Volume 7 Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

The Movements of the Apostles and Other Leading Brethren in the East and at Nauvoo—Important Communication from Governor Ford

Storm—Status of Weather.

“Thursday, July 18th 1844.—No rain since the night of the 29th ult., of any moment: excessively warm. Thermometer 92 1/2°F. After sunset the clouds gathered dense and black, accompanied by lightning, which became so constant, and the flashes so near each other, as to be almost one continued flash, lighter than noonday; the rain descended in torrents, the wind tremendous, prostrating many trees and some houses.

The following is from Elder Woodruff’s Journal:—


Movements of the Twelve in the East.

‘President Brigham Young arrived in the city of Boston, also Elders Orson Hyde, Heber C. Kimball and Orson Pratt. We met together in council, and agreed to counsel the elders and brethren having families at Nauvoo, to return immediately to them. Elder Hyde advertised that he would preach on the subject of the massacre of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the Prophet and Patriarch of the church.

According to appointment the saints and friends met in a hall in Washington Street. Elder Hyde preached from words in chapter 24 of St. Matthew, 9th to 14th verse, and concluded with the following remarks:—

Discourse of Elder Orson Hyde at Washington, D. C.

‘In consequence of the death of the Prophets, the editors seem to get the spirit of prophecy, and say the work is done, and will stop and die; but, as I am in the midst of the prophetic editors, like Saul I catch some of the spirit of prophecy, and so I will prophesy that instead of the work dying, it will be like the mustard stock that was ripe, that a man undertook to throw out of his garden, and scattered seed all over it, and next year it was nothing but mustard. It will be so by shedding the blood of the Prophets—it will make ten saints where there is one now.

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Some said that he would be president [i. e. of the U. S.], but is now dead; now, what will he do? The Revelator says, ‘He that overcometh will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron’; I don’t know but he may hold the keys of the plagues that are to be poured out in the last days upon this and other nations.

Angels appeared anciently to John, who were his fellow servants, the Prophets. Joseph may appear in this day to his brethren,

This gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world for a testimony, then shall the end come; though they should be persecuted, if they endured to the end, they should be saved.

This generation speak much about the clouds and weather; they discern the face of the sky, but why can they not discern the signs of the times? The fig trees are leafing, and all things indicate the second advent of Christ.’

Remarks of Brigham Young

Elder Brigham Young arose, and said he felt disposed to add his testimony; be of good cheer. The testimony is not in force while the testator liveth; when he died it was in force; so it is with Joseph.

On the Day of Pentecost there were but 120 of the saints, but at that time there were added 3,000 souls. When God sends a man to do a work, all the devils in hell cannot kill him until he gets through his work; so with Joseph, he prepared all things, gave the keys to men on the earth, and said, ‘I may soon be taken from you’.’

The following Epistle of the Twelve was published in the Prophet:

An Epistle of the Apostles to the Saints

‘Boston, July 18, 1844.

To the Elders and Saints Scattered Abroad, Greeting.

Dear Brethren,—We take this method to notify you that the advice and counsel of the Twelve is, that all the brethren who have families in the west should return to them as soon as convenient, and that all the churches should remain humble and watch unto prayer, and follow the teachings that have been given them by the servants of God, and leave all things in the hands of God: all will be right; the name of the Lord will be glorified and his work will prosper. And we would warn the saints in all the world against receiving the teachings of any man or set of men who come professing to be elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who preach any doctrine contrary to the plain and holy principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ which have been delivered unto them.

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We wish to see all the authorities of the church residing at Nauvoo, who at this time may be absent, such as the presidents of the different quorums, high priests, high council, seventies and bishops, that we may meet them in council as soon as convenient, as we expect to return immediately to Nauvoo.

Dear brethren, we are sensible that the account of the death of the Prophet and Patriarch of the church will be painful to your hearts: it is to ours. We feel and mourn their loss, but they have sealed their testimony with their blood; they have not counted their lives as dear unto themselves as the lives of the church; they have died in the Lord and their works will follow them.

