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

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In Missouri Prisons


From Far West Joseph and his brethren who had been taken prisoners were marched towards Jackson county. At first General Wilson who had them in charge treated the brethren badly, but as they proceeded on their journey he became quite friendly, and told the prisoners that he was just going to show the people of Independence what a "set of fine fellows you are."

While on the march the Lord comforted Joseph, and he spoke to the other prisoners as follows: "Be of good cheer, brethren; the word of the Lord came to me last night that our lives should be given us, and that whatever we may suffer during this captivity, not one of our lives shall be taken."

After they had crossed the Missouri river into Jackson county, many people came to see these wonders, the "Mormons." One lady came up and asked the guards which of the prisoners the "Mormons" worshiped. Joseph was pointed out to her. She then asked the Prophet if he professed to be the Lord and Savior. Joseph said he was only a man sent by Jesus Christ to preach the gospel. Quite a crowd had gathered around, and Joseph went on explaining the principles of faith, repentance, etc. Thus Joseph preached a sermon in Jackson county in fulfillment of a prediction he had made some months before.

At Independence their treatment was not bad. The people seemed curious to see them, and the brethren spent their time in talking with people who came to them.

General Clark, who also wanted some of the "honor" of having these noted prisoners, now ordered them to Richmond, in Ray county, where the general had a talk with them. Shortly after this, some guards came into the jail house and fastened the seven prisoners together by means of a chain and pad-locks. In this way they lived in a room without chairs or beds, sleeping on the hard, cold floor at nights. Guards with loaded guns stood watch over them, and talked to each other of the wicked deeds they had done at Far West and other places near by. About these horrible acts they boasted in glee while the prisoners had to lie and hear it all.

One night, says P.P. Pratt, he lay next to Joseph, listening to all this vile talk, when suddenly Joseph arose to his feet and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, these words:

"'Silence! ye fiends of the infernal pit! In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still. I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease your talk, or you or I die this minute'

"He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty, chained and without a weapon; calm, unruffled, and dignified as an angel, he looked down upon the quailing guards, whose weapons dropped to the ground, whose knees smote together." The ruffians instantly became still, and were very glad when a change of guard came so that they could get away.

General Clark tried hard to find some law by which he could have Joseph tried by an army court, but he failed in this and therefore he handed the prisoners over to the civil authorities.Another farce of a trial was now had. About forty men, mostly apostates, testified against the prisoners. The brethren had no witnesses, and when the mobber Bogart was sent to Far West for some, he simply arrested them and put them in prison. The result of the hearing was that Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae, and Caleb Baldwin were sent to Liberty, Clay county, to jail. Parley P. Pratt and others were to remain in Richmond jail, while some others were released.

Joseph with his fellow-prisoners remained in Liberty jail from November 28, 1838, to April 6, 1839. During all this time they suffered the hardships of prison life, together with abuses not usually imposed on common prisoners. It is claimed by some that they were offered human flesh to eat. During this time of trial Joseph was cheerful and told the brethren they would get out safe. He wrote many letters of instruction to the Saints, bidding them to be faithful to their religion. The brethren who were at liberty were not idle. They were appealing continually to the judges and the governor for justice for their brethren, but it was of little use. At one hearing, Sidney Rigdon was released but he had to go back to jail for a time because the mob threatened to kill him.

Seeing that it was useless trying to be released lawfully the brethren decided to try to escape. The evening of February 7, 1839, when the guard should come with their supper, was fixed as the time to try; but Hyrum wanted to be sure about the matter so he asked Joseph to enquire of the Lord if it was wisdom for them to make the attempt. Joseph did so and was informed that if they were all united they would be able to escape that evening. Therefore all but Lyman Wight agreed to the plan. He wanted to wait till the next day, and as the brethren would not go without him, they decided to wait.

That evening the guard left the door wide open and gave them a good chance to escape, but they did not try. The next evening the jailor brought a double guard with him, and six of the brethren came to see the prisoners. Though it was a very poor chance to escape, they meant to try. When the guard went to close the door the prisoners followed and tried to prevent him, but they did not succeed. All but one of the visiting brethren were also locked in, and he had a narrow escape from the mob outside who soon collected and made all kinds of threats against the prisoners.

The visitors now thought that they also were in great danger, but Joseph told them not to fear, as not a hair of their heads would be injured. This promise came true, because at a trial they had next day they were all set free and nothing was taken from them.

April 6, 1839, the prisoners were ordered to Gallatin, Daviess county. After their long confinement the brethren were weak, and it was hard to stand the long journey. On the 9th they had another trial or hearing. The jury consisted mainly of men who had taken part in the Haun's Mill massacre, and most of the time during the trial they were drunk. The presiding officer, Judge King, was also as bad as the jury. This mock trial continued for several days. Men who sat on the jury during the day acted as guards at night, where they boasted of their murders, thefts, etc., to the prisoners. This trial resulted in the brethren being held for "murder, treason, burglary, arson, larceny, theft, and stealing."The prisoners now asked for a change of venue, that is, a change of place of trial. This was granted, and on April 15 they started for Boone county under guard of the sheriff and four men. On the night of the 16th the sheriff told them he was going to take a drink of grog before going to bed and they could do as they pleased. The sheriff and three of the guards went to bed drunk, and the other guard helped the brethren saddle the horses and get away. They traveled day and night, and after much suffering Joseph arrived at the city of Quincy, Illinois, April 22, 1839, where he was gladly welcomed by his family and friends.

Topics.1. Prisoners taken to Independence. 2. In Richmond jail. 3. In Liberty jail. 4. The attempt to escape. 5. Their last trial and escape.

Questions and Review.1. Who were taken as prisoners to Independence? 2. What prediction did Joseph make while on the way? 3. How did Joseph fulfill his own prophecy in Jackson county? 4. Where were they taken next? 5. How were they treated in Richmond jail? 6. Describe Joseph's rebuke. 7. Where next were they sent? 8. How long were they in Liberty jail? 9. Why was the attempt to escape a failure? 10. Where were they next taken? 11. Describe their last trial. 12. How did they escape?