Volume 7 Chapter 15

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Chapter 15

Chapter of Miscellaneous Documents, Press Excerpts, and Movements of Leading Elders of the Church at Nauvoo and Elsewhere

Movements of the Twelve et. al.

‘Tuesday, July 11, 1844.—Elder Willard Richards called upon Elder Parley P. Pratt, likewise Brothers Samuel Russell, Hiram Kimball and Stephen Markham; also upon Brother Elijah Fordham, to inquire about the lumber for the Temple.

Elders Brigham Young and Orson Pratt traveled to Peterboro, for the purpose of attending conference.

Elders Kimball, Wight and others went to Wilmington, and preached in the evening: several saints from Chester county were present.

Elder Wilford Woodruff preached in Boston this evening, and endeavored to console the saints who were mourning the loss of the martyred Prophet and Patriarch.

At Nauvoo Queston of Trustee-in-Trust.

Friday, 12.—President Marks consulted with William Clayton about calling a meeting of the presidents of various quorums to appoint a trustee-in-trust in behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,

A council was held at 3 p.m.; but as Dr. Willard Richards and Bishop Whitney considered it premature, the council was adjourned till Sunday evening, the 14th.

Governor’s Order Disregarded at Warsaw.

Messrs. Bedell and Backenstos arrived in Nauvoo, and reported that the governor had demanded the public arms at Warsaw, and was refused.

President Brigham Young spent the day with the brethren in Peterboro.

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Premonitory Anxieties.

We learn from Elder Kimball’s journal, that in company with Elder Lyman Wight and delegates to the convention from Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, he proceeded to Baltimore. He and Brother Wight, hearing so many contradictory reports concerning the death of the Prophets, felt very anxious to obtain some correct information. They went into their closets and prayed to the Lord to open the way whereby they might know the truth concerning it. Immediately Elder Kimball went to the post office, and got letters up to the 24th of June from his wife, informing him that Presidents Joseph and Hyrum Smith had delivered themselves up into the hands of their enemies to be tried, upon reading which they were immediately satisfied that the Prophets were massacred.

Elder Wilford Woodruff wrote a letter of exhortation to the saints, which was published in The Prophet.

Elder John E. Page wrote a long letter on Mormonism, which appeared in the People’s Organ, of Pittsburgh.

Saturday, 13.—Dr. Willard Richards proposed the organization of a fishing company to help to supply the city of Nauvoo with food.

Elders Kimball and Wight returned to Wilmington, and from thence to Philadelphia, where they read letters giving a particular account of the martyrdom of their brethren.

Sunday, 14.—Meeting at the stand: Elder Parley P. Pratt preached.

Dr. Willard Richards proposed that the church postpone electing a trustee until the Twelve returned, and called a special conference.

6 p.m. Several councilors came to the council chamber to investigate the subject of choosing trustees, but decided to wait until the Twelve arrived.

We extract the following from President Brigham Young’s journal:—

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Excerpts from President Young’s Journal

‘Friday, 12.—We held a meeting in Peterboro in the evening, preparatory to the conference tomorrow.

Saturday, 13.—Had a good time at conference all day. The brethren were very glad to see us, and the Lord gave us many good things to say to them. I preached to the saints and showed the organization and establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth: that the death of one or a dozen could not destroy the priesthood, nor hinder the work of the Lord from spreading throughout all nations.

Sunday, 14.—Held three meetings, ordained 28 elders. We enjoyed ourselves well, and had an excellent conference.’

Elders Kimball and Wight went to meeting in Philadelphia, and read the account of the massacre to the saints, who all felt very sorrowful, and agreed to dress in mourning in token of their love and respect for the martyred Prophets.

Elder Kimball recorded, ‘O Lord, how can we part with our dear brethren—O Lord, save thy servants the Twelve.’

Elder Woodruff Preaches in Boston.

