Please see the Introduction to this series for the origins of these lessons, written by Elder A.G. Pack, a missionary to England in 1930.
MOVE TO FAR WEST: In the summer of 1836, after a brief period of peaceful struggle to plant homes, the spirit of mobocracy reappeared and the people of Clay County who had kindly received the Saints now asked them to depart. Accordingly, they moved into the wilderness of upper Missouri. Far West was settled in October, where rapid advancement was made.
THE PROPHET MOVES TO MISSOURI: In January, 1838, persecution in Ohio became unbearable. The Prophet, following his brethren, fled from Kirtland, arriving at Far West in March.
But bitterness over political issues soon became apparent there also. In the fall, mobs again appeared against the peace-loving people, who only claimed their right as citizens to vote as they felt justified. At Gallatin a tumult ensued when a number of brethren tried to vote. Exaggerated reports caused a general mob uprising. Governor Boggs said: “The quarrel is between the ‘Mormons’ and the mob and they can fight it out.” [Contributor, vol. 7, p. 328.]
Many of the “Mormon” women bled and suffered with their husbands for conscience sake.
On October 17th, 1838, a mob-militia caused much privation and suffering among the Saints at Millport. One sister, not yet recovered from child birth, was compelled to leave a comfortable home, and through exposure died. She was buried in a river bank. Agnes M. Smith, wife of Don Carlos Smith, who was then on a mission, was forced to flee with her two helpless babes from a burning home. Carrying her children, she had to wade the Grand River where it was waist deep.
THE MOBS LIE TO CREATE ANTI-MORMON FEELING: Then, the mobs who were determined to “manufacture” evidence against the defenceless people, set fire to their own huts and went screaming through the countryside that the Mormons committed the crime. Captain Bogart of the Missouri militia, a bitter mobocrat, said he was going “to give Far West hell before noon the next day.” [Contributor, B.H. Roberts, Vol. 78, page 363.] He warned one brother to leave the state or he “would have his damned old scalp.”
At Crooked River, October 25th, in an attempt to protect Far West from these militia-mobbers, apostle David W. Patten was mortally wounded. Just as he expired he implored his grief-stricken wife: “Whatever you do else, O! do not deny the faith!” (The Women of Mormondom, p. 381.) No need to try to picture her extreme sorrow; nor did she ever deny the faith. Untruthful reports portrayed this defensive act as a Mormon massacre. consequently, on October 27th, Governor Boggs, reeking with cruel and unscrupulous hate, issued his famous “exterminating order,” which said: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary, for the public good.” [History of the Church, Vol. 3, page 175.]
FEAR TURNED TO JOY: When their father joined the above-mentioned defence to protect Far West, Louisa F. Wells and her sister Emmeline, with their cousin, Eliza Free, took over the duty of guarding the home. For three weeks, day and night, they stood on a ridge to warn their neighbouring families, among whom were many sick, if mobs approached. One evening a humourous but very pathetic incident occurred. The girls discovered five armed men approaching. Instantly every woman and child, except Louisa, her mother and sick brother, fled to safety in a nearby field. Mother love kept them behind; neither would leave the sick boy, so they armed themselves to defend him – the mother procured an axe, and Louisa stationed herself by the door with a formidable pair of old-fashioned fire-tongs. They were driven to desperation, but to their relief found that the company had been sent by their father to inquire of their welfare.
HAUN’S MILL MASSACRE: Several Latter-day Saint families, enroute from Kirtland to Far west, stopped for the night at Haun’s Mill. They were traveling in peace and minding their own business, but had been detained several times by armed forces. On the 30th of October, 1838, a marauding band of 300 men swooped on these Saints at Haun’s Mill and enacted a crime of blood an carnage beyond description. The brethren, crying for “quarter,” sought refuge in the blacksmith shop, while the sisters and children fled midst a shower of bullets, into the woods. One girl was shot through the hand and fell over a log, the mob continuing to pour bullets through a portion of her dress which protruded above the log, thinking they were hitting her body. The mobbers plundered goods, drove off cattle, and inhumanly butchered seventeen men and wounded thirteen others. What a scene! One old man was literally cut to pieces with a corn-cutter as he pleaded for his life. A little boy begged for mercy, but a fiend blew out his brains. A sister hid her husband under a pile of leaves.
About this blood tragedy Sister Amanda Smith, an eye witness, says:
O! what a horrible sight! My husband and one of my sons lay lifeless upon the ground, and another son, wounded and bleeding … and the ground all covered with the dead and dying. … My husband had on a new pair of calf-skin boots, and they were taken off him by one who afterwards made his brags that “he pulled a d—d Mormon’s boots off his feet while he was kicking.”
It was sunset when the mob left and we crawled back to see and comprehend the extent of our misery. … A dozen helpless widows grieving for their husbands, who lay cold and insensible around them. … I knew not but at any moment the mob might return to complete their dreadful work. All through the night I heard the groans of the sufferers, and once in the dark we groped our way over the heap of dead in the blacksmith shop, to try to soothe the wants of those who had been mortally wounded, and who lay so helpless among the slain. [Heroines of Mormondom, pages 89-92.]
