The Essential Joseph Smith
Foreword by Marvin S. Hill
“Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.,” 1839
(from Times and Seasons [Commerce, Illinois] 1 [November 1839], 1:2-9)
[p.129]On the fourteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight, I with my family, arrived in Far West, Caldwell county Missouri, after a journey of more than one thousand miles, in the winter season, and being about eight weeks on our Journey; during which we suffered great affliction, and met with considerable persecution on the road. However, the prospect of meeting my friends in the west, and anticipating the pleasure of dwelling in peace, and enjoying the blessings thereof, buoyed me up under the difficulties and trials which I had then to endure. However, I had not been there long before I was given to understand that plots were laid, by wicked and designing men for my destruction, who sought every opportunity to take my life; and that a company on the Grindstone forks of Grand river, in the county of Daviess, had offered the sum of one thousand dollars for my scalp: persons of whom I had no knowledge whatever, and who, I suppose, were entire strangers to me; and in order to accomplish their wicked design, I was frequently waylaid &c.; consequently, my life was continually in jeopardy.
I could hardly have given credit to such statements, had they not been corroborated by testimony, the most strong and convincing; as shortly after my arrival at Far West, while watering my horse in Shoal Creek, I distinctly heard three or four guns snap, which were undoubtedly intended for my destruction; however, I was mercifully preserved from those who sought to destroy me, by their lurking in the woods and hiding places, for this purpose.
My enemies were not confined alone, to the ignorant and obscure, but men in office, and holding situations under the Governor of the State [Lilburn Boggs], proclaimed themselves my enemies, and gave encouragement to others to destroy me; amongst whom, was Judge [Austin A.] King, of the fifth Judicial circuit, who has frequently been heard to say that I ought to be beheaded on account of my religion– Expressions [p.130]such as these, from individuals holding such important offices as Judge King’s, could not fail to produce, and encourage persecution against me, and the people with whom I was connected. And in consequence of the prejudice which existed in the mind of this Judge, which he did not endeavor to keep secret, but made it as public as he could, the people took every advantage they possibly could, in abusing me, and threatening my life; regardless of the laws, which promise protection to every religious society, without distinction.
During this state of things I do not recollect that either myself, or the people with whom I was associated, had done any thing to deserve such treatment, but felt a desire to live at peace, and on friendly terms, with the citizens of that, and the adjoining counties, as well as with all men; and I can truly say, “for my love they were my enemies,” and “sought to slay me without any cause,” or the least shadow of a pretext.
My family was kept in a continual state of alarm, not knowing, when I went from home, that I should ever return again; or what would befall me from day to day. But notwithstanding these manifestations of enmity, I hoped that the citizens would eventually cease from their abusive and murderous purposes, and would reflect with sorrow upon their conduct in endeavoring to destroy me, whose only crime was in worshipping the God of heaven, and keeping his commandments; and that they would soon desist from harrassing a people who were as good citizens as the majority of this vast republic—who labored almost night and day, to cultivate the ground; and whose industry, during the time they were in that neighborhood, was proverbial.
In the latter part of September, A.D. 1838, I took a journey, in company with some others, to the lower part of the county of Caldwell, for the purpose of selecting a location for a Town. While on my journey, I was met by one of our brethren from Dewitt, in Carroll county, who stated that our people, who had settled in that place, were, and had been for some time, surrounded by a mob, who had threatened their lives, and had shot at them several times; and that he was on his way to Far West, to inform the brethren there, of the facts. I was surprised on receiving this intelligence, although there had, previous to this time, been some manifestations of mobs, but I had hoped that the good sense of the majority of the people, and their respect for the constitution, would have put down any spirit of persecution, which might have been manifested in that neighborhood.
Immediately on receiving this intelligence, I made preparations to [p.131]go to that place, and endeavor if possible, to allay the feelings of the citizens, and save the lives of my brethren who were thus exposed to their wrath. I arrived at Dewitt, about the first of October, and found that the accounts of the situation of that place were correct, for it was with much difficulty, and by travelling unfrequented roads, that I was able to get there; all the principal roads being strongly guarded by the mob, who refused all ingress as well as egress. I found my brethren, (who were only a handfull, in comparison to the mob, by which they were surrounded,) in this situation, and their provisions nearly exhausted, and no prospect of obtaining any more.