The saints in Boston met in the Franklin Hall; the house was crowded to overflowing, and many could not get into the room. Numbers who had not been in the habit of attending the meetings, came to see what course the saints would pursue now their leaders were slain. Elder Wilford Woodruff, being the only one of the Twelve in the city, addressed the saints during the day, and also in the evening. He preached in the forenoon from Rev., ch. 6, 9, 10 and 11th verses; in the afternoon from Rev., ch. 14, 6, 7 and 8th verses, and in the evening on the parable of the fig tree, as recorded by St. Luke in ch. 21; and, in connection, read some of the revelations given through the martyred Prophet of our day. The Spirit of the Lord rested powerfully upon the speaker and the saints, and their hearts were comforted.

Movements at Nauvoo.

Monday, 15.—Elders Parley P. Pratt, Willard Richards, W. W. Phelps and the bishops, with many brethren, assembled to organize a company of fishermen to supply the city with fish; twenty-eight volunteered, with eight boats and skiffs,

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Isaac Higbee was appointed president, John S. Higbee and Peter Shirts counselors.

The Times and Season has the following editorial:—

Review of the Murder at Carthage

‘General Joseph Smith, who was murdered in cool blood, in Carthage jail, on Thursday, the 27th day of June, was one of the best men that ever lived on the earth.

The work he has thus far performed, towards establishing pure religion and preparing the way for the great gathering of Israel, in the short space of twenty years, since the time when the angel of the Lord made known his mission and gave him power to move the cause of Zion, exceeds anything of the kind on record.

Without learning, without means, and without experience, he has met a learned world, a rich century, a hard-hearted, wicked and adulterous generation, with truth that could not be resisted, facts that could not be disproved, revelations whose spirit had so much God in them that the servants of the Lord could not be gainsaid or resisted, but, like the rays of light from the sun, they have tinged everything they lit upon with a lustre and livery which has animated, quickened and adorned.

The pages of General Smith’s history, though his enemies never ceased to persecute him and hunt for offenses against him, are as unsullied as virgin snow; on about fifty prosecutions for supposed criminal offenses, he came out of the legal fire, heated like Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, seven times hotter than it was wont to be, without the smell of fire, or a thread of his garments scorched.

His foes of the world and enemies of his own household, who have sought occasions against him, in order secretly to deprive him of his life, because his goodness, greatness and glory exceeded theirs, have a poor excuse to offer the world for shedding his innocent blood, and no apology to make to the Judge of all the earth at the day of judgment. They have murdered him because they feared his righteousness.

His easy, goodnatured way, allowing everyone was honest, drew around him hypocrites, wicked and mean men, with the virtuous, and in the hour of trouble or trial, when the wheat was cleansed by water, the light kernels and smut rose upon the top of the water and had to be poured off, that the residue might be clean; or, to be still plainer, when they went through the machine for cleansing the grain, the chaff, light grain and smut, were blown off among the rubbish.

False brethren, or to call them by their right name, ‘apostates’, have retarded the work more, and combined more influence to rob him of life, than all Christendom; for they, having mingled in his greatness, knew where and when to take advantage of his weakness.

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Their triumph, however, is one that disgraces their state and nation, ruins them in time and in eternity.

They cannot outgrow it, they cannot outlive it, and they cannot outdie it, from him that winked at it to him that shot the fatal ball, wherever there is moral honesty, humanity, love of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, there the breath of indignation, the whisper of ‘those murders’, the story of mobocracy and the vengeance of God will haunt the whole gang and their offspring and abettors with a fury like Milton’s gates of hell,

‘* * * grating harsh thunder.’

In thus descanting upon the glory of General Joseph Smith and the cowardly disgrace of his assassins, let his noble-minded brother Hyrum have no less honor shown him. He lived so far beyond the ordinary walk of man, that even the tongue of the vilest slanderer could not touch his reputation.

He lived godly and he died godly, and his murderers will yet have to confess that it would have been better for them to have a millstone tied to them, and they cast into the depths of the sea, and remain there while eternity goes and eternity comes, than to have robbed that noble man of heaven of his life.

If there be such a thing as the greatest and least crimes among the archives of the better world, the wilful murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith will be first and worst, without forgiveness in this world or the world to come, ‘for no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.’

