Section 138

    A letter to the church signed by Joseph Smith Jr. and four others on 20 March 1839, from Liberty Jail, Clay County, Missouri.

  1. To the Church of Latter-day Saints at Quincy, Illinois, and scattered abroad, and to bishop Partridge in particular: Your humble servant Joseph Smith Jr., prisoner for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake and for the Saints, taken and held by the power of mobocracy under the exterminating reign of his excellency, the Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, in company with his fellow prisoners and beloved brethren Caleb Baldwin, Lyman Wight, Hyrum Smith, and Alexander McRae, send unto you all, greeting. May the grace of God the Father and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ rest upon you all, and abide with you for ever. May knowledge be multiplied unto you by the mercy of God, and may faith, and virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and godliness, and brotherly kindness, and charity be in you and abound, that you may not be barren in anything nor unfruitful.
  2. For inasmuch as we know that the most of you are well acquainted with the wrongs and the high-toned injustice and cruelty that is practiced upon us, whereas we have been taken prisoners, charged falsely with every kind of evil and thrown into prison, enclosed with strong walls, surrounded with a strong guard who continually watch day and night, as indefatigable as the Devil is in tempting and laying snares for the people of God, therefore, dearly beloved brethren, we are the more ready and willing to lay claim to your fellowship and love. For our circumstances are calculated to awaken our spirits to a sacred remembrance of everything, and we think that yours are also, and that nothing therefore can separate us from the love of God and fellowship one with another, and that every species of wickedness and cruelty practiced upon us will only tend to bind our hearts together, and seal them together in love. We have no need to say to you that we are held in bonds without cause, neither is it needful that you say unto us, We are driven from our homes and smitten without cause. We mutually understand that if the inhabitants of the state of Missouri had let the saints alone, and had been as desirable of peace as they were, there would have been nothing but peace and quietude in the state unto this day. We should not have been in this hell, surrounded with demons (if not those who are damned, they are those who shall be damned) and where we are compelled to hear nothing but blasphemous oaths, and witness a scene of blasphemy, and drunkenness, and hypocrisy, and debaucheries of every description.
  3. And again, the cries of orphans and widows would not have ascended up to God; the blood of innocent women and children, yea, and of men also, would not have cried to God against them. It would not have stained the soil of Missouri. But O the unrelenting hand, the inhumanity and murderous disposition of this people, it shocks all nature, it beggars and defies all description, it is a tale of woe, a lamentable tale, yea a sorrowful tale, too much to tell, too much for contemplation, too much to think of for a moment, too much for human beings. It cannot be found among the heathens. It cannot be found among the nations where kings and tyrants are enthroned, it cannot be found among the savages of the wilderness. Yea, and I think it cannot be found among the wild and ferocious beasts of the forest, that a man should be mangled for sport! Women be robbed of all that they have, their last morsel for subsistence, and then be violated to gratify the hellish desires of the mob, and finally left to perish with their helpless offspring clinging around their necks. But this is not all. After a man is dead, he must be dug up from his grave and mangled to pieces, for no other purpose than to gratify their spleen against the religion of God. They practice these things upon the saints who have done them no wrong, who are innocent and virtuous, who loved the Lord their God and were willing to forsake all things for Christ’s sake. These things are awful to relate but they are verily true. It must needs be that offenses come, but woe unto them by whom they come.
  4. Oh God! Where are you? And where is the pavilion that covers your hiding place? How long shall your hand be stayed and your eye, yea, your pure eye, behold from the Eternal Heavens the wrongs of your people and of your servants, and your ear be penetrated with their cries? Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions before your heart shall be softened towards them, and your bowels be moved with compassion towards them?
  5. O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who control and subject the Devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol. Stretch forth your hand, let your eye pierce, let your pavilion be taken up, let your hiding place no longer be covered, let your ear be inclined, let your heart be softened and your bowels moved with compassion toward us, let your anger be kindled against our enemies, and in the fury of your heart, with your sword, avenge us of our wrongs. Remember your suffering saint, O our God, and your servants will rejoice in your name for ever.
