Volume 3 Chapter 1 | BYU Studies

Volume 3 Chapter 1

 

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Chapter 1

The Prophet Joseph's Departure From Kirtland And Arrival In Missouri.

Flight of the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon from Kirtland.

January, 1838.—A new year dawned upon the Church in Kirtland in all the bitterness of the spirit of apostate mobocracy; which continued to rage and grow hotter and hotter, until Elder Rigdon and myself were obliged to flee from its deadly influence, as did the Apostles and Prophets of old, and as Jesus said, "when they persecute you in one city, flee to another." On the evening of the 12th of January, about ten o'clock, we left Kirtland, on horseback, to escape mob violence, which was about to burst upon us under the color of legal process to cover the hellish designs of our enemies, and to save themselves from the just judgment of the law.

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We continued our travels during the night, and at eight o'clock on the morning of the 13th, arrived among the brothren in Norton Township, Medina county, Ohio, a distance of sixty miles from Kirtland. Here we tarried about thirty-six hours, when our families arrived; and on the 16th we pursued our journey with our families, in covered wagons towards the city of Far West, in Missouri. We passed through Dayton and Eaton, in Ohio, and Dublin, Indiana; in the latter place we tarried nine days, and refreshed ourselves.

Brigham Young to the Prophet's Rescue.

About January 16, 1838, being destitute of money to pursue my journey, I said to Brother Brigham Young: "You are one of the Twelve who have charge of the kingdom in all the world; I believe I shall throw myself upon you, and look to you for counsel in this case." Brother Young thought I was not earnest, but I told him I was. Brother Brigham then said, "If you will take my counsel it will be that you rest yourself, and be assured you shall have money in plenty to pursue your journey."

There was a brother living in the place who had tried for some time to sell his farm but could not; he asked counsel of Brother Young concerning his property; Brother Young told him that if he would do right, and obey counsel, he should have an opportunity to sell. In about three days Brother Tomlinson came to Brother Brigham and said he had an offer for his place; Brother Brigham told him that this was the manifestation of the hand of the Lord to deliver Brother Joseph Smith from his present necessities. Brother Brigham's promise was soon verified, and I got three hundred dollars from Brother Tomlinson, which enabled me to pursue my journey. 1

The Bitterness of the Prophet's Enemies.

The weather was extremely cold, we were obliged to secrete ourselves in our wagons, sometimes, to elude the grasp of our pursuers, who continued their pursuit of us more than two hundred miles from Kirtland, armed with pistols and guns, seeking our lives. They frequently crossed our track, twice they were in the houses where we stopped, once we tarried all night in the same house with them, with only a partition between us and them; and heard their oaths and imprecations, and threats concerning us, if they could catch us; and late in the evening they came in to our room and examined us, but decided we were not the men. At other times we passed them in the streets, and gazed upon them, and they on us, but they knew us not. One Lyons was one of our pursuers.

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The Prophet's Arrival in Missouri.

I parted with Brother Rigdon at Dublin, and traveling different routes we met at Terre Haute, where, after resting, we separated again, and I pursued my journey, crossing the Mississippi river at Quincy, Illinois.

Trial of the Far West Presidency of the Church.

Minutes of the Proceedings of the Committee of the whole Church in Zion, in General Assembly, at the following places, to-wit: At Far West, February 5, 1838; Carter's Settlement on the 6th; Durphy's Settlement, on the 7th; Curtis' Dwelling-house on the 8th; and Haun's Mills on the 9th. Thomas B. Marsh, Moderator, John Cleminson, Clerk.

After prayer, the Moderator stated the object of the meeting, giving a relation of the recent organization of the Church here and in Kirtland. He also read a certain revelation given in Kirtland, September 3, 1837, which made known that John Whitmer and W. W. Phelps, were in transgression, and if they repented not, they should be removed out of their places; 2 also read a certain clause contained in the appeal published in the old Star, on the 183rd page as follows:

"And to sell our lands would amount to a denial of our faith, as that is the place where the Zion of God shall stand, according to our faith and belief in the revelations of God."

Elder John Murdock then took the stand and showed to the congregation, why the High Council proceeded thus was that the Church have a voice in the matter; and that he considered it perfectly legal according to the instructions of President Joseph Smith, Jun.