The Savior said, woe unto the world because of offenses, but offenses must needs come; but woe unto him by whom they come!

Prophets have been sent, according to the sacred history, which all enlightened nations use as a guide of morality here, or for a rule to obtain heaven hereafter, to instruct and lead the people according to the pure purposes of God, and yet from Cain down to two or three hundred Americans, Illinoisans, Missourians, Christians, even freemen, the lives of mostly all these good men, the servants of God, not omitting his own Son, have been taken from them by those who professed to be the most wise, enlightened, intelligent and religious, (that is nationally) that were on the earth when the hellish deeds were done.

But what has the next generation said? Ah! time thou art older and abler to tell the story than they that did the solemn act. No wonder the heathen nations will be God’s in the day of his power; they have not killed the Prophets.

When General Smith went to Carthage, just as the cavalry met him for the purpose of obtaining the state arms, he said to a friend, ‘I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning: I have a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward all men: I shall die innocent.’

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Now ye great men who boast of great wisdom, what think ye of the Prophet’s last prediction? How glorious! How mild! How God-like! No wonder the sympathies of all honest men are kindled in his behalf; the goodness of his deeds merit them.

The want of a perfect knowledge of the servants of God, of the Son of God, in all ages, down to this last, horrid, heart-sickening butchery of those two unoffending American freemen, must have been the great first cause of taking life contrary to the law of God or man.

Leaving religion out of the case, where is the lover of his country, and his posterity, that does not condemn such an outrageous murder, and will not lend all his powers, energies and influence to bring the offenders to justice and judgment?

Every good man will do it when he remembers that these two innocent men were confined in jail for a supposed crime, deprived of any weapons to defend themselves, had the pledged faith of the state of Illinois, by Governor Ford, for their protection, and were then shot to death, while with uplifted hands they gave such signs of distress as would have commanded the interposition and benevolence of savages or pagans.

They were both Masons in good standing.

Ye brethren of ‘the mystic tie’, what think ye! Where are our good Masters Joseph and Hyrum? Is there a pagan, heathen or savage nation on the globe that would not be moved on this great occasion, as the trees of the forest are moved by a mighty wind? Joseph’s last exclamation was, ‘O Lord, my God’.

If one of these murderers, their abettors or accessories before or after the fact, are suffered to cumber the earth without being dealt with according to law, what is life worth, and what is the benefit of laws? and more than all, what is the use of institutions which savages would honor, where civilized beings murder without cause or provocation?

Will the Americans look over the vast concerns that must, sooner or later, touch their welfare at home and abroad, and exalt or disgrace them among the kingdoms of the great family of man, and learn whether anarchy, mobbery and butchery are not swiftly hurrying the constituted authorities of our country into irretrievable ruin, while the inhabitants of the land must sink into wretchedness, bloodshed, revenge and woe?

Elder John Taylor and Dr. Willard Richards, who were in the jail at the time, innocently, as friends of these men, have only to thank God that their lives were spared.

Elder Taylor was wounded with four bullets, and a fifth ball, which, had it not been for his watch in his left vest pocket, would have passed into his vitals and destroyed his life instantly.

This memorable and very valuable watch saved his life, and will remain with its hands permanently pointing to ‘5 o’clock, 16 minutes and 26 seconds’, as the moment when so small a machine interposed between time and eternity.

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Dr. Richards was not wounded by a single ball, though one passed so near his ear as to leave a mark.

If such scenes do not awaken the best feelings of freemen for personal safety, what will? We pause! solemnly pause for the opinion of millions, because all are interested; life is the last boon, all is blank without it, death blots the rest, and where is man?

To conclude, if the good people of our common country, and our common world, do not arise with a union of feeling and energy to help to wash off the blood of these two innocent men from Hancock county, from the plighted faith of Illinois, from the boasted and widespreading fame of the United States, and from the dignity of our globe, then let all but the righteous be smitten with a curse; but, methinks I see a ‘union of all honest men’, aside from religion, stand forth to magnify the law, who will never rest till justice and judgment have made the offenders, abettors and accessories, whether apostates, officers or mere men, atone for the innocent blood of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.’

