The Essential Joseph Smith
Foreword by Marvin S. Hill
“To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” Joseph Smith to the Latter Day Saints,
16 December 1838 and 20 March 1839 (from Times and Seasons [Commerce, Illinois] 1 [April 1840], 6:82-86; and “History of Joseph Smith,” Deseret News [Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory]
4 [26 January 1854], 4:; 4 [2 February 1854], 5:)
[p.93]To the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Caldwell county, and to those who are scattered abroad, who are persecuted and made desolate, and who are afflicted in divers manners, for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s, by the hands of a cruel mob, and the tyranical disposition of the authorities of this State.
We are sensible also, that your perils are greatly augmented by the wickedness and corruption of false brethren, may grace, mercy and peace be and abide with you. And notwithstanding all your sufferings we assure you that you have our prayers and fervent desire for your welfare both day and night.
We believe that, that God who sees us in this solitary place, will hear our prayers and reward you openly.
Know assuredly Dear brethren, that it is for the testimony of Jesus, that we are in bonds and in prison; but we say unto you, that we consider our condition better, notwithstanding our sufferings, than those who have persecuted and smitten us, and have borne false witness against us; and although our enemies seem to have a great triumph over us for the present, we most assuredly believe and know, that their triumph will be but short, and that God will deliver us out of their hands, notwithstanding their bearing false witness and otherwise. We want you, brethren, to remember Haman and Mordecai, you know that Haman could not be satisfied, so long as he saw Mordecai, at the kings gate, consequently he sought the life of Mordecai, and the whole Jewish people. But the Lord so ordered it, that Haman was hanged upon his own gallows: so shall it come to pass with poor Haman in the last days.
[p.94]Those who have sought by their unbelief and wickedness; as well as by the principle of mobocracy, to destroy us and the people of God, by killing and scattering them abroad, and wilfully and maliciously delivering us into the hands of murderers, desiring us to be put to death, and having us dragged about in chains and cast into prison! and for what cause? It is because we were honest men, and were determined to defend the lives of the saints, at the expense of our own; I say unto you that those, who have thus vilely treated us, shall like Haman be hanged on their own gallows, or in other words, shall fall into their own gin and ditch, which they have prepared for us, and shall go backward and stumble, and fall, and their name shall perish, and God shall reward them according to all their abominations.
Dear Brethren, do not think that our hearts are faint, as though some strange thing had happened unto us, for we have seen these things before hand, and have an assurance of a better hope, than our persecutors, therefore God has made our shoulders broad, so that we can bear them: We glory in our tribulations, because we know that God is with us, that he is our friend, and he will save us. We do not care for those that can kill the body; knowing that they cannot harm our souls. We ask no favors at the hands of mobs, of the world, or of the devil; nor yet of any of his emmissaries, the desenters. We have never dissembled nor will we for the sake of our lives: inasmuch then as we know we have been endeavouring, with all our mights, minds, and strength to do the will of God in all things whatsoever he has commanded us, we feel a satisfaction which we would not part with for any wor[l]dly advantage whatever. As to our light speeches which may have escaped our lips from time to time, they have nothing to do with the fixed principles of our hearts; and those who have taken offence at any thing which may inadvertantly have escaped our lips, we would refer them to Isaiah’s description of those, who make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for those that reprove in the gate: We have no retraction to make, we have reproved in the gate, and men have laid snares for us; we have spoken words and men have made us offenders; yet notwithstanding all this, our minds are not darkened, but we yet feel strong in the Lord. But behold the words of the Savior, “If the light which is in you became darkness, how great is that darkness: Look at the desenters.—And again. “If you were of the world the world would love its own.
Look at those men, viz: [George] Hinckle [Hinkle], [John] [p.95]Corril[l] and [Reed] Peck, by whom we were led into the camp, as the Savior was led, like lambs prepared for the slaughter and as sheep before the shearers are dumb, so we opened not our mouths. But the men being greedy of gain sold us into the hands of those who loved them, for the world loved his own.—We would also remember W. W. Phelps who came to us as one of Job’s comforters: God suffered such kind of beings to afflict Job, but it never entered into their hearts that Job would get out of it all.
This poor man who professes to be much of a prophet, has no other dumb ass to ride, but David Whitmer or to forbid his madness, when he goes up to curse Israel; but this not being of the same kind of Balaam’s, therefore, notwithstanding the angel appeared unto him, yet he could not sufficiently penetrate his understanding, but that he brays out cursings instead of blessings. Poor ass, whoever lives, will see him and his rider perish like those who perished in the gainsaying of Core, or after the same condemnation, unless they repent. Now as for these and the rest of their company; we will not say that the world loves them, but we presume to say that they love the world; therefore we classify them in the error of Balaam, and in the gainsaying of Core: and with the company of Cora, Dathan and Abiram.