  6. Dearly and beloved brethren, we see that perilous times have come as was testified of. We may look then with most perfect assurance for the rolling in of all those things that have been written, and, with more confidence than ever before, lift up our eyes to the luminary of day and say in our hearts, Soon you will veil your blushing face. He that said: Let there be light, and there was light, has spoken this word. And again, you moon, you dimmer light, you luminary of night shall turn to blood. We see that everything is fulfilling, and that the time shall soon come when the Son of Man shall descend in the Clouds of Heaven. Our hearts do not shrink, neither are our spirits altogether broken at the grievous yoke which is put upon us. We know that God will have our oppressors in derision that he will laugh at their calamity and mock when their fear comes.
  7. O that we could be with you brethren and unbosom our feelings to you! We would tell that we should have been liberated at the time Elder Sidney [Rigdon] was on the writ of habeas corpus, had not our own lawyers interpreted the law contrary to what it reads against us, which prevented us from introducing our evidence before the mock court. They have done us much harm from the beginning. They have of late acknowledged that the law was misconstrued, and tantalized our feelings with it, and have entirely forsaken us, and have forfeited their oaths and their bonds, and we have a come-back on them for they are co-workers with the mob.
  8. As nigh as we can learn, the public mind has been for a long time turning in our favor, and the majority is now friendly, and the lawyers can no longer browbeat us by saying that this or that is a matter of public opinion, for public opinion is not willing to brook it, for it is beginning to look with feelings of indignation against our oppressors and to say that the Mormons were not in the fault in the least. We think that truth, honor, and virtue, and innocence will eventually come out triumphant.
  9. We should have taken a habeas corpus before the high judge and escaped the mob in a summary way, but unfortunately for us the timber of the wall, being very hard, our auger handles gave out and hindered us longer than we expected. We applied to a friend, and a very slight incautious act gave rise to some suspicion, and before we could fully succeed, our plan was discovered. We had everything in readiness but the last stone, and we could have made our escape in one minute, and should have succeeded admirably had it not been for a little imprudence or over-anxiety on the part of our friend. The sheriff and jailer did not blame us for our attempt. It was a fine breach, and cost the county a round sum, but public opinion says that we ought to have been permitted to have made our escape, that then the disgrace would have been on us. But now, it must come on the state that there cannot be any charge sustained against us, and that the conduct of the mob, the murders committed at Haun’s Mill, and the exterminating order of the governor, and the one-sided, rascally proceedings of the legislature, has damned the state of Missouri to all eternity. I would just name also that General David [R. Atchison] has proved himself to be as contemptible as any of them.
  10. We have tried for a long time to get our lawyers to draw us some petitions to the supreme judges of this state, but they utterly refused. We have examined the law and drawn the petitions ourselves, and have obtained abundance of proof to counteract all the testimony that was against us, so that if the supreme judge does not grant us our liberty, he has got to act without cause, contrary to honor, evidence, law or justice, merely to please the Devil. But we hope better things, and trust that before many days, God will so order our case that we shall be set at liberty and take up our habitation with the saints.
  11. We received some letters last evening: one from Emma, one from Don C[arlos] Smith, and one from bishop Partridge, all breathing a kind and consoling spirit. We were much gratified with their contents. We had been a long time without information, and when we read those letters, they were to our souls as the gentle air is refreshing. But our joy was mingled with grief because of the suffering of the poor and much injured saints, and we need not say to you that the floodgates of our hearts were hoisted, and our eyes were a fountain of tears. But those who have not been enclosed in the walls of a prison without cause or provocation can have but a little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is. One token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling. It brings up in an instant everything that is passed. It seizes the present with a vivacity of lightning. It grasps after the future with the fierceness of a tiger. It retrogrades from one thing to another, until finally all enmity, malice, and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings, and mismanagements, lie slain victims at the feet of hope. And when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the Voice of inspiration steals along and whispers, My son, peace be unto your soul, your adversity and your afflictions shall be but a small moment, and then, if you endure it well, God shall exalt you on high; you shall triumph over all your foes. Your friends do stand by you, and they shall hail you again with warm hearts and friendly hands. You are not yet as Job, your friends do not contend against you, neither charge you with transgression as they did Job. And they who do charge you with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away as the hoary frost melts before the burning rays of the rising sun.