We thought it necessary to send immediately to the Governor, to inform him of the circumstances; hoping, from the Executive, to receive the protection which we needed, and which was guaranteed to us, in common with other citizens. Several Gentlemen of standing and respectability, who lived in the immediate vicinity, (who were not in any wise connected with the church of Latter Day Saints,) who had witnessed the proceedings of our enemies; came forward and made affidavits to the treatment we had received, and concerning our perilous situation; and offered their services to go and present the case to the Governor themselves. A messenger was accordingly despatched to his Excellency, who made known to him our situation. But instead of receiving any aid whatever, or even sympathy from his Excellency, we were told that “the quarrel was between the Mormons and the mob,” and that “we might fight it out.” In the mean time, we had petitioned the Judges to protect us. They sent out about one hundred of the militia, under the command of Brigadier General [Hiram G.] Parks; but almost immediately on their arrival, General Parks informed us that the greater part of his men under Capt. [Samuel] Bogart had mutinied, and that he should be obliged to draw them off from the place, for fear they would join the mob; consequently he could afford us no assistance.
We had now, no hopes whatever, of successfully resisting the mob, who kept constantly increasing: our provisions were entirely exhausted and we being wearied out, by continually standing on guard, and watching the movements of our enemies; who, during the time I was there, fired at us a great many times. Some of the brethren died, for want of the common necessaries of life, and perished from starvation; and for once in my life, I had the pain of beholding some of my fellow creatures fall victims to the spirit of persecution, which did then, and has since prevailed to such an extent in Upper Mis-[p.132]souri—men too, who were virtuous, and against whom, no legal process could for one moment, be sustained; but who, in consequence of their love to God—attachment to his cause—and their determination to keep the faith, were thus brought to an untimely grave.
Many houses belonging to my brethren, were burned; their cattle driven away, and a great quantity of their property destroyed by the mob. Seeing no prospect of relief, the Governor having turned a deaf ear to our entreaties, the militia having mutinied, and the greater part of them ready to join the mob; the brethren came to the conclusion to leave that place, and seek a shelter elsewhere; they consequently took their departure, with about seventy waggons, with the remnant of the property they had been able to save from their matchless foes, and proceeded to Caldwell. During our journey, we were continually harrassed and threatened by the mob, who shot at us several times; whilst several of our brethren died from the fatigue and privations which they had to endure, and we had to inter them by the wayside, without a coffin, and under circumstances the most distressing.
On my arrival in Caldwell I was informed by General [Alexander W.] Doniphan of Clay county, that a company of mobbers eight hundred strong, were marching towards a settlement of our people’s in Daviess county. He ordered out one of the officers to raise a force and march immediately to what he called Wight’s town and defend our people from the attacks of the mob, until he should raise the militia in his, and the adjoining counties to put them down. A small company of militia who were on their route to Daviess county, and who had passed through Far West, he ordered back again, stating that they were not to be depended upon, as many of them were disposed to join the mob; and to use his own expression, were “damned rotten hearted.” According to orders [Mormon militia] Lieut. Colonel [George M.] Hinkle marched with a number of our people to Daviess county to afford what assistance they could to their brethren. Having some property in that county and having a house building there, I went up at the same time. While I was there a number of houses belonging to our people were burned by the mob, who committed many other depredations, such as driving off horses, sheep, cattle hogs &c. A number, whose houses were burned down as well as those who lived in scattered and lonely situations, fled into the town for safety, and for shelter from the inclemency of the weather, as a considerable snow storm had taken place just about that time; women and children, [p.133]some in the most delicate situations, were thus obliged to leave their homes, and travel several miles in order to effect their escape. My feelings were such as I cannot describe when I saw them flock into the village, almost entirely destitute of clothes, and only escaping with their lives. During this state of affairs General Parks arrived at Daviess county, and was at the house of Colonel Lyman Wight, when the intelligence was brought, that the mob were burning houses; and also when women and children were fleeing for safety. Colonel Wight who held a commission in the 59th regiment under his (General Parks) command, asked what was to be done. He told him that he must immediately, call out his men and go and put them down. Accordingly, a force was immediately raised for the purpose of quelling the mob, and in a short time were on their march with a determination to drive the mob, or die in the attempt; as they could bear such treatment no longer. The mob having learned the orders of General Parks, and likewise being aware of the determination of the oppressed, they broke up their encampments and fled. The mob seeing that they could not succeed by force, now resorted to stratagem; and after removing their property out of their houses, which were nothing but log cabins, they actually set fire to their own houses, and then reported to the authorities of the state that the Mormons were burning and destroying all before them.