Next morning Joseph Young helped the stricken sisters cast the bodies of their dead husbands into a deep, dry well, because there were not enough survivors to bury them. They were given no burial rites. All were thrown in except Sister Smith’s son, Sardius. But Brother Young could not throw one so fair into this ghastly pit. Sister Smith continues:
”O, they have left my Sardius unburied in the sun,” I cried, and ran and covered his body with a sheet … and then I, his own mother, horrible to relate … threw him into this rude vault with the others, and covered them with straw and earth. [Ibid., p. 92]
THE PROPHET BETRAYED: In Far West, on October 31st, Colonel Hinkle betrayed Joseph and many of his leading brethren into the hands of the troops. The people were disarmed and forced to sign away their property, and Far West was ransacked. The marauders committed nameless crimes against the innocent women of the community, and went about boasting that they left dead brethren “lying here and there in the brush … unburied for the hogs to feed upon.” [History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 428.]
Before the brethren were cast into gaol they were allowed to take short leave of their families. parley P. pratt relates:
This was the most trying scene of all. I went to my house … there lay my wife sick with a fever … At her breast was our son Nathan, an infant of three months, and by her side a little girl of five years. On the foot of the same bed lay a woman in travail, who had been driven from her home in the night. … I halted at the door of Hyrum Smith, and heard the sobs and groans of his wife, at his parting words. She was then near confinement; and needed more than ever the comfort and consolation of a husband’s presence. … We saw Sidney Rigdon taking leave of his wife and daughters … in tears undescribable. In the wagon sat Joseph Smith, while his aged father and venerable mother came up overwhelmed with tears. [Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 208; History of the Church, Vol. III, p. 193-194.]
SUFFERING IN PRISON: The brethren were thrown into a foul-smelling dungeon where, for the space of five days, the brutal guards tried to make them live on human flesh, and who boasted that they were feeding their prisoners on “Mormon beef.” [Statement of Hyrum Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 420.] Joseph and the others were then informed by their drunken captors that they were accused of treason, murder, arson, burglary, robbery, larceny, and perjury. During this time General Clark told the people:
As for your leaders, do not imagine for a moment … that they will be restored to you … for their fate is fixed, the die is cast, their doom is sealed. [Life of Heber C. Kimball, Whitney, p. 233.]
Shortly, Joseph Fielding, later to become President of the Church, was born to Mary Fielding Smith while she laboured under this sad impression that she “had seen her husband for the last time.” Three months later, while still on her sick bed, she was driven in a wagon from the state.
BANISHED FROM MISSOURI: Thus, in January, 1839, it became apparent that the Saints could do nothing but leave the state or suffer the threatened extermination. Deprived of all worldly possessions, soul-weary and worn, that winter nearly twelve thousand Saints fled from Missouri. Under the capable leadership of Brigham Young, who was delegated by the Prophet to undertake the task – the people were removed. He had made a covenant with his brethren “to never cease their efforts till every Saint was safely delivered from Missouri mobs.” [Brigham Young – Patriot, Pioneer, Prophet, Susa Young Gates, p. 28.] No complaints were heard; they sang hymns as they went. None but Saints could have been happy under such circumstances. The desolation, inscribed everywhere but int heir hearts, only inspired greater trust in God. Sister Bathsheba W. Smith says: “We had a sure testimony that we were being persecuted for the gospel’s sake.” [The Women of Mormondom, p. 153.]em>History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 431.] Lyman Wight’s wife and three children made a tent of a rag carpet, in which they lived until he escaped from gaol. Mary Ann Angell Young procured a wagon, packed into it what movables she could, and started out – she on top of the load with a baby on each arm and three children clinging to her skirts. Bathsheba W. Smith walked to Illinois, several hundred miles, to let some weary soul ride. And so did countless others.
Mary Ann Stearns Pratt and children were driven from home on peril of their lives and “wandered to Illinois, without a husband, father or protector.” [History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 431.] Lyman Wight’s wife and three children made a tent of a rag carpet, in which they lived until he escaped from gaol. Mary Ann Angell Young procured a wagon, packed into it what movables she could, and started out – she on top of the load with a baby on each arm and three children clinging to her skirts. Bathsheba W. Smith walked to Illinois, several hundred miles, to let some weary soul ride. And so did countless others.
Cheering them from his dungeon cell, the Prophet wrote: “Zion shall yet live though she seemeth to be dead.”
1. – Why was Far West settled? Locate it on the map.
2. – What were the experiences of the people at this place?
3. – Why were the people persecuted in Missouri?
4. – Discuss the incidents at Crooked River and Haun’s Mill.
5. – State several good reasons why the Saints were willing, in the face of hardship and opposition, to continue in the line of duty.
6. – When and why were Joseph and his brethren cast into prison?
7. – Analyze the feelings which filled the souls of those women as they saw their husbands taken to gaol. What would you do under similar circumstances?
8. – Fix in your mind the incidents of January, 1839, and trace on your map the movements of the people.
9. – What was the condition of the people as this move was made?
10. – For closing exercises sing the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” How does this hymn make you feel?