  12. And also, that God has set to his hand and seal to change the times and seasons, and to blind their minds that they may not understand his marvelous workings, that he may prove them also, and take them in their own craftiness also because their hearts are corrupt, and the thing which they are willing to bring upon others, and love to have others suffer may come upon themselves to the very utmost, that they may be disappointed also, and their hopes may be cut off, and not many years hence that they and their posterity shall be swept from under Heaven, says God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall.
  13. Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against my anointed, says the Lord, and cry, They have sinned, when they have not sinned before me, says the Lord, but have done that which was meet in my eyes, and which I commanded them. But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves, and those who swear false against my servants, that they might bring them unto bondage and death, woe unto them because they have offended my little ones. They shall be severed from the ordinances of my house, their basket shall not be full, their Houses and their barns shall famish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them.
  14. They shall not have right to the Priesthood, nor their posterity after them, from generation to generation. It had been better for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks and they drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto all those that discomfort my people, and drive and murder and testify against them, says the Lord of Hosts. A generation of vipers shall not escape the damnation of Hell. Behold, my eye sees and knows all their works, and I have in reserve a swift judgment in the season thereof for them all, for there is a time appointed to every man according as his work shall be.
  15. And now beloved brethren, we say unto you that inasmuch as God has said that he would have a tried people, that he would purge them as gold, now we think that this time he has chosen his own crucible wherein we have been tried, and we think if we get through with any degree of safety and shall have kept the faith, that it will be a sign to this generation altogether sufficient to leave them without excuse. And we think also that it will be a trial of our faith equal to that of Abraham, and that the ancients will not have whereof to boast over us in the day of judgment, as being called to pass through heavier afflictions, that we may hold an even weight in the balances with them. But now, after having suffered so great a sacrifice and having passed through so great a scene of sorrow, we trust that a ram may be caught in the thicket speedily to relieve the sons and daughters of Abraham from their great anxiety, and to light up the lamp of salvation upon their countenances, that they may hold on now after having gone so far unto everlasting life.
  16. Now brethren, concerning the places for the location of the saints, we cannot counsel you as we could if we were present with you, and as to the things that were written heretofore, we did not consider them anything very binding, therefore, we now say once for all that we think it most proper that the general affairs of the church, which are necessary to be considered while your humble servant remains in bondage, should be transacted by a general conference of the most faithful and the most respectable of the authorities of the church, and a minute of those transactions may be kept and forwarded from time to time to your humble servant, and if there should be any corrections by the word of the Lord, they shall be freely transmitted, and your humble servant will approve all things whatever is acceptable unto God. If anything should have been suggested by us, or any names mentioned, except by commandment or, Thus saith the Lord, we do not consider it binding, therefore, our hearts shall not be grieved if different arrangements should be entered into.
  17. Nevertheless, we would suggest the propriety of being aware of an aspiring spirit, which spirit has often times urged men forward to make foul speeches, and influence the church to reject milder counsels, and has eventually been the means of bringing much death and sorrow upon the church. We would say, Beware of pride also, for well and truly has the wise man said that pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. And again, outward appearance is not always a criterion for us to judge our fellow man, but the lips betray the haughty and overbearing imaginations of the heart. By his words and his deeds let him be scanned. Flattery also is a deadly poison. A frank and open rebuke provokes a good man to emulation, and in the hour of trouble he will be your best friend, but on the other hand it will draw out all the corruption of a corrupt heart, and lying and the poison of asps shall be under their tongues, and they do cause the pure in heart to be cast into prison because they want them out of their way.
  18. A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination be aware of, because the things of God are of deep import, and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Your mind, O man, if you will lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of Eternal expanse. You must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God than the vain imagination of the human heart? None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.
  19. How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations: too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of his will from before the foundation of the world, to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation until now, of which some have tasted a little, and which many of them are to be poured down from Heaven upon the heads of babes, yea, the weak, obscure, and despisable ones of this earth.
