The Prophet’s Sympathy for the Exiled Saints—Reasons for Their Expulsion from Zion.
A Letter from the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Exiled Saints in Missouri. 1
Kirtland Mills, Ohio,
December 10, 1833.
Edward Partridge, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, A. S. Gilbert, John Corrill, Isaac Morley, and all the Saints whom it may concern.
Beloved Brethren:—This morning’s mail brought letters from Bishop Partridge, and Elders Corrill and Phelps, all mailed at Liberty, November 19th, which gave us the melancholy intelligence of your flight from the land of your inheritance, having been driven before the face of your enemies in that place.
From previous letters we learned that a number of our brethren had been slain, but we could not learn from the letters referred to above, that there had been more than one killed, and that one Brother Barber, and that Brother Dibble was wounded in the bowels. We were thankful to learn that no more had been slain, and our daily prayers are that the Lord will not suffer His Saints, who have gone up to His land to keep His commandments, to stain His holy mountain with their blood.
I cannot learn from any communication by the Spirit to me, that Zion has forfeited her claim to a celestial crown, notwithstanding the Lord has caused her to be thus afflicted, except it may be some individuals, who have walked in disobedience, and forsaken the new covenant; all such will be made manifest by their works in due time. I have always expected that Zion would suffer some affliction, from what I could learn from the commandments which have been given. But I would remind you of a certain clause in one which says, that after much tribulation cometh the blessing. 2 By this, and also others, and also one received of late, I know that Zion, in the due time of the Lord, will be redeemed; but how many will be the days of her purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes; and when I inquire concerning this subject, the voice of the Lord is: Be still, and know that I am God! all those who suffer for my name shall reign with me, and he that layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.
Now, there are two things of which I am ignorant; and the Lord will not show them unto me, perhaps for a wise purpose in Himself—I mean in some respects—and they are these: Why God has suffered so great a calamity to come upon Zion, and what the great moving cause of this great affliction is; and again, by what means He will return her back to her inheritance, with songs of everlasting joy upon her head. These two things, brethren, are in part kept back that they are not plainly shown unto me; but there are some things that are plainly manifest which have incurred the displeasure of the Almighty. When I contemplate upon all things that have been manifested, I am aware that I ought not to murmur, and do not murmur, only in this, that those who are innocent are compelled to suffer for the iniquities of the guilty; and I cannot account for this, only on this wise, that the saying of the Savior has not been strictly observed: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; or if thy right arm offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee.” Now the fact is, if any of the members of our body is disordered, the rest of our body will be affected with it, and then all are brought into bondage together; and yet, notwithstanding all this, it is with difficulty that I can restrain my feelings when I know that you, my brethren, with whom I have had so many happy hours—sitting, as it were, in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; and also, having the witness which I feel, and ever have felt, of the purity of your motives—are cast out, and are as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, exposed to hunger, cold, nakedness, peril, sword—I say when I contemplate this, it is with difficulty I can keep from complaining and murmuring against this dispensation; but I am sensible that this is not right, and may God grant that notwithstanding your great afflictions and sufferings, there may not anything separate us from love of Christ.
Brethren, when we learn your sufferings, it awakens every sympathy of our hearts; it weighs us down; we cannot refrain from tears, yet, we are not able to realize, only in part, your sufferings: and I often hear the brethren saying, they wish they were with you, that they might bear a part of your sufferings; and I myself should have been with you, had not God prevented it in the order of His providence, that the yoke of affliction might be less grievous upon you, God having forewarned me, concerning these things, for your sake; and also, Elder Cowdery could not lighten your afflictions by tarrying longer with you, for his presence would have so much the more enraged your enemies; therefore God hath dealt mercifully with us. O brethren, let us be thankful that it is as well with us as it is, and we are yet alive and preadventure, God hath laid up in store great good for us in this generation, and may grant that we may yet glorify His name.
I feel thankful that there have no more denied the faith; I pray God in the name of Jesus that you all may be kept in the faith unto the end; let your sufferings be what they may, it is better in the eyes of God that you should die, than that you should give up the land of Zion, the inheritances which you have purchased with your moneys; for every man that giveth not up his inheritance, though he should die, yet, when the Lord shall come, he shall stand upon it, and with Job in his flesh he shall see God. Therefore, this is my counsel, that you retain your lands, even unto the uttermost, and employ every lawful means to seek redress of your enemies; and pray to God, day and night, to return you in peace and in safety to the lands of your inheritance: and when the judge fail you, appeal unto the executive; and when the executive fail you, appeal unto the president; and when the president fail you, and all laws fail you, and the humanity of the people fail you, and all things else fail you but God alone, and you continue to weary Him with your importunings, as the poor woman did the unjust judge, He will not fail to execute judgment upon your enemies, and to avenge His own elect that cry unto Him day and night.