In speaking thus some of our brethren may think we are offended at those characters, if we are, it is not for a word, neither because they reproved in the gate; but because they have been the means of shed[d]ing innocent blood.—Are they not murderers then at the heart? are not their consciences seared as with a hot Iron? We confess that we are offended. The Savior said “that offences must come; but woe unto them by whom they come? And again, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and speak all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
Now dear brethren, if any men ever had reason to claim this promise we are the men, for we know that the world not only hates us, but “speak all manner of evil of us falsely,” for no other reason, but because we have been endeavoring to teach the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After we were bartered away by Hinckle and were taken into the camp of the militia, we had all the evidence we could have wished, that the world hated us and that most cordially too. The priests of the different sects hated us. The Generals hated us, the [p.96]colonels hated us, the officers and soldiers hated us; and the most profane blasphemers, drunkards, and [w]horemongers hated us. And why? Because of the testimony of Jesus Christ. Was it because we were liars? Was it because we had committed treason against the government, or burglary, or larc[e]ny, or arson or any other unlawful act; we know that such things have been reported by certain priests, lawyers and judges who are the instigators and abettors of a certain gang of murderers and robbers, who have been carrying on a scheme of mobocracy to uphold their priestcraft against the saints of the last days; and have tried by a well contemplated and premeditated scheme to put down by physical power, a system of religion that all the world, (by fair means,) and all their intelligence, were not able to resist. Hence mobbers were encouraged by priests and levites, by the pharisees and saducees, by essenees and herodions, and by the most abandoned and wicked characters that are suffered to live upon the earth, indeed a parallel cannot be found any where of such characters who gathered together to steal, to plunder, to starve and to exterminate the saints: these are the characters, who by their treasonable acts, have desolated and laid waste Daviess county. These are the characters that would fain make all the world believe that we are guilty of the above named acts; but they represent us fals[e]ly; we say that we have not committed treason, nor any other unlawful act in Daviess county.
Was it for murder in Ray county, that we were thus treated? We answer no. We were not present when the mobs came forth in that direction, who after dragging our brethren from their homes, and burning their habitations and killing several of our beloved friends, but not without the expense of, some of their own lives; retreated and after getting clothed with the authority of militia, raised the cry of murder! treason! &c. and appeared as innocent as a sheep. This suited their purpose, but if their borrowed garb had been torn off; instead of the peaceable sheep we should have found all the characteristics of the prowling wolf guilty of the murder of innocent and harmless men; therefore, on the heads of that mob with Bogard at their head be the crime and upon them rests the curse.
Was it for commit[t]ing adultery? We are aware that false and slanderous reports have gone abroad, which have reached our ears, respecting this thing, which have been started by renegadoes, and spread by the dissenters, who are extremely active in spreading foul and lib[e]lous reports concerning us; thinking thereby to gain the fellowship [p.97]of the world, knowing that we are not of the world; and that the world hates us. But by so doing they only show themselves to be vile traitors and sycophants. Some have reported that we not only dedicated our property, but likewise our families to the Lord and Satan taking advantage of this has transfigured it into lasciviousness, a community of wives, which things are an abomination in the sight of God.
When we consecrate our property to the Lord, it is to administer to the wants of the poor and needy according to the laws of God, and when a man consecrates or dedicates his wife and children to the Lord, he does not give them to his brother or to his neighbor; which is contrary to the law of God, which says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife[.]” “He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already in his heart.”—Now for a man to consecrate his property, his wife and children to the Lord is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, cloth[e] the naked, visit the widows and fatherless, the sick and afflicted; and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for himself and his house to serve the Lord. In order to do this he and all his house must be virtuous and “shun every appearance of evil.” Now if any person, has represented any thing other wise than what we now write they have willfully misrepresented us.
We have learned also since we have been in prison that many false and pernicious things, which were calculated to lead the saints astray and do great injury, have been taught by Dr. Avard, who has represented them as coming from the presidency; and we have no reason to fear, that many other designing and corrupt characters, like unto himself, have taught many things, which the presidency never knew of, until after they were made prisoners which, if they had known, they would have spurned them and their authors as they would a serpent.
Thus we find, that there has been frauds, secret abominations, and evil works of darkness going on leading the minds of the weak and unwary into confusion and distraction, and all of which has been endeavored to be palmed upon the presidency, who were ignorant of these things which were practised upon the church in our name. And now brethren what can we enumerate more, is not all manner of evil of every description spoken against us fals[e]ly, yea we say unto you fals[e]ly. We have been misrepresented misunderstood and belied, and the purity of our hearts have not been known. And some have gained influence by the hypocracy sanctified appearance and the pious dis-[p.98]courses which they have delivered. And our souls have been bowed down and we have suffered much distress in consequence thereof, and truly we have had to wade through an ocean of trouble.
