On the 6th of May I gave the parting hand to the brethren in Independence, and, in company with Brothers Rigdon and Whitney, commenced a return to Kirtland, by stage to St. Louis, from thence to Vincennes, Indiana; and from thence to New Albany, near the falls of the Ohio river. Before we arrived at the latter place, the horses became frightened, and while going at full speed Bishop Whitney attempted to jump out of the coach, but having his coat fast, caught his foot in the wheel, and had his leg and foot broken in several places; at the same time I jumped out unhurt. We put up at Mr. Porter’s public house, in greenville, for four weeks, while Elder Rigdon went directly forward to Kirtland. During all this time, Brother Whitney lost not a meal of victuals or a night’s sleep, and Dr. Porter, our landlord’s brother, who attended him, said it was a pity we had not got some “Mormon” there, as they could set broken bones or do anything else. I tarried with Brother Whitney and administered to him till he was able to be moved.
While at this place I frequently walked out in the woods, where I saw several fresh graves; and one day when I rose from the dinner table, I walked directly to the door and commenced vomiting most profusely. I raised large quantities of blood and poisonous matter, and so great were the muscular contortions of my system, that my jaw in a few moments was dislocated. This I succeeded in replacing with my own hands, and made my way to Brother Whitney (who was on the bed), as speedily as possible; he laid his hands on me and administered to me in the name of the Lord, and I was healed in an instant, although the effect of the poison was so powerful, as to cause much of the hair to become loosened from my head. Thanks be to my Heavenly Father for His interference in my behalf at this critical moment, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. 1
Promises of Protection
2 Nephi 3:14
Behold, that seer [Joseph Smith] will the Lord bless; and they that shall seek to destroy him shall be confounded.
3 Nephi 21:10
But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.
Many threats on the Prophet’s life were empty; some were not; to all he exhibited a fearlessness that may have been related to his readiness to shed the burdens of mortality. Someone asked him, “How do you dare think you are safe in the midst of your enemies?” Once he answered, “Because the children are praying for me.” During two weeks in hiding with the Prophet, tramping through the woods, William Taylor, age nineteen, asked, “Don’t you get frightened when all those hounding wolves are after you?” Joseph answered: “No, I am not afraid; the Lord said he would protect me, and I have full confidence in His word.” 2
The Lord once told me that what I asked for I should have. I have been afraid to ask God to kill my enemies, lest some of them should, peradventure, repent.
I asked a short time since for the Lord to deliver me out of the hands of the Governor of Missouri, and if it needs must be to accomplish it, to take him away; and the next news that came pouring down from there was, that Governor Reynolds had shot himself. And I would now say, Beware, O earth, how you fight against the Saints of God and shed innocent blood; for in the days of Elijah, his enemies came upon him, and fire was called down from heaven and destroyed them. 3
The Jackson delegation, in a very bad humor, started for Independence. One of the leaders, James Campbell, as he adjusted his pistols in his holsters, exclaimed: “The eagles and buzzards shall eat my flesh, if I don’t fix Joe Smith and his army [meaning Zion’s Camp,] so that their skins won’t hold shucks before two days are passed.”