The eyes of the Lord are upon those who have shed the blood of the Lord’s anointed, and he will judge them with a righteous judgment. Let the saints cultivate a meek and quiet spirit, and all things shall in the end work together for your good.

By order of the Quorum of the Twelve,

[Signed] Brigham Young, President,

Wilford Woodruff, Clerk.’

We copy from the Prophet:

Warning against False Doctrines

‘Mr. Editor,—I am requested to say to the saints, through the Prophet, by the counsel of the Twelve, that whereas certain strange doctrines have been taught and practiced in Boston and elsewhere, by men claiming higher authority than the Twelve,—

This is, therefore, to warn you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you give no heed to men making these high pretensions, when they teach you things that are not in accordance with principles which you know to be correct.

And we would seriously caution all men to beware how they offer strange fire upon the altars of pure and innocent hearts, lest that flame consume them, root and branch, in an unexpected hour; for the authorities of God’s house are not to be rode over by any man, and he escape without the rod.

A ship that carries more sail than her ballast will admit of, will surely capsize when the storm strikes her. This is a figure, and let it be remembered.

Yours truly,

Orson Hyde.’

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Elders at Nauvoo.

Friday, 19.—Elders Parley P. Pratt, Willard Richards, John Taylor and W. W. Phelps spent the afternoon in council.

Elder Kimball went to Salem, and preached to the saints in the evening.

Movement of Elders in the East.

Saturday, 20.—Elders Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball spent the day together in the city of Boston. Elders Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt left for New York, and Elder Wilford Woodruff for Connecticut.

Meetings at Nauvoo.

Sunday, 21.—Meeting at the stand. Elder Parley P. Pratt preached from the Book of Mormon quoting from Moroni, ‘Widows mourning for their husbands’.

Afternoon.—The sacrament was administered. Elders Pratt, Cahoon and Richards spoke.

Elders Young and Kimball preached to the saints in Boston during the day and evening; congregations very attentive.

Sunday, 22.—The following is from Governor Thomas Ford:—

Letter of Governor Ford to Willard Richards and W. W. Phelps

‘Quincy, July 17, 1844.


Gentlemen,—I have just returned from St. Louis. I should have gone on directly to Nauvoo, but I was aware that a visit to your place at this time would certainly be misrepresented by the public. I want very much to see some of you solely on the business of the late outrages at Carthage.

The mode of proceeding to be adopted is a matter for careful consideration. I wish to see some of you to consult on that one subject alone. Can one of you come down? If so, come immediately, or let me know.

I am, most respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

[Signed] Thomas Ford.

Dr. Willard Richards,

W. W. Phelps, Esq.’

To which the annexed was sent in reply:—

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Reply of Richards and Phelps

‘Nauvoo, July 22, 1844.


His Excellency Governor Ford.

Sir,—We have, at this late hour, received your letter of the 17th inst., and would be gratified with an interview, agreeably to your Excellency’s request; but the murder of our best men makes our time precious, and compels us to forego the interview.

We have delegated our friend, Mr. Orson Spencer, one of the aldermen of our city, to meet your Excellency on the arrival of the morning boat, answer any queries, and attend to all necessary business, having the fullest confidence in his ability and integrity to discharge the mission to your Excellency’s satisfaction and the best interest of our bleeding and long-loved country.

We are, sir, most respectfully,

Your obedient servants,

[Signed] Willard Richards,

W. W. Phelps.

Sister Leonora Taylor wrote as follows:—

Leonora Taylor’s Womanly Letter to Governor Ford

‘Nauvoo, July 22, 1844.

To His Excellency Thomas Ford.

Sir,—The peculiarity of my situation will, I hope, plead my excuse for troubling your Excellency on the present occasion.

