Volume 6 Chapter 12

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Chapter 12

The Authorities of Nauvoo vs. the Higbees, et. al—Dedication of the Masonic Hall—The Church Conference of April, 1844—Address of President Sidney Rigdon; Ditto Patriarch Hyrum Smith—Historical Resume, and Building the Temple.

Monday, April 1, 1844.—In the court-room in the Mansion, Mr. J. Easton was brought up as being accessory to whipping Chism, [a negro]. Referred the case to Alderman Wells. On investigation, it appeared to the satisfaction of the court that he had been on trial for the same offense before Robert D. Foster, and acquitted.

I extract from the Neighbor:

Comment on the Negro Chism’s Case.

After the court dismissed the case, General Smith fearlessly stated that he believed that it was a plot on the part of those who were instrumental in getting up the previous trial to thwart the ends of justice and screen the prisoner from the condemnation he justly deserves. Mr. Foster then stated, by way of an apology, that at the time he issued the warrant he did not know that the prisoner was under an arrest, or that there was any process out against him.

We hope, for the honor of such a man as Mr. Foster, that his statement is true. Mr. Foster, however, called upon one of his jurors, Mr. Carn, to corroborate what he had said; but, to our astonishment, be replied that when Mr. Foster summoned him to appear and act as a juryman, he was not informed what case he was to act upon, not did he learn until he entered the office, where he acted according to the evidence given; but believed then, as well as now, that it was a sham trial, and a mere mockery of justice. We state facts as they are, and let the public judge for themselves.

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The statement of the negro was that Messrs. Easton, Townsend, and Lawyer W. H. J. Marr were the persons engaged in this diabolical affair. Mr. Gibbs, one of the witnesses against Townsend, believed the above persons were engaged in it; but as a negro knows nothing in this state, and Mr. Gibbs could not positively swear to it, of course we don’t know; but we have our opinion, and so have the public. We don’t remember ever having seen more indignation manifest than was manifested on this occasion, and the public mind is not satisfied at the turn affairs have taken. Lynch law will not do in Nauvoo, and those who engage in it must expect to be visited by the wrath of an indignant people, not according to the rule of Judge Lynch, but according to law and equity.

It was thought best to acquit Easton and leave the case to the Circuit Court.

The Higbee Brothers in Trouble.

Francis M. Higbee and Chauncey L. Higbee were brought up before Esquire Wells for assaulting the police, and acquitted. Chauncey L. Higbee a lawyer, was brought before Daniel H. Wells Esq., on the charge of using abusive language to and insulting the city marshal while in the discharge of his official duty. He was fined ten dollars.

Also Robert D. Foster, Esq., was taken before Isaac Higbee, J. P., and fined ten dollars, for a breach of the ordinance pertaining to gambling, &c.

We are sorry to find that our lawyers and magistrates should be taking the lead among gamblers and disorderly persons, and be numbered among the law-breakers, rather than supporting virtue, law, and the dignity of the city.

Counter move of the Higbees.

Tuesday, 2.—At home, somewhat unwell, and kept my house this fine day. John P. Greene, marshal; Andrew Lytle, and John Lytle, policemen, were arrested by a warrant issued by Robert D. Foster, on complaint of Francis M. Higbee, for false imprisonment. As the case was going to trial, the prisoners were taken by John D. Parker, with a writ of habeas corpus before the Municipal Court; and tomorrow, at one, P.M., was fixed for trial.

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Wednesday, 3.—At one, P.M., presided in a special session of the Municipal Court, with Aldermen William Marks, Newel K. Whitney, Orson Spencer, George W. Harris, Gustavus Hills, George A. Smith, and Samuel Bennett as Associate-Justices. John P. Greene, Andrew Lytle, and John Lytle were brought up on habeas corpus having been taken from the officer who held them on a writ issued by Robert D. Foster, before whom they had been arraigned on the complaint of Chauncey L. Higbee, charged with false imprisonment.

