1844

Home | A Proclamation from the First Presidency to the Saints Scattered Abroad | Nauvoo Expositor | Emma Smith-Mormon Enigma | Joseph Smith-View of the Power and Policy of the Government of the United States | Joseph Smith-King Follet Discourse | Joseph Smith-Sermon on the Godhead | Two Minutes In Jail | Section 135 | A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief | Lucy Mack Smith-Deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith | To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints | Eliza R. Snow-Times and Seasons | Praise to the Man | O Give Me Back My Prophet Dear | Brigham Young Becomes the Next Prophet | An Epistle of the Twelve
Lucy Mack Smith-Deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

CHAPTER 53

ABOUT the time that John C. Bennett left Nauvoo, an election was held for the office of mayor, and Joseph, being one of the candidates, was elected to that office. I mention this fact in order to explain a circumstance that took place in the winter of 1843 and 1844, which was as follows. Joseph, in organizing the city police, remarked that, "were it not for enemies within the city, there would be no danger from foes without," adding, "If it were not for a Brutus, I might live as long as Caesar would have lived."

Someone who suspected that Joseph alluded to William Law, went to the latter and informed him that Joseph regarded him as a Brutus; and, that it was his own opinion that he (Law) was in imminent danger. Law, on hearing this tale, went immediately to Joseph, who straightway called a council and had all that knew anything concerning the matter brought together and thus succeeded in satisfying Law that he intended no evil in what he had said.

About this time a man by the name of Joseph Jackson, who had been in the city several months, being desirous to marry Lovina Smith, Hyrum's oldest daughter, asked her father if he was willing to receive him as a son-in-law. Being answered in the negative, he went and requested Joseph to use his influence in his favor. As Joseph refused to do that, he next applied to Law, who was our secret enemy, for assistance in stealing Lovina from her father, and from this time forth he continued seeking out our enemies, till he succeeded in getting a number to join him in a conspiracy to murder the whole Smith family. They commenced holding secret meetings, one of which was attended by a man named Eaton, who was our friend, and he exposed the plot.

This man declared that the Higbees, Laws and Fosters were all connected with Jackson in his operations. There was also another individual, named Augustine Spencer, a dissolute character (although a member of an excellent family), who, I believe, was concerned in this conspiracy. About the time of Eaton's disclosures, this man went to the house of his brother Orson, and abused my sons and the Church at such a rate that Orson finally told him that he must either stop or leave the house. Augustine refused and they grappled. In the contest Orson was considerably injured. He went immediately to Joseph, and, stating the case, asked for a warrant. Joseph advised him to go to Dr. Foster, who was a justice of the peace. Accordingly, he went and demanded a warrant of Foster, but was refused. On account of this refusal, Foster was brought before Esquire Wells, and tried for non-performance of duty. At this trial Joseph met Charles Foster, the doctor's brother, who attempted to shoot him, as soon as they met, but was hindered by Joseph's catching his hands and holding him by main force, in which way Joseph was compelled to confine him above an hour in order to preserve his own life.

Jackson and the apostates continued to gather strength, till, finally, they established a printing press in our midst. Through this organ they belched forth the most intolerable and the blackest lies that were ever palmed upon a community. Being advised by men of influence and standing, to have this scandalous press removed, the city council took the matter into consideration, and finding that the law would allow them to do so, they declared it a nuisance and had it treated accordingly.

At this the apostates left the city in a great rage, swearing vengeance against Joseph and the city council, and, in fact, the whole city. They went forthwith to Carthage and got out writs for Joseph and all those who were in any wise concerned in the destruction of the press. But, having no hope of justice in that place, the brethren took out a writ of habeas corpus, and were tried before Esquire Wells, at Nauvoo. With this the apostates were not satisfied. They then called upon one Levi Williams, who was a bitter enemy to us, whenever he was sufficiently sober to know his own sentiments, for he was a drunken, ignorant, illiterate brute that never had a particle of character or influence until he began to call mob meetings and placed himself at the head of a rabble like unto himself, to drive the "Mormons," at which time he was joined by certain unmentionable ones in Warsaw and Carthage; and for his zeal in promoting mobocracy he became the intimate acquaintance and confidential friend of some certain preachers, lawyers, and representatives, and, finally, of Joseph Jackson and the apostates. He, as Colonel Levi Williams, commands the militia (alias mob), of Hancock county. On this man, I say, they called for assistance to drag Joseph and Hyrum, with the rest of the council, to Carthage. Williams swore it should be done and gathered his band together. Joseph, not wishing to fall into the hands of wolves or tigers, called upon the Legion to be in readiness to defend the city and its chartered rights. Just at this crisis, Governor Ford arrived in Carthage. The apostates then appealed from the mob to the Governor. At this time he came into the midst of the mob and asked them if they would stand by him in executing and defending the law. They said they would, and so organized them into militia and then demanded the brethren for trial upon the warrant issued by Smith (as he did not choose to recognize the right of habeas corpus granted us in the city charter). At the same time he pledged the faith of the state that the brethren should be protected from mob violence. Those called for in the warrant made their appearance at Carthage, June 24, 1844. On the morning of the twenty-fifth, Joseph and Hyrum were arrested for treason, by a warrant founded upon the oaths of A. O. Norton and Augustine Spencer.

I will not dwell upon the awful scene which succeeded. My heart is filled with grief and indignation, and my blood curdles in my veins whenever I speak of it.

My sons were thrown into jail, where they remained three days in company with Brothers Richards, Taylor and Markham. At the end of this time, the Governor disbanded most of the men, but left a guard of eight of our bitterest enemies over the jail, and sixty more of the same character about a hundred yards distant. He then came into Nauvoo with a guard of fifty or sixty men, made a short speech, and returned immediately. During his absence from Carthage, the guard rushed Brother Markham out of the place at the point of the bayonet. Soon after this two hundred of those discharged in the morning rushed into Carthage, armed and painted black, red and yellow, and in ten minutes fled again, leaving my sons murdered and mangled corpses!