The following was written by the undersigned members of the council [i. e. of the Twelve]:—

Letter to the Saints Abroad

‘Dear Brethren,—On hearing of the martyrdom of our beloved Prophet and Patriarch, you will doubtless need a word of advice and comfort, and look for it from our hands.

We would say, therefore, first of all, be still and know that the Lord is God, and that he will fulfil all things in his own due time, and not one jot or tittle of all his purposes and promises shall fail.

Remember, Remember that the priesthood and the keys of power are held in eternity as well as in time, and, therefore, the servants of God who pass the veil of death are prepared to enter upon a greater and more effectual work, in the speedy accomplishment of the restoration of all things spoken of by his holy prophets.

Remember that all the prophets and saints who have existed since the world began, are engaged in this holy work, and are yet in the vineyard, as well as the laborers of the eleventh hour, and are all pledged to establish the kingdom of God on the earth, and to give judgment unto the saints: therefore, none can hinder the rolling on of the eternal purposes of the great Jehovah.

And we have now every reason to believe that the fulfillment of his great purposes are much nearer than we had supposed, and that not many years hence we shall see the kingdom of God coming with power and great glory to our deliverance.

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As to our country and nation, we have more reason to weep for them than for those they have murdered, for they are destroying themselves and their institutions, and there is no remedy; and as to feelings of revenge, let them not have place for one moment in our bosoms, for God’s vengeance will speedily consume to that degree that we would fain be hid away and not endure the sight.

Let us then humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and endeavor to put away all our sins and imperfections as a people and as individuals, and to call upon the Lord with the spirit of grace and supplication, and wait patiently on him until he shall direct our way.

Let no vain and foolish plans or imaginations scatter us abroad and divide us asunder as a people, to seek to save our lives at the expense of truth and principle, but rather let us live or die together and in the enjoyment of society and union.

Therefore, we say, let us haste to fulfil the commandments which God has already given us. Yea, let us haste to build the Temple of our God, and to gather together thereunto, our silver and our gold with us, unto the name of the Lord, and then we may expect that he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.

We would further say, that in consequence of the great rains which have deluged the western country, and, also, in consequence of persecution and excitement, there has been but little done here, either in farming or building, this season; therefore, there is but little employment and but little means of subsistence at the command of the saints in this region; therefore, let the saints abroad and others who feel for our calamities and wish to sustain us, come on with their money and means without delay, and purchase lots and farms, and build buildings and employ hands, as well as to pay their tithings into the Temple and their donations to the poor.

We wish it distinctly understood abroad that we greatly need the assistance of every lover of humanity, whether members of the church or otherwise, both in influence and in contributions for our aid, succor and support.

Therefore, if they feel for us, now is the time to show their liberality and patriotism towards a poor and persecuted, but honest and industrious people.

Let the elders who remain abroad continue to preach the gospel in its purity and fullness, and to bear testimony of the truth of these things which have been revealed for the salvation of this generation.

[Signed] Parley P. Pratt,

Willard Richards,

John Taylor,

W. W. Phelps.

Nauvoo, July 15, 1844.’

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Elder Jedediah M. Grant returned to Philadelphia. Two weeks since he left Nauvoo, and reported that all was quiet and peace in the city since the burial of the martyrs.


Of a Jew Among the Afflicted and Mourning Sons and Daughters of Zion, at the Assassination of the Two Chieftains in Israel, Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