Mr. Taylor, who was severely wounded in the jail at Carthage, is still ill, and obliged to be lifted in and out of bed; his wounds are slowly healing, and we hope he will finally get well, if suffered to do so. But, sir, I am sorry to say the murderers and mobbers are still at large in our neighborhood; as there has been no steps taken to bring them to justice, they have taken fresh courage and held meetings to carry out their work of destruction. I have been told they have sent messengers to Missouri to collect all the force they can, to come and exterminate the Mormons after harvest.

I have enclosed your Excellency a communication sent Mr. Taylor yesterday, which is a sample of many that are daily coming in. He does not know of my writing this letter. Nothing but the urgency of the case could have induced me to remind your Excellency of your promise to bring the murderers to justice. If a step of that kind is not taken soon, I much fear that it cannot benefit us as a people.

We are without arms, in a great measure, having delivered them up at your Excellency’s request, and we are forbid to stand even in our own defense. In this peculiar position, without resources, we can only look to your Excellency for defense, to you, sir, for protection; and if it is not granted, we must be murdered in cold blood.

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My feelings as a wife, and mother of helpless children, together with the afflictions of an injured people, all constrain me to beseech of you to exert the power and authority which the people and God has given you, in the cause of the oppressed. You shall have our prayers, that wisdom may be given you from on high to act in this case to the glory of God, your own honor and that of the state we live in.

Your Excellency was warned of our brethren’s danger, who were murdered, but could not believe that men were so base and degraded. The same men are now plotting our destruction.

As an individual who feels herself injured, and also in behalf of an oppressed, injured and persecuted people, I again beg your official interference. Your Excellency cannot now be mistaken in the men nor their design; I beseech you then, for the honor of our bleeding country, for the sake of suffering innocence and the cause of humanity, by the wounds of my husband and the blood of those murdered victims, to use prompt measures for our protection and the bringing to justice of those murderers.

Sincerely praying that you, sir, may become a terror to evildoers and the praise of those that do well, with great respect

I have the honor to be

Your Excellency’s humble servant,

Leonora Taylor.’

Movements of Prominent Elders.

Elder Wilford Woodruff went to Farmington, Ct., and spent the night at his father’s house. He ordained his father a high priest.

Tuesday, 23.—10 a.m. Elder Orson Spencer went down on the Osprey to Quincy, to wait upon the governor.

Elders Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball spent the day in Boston. They attended meeting in the evening and ordained thirty-two elders,

Elder Woodruff parted with his father and mother at Farmington, and proceeded to New York.

Wednesday, 24.—Elders Parley P. Pratt, Willard Richards, W. W. Phelps, George Miller and L. Woodworth met in council. They anointed and administered to Elder Samuel H. Smith, who was very sick.

Elder Phelps received the following communication from the governor:—

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Important and Confidential Letter of Governor Ford to Elder W. W. Phelps

‘Quincy, July 22, 1844.

Sir,—On Thursday last I wrote to Dr. Richards and yourself, requesting you to come or send some person to me at this place, to confer with me in relation to the time and mode of proceeding against the murderers of the Messrs. Smith; and I therein stated that I would have come to Nauvoo for that purpose were it not for the certainty that my motives and objects for so doing would be misinterpreted. As none of you have come, and have probably not received my letter, I have concluded to write you again and send this letter by special messenger.

In this letter I will say to you what I intended to say in a personal conference. In the beginning, then, you must allow me to say that my position forbids that I should be a partisan on either side of your unhappy controversy.

I may, for aught I know, have stern duties to perform in relation to both parties. This, however, will depend on which side may be the aggressor. Thus far, since the death of the Smiths, your people have behaved well; much better than could have been expected under the circumstances, and much better than the opposite party. I anxiously hope that they may have the grace to continue in the same line of conduct.

An unresisting, passive, peaceable, but defensive course on your parts, will do much to disarm prejudices in the surrounding country. That such prejudices do exist in the minds of the people you know as well as I, though you may not be fully aware of their extent, or the ferocity which they engender.

