Miscellaneous writings-Mission to the East-Impressions of the Spirit-Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith-Spirit of exultation-Return to Nauvoo-Sidney Rigdon
January 1, 1844-October 1844
January 1, 1844.
In the opening of this year I completed a number of miscellaneous works, some of which were published in pamphlet form. Among these were “An Appeal to the State of New York,”–“Immortality of the Body,”–“Fountain of Knowledge,”–“Intelligence and Affection,” and “The Angel of the Prairies.”1 This last work was a curious and extraordinary composition, in the similitude of a dream. It was designed as a reproof of the corruptions and degeneracy of our Government, in suffering mobs to murder, plunder, rob and drive their fellow citizens with impunity, etc. It also suggested some reforms. It was read in the presence of President Joseph Smith2 and a General Council, and was highly applauded; but never appeared in print.3
In the spring I went to Boston as a missionary, and on business.4 I proclaimed the gospel, as usual, while on this journey, on steamers on the lakes and rivers; in the cities of the Atlantic, and in whatever village or neighborhood I had opportunity. 5 Visiting North Bridge, a short distance from Boston, and having a day’s leisure, I wrote a dialogue entitled “Joe Smith and the Devil,” which was afterwards published in the New York Herald, and in various papers in America and Europe.6 It was finally published and republished in pamphlet form, and had a wide circulation; few persons knowing or mistrusting who was the author.
President B. Young, and most of the members of the quorum of the Twelve, were then on a mission through the Eastern States, as well as myself. While on this mission, on the 27th of June, 1844, a mob murdered the Prophet Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum, in a jail at Carthage, Illinois, while Governor Ford had pledged the faith of the State for their protection.
A day or two previous to this circumstance I had been constrained by the Spirit to start prematurely for home, without knowing why or wherefore; and on the same afternoon I was passing on a canal boat near Utica, New York, on my way to Nauvoo. My brother, William Pratt, being then on a mission in the same State (New York), happened, providentially, to take passage on the same boat. As we conversed together on the deck, a strange and solemn awe came over me, as if the powers of hell were let loose. I was so overwhelmed with sorrow I could hardly speak; and after pacing the deck for some time in silence, I turned to my brother William and exclaimed-“Brother William, this is a dark hour; the powers of darkness seem to triumph, and the spirit of murder is abroad in the land; and it controls the hearts of the American people, and a vast majority of them sanction the killing of the innocent. My brother, let us keep silence and not open our mouths. If you have any pamphlets or books on the fulness of the gospel lock them up; show them not, neither open your mouth to the people; let us observe an entire and solemn silence, for this is a dark day, and the hour of triumph for the powers of darkness. O, how sensible I am of the spirit of murder which seems to pervade the whole land.” This was June 27, 1844, in the afternoon, and as near as I can judge, it was the same hour that the Carthage mob were shedding the blood of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and John Taylor, near one thousand miles distant.7 My brother bid me farewell somewhere in Western New York, he being on his way to a conference in that quarter, and passing on to Buffalo I took steamer for Chicago, Illinois.
The steamer touched at a landing in Wisconsin, some fifty or sixty miles from Chicago, and here some new passengers came on board and brought the news of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Great excitement prevailed on board, there being a general spirit of exultation and triumph at this glorious news, as it was called, much the same as is generally shown on the first receipt of the news of a great national victory in time of war.
Many passengers now gathered about me and tauntingly inquired what the Mormons would do now, seeing their Prophet and leader was killed.
To these taunts and questions I replied, that they would continue their mission and spread the work he had restored, in all the world. Observing that nearly all the prophets and Apostles who were before him had been killed, and also the Saviour of the world, and yet their death did not alter the truth nor hinder its final triumph.
At this reply many of them seemed astonished, and some inquired who would succeed him, and remarked to me: “Perhaps you will be the man who will now seek to be leader of the Mormons in his stead-who are you, sir?” I replied: “I am a man, sir; and a man never triumphs and exults in the ruin of his country and the murder of the innocent.” This was said in the energy of my soul, and by constraint of the Spirit, and a powerful and peculiar accent was thrown upon the word man each time it occurred in the sentence. This served as a sufficient rebuke, and all were silent.
Landing in Chicago I found great excitement, and the press had issued extras announcing the triumph of the murderous mob in killing the Smiths.
I now hastened on to Peoria, and, staying over night, started next day on foot across the country to Nauvoo-distance 105 miles.