On the retreat of the mob from Daviess, I returned to Caldwell, hoping to have some respite from our enemies, at least for a short time; but upon my arrival there, I was informed that a mob had commenced hostilities on the borders of that county, adjoining to Ray co. and that they had taken some of our brethren prisoners, burned some houses and had committed depredations on the peaceable inhabitants. A company under the command of [Mormon militia] Capt. [David W.] Patten, was ordered out by Lieutenant Col. Hinckle to go against them, and stop their depredations, and drive them out of the county. Upon the approach of our people, the mob fired upon them, and after discharging their pieces, fled with great precipitation, with the loss of one killed and several wounded. In the engagement Capt Patten, (a man beloved by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance,) was wounded and died shortly after. Two others were likewise killed and several wounded. Great excitement now prevailed, and mobs were heard of in every direction who seemed determined on our destruction. They burned the houses in the country and took off [p.134]all the cattle they could find. They destroyed cornfields, took many prisoners, and threatened death to all the Mormons. On the 28 of Oct. a large company of armed soldiery were seen ap[p]roaching Far West. They came up near to the town and then drew back about a mile and encamped for the night. We were informed that they were Militia, ordered out by the Governor for the purpose of stopping our proceedings; it having been represented to his excellency, by wicked and designing men from Daviess, that we were the aggressors, and had committed outrages in Daviess &c They had not yet got the Governors orders of extermination, which I believe did not arrive until the next day. On the following morning, a flag was sent, which was met by several of our people, and it was hoped that matters would be satisfactorily arranged after the officers had heard a true statement of all the circumstances. Towards evening, I was waited upon by Colonel Hinckle who stated that the officers of the Militia desired to have an interview with me, and some others, hoping that the difficulties might be settled without having occasion to carry into effect the exterminating orders, which they had received from the Governor. I immediately complied with the request, and in company with Elders [Sidney] Rigdon and [Parley P.] Pratt, Colonel [Lyman] Wight, and Geo. W. Robinson, went into the camp of the militia. But judge of my surprise, when instead of being treated with that respect which is due from one citizen to another, we were taken as prisoners of war, and were treated with the utmost contempt. The officers would not converse with us, and the soldiers, almost to a man, insulted us as much as they felt disposed, breathing out threats against me and my companions. I cannot begin to tell the scene which I there witnessed. The loud cries and yells of more than one thousand voices, which rent the air and could be heard for miles; and the horrid and blasphemous threats and curses which were poured upon us in torrents, were enough to appal[l] the stoutest heart. in the evening we had to lie down on the cold ground surrounded by a strong guard, who were only kept back by the power of God from depriving us of life. We petitioned the officers to know why we were thus treated, but they utterly refused to give us any answer, or to converse with us. The next day they held a court martial, and sentenced us to be shot, on Friday morning, on the public square, as an ensample to the Mormons. However notwithstanding their sentence, and determination, they were not permitted to carry their murderous sentence into execution.