Joel S. Miles, Andrew Lytle, John Lytle, John P. Greene, and Robert D. Foster were sworn, gave testimony in the case, and the court decided that Greene and the two Lytles be discharged, and that Chauncey L. Higbee is a very disorderly person; that this case on habeas corpus originated in a malicious and vexatious suit, instituted by Chauncey L. Higbee against the petitioners now discharged; and that said Higbee pay the costs.

Warm and cloudy.

Conference in New York.

A conference was held in the city of New York; Elder William Smith presiding, and Elder William H. Miles, clerk. Fifteen branches were represented, containing 566 members, including 3 High Priests, 26 Elders, 15 Priests, 16 Teachers, and 9 Deacons.

Thursday, 14.—In a general council in the assembly room from nine to twelve, A.M., and from one to four, P.M.

I was visited by eleven Indians, who wanted counsel, and had an impressive interview.

Elder Orson Hyde was in the council, and left immediately for Washington. 1

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A company of Saints arrived on the steamer St. Croix. Showery day.

Dedication Masonic Temple.

Friday, 5.—Attended the dedication of the Masonic Temple, which was attended by about 550 members of the Masonic fraternity from various parts of the world. A procession was formed at Henry Miller’s house, and was accompanied by the Nauvoo Brass Band to the hall. The dedicatory ceremonies were performed by the Worshipful Master Hyrum Smith. Elder Erastus Snow delivered an able Masonic address. Dr. Goforth and I also addressed the assembly. All the visiting Masons were furnished a dinner at the Masonic Hall at the expense of the Nauvoo Lodge. The building is admitted to be the most substantial and best finished Masonic Temple in the Western States. It has been erected under the direction of Mr. Lucius N. Scovil.

In consequence of ill health, I deferred preaching the funeral sermon of King Follett until Sunday. Elder Amasa Lyman addressed a very large assembly at the stand.

General Conference Minutes of the Church, April, 1844.

Conference met pursuant to adjournment. Present—President Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and William Marks. Of the Twelve—Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, and George A. Smith.

The members of the High Council, an immense number of Elders, an a very large concourse of people.

Presidents Joseph and Hyrum Smith came to the stand at a quarter past ten o’clock, when the meeting was called to order by Elder Brigham Young. The choir sang a hymn, after which

Opening Address of President Joseph Smith.

President Joseph Smith rose to state to the congregation the nature of the business which would have to come before them. He stated that it had been expected by some that the little petty difficulties which have existed would be brought up and investigated before this conference, but it will not be the case: these things are of too trivial a nature to occupy the attention of so large a body. I intend to give you some instruction on the principles of eternal truth, but will defer it until others have spoken, in consequence of the weakness of my lungs. The Elders will give you instruction; and then, if necessary, I will offer such corrections as may be proper to all up the interstices. Those who feel desirous of sowing the seeds of discord will be disappointed on this occasion. It is our purpose to build up and establish the principles of righteousness, and not to break down and destroy. The Great Jehovah has ever been with me, and the wisdom of God will direct me in the seventh hour. I feel in closer communion and better standing with God than ever I felt before in my life, and I am glad of this opportunity to appear in your midst. I thank God for the glorious day that He has given us. In so large a congregation it is necessary that the greatest order and decorum be observed. I request this at your hands, and believe that you will all keep good order.

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Prayer was offered by W. W. Phelps, after which the choir sang a hymn.

Elder Sidney Rigdon.

Elder Sidney Rigdon then rose and said: It is with no ordinary degree of satisfaction I enjoy this privilege this morning. Want of health and other circumstances have kept me in silence for nearly the last five years. It can hardly be expected that when the violence of sickness has used its influence, and the seeds of disease have so long preyed upon me, that I can rise before this congregation, only in weakness. I am now come forth from a bed of sickness, and have enough of strength left to appear here for the first time in my true character. I have not come before a conference for the last five years in my true character. I shall consider this important privilege sacred in my family history during life. I hardly promise myself lungs to make this congregation hear me. I shall do the best I can, and the greatest can do no more.