During the two or three days I spent in travelling between Chicago and Peoria I felt so weighed down with sorrow and the powers of darkness that it was painful for me to converse or speak to any one, or even to try to eat or sleep. I really felt that if it had been my own family who had died, and our beloved Prophet been spared alive, I could have borne it, and the blow would have fallen on me with far less weight.8 I had loved Joseph with a warmth of affection indescribable for about fourteen years. I had associated with him in private and in public, in travels and at home, in joy and sorrow, in honor and dishonor, in adversity of every kind. With him I had lain in dungeons and in chains; and with him I had triumphed over all our foes in Missouri, and found deliverance for ourselves and people in Nauvoo, where we had reared a great city. But now he was gone to the invisible world, and we and the Church of the Saints were left to mourn in sorrow and without the presence of our beloved founder and Prophet. 9
As I walked along over the plains of Illinois, lonely and solitary, I reflected as follows: I am now drawing near to the beloved city; in a day or two I shall be there. How shall I meet the sorrowing widows and orphans? How shall I meet the aged and widowed mother of these two martyrs? How shall I meet an entire community bowed down with grief and sorrow unutterable? What shall I say? or how console and advise twenty-five thousand people who will throng about me in tears, and in the absence of my President and the older members of the now presiding council, will ask counsel at my hands? Shall I tell them to fly to the wilderness and deserts? Or, shall I tell them to stay at home and take care of themselves, and continue to build the Temple? With these reflections and inquiries, I walked onward, weighed down as it were unto death.
When I could endure it no longer, I cried out aloud, saying: O Lord! in the name of Jesus Christ I pray Thee, show me what these things mean, and what I shall say to Thy people? On a sudden the Spirit of God came upon me, and filled my heart with joy and gladness indescribable; and while the spirit of revelation glowed in my bosom with as visible a warmth and gladness as if it were fire. The Spirit said unto me: “Lift up your head and rejoice; for behold! it is well with my servants Joseph and Hyrum. My servant Joseph still holds the keys of my kingdom in this dispensation, and he shall stand in due time on the earth, in the flesh, and fulfil that to which he is appointed. Go and say unto my people in Nauvoo, that they shall continue to pursue their daily duties and take care of themselves, and make no movement in Church government to reorganize or alter anything until the return of the remainder of the Quorum of the Twelve. But exhort them that they continue to build the House of the Lord which I have commanded them to build in Nauvoo.” 10
This information caused my bosom to burn with joy and gladness, and I was comforted above measure; all my sorrow seemed in a moment to be lifted as a burthen from my back.
The change was so sudden I hardly dared to believe my senses; I, therefore, prayed the Lord to repeat to me the same things the second time; if, indeed, I might be sure of their truth, and might really tell the Saints to stay in Nauvoo, and continue to build the Temple.
As I prayed thus, the same spirit burned in my bosom, and the Spirit of the Lord repeated to me the same message again. I then went on my way rejoicing, and soon arrived in Nauvoo, and delivered this message both to the people and friends individually, and in the great congregation. In confirmation that the message was right, I found them already renewing their labors on the Temple, under the direction of John Taylor and Willard Richards, who were members of our quorum, and were in jail with the prophets when they were murdered-Taylor being wounded with four bullets, and Richards escaping uninjured.
We then, being the only members of the quorum now present in Nauvoo, united in daily councils at Bro. Taylor’s, who was confined by his wounds, and counseled for the good of the Church. We were enabled to baffle all the designs of aspiring men, such as Rigdon and others (who strove to reorganize and lead the Church, or divide them), and to keep the Church in a measure of union, peace and quiet till the return of President Young and the other members of the quorum.
Elder Rigdon arrived from Pittsburgh soon after my arrival,11 and with the aid of Elder Marks, local President of the Nauvoo Stake, and others, attempted to worm himself in as President of the whole Church. A public meeting was actually called and appointed for that purpose; the call being made and the day appointed by President Marks on the public stand. President W. Richards was present when this appointment was announced.
On being informed of this untimely and underhanded attempt, I called upon Elder Rigdon to meet with us-that is, the three of the Twelve then in the city, at the house of brother Taylor, who was still confined with his wounds, and there we expostulated with him, and showed our reasons for being opposed to such a course.
I finally told him that no such meeting should be held, nor any such business attempted in the absence of the general authorities of the Church. And that, if any such meeting was attempted, I should be there and oppose it, and show my reasons, and then dismiss the congregation and take my hat and walk away. He finally assured us that no business of the kind should be attempted, and that the meeting should only be the usual prayer meeting. We likewise forbade President Marks from attempting any general business till the return of the general authorities.