‘Blessed the people knowing the shout of Jehovah,
In the light of his countenance they will walk.
How can we, a people in sackcloth,
Open our lips before thee?
They have rejected and slain our leaders,
Thine anointed ones.
Our eyes are dim, our hearts heavy;
No place of refuge being left.
Redeem the people that in thee only trusts:
There is none to stand between and inquire;
Thou art our helper,
The refuge of Israel in time of trouble.
O look in righteousness upon thy faithful servants,
Who have laid bare their lives unto death,
Not withholding their bodies;
Being betrayed by false brethren, and their lives cut off,
Forbidding their will before thine;
Having sanctified thy great name,
Never polluting it;
Ready for a sacrifice;—standing in the breach,
Tried, proved and found perfect.
To save the blood of the fathers;
Their children, brothers, and sisters;
Adding theirs unto those who are gone before them;
Sanctifying thy holy and great name upon the earth;
Cover and conceal not their blood.
Give ear unto their cries until thou lookest
And shewest down from heaven-taking vengeance
And avenging their blood—avenging thy people and thy law,
According to thy promises made
Unto our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Hasten the acceptable and redeeming year;
Shadday: remember unto us thy covenants:
All this heaviness has reached us;
Can any one be formed to declare
What has befallen us?
All this we bear, and the name of our God
We will not forget, nor deny,
The ‘Hebrews’ God’ he is called,
Thou art clothed with righteousness,
But we are vile.
Come not in judgment with us.
Before thee nothing living is justified by their works,
But be with us as thou wast with our fathers.
Help thou, O Father; unto thee
We will lift our souls,
Our hearts in our hands;
We look to heaven,
Lifting our eyes unto the mountains,
From whence cometh our help.
Turn away thine anger,
That we be not spoiled.
O return and leave a blessing behind thee.’ 1

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Tuesday, 16.—William Clayton finished measuring the last raft of lumber for the Temple, from the pineries, amounting to 87,732 feet.

The following was received by Dr. Willard Richards:—

Letter Reporting Threatening Portents against Nauvoo

De Kalb, Hancock Co., Ill.,

July 1, 1844.

[In confidence]

Dr. Richards.

Dear Sir,—I hope the subject upon which this communication is written will be a sufficient apology for the privilege I have taken in addressing you, with whom I have not had the pleasure of an acquaintance.

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I wish to apprise you that reports are in circulation, which no doubt are true, that the Warsaw and Green Plains mobocrats are making strong exertions to raise forces sufficient to mob and drive the people of your city from their present residences.

I think you should keep a steady lookout, for it seems that the cold-hearted murder of Generals Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage jail has not satisfied the bloodthirsty dispositions of those demons, but they desire to prosecute their wretched purposes still further.

I, as one of General Deming’s staff, have used my influence against calling out a large force to be stationed at Carthage, fearing that some might be influenced by those mobocrats to join them in their wretched purpose, for I have no idea they can get forces enough to leave their homes, neither in Illinois nor Missouri, for that purpose, to overcome you.

If we could have four or five hundred troops stationed at Carthage, of the right sort, that could be depended on, to suppress mobs, I should like it, but, fearing the influence of those desperadoes might cause them to disobey all orders and join the mob against you, I think it best not to risk it.

The murder of Generals Joseph and Hyrum Smith is deprecated by the community, almost at large, that is, those who are not lost to the principles of humanity; and there seems to be a general feeling of sympathy resting on the public mind.

I was pleased to hear of the prudent course that your people resolved to pursue, in acting only on the defensive and abiding the law, which is on your side.

In haste, yours, etc.,

Thos. H. Owen.’

To which Dr. Willard Richards replied as follows:—

Declared Intention of the Church To Take No Part in the Trial of the Murderers of the Prophets

‘Nauvoo, July 16, 1844.

Sir,—I am sorry that there has been delay which caused your letter to arrive so late to hand, and I feel thankful for the very kind and sympathetic manner in which you express yourself towards us as a people, and shall be very thankful if you will continue your favors to me whenever anything may occur, and you may depend upon my doing the same to yourself.

In regard to the assassination of the Generals Smith, we do not intend to take any action in the case whatever, but leave ourselves entirely in the hands of the governor and the majesty of the law, to mete out just and retributive justice in the matter.

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You may rest perfectly assured that we never did act on the offensive, or against the law, but shall continue the same course, which appears to have given you so much satisfaction, and act entirely on the defensive, and abide the law.

In haste, sir, I remain yours, etc.,

Willard Richards.

Thos. H. Owen, Esq.’

Elder Wilford Woodruff wrote the following:—

Woodruff’s Letter to Brigham Young—Reporting the Prophets’ Death

‘Boston, July 16, 1844.