The circumstance by which we are now surrounded point out the principles of my discourse—the history of this Church, which I have known from its infancy. My text is—”Behold the Church of God of the last days.” I do not know that I can find it in the Bible. I do not think it necessary to have Paul to make a text for me; I can make a text for myself. I recollect in the year 1830 I met the whole Church of Christ in a little old log-house about 20 feet square, near Waterloo, N.Y., and we began to talk about the kingdom of God as if we had the world at our command. We talked with great confidence, and talked big things. Although we were not many people, we had big feelings.

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We knew fourteen years ago that the Church would become as large as it is today. We were as big then as we ever shall be. We began to talk like men in authority and power. We looked upon the men of the earth as grasshoppers. If we did not see this people, we saw by vision the Church of God, a thousand times larger. And when men would say we wanted to upset the Government, although we were not enough to well man a farm, or meet a woman with a milk-pail, all the Elders, all the members met in conference in a room twenty feet square.

I recollect Elder Phelps being put in jail for reading the Book of Mormon. He came to see us, and expressed great astonishment, and left us, apparently pondering in his heart. He afterwards came to Kirtland, Ohio, and said he was a convert. Many things were taught, believed, and preached then, which have since come to pass. We knew the whole world would laugh at us; so we concealed ourselves, and there was much excitement about our secret meetings, charging us with designs against the Government, and with laying plans to get money, &c., which never existed in the hearts of any one else [i. e., but in the hearts of their accusers]. And if we had talked in public, we should have been ridiculed more than we were. The world, being entirely ignorant of the testimony of the Prophets, and without knowledge of what God was about to do, treated all we said with pretended contempt and much ridicule, and had they heard all we said, it would have made worse for us.

We talked about the people coming as doves to the windows; and that nations should flock unto it; that they should come bending to the standard of Jesus, saying, “Our fathers have taught falsehoods and things in which there is no profit,” and of whole nations being born in one day. We talked such big things that men could not bear them, and they not only ridiculed us for what we did say in public, but threatened and inflicted much personal abuse; and if they had heard all we said, their violence would have been insupportable. God had great things to say for the salvation of the world, which, if they had been told the public, would have brought persecution upon us unto death: so we were obliged to retire to our secret chamber and commune ourselves with God. If we had told the people what our eyes behold this day, we should not have been believed; but the rascals would have shed our blood if we had only told them what we believed. There we sat in secret and beheld the glorious visions and powers of the kingdom of heaven pass and repass. We had not a mighty congregation to shelter us. If a mob came upon us, we had to run and hide ourselves to save our lives.

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The time has now come to tell why we held secret meetings. We were maturing plans fourteen years ago which we can now tell. Were we maturing plans to corrupt the world, to destroy the peace of society? No. Let fourteen years’ experience of the Church tell the story. The Church never would have been here if we had not done as we did in secret. The cry of “False prophet and imposter!” rolled upon us. I do not know that anything has taken place in the history of this Church which we did not then believe. It was written upon our hearts and never could be taken away. It was indelibly engraved; no power beneath yonder heavens could obliterate it. This was the period when God laid the foundation of the Church, and He laid it firmly, truly, and upon eternal truth.

If any man says it is not the work of God, I know he lies. Some of you who know you have a house, how long would it take to make you reason yourselves into a belief that you have no house where you now reside with your family? Neither have we any power whereby we can ever persuade ourselves that this is not the Church of God. We do not care who sinks or swims, or opposes, but we know here is the Church of God, and I have authority before God for saying so. I have the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy. I have slept with it,—I have walked with it. The idea has never been out of my heart for a moment, and I will reap the glory of it when I leave this world. I defy men and hell and devils to put it out of my heart. I defy all, and will triumph in spite of them.