The Jackson delegation went to Ducker’s ferry and started to cross the Missouri, but when about the middle of the river, their boat suddenly went down as if made of lead. There was no storm-the river was calm, and no natural explanation could be given for the sinking of the boat. Joseph declared that the angel of the Lord sank it. Indeed the circumstances are such as to go very far toward strengthening the statement. It is supposed that about twelve men were in the boat, and of this number seven were drowned. Of the number drowned the names of three are all that have been learned—Ike Job—Everett and James Campbell. The body of Campbell was found by a Mr. Purtle, about three weeks after the occurrence, on a pile of drift-wood, some four or five miles below where the boat sank. But little more than the skeleton of the man remained. His flesh had been eaten by the eagles and buzzards. His fate points a fearful warning to those who raise their hands against God’s anointed. It gives us reason to believe that the day is not distant when the command of Jehovah—“Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm”—must be obeyed. 4
Truman G. Madsen
In Far West, Missouri, the mob lined up about 3500 men, preparing to attack and destroy every Mormon there. There were between 200-300, including two or three Jack-Mormons (in those days that term meant a Mormon sympathizer). Aware of those three, a man came with a flag of truce and said, “We’re going to wipe you out, but we understand that a few of you aren’t Mormon: they can come with us.” Those non-Mormons decided they would stay. Then said the Prophet to the man with the white flag, “Go back and tell your general to withdraw his troops or I will send them to hell.” John Taylor, who was present that day, said years later, “I thought that was a pretty bold stand to take.” That may be the understatement of the nineteenth century. The man went back with his flag, and the militia withdrew. 5
Lucy Mack Smith
Joseph was at our house writing a letter. While he was thus engaged, I stepped to the door, and looking towards the prairie, I beheld a large company of armed men advancing towards the city, but, as I supposed it to be training day, said nothing about it.
Presently the main body came to a halt. The officers dismounting, eight of them came into the house. Thinking they had come for some refreshment, I offered them chairs, but they refused to be seated, and, placing themselves in a line across the floor, continued standing. I again requested them to sit, but they replied, “We do not choose to sit down; we have come here to kill Joe Smith and all the ‘Mormons.'”
“Ah,” said I, “what has Joseph Smith done, that you should want to kill him?”
“He has killed seven men in Daviess county,” replied the foremost, “and we have come to kill him, and all his Church.”
“He has not been in Daviess county,” I answered, “consequently the report must be false. Furthermore, if you should see him, you would not want to kill him.”
“There is no doubt that the report is perfectly correct,” rejoined the officer; “it came straight to us, and I believe it; and we were sent to kill the Prophet and all who believe in him, and I’ll be d—d if I don’t execute my orders.”
“I suppose,” said I, “you intend to kill me, with the rest?”
“Yes, we do,” returned the officer.
“Very well,” I continued, “I want you to act the gentleman about it, and do the job quick. Just shoot me down at once, then I shall be at rest; but I should not like to be murdered by inches.”
“There it is again,” said he. “You tell a ‘Mormon’ that you will kill him, and they will always tell you, ‘that is nothing—if you kill us, we shall be happy.'”
Joseph, just at this moment finished his letter, and, seeing that he was at liberty, I said, “Gentlemen, suffer me to make you acquainted with Joseph Smith, the Prophet.” They stared at him as if he were a spectre. He smiled, and stepping towards them, gave each of them his hand, in a manner which convinced them that he was neither a guilty criminal nor yet a hypocrite.
Joseph then sat down and explained to them the views, feelings, etc., of the Church, and what their course had been; besides the treatment which they had received from their enemies since the first. He also argued, that if any of the brethren had broken the law, they ought to be tried by the law, before anyone else was molested. After talking with them some time in this way, he said, “Mother, I believe I will go home now—Emma will be expecting me.” At this two of the men sprang to their feet, and declared that he should not go alone, as it would be unsafe—that they would go with him, in order to protect him. Accordingly the three left together, and, during their absence, I overheard the following conversation among the officers, who remained at the door:
1st Officer. “Did you not feel strangely when Smith took you by the hand? I never felt so in my life.”
2nd Officer: “I could not move. I would not harm a hair of that man’s head for the whole world.”
3rd Officer. “This is the last time you will catch me coming to kill Joe Smith, or the ‘Mormons’ either.”
1st Officer. “I guess this is about my last expedition against this place. I never saw a more harmless, innocent appearing man than the ‘Mormon’ Prophet.”