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Elder George M. Hinkle then set forth the way in which the Presidency of Far West had been labored with, that a committee of three, of whom he was one, had labored with them. He then read a written document, containing a number of accusations against the three presidents. He spoke many things against them, setting forth in a plain and energetic manner the iniquity of Elders Phelps and Whitmer, in using the monies which were loaned to the Church. Also David Whitmer's wrong-doing in persisting in the use of tea, coffee, and tobacco.

Bishop Partridge then arose and endeavored to rectify some mistakes of minor importance, made by Elder Hinkle; also the Bishop spoke against the proceedings of the meeting, as being hasty and illegal, for he thought they ought to be had before the Common Council, and said that he could not lift his hand against the Presidency at present. He then read a letter from President Joseph Smith, Jun.

A letter from William Smith was then read by Thomas B. Marsh, who made some comments on the same, and also on the letter read by Bishop Partridge.

Elder George Morey, who was one of the committee sent to labor with the Missouri Presidency, spoke, setting forth in a very energetic manner, the proceedings of that Presidency, as being iniquitous.

Elder Thomas Grover, also, being one of the committee, spoke against the conduct of the Presidency, and of Oliver Cowdery, on their visit to labor with them.

Elder David W. Patten spoke with much zeal against the Presidency, and in favor of Joseph Smith, Jun., and that the wolves alluded to, in his letter, were the dissenters in Kirtland.

Elder Lyman Wight stated that he considered all other accusations of minor importance compared to Brothers Phelps and Whitmer selling their lands in Jackson county; that they had set an example which all the Saints were liable to follow. He said that it was a hellish principle on which they had acted, and that they had flatly denied the faith in so doing.

Elder Elias Higbee sanctioned what had been done by the Council, speaking against the Presidency.

Elder Murdock stated that sufficient had been said to substantiate the accusations against them.

Elder Solomon Hancock pleaded in favor of the Presidency, stating that he could not raise his hand against them.

Elder John Corrill then spoke against the proceedings of the High Council and labored hard to show that the meeting was illegal, and that the Presidency ought to be arraigned before a proper tribunal, which he considered to be a Bishop and Twelve High Priests. He labored in favor of the Presidency, and said that he should not raise his hands against them at present, although he did not uphold the Presidents in their iniquity.

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Simeon Carter spoke against the meeting as being hasty.

Elder Groves followed Brother Carter in like observations.

Elder Patten again took the stand in vindication of the cause of the meeting.

Elder Morley spoke against the Presidency, at the same time pleading mercy.

Titus Billings said he could not vote until they had a hearing in the Common Council. 3

Elder Marsh said that the meeting was according to the direction of Brother Joseph, he therefore considered it legal.

Elder Moses Martin spoke in favor of the legality of the meeting, and against the conduct of the Presidency, with great energy, alleging that the present corruptions of the Church here, were owing to the wickedness and mismanagement of her leaders.

The Moderator then called the vote in favor of the Missouri Presidency; the negative was then called, and the vote against David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and William W. Phelps was unanimous, excepting eight or ten, and this minority only wished them to continue in office a little longer, or until Joseph Smith, Jun., arrived.

Thomas B. Marsh, Moderator,
John Cleminson, Clerk.

Minutes of Proceedings in Other Settlements than Far West.

In Simeon Carter's settlement the Saints assembled on the 6th instant, when they unanimously rejected the three above-named Presidents. On the 7th, the Saints assembled at Edmond Durphy's, agreeable to appointment, where the above-named Presidents were unanimously rejected; also on the 8th at Nahum Curtis' dwelling-house, they were unanimously rejected by the assembly; also at Haun's Mills, on the 9th, the Saints unanimously rejected them.

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At a meeting of the High Council the Bishop and his counsel, February 10, 1838, it was moved, seconded, and carried, that Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, and John Whitmer, stand no longer as chairman and clerks to sign and record licenses.

Voted that Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten be authorized to attend to such business for the time being.

Also voted that Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten be presidents, pro tempore, of the Church of Latter-day Saints in Missouri, until Presidents Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, arrive in the land of Zion.