We could enumerate the names of many who have acted in a mean and dastardly manner, some of whom we once considered our friends men whom we once thought would never condescend to such unhallowed proceedings, but their love of the world and the praise of men has overcome every feeling of virtue, and they have yielded obedience once more to their old master, consequently their last end will be worse than the first. It has happened to them according to the words of the Savior. [“]The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” If those under Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses, of how much more severer punishment, suppose ye, shall those be thought worthy, who have betrayed and denied the new and everlasting covenant, by which they were sanctified, and called it an unholy thing; and have done despite to the spirit of grace. Again we would say inasmuch as their is virtue in us; and the keys of the kingdom have not been taken from us; and the holy priesthood has been confer’d upon us, (for verily thus saith the Lord, be of good cheer, for the keys I gave unto you are yet with you;) therefore we say unto you dear brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that we deliver these characters unto the buffetings of satan until the day of redemption that they may be dealt with according to their works and from henceforth shall their works be made manifest.
And now dear and well beloved brethren, to you who have continued faithful, both men women and children, we exhort you in the name of the Lord Jesus to be strong in the faith of the new and everlasting covenant, and nothing frightened at your enemies for what has happened to us is an token to our enemies of damnation but unto you and us of salvation, and that of God: therefore hold on, even unto death, “for he that seeks to save his life shall loose it, but he that looseth his life for my sake and the gospel shall find it” saith the Saviour[.]
Brethren from henceforth let truth and rig[ht]ousness prevail and abound in you, and in all things be temperate, abstain from drunkenness, profane language, and from every thing which is unrighteous and unholy, and from the very appearance of evil: be honest one with another; for it seemeth some have come short in this thing, and some have been uncharitable towards their brethren who were indebted to [p.99]them: while they have been dragged about in chains and cast into dungeons: such persons will have their turn and sorrow in the rolling of the great wheel; for it rolleth and none can hinder; remember whatsoever measure you meet it shall be measured to you again.
Zion shall yet live: although she seemeth to be dead. We say unto you brethren: be not afraid of your adversaries: contend earnestly against mobs, and the unlawful works of dissenters, and of darkness; and the very God of peace shall be with you: and make a way for your escape from the adversaries. We commend you to God and the word of his grace; which is able to make you wise unto salvation. Amen.
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To the Church of Latter Day Saints at Quincy, Illinois, and scattered abroad, and to Bishop [Edward] Partridge in particular:
Your humble servant Joseph Smith, jr., prisoner for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the saints taken and held by the power of mobocracy under the exterminating reign of His Excellency, the Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, in company with his fellow prisoners and beloved brethren, Caleb Baldwin, Lyman Wight, Hyrum Smith, and Alexander McRae, send unto you all greeting: May the grace of God the Father and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, rest upon you all, and abide with you for ever.—May knowledge be multiplied unto you by the mercy of God. And may faith, and virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and godliness, and brotherly kindness, and charity, be in you and abound,—that you may not be barren in anything, nor unfruitful.
Forasmuch as we know that the most of you are well acquainted with the wrongs and the high toned injustice and cruelty that is practised upon us: whereas we have been taken prisoners, charged falsely with every kind of evil, and thrown into prison, enclosed with strong walls, surrounded with a strong guard, who continually watch day and night as indefatigable as the devil is in tempting and laying snares for the people of God:—
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, we are the more ready and willing to lay claim to your fellowship and love. For our circumstances are calculated to awaken our spirits to a sacred remembrance of everything, and we think that yours are also, and that nothing therefore can separate us from the love of God and fellowship one with another; and that every species of wickedness and cruelty practised [p.100]upon us will only tend to bind our hearts together and seal them together in love. We have no need to say to you, that we are held in bonds without cause, neither is it needful that you say unto us, We are driven from our homes and smitten without cause. We mutually understand that if the inhabitants of the State of Missouri had let the saints alone, and had been as desirable of peace as they were, there would have been nothing but peace and quietude in this State unto this day; we should not have been in this hell surrounded with demons; if not those who are damned, they are those who shall be damned; and where we are compelled to hear nothing but blasphemous oaths, and witness a scene of blasphemy, and drunkenness, and hypocrisy, and debaucheries of every description.