2nd Officer. “That story about his killing them men is all a d—d lie—there is no doubt of it; and we have had all this trouble for nothing; but they will never fool me in this way again; I’ll warrant them.” 6
Sarah Woodward Stoddard
Charles had another faith promoting experience last night. Early in the morning, even while the darkness still hemmed out the light of day, Mr. Law, after he had been drinking and planning with his associates throughout the night, got Charles out of bed to clean and oil his gun. He said he was going to shoot the Prophet—only William Law called him “Old Joe Smith.” Poor Charles was frightened beyond description, but Mr. Law stood over him and prodded him with his foot when Charles hesitated through fright and anxiety. Finally, when Mr. Law was satisfied with the way the gun was working he put one bullet in. He boasted he could kill the prophet with one shot. He sent Charles to bring the Prophet. He ran as fast as he could and delivered the message, but he begged the Prophet not to go to Mr. Law’s as Mr. Law was drunk, and Charles was afraid he would carry through on his threat to shoot the Prophet in cold blood. As they walked the few blocks from the Mansion house to the Law residence, the Prophet assured Charles that no harm would come to him that day. Charles was frightened, and he said that it kept racing through his mind, “I am the one that cleaned the gun that is going to be used to kill the Prophet,” until he was sick with fear. The Prophet, in the final attempt to calm my dear son, uttered the fateful words, “Mr. Law may someday kill me, Charles, but it won’t be today.”
As they approached their destination, Mr. Law came staggering out of the house shouting out what he intended to do. The Prophet said kindly and unafraid, “You sent for me, Mr. Law?” To which Mr. Law replied with oath that now he was going to do the whole world a favor by disposing of the Prophet with one shot. Calmly, the Prophet unbuttoned his shirt and bared his chest, and then said, “I’m ready now, Mr. Law.” Charles said at this point he nearly fainted. Sick fear strangled him until he was speechless and paralyzed, unable to move a muscle. Mr. Law paced a few steps, turned, aimed, and pressed the trigger. There was complete silence. Then the air rang with profanity and Mr. Law turned on Charles, accusing him of fixing the gun so it would not go off and threatened to kill even Charles—my innocent, frightened, but faithful son. The Prophet, to divert Mr. Law’s blame of Charles, suggested that a can be placed on a fence post for Mr. Law to take a practice shot. Relieved, Charles ran for a can and laid it on its side on a post. Mr. Law paced back, took aim, and fired. His one shot streaked through the exact center of the can. Even Mr. Law was quiet as if stunned. The Prophet buttoned up his shirt, gave Charles a meaningful look, and then said, “If you are finished with me now, Mr. Law, I have other things needing to be done.” 7
My eyes rested upon the great Prophet of the last days for the first time in 1839. I was introduced to him and his brother, and hook hands with them. Their sister—the wife of brother McClary hurried to and fro, pressing them to partake of refreshments, at the same time telling them how anxious they had been, and how fearful they were lest the mob would take their lives. Joseph said to her, “You were much troubled about us, but you did not know the promises of God to us.”
On the landing at the top of some stairs at the back of the house the Prophet addressed the people. This is the first time I heard him preach, and I shall never forget his words In the course of his remarks he said, “Yes,” said the angel, “your name shall go out for good and for evil.”8
Spencer W. Kimball
“Was there frustration in the martyrdom of Joseph Smith? Joseph was protected and his life saved in every instance of persecution until his work was finished and he had done his part in the restoration of the gospel and the priesthood and all other keys of the dispensation, and until the organization of the kingdom was effected. He could not be killed before that time, though all hell raged against him.” 9
- History of the Church 1:271-272; see also a brief account by Sarah Ann Whitney, in Woman’s Exponent, cited in Andrus, They Knew The Prophet, p. 39, and a letter from Joseph to Emma from Greenville, 6 June 1832 in Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, pp. 237-242
- Joseph Smith the Prophet, p.62
- Teachings, p.340
- B. H. Roberts, The Missouri Persecutions, p.157–158
- Joseph Smith the Prophet, p.62
- History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, p.254-56
- As quoted by Robert H. Daines at BYU-Idaho Devotional, 28 May 2002
- Journal of Wandle Mace, Brigham Young University Library
- Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 431