Behold He will not fail you! He will come with ten thousand of His Saints, and all His adversaries shall be destroyed with the breath of His lips! All those who keep their inheritances, notwithstanding they should be beaten and driven, shall be likened unto the wise virgins who took oil in their lamps. But all those who are unbelieving and fearful, will be likened unto the foolish virgins, who took no oil in their lamps: and when they shall return and say unto the Saints, Give us of your lands—behold, there will be no room found for them. As respects giving deeds, I would advise you to give deeds as far as the brethren have legal and just claims for them, and then let every man answer to God for the disposal of them.
I would suggest some ideas to Elder Phelps, not knowing that they will be of any real benefit, but suggest them for consideration. I would be glad if he were here, were it possible for him to come, but dare not advise, not knowing what shall befall us, as we are under very heavy and serious threatenings from a great many people in this place.
But, perhaps, the people in Liberty may feel willing, God having power to soften the hearts of all men, to have a press established there; and if not, in some other place; any place where it can be the most convenient, and it is possible to get to it; God will be willing to have it in any place where it can be established in safety. We must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Again, I desire that Elder Phelps should collect all the information, and give us a true history of the beginning and rise of Zion, and her calamities.
Now hear the prayer of your unworthy brother in the new and everlasting covenant:—O My God! Thou who hast called and chosen a few, through Thy weak instrument, by commandment, and sent them to Missouri, a place which Thou didst call Zion, and commanded Thy servants to consecrate it unto Thyself for a place of refuge and safety for the gathering of Thy Saints, to be built up a holy city unto Thyself; and as Thou hast said that no other place should be appointed like unto this, therefore, I ask Thee in the name of Jesus Christ, to return Thy people unto their houses and their inheritances, to enjoy the fruit of their labors; that all the waste places may be built up; that all the enemies of Thy people, who will not repent and turn unto Thee may be destroyed from off the face of the land; and let a house be built and established unto Thy name; and let all the losses that Thy people have sustained, be rewarded unto them, even more than four-fold, that the borders of Zion may be enlarged forever; and let her be established no more to be thrown down; and let all thy Saints, when they are scattered, as sheep, and are persecuted, flee unto Zion, and be established in the midst of her; and let her be organized according to Thy law; and let this prayer ever be recorded before Thy face. Give Thy Holy Spirit unto my brethren, unto whom I write; send Thine angels to guard them, and deliver them from all evil; and when they turn their faces toward Zion, and bow down before Thee and pray, may their sins never come up before Thy face, neither have place in the book of Thy remembrance; and may they depart from all their iniquities. Provide food for them as Thou doest for the ravens; provide clothing to cover their nakedness, and houses that they may dwell therein; give unto them friends in abundance, and let their names be recorded in the Lamb’s book of life eternally before Thy face. Amen.
Finally, brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all until His coming in His kingdom. Amen.
Joseph Smith, Jun.
Expulsion of Saints from Van Buren County.
December 12.—An express arrived at Liberty, from Van Buren county, with information that those families, which had fled from Jackson county, and located there, were about to be driven from that county, after building their houses and carting their winter’s store of provisions, grain, etc., forty or fifty miles. Several families are already fleeing from thence. The contaminating influence of the Jackson county mob, is predominant in this new county of Van Buren, the whole population of which is estimated at about thirty or forty families. The destruction of crops, household furniture, and clothing, is very great, and much of their stock is lost. The main body of the Church is now in Clay county, where the people are as kind and accommodating as could reasonably be expected. The continued threats of deaths to individuals of the Church, if they make their appearance in Jackson County, prevent the most of them, even at this day, from returning to that county, to secure personal property, which they were obliged to leave in their flight.
Sad Condition of the Saints.
The following is an extract of a letter to me, from Elder Phelps, dated—
Clay County, Missouri.
December 15, 1833.