And again, the cries of orphans and widows would not have ascended up to God against them. It would not have stained the soil of Missouri. But O! the unrelenting hand! the inhumanity and murderous disposition of this people! It shocks all nature: it beggars and defies all description: it is a tale of woe; a lamentable tale; yea a sorrowful tale: too much to tell; too much for contemplation: too much to think of for a moment; too much for human beings: it cannot be found among the heathens; it cannot be found among the nations where kings and tyrants are enthroned; it cannot be found among the savages of the wilderness; yea, and I think it cannot be found among the wild and ferocious beasts of the forest,—that a man should be mangled for sport!—women be robbed of all that they have–their last morsel for subsistence—and then be violated to gratify the hellish desires of the mob, and finally left to perish, with their helpless offspring clinging around their necks.
But this is not all. After a man is dead, he must be dug up from his grave, and mangled to pieces—for no other purpose than to gratify their spleen against the religion of God.
They practice these things upon the saints, who have done them no wrong; who are innocent and virtuous; who loved the Lord their God, and were willing to forsake all things for Christ’s sake. These things are awful to relate, but they are verily true. It must needs be that offences come, but wo unto them by whom they come.
O God! where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?—How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens, the wrongs of thy people, and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their [p.101]cries? Yes, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened towards them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion towards them?
O Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven, Earth, and Seas, and of all things that in them is. and who controlleth and subjecteth the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Shayole! Stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce: let thy pavilion be taken up: let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined: let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us; let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword, avenge us of our wrongs; remember thy suffering saints, O our God! and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.
Dearly and beloved brethren, we see that perilous times have come, as was testified of. We may look then, with most perfect assurance for the rolling in of all those things that have been written, and with more confidence than ever before, lift up our eyes to the luminary of day, and say in our hearts, soon thou wilt veil thy blushing face. He that said, let there be light, and there was light, hath spoken this word.—And again, thou moon, thou dimmer light; thou luminary of night, shall turn to blood.
We see that everything is fulfilling; and the time shall soon come, when the Son of Man shall descend in the clouds of heaven. Our hearts do not shrink, neither are our spirits altogether broken, at the grievous yoke which is put upon us. We know that God will have our oppressors in derision: that he will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh.
Oh that we could be with you, brethren, and unbosom our feelings to you! We would tell, that we should have been liberated at the time Elder Rigdon was, on the writ of habeas corpus, had not our own lawyers interpreted the law, contrary to what it reads, against us: which prevented us from introducing our evidence before the mock court.
They have done us much harm from the beginning. They have of late acknowledged that the law was misconstrued, and tantalized our feelings with it, and have entirely forsaken us, and have forfeited their oaths, and their bonds; and we have a come back on them, for they are co-workers with the mob.
As nigh as we can learn, the public mind has been for a long time turning in our favor, and the majority is now friendly: and the lawyers can no longer browbeat us by saying that this or that, is a matter of public [p.102]opinion, for public opinion is not willing to brook it; for it is beginning to look with feelings of indignation against our oppressors, and to say that the Mormons were not in the fault in the least. We think that Truth, Honor, and Virtue, and Innocence, will eventually come out triumphant. We should have taken a habeas corpus before the High Judge and escaped the mob in a summary way; but unfortunately for us, the timber of the wall being very hard, our auger handles gave out, and hindered us longer than we expected; we applied to a friend, and a very slight incautious act gave rise to some suspicions, and before we could fully succeed, our plan was discovered; we had every thing in readiness, but the last stone, and we could have made our escape in one minute, and should have succeeded admirably, had it not been for a little imprudence, or over anxiety on the part of our friend.
The sheriff and jailer did not blame us for our attempt; it was a fine breach, and cost the county a round sum; but public opinion says, that we ought to have been permitted to have made our escape; that then the disgrace would have been on us, but now it must come on the State; that there cannot be any charge sustained against us, and that the conduct of the mob; the murders committed at Haun’s mills, and the exterminating order of the Governor, and the one-sided, rascally proceedings of the Legislature, has damned the State of Missouri to all eternity. I would just name also that General Atchison has proved himself as contemptible as any of them.
We have tried for a long time to get our lawyers to draw us some petitions to the Supreme Judges of this State, but they utterly refused. We have examined the law, and drawn the petitions ourselves, and have obtained abundance of proof to counteract all the testimony that was against us,—so that if the Supreme Judge does not grant us our liberty, he has got to act without cause, contrary to honor, evidence, law or justice, sheerly to please the devil, but we hope better things, and trust before many days, God will so order our case, that we shall be set at liberty and take up our habitation with the saints.