Elders Brigham Young and Orson Pratt.

Dear Brethren.—I hasten to inform you that I returned to this city on hearing the report of the death of Joseph and Hyrum, expecting to see you. I have waited a number of days in deep suspense, to obtain word I could rely on.

This morning two letters were put into my hands by Sister Phelps, one from Erastus Snow and one from John E. Page of Pittsburgh, both confirming the report of the death of Joseph and Hyrum—they were murdered in Carthage jail.

It is not for me to counsel you, but I would ask if it would not be well for you to come direct to Boston, and hold a council with the Twelve and decide what course to pursue. Things are still very critical in the west; we don’t know where it will end.

I spent the Sabbath here, spoke three times, comforted the saints aIl I could and had a good time. The saints bear the shock well. I am well and in good spirits. I do not know where I can address my letters to reach you. I shall write to Lowell, Peterboro and Bradford, hoping they may reach you in one of those places.

I shall go immediately to Farmington, New Haven, Ct., and New York; if you wish to write to me, direct to Farmington, Ct.

Yours in the kingdom of God,

Wilford Woodruff.’

President Young having received Elder Woodruff’s letter at Peterboro, started for Boston, but on arriving at Lowell remained all night.

Movement Respecting the Prophet’s Estate.

Wednesday, 17.—Mrs. Emma Smith, in company with Messrs. Woods and Wasson, went to Carthage for letters of administration on the estate of her deceased husband, Joseph Smith.

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The following is from Elder Woodruff’s Journal:—


‘Elder Brigham Young arrived in Boston this morning. I walked with him to 57 Temple Street, and called upon Sister Vose. Brother Young took the bed and gave vent to his feelings in tears. I took the big chair, and veiled my face, and for the first time gave vent to my grief and mourning for the Prophet and Patriarch of the church, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, who were murdered by a Gentile mob. After being bathed in a flood of tears I felt composed. Elder Young left the city. I spent the night at Brother Phelps.’

The following is extracted from the St. Louis Transcript, taken from the report of the editor of the Republican:

Reports of Movements in Illinois Observed from Warsaw

‘On our return we stopped at Warsaw, where the state commissioners were joined by Colonel Wood, the mayor of Quincy, and Mr. Conyers. These gentlemen had returned from Nauvoo through Carthage, and had been laboring to establish peace between the parties.

The people of Hancock county, however, appear to be averse to any compromise short of the removal of the Mormons from the county. They assert that it is now absolutely necessary to peace and quietness that either the Mormons or citizens quit the county, and that sooner or later one must go, even if force be necessary to accomplish it.

Mr. Jonas, one of the commissioners, addressed the citizens of Warsaw, and called upon them to say whether they would support the governor in enforcing the law and upholding the Constitution, and they unanimously refused to give the pledge.

The same evening a Mr. Skinner of Carthage, who professed to speak in the name of the citizens of Hancock, uttered the same sentiment. He deprecated, as impossible, the idea of settlement if the Mormons were to remain.

A committee of the citizens waited upon Governor Ford, informing him of their fixed conviction that it was necessary one of the parties should leave the county, and desiring him to decide.

The governor replied that it was not for him to decide such a question, or to order any body of citizens, whether Mormons or anti-Mormons, out of the county or state.

From the feeling evinced by the most active in the anti-Mormon ranks, we came to the conclusion that nothing but a dread of consequences would prevent further outbreaks. The flame has been smothered for a time, but the fire has not been quenched, and slight causes may make it burst forth more fiercely than before.

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Governor Ford has a most arduous duty to perform. Of his ability to discharge it we will not now speak. At our latest dates he was still at Quincy, and avowed the intention of maintaining the ascendancy of the law at all hazards. He has dismissed all the troops, and they have returned to their homes.’ ”

Chapter 15.

1. Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 591. The author of this poem is Alexander Neibaur who is also the author of the hymn “Come Thou Glorious Day of Promise”, see L. D. S. Hymn Books, current. The strong Hebraic character of the above poem will appear to the reader.