J. Murdock, Moderator,
T. B. Marsh, Clerk.

High Council Meeting at Far West.

The High Council of Zion met in Far West, on Saturday, March 10, 1838, agreeable to adjournment; when after discussion it was resolved,

First—That the High Council recommend by writing to the various branches of this Church, that all those who wish to receive ordination, procure recommends from the branches to which they belong, and have such recommends pass through the hands of the different quorums for inspection, previous to the applicants' ordination.

Second—Resolved that the High Council recommend to all those who hold licenses, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, and do not officiate in their respective offices, be subject to military duty. 4

A charge was then preferred against William W. Phelps and John Whitmer, for persisting in unchristian-like conduct.

Six councilors were appointed to speak, viz., Simeon Carter, Isaac Higbee and Levi Jackman, on the part of the accuser; and Jared Carter, Thomas Grover, and Samuel Bent, on the part of the accused; when the following letter, belonging to Thomas B. Marsh, was read by Brother Marcellus F. Cowdery, bearer of the same, previous to giving it to its rightful owner:

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"Far West, March 10, 1838.

"Sir—It is contrary to the principles of the revelations of Jesus Christ and His gospel, and the laws of the land, to try a person for an offense by an illegal tribunal, or by men prejudiced against him, or by authority that has given an opinion or decision beforehand, or in his absence.

"Very respectfully we have the honor to be,

"David Whitmer,
"William W. Phelps,
"John Whitmer,

"Presidents of the Church of Christ in Missouri.

"To Thomas B. Marsh, one of the [Twelve] Traveling Councilors."

Attested, Oliver Cowdery,

Clerk of the High Council of the Church of Christ in Missouri.

I certify the foregoing to be a true copy from the original.

Oliver Cowdery,

Clerk of the High Council.

All the effect the above letter had upon the Council, was to convince them still more of the wickedness of those men, by endeavoring to palm themselves off upon the Church, as her Presidents, after the Church had by a united voice, removed them from their presidential office, for their ungodly conduct; and the letter was considered no more nor less than a direct insult or contempt cast upon the authorities of God, and the Church of Jesus Christ; therefore the Council proceeded to business.

A number of charges were sustained against these men, the principal of which was claiming $2,000 Church funds, which they had subscribed for building a house to the Lord in this place, when they held in their possession the city plat, and were sitting in the presidential chair; which subscription they were intending to pay from the avails of the town lots; but when the town plat was transferred into the hands of the Bishop for the benefit of the Church, it was agreed that the Church should take this subscription off the hands of W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer: but in the transaction of the business, they bound the Bishop in a heavy mortgage, to pay them the above $2,000, in two years from the date thereof, a part of which they had already received, and claimed the remainder.

The six councilors made a few appropriate remarks, but none felt to plead for mercy, as it had not been asked on the part of the accused, and all with one consent declared that justice ought to have her demands.

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After some remarks by Presidents Marsh and Patten, setting forth the iniquity of those men in claiming the $2,000 spoken of, which did not belong to them, any more than to any other person in the Church, it was decided that William W. Phelps and John Whitmer be no longer members of the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints, and be given over to the buffetings of Satan, until they learn to blaspheme no more against the authorities of God, nor fleece the flock of Christ.

The Council was then asked if they concurred with the decision, if so, to manifest it by rising; they all arose.

The vote was then put to the congregation, and was carried unanimously.

The negative was called, but no one voted.

Brother Marcellus F. Cowdery arose and said he wished to leave it understood that he did not vote either way, because he did not consider it a legal tribunal. He also offered insult to the High Council, and to the Church, by reading a letter belonging to Thomas B. Marsh, before giving it to him, and in speaking against the authorities of the Church.

A motion was then made by President Patten, that fellowship be withdrawn from Marcellus F. Cowdery, until he make satisfaction, which was seconded and carried unanimously.

Thomas B. Marsh,
David W. Patten, Presidents.

Ebenezer Robinson, Clerk of High Council.

The Prophet's Reception in Zion.