We received some letters last evening;—one from Emma [Smith], one from Don C. Smith, and one from Bishop [Edward] Partridge—all breathing a kind and consoling spirit. We were much gratified with their contents. We had been a long time without information; and when we read those letters, they were to our souls as the gentle air is refreshing; but our joy was mingled with grief, because of the sufferings of the poor, and much injured Saints. And we need [p.103]not say to you that the floodgates of our hearts were hoisted, and our eyes were a fountain of tears, but those who have not been enclosed in the walls of prison, without cause or provocation, can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling; it brings up in an instant everything that is passed; it seizes the present with the avidity of lightning; it grasps after the future with the fierceness of a tiger; it retrogrades from one thing to another until finally all enmity, malice, and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings, and mismanagements, are slain victorious at the feet of Hope; and when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the voice of inspiration steals along, and whispers, My Son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes; thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again, with warm hearts and friendly hands: thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression as they did Job; and they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun; and also that God hath set to his hand and seal, to change the times and seasons, and to blind their minds that they may not understand His marvellous workings, that he may prove them also, and take them in their own craftiness; also because their hearts are corrupted, and the things which they are willing to bring upon others, and love to have others suffer, may come upon themselves, to the very uttermost; that they may be disappointed also, and their hopes may be cut off; and not many years hence, that they and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall;—Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them; but those who cry transgression, do it; because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves; and those who swear falsely against my servants, that they might bring them into bondage, and death: Wo unto them; because they have offended my little ones, they shall be severed from the ordinances of mine house; their basket shall not be full; their houses and their barns shall perish, and they them-[p.104]selves shall be despised by those that flattered them; they shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them, from generation to generation; it had been better for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depth of the sea.
Wo unto all those that discomfort my people, and drive, and murder, and testify against them, saith the Lord of Hosts; a generation of vipers shall not escape the damnation of hell. Behold mine eyes seeth and knoweth all their works, and I have in reserve a swift judgment in the season thereof, for them all; for there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be.
And now beloved brethren, we say unto you, that inasmuch as God hath said that he would have a tried people, that he would purge them as gold, now we think that this time he has chosen his own crucible, wherein we have been tried, and we think if we get through with any degree of safety, and shall have kept the faith, that it will be a sign to this generation, altogether sufficient to bear them without excuse; and we think also, it will be a trial of our faith equal to that of Abraham, and that the ancients will not have whereof to boast over us in the day of judgment, as being called to pass thro’ heavier afflictions; that we may hold an even weight in the balances with them; but now after having suffered so great sacrifice, and having passed through so great a season of sorrow, we trust that a ram may be caught in the thicket speedily, to relieve the sons and daughters of Abraham from their great anxiety, and to light up the lamp of salvation upon their countenances, that they may hold on now, after having gone so far unto everlasting life.
Now brethren, concerning the places for the location of the Saints, we cannot counsel you as we would if we were present with you; and as to the things that were written heretofore, we did not consider them anything very binding, therefore we now say once for all, that we think it most proper, that the general affairs of the church, which are necessary to be considered, while your humble servant remains in bondage, should be transacted by a general conference of the most faithful, and the most respectable of the authorities of the church, and a minute of those transactions may be kept, and forwarded, from time to time, to your humble servant; and if there should be any corrections by the word of the Lord, they shall be freely transmitted, and your humble servant will approve all things whatsoever is acceptable unto God. If anything should have been suggested by us, or any names mentioned, except by commandment, or thus [p.105]saith the Lord, we do not consider it binding: therefore our hearts shall not be grieved if different arrangements should be entered into. Nevertheless we would suggest the propriety of being aware of an aspiring spirit, which spirit has oftentimes urged men forwards, to make foul speeches, and influence the church to reject milder counsels, and has eventually been the means of bringing much death, and sorrow upon the church.
We would say, be aware of pride also: for well and truly hath the wise man said, that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. And again, outward appearance is not always a criterion for us to judge our fellow man; but the lips betray the haughty and overbearing imaginations of the heart; by his words and his deeds, let him be scanned. Flattery also is a deadly poison. A frank and an open rebuke, provoketh a good man to emulation; and in the hour of trouble he will be your best friend; but on the other hand, it will draw out all the corruptions of a corrupt heart, and lying and the poison of asps shall be under their tongues;—and they do cause the pure in heart to be cast into prison, because they want them out of their way.
A fanciful and flowery, and heated imagination be aware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous, and solemn thoughts, can only find them out.—Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of eternity’s expanse; he must commune with God. How much more dignified, and noble, are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.
How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations; too low; too mean; too vulgar; too condescending, for the dignified characters, of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world, to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation until now, of which some have tasted a little, and on which many of them are to be poured down from heaven upon the heads of babes; yea, the weak, obscure, and despisable ones of the earth.
Therefore we beseech of you brethren, that you bear with those who do not feel themselves more worthy than yourselves,—while we [p.106]exhort one another to a reformation with one and all, both old and young, teachers and taught, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free; male and female; let honesty, and sobriety, and candor, and solemnity, and virtue, and pureness, and meekness, and simplicity, crown our heads in every place; and in fine, become as little children, without malice, guile or hypocrisy.