  20. Therefore, we beseech of you, brethren, that you bear with those who do not feel themselves more worthy than yourselves, while we exhort one another to a reformation with one and all, both old and young, teachers and taught, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female. Let honesty, and sobriety, and candor, and solemnity, and virtue, and pureness, and meekness, and simplicity, crown our heads in every place, and in fine, become as little children, without malice, guile, or hypocrisy.
  21. And now brethren, after your tribulations, if you do these things and exercise fervent prayer and faith in the sight of God, always, he shall give unto you Knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now, which our fathers have waited, with anxious expectation, to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fullness of their glory, a time to come, in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many Gods, they shall be manifest. All Thrones and Dominions, Principalities and Powers shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ. And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens, or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars; all the times of their revolutions, all their appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fullness of times, according to that which was ordained in the midst of the council of the Eternal God, of all other Gods, before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his Eternal presence and into his immortal rest.
  22. But I beg leave to say unto you, brethren, that ignorance, superstition and bigotry, placing itself where it ought not, is oftentimes in the way of the prosperity of this church, like the torrent of rain from the mountains that floods the most pure and crystal stream with mire and dirt and filthiness, and obscures everything that was clear before, and all hurls along in one general deluge. But time weathers tide, and notwithstanding we are roiled in, for the time being, by the mire of the flood, the next surge, peradventure, as time rolls on, may bring to us the fountain, as clear as crystal and as pure as snow, while all the filthiness, flood wood, and rubbish is left and purged out by the way. How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the Heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from Heaven upon the heads of the latter-day saints.
  23. What is Boggs or his murderous party but wimbling willows upon the shore to catch the flood wood? As well might we argue that water is not water because the mountain torrents send down mire and riles the crystal stream, although afterwards render it more pure than before, or that fire is not fire because it is of a quenchable nature by pouring on the flood, as to say that our cause is down because renegades, liars, priests, thieves, and murderers, who are all alike tenacious of their crafts and creeds, have poured down from their spiritual wickedness in high places, and from their strongholds of the divine, a flood of dirt, and mire, and filthiness, and vomit upon our heads.
  24. No. God forbid. Hell may pour forth its rage like the burning lava of Mount Vesuvius or of Etna, or of the most terrible of the burning mountains, and yet shall Mormonism stand. Water, fire, truth, and God are all the same. Truth is Mormonism. God is the author of it. He is our shield. It is by him we received our birth. It was by his voice that we were called to a dispensation of his gospel in the beginning of the fullness of times. It was by him we received the Book of Mormon, and it is by him that we remain unto this day, and by him we shall remain if it shall be for our glory, and in his Almighty name we are determined to endure tribulation, as good soldiers unto the end.
  25. But, brethren, we shall continue to offer further reflections in our next epistle. You will learn by the time you have read this, and if you do not learn it you may learn it, that walls, and iron doors, and creaking hinges, and half-scared-to-death guards and jailers, grinning like some damned spirit lest an innocent man should make his escape to bring to light the damnable deeds of a murderous mob, is calculated in its very nature to make the soul of an honest man feel stronger than the powers of Hell.
  26. But we must bring our epistle to a close. We send our respects to fathers, mothers, wives and children, brothers, and sisters; we hold them in the most sacred remembrance. I send this epistle to Emma that she may have the first perusal of it.
  27. We feel to inquire after Elder Rigdon. If he has not forgotten us, it has not been signified to us by his scrawl. Brother George W. Robinson also, and Elder [Reynolds] Cahoon, we remember him but would like to jog his memory a little on the fable of the bear and the two friends who mutually agreed to stand by each other. And perhaps it would not be amiss to mention uncle John [Smith] and various others. A word of consolation and a blessing would not come amiss from anybody while we are being so closely whispered by the bear. But we feel to excuse everybody and everything, yea, the more readily, when we contemplate that we are in the hands of worse than a bear, for the bear would not prey upon a dead carcass.
  28. Our respects, and love, and fellowship to all the virtuous saints. We are your brethren, and fellow sufferers, and prisoners of Jesus Christ for the gospel’s sake, and for the hope of glory which is in us. Amen.






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