When I had arrived within one hundred and twenty miles of Far West, the brethren met me with teams and money to help me forward, and when eight miles from the city, we were met by an escort, viz., Thomas B. Marsh and others, who received us with open arms; and on the 13th of March, with my family and some others I put up at Brother Barnard's for the night. Here we were met by another escort of the brethren from the town, who came to make us welcome to their little Zion.

On the 14th of March, as we were about entering Far West, many of the brethren came out to meet us, who also with open arms welcomed us to their bosoms. We were immediately received under the hospitable roof of Brother George W. Harris, who treated us with all possible kindness, and we refreshed ourselves with much satisfaction, after our long and tedious journey, the brethren bringing in such things as we had need of for our comfort and convenience.

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After being here two or three days, my brother Samuel arrived with his family.

Shortly after his arrival, while walking with him and certain other brethren, the following sentiments occurred to my mind:

The Political Motto of the Church of Latter-day Saints.

The Constitution of our country formed by the Fathers of liberty. Peace and good order in society. Love to God, and good will to man. All good and wholesome laws, virtue and truth above all things, and aristarchy, live for ever! But woe to tyrants, mobs, aristocracy, anarchy, and toryism, and all those who invent or seek out unrighteous and vexatious law suits, under the pretext and color of law, or office, either religious or political. Exalt the standard of Democracy! Down with that of priestcraft, and let all the people say Amen! that the blood of our fathers may not cry from the ground against us. Sacred is the memory of that blood which bought for us our liberty.

Joseph Smith, Jun.
Thomas B. Marsh,
David W. Patten,
Brigham Young,
Samuel H. Smith,
George M. Hinkle,
John Corrill,
George W. Robinson.

The Prophet's Answers to Questions on Scripture. 5

Who is the Stem of Jesse spoken of in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th verses of the 11th chapter of Isaiah?

Verily thus saith the Lord, it is Christ.

What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah that should come of the Stem of Jesse?

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Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the House of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power.

What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?

Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the Priesthood, and the keys of the Kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days.

Questions by Elias Higbee:

"What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52nd chapter, 1st verse, which saith, put on thy strength O Zion? And what people had Isaiah reference to?"

He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of Priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the Priesthood, which she (Zion) has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.

"What are we to understand by Zion loosing herself from the bands of her neck; 2nd verse?"

We are to understand that the scattered remnants are exhorted to return to the Lord from whence they have fallen, which if they do, the promise of the Lord is that He will speak to them, or give them revelation. See the 6th, 7th and 8th verses. The bands of her neck are the curses of God upon her, or the remnants of Israel in their scattered condition among the Gentiles.

The Prophet's Letter to the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kirtland.

Far West, March 29, 1838.

Dear and Well Beloved Brethren—Through the grace and mercy of our God, after a long and tedious journey of two months and one day, my family and I arrived safe in the city of Far West, having been met at Huntsvills, one hundred and twenty miles from this place, by my brethren with teams and money, to forward us on our journey. When within eight miles of the city of Far West, we were met by an escort of brethren from the city, viz.: Thomas B. Marsh, John Corrill, Elias Higbee, and several others of the faithful of the West, who received us with open arms and warm hearts, and welcomed us to the bosom of their society. On our arrival in the city we were greeted on every hand by the Saints, who bid us welcome to the land of their inheritance.

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Dear brethren, you may be assured that so friendly a meeting and reception paid us well for our long seven years of servitude, persecution, and affliction in the midst of our enemies, in the land of Kirtland; yea, verily our hearts were full; and we feel grateful to Almighty God for His kindness unto us. The particulars of our journey, brethren, cannot well be written, but we trust that the same God who has protected us will protect you also, and will, sooner or later, grant us the privilege of seeing each other face to face, and of rehearsing all our sufferings.

We have heard of the destruction of the printing office, which we presume to believe must have been occasioned by the Parrish party, or more properly the aristocrats or anarchists.

The Saints here have provided a room for us, and daily necessaries, which are brought in from all parts of the country to make us comfortable; so that I have nothing to do but to attend to my spiritual concerns, or the spiritual affairs of the Church.