And now brethren, after your tribulations, if you do these things, and exercise fervent prayer and faith in the sight of God always, he shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now;—which our forefathers have waited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to, by the angels as held in reserve for the fullness of their glory, a time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many Gods, they shall be manifest; all thrones, and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiently for the gospel of Jesus Christ; and also if there be bounds set to the heavens, or to the seas; or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars; all the times of their revolutions; all the appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed, in the days of the dispensation of the fullness of times, according to that which was ordained in the midst of the council of the Eternal God, of all other Gods, before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence, and into his immortal rest.
But, I beg leave to say unto you brethren, that ignorance, superstition and bigotry, placing itself where it ought not, is oftentimes in the way of the prosperity of this church; like the torrent of rain from the mountains, that floods the most pure and crystal stream with mire, and dirt, and filthiness, and obscures everything that was clear before, and all hurls along in one general deluge; but time weathers tide; and notwithstanding we are rolled in for the time being by the mire of the flood, the next surge peradventure, as time rolls on, may bring us to the fountain as clear as crystal, and as pure as snow; while the filthiness, flood-wood, and rubbish is left and purged out by the way.
How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to [p.107]hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven, upon the heads of the Latter Day Saints.
What is Boggs or his murderous party, but wimbling willows upon the shore to catch the flood-wood? As well might we argue that water is not water, because the mountain torrents send down mire and rolls the crystal stream, altho’ afterwards renders it more pure than before; or that fire is not fire, because it is of a quenchable nature, by pouring on the flood, as to say that our cause is down because renegadoes, liars, priests, thieves, and murderers, who are all alike tenacious of their crafts and creeds, have poured down from their spiritual wickedness in high places, and from their strong holds of the devil, a flood of dirt and mire, and filthiness, and vomit, upon our heads.
No! God forbid. Hell may pour forth its rage like the burning lava of mount Vesuvius or of Etna, or of the most terrible of the burning mountains; and yet shall Mormonism stand. Water, Fire, Truth, and God, are all the same. Truth is Mormonism.—God is the author of it. He is our Shield. It is by Him we received our birth. It was by His voice that we were called to a dispensation of his gospel in the beginning of the fullness of times. It was by Him we received the Book of Mormon; and it was by him that we remain unto this day; and by him we shall remain, if it shall be for our glory; and in His Almighty name we are determined to endure tribulations as good soldiers unto the end.
But brethren, we shall continue to offer further reflections in our next Epistle. You will learn by the time you have read this,—and if you do not learn it, you may learn it,—that walls and irons, doors and creaking hinges, and half scared to death guards and jailers, grinning like some damned spirits lest an innocent man should make his escape to bring to light the damnable deeds of a murderous mob,—is calculated in its very nature, to make the soul of an honest man feel stronger than the powers of hell.
But we must bring our Epistle to a close. We send our respects to fathers, mothers, wives and children, brothers and sisters; we hold them in the most sacred remembrance.
We feel to enquire after Elder [Sidney] Rigdon, if he has not forgotten us; it has not been signified to us by his scrawl. Brother George W. Robinson also, and Elder [Reynolds] Cahoon, we remember him, but would like to jog his memory a little on the fable of the bear and the two friends who mutually agreed to stand by each other. And perhaps it would not be amiss to mention uncle [p.108]John, and various others. A word of consolation, and a blessing would not come amiss from anybody, while we are being so closely whispered by the bear. But we feel to excuse every body and every thing, yea the more readily, when we contemplate that we are in the hands of worse than a bear, for the bear would not prey upon a dead carcass.
Our respects, and love, and fellowship to all the virtuous Saints. We are your brethren, and fellow sufferers, and prisoners of Jesus Christ for the gospel’s sake, and for the hope of glory which is in us: AMEN.
JOSEPH SMITH, jr.,
* * *
… I continued my Epistle to the Church of Latter Day Saints as follows:
We continue to offer further reflections to Bishop [Edward] Partridge, and to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whom we love with a fervent love, and do always bear them in mind in all our prayers to the throne of God.
It still seams to bear heavily in our minds that the church would do well to secure to themselves the contract of the land which is proposed to them by Mr. Isaac Galland, and to cultivate the friendly feelings of that, gentleman, inasmuch as he shall prove himself to be a man of honor and a friend to humanity. We really think that his letter breathes that kind of spirit, if we can judge correctly. And Isaac Van Allen, Esq., the Attorney General of Iowa Territory,—-that peradventure such men may be wrought upon by the providence of God, to do good unto his people. Governor [Samuel D.] Lucas also, —We suggest the idea of praying fervently for all men who manifest any degree of sympathy for the suffering children of God.
We think that peradventure the United States Surveyor of the Iowa Territory may be of great benefit to the church if it be the will of God, to this end, if righteousness should be manifested as the girdle of our loins.