If I speak of those prejudices and the causes of them, I do not wish you to misunderstand me, as some of you did on a former occasion, and suppose that I am speaking my own opinions and feelings.

I say now, once for all, that I have nothing to do with those prejudices further than as a practical man; they obtrude themselves on my consideration, as presenting obstacles to me in the discharge of my official duty. The more prejudice and bad feeling which is gotten up against your people, whether by their own imprudence or the malice of their enemies, the more difficult it is for me to do anything effectually to protect either party according to law.

There are, I am informed, some few inflammatory and hot-blooded individuals amongst you, who, by their imprudence and rashness, continue to give cause for those prejudices, and, of course, by so doing, continue to involve you all in a common danger; I speak of the danger of a mob.

I am also informed that most of you entertain the opinion that there has been a great and universal reaction in the public mind since the death of the Smiths.

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On this subject I desire to tell you the naked truth. I am aware that you scarcely ever hear the truth, as to public sentiment abroad, from those who visit you in your city. The complaisance of such persons, and their desire to please, will induce them to omit the statement of disagreeable truths, and to say such things only as are pleasing and complimentary. You are bound, as men of sense, to receive all such statements with a great deal of allowance.

On my part, without desiring to please any of you, or to conciliate your favor, but certainly without any design to insult your misfortunes, and in a pure spirit of friendly concern for the peace and safety of all who repose under the shade of our political fig tree, I desire to state to you frankly, candidly and thoroughly, what I do know on this subject.

The naked truth then is, that most well-informed persons condemn in the most unqualified manner the mode in which the Smiths were put to death, but nine out of every ten of such accompany the expression of their disapprobation by a manifestation of their pleasure that they are dead.

The disapproval is most unusually cold and without feeling. It is a disapproval which appears to be called for, on their part, by decency, by a respect for the laws and a horror of mobs, but does not flow warm from the heart,

The unfortunate victims of this assassination were generally and thoroughly hated throughout the country, and it is not reasonable to suppose that their death has produced any reaction in the public mind resulting in active sympathy; if you think so, you are mistaken.

Most that is said on the subject is merely from the teeth out; and your people may depend on the fact, that public feeling is now, at this time, as thoroughly against them as it has ever been.

I mention this, not for the purpose of insulting your feelings, but to show you clearly how careful your people ought to be in future to avoid all causes of quarrel and excitement, and what little reliance could be placed on any militia force which I could send in your favor.

I ought, perhaps, to qualify what I have said, by remarking that but few persons from the surrounding counties could now be procured to join a mob force against you, without further cause of excitement to be ministered by some misguided imprudence of your people. But what I mean to say, and to say truly, is, that in the present temper of the public mind I am positively certain that I cannot raise a militia force in the state who would be willing to fight on your side, or to hazard their lives to protect you from an attack of your enemies.

The same state of things exists in relation to any force which might be ordered to arrest the murderers. If troops should be ordered for that purpose, I would expect that they would behave as the militia did in the late Philadelphia riots. The militia in that case sympathized with the native party and against their opponents. It was an unpopular service, and rather than fight they suffered themselves to be defeated and driven from the field.

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It is true that I might call upon the Mormons themselves, and then I would have a reliable force. This, however, would be a dangerous experiment, and would, in my mind, inevitably lead to civil war, the result of which no man can foresee.

I think I may safely say, that if the Nauvoo Legion should be called out against the old citizens, the crimes which are sought to be punished would be instantly forgotten in the general and burning indignation which would be kindled.

Men would rally to their assistance who would otherwise be neutral. Your Legion has ever been regarded with a jealous eye; the arming and drilling of your people, with such exceeding industry, in a season of peace, (not wrong in itself,) has been looked upon by the great body of the people with suspicion, and as intended in due time for the subversion of the public liberty: in the beginning you would have been much better without it. If your people had never made any military pretensions, no military feeling would ever have been aroused against you.