The difficulties of the Church had been adjusted before my arrival here, by a judicious High Council, with Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten, who acted as presidents pro tempore of the Church of Zion, being appointed by the voice of the Council and Church, William W. Phelps and John Whitmer having been cut off from the Church, David Whitmer remaining as yet. The Saints at this time are in union; and peace and love prevail throughout; in a word, heaven smiles upon the Saints in Caldwell. Various and many have been the falsehoods written from Kirtland to this place, but [they] have availed nothing. We have no uneasiness about the power of our enemies in this place to do us harm.

Brother Samuel H. Smith and family arrived here soon after we did, in good health. Brothers Brigham Young, Daniel S. Miles, and Levi Richards arrived here when we did. They were with us on the last part of our journey, which ended much to our satisfaction. They also are well. They have provided places for their families, and are now about to break the ground for seed.

Having been under the hands of [men who urged against me] wicked and vexatious law suits for seven years past, my business [in Kirtland] was so deranged that I was not able to leave it in so good a situation as I had anticipated; but if there are any wrongs, they shall all be noticed, so far as the Lord gives me ability and power to do so.

Say to all the brethren, that I have not forgotten them, but remember them in my prayers. Say to Mother Beaman that I remember her, also Brother Daniel Carter, Brother Strong and family, Brother Granger and family; finally I cannot enumerate them all for want of room, I will just name Brother Knight, the Bishop, etc.; my best respects to them all, and I commend them and the Church of God in Kirtland to our Heavenly Father, and the word of His grace, which is able to make you wise unto salvation.

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I would just say to Brother Marks, that I saw in a vision while on the road, that whereas he was closely pursued by an innumerable concourse of enemies, and as they pressed upon him hard, as if they were about to devour him, and had seemingly obtained some degree of advantage over him, but about this time a chariot of fire came, and near the place, even the angel of the Lord put forth his hand unto Brother Marks and said unto him, "Thou art my son, come here," and immediately he was caught up in the chariot, and rode away triumphantly out of their midst. And again the Lord said, I will raise thee up for a blessing unto many people." Now the particulars of this whole matter cannot be written at this time, but the vision was evidently given to me that I might know that the hand of the Lord would be on his behalf.

I transmit to you the Motto of the Church of Latter-day Saints.

We left President Rigdon thirty miles this side of Paris, Illinois, in consequence of the sickness of Brother George W. Robinson's wife.

On yesterday Brother Robinson arrived here, who informed us that his father-in-law (Sidney Rigdon) was at Huntsville, detained on account of the ill health of his wife. They will probably be here soon.

Choice seeds of all kinds of fruit, also choice breeds of cattle, would be in much demand; and best blood of horses, garden seeds of every description, and hay seeds of all sorts, are much needed in this place.

Very respectfully I subscribe myself your servant in Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Joseph Smith, Jun.,

President of the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Chapter 1 Notes

1. This incident occurred in Dublin, Indiana, where, and after, the Prophet had sought for a job at cutting and sawing wood to relieve his necessities.—"Life of Brigham Young, (Tullidge), p. 85.

2. See Vol. 2, p. 511.

3. The question raised here several times by the brethren, and hereafter alluded to by the defendants in the case, concerning the illegality of the Council attempting then to try David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and William W. Phelps, constituting the local Presidency of the Church in Missouri, grew out of a misapprehension of a council provided for in the revelations of God for the trial of a President of the High Priesthood, who is also of the Presidency of the whole Church. The said revelation provides that if a President of the High Priesthood, shall transgress, he shall be brought before the Presiding Bishop, or bishopric, of the church, who are to be assisted by twelve counselors chosen from the High Priesthood. Here the President's conduct may be investigated, and the decision of that council upon his head is to be the end of controversy concerning him. (See D&C 107:76, 81-83). But the Presidency of the Church in Missouri was a local presidency, hence they could not plead the illegality of a local council of the Church to try them.

4. The law of Missouri excused from military duty all licensed ministers of the Gospel, and as nearly all the adult members of the Church who were worthy had received ordination to the Priesthood, it left the community in Far West, then a frontier country and liable to be raided by warlike tribes of Indians, without militia companies and state arms for its protection; hence the recommendation of the Council that the brethren within the ages specified, and not actively employed in the ministry, place themselves in a position to accept militia service.

5. D&C 113.