About this time, President Marks joined with the widow of the martyred Joseph and some others, in a council in the upper room of brother Joseph’s house, to try to nominate and appoint a trustee in trust for the whole Church. I entered this council and heard Mrs. Emma Smith plead in relation to this matter, the great importance and absolute necessity of immediate action on this subject, as delay would endanger much property of a public and private character, and perhaps cause a loss of scores of thousands. I arose and protested against any action of the kind, telling them plainly that the appointment of a trustee in trust was the business of the whole Church, through its general authorities, and not the business of the local authorities of any one stake of the Church, and that, therefore, it could not be done till the remainder of the quorum returned. To this it was replied that by this delay much property would be lost. I again repeated that dollars and cents were no consideration with me, when principle was at stake, and if thousands or even millions were lost, let them go. We could not and would not suffer the authorities and principles of the Church to be trampled under foot, for the sake of pecuniary interest. The council finally broke up without accomplishing anything.
At length the day for Mr. Rigdon’s great meeting arrived, when the remainder of the quorum, or a majority, with President Young at their head, arrived in time to be present. Mr. Rigdon was frustrated in his ambitious schemes, and with his adherents, including President Marks, soon left the place, being disfellowshipped by the Church.
President Brigham Young was unanimously chosen and upheld in the Presidency of the whole Church; the keys of which he held by virtue of his apostleship, being the senior and President of the highest quorum of the Church then living in the flesh.
12 October 6th.-The half yearly Conference was held at Nauvoo, which I attended. 13
1 Parley was a prolific writer, editor, and orator. He published more than thirty separate works (not counting his hymns), including books, pamphlets, treatises, and lengthy proclamations.
2 Wilford Woodruff recorded the following on January 21, 1844: “Joseph said concerning Parley P.
Pratt that he had no wife sealed to him for eternity and asked if there was any harm for him to have another wife for time and eternity as he would want a wife in the resurrection or else his glory would be clipped.
Many arguments he used upon this subject which were rational and consistent.” The following was also recorded in the journal but was crossed out: “Brother Joseph said, ‘now what will we do with Elder P.P. Pratt? He has no wife sealed to him for eternity. He has one living wife but she had a former husband and did not wish to be sealed to Parley for eternity. Now is it not right for Parley to have another wife?'” (Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:340-41; spelling standardized).
3 Angel of the Prairies was published posthumously in 1880.
4 On February 8, 1844, a group of Nauvoo citizens gathered in the room over Joseph Smith’s red brick store. Here, as Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal, Joseph “gave his reasons for permitting his name to go forth as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States which were as follows: ‘I would not have suffered my name to have been used by my friends on any wise as president of the United States or candidate for that office if I and my friends could have had the privilege of enjoying our religious and civil rights as American citizens even those rights which the Constitution guarantee unto all her citizens alike. But this we as a people have been denied from the beginning. Persecution has rolled upon our heads from time to time from portions of the United States like peels of thunder because of our religion and no portion of the government as yet has stepped forward for our relief and under view of these things I feel it to be my right and privilege to obtain what influence and power I can lawfully in the United States for the protection of injured innocence. And if I lose my life in a good cause I am willing to be sacrificed on the altar of virtue, righteousness, and truth, in maintaining the laws and Constitution of the United States if need be for the general good of mankind” (Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:349;
spelling standardized). This declaration of candidacy set up the need for the Twelve to leave on missions to the east, not only to preach the gospel but to stump for Joseph’s presidential bid. Ten of the Twelve left on missions, while the remaining two, John Taylor and Willard Richards, were with Joseph in the Carthage Jail.
5 Before the Twelve left on their missions to the East, the Prophet Joseph gathered them together in April to give them their final charge. On March 12, 1897, President Wilford Woodruff, whose remarks were the first of any prophet’s to be preserved via voice recording, gave the following testimony of that meeting: “I bear my testimony that in the early spring of 1844, in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith called the Apostles together and he delivered unto them the ordinances of the church and kingdom of God, and all the keys and powers that God had bestowed upon him, he sealed upon our heads, and he told us we must round up our shoulders and bear off this kingdom, or we would be damned. I am the only man now living in the flesh who heard that testimony from his mouth, and I know it was true by the power of God manifest to him. At that meeting he stood on his feet for about three hours and taught us the things of the kingdom. His face was as clear as amber, and he was covered with a power that I had never seen in any man in the flesh before” (Journal History,March 12, 1897, 2).
6 A Dialogue Between Joe Smith and the Devil is probably the first work of Mormon fiction.
7 Brigham Young was in Boston at that hour and recorded: “In the evening, while sitting in the depot waiting, I felt a heavy depression of Spirit, and so melancholy I could not converse with any degree of pleasure. Not knowing anything concerning the tragedy enacting at this time in Carthage Jail, I could not assign my reasons for my peculiar feeling” (Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1:169). “Heber [Kimball] and Lyman Wight were in Salem, Massachusetts, when the dreadful news came. It struck Heber to the heart. He tried hard not to believe. Yet he, and the Apostles generally, traveling in different parts, on the night of the assassination had felt a severe mental shock, for which they could not account until the terrible news reached their ears” (Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 341). “In Boston, Orson Hyde was combing over maps in a hall rented by the Church when he was borne down with such heaviness that tears ran down his cheeks and he turned from his studies to pacing” (Proctor, The Gathering, 48).