It seems to be deeply impressed upon our minds, that the Saints ought to lay hold of every door that shall seem to be opened unto [p.109]them, to obtain foothold on the earth, and be making all the preparation that is within the power of possibles for the terrible storms that are now gathering in the heavens, with darkness and gloominess, and thick darkness, as spoken of by the Prophets, which cannot be now of a long time lingering, for there seems to be a whispering that the angels of heaven who have been entrusted with the council of these matters for the last days, have taken counsel together and among the rest of the general affairs that have to be transacted in there honorable council, they have taken cognizance of the testimony of those who were murdered at Haun’s mills, and also those who were martyred with D[avid]. W. Patten, and elsewhere, and have passed some decisions peradventure in favor of the Saints, and those who were called to suffer without cause.
These decisions will be made known in their time; and they will take into consideration all those things that offend.
We have a fervent desire that in your general conferences, everything should be discussed with a great deal of care and propriety lest you grieve the Holy Spirit, which shall be poured out at all times upon your heads when you are exercised with those principles of righteousness that are agreeable to the mind of God, and are properly affected one toward another, and are careful by all means to remember those who are in bondage, and in heaviness, and in deep affliction for your sakes. And if there are any among you who aspire after their own aggrandizement, and seek their own opulence, while their brethren are groaning in poverty, and are under sore trials, and temptations, they cannot be benefited by the intercession of the Holy Spirit, which maketh intercession for us day and night with groanings that cannot be uttered.
We ought at all times to be very careful, that such high-mindedness never have place in our hearts; but condescend to men of low estate, and with all long suffering bear the infirmities of the weak.
Behold there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—that the rights of Priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled, nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, or vain ambition, or to exercise control, or dominion, or compulsion, upon the souls of [p.110]the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold the heavens withdraw themselves: the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it has withdrawn, amen to the Priesthood, or the authority of that man. Behold! ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks; to persecute the Saints, and to fight against God.
We have learned by sad experience, that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the Priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile, reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death; thy bowels also being full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God and the doctrine of the Priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy sceptre an unchanging sceptre of righteousness and truth, and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
The ends of the earth shall enquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee,—while the pure in heart, and the wise and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand, and thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors; and although their influence shall cast thee into trouble, and into bars and walls, thou shalt be had in honor, and but for a small moment and thy voice shall be more terrible in the midst of thine enemies, than the fierce lion, because of thy righteousness: and thy God shall stand by thee forever and ever.
If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; if thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the [p.111]society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters;—and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine Elder Son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us?—O my father! what are the men going to do with you?—and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for blood of the lamb: and if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if the fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way: and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open her mouth wide after thee, know thou my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all,—art thou greater than he?
Therefore hold on thy way, and the Priesthood shall remain with thee, for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less, therefore fear not what man can do; for God shall be with you forever and ever.
Now brethren, I would suggest for the consideration of the Conference, of its being carefully and wisely understood, by the council or conferences, that our brethren scattered abroad, who understand the spirit of the gathering, that they fall into the places of refuge and safety that God shall open unto them, between Kirtland and Far West. Those from the east and from the west, and from far countries, let them fall in somewhere between those two boundaries, in the most safe and quiet places they can find; and let this be the present understanding, until God shall open a more effectual door for us for further considerations.
And again, we further suggest for the consideration of the council, that there be no organization of large bodies upon common stock principles, in property, or of large companies of firms until the Lord shall signify it in a proper manner, as it opens such a dreadful field for the avaricious, and the indolent and corrupt hearted to prey upon the innocent, and virtuous, and honest.
We have reason to believe that many things were introduced among the Saints, before God had signified the times; and notwithstanding the principles and plans, may have been good, yet aspiring [p.112]men, or in other words, men who had not the substance of godliness about them,—perhaps undertook to handle edge tools. Children you know, are fond of tools, while they are not yet able to use them.
Time and experience, however, is the only safe remedy against such evils. There are many teachers, but perhaps not many fathers. There are times coming when God will signify many things which are expedient for the well-being of the Saints; but the times have not yet come, but will come, as fast as there can be found place, and receptions for them.
And again we would suggest for your consideration the propriety of all the Saints gathering up a knowledge of all the facts, and suffering and abuses put upon them by the people of this State; and also of all the property, and amount of damages which they have sustained, both of character and personal injuries, as well as real property; and also the names of all persons that have had a hand in their oppressions, as far as they can get hold of them and find them out; and perhaps a committee can be appointed to find out these things, and to take statements, and affidavits, and also to gather up the libelous publications that are afloat, and all that are in the magazines, and in the encyclopedias, and all the libelous histories that are published, and are writing, and by whom, and present the whole concatenation of diabolical rascality, and nefareous, and murderous impositions that have been practised upon this people, that we may not only publish to all the world, but present them to the heads of government in all their dark and hellish hue, as the last effort which is enjoined on us by our Heavenly Father, before we can fully and completely claim that promise which shall call him forth from his hiding place, and also the whole nation may be left without excuse before he can send forth the power of his mighty arm.
