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To celebrate the study of the Doctrine & Covenants and Church History this year, Meridian is serializing The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother.
To see the previous installment, click here.
To see all the installments, published in order, click here.
Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother—
By Lucy Mack Smith
A Quaker calls upon Joseph Smith Sr. to pay a debt for fourteen dollars. Joseph cannot pay but is given the option to burn the Book of Mormon and be forgiven the debt. Joseph refuses and goes to jail. A large mob gathers to pilfer the Smith home when only Lucy and little Lucy are present. Mother Smith prays that her family will be safe. Son William Smith arrives and immediately breaks up the mob. Samuel goes to help his father in jail. Joseph Sr. works for thirty days in the jail yard to pay his debt, preaches the gospel, and baptizes two people.
On the same day that Hyrum left for Colesville, which was Wednesday, the neighbors began to call, one after another, and inquire very particularly for Hyrum.
This gave me great anxiety, for I knew that they had no business with him. The same night my husband was taken rather ill, and, continuing unwell the next day, he was unable to take breakfast with me. About ten o’clock I commenced preparing him some milk porridge, but before it was ready for him, a Quaker gentleman called to see him, and the following is the substance of their conversation:
Quaker: “Friend Smith, I have a note against thee for fourteen dollars, which I have lately bought, and I have come to see if thou hast the money for me.”
Mr. Smith: “Why, sir, did you purchase that note? You certainly were in no want of the money?”
Quaker: “That is business of my own; I want the money, and must have it.”
Mr. Smith: “I can pay you six dollars now-the rest you will have to wait for, as I cannot get it for you.”
Quaker: “No, I will not wait one hour; and if thou dost not pay me immediately, thou shalt go forthwith to the jail, unless”-running to the fireplace and making violent gestures with his hands towards the fire “thou wilt burn up those Books of Mormon; but if thou wilt burn them up, then I will forgive thee the whole debt.”
Mr. Smith (decidedly): “That I shall not do.”
Quaker: “Then, thou shalt go to jail.”
“Sir,” I interrupted (taking my gold beads from my neck and holding them towards him), “these beads are the full value of the remainder of the debt. I beseech you to take them and be satisfied to give up the note.”
Quaker: “No, I will not. Thou must pay the money, or thy husband shall go straightway to jail.”
“Now, here, sir,” I replied, “just look at yourself as you are. Because God has raised up my son to bring forth a book, which was written for the salvation of the souls of men, for the salvation of your soul as well as mine, you have come here to distress my family and me by taking my husband to jail; and you think, by this, that you will compel us to deny the work of God and destroy a book which was translated by the gift and power of God. But, sir, we shall not burn the Book of Mormon, nor deny the inspiration of the Almighty.”
The Quaker then stepped to the door and called a constable, who was waiting there for the signal. The constable came forward and, laying his hand on Mr. Smith’s shoulder, said, “You are my prisoner.”
I entreated the officer to allow me time to get someone to become my husband’s security, but he refused. I then requested that he might be permitted to eat the porridge which I had been preparing, as he had taken no nourishment since the night before. This was also denied, and the Quaker ordered my husband to get immediately into a wagon which stood waiting to convey him to prison.
After they had taken him to the wagon, the Quaker stood over him as guard and the officer came back and ate up the food which I had prepared for my husband, who sat in the burning sun, faint and sick.
Wives, who love your husbands and would sacrifice your lives for theirs, how do you think I felt at that moment? I will leave you to imagine. Suffice it for the present to say that after devouring the last mouthful of provisions which we had in the house, they drove away with my husband, and I was left alone again with Lucy, my youngest child.1
The next morning I went on foot several miles to see a friend by the name of Abner Lackey, who, I hoped, would assist me. I was not disappointed. He went without delay to the magistrate’s office and had my papers prepared, so that I could get my husband out of the prison cell, although he would still be confined in the jail yard.
Shortly after I returned home, a pesty young gentleman came in and asked if Mr. Hyrum Smith was at home. I told him, as I had others, that he was in Colesville. The young man said that Hyrum was owing a small debt to Dr. McIntyre (who was then absent), and the doctor wished him to call at my house to see if it would be convenient for him to settle the debt. I told the young man that all my son’s business was left in order, and that the agreement with Dr. McIntyre was that the debt was to be paid in corn and beans, which I would send to him the next day.
I then hired a man to take the produce the following day to the doctor’s house, which was accordingly done, and, when the man returned, he informed me that the clerk agreed to erase the account. It was now too late in the day to set out for Canandaigua, where my husband was confined in prison, and I concluded to defer going till the next morning, in hopes that some of my sons would return during the interval.
The night came on, but neither of my sons made their appearance. When the night closed in, the darkness was hideous; scarcely any object was discernible. I sat down and began to contemplate the situation of myself and family. My husband, an affectionate companion and as tender a father as ever blessed the confidence of a family, was an imprisoned debtor, torn from his family and immured in a dungeon, where he had already lain two dismal nights, and now another must be added to the number before I could reach him to render him any assistance. And where were his children? Alvin was murdered by a quack physician; but still he lay at peace. Hyrum was flying from his home and why I knew not; the secret combinations of his enemies were not yet fully developed. Joseph had but recently escaped from his persecutors, who sought to accomplish his destruction. Samuel was gone, without purse or scrip, to preach the gospel, for which he was as much despised and hated as were the ancient disciples. William was also gone, and I had not, unlike Naomi, even my daughters-in-law to comfort my heart in this the hour of my affliction.
