John C. Bennett

John C. Bennett

In discussions with devout members of the Church, I have brought up the idea of blind obedience vs. informed obedience.   I subscribe to the latter and rail against the former.    I am concerned when one’s own moral compass is required to be shut off in order to obey.

In one of these discussions, I was rebuked with the following:

“If I am asked to obey, and it is wrong, the sin will be upon my leaders’ heads.”

Between May 21 and 28, 1842, the Nauvoo High Council met several times to investigate reports of adulteries instigated by John C. Bennett and his followers.1   For those not familiar with LDS Church history, John C. Bennett was a very influential man in Nauvoo.  He helped secure Nauvoo’s Charter; became Nauvoo’s first mayor; was a General in Nauvoo’s Legion; was called as “Assistant President” to Joseph Smith.

John C. Bennett taught what was called, “spiritual wifery” – a term borrowed from some early American religionists such as those near the Blackstone Valley of Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the 1740s.2   Spiritual wifery,  as taught by Bennett and his followers, to put it bluntly, was just a one-night stand without any vestige of a marriage ceremony.

During the May 1842 proceedings investigating Bennett and his followers, Catherine Fuller Warren affirmed Bennett’s practice of “spiritual wifery” as she was one to whom he had “proposed unlawful intercourse”. During the proceedings investigating Bennett, Catherine Fuller Warren stated the  following:

“…He [Bennett] said there should be no sin upon me if there was any sin it should come upon himself….John C. Bennett was the first man that seduced me….”4

Hmm….Sounds sickeningly similar to what I was told by my acquaintance when she was defending, what I am calling, her blind obedience.

Informed obedience.   That’s where it’s at brothers and sisters.  Informed obedience.

Oh, ya,  I almost forgot.  John C. Bennett was excommunicated for his “spiritual wifery”.



1 Brian C. Hales,  Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Volume 1: History, pg. 560 – as reported by Thomas Bullock, May 26, 1844.

2 Ibid., pg. 560, footnote  62.

3 Ibid. , pg 561 – Catherine Fuller Warren, Statement before the Nauvoo High Copuncil, May 25, 1842.



Miguel is a Guatemalan-American Mormon living in the Northwest with his family. He is one of the proprietors of the Rational Faiths blog.

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