[p.135]Having an opportunity of speaking to General Wilson, I inquired of him the cause why I was thus treated, I told him I was not sensible of having done any thing worthy of such treatment; that I had always been a supporter of the constitution and of Democracy. His answer was “I know it, and that is the reason why I want to kill you or have you killed.” The militia then went into the town and without any restraint whatever, plundered the houses, and abused the innocent and unoffending inhabitants. They went to my house and drove my family out of doors. They carried away most of my property and left many destitute.—We were taken to the town, into the public square; and before our departure from Far West, we, after much entreaties, were suffered to see our families, being attended all the while with a strong guard; I found my wife and children in tears, who expected we were shot by those who had sworn to take our lives, and that they should see me no more. When I entered my house, they clung to my garments, their eyes streaming with tears, while mingled emotions of joy and sorrow were manifest in their countenances. I requested to have a private interview with them a few minutes, but this privilege was denied me. I was then obliged to take my departure, but who can realize my feelings which I experienced at that time; to be torn from my companion, and leaving her surrounded with monsters in the shape of men, and my children too, not knowing how their wants would be supplied; to be taken far from them in order that my enemies might destroy me when they thought proper to do so. My partner wept, my children clung to me and were only thrust from me by the swords of the guard who guarded me. I felt overwhelmed while I witnessed the scene, and could only recommend them to the care of that God, whose kindness had followed me to the present time; and who alone could protect them and deliver me from the hands of my enemies and restore me to my family.
I was then taken back to the camp and then I with the rest of my brethren, viz: Sidney Rigdon, Hyr[u]m Smith, Parley P. Pratt, Lyman Wight, Amasa Lyman, and George W. Robinson, were removed to Independence, Jackson county. They did not make known what their intention or designs were in taking us there; but knowing that some of our most bitter enemies resided in that county, we came to the conclusion that their design was to shoot us, which from the testimony of others, I do think was a correct conclusion. While there, we were under the care of Generals Lucas and Wilson, we had to find our own board, and had to sleep on the floor with nothing but a mantle [p.136]for our covering, and a stick of wood for our pillow. After remaining there a few days we were ordered by General Clark to return; we were accordingly taken back as far as Richmond, and there we were thrust into prison and our feet bound with fetters. While in Richmond, we were under the charge of Colonel [Ebenezer] Price from Chariton county, who suffered all manner of abuse to be heaped upon us. During this time my afflictions were great, and our situation was truly painful. After remaining there a few days we were taken before the court of inquiry, but were not prepared with witnesses, in co[n]sequence of the cruelty of the mob, who threatened destruction to all who had any thing to say in our favor: but notwithstanding their threats there were a few who did not think their lives dear so that they might testify to the truth, and in our behalf, knowing we were unlawfully confined; but the court who was predjudiced against us, would not suffer them to be examined according to law, but suffered the State’s Attorney to abuse them as he thought proper. We were then removed to Liberty jail in Clay county, and there kept in close confinement in that place for more than four months. While there, we petitioned Judge Turnham for a writ of habeas corpus, but on account of the predjudice of the jailor all communication was cut off; at length however, we succeeded in getting a petition conveyed to him, but for fourteen days we received no answer. We likewise petitioned the other Judges but with no success. After the expiration of fourteen days Judge Turnham ordered us to appear before him, we went and took a number of witnesses, which caused us considerable expense and trouble; but he altogether refused to hear any of our witnesses. The lawyers which we had employed refused to act; being afraid of the people. This being the case, we of course could not succeed, and were consequently remanded back to our prison house.—We were sometimes visited by our friends whose kindness and attention, I shall ever remember with feelings of lively gratitude, but frequently we were not suffered to have that privilege. Our vi[c]tuals were of the coarsest kind, and served up in a manner which was disgusting. We continued in this situation, bearing up under the injuries and cruelties we suffered as well as we could, until we were removed to Daviess county, where we were taken in order to be tried for the crimes with which we had been charged. The grand jury (who were mostly intoxicated,) indicted us for treason, &c. &c.
While there, we got a change of venue to Boon county, and were [p.137]conducted on our way to that place by a strong guard. The second evening after our departure the guard got intoxicated, we thought it a favorable opportunity to make our escape; knowing that the only object of our enemies was our destruction; and likewise knowing that a number of our brethren had been massacred by them on Shoal creek, amongst whom were two children; and that they sought every opportunity to abuse others who were left in that state; and that they were never brought to an account for their barbarous proceedings, but were winked at, and encouraged, by those in authority. We thought that it was necessary for us, inasmuch as we loved our lives, and did not wish to die by the hand of murderers and assas[s]ins; and inasmuch, as we loved our families and friends, to deliver ourselves from our enemies, and from that land of tyran[n]y and oppression, and again take our stand among a people in whose bosoms dwell those feelings of republicanism and liberty which gave rise to our nation:—Feelings which the inhabitants of the state of Missouri were strangers to.—Accordingly we took the advantage of the situation of our guard and took our departure, and that night we trav[e]led a considerable distance. We continued on our journey both by night and by day, and after suffering much fatigue and hunger, I arrived in Quincy Illinois, amidst the congratulations of my friends and the embraces of my family.