This much I hope you will consider has been said from a friendly motive, and for the further purpose of showing you what a dangerous experiment it would be, and how well calculated to excite a civil war, in which your city might be utterly destroyed, if I should attempt to call out the hated Legion against the old citizens.

You may be disposed to ask, What use is there for law and government if these things be so? I answer you, that cases like the present do not seem to be fully provided for by our Constitutions; they were not anticipated to occur,

Upon the first institution of our governments, it was a season of internal peace and union among our people. The population was homogeneous, and all agreed together as brothers. It was supposed that the great body of the people would be always willingly submissive to the laws which they themselves had made. It was not foreseen that great and hostile parties would soon spring up and combine in large numbers to set the law at defiance.

A voluntary submission and obedience was supposed as the basis of government, for this reason no adequate provision was made in our state constitutions for coercing this submission, when the laws were to be trampled upon by the concerted action of large numbers.

The states are prohibited from maintaining standing armies; the only military force at their command, without aid from the general government, is the militia; and, as I have already shown you, this force can only be relied on to do effectual service where that service is popular and jumps with their inclinations.

For this same reason, I must beg leave to say that a party, as in your case; which is the object of popular odium, cannot be too circumspect in their behavior, so as to give no color to the hatred of your enemies. ‘Truth is great and will prevail’.

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From this you may be assured that if the conduct of your people shall be uniformly peaceably honest and submissive to the laws, even if they have to bear persecution for a season, such conduct must result in dissipating the unhappy prejudices which exist against you.

Truth and candor, however, compel me to say that the Mormons have not always acted in such a manner as if they intended to avoid the creation of prejudices.

The pretensions of your municipal court, the unheard of description of ordinances passed by your city council, the assault on Mr. Bagby, the attempt to kidnap persons from Missouri, the formal destruction of a printing office and the general tone of arrogance and defiance of some of your leaders, were well calculated to inflame the public mind against you.

I think that I have considered this difficult subject in every possible point of view. I am afraid to rely on the militia in the present temper of the public mind. To call on the Nauvoo Legion would be suicidal to any effort as pacification of existing troubles, and for that reason would fail to bring about an enforcement of the laws.

If the laws are to be enforced at all in your county, out of the ordinary way by courts alone, it must be done by a force which is indifferent as to both parties.

To call in one party to put down and subdue the other, would lead to the most disastrous consequences; all the pride of conquest and victory; all the shame of defeat by, and submission to an adversary; all the fury of unconquerable hate and exasperated feeling would necessarily be mingled with the contest, and render it bloody and bitter beyond anything we know of in this country.

For these reasons I have called upon the officers now in command, in the absence of General Gains, of the 3rd Military Department of the United States, for five hundred men of the regular army to be stationed in Hancock county, with whose aid I hope to be able to preserve order and proceed against all criminals whomsoever they may be. The following is a copy of the answer to the application:—

‘Headquarters, 3rd Mil. Dept.,

St. Louis, Mo., July 11, 1844.

‘Sir,—I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Excellency’s communication of this date, relating to the difficulties which have occurred between the Mormons and the people of Hancock county, Illinois, and the further difficulties apprehended by you, and requesting of me a force of some five hundred men from the regular army of the United States to be stationed for a time in Hancock county, and to act in conjunction with such forces as may be ordered on the part of the state of Illinois.

‘I have not the power of complying with your request, but will forward by tomorrow’s mail a copy of your communication to be laid before the authorities in Washington city, and will advise your Excellency of the result as soon as ascertained.

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With great respect,

Your most obedient servant,

[Signed] S. W. Kearney,

Col. 1st Drags.

His Excellency Thomas Ford,

Governor of Illinois, St. Louis, Mo.’

By the above letter you will perceive that I cannot yet be enabled to say with certainty whether the application will be successful: we will know in two weeks. I think, at most.

