Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon grew increasingly estranged from one another in Nauvoo. Although Rigdon retained his position in the First Presidency, Smith excluded him from the majority of decision-making and even called for his release from the presidency in October 1843. In part, their dissolving relationship may have owed to Rigdon’s increasingly instable mental state. It is also plausible that the estrangement owed to Smith’s suspicion of Rigdon’s continued friendship with dissident John C. Bennett. In late 1842, Bennett published a scathing exposé of Smith and Mormonism titled History of the Saints, which, among other accusations, had accused Smith of pursuing Rigdon’s nineteen year-old daughter, Nancy, to be a plural wife. Bennett’s accusations of sexual impropriety added to growing hostility against the Mormons in Illinois, but perhaps his most alarming charge was of a secret Mormon plot to overtake Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri, and raise up a religious empire. Although a fabrication, the accusation did not seem implausible to residents of Hancock County Given who grew increasingly uneasy with Smith’s insurmountable political, military, and religious power.
Two prominent Nauvoo citizens, brothers William and Wilson Law, became intent on exposing practices that increasingly brought them anxiety. William began serving as counselor in Smith’s presidency in 1841; and both brothers served in the Nauvoo Legion, were members of the Nauvoo City Council, were active in the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge, and opposed the secret practice of polygamy. William began distancing himself from the prophet after his wife, Jane, claimed that Smith had made advances towards her. Smith removed William from his position as counselor in the First Presidency and he and Wilson were both excommunicated. Ten days following their excommunication, they organized the True Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also called the Reformed Mormon Church) and, along with several supporters, began preparing an oppositional newspaper titled the Nauvoo Expositor.