A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview

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Zion's Camp


In the spring of 1834 Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight were sent as messengers from the Saints in Clay county to Kirtland to tell the Prophet what had happened and to ask for further advice. Joseph, you may be sure, was very grieved to hear about the sufferings of the Saints, and he enquired of the Lord what should be done. In answer, a revelation was given instructing Joseph to gather the young and middle aged men of the Church and organize them into a company which was to march to Missouri to bring aid to the Saints and to assist them to again get possession of their homes. Five hundred men were to be obtained, but one hundred would do if no more could be raised.

Accordingly, Joseph and seven other brethren went two and two through the various branches in the east asking for means and volunteers for this mission.

New Portage, a village about sixty miles south-west from Kirtland was selected as a gathering place, and from this point on the 8th of May, 1834, one hundred and fifty men started for Missouri. They were organized in regular army order, having officers to see that everything on the march was done properly. Joseph was the leader.

The distance from Kirtland to Missouri is one thousand miles. That long journey was not an easy one. The wagons were heavily loaded, and as the roads were poor there was very little riding. Often the men would have to help drag the loads over the bad places. Every Sunday the camp rested and held meetings. Sometimes the people, suspecting they were "Mormons" would annoy them, so that guards had to be placed around the camp. People were also curious to know what this strange company of men was and where it was going. Spies followed the company for many miles. There were some boys in camp, and the inquisitive people thought it an easy matter to find out everything from the boys.

"My boy, where are you from?" they would ask.

"From the east," was the answer.

"Where are you going?" "To the west."

"What for?"

"To see where we can get land cheapest and best."

"Who leads the camp?"

"Sometimes one, sometimes another."

"What name?"

"Captain Wallace, Major Bruce," etc.The Prophet Joseph believed in being kind to all animals, and he instructed his brethren in Zion's camp to kill none except for food. Man must first become peaceful, before animals will lose their fierceness. Not long after this instruction had been given, a brother became very tired by traveling and lay down on the ground to sleep. When he awoke, what should he see but a rattlesnake coiled up not more than a foot away from his head. Just then some of the brethren came up and wanted to kill the snake; but the brother said, "No, I'll protect him, for he and I have had a good nap together." He remembered what Joseph had said.

On June 7th the company having crossed the Mississippi river, camped on Salt river in Missouri. More of the brethren had joined the company on the way, and now it numbered two hundred and five men. From this point Parley P. Pratt and Orson Hyde were sent to Governor Dunklin at Jefferson city, asking him to use his power as the highest officer in the state to have the Saints brought back to their homes in Jackson county. The governor said he thought it right that the Saints should get back their lands, yet he was afraid if they tried to go back or if he called out soldiers to help them get their homes, there would be a terrible war and many people killed. So the governor would do nothing to help them.

While Zion's camp was making its way to the Saints in Clay county, a meeting was held in Liberty where some mobbers from Jackson county tried to arouse the people against the Saints. Nothing being done at this meeting, a party of fifteen men started for Independence to raise an army large enough to destroy Joseph and the camp.

One of the leaders of this band was James Campbell. As he pushed his pistols into the holsters before starting, he said with an oath: "The eagles and turkey buzzards shall eat my flesh if I do not fix Joe Smith and his army so that their skins will not hold shucks before two days are passed!" As he and his companions were crossing the Missouri river their boat sank. Seven of them were drowned and among them was Campbell. What was left of his body was found three weeks after lodged on a pile of drift wood. The "eagles and turkey buzzards" had eaten the flesh from his bones.

On the 19th the camp passed through Richmond. They expected to reach Clay county that night, but were so greatly hindered by accidents that they camped for the night between two forks of Fishing river. A large mob had gathered, bent on destroying the camp. A boat containing forty mobbers had been sent over the river, when a storm arose. The rain fell in torrents, the lightning flashed, the thunder shook the earth. Great hail stones destroyed the corn in the fields and stripped the trees of leaves. The mob scattered in confusion. The river rose nearly forty feet, which made it impossible for anyone to cross. The brethren took shelter in a schoolhouse and escaped the storm. Thus again the Lord preserved his people from their enemies.

The next day the camp moved five miles out on the prairie. While here, some of the leading men of Ray county called on the brethren to learn what their intentions were. Joseph told them how the Saints had been persecuted in Jackson county; and that they had come one thousand miles with clothing and provisions for their brethren; that they had no intentions of harming any one, but their mission was to do good, and if possible help their brethren to get their lands back again. At the close of their talk, the visitors promised to do what they could to prevent the mobs from disturbing them, which promise they kept.The next day, June 22nd, Sheriff Gillium of Clay county came into camp. He also wanted to know what the camp was going to do. Joseph explained to him. In order to get back their lands and live in peace, the Saints proposed to buy the lands from those who could not live with them in Jackson county, but nothing came of this and other offers that were made to settle the trouble.

This same day an important revelation was given through the prophet. The brethren were told that the Lord did not want them to fight, and that they must wait for a time before Zion should be redeemed.

During the march of the camp, some of the brethren had found fault and had not listened to the counsels of the prophet. Joseph had told them that if they did not repent, sickness would come into the camp and many would die. This was now fulfilled. On June 22nd, that dread disease called the cholera appeared in the camp. When you are told that during the next four or five days sixty-eight of the brethren took the disease and thirteen died, you may perhaps imagine what a terrible time they had.

On June 23rd they marched into Clay county and camped on Rush creek, where two days later the camp was disbanded. For two weeks Joseph labored among the Saints and then he returned to Kirtland. Most of the others also went back to their homes in the east about the same time.

Topics.1. Organizing Zion's camp. 2. March of Zion's camp. 3. The camp on Fishing river. 4. The scourge.

Questions and Review.1. What was Parley P. Pratt and Lyman Wight's mission to Kirtland? 2. What instruction did the Lord give them? (See Doc. and Cov., sec. 103.) 3. How was Zion's camp organized? 4. What was its object? 5. Through what states did it march? 6. What were Joseph's teachings about kindness to animals? 7. What was the fate of James Campbell? 8. How were the brethren saved from their enemies on Fishing river? 9. What did the brethren propose to the citizens of Jackson? 10. Why did the scourge come upon the camp? 11. What revelation was given on Fishing river? 12. Where and when was Zion's camp disbanded?