I have now resided in this neighborhood for several weeks as it is known to thousands of the citizens of Illinois, as well as of the State of Missouri, but the authorities of Mo., knowing that they had no justice in their crusade against me, and the people with whom I was associated, have not yet to my knowledge, taken the first step towards having me arrested.
Amongst those who have been the chief instruments, and leading characters, in the unparallelled persecutions against the church of Latter Day Saints; the following stand conspicuous, viz: Generals Clark, Wilson, and Lucas, Colonel Price, and Cornelius Guilliam. Captain Bogart also, whose zeal in the cause of oppression and injustice, was unequalled, and whose delight has been to rob, murder, and spread devastation amongst the Saints. He stole a valuable horse, saddle and bridle from me; which cost two hundred dollars, and then sold the same to General Wilson. On understanding this I applied to General Wilson for the horse, who assured me, upon the honor of a gentleman, and an officer, that I should have the horse returned to me; but this promise has not been fulfilled.
[p.138]All the threats, murders, and robberies which these, officers have been guilty of, are entirely looked over by the Executive of the state; who, to hide his own iniquity, must of course shield and protect those whom he employed, to car[r]y into effect his murderous purposes.
I was in their hands as a prisoner about six months, but notwithstanding their determination to destroy me, with the rest of my brethren who were with me; and although at three different times (as I was informed) we were sentenced to be shot, without the least shadow of law, (as we were not military men,) and had the time, and place appointed for that purpose; yet, through the mercy of God, in answer to the prayers of the saints, I have been preserved, and delivered out of their hands, and can again enjoy the society of my friends and brethren, whom I love: and to whom I feel united in bonds that are stronger than death: and in a state where I believe the laws are respected, and whose citizens, are humane and charitable.
During the time I was in the hands of my enemies; I must say, that although I felt great anxiety, respecting my family and friends; who were so inhumanly treated and abused; and who had to mourn the loss of their husbands and children, who had been slain; and after having been robbed of nearly all that they possessed be driven from their homes, and forced to wander as strangers in a strange country, in order, that they might save themselves and their little ones, from the destructions they were threatened with in Missouri; yet, as far as I was concerned, I felt perfectly calm, and resigned to the will of my heavenly Father. I knew my innocency, as well as that of the saints; and that we had done nothing to deserve such treatment from the hands of our oppressors: consequently, I could look to that God, who has the hearts of all men in his hands, and who had saved me frequently from the gates of death for deliverance: and notwithstanding that every avenue of escape seemed to be entirely closed, and death stared me in the face, and that my destruction was determined upon, as far as man was concerned; yet, from my first entrance into the camp, I felt an assurance, that I with my brethren and our families should be delivered. Yes, that still small voice, which has so often whispered consolation to my soul, in the de[p]th of sorrow and distress, bade me be of good cheer, and promised deliverance, which gave me great comfort: and although the heathen raged, and the people imagined vain things, yet the Lord of hosts, the God of Jacob, was my refuge; and when I cried unto him in the day of trouble, he [p.139]delivered me; for which I call upon my soul, and all that is within me, to bless and praise his holy name: For although I was “troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in d[e]spair, persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”
The conduct of the saints under their accumulated wrongs and sufferings, has been praise-worthy; their courage, in defending their brethren from the ravages of mobs; their attachment to the cause of truth, under circumstances the most trying and distressing, which humanity can possibly endure; their love to each other; their readiness to afford assistance to me, and my brethren who were confined in a dungeon; their sacrifices in leaving the state of Missouri, and assisting the poor widows and orphans, and securing them houses in a more hospitable land; all conspire to raise them in the estimation of all good and virtuous men; and has secured them the favor and approbation of Jehovah; and a name, as imperishable as eternity. And their virtuous deeds, and heroic actions, while in defence of truth and their brethren: will be fresh and blooming; when the names of their oppressors shall either be entirely forgotten, or only remembered, for their barbarity and cruelty. Their attention and affection to me, while in prison, will ever be remembered by me; and when I have seen them thrust away, and abused by the jailor and guard, when they came to do any kind offices, and to cheer our minds while we were in the gloomy prison house, gave me feelings, which I cannot describe, while those who wished to insult and abuse us, by their threats and blasphemous language, were applauded and had every encouragement given them.
