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.
Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother—
By Lucy Mack Smith
City of Nauvoo established. Lucy’s severe illness. Death of a number of the Smith family, including Samuel’s wife, Mary; Don Carlos; Hyrum’s brother-in-law Robert Thompson; Joseph’s toddler son, Don Carlos; Hyrum’s son Hyrum; and Don Carlos’s daughter Sophronia. Joseph the Prophet put on trial in Monmouth, Illinois. Assassination attempt on ex-Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri. Joseph and Orrin Porter Rockwell are accused. To avoid false arrest, Joseph goes into hiding. Joseph is tried and acquitted in Springfield. Joseph is arrested in Dixon, Illinois. He is tried in Nauvoo, Hyrum gives sworn testimony, and Joseph is acquitted.
December 1840 to October 1843
In the month of December, 1840, we received for Nauvoo a city charter with extensive privileges; and in February of the same winter, charters were also received for the Nauvoo Legion and for the University of the City of Nauvoo. Not long after this the office of lieutenant-general was conferred upon Joseph by the vote of the people and a commission from the governor of the state.[i]
In the early part of the same winter, I made Brother Knowlton a visit on Bear Creek. When I arrived there it was dark and I was very cold, and in getting out of the wagon, I stepped upon some round substance which, rolling under my foot, brought me round so suddenly, that in trying to save myself from falling, I injured my right knee. The cold settled in the injured part and the rheumatism set in. I suffered considerable while there, but I only remained about one week. After I returned home, my sickness increased. This, with other sickness produced by the same cause, kept me very low all winter, and for six weeks I had watchers every night. Sophronia and Lucy took care of me and faithfully did they watch over me. Never was a disconsolate widow more blessed in her children than I was in them. By their faithful care I was enabled, after a long season of helplessness, to stand upon my feet again.
The same winter, on the twenty-fifth of January, 1841, Mary Smith, Samuel’s wife, was taken suddenly away to meet my husband where parting shall be no more.[ii] She had never been well since she was driven with her infant by the Missouri mob into Far West, and that was the cause of her death.
On the fifth of June the same year, Joseph went, in company with several others, on a visit to Quincy. As he was returning, Governor Carlin sent one of the Missouri writs after him and had him arrested for murder, treason, etc., etc. Joseph, choosing to be tried at Monmouth,[iii] Warren County, returned the next day with the officers to Nauvoo and, after procuring witnesses, proceeded to Monmouth. Esquire Browning spoke in Joseph’s defense, and was moved upon by the spirit that was given him, in answer to the prayers of the Saints; and, of course, he gained the case. The opposing attorney tried his utmost to convict Joseph of the crimes mentioned in the writ, but before he had spoken many minutes, he turned sick and vomited at the feet of the judge; which, joined to the circumstance of his advocating the case of the Missourians, who are called pukes by their countrymen, obtained for him the same appellation, and was a source of much amusement to the court.
The Church was much rejoiced when Joseph returned, and many besought him never again to leave the city.
About the first of August, Don Carlos came to me and told me that for a long time he had suffered such distress in his side, that he thought the same disease had fastened upon him as his father had, and he feared it would sooner or later take him away. He was taken bedfast the same day, and on the seventh day of August, he died, and on the eighth he was buried under the honors of war.[iv]
On the first day of September, Robert B. Thompson,[v] who was Hyrum’s brother-in-law and associate editor with Don Carlos of the Times and Seasons, died of the same disease which carried Carlos out of the world-supposed to be quick consumption.
On the fifteenth of September, Joseph’s youngest son, who was named after Don Carlos, died after a long season of sickness and distress.[vi]
On the twenty-eighth of September, Hyrum’s second son, named Hyrum, died of a fever.[vii]
The succeeding winter we were left to mourn over the ravages which death had made in our family, without interruption; but sickness ceased from among us, and the mob retired to their homes.