I know God. I have gazed upon the glory of God, the throne, visions and glories of God, and the visions of eternity in days gone by. What is a man of God to do, when he sees all the madness, wrath and follies of our persecutors? He will do as God does—he will sit and laugh. * * * These were the beginning of good days—shut up in a room eating nothing but dry johnny-cake and buttermilk. Every man who had a little farm or clothes, sold them and distributed what he had among the rest, and did the best he could. I had a little to eat—little to wear, and yet it was the beginning of good days.

Some say “I want plenty to eat, plenty to drink, plenty to wear, and a good house to live in; and, say they then I will believe. But God will not give it until you have proved yourselves unto Him.

No wonder, then, that we should be joyful today. If the people will do as they are told, I will tell you what to do. Get the visions of heaven, and seek not what you shall eat or what you shall drink, but seek the will of God. Get into the presence of God, and then you will have johnny-cake and milk-and-water no more. Would you not be astonished if even now we should tell the glories and privileges of the Saints of God to you and to the world? We should be ridiculed; and no wonder we shut it up in secret. If we were to tell you when Jehovah is looked upon, lo it is beauty, it is heaven, it is felicity to look upon Jehovah. I should marvel if it were otherwise. If a man tells you one glory or one message, he is learning another at the same time. Do not be astonished, then, if we even yet have secret meetings, asking God for things for your benefit.

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Do not be afraid. Go back to the commencement of this Church, and see what was concocted then. There was no evil concocted when we first held secret meetings, and it is the same now. Has God forgotten to be gracious, to be merciful to mankind? Did He ever concoct anything that was devilish for mankind? He could not do it. I never am afraid of God or man concocting anything to hurt me. I have faith to detect men, even if they did. I would ask God to detect them, and hold them fast before they should do it. I am not afraid of men or devils. I have none of those fears, jealousies, dreads, forebodings, surmisings, &c. I put my trust in God, and whatever God does for me is only for my salvation.

A man is a bad teamster who runs his team in the worst road. What I have already said is only to prepare the way. [Here five of the Pottawattomie tribe appeared with their interpreter, and were assisted to the stand by the President.] I am going to tell of something that surprised me at the beginning of the Church. I have handled, heard, seen and known things which I have not yet told.

After the Church began to grow, it was favored with marvelously wise men. They had so much wisdom that they could dispute what God said, and what His servant said. They were opposed to virtue. They would say they had revelations and visions, and were as certain that the Lord had given it as I was that the devil had.

He referred to the children of Israel who were snivelling and murmuring about their leeks and onions, &c., &c.; and so it is in these last days; some men are always yelling about what the Church believes and opposing every good thing.

I want devils to gratify themselves; and if howling, yelling and yelping will do you any good, do it till you are all damned.

If calling us devils, &c., will do you any good, let us have the whole of it, and you can then go on your way to hell without a grunt.

We hear these things ever since the Church existed. They have come up with us; they have had so much more wisdom, they knew all about the kingdom before God revealed it, and they know all things before they were heard; they understand more than God knows. We gather of all kinds. If we get all nations, we get all wisdom, cunning, and everything else.

The sectarians cannot be as wise as we are, for they have only got man’s plans, the devil’s plans, and, the best of all, we have God’s plan.

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I do not know whether there are any of these wise men here this morning or not; I have merely given this as a part of the history of this Church. I am disposed to give some reasons why salvation only belongs to the kingdom of God, and to that alone.

I will endeavor to show why salvation belongs to us more peculiarly, in contradistinction to all other bodies. Will this be clear enough?

I discover one thing: Mankind have labored under one universal mistake about this—viz., salvation was distinct from government; i. e., that I can build a Church without government, and that thing have power to save me!

When God sets up a system of salvation He sets up a system of government. When I speak of a government, I mean what I say. I mean a government that shall rule over temporal and spiritual affairs.

Every man is a government of himself, and infringes upon no government. A man is not an honorable man, if he is not above all law and above government.

I see in our town we have need of government. Some study law only for the purpose of seeing how many feuds, how many broils they can kick up, how much they can disturb the peace of the public without breaking the law, and then say—”I know my rights, and will have them;” “I did not know it was the marshal, or I would not have done it.”

