William Law was called by revelation to a position in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see D&C 124:91). However, the following account from a sermon given by George A. Smith, on January 10, 1958, shows how William Law slipped in the matter of honesty, ultimately leading to cheering on the mob at Carthage.
In Nauvoo we had another shower of dust around the Prophet. There was a man by the name of William Law, who was a Counsellor to Joseph Smith, and a man of great gravity. He preached a great deal on the stand in Nauvoo, and told the people they must be punctual and pay their debts; and he repeated it over and over again. Sunday after Sunday he preached punctuality, PUNCTUALITY, PUNCTUALITY.
I was then on a mission in England; but when I got home, I would hear, Sunday after Sunday, these addresses. Thinks I, this is a very righteous fellow; it will be perfectly safe to deal with him; and everybody thought so.
The first time I suspected but what he was as straight as a loon’s leg; at least in relation to his trading, was one day in his mill. Brother Willard Richards and myself met Bishop Smoot, and he offered to bet a barrel of salt that the Doctor was heavier than I was. We went into Law’s mill to be weighed. I was weighed on the scales where he weighed wheat into the mill.
To my surprise, I did not weigh as much by twelve pounds as usual. I thought this was a curiosity. I saw there was another pair of scales on the other side of the mill where they weighed out flour. I weighed the Doctor twice, and he weighed me twice on both scales; and I found that if I had been a bag of flour, I should have weighed twelve pounds too much; and, if I had been a bag of wheat, I should not have weighed enough by twelve pounds.
The Doctor and myself soon discovered that the gain by this villainous fraud would supply the mill with wood and hands to tend it.
Brother Joseph and I saw brother Law come out of his house one day, and brother Joseph said to me, referring to Law, “George, do you know that there is the meanest man in this town?”
“Yes,” I said, “I know he is, but did not know you thought so.”
“How did you find it out?”
“He has two sets of weights in his mill.” He also told me something about Law’s visit to certain disreputable houses in St. Louis, and gave me to understand that he knew something about Law’s hypocrisy and dishonesty in dealing, as well as myself.
I only tell this circumstance because he pulled the leading string in putting Joseph Smith to death. When he comes forth, he may expect to find his white robe dyed in the blood of innocence, and he may expect in all time to come to have that stigma upon him. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.7, p.116)
Even the brightest lights in the kingdom may flicker and dim over certain matters. A few pounds of grain seem insignificant, even the few dollars of profit to be realized therefrom. But sins have a way of spreading like cancer, from one part of a life to another, until the entire spirit is affected. A man can slip in the matter of honesty, and by and by find himself in a disreputable house in Saint Louis, and, ultimately, cheer on the mob at Carthage.
Maybe that is what Nephi meant when he warned that Satan “leadeth [us] by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth [us] with his strong cords forever” (2 Nephi 26:22).
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