On the sixth of May, 1842, some assassin attempted to shoot Lilburn W. Boggs, ex-governor of Missouri, and in a trice[viii] the cry went forth that “Joe Smith” had shot Governor Boggs. But, as Joseph was on that day at an officer’s drill in Nauvoo, several hundred miles from where Boggs resided, and was seen by hundreds, and, on the day following, at a public training, where thousands of witnesses beheld him, we supposed that the crime being charged upon him was such an outrage upon common sense that when his persecutors became apprised of these facts, they would cease to accuse him. But in this we were disappointed, for when they found it impossible to sustain the charge in this shape, they preferred it in another, in order to make it more probable. They now accused my son of sending O. P. Rockwell into Missouri with orders to shoot the ex-governor, and from this time they pursued both Joseph and Porter with all diligence, till they succeeded in getting the latter into jail in Missouri.
Joseph, not choosing to fall into their hands, fled from the city and secreted himself sometimes in one place, sometimes in another. He generally kept some friends with him, in whom he had confidence, who came frequently to the city. Thus communication was kept up between Joseph, his family, and the Church. At this time Brother John Taylor lay very sick of the fever and was so reduced that he was not able to stand upon his feet. Joseph visited him and, after telling him that he wished to start that night on a journey of fifty miles, requested Brother Taylor to accompany him, saying if he would do so he would be able to ride the whole way. Brother Taylor believing this, they set out together and performed the journey with ease.
Caption: Joseph’s trial here in this Springfield courtroom has become famous in Illinois’s legal history.[ix]
This time Joseph remained away two weeks, then made his family and myself a short visit, after which he again left us. In this way he lived, hiding first in one place and then in another,[x] until the sitting of the legislature when Governor Ford wrote Joseph a letter advising him to come to Springfield, with a guard sufficient to secure himself against molestation, and suffer himself to be tried for the crimes alleged against him, namely, that of being accessory to the attempted assassination of ex-Governor Boggs. Joseph went and was tried before Judge Pope and honorably acquitted. When he returned home, there was a jubilee held throughout the city. The remainder of the winter, and the next spring, we spent in peace.
About the middle of June, 1843, Joseph went with his wife to visit Mrs. Wasson, who was his wife’s sister.[xi] While he was there, an attempt was made to kidnap him and take him into Missouri, by J. H. Reynolds of that state and Harmon Wilson of Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, who was a Missourian in principle. You have read Hyrum’s testimony and can judge of the treatment which Joseph received at their hands. Suffice to say he was shamefully abused. Wilson had authority from the governor of Illinois to take Joseph Smith Jr. and deliver him into the hands of the before-named Reynolds; but as neither of them showed any authority save a brace of pistols, Joseph took them for false imprisonment. He then obtained a writ of habeas corpus of the master in chancery of Lee County, returnable before the nearest court authorized to determine upon such writs; and the Municipal Court of Nauvoo being the nearest one invested with this power, an examination was had before said court, when it was made to appear that the writ was defective and void; furthermore, that he was innocent of the charges therein alleged against him. It was in this case that Hyrum’s testimony was given, which is rehearsed in a preceding chapter.[xii]
Not long after this I broke up housekeeping, and at Joseph’s request, I took up my residence at his house. Soon after which I was taken very sick and was brought nigh unto death. For five nights Emma never left me, but stood at my bedside all the night long, at the end of which time she was overcome with fatigue and taken sick herself. Joseph then took her place and watched with me the five succeeding nights, as faithfully as Emma had done. About this time I began to recover, and, in the course of a few weeks, I was able to walk about the house a little and sit up during the day. I have hardly been able to go on foot further than across the street since.
On the third day of October, 1843, Sophronia, second daughter of Don Carlos, died of the scarlet fever, leaving her widowed mother doubly desolate.[xiii]
[i] The commission was issued by Governor Carlin of Illinois: “Know ye that Joseph Smith, having been duly elected to the office of lieutenant-general, Nauvoo Legion, of the militia of the State of Illinois, I, Thomas Carlin, governor of said state, do commission him lieutenant-general of the Nauvoo Legion, to take rank from the fifth day of February, 1841. He is, therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duties of said office, by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging; and I do strictly require all officers and soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders: and he is to obey such orders and directions as he shall receive, from time to time, from the commander-in-chief or his superior officer.” (History of the Church 4:309-10.)
[ii] Mary Bailey Smith died on Monday, January 25, 1841, at the age of thirty-two.
[iii] Monmouth, Illinois, is sixty-five miles northeast of Nauvoo.
