, tendering to us his assistance in delivering us out of the hands of our enemies, and restoring us again to our privileges, and only required at our hands to point out the way and he would be forthcoming, with all the forces he could raise for the purpose. He has been one of the instruments in effecting our safety and deliverance, from the unjust persecutions and demands of the authorities of Missouri, and also in procuring the city chapter. He is a man of enterprise, extensive acquirements, and of independent mind, and is calculated to be a great blessing to our community.

    Not many months later, however, Bennett fell into temptation and became guilty of immoral conduct and lost the spirit of the Gospel and his love for President Joseph Smith. He refused to repent and his soul became filled with bitterness. He was forced to resign as mayor. The first intimation that all was not well with him was made manifest to the Prophet May 7, 1842, after a drill and sham battle by the Nauvoo Legion. This event had been under preparation since the previous January. Bennett was the major general of the legion, and President Joseph Smith was lieutenant-general. On the day mentioned, in the forenoon there was a parade of the legion, of some twenty-six companies, comprising about two thousand troops. Judge Stephen A. Douglas, later to become famed as Abraham Lincoln's antagonist in the notable Lincoln-Douglas debates,who was holding court at Carthage, adjourned his court and with some leading attorneys went to Nauvoo to be present at the military maneuvers of the legion. While there they were guests of President Joseph Smith. The day passed peacefully without confusion. A large company of spectators and distinguished strangers had assembled to witness the sham battle. John C. Bennett, as major general arranged for the Prophet to take command of the first cohort during the battle, but this the Prophet declined to do. Next Bennett requested him to take his station in the rear of the cavalry without his staff, while the engagement was going on; but Captain Albert P. Rockwood, of the Prophet's body guard, would not consent for some reason and kept close by the Prophet's side, who chose his own position during the battle. The Spirit of the Lord whispered to the Prophet that all was not well, and after the day's celebration was over he said: "And if General Bennett's true feelings toward me are not made manifest to the world in a very short time, then it may be possible that the gentle breathings of that Spirit, which whispered to me on parade that there was mischief concealed in that sham battle, were false; a short time will determine the point. Let John C. Bennett answer at the day of judgment, 'Why did you request me to command one of the cohorts, and also to take my position without my staff, during the sham battle, on the 7th of May, 1842, where my life might have been the forfeit, and no man have known who did the deed?'

    Bennett's fellowship with the people of God did not last much longer. Bennett had begun living a life of gross immorality, seducing the innocents of Nauvoo and claiming that such immoral acts were sanctioned by new and secret doctrine revealed to him by Joseph. On the 25th of May, 1842, he was notified that the leaders of the Church did no longer recognize him as a member, because of his impure life, and shortly afterwards the Church took action against him. Bennett made an affidavit in which he said he had never been taught anything in the least contrary to the principles of strict morality and the principles of the Gospel, by the Prophet Joseph Smith. This statement was volunteered. On the 19th of that same month the council of the city met and elected Joseph Smith to fill the unexpired term as mayor of Nauvoo. At this low point in his life, Bennett attempted to commit suicide but was prevented from so doing by the ministrations of the saints. He was accused before the city council with having said Joseph Smith taught him to practice immorality. He, Bennett, answered that those who said such a thing were "infernal liars," for Joseph Smith had always taught him to be virtuous. He then pled to be forgiven of his wrong doing, and said he hoped yet to prove by repentance his worthiness to fellowship in the Church. For the sake of his mother, he prayed that his evil practices might not be exposed. In this apparently repentant attitude he appeared before nearly one hundred brethren and cried like a child, saying, "that he was worthy of the severest chastisement." The brethren gave him the benefit of being sincere, and the Prophet pled in his behalf for leniency. His repentance however did not prove to be genuine, for it was not long afterwards when he was circulating the same reports and teaching others to be like himself, declaring that such doctrines came from the Prophet Joseph Smith

    Shortly he became one of the most bitter enemies of the Church. His slanders, his falsehoods and unscrupulous attacks, which included perjury and attempted assassination were the means of inflaming public opinion to such an extent that the tragedy at Carthage became possible.

    Why, then, did his name appear, in Revelation, as that of a trusted assistant of Joseph? John Taylor furnishes the answer to that question. He says, "Respecting John C. Bennett: I was well acquainted with him. At one time he was a good man, but fell into adultery, and was cut off from the Church for his iniquity" (Hist. of the Church, Vol. V., p. 81). At this time he was a good man. But he was overcome by the adversary and made the slave of his carnal desires. The Lord knew him and warned him. "His reward shall not fail if he receive counsel." "He shall be great  * * *  if he do this," etc. Bennett did not heed these warning "ifs" from Him who knew what was in his heart.

    "Bennett lived to be despised by all who knew him. "For some years before his death he suffered from violent fits; he also partly lost the use of his limbs and of his tongue, and it was difficult for him to make himself understood. He dragged out a miserable existence, without a person scarcely to take the least interest in his fate, and died without a soul to mourn his departure" (Andrew Jenson, Hist. Rec., p. 496).

    This vile creature died a despised traitor to all that is good and decent on August 5, 1867 in Polk City, Polk County, Iowa.

   Despite Grampa Bill's commentary on Bennett, someone has had Temple Ordinances performed for him in the Provo Temple in 1985. The Grampa does not know whether proper authorization from the Brethren was obtained, nor doth he speculate. Perhaps there is hope for the worst of us.

    The History of the Church; Multiple citations. See index.
    Encyclopedia of Mormonism; Vol.4, Appendix 1.
    The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith by Lyndon W. Cook, p.253.
    Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation by Lawrence R. Flake, pp.281-283
    2005 Church Almanac, p. 60

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