He is no gentleman. Gentlemen would not insult a poor man in the street, but would bow to him, as much as those who appear more respectable. No marshal or any one else, should pull me up. We ought to live a great way within the circle of the laws of the land would live far above all law.

The law of God is far more righteous than the laws of the land. The kingdom of God does not interfere with the laws of the land, but keeps itself by its own laws. (Reported by Elder Thomas Bullock.)

Elder Rigdon stopped to refresh himself. The choir sang hymn 104.

Elder John Taylor, being called upon to address the congregation, said—It gives me pleasure to meet and associate with so large an assemblage of the Saints. I always feel at home among the brethren. I consider them the honorable of the earth; and if I can do anything to conduce to their happiness, or that will in anywise tend to their edification, I am satisfied.

I therefore address this congregation with cheerfulness and pleasure, and if by unfolding any of the principles of truth that I am in possession of, or laying before you anything pertaining to the kingdom—if my ideas will enlarge your minds, or produce beneficial results to any, I shall consider myself on this, as on all other occasions, amply repaid.

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Many things have been spoken by Elder Rigdon concerning the early history of this Church. There is no person who has searched the oracles of eternal truth, but his mind will be touched with the remarks made by our venerable friend, which unfold the dispensation of Jehovah, and have a tendency to produce the most thrilling feelings in the bosoms of many who are this day present, and to promote our general edification. He traces with pleasure on the historic page—the rise of nations, kingdoms and empires. Historians dwell with great minuteness on the heroic deeds, the chivalrous acts, the dangers and deliverances, the tact, bravery, and heroism of their chieftains, generals and governments.

We, as Republicans, look back to the time when this nation was under the iron rule of Great Britain, and groaned under the power, tyranny and oppression of that powerful nation. We trace with delight the name of a Washington, a Jefferson, a LaFayette, and an Adams, in whose bosoms burned the spark of liberty. These themes are dwelt upon with delight by our legislators, our governors and presidents; they are subjects which fire our souls with patriotic ardor.

But if these things animate them so much, how much more great, noble and exalted are the things laid before us! They were engaged in founding kingdoms and empires that were destined to dissolution and decay; and although many of them were great, formidable and powerful, they now exist only in name. Their cloud-capped towers, their solemn temples, are dissolved, and nothing now remains of their former magnificence or ancient grandeur but a few dilapidated buildings and broken columns. A few shattered fragments remain to tell to this and to other generations the perishable nature of earthly pomp and worldly glory.

They were engaged in founding empires and establishing kingdoms and powers that had in themselves the seeds of destruction, and were destined to decay. We are laying the foundation of a kingdom that shall last forever—that shall bloom in time and blossom in eternity. We are engaged in a greater work than ever occupied the attention of mortals. We live in a day that prophets and kings desired to see, but died without the sight.

When we hear the history of the rise of this kingdom from one who has been with it from its infancy—from the lips of our venerable friend who has taken an active part in all the history of the Church, can we be surprised if he should feel animated, and that his soul should burn with heavenly zeal? We see in him a man of God who can contemplate the glories of heaven, the visions of eternity, and yet who looks forward to the opening glories which the great Elohim has manifested to him pertaining to righteousness and peace—a man who now beholds the things roll on which he has long since beheld in prophetic vision.

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Most men have established themselves in authority by laying desolate other kingdoms and the destruction of other powers. Their kingdoms have been founded in blood, and supported in tyranny and oppression. The greatest chieftains of the earth have obtained their glory—if glory it can be called—by blood, carnage and ruin. One nation has been built up at the expense and ruin of another, and one man has been made at the expense of another; and yet these great men were called honorable for their inglorious deeds of rapine. They have slain their thousands, and caused the orphans to weep and the widows to mourn.