8 John Taylor, who was with Joseph at the time of the Martyrdom, recorded his feelings: “When I reflected that our noble chieftain, the Prophet of the living God, had fallen, and that I had seen his brother in the cold embrace of death, it seemed as though there was a void or vacuum in the great field of human existence to me, and a dark gloomy chasm in the kingdom, and that we were left alone. Oh, how lonely was that feeling! How cold, barren and desolate! In the midst of difficulties he was always the first in motion; in critical positions his counsel was always sought. As our Prophet he approached our God, and obtained for us his will; but now our Prophet, our counselor, our general, our leader, was gone, and amid the fiery ordeal that we then had to pass through, we were left alone without his aid, and as our future guide for things spiritual or temporal, and for all things pertaining to this world, or the next, he had spoken for the last time on earth” (Smith, History of the Church, 7:106).
9 Less than thirteen years later, Church members mourned over Parley after he had been stabbed and shot to death.
10 For perhaps two weeks, Parley was the senior apostle in Nauvoo and presided over the affairs of the Church there.
11 Sidney Rigdon arrived in Nauvoo on August 3, 1844. He was still a member of the First Presidency (in name only) but had not been with the body of the Saints for some time.
12 This great meeting took place on August 8, 1844, forty-two days after the Martyrdom. Many people witnessed the miracle of Brigham Young’s transfiguration before the vast gathering of the Saints. George Q. Cannon wrote: “If Joseph had risen from the dead, and again spoken in their hearing, the effect could not have been more startling than it was to many present at that meeting; it was the voice of Joseph himself; and not only was it the voice of Joseph which was heard, but it seemed in the eyes of the people as though it was the very person of Joseph which stood before them” (Tullidge, Life of Brigham Young, 115-16).
Benjamin Ashby wrote: “I was in the congregation when the question of the succession to the leadership of the Church was before the people and I solemnly assert and testify that the last time I saw the features, the gestures, and heard the sound of the voice of Joseph Smith was when the form, voice and countenance of Brigham Young was transfigured before the congregation so that he appeared like Joseph Smith in every particular.
Thus the Lord showed the people that the mantle of Joseph had been bestowed on Brigham” (Ashby, Autobiography, 11). Mary Garner recorded: “Mother had the baby on her knee. He was playing with a tin cup. He dropped it, attracting our attention to the floor. Mother stooped over to pick it up, when we were startled by hearing the voice of Joseph. Looking up quickly, we saw the form of the Prophet Joseph standing before us. Brother Brigham looked and talked so much like Joseph that for a moment we thought it was Joseph. There was no doubt in the hearts of the Saints from that moment on who was to be our inspired leader” (Garner, Autobiography, 119). John Harper testified: “When Brother Brigham arose on the stand I received a testimony for myself. He appeared to me as if it was Brother Joseph and it was Joseph’s voice and there the mantle of Joseph fell on Brigham” (Harper, Autobiography, 10). Drusilla Hendricks recorded: “Brother Brigham began to speak. I jumped up to look and see if it was not Brother Joseph, for surely it was his voice and gestures. Every Latter-day Saint could easily see upon whom the priesthood descended for Brigham Young held the keys. Sidney Rigdon lead off a few, but where are they now?” (Henry Hendricks Genealogy, 154).
13 Parley married three more wives that fall. “Mary Wood, daughter of Samuel and Margaret Wood, born June 18, 1818 at Glasgow, Scotland, sealed to Parley P. Pratt as his wife for time and all eternity, September 9, 1844. Done in Nauvoo, by the hand of Brigham Young.Hannahette Snively, daughter of Henry and Mary Snively, born at Woodstock, Virginia, October 22, 1812. Sealed to Parley P. Pratt, as his wife for time and all eternity, November 2, 1844. Done at Nauvooe by President Brigham Young. Belinda Marden, daughter of John and Rachel Marden, born at Chichester, Merimack county, New Hampshire, December 24, 1820. Sealed to Parley P. Pratt November 20, 1844 for time and all eternity, done by the hand of President Brigham Young, as the residence of Erastus Snow, in Nauvoo” (Pratt, Family Record). Mary Ann Pratt gave birth to Moroni L. Pratt on December 7, 1844, at Nauvoo, just shortly after losing little sixteen-month-old Susan on September 28 from “disease of the bowels.”