Joseph Smith/Polygamy/John C. Bennett/Brothel at Nauvoo

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Was there a brothel in Nauvoo near the temple?

Was there a brothel in Nauvoo near the temple?

Summary: Bennett had a brothel, and some have claimed that the Mormons' tolerance of it illustrates their moral depravity. In fact, the Saints destroyed the brothel and ultimately excommunicated Bennett for this and related acts.

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Question: Was there a brothel in Nauvoo near the temple?

There was indeed a brothel in Nauvoo that was operated by John C. Bennett, who tried to block legal action against it

It is claimed that the presence of a brothel in Nauvoo near the temple demonstrates the moral degeneracy of the Mormons. There was indeed a brothel in Nauvoo, however, it was operated by John C. Bennett, who tried to block legal action against it once the Mormons found out about it. It was disposed of when Bennett's actions were unmasked, and he left Nauvoo in disgrace vowing revenge.

John C. Bennett was not content with seducing the women of Nauvoo privately. Brigham Young later told him that "one charge was seducing young women, and leading young men into difficulty—he admitted it—if he had let young men and women alone it would have been better for him." [1] Young was essentially charging Bennett with encouraging or facilitating prostitution.

Bennett built the brothel and placed a large sign on the front that was visible to everyone that passed it

Taylor wrote,

John C. Bennett and a lot of them built an ill-fame house near the Temple in Nauvoo.... After they had built it, John C. Bennett and the Fosters,—I knew all their names at the time, they were the head men of it, after they got it built, they wrote on it in large letters what it was,—a sign declaring what it was, and what it was there for...." [2]

The Mormons were not amused, and they pushed the building into a nearby ravine

The Mormons were not amused, since "We could not get [to meeting] without passing this house and looking right at it, and one or two thousand people would go…[past it] on a Sabbath and they didn't feel very good seeing that house there with great big letters facing them." [3] After Bennett's departure, they "took the building, and put it on rollers; and there was a deep gully there, and they pitched the house into it." [4] While mayor, Bennett also reportedly tried to prevent the city council from disposing of a "house of ill fame." [5]

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


  1. Brigham Young testimony in Multiple, "Municipal Court," Times and Seasons 5/10 (15 May 1844): 539.
  2. Richard Price. "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes." (n.p.: Price Publishing Company, 2001), chapter 11 < >; citing John Taylor in Anonymous, Complainant's Abstract of Pleading and Evidence in the Circuit Court of the United States, Western District of Missouri, Western Division of Kansas City. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Complainant, Vs. The Church of Christ at Independence, Missouri ... Respondents' (Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Publishing House and Bindery, 1893), 192.
  3. Vesta Crawford "Notes on Emma Smith," [typewritten notes of interviews with descendants of Emma Smith], University of Utah; cited in Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd ed. (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 112.
  4. Price. "Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy [Vol. 1]."), chapter 11; citing John Taylor in Anonymous, Pleading and Evidence, 192.
  5. The Wasp 1 (2 October 1842): 2 reports Bennett's opposition; the decision to destroy the house is described in "The Neusance [sic]," Times and Seasons 3/2 (15 November 1841): 599–600. Note that Brodie cites these sources only as evidence that there was a brothel.