Men did these things because they could do it—because they had power to desolate nations, and spread terror and desolation. They have made themselves immortal as great men. The patriots of this country had indeed a laudable object in view—a plausible excuse for the course they took. They stood in defense of their rights, liberty and freedom. But where are now those principles of freedom? Where are the laws that protect all men in their religious opinions? Where the laws that say, “A man shall worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience? What say ye, ye Saints—ye who are exiles in the land of liberty? How came you here? Can you in this land of equal right return in safety to your possessions in Missouri? No. You are exiles from thence, and there is no power, no voice, no arm to redress your grievance. Is this the gracious boon for which your fathers fought and struggled and died? Shades of the venerable dead, could you but gaze upon this scene, and witness tens of thousands of Americans in exile on Columbia’s soil—if pity could touch your bosoms, how you would mourn for the oppressed! If indignation, how would you curse the heartless wretches that have so desecrated and polluted the temple of liberty? “How has the gold become dim, and the fine gold, how has it changed.” Let it not be told among the monarchs of Europe, lest they laugh and say, “Ha; so would we have it.”

Ye Saints, never let it go abroad that ye are exiles in the land of liberty, lest ye disgrace your republic in the eyes of the nations of the earth; but tell it to those who robbed and plundered and refused to give you your rights. Tell your rulers that all their deeds of fame are tarnished, and their glory is departed.

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Are we now, indeed, in a land of liberty, of freedom, of equal rights? Would to God I could answer, Yes. But no, no, I cannot! They have robbed us, we are stripped of our possessions, many of our friends are slain, and our government says, “Your cause is just, but we can do nothing for you.”

Hear it, ye great men, we are here in exile! Here are thousands of men in bondage in a land of liberty—of freedom! If ye have any patriotism, shake off your fetters and come and proclaim us free, and give us our rights. I speak of this government as being one of the best or governments—as one of the greatest and purest; and yet, what a melancholy picture! O ye venerable fathers who fought for your liberty, blush for your children, and mourn, mourn over your country’s shame! We are now talking about a government which sets herself up as a pattern for the nations of the earth, and yet, oh, what a picture! If this is the best, the most patriotic, the most free, what is the situation of the rest?

Here we speak with national pride of a Washington, a LaFayette, a Monroe and a Jefferson, who fought for their liberties, achieved one of the greatest victories ever won; and scarcely has one generation passed away before fifteen thousand citizens petition government for redress of their wrongs, and they turn a deaf ear to their cry.

Let us compare this with the Church of Christ. Fourteen years ago a few men assembled in a log cabin; they saw the visions of heaven, and gazed upon the eternal world; they looked through the rent vista of futurity, and beheld the glories of eternity; they were planting those principles which were concocted in the bosom of Jehovah; they were laying a foundation for the salvation of the world, and those principles which they then planted have not yet begun to dwindle; but the fire still burns in their bones; the principles are planted in different nations and are wafted on every breeze.

When I gaze upon this company of men, I see those who are actuated by patriotic and noble principles, who will stand up in defense of the oppressed, of whatever country, nation, color or clime. I see it in their countenances. It is planted by the Spirit of God. They have received it from the great Elohim, and all the power or influence of mobs, priestcraft or corrupt men cannot quench it. It will burn. It is comprehensive as the designs of God, and as expansive as the universe and reaches to all the world. No matter whether it was an Indian, a negro, or any other man or set of men that are oppressed, you would stand forth in their defense.

I say unto you, continue to cherish those principles. Let them expand. And if the tree of liberty has been blasted in this nation—if it has been gnawed by worms, and already blight has overspread it, we will stand up in defense of our liberties, and proclaim ourselves free in time and in eternity.

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The choir, by request, sang, “O stop and tell me, Red Man.” After prayer by Elder John P. Greene, the meeting was adjourned for one hour.

Chapter 12.

1. The object of his mission was to assist Elders Orson Pratt and John E. Page in getting President Smith’s Memorial, asking to be appointed “a member of the U. S. Army” and to be authorized to raise one hundred thousand armed volunteers to police the inter-mountain and Pacific coast west from Oregon to Texas.