While I was thus meditating, a heavy rap at the door brought me suddenly to my feet. I bade the stranger enter. He asked me, in a hurried manner, where Hyrum was. I answered the question as usual. Just then a second person came in, and the first observed to a second, “Mrs. Smith says her son is not at home.” The person addressed looked suspiciously around and remarked, “He is at home, for your neighbors have seen him here today.”
“Then, sir,” I replied, “they have seen what I have not.”
“We have a search warrant,” rejoined he, “and if you do not give him up, we shall be under the necessity of taking whatever we find that belongs to him.” Finding some corn stored in the chamber above the room where Hyrum had lived, they declared their intention of taking it, but I forbade their meddling with it.
At this instant a third stranger entered, and then a fourth. The last observed, “I do not know, but you will think strange of so many of us coming in, but my candle was out, and I came in to relight it by your fire.”
I told him I did not know what to think. I had but little reason to consider myself safe either day or night, and that I would like to know what their business was, and for what cause they were seizing upon our property. The foremost replied that it was wanted to settle a debt which Hyrum was owing to Dr. McIntyre. I told him that it was paid. He disputed my word, and ordered his men to take the corn.
As they were going upstairs, I looked out of the window, and one glance almost turned my head giddy. As far as I could see by the light of two candles and a pair of carriage lamps, the heads of men appeared in every direction, some on foot, some on horseback, and the rest in wagons. I saw that there was no way but for me to sit quietly down, and see my house pillaged by a banditti of blacklegs, religious bigots, and cut-throats, who were united in one purpose, namely, that of destroying us from the face of the earth.
However, there was one resource, and to that I applied. I went aside, and kneeled before the Lord and begged that he would not let my children fall into their hands, and that they might be satisfied with plunder without taking life.
Just at this instant, William bounded into the house. “Mother,” he cried, “in the name of God, what is this host of men doing here? Are they robbing or stealing? What are they about?”
I told him, in short, that they had taken his father to prison, and had now come after Hyrum, but, not finding him, they were plundering the house. Hereupon, William seized a large handspike, sprang up the stairs, and, in one instant, cleared the scoundrels out of the chamber. They scampered downstairs; he flew after them, and, bounding into the very midst of the crowd, he brandished his
handspike in every direction, exclaiming, “Away from here, you cut-throats, instantly, or I will be the death of every one of you.”
The lights were immediately extinguished, yet he continued to harangue them boisterously, until he discovered that his audience had left him. They seemed to believe what he said, and fled in every direction, leaving us again to ourselves.
Between twelve and one o’clock, Calvin Stoddard and his wife, Sophronia, arrived at our house. Calvin said he had been troubled about us all afternoon, and, finally, about the setting of the sun, he told Sophronia that he would even then start for her father’s, if she felt inclined to go with him.
Within an hour after their arrival, Samuel came. He was much fatigued, for he had traveled twenty-one miles after sunset. I told him our situation, and that I wished him to go early the next morning to Canandaigua and procure his father’s release from the dungeon. “Well, Mother,” said he, “I am sick; fix me a bed, that I may lie down and rest myself, or I shall not be able to go, for I have taken a heavy cold, and my bones ache dreadfully.”
However, by a little nursing and some rest, he was able to set off by sunrise, and arrived at Canandaigua at ten o’clock. After informing the jailor of his business, he requested that his father might be immediately liberated from the cell. The jailor refused, because it was Sunday, but permitted Samuel to go into the cell, where he found my husband confined in the same dungeon with a man committed for murder. Upon Samuel inquiring what his treatment had been, Mr. Smith replied as follows:
“Immediately after I left your mother, the men by whom I was taken commenced using every possible argument to induce me to renounce the Book of Mormon, saying, ‘how much better it would be for you to deny that silly thing, than to be disgraced and imprisoned, when you might not only escape this, but also have the note back, as well as the money which you have paid on it.’ To this I made no reply. They still went on in the same manner till we arrived at the jail, when they hurried me into this dismal dungeon. I shuddered when I first heard these heavy doors creaking upon their hinges; but then I thought to myself, I was not the first man who had been imprisoned for the truth’s sake; and when I should meet Paul in the paradise of God, I could tell him that I, too, had been in bonds for the gospel which he had preached. And this has been my only consolation.
“From the time I entered until now, and this is the fourth day, I have had nothing to eat, save a pint basin full of very weak broth; and there [pointing to the opposite side of the cell] lies the basin yet.”
Samuel was very much wounded by this, and, having obtained permission of the jailor, he immediately went out and brought his father some comfortable food. After which he remained with him until the next morning, when the business was
attended to, and Mr. Smith went out into the jail yard to a cooper’s shop, where he obtained employment at coopering, and followed the same until he was released, which was thirty days.2 He preached during his confinement there every Sunday, and when he was released, he baptized two persons whom he had thus converted.
1 Little Lucy was nine years old at this time. It appears that Joseph Smith Sr. was incarcerated in the Canandaigua jail between October 7, 1830, and November 5, 1830, or perhaps from September 30 (one week earlier) until October 29, 1830 (see Porter, “Origins,” p. 268; see also Bushman, Beginnings, p. 242). 2 Apparently Joseph Smith Sr. earned enough money not only to pay off the fourteen-dollar debt but also to bring home some extra clothing for the family (see Bushman, Beginnings, p. 173).