The anti-Mormon party intend to renew the war this fall, and if it were known with certainty that the troops of the regular army would be obtained to prevent their operations, they would, most likely, hasten their plans and do all the mischief in their power before the force arrives. They are not afraid of the state militia, and would give themselves but little concern in fear of such opposition.

I therefore caution you not to let it be known beyond your most trusted men that a regular force is expected. I have myself not informed anyone who would make the matter public, and yet, most unaccountably, the fact has got into the newspapers.

Another caution I would give you, your people cannot pay too much attention to it. It is very natural and probable to suppose that with the prospect of such a force, and the increased security it may give, some of your people may be prompted to such audacity and imprudence as will tend to prolong angry feelings. They may thus be induced to do and say foolish and wicked things, uselessly vexatious and mortifying to the opposing party.

There are no doubt wicked people in Nauvoo, ready for the commission of crime, as well as in every other city of the same number of inhabitants. The well-disposed amongst you must restrain those persons, and, if need be, bring them to punishment. The public at large will not distinguish among you, but will involve you all in a common obloquy.

I have dwelt more, perhaps, than may be agreeable to you on this point; but I have done so in my anxiety that the Mormons may demonstrate to the world that they are no more deserving than their enemies.

Three or four of your people are reported to me as having already been threatening life, and publicly following men about the city with clubs, and that no effort was made to restrain them. An effectual stop must be put to all such vaporings, if you expect it to stop on the other side. You are interested in bringing all such men to immediate justice, if you can. If pacification is what you ask, you must restrain your own hostility.

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It may be thought that there has already been too much delay in proceeding against the murderers, that a further delay will give an opportunity for many of the guilty to escape, and that the apparent impunity for the present will greatly encourage further outrages against you.

This last consideration is one of considerable force, and on that account I could wish to proceed without delay, if it could be done without exciting further troubles, or if I had a force at my command on which I could rely to suppress them.

I do not fear that any of the leaders will escape or flee from justice: they are determined to remain and brave it out to the end.

In my humble opinion there is no utility in proceeding against any but the leaders.

As to the misguided multitude who were the mere followers of others and the instruments of mischief, it has never been the practice of civilized states to proceed against them with rigor.

The punishment of some of the principal offenders has always been looked upon as sufficient to vindicate the majesty of the law and to deter others from the commission of like offenses, and this is the whole object of human punishment.

I do not apprehend that anything requiring my further stay here will happen immediately, and will return home tomorrow.

I am, most respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

[Signed] Thomas Ford.

William W. Phelps, Esq., Nauvoo, Illinois.'” 1

Chapter 16.

1. This lengthy communication of Governor Ford to W. W. Phelp’s; quite characteristic of Thomas Ford in nearly all his relationships with the Latter-day Saints, both before and after the martyrdom of the Prophets: and bears witness of his weakness, and inclination to double-dealing with them. In nothing is this more apparent than in the letter enclosed in the above communication to Colonel S. W. Kearney of the First Dragoons, headquarters of the Third Military Department at St. Louis. Ford’s appeal to this local commander of the First Dragoons can be no other than mere pretense at applying for U. S. military assistance to quell the riotous uprising of mobs and the rebellion of state military units inclined to mobocracy in western Illinois. The Constitution of the United States makes it possible by application of the legislature or of the executive of a state when the legislature can not be convened to appeal to the federal government for protection against invasion or against “domestic violence”. But this application must be made to the federal government for the fulfillment of the guarantee against domestic violence and with his knowledge of the law governing the case, the inconsistency of the appeal of Governor Ford to Colonel Kearney could not be other than a mere pretense at securing aid against the domestic violence in western Illinois at that period. It was a mere “seeming” to invoke federal aid, well knowing that it could not be granted from that source, and in that manner; and evidently the governor sought to satisfy the leading elders at Nauvoo that he had vainly attempted to exercise this power lodged in him by the Constitution. His ignorance could not be pleaded in excuse of such artful dodging in the case. B. H. R.