The condition of the scattered Saints is lamentable, and affords a gloomy prospect. No regular order can be enforced, nor any usual discipline kept up; among the world, yea, the most wicked part of it, some commit one sin, and some another (I speak of the rebellious, for there are Saints that are as immovable as the everlasting hills), and what can be done? We are in Clay, Ray, Lafayette, Jackson, Van Buren and other counties, and cannot hear from one another oftener than we do from you. I know it was right that we should be driven out of the land of Zion, that the rebellious might be sent away. But, brethren, if the Lord will, I should like to know what the honest in heart shall do? Our clothes are worn out; we want the necessaries of life, and shall we lease, buy, or otherwise obtain land where we are, to till, that we may raise enough to eat? Such is the common language of the honest, for they want to do the will of God. I am sensible that we shall not be able to live again in Zion, till God or the President rules out the mob.
The Governor is willing to restore us, but as the constitution gives him no power to guard us when back, we are not willing to go. The mob swear if we come we shall die! If, from what has been done in Zion, we, or the most of us, have got to be persecuted from city to city, and from synagogue to synagogue, we want to know it; for there are those among us that would rather earn eternal life on such conditions than lose it; but we hope for better things and shall wait patiently for the word of the Lord.
Our people fare very well, and when they are discreet, little or no persecution is felt. The militia in the upper counties is in readiness at a moment’s warning, having been ordered out by the Governor, to guard a court martial and court of inquiry, but we cannot attend a court of inquiry, on account of expense, till we are restored and protected.
(Signed) W. W. Phelps.
December 16.—I received the following:
1. Verily I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted, and persecuted, and cast out from the land of their inheritance—
2. I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;
3. Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels.
4. Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.
5. For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.
6. Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions; and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.
7. They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.
8. In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.
9. Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy.
10. I have sworn, and the decree hath gone forth by a former commandment which I have given unto you, that I would let fall the sword of mine indignation in behalf of my people; and even as I have said, it shall come to pass.
11. Mine indignation is soon to be poured out without measure upon all nations; and this will I do when the cup of their iniquity is full.
12. And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.
13. And they that have been scattered shall be gathered.
14. And all they who have mourned shall be comforted.
15. And all they who have given their lives for my name shall he crowned.
16. Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
17. Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
18. They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion—
19. And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled.
20. And, behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place appointed than that which I have appointed, for the work of the gathering of my saints—
21. Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.
22. Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together and stand in holy places;
23. And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together.
24. And every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed;
25. And also that of element shall melt with fervent heat; and all things shall become new, that my knowledge and glory may dwell upon all the earth.
26. And in that day the enmity of man and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.
27. And in that day whatsoever any man shall ask, it shall be given unto him.
28. And in that day Satan shall not have power to tempt any man.
29. And there shall be no sorrow because there is no death.
30. In that day an infant shall not die until he is old; and his life shall be as the age of a tree;
31. And when he dies he shall not sleep, that is to say in the earth, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and shall be caught up, and his rest shall be glorious.
32. Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—
33. Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—
34. Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven.
35. And all they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory.
36. Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.
37. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul.
38. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.
39. When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;
40. They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.
41. Behold, here is wisdom concerning the children of Zion, even many, but not all; they were found transgressors, therefore they must needs be chastened—
42. He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.
43. And now, I will show unto you a parable, that you may know my will concerning the redemption of Zion.
44. A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice; and he said unto his servants: Go ye unto my vineyard, even upon this very choice piece of land, and plant twelve olive-trees;
45. And set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower, that mine olive-trees may not be broken down when the enemy shall come to spoil and take unto themselves the fruit of my vineyard.
46. Now, the servants of the nobleman went and did as their lord commanded them, and planted the olive-trees, and built a hedge round about and set watchmen, and began to build a tower.
47. And while they were yet laying the foundation thereof, they began to say among themselves: And what need hath my lord of this tower?
48. And consulted for a long time, saying among themselves: What need hath my lord of this tower, seeing this is a time of peace?
49. Might not this money be given to the exchanges? For there is no need of these things.
50. And while they were at variance one with another they became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord.
51. And the enemy came by night, and broke down the hedge; and the servants of the nobleman arose and were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works, and broke down the olive-trees.
52. Now, behold, the nobleman, the lord of the vineyard, called upon his servants, and said unto them, Why! What is the cause of this great evil?
53. Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you, and—after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof—built the tower also, and set a watchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you?