It is an imperious duty that we owe to God, to angels, with whom we shall be brought to stand, and also to ourselves, to our wives and children, who have been made to bow down with grief, sorrow, and care, under the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression, supported and urged on, and upheld by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very main spring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity.
[p.113]It is an iron yoke, it is a strong band; they are the very hand cuffs, and chains, and shackles, and fetters of hell.
Therefore, it is an imperious duty that we owe not only to our own wives and children, but to the widows and fatherless, whose husbands and fathers have been murdered under its iron hand;—which dark and blackening deeds are enough to make hell itself shudder, and to stand aghast, and pale, and the hands of the very devil tremble and palsy. And also it is an imperious duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart, which there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it; therefore that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven.
These should then be attended to with great earnestness. Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the Saints, which depends upon these things. You know brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves.
Therefore dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lieth in our power, and then may we stand still with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
And again, I would further suggest the impropriety of the organization of bands or companies, by covenant or oaths, by penalties or secrecies; but let the time past of our experience and sufferings by the wickedness of Doctor [Sampson] Avard suffice, and let our covenant be that of the Everlasting Covenant, as is contained in the holy writ, and the things that God hath revealed unto us. Pure friendship always becomes weakened, the very moment you undertake to make it stronger by penal oaths and secresy.
Your humble servant or servants, intend from henceforth to disapprobate everything that is not in accordance with the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and is not of a bold, and frank, and upright nature. They will not hold their peace as in times past when they see iniquity beginning to rear its head, for fear of traitors, or the consequences that shall follow by reproving those who creep in unawares, that they may get something to destroy the flock. We believe that the [p.114]experience of the Saints in times past has been sufficient that they will from henceforth be always ready to obey the truth without having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. It is expedient that we should be aware of such things; and we ought always to be aware of those prejudices which sometimes so strangely presented themselves, and are so congenial to human nature, against our friends, neighbors and brethren of the world, who choose to differ with us in opinion and in matters of faith. Our religion is between us and our God. Their religion is between them and their God.
There is a tie from God that should be exercised towards those of our faith,—who walk uprightly, which is peculiar to itself–but it is without prejudice, but gives scope to the mind which enables us to conduct ourselves with greater liberality towards all others that are not of our faith than what they exercise towards one another.—These principles approximate nearer to the mind of God, because it is like God, or god-like.
Here is a principle also which we are bound to be exercised with, that is in common with all men, such as governments, and laws, and regulations in the civil concerns of life. This principle guarantees to all parties, sects and denominations, and classes of religion, equal, coherent, and indefeasable rights; they are things that pertain to this life; therefore all are alike interested; they make our responsibilities one towards another in matters of corruptible things, while the former principles do not destroy the latter, but bind us stronger and make our responsibilities not only one to another, but unto God also. Hence we say, that the Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner;—it is to all those who are privileged with the sweets of its liberty, like the cooling shades and refreshing waters of a great rock in a thirsty and a weary land. It is like a great tree under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of an inclement sun.
We brethren, are deprived of the protection of this glorious principle, by the cruelty of the cruel, by those who only look for the time being, for pasturage like the beasts of the field, only to fill themselves; and forget that the Mormons as well as the Presbyterians; and those of every other class and description, have equal rights to partake of the fruits of the great tree of our National Liberty. But notwithstanding we see what we see, and we feel what we feel, and we know what we know, yet that fruit is no less precious and delicious [p.115]to our taste; we cannot be weaned from the milk, neither can we be driven from the breast; neither will we deny our religion because of the hand of oppression; but we will hold on until death.
We say that God is true; that the Constitution of the United States is true; that the Bible is true; that the Book of Mormon is true; that the Book of Covenants are true; that Christ is true; that the ministering angels sent forth from God are true, and that we know that we have an house not made with hands eternal in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God:—a consolation which our oppressors cannot feel, when fortune, or fate, shall lay its iron hand on them as it has on us. Now we ask, What is man? Remember brethren, that time and chance happeneth to all men.
We shall continue our reflections in our next.
We subscribe ourselves, your sincere friends and brethren in the bonds of the everlasting gospel, prisoners of Jesus Christ for the sake of the gospel and the saints.
We pronounce the blessing of heaven upon the heads of the saints who seek to serve God with undivided hearts, in the name of Jesus Christ: AMEN.