In leaving the place, a few of them found Samuel coming into Carthage, alone, on horseback, and, finding that he was one of our family, they attempted to shoot him, but he escaped out of their hands although they pursued him at the top of their speed for more than two hours. He succeeded the next day in getting to Nauvoo in season to go out and meet the procession with the bodies of Hyrum and Joseph, as the mob had the kindness to allow us the privilege of bringing them home and burying them in Nauvoo, notwithstanding the immense reward which was offered by the Missourians for Joseph's head.

Their bodies were attended home by only two persons, save those that went from this place. These were Brother Willard Richards and a Mr. Hamilton; Brother John Taylor having been shot in prison, and nearly killed, he could not be moved until some time afterwards.

After the corpses were washed and dressed in their burial clothes, we were allowed to see them. I had for a long time braced every nerve, roused every energy of my soul and called upon God to strengthen me, but when I entered the room and saw my murdered sons extended both at once before my eyes and heard the sobs and groans of my family and the cries of "Father! Husband! Brothers!" from the lips of their wives, children, brothers and sisters, it was too much; I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!" A voice replied, "I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest." Emma was carried back to her room almost in a state of insensibility. Her oldest son approached the corpse and dropped upon his knees, and laying his cheek against his father's, and kissing him, exclaimed, "Oh, my father! my father!" As for myself, I was swallowed up in the depths of my afflictions, and though my soul was filled with horror past imagination, yet I was dumb until I arose again to contemplate the spectacle before me. Oh! at that moment how my mind flew through every scene of sorrow and distress which we had passed, together, in which they had shown the innocence and sympathy which filled their guileless hearts. As I looked upon their peaceful, smiling countenances, I seemed almost to hear them say, "Mother, weep not for us, we have overcome the world by love; we carried to them the gospel, that their souls might be saved; they slew us for our testimony, and thus placed us beyond their power; their ascendency is for a moment, ours is an eternal triumph."

I then thought upon the promise which I had received in Missouri, that in five years Joseph should have power over all his enemies. The time had elapsed and the promise was fulfilled.

I left the scene and returned to my room, to ponder upon the calamities of my family. Soon after this, Samuel said, "Mother, I have had a dreadful distress in my side ever since I was chased by the mob, and I think I have received some injury which is going to make me sick." And indeed he was then not able to sit up, as he had been broken of his rest, besides being dreadfully fatigued in the chase, which, joined to the shock occasioned by the death of his brothers, brought on a disease that never was removed.

On the following day the funeral rites of the murdered ones were attended to, in the midst of terror and alarm, for the mob had made their arrangements to burn the city that night, but by the diligence of the brethren, they were kept at bay until they became discouraged and returned to their homes.

In a short time Samuel, who continued unwell, was confined to his bed, and lingering until the thirtieth of July, 1 his spirit forsook its earthly tabernacle and went to join his brothers, and the ancient martyrs, in the Paradise of God.

At this time William was absent on a mission to the Eastern States. And he had taken his family with him in consequence of his wife being afflicted with the dropsy, hoping that the journey might be a benefit to her. Thus was I left desolate in my distress. I had reared six sons to manhood, and of them all, one only remained, and he was too far distant to speak one consoling word to me in this trying hour. It would have been some satisfaction to me if I had expected his immediate return, but his wife was lying at the point of death, which compelled him to remain where he was. His case was, if it were possible, worse than mine, for he had to bear all his grief alone in a land of strangers, confined to the side of his dying wife, and absent from those who felt the deepest interest in his welfare; whilst I was surrounded with friends, being in the midst of the Church; my daughters, too, were with me, and from their society I derived great comfort.

The Church at this time was in a state of gloomy suspense. Not knowing who was to take the place of Joseph, the people were greatly wrought upon with anxiety, lest an impostor should arise and deceive many. Suddenly, Sidney Rigdon made his appearance from Pittsburgh, and rather insinuated that the Church ought to make choice of him, not as President, but as guardian; for "Joseph," said he, "is still President, and the Church must be built up unto him." But before he could carry his measures into effect, the Twelve, who had also been absent, arrived and assuming their proper places, all was set to rights.

William, however, did not return till the spring of 1845, when, with great difficulty, he got his wife to Nauvoo. She survived but a short time after her arrival, for in about two weeks, to complete the sum of William's afflictions, he followed her to the grave. Her disease was brought on by her exposures in Missouri, so that she was what might be termed an indirect martyr to the cause of Christ, which makes the sum of martyrs in our family no less than six in number.

Shortly after William's return from the east, he was ordained Patriarch of the Church, in the place of Hyrum, who held the keys of that Priesthood previous to his death.

Here ends the history of my life, as well as that of my family, as far as I intend carrying it for the present. And I shall leave the world to judge, as seemeth them good, concerning what I have written. But this much I will say, that the testimony which I have given is true, and will stand forever; and the same will be my testimony in the day of God Almighty, when I shall meet them, concerning whom I have testified, before angels, and the spirits of the just made perfect, before archangels and seraphims, cherubims and gods; where the brief authority of the unjust man will shrink to nothingness before him who is the Lord of lords, and God of gods; and where the righteousness of the just shall exalt them in the scale, wherein God weigheth the hearts of men. And now having, in common with the Saints, appealed in vain for justice, to Lilburn W. Boggs, Thomas Carlin, Martin Van Buren and Thomas Ford, I bid them a last farewell, until I shall appear with them before Him who is the judge of both the quick and dead; to whom I solemnly appeal in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

pp. 320-327