54. And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer.
55. And the lord of the vineyard said unto one of his servants: Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take all the strength of mine house, which are my warriors, my young men, and they that are of middle age also among all my servants, who are the strength of mine house, save those only whom I have appointed to tarry;
56. And go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard; for it is mine; I have bought it with money.
57. Therefore, get ye straightway unto my land; break down the walls of mine enemies; throw down their tower, and scatter their watchmen.
58. And inasmuch as they gather together against you, avenge me of mine enemies, that by and by I may come with the residue of mine house and possess the land.
59. And the servant said unto his lord: When shall these things be?
60. And he said unto his servant: When I will; go ye straightway, and do all things whatsoever I have commanded you;
61. And this shall be my seal and blessing upon you—a faithful and wise steward in the midst of mine house, a ruler in my kingdom.
62. And his servant went straightway, and did all things whatsoever his lord commanded him; and after many days all things were fulfilled.
63. Again, verily I say unto you, I will show unto you wisdom in me concerning all the churches, inasmuch as they are willing to be guided in a right and proper way for their salvation—
64. That the work of the gathering together of my saints may continue, that I may build them up unto my name upon Holy places; for the time of harvest is come, and my word must needs be fulfilled.
65. Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be;
66. While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and the their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.
67. Therefore, a commandment I give unto all the churches, that they shall continue to gather together unto the places which I have appointed.
68. Nevertheless, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, let not your gathering be in haste, nor by flight; but let all things be prepared before you.
69. And in order that all things be prepared before you, observe the commandment which I have given concerning these things—
70. Which saith, or teacheth, to purchase all the lands with money, which can be purchased for money, in the region round about the land which I have appointed to be the land of Zion, for the beginning of the gathering of my saints;
71. All the land which can be purchased in Jackson county, and the counties round about, and leave the residue in mine hand.
72. Now, verily I say unto you, let all the churches gather together all their moneys; let these things be done in their time, but not in haste; and observe to have all things prepared before you.
73. And let honorable men be appointed, even wise men, and send them to purchase these lands.
74. And the churches in the eastern counties; when they are built up, if they will harken unto this counsel they may buy lands and gather together upon them and in this way they may establish Zion.
75. There is even now already in store sufficient, yea, even an abundance, to redeem Zion, and establish her waste places, no more to be thrown down, were the churches, who call themselves after my name, willing to hearken to my voice.
76. And again I say unto you, those who have been scattered by their enemies, it is my will that they should continue to importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you—
77. According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
78. That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
79. Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
80. And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.
81. Now, unto what shall I liken the children of Zion? I will liken them unto the parable of the woman and the unjust judge, for men ought always to pray and not to faint, which saith—
82. There was in a city a judge which feared not God, neither regarded man.
83. And there was a widow in that city, and she came unto him, saying: Avenge me of mine adversary.
84. And he would not for a while, but afterward he said within himself: Though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
85. Thus will I liken the children of Zion.
86. Let them importune at the feet of the judge;
87. And if he heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the governor;
88. And if the governor heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the president;
89. And if the president heed them not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation;
90. And in his hot displeasure, and in his fierce anger, in his time, will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers;
91. Even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
92. Pray ye, therefore, that their ears may be opened unto your cries, that I may be merciful unto them, that these things may not come upon them.
93. What I have said unto you must needs be, that all men may be left without excuse;
94. That wise men and rulers may hear and know that which they have never considered;
95. That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God.
96. And again, I say unto you it is contrary to my commandment and my will that my servant Sidney Gilbert should sell my storehouse, which I have appointed unto my people, into the hands of mine enemies.
97. Let not that which I have appointed be polluted by mine enemies, by the consent of those who call themselves after my name;
98. For this is a very sore and grievous sin against me, and against my people, in consequence of those things which I have decreed and which are soon to befall the nations.
99. Therefore, it is my will that my people should claim, and hold claim upon that which I have appointed unto them, though they should not be permitted to dwell thereon.
100. Nevertheless, I do not say they shall not dwell thereon; for inasmuch as they bring forth fruit and works meet for my kingdom they shall dwell thereon.
101. They shall build, and another shall not inherit it; they shall plant vineyards, and they shall eat the fruit thereof. Even so. Amen.
Chapter 33 – Notes
1. This letter was, as will be seen by the test of it, written after the first definite and detailed account of what had taken place in Missouri reached the Prophet’s hand. We know of nothing written by him that better manifests the nobility of his soul, or the gentle sympathy of his nature, than this communication.
3. D&C 101. The revelation explains why the Saints were driven from Zion.