[iv] Don Carlos Smith died Saturday, August 7, 1841, at his residence in Nauvoo. He was twenty-five years old. The particulars of his death are given in the 1853 edition of Mother Smith’s history: “While Don Carlos was at work in the before mentioned cellar, he took a severe pain in his side, which was never altogether removed. About a fortnight prior to his death, his family were very sick; and in taking care of them, he caught a violent cold-a fever set in, and the pain in his side increased, and with all our exertions, we were unable to arrest the disease, which I have no doubt was consumption, brought on by working in a damp room, in which he printed his paper.” (Biographical Sketches, p. 291.) From Joseph’s eulogy of his younger brother Don Carlos we read:[“[Don Carlos] . . . was one of the first to receive my testimony, and was ordained to the Priesthood when only 14 years of age. . . . He was one of the 24 Elders who laid the corner stones of the Kirtland Temple. . . . Don Carlos visited us several times while we were in Liberty jail, and brought our wives to see us, and some money and articles to relieve our necessities. . . . He was six feet four inches high, was very straight and well made, had light hair, and was very strong and active. His usual weight when in health was 200 pounds. He was universally beloved by the Saints.” (See History of the Church 4:393-99.)
[v] It will be remembered that Robert B. Thompson was married to Mercy Fielding, who was the sister of Mary Fielding, wife of Hyrum Smith. Robert Thompson’s actual date of death was August 27, 1841 (see Cook, Revelations, p. 278).
[vi] Don Carlos Smith, son of Joseph and Emma Smith, was born June 13, 1840, and passed away, according to History of the Church, on Sunday, August 15, 1841, aged fourteen months and two days (see History of the Church 4:402). Joseph and Emma had now lost four sons (Alvin, Thaddeus, Joseph Murdock, and Don Carlos) and one daughter (Louisa). Emma would yet have a stillborn baby in 1842. A few days before Emma’s death, nearly thirty-five years after the Martyrdom, she told her nurse, Elizabeth Revel, that Joseph had come to her in a vision and said, “Emma, come with me, it is time for you to come with me.” “As Emma related it, she said, ‘I put on my bonnet and my shawl and went with him; I did not think that it was anything unusual. I went with him into a mansion, and he showed me through the different apartments of that beautiful mansion.’ And one room was the nursery. In that nursery was a babe in the cradle. She said, ‘I knew my babe, my Don Carlos that was taken from me.’ She sprang forward, caught the child up in her arms, and wept with joy over the child. When Emma recovered herself sufficient she turned to Joseph and said, ‘Joseph, where are the rest of my children.’ He said to her, ‘Emma, be patient and you shall have all of your children.’ Then she saw standing by his side a personage of light, even the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Alexander Hale Smith, sermon given 1 July 1903, Bottlineau, North Dakota, as quoted in Gracia N. Jones, “My Great-Great-Grandmother, Emma Hale Smith,” Ensign, August 1992, p. 38.)
[vii] Hyrum Smith, son of Hyrum and Jerusha Barden Smith, was born on April 27, 1834, and passed away on Saturday, September 25, 1841, aged seven years, four months, and twenty-eight days (see History of the Church 4:418).
[viii] In an instant.
[ix] This courtroom is located across the street from the old Illinois state capitol building in Springfield, Illinois. The trapdoor that can be seen above the courtroom bench led to an office on the next floor, where two young attorneys had their practice. One of them would later become the president of the United States–Abraham Lincoln.
[x] One of Joseph’s hiding places was Edward Hunter’s home in Nauvoo. Edward Hunter later became a Presiding Bishop, and, as Truman Madsen relates, Bishop Hunter later recorded how he and Joseph “would hide in the little attic in his house. . . . I say ‘little’ because they couldn’t even stand up there. They went up through a trapdoor, but by then they were over the rafters and under the roof, so they had to double down and sit. They were often many hours in that exact setting.” (Joseph Smith the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989], p. 63.) In those conditions Joseph wrote: “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, . . . and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.” (D&C 128:22.)
[xi] She was living in Dixon, Illinois, about 165 miles northeast of Nauvoo.
[xii] As noted, Hyrum’s testimony was given in Nauvoo on June 30, 1843.
[xiii] Sophronia was five years old at the time of her death.