However, thank God, we have been delivered; and although, some of our beloved brethren, have had to seal their testimony with their blood; and have died martyrs to the cause of truth; yet,
Short, though bitter was their pain,
everlasting is their joy.
Let us not sorrow as “those without hope,” the time is fast approaching, when we shall see them again, and rejoice together, without being affraid of wicked men: Yes, those who have slept in Christ, shall he bring with him, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired by all those who believe: but to take vengeance upon his enemies, and all those who obey not the gospel. At that time, the hearts of the widow and fatherless shall be comforted, and every tear shall be wiped from off their faces.
[p.140]The trials they have had to pass through, shall work together for their good, and prepare them for the society of those, who have come up out of great tribulation; and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Marvel not then, if you are persecuted, but remember the words of the Savior, “The servant is not above his Lord, if they have persecuted, me, they will persecute you also;” and that all the afflictions through which the saints have to pass, are in fulfillment of the words of the prophets, which have spoken since the world began. We shall ther[e]fore do well to discern the signs of the times, as we pass along, that the day of the Lord may not “overtake us as a thief in the night.” Afflictions, persecutions, imprisonments and deaths, we must expect according to the scriptures, which tell us, that the blood of those whose souls were under the alter, could not be avenged on them that dwell on the earth, untill their brethren should be slain, as they were.
If these transactions had taken place among barbarrians, under the authority of a despot; or in a nation, where a certain religion is established according to law, and all others proscribed; then there might have been some shadow of defence offered. But can we realize that in a land which is the cradle of Liberty and equal rights, and where the voice of the conquerors, who had vanquished our foes, had scarcely died away upon our ears, where we frequently mingled with those who had stood amidst the “battle and the breeze,” and whose arms have been nerved in the defence of their country and liberty: whose institutions are the theme of philosophers and poets, and held up to the admiration of the whole civilized world. In the midst of all these scenes, with which we were surrounded, a persecution, the most unwarrantable, was commenced; and a tragedy, the most dreadful, was enacted, by a large portion of the inhabitants, of one of those free and independent States, which comprise this vast republic; and a deadly blow was struck at the institutions, for which our Fathers had fought many a hard battle, and for which, many a Patriot had shed his blood; and suddenly, was heard, amidst the voice of joy and gratitude for our national liberty, the voice of mourning, lamentation and woe. Yes, in this land, a mob, regardless of those laws, for which so much blood had been spilled, dead to every feeling of virtue and patriotism, which animated the bosom of freemen; fell upon a people whose religious faith was different from their own; and not only destroyed their homes, drove them away, and carried off their property, but mur-[p.141]der[e]d many a free born son of America. A tragedy, which has no parrallel in modern, and hardly in ancient times; even the face of the Red man would be ready to turn pale at the recital of it.
It would have been some consolation, if the authorities of the State had been innocent in this affair, but they are involved in the guilt thereof; and the blood of innocence, even of children, cry for vengeance upon them. I ask the citizens of this vast republic, whether such a state of things is to be suffered to pass unnoticed, and the hearts of widows, orphans and patriots, to be broken, and their wrongs left without redress? No! I invoke the genius of our constitution, I appeal to the patriotism of Americans, to stop this unlawful and unholy procedure; and pray that God may defend this nation from the dreadful effects of such outrages. Is there not virtue in the body politic? Will not the people rise up in their majesty, and with that promptitude and zeal, which is so character[i]stic of them, discountenance such proceedings, by bringing the offenders to that punishment which they so richly deserve; and save the nation from that disgrace and ultimate ruin, which otherwise must inevitably fall upon it?